The Battle of Hunain. 8 A. H.
- :Yousuf N. Lalljee
The formidable Bedouin tribes, the Hawaazin, the Thakif and various others pastured their flocks on the territories bordering Mecca. Some of them possessed strongly fortified towns like Tayef, and were unwilling to render obedience to the Muslims without resistance. They formed a league with the intention of overwhelming Muhammad before he could make preparations to repulse their attack.
The threatening information compelled the Prophet to cut short his stay in Mecca. He left Mecca with his ten thousand followers, who had come with him from Medina, and two thousand from Mecca who had volunteered to fight by his side. Ali as usual, held the Sacred Standard of the Prophet. In the dead of night the army reached the Hunain valley, which lies about midway between Mecca and Tayef. In order to reach the fertile valley of Tayef, they had to pass through a narrow defile called Hunain. This was the key point of the enemy's defence. It was a narrow and dismal place leaving little room for an army to pass through, except in single file, nor could camels and horses be manoeuvred within its narrow walls. Concealing themselves under the precipitous side of the rocky valley, the tribesmen, from the heights, showered avalanches of rocks and arrows on the Muslims, and prevented all attempts by the Muslim cavalry to organise a charge. Panic began to spread amongst the Muslim troops and defeat seemed very probable. All except the Holy Prophet, Ali, Abbas and a few others started to run and panic seized the whole army. According to Habib-us-Siyar and Rouzath-ul-Ahbab, Khalid Bin Walid was the first to leave the field. As they ran helter skelter, the Holy Prophet called out to them, "Where are you going ? The Apostle of the Lord is here! Return! Return! Where are you going? The Apostle of the Lord is here ! Return! Return!"
At this critical moment Ali rallied the disorganised forces around him inspiring them to fight with fresh valour. At the same time the Holy Prophet asked his uncle Abbas, who held his mule, to call aloud at the top of his voice:
"O citizens of Medina! O men of the Treaty of Fealty (alluding to those who took the oath under the tree at Hudaibiya)! 0 Ye of the Sura Baqar (reminding them of their paying homage at the time of embracing Islam)! The stentorian voice of Abbas, as he repeatedly called aloud, was heard by the fleeing columns and it was answered with Labbaik (we are coming) from all sides and the men began to return. About a hundred men, all Ansars* (Abul Fida ; Ibn Hisham), gaining the narrow Pass, checked the advance of the enemy. The standard bearer of the enemy, a man of extraordinarily tall stature and stout built, came forward and challenged the Muslims to single combat. As usual, Ali stepped forward and engaged him and within a short time put an end to him. Now both the parties closed with each other and a hand to hand fight ensued. The conflict was terrible. The Prophet, who was watching the struggle from an eminence, taking a handful of gravel, cast it towards the enemy saying, "Ruin seize them". The enemy became panicky within a short time and finally took to flight, chased by the Muslims, and many of them were killed. The battle was won. The enemy, lost seventy of their bravest, of whom forty fell under the sword of Ali.
As a result of this victory, enormous booty fell into the hands of the Muslims. The battle of Hunain, is one of the most famous events in the history of Islam. It was notable for the strategy of Ali regrouping the Muslim army, turning defeat into victory. It also showed the clemency with which the prisoners were treated. Six hundred of the enemy were freed without having to pay ransom.
Mention of this battle has been made in the Holy Quran vide Sura IX-25 and 26.
25 "Already hath God helped you in many engagements, and on the day of Hunain when you prided yourself on your numbers, it availed you nothing. The earth became too strait for you although it was widely large, then did ye turn your backs in flight."
26 ("Then God sent down His tranquillity upon His Apostle and upon the faithful and sent down hosts (troops of angels) invisible to you ; and chastised those who disbelieved, and that is the reward of the ungodly."
Adapted from: "Ali, The Magnificent" by: "Yousuf N. Lalljee"
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