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The Unlettered Prophet (44)
Khalid Masud
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)

The Battle of Hunayn

The movements of the Prophet (sws)’s attack on Makkah were not secretive and its destinations and timelines were known. The target for the mission was also determined and known. Despite this, the tribes of Hawazin and Thaqif, that resided close to Ta’if, ahead of Makkah, decided to fight the Muslims on their own. On its way from Madinah to Makkah, when the Muslim army had not yet reached Mara al-Zahran, a spy was caught at a place called ‘A‘raj. When questioned, he said that he belonged to the Hawazin tribe and had been sent to gather intelligence about the mission of the Muslims. The spy also revealed that Hawazin had made a decision to resist the Muslims, because they believed that they would be the next to be attacked after Makkah. The spy gave details of the plans of his tribe and clarified that two sub tribes of Hawazin, the Banu Ka‘b and Banu Kalb had distanced themselves from this plan. All other clans had agreed to come under the leadership of Malik ibn ‘Awf and had ordered their armies to come together. These revelations were extremely worrying for the Muslims. However, the Prophet (sws) did not deem it appropriate to shift attention away from his real objective, ie. the freeing of the Ka‘bah and did not consider it necessary to take immediate action against the Hawazin. But he kept the spy with them so that information would not reach the enemy. After the conquest of Makkah, he continued to take steps to establish Islamic rule in the city.

After establishing a foothold in Makkah, the Prophet (sws) ordered ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Hadrad al-Sulami (rta) to go to the area where the Hawazin lived and to gather information while staying there for a few days, about the war preparations of Malik ibn ‘Awf. ‘Abdullah (rta) went and confirmed the information that had been provided by the spy earlier. He said that the enemy’s preparations were complete and its forces were gathering at Awtas, located three miles to the north east of Makkah. The Prophet (sws) decided to advance on Awtas and defeat Hawazin and Thaqif there. He ordered the mujahideen to be ready for the battle. The people of Makkah had accepted Islam just recently. In order to demonstrate their loyalty, they decided to join the army. According to some narratives, some people from among those who had not yet accepted Islam and were taking benefit from the four month grace period also participated. Thus, the number of soldiers increased from 10,000 to 12,000 and the Prophet (sws) had to borrow arms to equip them from Safwan ibn Umayyah, the Quraysh leader.


Departure of the Army

On 5th Shawwal, 8th AH, when an army of 12,000 soldiers left Makkah, it was a huge force to reckon with in those times. Naturally, Muslims felt pride that the Hawazin and Thaqif would not be able to stand their ground in front of such a large army. Therefore, it would likely be a short lived battle. In the face of such thoughts, people tend to develop the wrong kind of self confidence and they do not take matters seriously or responsibly enough. It seems that the Muslims too became prey to this complacence and failed to prepare to the standards of discipline and clarity that had so far been their pride of performance. On the other hand, the Hawazin had made elaborate arrangements. They had gathered 4,000 men, and, to instill the desire for sacrifice and honour, they had brought their livestock and family members along so that no one would even dream of running away from the battlefield.

The Prophet (sws) had sent his horsemen ahead to assess the situation. One of them returned to inform him that he had seen the Hawazin gathered in the valley between the hills and they were accompanied by their women and livestock. The Prophet (sws) smiled and said that all of this would be their war booty the next day. He assigned a guard on duty at the mouth of the valley so that the enemy would not cause trouble in the darkness of the night.  

The Battle with Hawazin

The Hawazin were famous for their archery skills. They posted archers on top of the hills and passes and narrow valleys. When the Muslim army entered the valley in the dark of early dawn, they faced the onslaught of arrows from all sides. The mujahidin who were in the forefront of the army were not in protective clothing, and, taken by surprise by the unexpected attack, were dispersed. The valley was not large, so wherever they turned, they faced the attack. They could not find a way out for safety. When there was a stampede, the Prophet (sws) went to one side, mounted on his donkey. He turned to the right and called out: “O’ group of Ansar!” the Ansar, replying that they were present, gathered around him. Then he turned to his left and called out: “O’ group of Ansar!” the Ansar from this side too gathered around him. Similarly, he called out to the loyal members of Hudaybiyah and gathered them around himself. Now he ordered his forces into ranks and began a concerted attack, reciting martial songs and leading his soldiers. As the battle intensified, he praised his companions and said: “Now the oven has been heated up.” At this stage, he threw sand towards the enemy and prayed to God for victory. When the servants of God are not ignorant of their responsibilities and make their best effort to do what they can, they receive help from God. The Hawazin were uprooted and they started to run in different directions. The battle was won by the Muslims. The Qur’an mentions these two stages of the battle of Hunayn as under:

Assuredly Allah 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 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. (9:25-27) 

The arrogance mentioned in these verses is that of being in large numbers; how could such a large army be defeated? Commenting on the incidents that had occurred during the Battle of Badr, Surah Anfal had warned the faithful that they were never to enter the battlefield with pride and arrogance, just as the Quraysh were accustomed to doing. The people of the faith were to rely upon support and help from God and not upon their own strength. It had also been mentioned in Surah Anfal that when the Quraysh left Makkah, the devil had established a firm thought in their minds that no one could overpower them that day. But when they had gone to Badr, they had found that an army that was much smaller in terms of manpower and ammunition had destroyed them completely. Words of pride uttered by some people when leaving for Awtas had violated instructions given in Surah Anfal. To reprimand the faithful, God had subjected them initially to troubling circumstances. Later, when they showed humility and perseverance, God sent down His heavenly armies and provided help of which all the faithful were deserving. Thus, the battle was overturned and the mu’minin were victorious.  

Narratives suggest that the reason of the early defeat of the Muslims was that initially they were winning. However, when they started to gather up the war booty, the kuffar turned upon them. In our view, this explanation does not comply with the verses of the Qur’an. Therefore, we believe that the first reasoning is the correct one.

A question has been raised about the Battle of Hunayn regarding its name. There is no valley by this name in Arabia. Hence, if the Qur’an has used this name, it is not as the name of a valley. Some researchers have suggested that the word Hunayn  is also used for the noise made by the mooing, baaing and belching of livestock. Because the noise made by the animals was significant during this battle, the Qur’an referred to the day as “The Day of Hunayn.”.

As the Hawazin ran, they were dispersed. One part of their army ran towards Nakhlah and another to Awtas which was situated a little further up the valley. Abu ‘Amir Ash‘ari (rta) chased them and caused damage to them. A third part of the army, under Malik ibn ‘Awf, the commander, went to Ta’if and took protection in a castle. A large amount of booty was gained in these missions, the reason being that the Hawazin had brought their livestock with them. On being defeated, they left everything and ran off. This came into the hands of the faithful. The Prophet (sws) gave orders for the booty to be sent to Ji‘ranah, near Makkah along with women and children and gave the responsibility for this to Mas‘ud ibn ‘Amr Ghifari (rta), who was in charge of the Ji‘ranah camp. The Prophet (sws) himself proceeded towards Ta’if along with a large number of the mujahidin and surrounded the city. The siege continued for 18 days. During this time, the Prophet (sws) took all surrounding areas under control by sending troops. When he felt that the entire region was under Muslim control, he lifted the siege of Ta’if because it was not possible for a small island of kufr to flourish within such a large Islamic government. Time showed that this decision of the Prophet (sws) was correct.


Distribution of the Booty    

The Prophet (sws) went from Ta’if to Ji‘ranah and started to distribute the booty. One fifth of the war booty was to be kept for God and His messenger: in other words, for the government. The Prophet (sws) gave 100 and 50 camels each to many leaders of tribes from this portion. The leaders included Ghatfan’s ‘Uyaynah ibn Hasan, Tamim’s Aqra ibn Habis and Abu Sufyan, Safwan ibn Umayyah, Hakim ibn Hizam and Suhayl ibn ‘Amr etc. These rewards were meant to send out a message to people that, under an Islamic government, no revenge was taken for the past harmful activities of the non believers. People were treated according to their position and status. Therefore, people could enter the fold of Islam without any fear or apprehension; they would gain safety and respect. At this stage, the Prophet (sws) also said that if Malik ibn ‘Awf were to accept Islam, he would gain from the same benefits. This kindness of the Prophet (sws) created a good impression upon the Quraysh leaders and their followers and helped them to make up their minds about Islam. Thus, all the Quraysh leaders who were still in a state of doubt became Muslims. Safwan ibn Umayyah used to say that the Prophet (sws) was the most objectionable person in his eyes, but the gifts won him over. As he came closer to the Prophet (sws), the latter became his most beloved personality. In reality, years of fighting had led to misunderstandings in the hearts of some people about Islam and Muslims. The generosity and blessings from the Prophet (sws) played a decisive role in overcoming these.

After the booty had been distributed and the matter of prisoners was still to be settled, a representative of the Hawazin tribe came to the Prophet (sws). These people had accepted Islam and had brought the news. They requested that their property and captives be returned to them. The tribe of Banu Sa‘d, with whom the Prophet (sws) had spent his childhood, told him that his foster paternal and maternal aunts were also in captivity. It was requested that they be released. The Prophet (sws) told them that he had not taken any steps in haste; rather, he had waited for them for many weeks before distributing their property. They asked then for release of the prisoners. The Prophet (sws), addressing the mujahidin, told them that their brothers had come in repentance and that he thought that the prisoners should be set free. It would be good if they did so with a generous heart. As far as returning their property was concerned, the Prophet (sws) was returning the booty that had been given to the Banu ‘Abd al-Muttalib. If other people thought that they should get their share, he would return it to them at some future opportunity. The Prophet’s appeal so affected his people that the entire army returned their shares and the Hawazin returned home with their families, happy and satisfied. Such treatment was absolutely nonexistent in Arab jahiliyyah culture and the effect that the attitude of Muslims had upon Hawazin and other tribes who also received the news is not difficult to understand.


Complaints by the Ansar 

When the Prophet (sws) was giving away wealth and rewards to the leaders of the Quraysh, some young men from the Ansar considered this to be nepotism. They thought that they were being ignored in comparison to the Prophet’s tribe, despite the fact that their swords were dripping with the blood of the Quraysh. When lives needed to be sacrificed, they were called but when the time came to distribute booty, the Quraysh were in the front. When this was mentioned to the Prophet (sws), he ordered all Ansar to gather in a tent. When they came, he asked about what he had heard. The Ansar replied that although none of their leaders had said anything of the sort, some young men had expressed these thoughts. The Prophet (sws) said: “O’ Ansar! When I had come to you, were you not misguided? Then God gave you guidance. Were you not deprived? Then God gave you wealth. Were you not each other’s enemies? Then God placed love in your hearts.” They admitted that this was so and that God and His messenger were their greatest benefactors. The Prophet (sws) said: “By God, if you had wished, you could have answered and you would have been right, had you said that when you came, you had been declared untruthful; we were the ones who placed our belief in you; you were without any support, we were the ones who helped you; you had been put into exile, we were the ones who gave you refuge; you were in need, we were the ones who consoled you.” This style of talking to them was to explain to them that the sacrifices they had made were very important for him; hence their understanding that their status has been lowered in his eyes because of the Quraysh was wrong.

Then he clarified the reasons for giving more to the Quraysh. He asked if they had found any worldliness in him. He had wished to assuage people so that they would accept Islam, and left the matter of the Ansar, trusting them to their faith in Islam. The people of the Quraysh were always being killed and imprisoned. The Prophet (sws) wanted to make some compensation for their losses. He said: “O’ Ansar! Are you not satisfied that other people may return with livestock while you take the messenger of God to your homes? By God! What you take with you is much better than what other people take with them.” At this, the Ansar said with one voice: “O’ Messenger of God! We are happy with your decision.” To express solidarity with them, the Prophet (sws) said: “By the Being who possesses the life of Muhammad, if migration had not happened, I would have been among the Ansar. If the Ansar walk in one valley and other people in another valley, I would take the valley of the Ansar; Ansar are my real garment, others are merely my outer covering.” After this, he prayed: “O’Lord! have mercy upon Ansar, upon Ansar’s sons and upon their grandsons.” This expression of love and endearment for the Ansar affected people so deeply that their beards became wet with tears.

The Prophet (sws) wore the Ihram, intending to perform ‘umrah, and go from Ji‘ranah to Makkah. Here he performed ‘umrah. He assigned a Makkan youth, ‘Atab ibn Usayd (rta) to run the affairs of the region and left Ma‘udh ibn Jabal (rta) to guide him. After this, he left for Madinah. According to narratives, ‘Urwah ibn Mas‘ud Thaqafi was the first person from Ta’if to come and meet him during his travel and accept Islam. Malik ibn ‘Awf found this blessing later. When he had accepted Islam, the Prophet (sws) made him the Emir of Ta’aif.


The Objectives of the Mission of Ta’if 

This mission of the Prophet (sws), in which not only did Makkah come under his rule but the power of Ta’if was also lost and signs of polytheism over the entire region were destroyed and replaced with those of Islam, was the real purpose of the Prophet’s struggle that had began with migration and then continued with battles for defense of Madinah.  Other targets were secondary after success in this; for example, preaching of the faith in other regions and tribes and putting down enemies. Western researchers present the struggle of the Prophet (sws) in a different perspective instead of its real background, and their desire is to ensure that their readers see it as an effort of a worldly leader, rather than identify in it reflections of a prophetic purpose. Our intellectuals declare that the famous historian Montgomery Watt was very fair and balanced. He explained the conquest of Makkah by saying that Muhammad (sws) had only a small following. To protect his followers from his enemies, he decided to turn the attention of the Arabs away from their internal matters to an external enemy after uniting them and to use the administrative skills of Makkans for this scheme. To implement this plan, he instigated the people of Makkah, created fear among them, and then he made peace with them, thereafter frightening them again. In such a state, they surrendered to him. Makkah was chosen because Muhammad (sws) had declared it the Qiblah for Muslims and therefore, it was necessary for them to travel here easily. Victory over Makkah would increase Muhammad (sws)’s reputation greatly. In addition, the people of Makkah were highly skilled in administrative and military expertise and, after an increase in the region under control it was necessary that those disciplined people provide support in running the region. This commentary over the conquest of Makkah is as unrealistic as it is from a most famous historian’s pen. Such statements can be made only after closing one’s eyes to facts and making wrong assumptions.

The situation of the Prophet (sws) was that for 40 years, he had not presented a nationalistic or a reform program although youth is the age when such aims of people cannot remain hidden. One can perform great feats at this age. Even when the Prophet (sws) reached the age of 40, the program he presented showed no desires of lifting up the Arab nation and having them dominate the Romans. The key elements of the program were the oneness of God and its requirements. In his 13 year long Makkan phase, the Prophet (sws) was seen to be speaking about these requirements and the Quraysh viewed these as a great threat to their rule and an end to their luxurious life styles. To believe in the Prophet (sws) was to put one’s life in danger. If Watt’s assumption was correct, why did the Prophet (sws) not try to convince the Quraysh during this phase that he was struggling for the dominion of the Arab nation over the rest of the world and that they should assist him? There came a time during the Makkan phase when the Quraysh made an offer that if he wanted to rule over them they were ready to make him King. If the objective of the Prophet (sws) was to conquer the external world, why did he not take advantage of this offer? Obviously, he considered every kind of rule to be useless in face of the message of monotheism he was preaching. He accepted exile from Makkah, but was not ready to compromise over his message.

Instigating, frightening, making peace with the people of Makkah and then defeating them is also a fabricated story by Watt. He considers the Quraysh and the people of Makkah to be the oppressed and Muslims to be oppressors. Hence, according to him all battles were imposed by the Prophet (sws) upon the people of Makkah. We have seen above that until the battle of Ahzab, the Quraysh had continued to conspire with the Jews and left no stone unturned to torment the Muslims. During that time, Muslims could only defend themselves. After being defeated in the Battle of Ahzab, the Quraysh no longer possessed the same strength and energy that they had demonstrated until then.  Even then, their arrogance persisted. They showed this during the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. Changes in the situation were brought about primarily through this treaty. As a result of this, Islam grew so rapidly among Arabs that the Quraysh found it difficult to have their status accepted among them and thus defeated, they fell at the feet of the Prophet (sws).

As far as making Makkah the target, this was not because the Prophet (sws) wished to take advantage of the administrative experience of the Quraysh, but because the Quraysh and the people of Makkah were the first addressees of the Prophet (sws). The truth had been made evident to them in a conclusive manner. God’s Sunnah in the matter of His messengers is that after conclusive arguments have been made to their people, the latter’s fate is to be decided with justice. Either they believe or they are destroyed. As a result of the mission of Makkah, when the Quraysh surrendered, the Prophet (sws) did not assign administrative responsibilities to them, but in his very first address in the Ka‘bah, he ended all their previous responsibilities and took control of the Haram himself. Although Madinah was the capital, he banned further migration to it. Had the purpose been to benefit from the management skills of the Quraysh, they would have been asked to move to Madinah, or the Prophet (sws) would have moved his capital to the central city of Makkah. In the remaining two years of the life of the Prophet (sws), details of all those who were assigned various responsibilities of governance are given in history books. Please consult them. For missions, equal trust was placed upon both the Muhajirun and the Ansar. Not more than three or four names from among the new Muslims of the Quraysh can be found who were given even simple responsibilities. Had the opinion of Professor Watt been based on truth, the Quraysh would have been found to be dominating key positions of governors and army commanders.

The Prophet (sws) turned his attention to outside of the Arabian Peninsula when the Treaty of Hudaybiyah was signed. He sent letters to various rulers. The message common to all of these is the invitation to accept Islam, with reference to responsibility of his prophet hood.  History is witness to the fact that the Prophet (sws) did not impose the Quraysh over those rulers who accepted Islam, but let them keep the reign of their land.

When the thesis of Professor Watt cannot be proven from any aspect, we consider ourselves in the right to conclude that his vision is clouded with prejudice and that he wishes to observe everything through this cloud. He should also understand that some of his readers would like to view matters, not through his eyes but with their own.


(Translated by Nikhat Sattar) 



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