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 Sirat Rasoul Allah

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17- The Trench

When the apostle of Allah heard of their intention he made a ditch around Medina, working there himself in order to en­courage the Muslims to covet reward in paradise, and they worked diligently with him except for the Hypocrites among them, who were dilatory, pretended to be ill, and stole away to their families without the permission or knowledge of the apostle. Any true Muslim, faced by an unavoidable emergency, always reported it to the apostle of Allah and obtained his per­mission to attend to the business. And Allah, the most high and glorious, revealed the verse ‘When Believers are engaged with the apostle in public business, they do not depart without asking his permission. For those who ask permission are those who believe in Allah and in His apostle. . . . But Allah knoweth those who steal away privately; let those who resist His command take heed, lest some calamity befall them, or grievous punish­ment.’ So the Muslims worked in the ditch till they had fortified it.

While the ditch was being excavated, Allah caused certain things to happen to display the truth of His apostle and confirm his prophetic dignity. The hard soil which they met with in some parts of the trench distressed the Muslims, and they complained to the apostle, who asked for a vessel of water. He spat into it, prayed for a while according to the will of Allah, and then poured the water on the hard soil. Those who were present said, ‘The soil softened till it became like a sand heap, and resisted neither pickaxe nor hoe.’

On another occasion a little girl was sent to take dates to her father and uncle for breakfast. ‘I went, and while looking for my father and uncle I happened to pass near the apostle of Allah, who said, “Come here, my little one. What hast thou there?” I replied, “These are dates which my mother sends to my father and to my uncle for their breakfast.” Then the apostle said, “Give them to me.” So I poured them into the palms of his hands, and they did not overflow. He ordered a cloth to be spread out, and placed the dates on it, then he said to a man nearby, “Call the people of the Ditch to come to breakfast.” The men arrived and began to eat of the dates, but they increased in such a manner that when the men of the Ditch went away the dates were still overflowing from the sides of the cloth.’

Another man told how ‘We were working with the apostle in the Ditch, and I had with me a small lamb which was not very fat; and I said, “We might prepare it for the apostle of Allah.” So I ordered my wife to grind some barley and to bake with it some bread; then I slaughtered the lamb, and we roasted it for the apostle. When the evening set in, and the apostle was about to depart from the Ditch (it being our custom to work there during the day and return to our families in the evening), I said, “Apostle of Allah! I have prepared for thee a young lamb, and we have baked some barley‑bread; and I should be honoured if thou were to come with me to my house.” I wanted him to come alone, but when I had uttered the words, he ordered a crier to shout, “Follow the apostle of Allah.” Then I said to myself, “To Allah we belong and to Him we must return.” The apostle came, and the people with him. He took his seat, we brought the roasted lamb, he pronounced grace in the name of Allah, ate, and the people did so, too, one after the other; and when they had finished they rose and another batch of men arrived, till all the people of the Ditch had been fed on my one lamb.’

Salman the Persian told how ‘I was digging in a portion of the Ditch and found it hard. The apostle was near me, and when he saw how troublesome the spot was, he came down, took the pick­axe from my hand, and struck the soil thrice. And each stroke brought forth a spark. Then I said, “Thou art to me as my father and mother, o apostle of Allah! What was this lightning I saw under the pickaxe when thou struck the soil?” He asked, “Didst thou really see it, Salman?” and I said, “Yes.” He told me, “The first spark means that Allah has promised me the conquest of Yemen ; the second that Allah has granted me the conquest of Syria and the West; and the third that Allah has bestowed upon me victory over the East.”

hen the apostle of Allah had completed the Ditch, the Quraysh came and encamped at the confluence of the Ruma torrents. Their army consisted of 10,000 men, including their allies and followers; the Ghatafan, with their followers from Najd , also came and encamped in the direction of Uhud; and news came that the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza had broken their treaty with Muhammad. So the apostle of Allah marched out with his Muslims, amounting to 3,000 men in all, and encamped so that Sal was behind him and the Ditch in front, separating him from the enemy. He had ordered the children and the women to be shut up in the forts.

To the followers of the apostle fear was in the air; the enemy was on all sides and the Believers gave way to every kind of surmise. The Hypocrisy of some became manifest, and one man even declared, ‘Muhammad used to promise us that he would swallow the treasures of Croesus and of Caesar; but at this moment, no one of us can even feel safe when he goes to relieve himself 1’

Then the apostle of Allah and the idolaters remained en­camped more than twenty days opposite each other, without any hostilities taking place save for the shooting of arrows and the siege.

When the difficulties of the siege began to bear hard on the people the apostle of Allah dispatched messengers to two com­manders of the Ghatafan, promising them one‑third of the date­crop of Medina if they agreed to depart with their people, and to leave him alone with his. Peace was concluded between them to the extent of drafting a document; but the final signature brought hesitation. The apostle sent for two of his Believers and consulted them. They asked, ‘Is this something thou wouldst wish to do? Or is it something which Allah has commanded thee, and which we must do? Or is it something which thou wouldst wish to do for our sake?’ He replied, ‘It is something which I wish to do for your sake; and by Allah, I would not do it but that the Arabs shoot at you as from one bow, and distress you from all sides. It is my intention to lessen their sting somewhat.’ Then one of the men exclaimed, ‘We and these people were once idolaters, together, but they did not eat of our dates except as our guests or for money. Shall we now ‑ when Allah has favoured us with Islam, and has honoured us with it and with thee ‑ present them with our property? We shall not. By Allah, we shall not give them anything except the sword, until Allah decides between us and them.’ The apostle said, ‘You are right’, and the man took the document and obliterated the writing, and he said, ‘Let them do their worst against us!’

So the apostle and the Muslims held on and their enemies besieged them, but no battle took place except that some horse­men of the Quraysh rode out dressed for battle on their horses; and they cried to the defenders, ‘Prepare for battle, and you shall know who are the true fighters this day!’ Then they pranced around and came to a halt near the ditch. When they saw it, they said, ‘This is a device which no Arab has thought off (Indeed, it is said that Salman the Persian suggested it to the apostle of Allah.) Then they sought out a narrow part of the ditch and whipped their horses across it and drew them up in the marshy area between the ditch and Mount Sal . Now Ali rushed out with several companions to guard the spot over which the horses had leapt, and the horsemen galloped up to them. Their leader gave the challenge to single combat which was accepted by Ali, and Ali slew him and the other horsemen fled back to their army.

Safiya, the daughter of Abdul‑Muttalib, was at the fort of Hassan, who had remained to guard the women and children. She told how ‘A Jew approached and began to walk round the fort. Now, the Banu Qurayza Jews had broken their treaty with the apostle of Allah, and their fort was to the rear of ours. There was no one to protect our side of the city, and the apostle of Allah was occupied with the invaders and unable to come to our aid. Accordingly, I said, “0 Hassan! A Jew is walking round the fort, and by Allah! I am not convinced that he will not report our weak position to the Jews in our rear. The apostle is fully engaged; go thou therefore to the man and kill him.” He replied, “May Allah pardon thee! Thou knowest full well that this is not a task for me.” When I saw that he would do nothing, I girded

"Who will go and see what our enemy is doing? Whoever goes will have a safe return, and I shall pray to Allah to make him my companion in paradise." But not one of the people would rise, because of their great fear, their great hunger, and the great cold; and when no one rose the apostle of Allah called me and said, "Hudhayfa! Go forth, enter among the enemy and see what they are doing, then return to me." Then I went out and moved among the enemy, while the wind and the hosts of Allah so worked among them that neither a cooking‑pot nor a fire nor a tent remained unharmed. And Abu Sufyan rose and said, "Let every man identify his neighbour!" Accordingly I took the hand of the man next to me and asked "Who are you?" and he told me his name. Abu Sufyan continued, "This is not our home. Our cattle and camels have perished, the Banu Qurayza have aban­doned us and their attitude is disquieting. We suffer from this violent gale; not a cooking‑pot is safe, nor a fire burning, nor a tent standing! Go, as I am going!" Then he went to his camel and mounted, and whipped it upright.

'Accordingly I went back to the apostle, whom I found pray­ing, and told him my tidings.' In the morning, the Quraysh had vanished, and the Ghatafan, too. Then the apostle of Allah and his army left the Ditch and returned to Medina and put away their arms.  

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