Jihad in the Koran

The Civil War Which Started It All


Battle of the Ditch

The battle for Medina is usually referred to as the Battle of the Ditch because of a trench that was dug on the flat approaches to the city. The idea for a trench to counter the superior Meccan cavalry came from a Persian Christian convert to Islam by the name of Salman al Farsi (or Farisi).

No slaves where employed in the digging of the trench.

Narrated Anas:

Allah's Apostle went towards the Khandaq (i.e. Trench) and saw the Emigrants and the Ansar digging in a very cold morning as they did not have slaves to do that for them.

When he noticed their fatigue and hunger he said, "O Allah! The real life is that of the Here-after, (so please) forgive the Ansar and the Emigrants."

In its reply the Emigrants and the Ansar said, "We are those who have given a pledge of allegiance to Muhammad that we will carry on Jihad as long as we live."

Bukhari 52.87

This “ditch” completely stymied the Meccan forces which included a 300 horse cavalry unit. For two weeks, an army of ten thousand waited for their hapless and befuddled commander Abu Sufyan to devise a strategy to overcome what should have been a minor obstacle for such a large force.

In the meantime, the go-between in the negotiations for a joint operation between the Meccans and the remaining Jews of Medina against the Muslims, converted to Islam. The quick-thinking Muhammad made Nu'aym ibn Mas'ud his double-agent, asking him to continue acting as go-between and sow distrust between the would-be allies thereby delaying any agreement.

It worked. Negotiations were at an impasse when Allah decided to put an end to the siege by sending a vicious sandstorm which wreaked havoc on the exposed Meccan camp which was already short on supplies. He may also have concealed elements of His Air Force (angels, “the host you did no see” in revelation 33:9) in the swirling, grinding sand.

33:9 O believers, remember Allah’s grace on you when enemy hosts (of confederates allied against Muslims in the Battle of the Ditch (khandaq) during the siege of Medina) came upon you; then We sent against them a wind and hosts you did not actually see. Allah perceives well what you do.

Disconcerted and confused, the Meccans and their allies abandoned the siege of Medina. As at the Battle of Badr, the casualties inflicted by this “hosts” during this desert sitzkrieg were light; casualties for both sides were 8 Meccans dead and 6 Muslims. However, this is not how Allah saw it:

33:10 When they came upon you from above you and from below you, and your eyes looked askew and your hearts reached your throats, while you entertained false thoughts about Allah.

33:11 Then and there, the believers were sorely tried and shaken very violently.

Verses which may give you an indication of the difficulties faced by the Prophet – the loyalty and commitment of his troops being paramount.

33:12 And when the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a sickness were saying: “Allah and His Messenger have only promised us vanity.”

33:13 And when a group of them said: “O people of Yathrib (Medina), there is no place for you to abide in, so turn back”; while another group of them were seeking the Prophet’s permission, saying: “Our homes are exposed”, whereas they were not exposed. They only wanted to flee.

33:14 And were it entered from its different quarters, and then they were asked to apostatize, they would certainly have done so, without lingering but a short while.

33:15 Although they had made a pledge to Allah, before, that they will not turn their backs. Pledges to Allah are always accountable.

33:16 Say: “Flight will not profit you, if you flee from death or murder; for then you will not partake of enjoying life except briefly.”

33:17 Say: “Who will defend you against Allah, if He wishes you ill or if He wishes you well.” They will find for themselves, apart from Allah, no protectors or supporters.

33:18 Allah would surely know those of you who hinder the others and those who say to their brothers: “Come over to us”; and they do not partake of fighting, except a little.

33:19 They are ever niggardly towards you, but if fear overtakes them, you will see them look at you, with their eyes rolling like one who is in the throes of death. But when fear subsides, they cut you with sharp tongues. They are niggardly in times of prosperity (as a result of the spoils of war); those are no believers. Thus Allah has frustrated their actions, that being for Allah an easy matter.

33:20 They think the Confederates (the Meccans and their allies) have not departed, but were the Confederates to show up, they would wish they were desert dwellers with the Bedouins asking about your news. However, were they in your midst, they would fight but little.

33:21 You have had a good example in Allah’s Messenger; surely for him who hopes for Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah often.

33:22 When the believers saw the Confederates, they said: “This is what Allah and His Messenger have promised us, and Allah and His Messenger are truthful.” And it only increased them in faith and submission.

33:23 Of the believers, there are men who fulfilled what they pledged to Allah; some of them have died, some are still waiting, without changing in the least.

33:24 So that Allah might reward the truthful for their truthfulness and punish the hypocrites, if He wishes, or forgive them. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.

Allah vanquished the Meccans, even if there were no spoils to be had. What a God!

33:25 Allah turned back the unbelievers in a state of rage, having not won any good (spoils), and Allah spared the believers battle. Allah is, indeed, Strong and Mighty.