Undeniably, the Muslims found hardship in this battle. However, they still were able to slowly and patiently break down the enemy’s fortifications one after another. This was until they came up against Al-Qumus, which was the toughest and most occupied stronghold. The Muslim army tried and tried but failed. They would suffer defeat for a couple of days, as they would go to the battleground, attack and then retreat to their campgrounds dejected. The Muslims put their hopes in a Muhajir (believed to be Abu Bakr) who took the lead in the battle, but he soon returned defeated as expected. The next day they tried their luck with another (believed to be `Umar ibn al-Khattab), but he too suffered defeat. (2)
The Muslims were in turmoil, as the opposition was getting their spirits lifted in every failed attempt while the Muslims were losing hope. This war if lost, could derail the Islamic rise, and open a door for Jewish enemies to destroy Islam in Medina. It would be a missed opportunity to add to the Muslims’ wealth, belief, and power. Yet the Prophet (pbuh) had a plan, he needed someone who was so devoted and at the same time courageous and powerful not to retreat and push for victory. Thus, he stated, “I shall give the banner tomorrow to one who (frequently) attacks (Karrar), and does not retreat. He is one who loves Allah and His apostle, and whom Allah and His apostle love. He shall not return until Allah opens (Khaybar) at his hands." (3)
The Muslims knew a person who fits the description given by the Prophet, and he was Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s). Yet because he (a.s) had sore eyes and was not able to see at the time, they fell into doubt about whom the prophet meant. The next morning the Muslims heard the Prophet searching for Ali (a.s). They then witnessed a miracle as the Prophet (pbuh & his family) applied his saliva to the aching eyes of the warrior in which he put his hopes, which cured him completely. He then handed him the banner and ordered him to battle.
What happened next taught not only Quraysh, but everyone a lesson; never bet against Ali (a.s).
(1) View Al-Maghazi v.2 p. 634, 637, 640,641,701,703.
(2) View Al-Maghazi v.2 p.653
(3) Al-Maghazi v.2 p.654
(4) Al-Maghazi v.2 p.654