Towards the Conquest of Makka

The Conquest of Khaybar

As will be elaborated later, the treaty of Hudaybiya was a clear victory, a door opened to new and greater victories for Islam. The Makkan threat came to an end and God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, while sending envoys to neighbouring countries to invite their peoples to Islam on the one hand, set out to solve the other problems he faced within Arabia on the other.

Most of the Jews belonging to the tribe of Banu Nadir had settled in Khaybar after being expelled from Madina. Together with them, the Jews of Khaybar did not refrain from collaborating against Islam, sometimes with the Quraysh and sometimes with Banu Ghatafan. (1) As a result of the efforts made by the Jews of Banu Nadir to form an alliance against God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, the Quraysh had attacked Madina with a force of around 20,000 men only to retreat in humiliation after four weeks of hopeless siege. It was time for the Muslims to put an end to the Jewish conspiracy in Arabia to secure the future and free preaching of Islam. The punishment suffered by the Jews of Banu Qurayza roused the Jews of Khaybar to make an alliance with Banu Ghatafan and attack Madina. They were making preparations for this when, after the treaty of Hudaybiya, God's Messenger marched upon Khaybar. He made as if to attack Banu Ghatafan and forced them to shelter in their confines without daring to help the Jews in Khaybar. Then, he suddenly turned towards Khaybar. The farmers of Khaybar had left their homes in the early morning with their farm implements, when they saw the Muslim army approaching the city. They went back and sheltered in their citadels, which were very formidable.

God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, besieged Khaybar for three weeks. One day towards the end of the siege, he gathered his soldiers and told them: Tomorrow I will hand the standard to him who loves God and His Messenger and is loved by God and His Messenger. God will enable us to conquer Khaybar through him. (2)

When the next day came, almost everyone was hoping that the standard might be handed to him. However, God's Messenger asked: Where is 'Ali? 'He has sore eyes', they said. The Messenger sent for him and, after applying his saliva to 'Ali's sore eyes, he submitted the standard to him. (3) 'Ali went to the fortress and, after a fierce battle, Khaybar was conquered.

Among the prisoners of war, there was a noble woman, Safiyya, the daughter of Huyay ibn Akhtab, who was the chief of Banu Nadir. By marrying her, God's Messenger established a relationship with the conquered people.

The Battle of Mu'ta

In the peaceful atmosphere brought about by the treaty of Hudaybiya, God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, sent letters to neighbouring kings inviting them to the fold of Islam. The king of Busra, Shurahbil, who was a Christian Arab, killed the envoy of God's Messenger, Harith ibn 'Umayr. This was an unforgivable act, from the viewpoint of both international custom and the prestige of Islam. If it had remained unresponded to, some others might also have attempted to act in the same way.

God's Messenger formed an army of 3,000 men, and appointed Zayd ibn Harith as the commander. Additionally, he gave the instruction: If something happens to Zayd, Ja'far ibn Abi Talib should assume the command. If Ja'far is martyred, let 'Abd Allah ibn Rawaha take over the command. In case something happens to 'Abd Allah, choose one among you as the commander.

When the Muslim army reached Mu'ta, it met with a Byzantine army of 100,000 men. Obviously, it would be a fierce battle. The Muslims would fight one against 33 men. In the meantime, God's Messenger was in the mosque, relating the fighting to those around him, who were unable to participate in the campaign:

Zayd took the standard. He thrust himself into the ranks of the enemy. They martyred him. The standard was taken by Ja'far ibn Abi Talib. He also rose up to Paradise. 'Abd Allah ibn Rawaha took the standard. He too was martyred. Now, the standard was in the hands of a 'sword' among the 'swords of God'. (4)

The one God's Messenger described as 'a sword among the swords of God' was Khalid ibn Walid, (5) who would, from then on, be mentioned as 'the Sword of God'. When it was at night, Khalid stationed the troops at the rear in the front rank, and changed the wings, positioning those on the right to the left and vice versa. Having seen new troops before them in the morning, the Byzantine army was demoralized. When night fell, the sides parted with each other and retreated.

The Muslim army returned to Madina with only twelve losses. Although this was a victory for the Muslims, they were ashamed to meet God's Messenger, who, however, welcomed them and consoled them, saying: You did not flee; you retreated to join me, and will go against them later.

1. I. Hisham, 3.226; Diyarbakri, Khamis, 1.540.
2. Bukhari, Maghazi, 38.
3. Bukhari, 5.77; Muslim, 4.1872.
4. Bukhari, Maghazi, 44.
5. I. Hanbal, 5.299; Tabari, 3.110.
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