Islam flourished in Mecca and the Muslims became stronger and stronger. But south of Mecca lived a tribe of warriors called Hawazin, who had not become Muslim. They made an agreement with another tribe from Ta’if, called Thaqif to fight the Muslims and destroy them before they could spread their religion throughout Arabia. The Thaqif, who were known for their courage, soon won the support of other tribes living around the Ta’if area, especially when such tribes were told: „Look what has happened! If Quraysh, the largest tribe of all, have fallen to Muhammad, it is only a matter of time before the same will happen to the rest of us. We should strike now before the Muslims are established in Mecca and have the support of Quraysh.’ The Chief of one of these tribes, a fearless warrior called Malik Ibn „Awf, was chosen as the leader. He put forward a plan: ‘You should all go out to battle accompanied by your families, your tents, your sheep and goats, for with all your belongings at stake, none of you will dare give up the fight.’
Everyone agreed with Malik except an old, blind man called Dorayd. He had been a great warrior in his day and because of his experience and valuable advice still accompanied the men into battle. ‘I don’t like Malik’s plan’, he insisted. ‘If a man is so cowardly as to leave a battle, then he will leave his family as well. The women and children will be a great worry to us and if we are defeated all our wealth will fall into enemy hands.’ But Malik ignored this advice and stuck to his original plan. When the Prophet (pbuh) heard what the enemy tribes were planning, he found himself forced to fight and ordered his army towards Ta‟if. He had twelve thousand men and the enemy only four thousand. The Muslims were proud of their strength and as they looked around at their number, said to themselves, ‘We will never be defeated!’ On hearing this the Prophet (pbuh) knew that the Muslims had become too proud and because of this would not succeed.
He warned them, ‘Look to Allah and not to your own strength.‟
The time for battle came. The Muslim army advanced along the Hunayn path, a narrow way in the rugged mountains, towards the valley where the Hawazin and the other tribes were waiting. It was very early morning and not yet light. The Muslims were unaware that, under cover of darkness, the Hawazin warriors had already climbed up the mountain and were waiting for them. As soon as all the Muslims were trapped in the narrow passage-way below, the Hawazin ambushed them. First they threw rocks down upon them and then attacked with arrows and swords.
In surprise and fear, the Muslims started to retreat. The Prophet (pbuh) was bitterly disappointed to see them fleeing in terror but he stayed firmly in his place with Abu Bakr, ‘Ali, his uncle al-„Abbas, and a few companions at his side. Al-‘Abbas then called to the Muslims to return and not to abandon the Prophet (pbuh). Ashamed at what they had done, and seeing the Prophet (pbuh) facing the enemy almost alone, the Muslims quickly returned to fight. Then Allah sent His angels-the hosts ye cannot see-to their aid. A fierce battle followed. The Muslim warriors advanced, attacking furiously, driving the Hawazin back from the path into the valley, where the fighting went on long and hard. At the end of the day the Muslims won but not before having learned a hard lesson about the danger of pride.
Just as the old man had predicted, the defeated enemy fled, leaving their families and possessions to be captured. Later all the leaders of the tribes except one came to ask for them back and to declare their acceptance of Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) forgave them and returned their families to them, but not their belongings. The one exception was the leader of Hawazin. He fled to Ta’if, where he sought protection in the castle, but the Muslims pursued him and surrounded the city, which they besieged for about three weeks.
They tried to break into the castle but after losing many men in the attempt the Prophet (pbuh) ordered a withdrawal. The story did not end there, however, for shortly afterwards Hawazin and most of the other tribes came to Mecca and declared themselves Muslim, including Malik Ibn Awf, who had led them in battle and whom the Prophet (pbuh) now made their leader.
After the battle of the Hunayn Valley, the Prophet (pbuh) distributed what goods had been taken between the people of Quraysh and the other Bedouin tribes. The Ansar from Medinah, who had been his only support during the long hard years before the conquest of Mecca, received nothing. They felt angry about this and went to the Prophet (pbuh) to complain. He said to them, what is this I hear of you? Do you think badly of me? Did I not come to you when you did not know the truth and Allah guided you; when you were poor and Allah made you rich; when you were enemies and Allah softened your hearts? Are you covetous for the things of this world that I must use to gain people’s trust so that I can then lead them to Islam? Surely for you Islam is enough? Are you not satisfied that while some men take away flocks and herds you take Allah’s Messenger back with you to Medinah?’ On hearing this, all the men felt very contrite and began to weep then with great humility and reverence their spokesman said: ‘We are indeed well pleased to have Allah’s
Messenger as our gift in this life.‟ Perhaps we could ask ourselves the same question. Are we not blessed to have the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the Book, guiding us in what really matters for ever and ever? Is this not so much more important than thinking about the momentary pleasures of the day?
Shortly after this the Ansar left for Medinah accompanied by the Prophet (pbuh). He could have stayed among his own people and lived out his days in Mecca, but he returned as he had promised, to live among the people of Medinah, which was a great blessing for them.
“Allah gave you victory on many fields and on the day of Hunayn, when you exulted in your great numbers it was of no help to you, and the earth, vast as it is, was straitened for you; then you turned back in flight; Then Allah sent His peace of reassurance down upon is Messenger and upon the believers, and sent down hosts you could not see, and punished those who did not believe. Such is the reward of disbelievers. Then afterwards Allah will relent toward whom He will; for Allah is Forgiving, Merciful”. (Qur’an 9.25-27)