The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 8: The Battle of Hunain

 Part I: In the Time of the Prophet (SAWS)


Page: 2

The Muslim advance from Makkah was led by a contingent of 700 men from the Bani Sulaim, operating under the command of Khalid. During the evening of January 31, the Muslims arrived in the Valley of Hunain and established their camp.

Hunain is a valley running from Shara'i-ul-Mujahid (new), which is 11 miles east-north-east of Makkah, to Shara'i Nakhla (old) which is 7 miles further east. The valley continues eastwards for another 7 miles and then turns north towards Zaima. (None of these places were then in existence.) Between the Shara'i's the valley is quite wide, about 2 miles in most places, but beyond the old Shara'i it narrows down to between a quarter and a half-mile, and as it approaches Zaima it gets narrower still. It is this second portion of the Hunain Valley which is a defile, and the defile is narrowest near Zaima. Beyond Zaima the Taif route winds into the Wadi Nakhlat-ul-Yamaniya. (See Map 6.)

While the Muslims were moving towards Hunain, each side had sent out agents to get information about the other side. Both sides were well informed of opposing strengths, locations and movements. An agent sent by the Prophet mixed with the Hawazin at Autas, got to know the exact strength of the coalition and slipped out unseen to give this information to the Prophet. When he gave his report, Umar was also present, and for some reason did not believe the intelligence conveyed by the agent. He called the agent a liar, whereupon the agent replied, "If you call me a liar, you call the truth falsehood. And you had called a liar one who is better than me." The man was alluding to the time when Umar, before his conversion, was a violent enemy of the Prophet.

Umar suddenly turned to the Prophet and said, "Did you hear that?" "Steady, O Umar!" replied the Prophet. "You were once misguided, and Allah showed you the way." 1 Umar said no more.

As the Muslims arrived at their new camp in the Hunain Valley, news of their arrival was conveyed to Malik bin Auf by his agents. He guessed that the Muslims would know that his army was at Autas, and would expect to fight him at or near Autas. And he put into effect his plan to outwit the Muslims.

Before dawn on February 1, 630 (the 11th of Shawal, 8 Hijri) the Muslims formed up in marching order to advance to Autas where they expected to engage the enemy. It was their intention to get through the defile of Hunain before the enemy came to know of their movement. The advance guard again consisted of the Bani Sulaim under Khalid, and behind it marched various Muslim units, including the group of 2,000 Makkans. The camp was left standing as the base of the operation.

As the first glow of dawn appeared in the eastern sky, the advance guard entered the defile (about 2 miles short of Zaima.) Eagerly anticipating a lively battle with a surprised enemy at Autas, Khalid increased his pace. And then the storm broke!

Khalid was the first to receive the shock of the ambush. The quiet of the dawn was shattered by a thousand piercing yells, and the arrows came not in tens or twenties but in hundreds. They came like hailstones, whistling and hissing, striking horse and man. The Bani Sulaim did not stop to act against the enemy. They did not stop to think or take cover. They turned as one man and bolted. Khalid's shouts to his men to stand fast were lost in the noise and confusion. He himself was badly wounded and was carried away with the tide of fleeing men and horses; but after riding a short distance he fell off his horse and lay still, unable to move because of his wounds.

As the Bani Sulaim turned in panic and fled, they ran into other units which occupied the narrow track, who now became aware that something terrible had happened. The half-hearted Makkans turned and joined the flight, followed by several other Muslim units. Some of the Muslims fled to the camp, but the majority of them merely dispersed and took cover some distance behind the scene of the ambush on the other side of the track. No one knew quite what happened. The confusion increased as camel mounted camel and horses and men ran into each other in a blind urge to get away.

1. Ibn Hisham: Vol.2, p. 440.