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When the Muslims had begun their march towards Makkah, many of them believed that they were heading towards Ta’if, a city south of Makkah which was inhabited by one of the clans of the Hawazin tribe. The Hawazin were a large and powerful group of idol worshippers, who had never been friendly towards the Muslims. Now the Muslims were camped at Makkah, almost literally at their doorstep, and the Hawazin were worried. They assembled a huge army of twenty thousand men.

The Muslims had only been in Makkah for two weeks when once again they set out to meet an enemy. Only this time the Quraish were on their side. Not only were those Quraish who had recently entered Islam now a part of the army, but also some of those who were still undecided. They were fighting to protect their city of Makkah, but before the end of the campaign many of them had also embraced Islam.

The leader of the Hawazin army was a very brave young man named Malik. However, he tended not to listen to others. Against the advice of the older men, he had ordered all the wives and children of the soldiers to follow at the rear of the army. His reasoning was that the soldiers would fight more valiantly if their families were at the rear cheering them on. He also sent three scouts to check out the Muslim army. They returned trembling and very visibly moved, having seen with the Muslim army the same unearthly men on piebald horses who had been visible to the Quraish at the Battle of Badr. But Malik refused to believe the scouts and had them locked up so that they would not instill fear in the rest of his army.

The following day the Muslim army continued its advance which took it through a large valley called Hunain. The Muslims could see the main force of Malik’s army at the other end of the valley, but unbeknownst to them, part of Malik’s forces were hiding in deep ravines which opened into the valley. At a signal from Malik, those hidden forces ambushed the advancing Muslim army just at the narrow pass leading into the valley. The Muslims at the front were so overwhelmed by the ferocity of the surprise attack that they fell back and started an unruly retreat. The Prophet , who was just behind the foremost troop of men, stood at one side of the trail to avoid the crush of retreating camels and horses. He called upon the fleeing men to rally around him. The strong voice of Abbas summoned the men to the side of the Prophet and the stampeding withdrawal came to a halt. The Prophet took up some pebbles, as he had done at the Battle of Badr, and flung them into the faces of the nearest enemy. From that point the tide of the battle turned in favor of the Muslims. The enemy was thrust back to Ta’if and those who did not take refuge within that walled city fled into the hills. It was after the battle of Hunain that the following verses were revealed: “Assuredly Allah did help you in many battle-fields and on the day of Hunain: Behold! your great numbers elated you, but they availed you naught; the land, for all that it is wide, did constrain you, and ye turned back in retreat. But Allah did pour His calm on the Messenger and on the Believers, and sent down forces which ye saw not: He punished the Unbelievers: thus doth He reward those without faith. Again will Allah, after this, turn (in mercy) to whom He will: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an 9:25-27)

Amongst the spoils of the battle were close to sixty thousand camels, sheep and goats, and about four thousand ounces of silver. All the Hawazin women and children who had been with the army, about six thousand of them, were made captive. Most of them were very poorly clad so the Prophet had a suit of clothing made for each of them and paid for it out of the silver.

One older woman among the captives started claiming that she was the sister of the Prophet . Although the men did not believe her, they took her to him. It turned out that she was indeed his foster-sister, the daughter of Halima and Harith, and she still had the mark of a bite he, as a child, had given her one day long ago when she had been carrying him. The Prophet learned that his foster-parents had both passed away in old age. His new-found foster-sister entered Islam and returned to her clan (one of the Hawazin clans), bearing with her a rich gift.

The Muslims besieged the city of Ta’if unsuccessfully for two weeks and then withdrew to a valley near the city. There a delegation of Hawazin from among those who had fled into the hills arrived. They all embraced Islam and asked for the Prophet’s generosity, reminding him of his ties to them as his foster-tribe. When given a choice of what was most dear to them, their families or their possessions, they naturally chose their families. Although the captives had already been divided up as spoils, the Prophet immediately gave back those who had fallen to the lot of himself and his family. The others were returned to their menfolk when the Prophet explained the situation to the rest of the Muslims.

Ta’if had still not surrendered, and the city had enough supplies to withstand a year’s siege. But the Prophet managed to send word to Malik, who was in the city, that all his family and possessions would be returned if Malik would contrive to get to the Prophet . Malik sneaked out of the city at night and, upon meeting with the Prophet , accepted Islam. The Prophet then placed Malik in charge of the rapidly growing Muslim Hawazin community, and gave him instructions to continue to pressure the inhabitants of Ta’if to enter Islam. In this way a physical siege by an enemy was replaced by a psychological siege by peers. At Hunain, the last stronghold of opposition in Arabia against the Muslims had been destroyed, leaving in its place a strong new community of Muslims, alhamdu lillah!


Published: January 1997

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Last modified 08/12/05 09:25 AM - Iqra - ISSN #1062-2756