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: 3

Malik bin Auf had surprised his would-be surprisers. During the night he had moved his army into the defile of Hunain which allowed no room for manoeuvre. His men moved into position on both sides of the track and hid behind boulders and in broken ground which afforded excellent cover. In front were the Hawazin, with a few groups of Thaqeef. Then came the Thaqeef and behind them were other tribal contingents. Malik had devised a masterly plan. He had delayed his move till after dusk, so that the Muslims would continue to believe that his army was at Autas, and then placed it in ambush in the defile of Hunain with the intention of annihilating the Muslims or driving them back in panic to Makkah and beyond. Behind the site of the ambush was a narrow pass 1 to which Malik could withdraw in case the battle did not go according to his plan. As long as this pass was secure, the Muslims would not be able to advance to Autas, Malik's base.

Most of the new Meccan converts were delighted at this setback to the Muslims. Abu Sufyan remarked, "This retreat will not stop until they get to the sea!" Present with Safwan bin Umayyah was his half-brother, who said, "Now the sorcery of Muhammad will be exposed." "Silence!" Safwan snapped at him. "May Allah break your mouth! I would rather see a man of the Quraish ruling over us than a man of the Hawazin!" 2

The Prophet was left standing on the track with nine of his Companions, including Ali, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abbas. As the Muslims ran past, he shouted to them, "O Muslims! I am here! I, the Messenger of Allah! I, Muhammad, son of Abdullah!" 3 But his cries were of no avail. The leading elements of the Hawazin got to the place where the Prophet stood, and here Ali brought down the first infidel to fall at Hunain-a man mounted on a red camel, carrying a long lance at the end of which flew a black pennant. This man was chasing the Muslims as they fled. Ali pursued the man, along with a fellow Muslim, and catching up with him cut the tendons of the camel's hind legs with his sword. The infidel fell with the camel, and the other Muslim cut off his head.

The Prophet now moved towards the right with his group and took shelter on a rocky spur. A few men of the Thaqeef came towards the Prophet's group, but were driven back by the Companions.

Malik bin Auf had done to the Muslims what no one had ever done before. For the Muslims this was the first, and bitter, experience of being ambushed, and many of them lost their heads and fled from the scene of action. In such a situation, however, the bravest are wont to panic.

Malik had struck brilliantly; but unfortunately for him, his men had not performed as expertly as he had hoped. They had not waited until the main body of the Muslims had entered the trap, but had opened up when just the advance guard was in their field of fire. And Malik now made the mistake of being satisfied with what he had achieved so far; beyond advancing a few hundred yards he made no attempt to pursue the Muslims. If he had done so, the story of this battle might have read differently. Moreover, the archery of the Hawazin was extremely poor. While several Muslims and their mounts were wounded, none were killed in the ambush.

The Holy Prophet surveyed the scene before him, and the scene was anything but promising. He decided not to let Malik get away with such an easy victory. He turned to Abbas and ordered him to call the Muslims to rally around him. Abbas was a large man with a powerful voice which, according to some accounts, could be heard miles away. Now he yelled at the top of his voice: "O Muslims! Come to the Messenger of Allah! O Ansar…O Companions…O …" He called each tribe in turn to report to the Prophet.

The call was heard by most of the Muslims and they at once began to move to where the Prophet stood. As soon as the first 100 men had gathered beside the Prophet, he ordered a counter?attack. These men assailed those of the Hawazin who were nearest to the Prophet and drove them back. Soon the assembling Muslims increased in number until thousands of them had rejoined the Prophet. When the Prophet felt that sufficient strength had been gathered around him, he ordered a general attack against the Hawazin.

1. I have not been able to place this pass. It was probably at or near Zaima.
2. Ibn Hisham: Vol.2 pp. 443-5.
3. Ibid