Battle of the Trench (Ghazwa-e-Khandaq) or Battle of the Confederates (Ghazwa-e-Ahzab) was the third and last major battle between Muslims and Quraysh of Makkah. It is called Battle of Trench because Muslims dug a trench around Madinah in order to save the city from invasion of Quraysh while it is called Battle of Confederates because several Jewish and Arab tribes made alliance with Quraysh to uproot Muslims from Madinah. The battle was fought in 5 AH and ended with victory for Muslims as the invaders could not breach the defenses of Madinah despite their full effort.
Causes of Battle of Trench
· Battle of Uhud (3 AH) remained successful for Quraysh after which they decided to destroy the Muslim city state of Madinah in the next battle as early as possible. They got the chance to invade Madinah two years later in 5 AH after gaining support of many Arab and Jewish tribes.
· Jewish tribes of Banu Qaynuqa and Banu Nadir were expelled by Muhammad (PBUH) due to their breach of Charter of Madinah and they were eager to take their revenge. They not only formed alliance with Quraysh but also persuaded several tribes of Najd to join the battle against Muslims.
· Muslims were now powerful enough to block the trading route between Sham and Makkah and Quraysh wanted to keep their trading route safe from every enemy.
Preparation for Battle
The army of confederates moved towards Madinah in January 627 AD with more than 10,000 men. Half of the fighters were from Quraysh while the other half were composed of Jewish tribes Banu Nadir and Banu Qaynuqa, and Arabian tribes of Banu Ghatafan, Bani Assad, Banu Sulaym, Banu Shuja and Banu Murra. The Makkans moved from the south while the other Arabian tribes moved from east towards Madinah.
Soon after the marching of invading armies, men from Muslim-affiliate tribe Banu Khuza’a arrived in Madinah and informed the Muslims about the huge invading army. It was dangerous to fight against such a large army in open battle because the total adult male population of Madinah (except Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza) was less than third part of the attackers. Therefore, the opinion of Salman al-Farsi (Salman the Persian) was accepted to dig a ditch on the northern side of Madinah. On the other three sides, the city was protected naturally with trees and rocky mountains. In six days, Muslims completed the 5 meter wide and 5 meter deep trench. Muhammad (PBUH) also took part in this labor along with other Muslims.
Meeting of Two Armies
When the allies arrived near Madinah, they became stunned after viewing the trench as it was an alien way of defense for them. The trench forced them to encamp outside Madinah. 3,000 Muslims were present on the other side of trench for defense of the city.
Quraysh tried several times to cross the trench but their every effort was foiled by Muslim archers. After about two weeks, a Qureshi warrior Amr bin Abd Wudd successfully crossed the trench with few of his men and challenged Muslims for a duel. Ali (RA) accepted the challenge and killed Amr after an intense fight. Later, no one else tried to repeat this adventure.
Role of Banu Qurayza
After the expulsion of Banu Nadir and Banu Qaynuqa, Banu Qurayza was the last Jewish tribe left in Madinah. The tribe tried to remain neutral during the battle but when chief of Banu Nadir ensured them the victory of Quraysh and persuaded them to help the invading army. Muhammad (PBUH) got the news and he sent 300 horsemen and 100 foot soldiers to protect the city from its rear (against Banu Qurayza).
Role of Nuaym ibn Masud
The breach of pact by Banu Qurayza created severe problems for Muslims as they were now facing enemies from both front and rear sides. At this moment, a newly converted leader of Banu Ghatafan, Nuaym ibn Masud, played an important role to end the confederacy. No one was aware about his conversion and he took advantage of his secret conversion. He initially went to Banu Qurayza and persuaded them to demand the leaders of confederates as hostages so that they may not abandon Banu Qurayza in case of defeat. On the other hand, Nuaym met with Abu Sufyan and other confederate leaders and warned them that no man should be given as hostage to Banu Qurayza as they will hand over the hostages to Muhammad (PBUH).
His plan remained successful. Banu Qurayza demanded hostages and the confederates refused their demand. Practically, this issue ended the partnership between Banu Qurayza and the invaders.
End of the Siege
The long siege created problems for both Muslims and the invaders. Muslims were facing shortage of food and lack of sleep while the cold weather was proving extremely difficult for the invaders. In this situation, Muhammad (PBUH) also started negotiations with the Arabian tribes of Najd as they were only there to loot the spoils of war. The days of Hajj were also approaching for the Quraysh and both the sides were eager to end this long siege. On the 27th day of siege, a gusty wind forced the invaders to withdraw and the steadfastness of Muslims made them victorious in this long siege.
After the end of battle, Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza was given punishment for their breach of the pact when they surrendered after siege of their area. All their men were executed while women and children enslaved. After surrender of Banu Qurayza, they selected Sa’ad bin Mu’adh (RA) as their arbitrator and he chose this punishment for them according to the teachings of Torah.
Reasons of Muslim Victory in Battle of Trench
· Muslims defended Madinah with trench which was a new strategy for the Arabs as they were not experienced with this type of defensive war and could not cross the trench despite their best efforts for a month.
· Muslims defended their land with valor and commitment and their belief in Islam never let them lose hope.
· Nuaym ibn Masud (RA) played an important part to create differences between Banu Qurayza and the invading armies.
· Most of the Arab tribes were not enemies of Muslims and their only purpose was to loot the booty. They were not interested in long siege and showed their eagerness to negotiate with Muslims after long siege.
· Cold weather and strong winds shattered the spirits of the invaders.
· The annual pilgrimage of Makkah was approaching and the Quraysh had to prepare for the management of pilgrimage which forced them to end their siege.
Importance of Battle of Trench
· Defeat in the Battle of Trench badly demoralized Quraysh and they could never be able to attack Madinah again. Instead, they signed treaty of Hudaybiyya in 6 AH with Muslims.
· Quraysh lost their trade with Syria which produced financial problems for them.
· Muslims restored their reputation as an emerging and powerful party of Arabia while persecution of Muslims by other Arabian tribes, which started after Battle of Uhud, ended completely.
· Last Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza was eliminated after Battle of Trench which purged Madinah from conspiracies of Jews.