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Imam Ali (as) and the battle of Khandaq

During the ten years, in which the Prophet was living in Medina, the Muslims received much harm from the idolaters of Mecca. The enemy did not let them rest in peace of mind as they had to endure many troubles and difficulties, because they were involved in more than seventy wars big or small at all times.

In the fifth year of Hijrah an army of ten thousand warriors set out towards Medina. The commander of this strong army was Abu-Sufyan, who had grudge against Muhammad. He had a family feud with him. The Prophet, after consultation with his companions, determined on digging a ditch around Medina to hold back the enemy.

‘Amr ibn ‘Abd-Widd, whose heroic fame was trumpeted throughout Arabia, in concert with four other fighters, leaped on the hither side of the moat by horse. Amr, exclaiming in a bad state of anger, challenged loudly.

The Muslims were too much frightened when this fearless hero appeared in the field. Nobody was ready to fight him. Amr said: “Where is that paradise you desire to go to and take pleasure for ever? I am seeking after a man, who can manage me”.

There was no any answer except by Ali (s), who proclaimed his readiness. “Be seated Ali, he is Amr”. The Prophet said and turned his face towards his companions saying: “Who is ready to get us rid of this wicked man”.

As often as Amr challenged, Ali (s) was in readiness to face him. At last he obtained permission from the Prophet and was as happy to fight the enemy as a prisoner getting released from jail.

Ali (s), at the age of 25, faced the robust hero of Arabia, who was an old hand in fighting. He was awkwardly despised by Amr. But Amr did not know that this young fellow might be more courageous than him.

Amr, at first, showed pity for Ali, who had come to meet death at the beginning of his life as he thought. He said to him: “You are too young to combat me. Who are you?” “I am Ali ibn Abu-Talib.” He replied.

As soon as Amr heard this name he became a little shocked and with disappointment said: “Your father was my close friend and I dislike shedding blood of a young man like you. It would be better if one of your uncles came to the field”.

Ali (s) said: “Leave off the silly talks. I regard it as a duty to kill you for the sake of Allah.” He added: “As I know, you grant one of the three requests of your opposite combatant in the battlefield. Now you grant one of my three wishes. Firstly leave off idolatry and come to be a Muslim.”

Amr replied: “I will never believe in Muhammad. What is the next request?”

Ali (s) said: “Change your mind and desist from fighting or come down from your horse because I am on foot.”

Amr said: “It will be disgraceful for my family if the people say that Amr is frightened by an inexperienced young man.” He dismounted and rushed towards Ali (s) with a drawn sword. Ali (s) covered his head with a shield. The stroke was so strong that the shield was torn and his blessed head got a little hurt.

Ali (s) struck Amr’s thigh and the illustrious hero fell down on the ground.

When the battlefield was cleared of dusts, the Muslims became so delighted when they saw Ali (s) sitting on the chest of Amr and was going to cut off his head from the body.

Amr, at his last gasp, made his will that his valuable cloths and weapons not to be taken up. Ali acceded to his request and said: “It is too easy for me to forget it.”

Then those four men who had escorted Amr ran away to pass over the ditch. One of them, when trying to escape, fell down into the ditch. The Muslims began to stone him but he bade defiance to a man to fight him.

Ali (s) came into the ditch and killed him with one stroke of his sword.

Some Sunni historians 6 mentioned that the Prophet had said: “The value of Ali's stroke, before God, on the day of the ditch is more than the obedience of the two world's creatures (the angels and the human beings).”

Amr, who was the only hope of the idolaters of Koreish, was unexpectedly killed and consequently they were seized with deep fright. Abu-Sufyan was surprised how to help the situation. At the same time a bad storm arose and he decided to go back to Mecca. He delivered a short speech and following the whole army left the place.

This battle was also called the battle of al-Ahzab (the parties) because many groups of the Jews and the nomads of about Mecca and Medina had taken part in this war.

Although the Jews had signed previously a defensive contract to guard Medina against dangers, they, as always, had broken their promises and used to send arms to Mecca secretly. They were regularly in treaty with the idolaters; therefore the Muslims could not find peace of mind.

Muhammad (s) decided to bring them down to their knees and eventually declared the war against them in the year 7 A.H.

The Jews were afraid of the Islam's progress because they were blinded by prejudice and it also was contrary to their great interests.

There was a habitable and fortified place at a distance of 86 Km from Medina named Khaybar. The Jews cultivated the lands around the forts.

The Muslims, headed by the Prophet, got at Khaybar and encamped opposite to the forts. When the Jews knew the matter they ran away into the forts to prepare for the war.

There was a fortified castle, named Qamus, where all the Jews gathered into it.

The Muslims were kept on waiting for three weeks to open the fort but they succeeded in nothing.

Abu-Bakr and Umar started their fight but they were defeated 7 by the Jews.

At-Tabari, a Sunni historian, had recorded that when Umar came back from the field he frightened the Muslims of the bravery of Marhab the commander of the Jews.

The Prophet said: “Tomorrow I will give the banner to a man, who loves God and His messenger and God and His messenger love him too.” 8

On the next day the Prophet sought after Ali (s), who was suffering from a sore-eye. The Prophet prayed Allah so that Imam Ali’s eyes might be recovered. Imam Ali became well immediately.

At last the banner was given to him and he set out for the war.

Marhab was the bravest of all the fighters among the Jews. He was well-known for his valor. Ali (s) paced towards the forts and, suddenly the big gate of Qamus was opened and a few combatants came out.

Harith, the brother of Marhab, suddenly cried a terrific cry that the companions of Ali (s) went back a little, but Ali (s) stood against him. They fought each other and finally Harith was killed by Ali's sword.

Now Ali (s) faced Marhab. And as it was at those days Marhab began to recite some epic verses.

He said: “As long as Khaybar remembers that I am an experienced man in the war and those, who encounter me, will be stained by their own blood.''

Ali (s), in reply to him, said: “I am a man, whose name is Haydar (that is to say: a lion that attacks repeatedly and will never escape from the hunting-ground).”

Marhab turned about with his horse to run away because he had heard his Jewish rabbi saying that he would be killed by a man named Haydar.

But he came back towards Ali (s) talking with himself: “There are many "Haydars" in the world. It is not certain that this is the very one.”

Anyhow he was furious because of his brother's death and he wanted to revenge upon Ali (s) but Ali (s) killed him by a sudden push. The Jews fled away into the fort and closed the door from inside.

At last Ali went towards the door and pulled at it by all of his might and threw it aside.

In this manner he opened the way for his men to rush into the fort. All castles were opened and many of the Jews were captured. The godly men and the great leaders treated the powerless and defeated enemy kindly and dispensed them with vengeance.

The Prophet of Islam acceded the Jews’ request when they asked him to let them remain in the place, provided that they became disarmed, and not to assist the idolaters of Mecca and to pay the half of their production to the Muslims.

There was a productive area near Khaybar called Fadak, about 140 km. far from Medina, where the Jews made a good living by farming. They were in ease and comfort.

The Prophet, intending to frustrate any scheme against Islam, sent a word to the dean of the area to be put under the protection of Islam against the invaders. On condition that he would not make any plot against the Muslims and that he would pay the half of the income of their fields to the Islamic government, the Prophet would guarantee the security of the area.

As the religious laws provided, the regions, which were conquered by military forces belonged to the Muslims in general as public purse, but the lands which were taken without expedition and bloodshed belonged to the Prophet himself and then to his rightful successors.

The Prophet might donate his properties to everyone he liked.

Some of the Muslim interpreters 9 mentioned that when the verse: (And give to the near of kin his due and to the needy and the wayfarer and do not squander wastefully) 10 was revealed, the Prophet called for his daughter Fatima and gave her Fadak.

At a later period, she was dispossessed from it at the day of the first caliph Abu-Bakr for certain reasons of political purpose. 11 Of course the object of the author's intent is not historiography, since this book is about a man of a high rank in Islam, whose deeds and words were governed by the Islamic principles and Qur’an and he also was attendant with the Prophet step by step since childhood, therefore I have to give the readers some passages of the Islamic history to depict his personality as far as possible.


6. Al-Hakim an-Nayshaboori in his Mustadrak, vol.3 p.p.32, al-Mas'oodi in his Murooj ath-Thahab and at-Tabari in his Tareekh.

7. Abu Na'eem al-Isfahani in his book Hilyatul Awliya', vol.1 p.p.62, Muhammad ibn Talhah ash-Shafi'ei in his book Matalib as-Su'al p.p.4, Muhammad ibn Yousuf ash-Shafi'ei in his book Kifayatut Talib chap.14, al-Bukhari in his Sahih p.p.100 and ibnul Hajjaj in his Sahih, vol.2 p.p.324.

8. Ahmad's Musnad, ibn Maja's Sunan, Muhammad ibn Yousuf al-Ganji in his Kifayatut Talib chap.14, Sheikh Sulayman al-Balkhi al-Hanafi in his book Yanabee'ul Mawadda chap.6 and ibn Hajar in his Issaba, vol.2 p.p.508.

9. Refer to Ath-Tha'labi's Kashful Bayan, Jalaluddeen as-Sayooti's Tafseer, vol.4 p.p.177 (ad-Durr al-Manthoor), Abul Qassim al-Hasaqani's Tareekh, ibn Katheer's Tareekh, Sheikh Sulayman al-Balkhi's Yanabee'ul Mawadda and ibn Mardwayh's Tafseer.

10. Qur'an 17:26.

11. Ali ibn Burhanuddeen ash-Shafi'ei in his book as-Seera al-Halabiyya, vol.3 p.p.391, ibn Abul Hadeed in his Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, Yaqoot al-Hamawi in his Mu'jamul Buldan and as-Samhoodi in Tareekh al-Medina.

Adopted from the book : "Imam Ali (a.s.); Sunshine of Civilized Islam" by : "Muhammad Huseyn Tahmasebi"

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