Seerah - Life of the Prophet Muhammad (saw)

34 - The Battle of Hunayn

After the conquest of Makka, one of the tribal communities that consumed Prophet Muhammad’s attention was the Hawazin. Divided into many sub-clans, the Hawazin resided in the regions between Makka and Najid and in the south stretching all the way to Yemen. Constituting a significant clan of the tribe, the Thaqif were located in Ta’if. The enmity between the Hawazin and the Quraysh, due in large part to trade relations and continuing from the Age of Ignorance had now been directed towards Prophet Muhammad – who was also from the Quraysh – and the religion of Islam that he conveyed. As some of the tribe’s clans had violated the terms of the Treaty of Hudaybiya relating to travel security, the Prophet dispatched small military expeditions upon them. However, as their resentment and hostilities continued to increase, the Hawazin became one of the greatest priorities for Prophet Muhammad during the conquest of Makka, after the Quraysh. While he was in Makka, the Prophet was informed, by a spy intercepted by the Muslims, of the great preparations that the Hawazin were making for a war against them. On the other hand, upon the destruction of the ‘Uzza idol located on the road to Ta’if, the Thaqif feared the imminent destruction of their own idol Lat and joined the Hawazin encamped at Awtas. At the head of the Hawazin army was thirty-year-old Malik ibn ‘Awf as commander. Despite the opposition of experienced individuals, Malik ibn ‘Awf commanded that women, children, goods and animals be brought to the frontline in order to keep his troops on the battlefield. This meant all-out war against the Muslims.

Upon 'Abd Allah ibn Hadrad al-Aslami – who the Prophet had sent for gathering intelligence – confirming news of the Hawazin and Thaqif’s gathering in the valley of Awtas, the Prophet began preparations for battle. Subsequently, seventeen days after the conquest of Makka, he set out with an army numbering 12,000 together with the 2,000 Makkan Muslims who had newly joined on 6 Shawwal (27 January, 630). The Muslim army included female Companions such as Umm ‘Umara, Umm Harith, and Umm Sulaym.

Heading towards Awtas on Thursday 11 Shawwal (1 February, 630), the Muslim army reached Hunayn during the night and waited here until the break of dawn. At Dawn, they mobilized behind the advance guard of 100 cavalry from the Banu Sulaym and headed by Khalid ibn Walid. Reaching the valley of Hunayn before the Muslims and setting up ambush in its narrowest and sandiest section, the Hawazin’s fire of arrows upon the advance guard meant an actual start of battle. As it was still rather dark, it was very difficult to ascertain the location of the enemy lying in ambush. In addition, the atmosphere of confusion and panic generated by the restless horses and camels led to the dispersion of the advance guard and the disorderly retreat of the central units, such that there were very few soldiers remaining around the Prophet. The Qur’an draws attention to the reason for the disarray being the Muslims’ seeing themselves as superior due to their multitudes and the resultant lack in complete reliance in God, and states that their eventual victory was due to the spiritual support they received from God following this bitter experience (At-Tauba, 9:25-26). The scattered army quickly pulled itself together with the Prophet’s warning and his daring and resolute intervention and reached victory after a very fierce battle. The vast majority of the Hawazin forces along with their commander took sought protection in Ta’if and some in Awtas, while others fled to Nahla. In this way, this battle which constituted the last peak of the Bedouin Arabs against the Muslims ended with the triumph of the Muslims.

It is reported that in this battle four Muslims were martyred and seventy enemy soldiers killed, including the famous poet and warrior Durayd ibn al-Simma. Prophet Muhammad commanded his Companions not to harm children, women, servants and slaves and was extremely grieved by the death of a woman on that day.

Advancing upon Ta’if – where the majority of the fleeing Hawazin forces sought shelter – the day after the battle, Prophet Muhammad sent a unit each to Awtas and Nahla. The unit sent to Nahla abandoned their pursuit when the fleeing enemy soldiers withdrew to the mountains. As for the unit sent to Awtas under the command of Abu Amir al-Ash'ari, they achieved victory in the ensuing battle with the Hawazin. However, Abu Amir was martyred. Assuming command, Abu Musa al-Ash'ari brought the prisoners and spoils seized to Ji'rana, upon the Prophet’s orders, where the spoils taken from Hunayn were gathered.



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