The Battle of Hunayn

(8th year of the Migration, 5 Shawwal Saturday / AD 630, January 27)

With the conquest of Makkah, almost all of the Qurayshis became Muslims. The conquest affected the tribes that were the allies of the Qurayshis; they started to have nice feelings about Islam and Muslims, and showed interest in Islam. This interest was regarded as a sign that they would be allies of the Messenger of God.

However, there were some tribes that were deprived of this interest: The tribes of Hawazin and Thaqif were the leaders of them. They were known to be the fierce enemies of the Prophet and Muslims. Though many Arab tribes became loyal to the Messenger of God, they could not end their enmity. They deceived themselves because they were the strongest tribes of that region and assumed groundless pride.

When the Messenger of God conquered Makkah and became allies with the Qurayshis and many other tribes, Hawazin and Thaqif tribes decided to make preparations and attack Makkah. Their aim was to attack Makkah suddenly before the Prophet could attack them.

The leaders of both tribes expressed their intention when they talked to each other. They said, “There is nothing that can prevent Muhammad from attacking us. What is appropriate for us is to attack him before he attacks us.”[1]

As a matter of fact, they formed an army consisting of twenty thousand soldiers under the command of Malik b. Awf, the leader of Hawazins, with the participation of the people from the tribes around. Malik b. Awf, their commander, made all of the women, children and sheep join the army so that the soldiers would fight bravely and would not run away.  

The enemy army consisting of twenty thousand people settled in a place called Awtas together with the women, children and animals.[2]

The Prophet is Informed about the Situation

When the Messenger of God heard that Hawazin and Thaqif tribes came together in order to attack the Islamic land, he immediately sent Abdullah b. Abi Hadrad to the enemy so that he would gather some information.

Abdullah wondered among the enemy soldiers in disguise for a few days and collected necessary information. He heard Malik b. Awf, the commander of the army, say the following to the other commanders: 

“This will be the last fight of Muhammad. The people that he has fought up to now were people unaware of fighting. That is why, he defeated them.

When it is dawn, line your animals, women and children behind you. Then line your soldiers. 

When you see the Muslims, you will attack them.

Break the sheaths of your swords and attack at once like one single man. Know it very well that victory belongs to the party that attacks first!”

After collecting this information, Abdullah returned to Makkah and informed the Prophet about what he had heard.

The Prophet Prepares the Army

When the Messenger of God was informed that a big army had been prepared against him, he acted very fast to attack them in the place where they had settled.

Meanwhile, he said to Safwan b. Umayya, who had a lot of weapons and armor but who had not become a Muslim yet, “O Abu Umayy­a! We will go and fight the enemy tomorrow. Lend your weapons to us.”

Safwan said, “O Muhammad! Do you want to take them by force and not give them back?”

The Prophet said, “No... I want to borrow them; I will pay for the ones that will be broken and that will get lost.”

Thereupon, Safwan gave him armor for one hundred people and weapons that will be enough for them; he also undertook the duty of carrying them to the place of fighting upon the request of the Prophet.[3]

The Prophet appointed Attab b. Asid, who was a young man aged twenty, as the governor of Makkah on the day of the conquest of Makkah. He also appointed Muadh b. Jabal to teach Islam and the Quran in the city.[4]

The Islamic Army Leaves Makkah

It was the fifth of the month of Shawwal in the 8th year of the Migration.

The Islamic army consisting of twelve thousand soldiers under the command of the Messenger of God set off from Makkah toward the place where the enemy army had settled. Two thousand soldiers were Makkans. There were also about eighty polytheists in the army. Many notables of the Quraysh were among these eighty people. They wanted to see which party would win and to get some booty. 

The Prophet had not led such a big army before. However, he knew that the number of the soldiers was not enough for the victory. He knew that it was God Almighty who granted victory and who caused defeat and that man was obliged to make perfect preparations that will enable him to gain victory. Therefore, he did not show any traces of pride though he was leading such a big and magnificent army.  

However, some mujahids who trusted in the number of the soldiers said,

“We will not be defeated due to insufficient number of soldiers today.”[5]

However, they had defeated many armies that were more crowded than them and that had more weapons than them several times with the help of God. The Victory of Badr was a very clear example. The Battle of Khandaq and Muta were visible examples. However, they talked as if the only element to bring victory was the number of soldiers.

Naturally, the Messenger of God did not like what they said and showed it through his attitude.

They Arrive at Hunayn

It was Tuesday, 11th of the month of Shawwal.

The Messenger of God and his army arrived at the valley of Hunayn, which had many slopes and descents, narrow passes and hidden ways.

At dawn, he arranged his army in ranks. He gave the flags and the standards to their bearers.

Hazrat Ali had the standard of the Muhajir Muslims; Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas and Hazrat Umar had their flags. Hubab b. Mundhir and Usayd b. Khudayr had the standards of Ansar Muslims.

Sons of Sulaym under the command of Khalid b. Walid formed the vanguards of the Islamic army.

The Messenger of God acted very cautiously. He was on his horse, Duldul. He had put on two armored shirts; there was a cap on his head and a helmet.[6]

The Messenger of God, who feared the Creator more than everybody and who worshipped Him more than everybody, obeyed the material laws of God Almighty in daily life called “Adatullah” more than everybody and observed those rules very carefully. He showed his situation against the enemy very clearly. Though he was under the protection of God and was helped by God, he put on two armored shirts when people put on only one and he had a cap and a helmet on his head.  

First Clash

It was the time of dawn.

The Prophet ordered his army to go down the valley of Hunayn in order to take the enemy by surprise. The vanguards under the command of Khalid went down the valley first; they were unaware of the plans and movements of the enemy. They were attacked by the arrows of the enemy that had ambushed in two places overlooking the valley. The attack of the arrows astonished the mujahids in the narrow valley, which was not suitable for military maneuvers. It was still dark, which made things harder for them. The vanguards had to retreat; after them, the new Makkan Muslims who had voluntarily joined the army started to retreat. The retreat was about to turn into a defeat. 

The situation was very delicate; the scene was very painful.

There were only about one hundred mujahids around the Messenger of God. The enemy was coming toward them with their twenty thousand soldiers. The Prophet called out, “O people! Where are you going? Come toward me! I am Messenger of God! I am Muhammad b. Ab­dullah.”

The battlefield was like Doomsday. The camels were hitting each other; the horses were neighing and causing a lot of tumult and fear.

The Messenger of God was sitting on Duldul like a statue of bravery though everybody was retreating and running away and the enemy forces were coming toward him like a flood. He did not move back even one step; he had no signs of fear; he was full of courage, hope and strength. Only that hero of the heroes could stand bravely against the enemy that consisted of twenty thousand soldiers in this tumult.  

The Hatred and Enmity in the Hearts are Revealed

When the Islamic army faced such an unexpected defeat, some Qurayshis started to utter bad words.

Abu Sufyan b. Harb said, “This defeat cannot be stopped.”

Safwan b. Umayya had not become a Muslim yet. However, he did not like what Abu Sufyan said. He said to Abu Sufyan, “May soil and stones fill your mouth!

Meanwhile, Safwan b. Umayya came and said to him, “Good news! The spell has been broken today; it has lost its effect.” Safwan b. Umayya said to him,

“Shut up! May God tear your mouth! I prefer a Qurayshi to rule over me than a Hawazin.”

Suhayl b. Amr said, “Muhammad and his Companions can never recover and fight again.”

Abu Jahl’s son Ikrima, who had just become a Muslim, said, “It is not appropriate to talk like that!” He added,  

“God has control over everything. Muhammad cannot do anything. If the war is against him today, it will definitely be in favor of him tomorrow.”

Suhayl was surprised when he heard what Ikrima said, “You used to say just the opposite.”

Ikrima said,

“By God, we used to insist on things that were not appropriate. We did not think very well; we kept on worshipping some stones that could neither harm nor help us.”[7]

God Almighty Protects His Prophet from an Assassination

During this defeat, some of the Qurayshis that had not become Muslims yet thought about killing the Prophet. Shay­ba b. Uthman was one of them.

His father was killed during the Battle of Uhud; he was full of the feelings of revenge and hatred. He drew his sword. He wanted to approach the Prophet from the right side of the Prophet. He saw that Hazrat Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle, was standing there with his sword shining in his hand. He thought, “I cannot approach him while his uncle is there.” Then, he moved to the left side of the Prophet. He wanted to attack from that direction. However, he saw that Abu Sufyan b. Harith, the Prophet’s cousin was standing there. He thought, “His cousin will help him.” This time, he wanted to approach the Prophet from behind. He approached him and wanted to lift his sword. There was nothing that could prevent him from hitting the Prophet. Just then, a blaze of fire appeared between him and the Prophet. Shayba shivered and felt scared. He thought the blaze was going to scorch him. He closed his eyes due to his fear and moved back. Only then did he realize that the Prophet was protected by God.  

While he was moving back, the Messenger of God turned toward him smiling and said, “O Shayba! Come here!”

Shayba, who had dared to kill the Prophet a minute ago, was shivering and shaking in fear. He went to the Prophet, who put his blessed hand on his chest and prayed: “O God! Remove all of the delusions of Satan from him.”

All of a sudden, the feelings of revenge and hatred in his heart disappeared and were replaced by belief and love of the Prophet. Shayba described that moment as follows: “By God, before he removed his hand from my chest, there was nobody more beloved to me from him.”

Then, the Prophet said, “O Shayba! Come on, fight the unbelievers!”

Shayba said,

“I fought in front of the Messenger of God with my sword. I wanted to protect him with my soul and everything. If my father had been alive and appeared in front of me, I would definitely have killed him with my sword.”[8]

Thus, a person who once said, “I will not be subject to Muhammad even if all Arabs and non-Arabs become subject to him” could not resist the attraction of the light the Messenger of God brought and embraced Islam.

The Islamic Army Gathers Strength Again

When the Messenger of God, who had been left with only a handful of mujahids, saw that the enemy was coming toward them like a flood, he wanted to spur Duldul, his horse, and fight them; however, Abbas was holding the reins and Abu Sufyan b. Harith was holding the stirrup of Duldul and trying to prevent the Prophet.

During this tumult, the Messenger of God said to his uncle Abbas, who was holding the reins of Duldul, “O Abbas! Call out this, ‘O Ansar! O Companions who paid allegiance to the Messenger of God under Samura tree! Where are you?’” Abbas called out in a strong voice.[9]

The strong voice resonated through the valley. The mujahids who were running away stopped. After the dawn, it was getting bright; similarly, the mujahids came to their senses by getting rid of the fear that covered their hearts. It dawned on them; they said, “Where are we going? Who are we leaving the Messenger of God to?”

They looked as if they had woken up from a deep sleep. They remembered their promise to the Messenger of God and started to come to their senses. The feet that were running away started to run toward the Prophet, who was like a statue of courage in this tumult. The same thing had happened during the Battle of Uhud, too. The courage, strength and perseverance of the Messenger of God had prevented the Islamic army from a worse situation.

The mujahids that surrounded the Prophet drew their swords and started to attack the enmy. The clangs of the swords were accompanied by the takbir sounds of the mujahids. The enemy soldiers were terrified and frightened all of a sudden.

Heroic Companions like Hazrat Uthman, Hazrat Ali and Abu Dujana fought in front of the Messenger of God by using their bodies as shields for the Messenger of God. Hazrat Ali discouraged the enemy soldiers with his agility and courage.

During this most severe moment of the fighting, the Messenger of God stood up on the stirrups of Duldul and said, “Now, the oven has heated; the war has become hot!”[10] Then he looked at the terrifying scene and called out, “I am the Messenger of God. This is no lie!”[11]

With those words, he stated that prophethood and telling lies would not be together and that he believed in the help promised by God. This call was the harbinger of victory, which was the reward of patience and perseverance.

Meanwhile, Hazrat Ali and Abu Dujana killed one of the standard-bearers of the enemy. When Hawazins saw that their standard-bearer was killed, they started to feel scared. 

The Prophet’s Prayer

When the mujahids started to fight enthusiastically and the enemy started to feel scared, the Messenger of God got off Duldul and prayed his Lord as follows:

“O God! Send us your help! You definitely do not want them to beat us.”[12]

After praying God Almighty so heartily, the Prophet picked a handful of sand and threw it against the enemy soldiers, saying, “May their faces be black!”[13]

At that moment, as a miracle of the Prophet, all of the enemy soldiers’ eyes were filled with sand.

The enemy army started to scatter.

When the angels came to help the mujahids, the soldiers of the enemy lost their strength to continue fighting and started to run away. 

Hazrat Abbas later described that moment as follows:

“By God, after the Messenger of God threw the sand against them, I saw that they lost their strength and things started to change. Eventually, God defeated them. I can still see the Messenger of God spurring Duldul and following them.”[14]

In the Quran, God Almigty describes the bright victory that He granted Muslims after the first defeat of the mujahids as follows:

“Assuredly God did help you in many battle-fields and on the day of Hunayn: 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 God 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.”[15]

The enemy army that was defeated left the battlefield by being divided into several parts sadly. Some of them went to Taif; some of them gathered in Awtas. Others went to the direction of Nahla.

The Number of the Martyrs and Wounded Soldiers

At the end of the fighting, it was found out that four Muslims had been martyred but seventy enemy soldiers had been killed.

Since the enemy had come there together with women and children, they left many women and children as captives. In this battle, the mujahids obtained plenty of booty that they had never obtained before.

An Example of Gratitude

Among the captives was Shayma of Sons of Sa’d; she was the foster sister of the Prophet. When she was treated harshly, she said, “I am the foster sister of your prophet.”She asked them to give up their harsh treatment.Thereupon, the mujahids took her to the presence of the Prophet to find out whether she was telling the truth or not. 

Shayma said, “O Muhammad! I am your foster sister. The Prophet said, “Can you prove it?”

Shayma said, “There is a scar of bite on my shoulder; you had bitten me.”[16]

When the Prophet saw the scar, he recognized his foster sister, Shayma. She was the girl he had played, run and walked around together in the land of Sons of Sa’d. The Messenger of God, who appreciated people and who never forgot the favors done to him even after years passed, put his garment on the ground and let her sit on it. He remembered his childhood. He felt as if he was going to cry. He asked her about her parents. Shayma said they had died a long time ago.

Then, he said to Shayma, “If you want, stay here with me; I will show respect to you; or I can give you some goods and send you to your tribe.”

Shayma said,

“Give me some goods and send me to my tribe.”[17]

Meanwhile, Shayma became a Muslim[18]; the Prophet gave her a male and a female slave; he told her to go to the place called Jirana and wait there. While returning from Taif, the Prophet gave her and her relatives some sheep and camels.  

They Follow the Enemy

The Messenger of God ordered the mujahids to follow Hawazins, who were defeated and ran away. The vanguards were Sons of Sulaym under the command of Khalid b. Walid.

Meanwhile, the Prophet saw a dead body of a woman. When he was told that the woman had been killed by Khalid b. Walid, he sent a mujahid to Khalid giving him this order: “Go and find Khalid; tell him ‘The Messenger of God prohibits you from killing children, women and servants’.”[19]

When the Prophet also heard that some children had been killed, he said,

“Be careful! Do not kill any children!”

When one of the Companions asked, “O Messenger of God! Are they not the children of the polytheists?”, the Messenger of God said,

“Were you not the children of the polytheists, too? Every child is born as a Muslim; he remains so until he starts to speak. Then his/her parents make him/her a Jew or a Christian.”[20]

Fighting in Awtas

It was seen that some members of Hawazin tribe defeated by the mujahids in the valley of Hunayn gathered in the valley of Awtas. The Messenger of God gave a standard to Abu Amir al-Ash’ari and sent him against the enemy with some mujahids. The enemy soldiers that were positioned in Awtas started to defend themselves.  

During the one-to-one fights, Abu Amir, the commander, beat many Hawazins. Then, fighting with spears started. Meanwhile, Abu Amir, the commander, was wounded by an arrow thrown by the enemy; he gave the standard to Abu Musa al-Ash’ari, his cousin and appointed him as the commander. After a while, he was martyred due to the wound he received.[21]

Abu Musa, who became the commander, started to fight and managed to scatter the enemy forces. The enemy ran away and took refuge in Taif. Their commander, Malik b. Awf had taken refuge there, too.

The Captives and Booty are Taken to Jirana

The Prophet wanted to have a definite victory. The fighting in Hunayn did not bring out a definite victory. The enemy took refuge in Taif. Therefore, it was necessary to walk against Taif.

Therefore, the Prophet sent the booty and captives obtained in the Battle of Hunayn to the place called Jirana. He ordered the Companions he sent there to keep them there.[22]

A Feud is Settled

The Messenger of God had not left Hunayn yet.

He performed the noon prayer and was sitting in the shade of a tree to have a rest.

Meanwhile, two people went to the presence of the Prophet. They were Uyayna b. Hisn, the leader of Ghatafans and Aqra b. Habis. Uyay­na asked the Prophet about the blood of Amir b. Azbat, who had been killed unjustly; he wanted Muhallim b. Jaththama, the murderer, to be surrendered to him.[23]

Uyayna b. Hisn said, “O Messenger of God! By God I will not give up until I make the women of his tribe grievous as he made the women of my tribe grievous.” He wanted Muhallim b. Jaththama to be surrendered to him for retaliation; Aqra b. Habis was defending Muhal­lim.

The Messenger of God said, “Is it not possible to accept blood money for him?” Uyayna b. Hisn did not accept it. Meanwhile, some voices were heard. There was a lot of noise.  

Thereupon, the Prophet said, “You will receive fifty camels during this expedition and fifty camels when we return as blood money. However, Uyayna b. Hisn did not accept this offer, either.

After long talks, Uyayna b. Hisn accepted to receive the blood money as the Prophet had offered.[24]

Thus, the Prophet settled a feud that caused some tension among the people.

However, the interesting part of the incident took place after the Prophet settled it. The Muslims said to Muhallim b. Jaththama, “Go to the presence of the Messenger of God and ask him to ask for forgiveness for you from God.” Muhallim, who was tall and had put on a new garment, had prepared himself for retaliation; he went to the presence of the Messenger of God. He knelt down before the Prophet. He was very said and sorrowful; he was crying. He wanted the Messenger of God to ask for his forgiveness from God by stating that he regretted what he had done and that he repented God: “O Messenger of God! I regret it. I repent to God. Ask God to forgive me!”

The Messenger of God asked, “Who are you?”

He answered, “Muhallim b. Jaththama!”

The Messenger of God said, “Amir greeted you and you greeted him with the greeting of God and then you killed him. Is that right?” Mu­hallim b. Jaththama bowed his head and kept silent.

The Prophet raised and opened his hands; he prayed loudly: “O God! Do not forgive Mu­hallim b. Jaththama!”

When Muhallim heard what the Prophet said, he shivered and his hair stood on end. He begged again: “O Messenger of God! I regret it. I repent to God. Please ask God to forgive me.”

However, Muhallim’s appeal was no good; the Prophet prayed against him whenever he appealed and sent him away. 

Due to the sorrow of the curse of the Prophet and the terror of his end, Muhallim could live only for one week. When he died, they buried him. However, the grave cast him out. They buried him several times but each time the grave rejected him.[25] Finally, his tribe buried him between two mountains by piling stones on him.[26]

When they informed the Prophet about the situation, he said,

“By God, the ground accepted people worse than him. However, God wanted to advise you and teach you about the prohibition of killing a person unjustly.”[27]

[1]Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, Vol. 2, p. 149.

[2]Ibn Hisham, Sirah, Vol. 4, p. 80; Tabari, Tarikh, Vol. 3, p. 126.

[3]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 83; Tabari, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 127.

[4]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 83; Tabari, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 127.

[5]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 87.

[6]Ibn Sa’d, ibid, Vol. 2, p. 150.

[7]Halabi, Insanu’l-Uyun, Vol. 3, p. 70.

[8]Ibn Qayyim, Zadu’l-Maad, Vol. 2, p. 208; Ibn Sayyid, Uyunu’l-Athar, Vol. 2, p. 191.

[9]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 87; Tabari, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 128.

[10]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 87; Ibn Sa’d, ibid, Vol. 2, p. 151; Tabari, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 129.

[11]Ibn Sa’d, ibid, Vol. 2, p. 151.

[12]Muslim, Sahih, Vol. 3, p. 1401; Halabi, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 69.

[13]Ibn Sa’d, ibid, Vol. 2, p. 151; Muslim, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 402.

[14]Muslim, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 1399.

[15]at-Tawba, 25-26.

[16]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 100-101; Tabari, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 131-132.

[17]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 101; Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, Vol. 4, p. 344.

[18]Ibn Hajar, Vol. 4, p. 344.

[19]Ibn Hajar, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 100.

[20]Waqidi, Maghazi, Vol. 3, p. 903.

[21]Bukhari, Sahih, Vol. 3, p. 68.

[22]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p.101.

[23]As we have mentioned before, when they set off to go to Makkah, the Prophet sent a troop under the command of Abu Qatada to the direction of Batn Izam. The mujahids met Amir b. Azbat on the way. Though Amir greeted the mujahids with the greetings of Muslims, he was killed by Muhallim b. Jassama due to a personal enmity and hatred. What Uyay­na b. Hisn wanted was this feud.

[24]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 276.

[25]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 277.

[26]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 277.

[27]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 277.

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