Battle of Ahzaab (Ditch/Khandaq)

When the Battle of the Ditch had taken place, the Holy Prophet (sa) contemplated sending Uyainah bin Hisn a third of the dates of Medina, on the condition that the people of the Ghatfan tribe travelling with him would go back. With the exception of all else, the Holy Prophet (sa) took counsel from only Hazrat Sa‘d (ra) bin Mu‘az and Hazrat Sa‘d (ra) bin Ubadah. Both of them replied, “O Messenger (sa) of Allah, if you have been commanded by God Almighty to do so then by all means proceed in doing so. However, if this is not the case, then by God we shall give them nothing but the sword” (i.e., we will take what is our right, or they shall receive whatever punishment was due as a result of this hypocrisy or breaking of their oath). Upon this, the Holy Prophet (sa) stated, “I have not been instructed in this regard, rather it was my personal opinion which I shared with both of you.” They both then answered, “O Messenger (sa) of Allah, these people did not even expect such treatment from us in the jahiliyyah (period of ignorance prior to Islam), so why now, after God Almighty has guided us through you?” (In other words, the rules and customs which were in place before should still apply to them now). The Holy Prophet (sa) was pleased with their answer.

(Usdul Ghabah, Vol. 2, p. 442, Sa‘d bin Ubadah (ra), Dar-ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 2003)

Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad Sahib (ra) has mentioned the details of this, with regard to the conditions during the Battle of the Ditch, as follows:

“These days were ones of grave pain, apprehension and danger. As the siege grew longer and longer, the Muslims naturally began to lose their strength to fight and although they were full of faith and sincerity, their bodies, which of course functioned according to the material law of nature, began to fall weak.” In other words, the body has certain physical needs, such as comfort and the need of nourishment. However, since the siege had prolonged, therefore they had to endure extremely difficult circumstances and could neither get proper rest, nor proper food and were consequently losing their strength. This impact on their bodies was owing to the natural laws. “Thus, when the Holy Prophet (sa) witnessed this state of affairs, he called upon the two chieftains of the Ansar, Sa‘d (ra) bin Mu‘az and Sa‘d (ra) bin Ubadah and recalling to them all of the circumstances at hand sought their counsel” in light of the conditions of the Muslims. “The Holy Prophet (sa) even proposed, ‘If you are in agreement, it is also possible that we may give the Ghatan tribe a portion of our wealth, so that this war may be averted.’ Sa‘d (ra) bin Mu‘az and Sa‘d (ra) bin Ubadah resonated the same words, and submitted, ‘O Messenger (sa) of Allah! If you have received divine revelation in this respect, then we submit to you in obedience. In this case, most definitely, let us act upon this proposition gladly.’ The Holy Prophet (sa) said, ‘Nay, nay, I have not received any revelation in this matter. I only present this suggestion out of my consideration for the hardship you are being made to bear.’ The two Sa‘ds responded, ‘Then our suggestion is that if we have never given anything to an enemy while we were idolaters, why then should we do so as Muslims?” i.e. they will continue to follow the rules that were a custom of the time. “By God! We shall give them nothing but the strikes of our swords.’

“The Holy Prophet (sa) was worried on account of the Ansar, who were the native residents of Medina” and so the Holy Prophet (sa) was particularly concerned about them in regard to the prolonged siege, whether they had any reservations or were in discomfort from it. “Furthermore, in seeking this counsel, the only intent of the Holy Prophet (sa) was to perhaps gather insight into the mental state of the Ansar, as to whether they were worried about these hardships or not, and if they were, then to console them. Thus, when this proposal was put forth, the Holy Prophet (sa) happily accepted and war continued.”

(Sirat Khatamun-Nabiyyin, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra), pp. 589-590)

Abu Salama narrated from Hazrat Jabir (ra) bin Abdillah, “On the day of the Battle of Khandaq, Hazrat Umar (ra) came after the sun had set and was expressing his displeasure for the disbelievers of the Quraish. He said, ‘O Messenger (sa) of Allah! I was not able to offer the Asr prayer and it is now after sunset.’ The Holy Prophet (sa) said, ‘By God! I too have not offered the prayers.’ Subsequently, we got up and went towards Buthan. Buthan was the name of one of the valleys in Medina. Over there, the Holy Prophet (sa) performed ablution and we also performed the ablution for prayers and then we offered the Asr prayer after sunset. After this, the Holy Prophet (sa) offered the Magrhib prayers. This is a narration from Bukhari.

(Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab Mawaqit al-Salah, Bab Qada al-Salah al-Ula fa al-Ula, Hadith 598)

There are varying opinions about how many prayers the Holy Prophet (sa) and his companions were unable to offer during the Battle of the Ditch and there are various narrations in this regard. In one narration, Hazrat Jabir (ra) states, “On the day of the Battle of the Ditch, Hazrat Umar (ra) expressed his displeasure at the disbelievers and said, ‘I could not offer the Asr prayers until the sun had set.’” He then said that he went to Buthan and offered the Asr prayers after the sun had set, after which he offered the Maghrib prayers. This is also a narration of Bukhari, in the previous narration there was mention that he was with the Holy Prophet (sa).

(Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Maghazi, Bab Ghazwat al-Khandaq wa hiya al-Ahzab, Hadith 4111)

Hazrat Ali (ra) has narrated that on the day of the Battle of the Ditch, the Holy Prophet (sa) said, “May Allah fill the homes and the graves of those disbelievers with fire because they kept us occupied and prevented us from praying Salat al-Wusta (i.e. the middle prayer) until the sun had set.”

(Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Maghazi, Bab Ghazwat al-Khandaq wa hiya al-Ahzab, Hadith 4111)

This narration of Hazrat Ali (ra) is from Bukhari.

Then Abu Ubaidah bin Abdillah narrates on the authority of his father that on the day of the Battle of the Ditch, the idolaters prevented the Holy Prophet (sa) from offering four prayers, until a portion of the night had passed as much as Allah had willed. The narrator further says that the Holy Prophet (sa) instructed Hazrat Bilalra to call the Azan; he then instructed him to call the Iqamah and led the Zuhr prayers. He then instructed him to call the Iqamah and led the Asr prayers; he then instructed to call the Iqamah and led the Maghrib prayers; he then instructed to call the Iqamah and led the Isha prayers. This is a narration of Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal.

(Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol. 2, Musnad Abdillah bin Mas‘ud, Hadith 3555 [Beirut, Lebanon: A‘lam al-Kutub, 1998], pp. 6-7)

The Promised Messiah (as) has deemed all these narrations to be weak except for one in which it is mentioned that the Holy Prophet (sa) only offered the Asr prayer close to the expiration of its prescribed time.

Whilst refuting the allegation levelled by the Christian Priest, Fateh Masih, wherein he stated that the Holy Prophet (sa) offered four of the prayers after its prescribed time, the Promised Messiah (as) stated:

“This satanic ploy of yours in alleging that four prayers were combined at the time of digging the trench in fact reveals your level of knowledge, because the word that has been used [in the hadith] is ‘qadha’. O foolish one! The word ‘qadha’ is used with reference to offering the prayer” not that a prayer was completely abandoned. “The term ‘qadha’ never applies in an instance where a prayer is missed. If one completely misses their prayer, the word ‘faut’ is used” i.e. the prayer has passed. “It was for this reason that we have announced a 5,000 rupee [challenge] because there exist such ignorant people who raise allegations against Islam and yet they do not even know the proper meaning of ‘qadha’. An individual who cannot even employ the proper usage of words, how can such a foolish one then claim to possess the capabilities to critique such intricate matters?

“As far as the allegation is concerned that four prayers were combined at the time of digging the trench, the answer to this foolish notion is that Allah the Almighty states that there is no harm”, i.e. it is not strictly forbidden, “to combine the prayers or offer them after its prescribed time in certain extenuating circumstances and in times of danger. However, there is no authentic hadith which states that four prayers were all combined together. In fact, in Fath-ul-Bari, a commentary of Sahih Bukhari, it states that only one prayer, the Asr prayer, was offered close to the expiration of its prescribed time. If at the time you were present before us”, the Promised Messiah (as) is addressing the opponent here, “we would have seated you down and asked you to present the authentic narration which states that four prayers were all combined. In light of the Shariah, there are four prayers which can be combined; in other words, Zuhr and Asr prayers can be combined together and Maghrib and Isha prayers can be combined together. Indeed, there is one weak narration, which states that the Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha prayers were all combined. However, all the other authentic narrations reject this particular narration. All that is proven is that only the Asr prayer was offered close to the expiration of its prescribed time.”

(Nur-ul-Quran, number 2: Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 9, pp. 389-390)

The Battle of Khandaq took place in Shawwal, 5 AH. On this occasion, when the army of the disbelievers had surrounded Medina, the chieftains agreed that they would launch an attack in unison. They began searching for a narrow path in the ditch through which their cavalry could pass and reach the Holy Prophet (sa) and his Companions, but they were unable to locate such a place. They said that this is a strategy which till today has never been used in Arab lands. They were told that the Holy Prophet (sa) had a Persian companion who suggested this idea. The disbelievers then said that this must be his suggestion.

Blessed City of Medina, location of the Battle of the Ditch

Thereafter, they reached a narrow passage of the ditch, which the Muslims were unaware of and Ikramah bin Abi Jahl, Naufal bin Abdillah, Durar bin Khattab, Hubairah bin Abi Wahab and Amr bin Abd Wudd passed through this passage. In order to call out and challenge the Muslims, Amr bin Abd Wudd recited the following couplets:

وَلَقَدْ‭ ‬بَحِحْتُ‭ ‬مِنَ‭ ‬النِّدَاءِ‬‬‬ لِجَمْعِهِمْ‭ ‬هَلْ‭ ‬مِنْ‭ ‬مُبَارِزْ‬‬‬

“I have lost my voice, constantly crying out to the other party, saying, ‘Will anyone come and challenge me?’”

In response to this, Hazrat Ali (ra) recited the following couplets:

لَا‭ ‬تَعْجَلَنَّ‭ ‬فَقَدْ‭ ‬اَتَاكَ‬‬‬ مُجِيْبُ‭ ‬صَوْتِكَ‭ ‬غَيْرُ‭ ‬عَاجِزْ‬‬‬ فِيْ‭ ‬نِيَّةٍ‭ ‬وَ‭ ‬بَصِيْرَةٍ‬‬‬ وَالصِّدْقُ‭ ‬مَنْجٰي‭ ‬كُلِّ‭ ‬فَائِزْ‬‬‬ اِنِّيْ‭ ‬لَاَرْجُوْ‭ ‬اَنْ‭ ‬اُقِيْمَ‬‬‬ عَلَيْكَ‭ ‬نَائِحَةَ‭ ‬الْجَنَائِزْ‬‬ مِنْ‭ ‬ضَرْبَةٍ‭ ‬نَجْلَاءَ‭ ‬يَبْقَي‬‬‬ ذِكْرُهَا‭ ‬عِنْدَ‭ ‬الْهَزَاهِزْ‬‬

“Do not show haste, for the one to answer your call has come, who shall never show weakness nor any frailty.

“Firm resolve, complete sagacity and remaining resolute in the battleground with unwavering resolve is key to each successful victory.

“Indeed, I expect to gather those who wail over a deceased one, to lament over you;

“Whilst causing such a deep wound, which shall be etched in the history of wars.”

When Hazrat Ali bin Abi Talib (ra) said, “O Messenger (sa) of Allah, I shall go and challenge him”, the Holy Prophet (sa) handed his sword to him, tied his turban for him and supplicated, “O Allah, grant Your support against him” (i.e. against Amr bin Abd Wudd). Hazrat Ali (ra) then went forth to confront him. They both approached one another and the dust between them flew up as they battled. Hazrat Ali (ra) struck him and killed him. He then exclaimed “Allahu Akbar” [Allah is the Greatest], from which they understood that Hazrat Ali (ra) had slain him. Those with Amr bin Abd Wudd fled and were only able to save themselves because of their horses.

(Sirat Khatamun-Nabiyyin, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra), p. 573) (Ibn Saad, Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, Vol. 2, Ghazwat Rasul (sa) Allah al-Khandaq wa hiya Ghazwat al-Ahzab [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, 1996], 283) (Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol. 4, Ghazwat al-Khandaq wa hiya Ghazwat al-Ahzab [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, 2001] 115)

Then there are accounts relating to the Battle of Ahzab which took place in 5AH. This was the third major battle between the Quraish of Mecca and the Muslims and is also known as the Battle of Khandaq [Ditch]. This took place in the month of Shawwal in 5 AH. Since the Quraish and the Jews from Khaibar and various other tribes had all come together in order to attack Medina, therefore this battle is known as the Battle of Ahzab [confederates] in the Holy Quran.

When the Holy Prophet (sa) exiled the Jewish tribe of Banu Nazir, they went towards Khaibar. A few men from among their elders and well-respected people went to Mecca. They gathered the Quraish and incited them to fight against the Holy Prophet (sa). They formed a pact with the Quraish and they all agreed upon fighting against the Holy Prophet (sa) and they also fixed a date for this. These men from the Banu Nazir left the Quraish and then went to the tribes of Ghatfan and Sulaim and entered into a similar pact with them and then departed from there. The Quraish made preparations and also gathered various other tribes as well as those Arabs who were their confederates, totalling 4,000. Abu Sufyan bin al-Harb was their commander.

Along the way, various other tribes also joined with them and the total number of people in the army was 10,000. The Holy Prophet (sa) was informed of their departure from Mecca and so he gathered his companions. The Holy Prophet (sa) informed them of the enemy’s plan and sought counsel from them. Hazrat Salman, the Persian, presented the suggestion of digging a ditch, which was liked by all the Muslims.

In the time of the Holy Prophet (sa), the north of Medina was an open plain, whilst all other sides had houses and orchards through which the enemy could not get through. And so, it was decided to dig a ditch towards the north of Medina in order to protect the city. The Holy Prophet (sa) along with 3,000 Muslims started to dig the ditch. The Holy Prophet (sa) was digging the ditch alongside the other Muslims so that his participation would raise their spirits and courage. The entire ditch was dug in six days. This ditch was approximately 6,000 yards or 3.5 miles long.

(Ibn Sa‘d, Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, Vol. 2, Bab Ghazwah Rasulullahsa al-Khanqad… [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2017], pp. 50-51) (Shawqi Abu Khalil, Atlas Sirat Nabawi (sa) [Darul Islam, 1424AH], p. 278)

Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) remained alongside the Holy Prophet (sa). Whilst digging the ditch, Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) would carry the sand in his clothes and he worked alongside the other companions in digging the ditch so that this task could be quickly completed within the period of time designated for this.

(Ali Muhammad al-Salabi, Al-Khalifah al-Awwal Abu Bakr Siddique, Fi al-Khandaq wa Bani Quraizah [Beirut, Lebanaon: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1993], pp. 65-66)

No Muslim remained behind in helping to dig the ditch. When Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) and Hazrat Umar (ra) could not find any baskets to carry the sand, they would place it in their clothes. They both remained together at all times.

(Mustafa ‘Abd al-Wahid, Subul al-Huda wa al-Rashad fi Sirat Khair al-‘Ibad, Vol. 4 [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1993], p. 365)

The Holy Prophet (sa) worked extremely hard during the digging of the ditch. Sometimes he would be digging with a pick-axe or he would gather the sand with a shovel or then carry the baskets of sand. One day the Holy Prophet (sa) became extremely tired and sat down and rested his left side against a rock. During this time, the Holy Prophet (sa) fell asleep and Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) and Hazrat Umar (ra) stood near the Holy Prophet (sa) and would stop people from walking past him, lest they wake him up.

(Mustafa ‘Abd al-Wahid, Subul al-Huda wa al-Rashad fi Sirat Khair al-‘Ibad, Vol. 4 [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1993], p. 367)

When the 10,000 strong army of the Quriash and their allies surrounded Medina, Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) was commanding one faction of the Muslim army. Later, in the area where Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) was commanding the army, a mosque was built and was called Masjid Siddiq.

(Al-Haaj Hakim Ghulam Nabi, Sayyiduna Siddique Akbar [Lahore, Pakistan: RR Printers, 2010], p. 41)

Whilst giving further details of this incident, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad Sahib (ra) writes:

“Amr was an extremely renowned swordsman and due to his bravery, was considered to be the like of 1,000 warriors by himself. Since he had returned from Badr frustrated and unsuccessful, his heart was charged with feelings of malice and revenge. As soon as he took to the field, he called for a duel in a very arrogant manner, asking if there was anyone who would confront him. Certain Companions were reluctant in confronting him, but Hazrat Ali (ra) stepped forward to square up to him with the permission of the Holy Prophet (sa). The Holy Prophet (sa) bestowed his own sword to him and prayed for him.

“Hazrat Ali (ra) advanced and said to Amr, ‘I have heard that you have vowed that if a person from the Quraish requests two things of you, you shall accept one of the two.’ ‘Indeed’, said Amr. Hazrat Ali (ra) responded, ‘Then I ask you first to embrace Islam and become the recipient of divine favours by accepting the Holy Prophet (sa).’ ‘This is not possible’, said Amr. Hazrat Ali (ra) said, ‘If not this, then come forward and prepare to battle me.’

“At this, Amr began to laugh and said, ‘I did not believe that anyone would ever muster the courage to say such words to me.’ Then he asked Hazrat Ali (ra) to provide his name and line of descent and upon hearing his lineage, he said, ‘Nephew! You are still a child. I do not wish to spill your blood; send forth your elders.’ ‘You do not wish to spill my blood’, said Hazrat Ali (ra), ‘but I feel no hesitation in spilling yours.’

“Upon hearing this, Amr became blind in rage and after jumping from his horse, hamstrung it (so that there was no way to return). Then he madly marched forward towards Hazrat Ali (ra) like a fierce flame of fire and wielded his sword against him with such force, that it cut through the shield of Hazrat Ali (ra) and struck his forehead, who was wounded to some extent. However, Hazrat Ali (ra) retaliated with such lightning speed, calling out a slogan of God’s greatness, that Amr was left fending for his life. The sword of Hazrat Ali (ra) penetrated his shoulder and cut him to the ground. Amr fell to the ground and gave up his life tossing and turning in agony.” (Sirat Khatamun-Nabiyyin, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra), pp. 588-589)

After the death of Amr bin Abd Wudd, the disbelievers sent word to the Holy Prophet (sa) that they would give 10,000 dirhams in exchange for his corpse. In response to this, the Holy Prophet (sa) said, “Take it, for we do not wish to make money of the deceased.”

(Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol. 4, Ghazwat al-Khandaq wa hiya Ghazwat al-Ahzab [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, 2001] 116)