The Battle of Hunayn
The Seerah of: Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
Battle of Hunayn
The Battle of Hunayn was fought between Muhammad and his followers against the Bedouin tribe of Hawazin and its subsection the Thaqif in 630 in a valley on one of the roads leading from Mecca to al-Ta’if. The battle ended in a decisive victory for the Muslims, who captured enormous spoils. The Battle of Hunayn is one of only two battles mentioned in the Qur’an by name, in Sura Tawba.
Battle of Hunayn
- Date: 630 (8 AH)
- Location: Hunain, near al-Ta’if in south-western Arabia
- Muslim victory
- 24,000 camels captured as booty.
- Muslims, Quraysh.
- Hawazin, Thaqif.
Commanders and leaders:
- Malik ibn Awf al-Nasri
- 12,000 – 20,000
Casualties and losses Unknown
- 70 killed
- 6,000 women and children taken prisoners.
The conquest of Mecca astounded both the Arabs and other tribes, who realized that they were doomed and had to submit. Some of the fierce, powerful, and proud tribes did not submit to Islam and favoured resistance. Ahead of these were the sects of Hawazin and Thaqif. Nasr, Jashm, Sa‘d bin Bakr, and people of Bani Hilal. According to the Muslim scholar Shafi-Ur-Rahman Mubarakpuri (India) “They thought that they were too mighty to admit or surrender to such a victory”. So, they met Malik bin ‘Awf An-Nasri and made up their minds to proceed fighting against the Muslims.
The Hawazin and their allies, the Thaqif, began mobilizing their forces when they learnt from their spies that Muhammad and his army had departed from Medina to begin an assault on Mecca. The confederates apparently hoped to attack the Muslim army while it besieged Mecca. Muhammad, however, uncovered their intentions through his own spies in the camp of the Hawazin, and marched against the Hawazin just two weeks after the conquest of Mecca with a force of 12,000 men. Only four weeks had elapsed since quitting Medina.
The spies that Malik had already dispatched to spy Muslim forces, returned with their limbs cut off. “Woe unto you! What happened to you?” Said Malik. They said: “We have seen distinguished people on spotted horsebacks. What you see, would not have happened if we had been firmly together.”, according to the Muslim scholar, Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakupuri.
Course of the battle
On Wednesday night, the tenth of Shawwal, the Muslim army arrived at Hunain. Malik bin ‘Awf, who had previously entered the valley by night, gave orders to his army to hide inside the valley and lurk for the Muslims on roads, entrances, and narrow hiding places. His orders to his men were to hurl stones at Muslims whenever they caught sight of them and then to make one-man attacks against them.
When Muslims started camping, arrows began showering intensely at them. Their enemy’s battalions started a fierce attack against the Muslims, who had to retreat in disorder and utter confusion.
It is reported that only a few soldiers stayed behind and fought, including Ali bin Abu Talib, the standard bearer, Abbas, Fazal bin Abbas, Usamah, and Abi Sufyan bin Hirith
“Come on, people!
I am the Messenger of Allâh. I am Muhammad, the son of Abdullah.”
Then Muhammad said:
“O, Allah, send down Your Help!”, later Muslims’ returned to the Battlefield. Muhammad, then Picking up a handful of earth, he hurled it at their faces while saying: “May your faces be shameful.” Their eyes were thick with dust and the enemy began to retreat in utter confusion, according to the Muslim scholar Safi-ur-Rahman Mubarakpuri.
Enemy Flees, 70 killed
After the enemy was defeated. About seventy men of Thaqif alone were killed, and the Muslims captured all their riding camels, weapons and cattle.
The Quran verse 9:25 was also revealed in this event according to Muslim scholars:
“Assuredly Allah did help you in many battle-fields and on the day of Hunain: Behold! your great numbers elated you, but they availed you naught: the land, for all that it is wide, did constrain you, and ye turned back in retreat. But Allah did pour His calm on the Messenger and on the Believers, and sent down forces which ye saw not: He punished the Unbelievers; thus doth He reward those without Faith.” [Quran 9:25]
Some of the enemies fled, and Muhammad chased after them. Similar battalions chased after other enemies, Rabi‘a bin Rafi‘ caught up with Duraid bin As-Simmah who was an old man, and killed him. This is mentioned by the Muslim jurist Tabari as follows:
“ The Messenger of God’s cavalry followed those who went to Nakhlah, but not those who took to the narrow passes. Rabia b. Rufay’ b. Uhban b. Tha’labah b. Rabi’ah b. Yarbu’ b. Sammal119 b. ‘Awf b. Imr al-  Qays, who was called Ibn Ladh’ah after his mother, overtook Durayd b. al-Simmah and seized his camel by its halter, thinking that he was a woman because he was in a howdah. But lo, it was a man.
He made the camel kneel down beside him and [found that] the man was very old. He was Durayd b. al-Simmah, [but] the young man did not know him. Durayd asked him what he wanted to do with him. The young man replied that he wanted to kill him. Durayd asked him who he was, and he replied that he was Rabi’ah b. Rufaya al-Sulami.He then struck him with his sword, but to no effect.
Thereupon Durayd said, “What a poor weapon your mother has armed you with! Take this sword of mind that is in the rear of the saddle Take this sword of mine that is at the rear of the saddle in the howdah and strike me with it above the spine but below the brain, for I used to slay men in that way. Then when you go to your mother and tell her you killed Durayd b. al-Simmah. By God, how many times i protected your women”. [Tabari, The Last Years of the Prophet, Pg 16]
Because Malik ibn Awf al-Nasri had brought the families and flocks of the Hawazin along, the Muslims were able to capture huge spoils, consisting of 6,000 women and children were taken prisoners and 24,000 camels were captured. Some Bedouins fled, and split into two groups. . One group went back, resulting in the Battle of Autas, while the larger group found refuge at al-Ta’if, where Muhammad besieged them.
Islamic Primary sources
The event is mentioned in the Sunni Hadith collection Sahih Bukhari as follows:
“ We set out in the company of Allah’s Apostle on the day (of the battle) of Hunain. When we faced the enemy, the Muslims retreated and I saw a pagan throwing himself over a Muslim. I turned around and came upon him from behind and hit him on the shoulder with the sword He (i.e. the pagan) came towards me and seized me so violently that I felt as if it were death itself, but death overtook him and he released me.
I followed ‘Umar bin Al Khattab and asked (him), “What is wrong with the people (fleeing)?” He replied, “This is the Will of Allah,” After the people returned, the Prophet sat and said, “Anyone who has killed an enemy and has a proof of that, will possess his spoils.” I got up and said, “Who will be a witness for me?” and then sat down. The Prophet again said, “Anyone who has killed an enemy and has proof of that, will possess his spoils.” I (again) got up and said, “Who will be a witness for me?” and sat down.
Then the Prophet said the same for the third time. I again got up, and Allah’s Apostle said, “O Abu Qatada! What is your story?” Then I narrated the whole story to him. A man (got up and) said, “O Allah’s Apostle! He is speaking the truth, and the spoils of the killed man are with me. So please compensate him on my behalf.”
On that Abu Bakr As-Siddiq said, “No, by Allah, he (i.e. Allah’s Apostle ) will not agree to give you the spoils gained by one of Allah’s Lions who fights on the behalf of Allah and His Apostle.” The Prophet said, “Abu Bakr has spoken the truth.” So, Allah’s Apostle gave the spoils to me. I sold that armor (i.e. the spoils) and with its price I bought a garden at Bani Salima, and this was my first property which I gained after my conversion to Islam. [Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:53:370]
The event is also in Imam Maliks Al-Muwatta as follows:
Yahya related to me from Malik from Ibn Shihab that al-Qasim ibn Muhammad said that he had heard a man asking ibn Abbas about booty. Ibn Abbas said, “Horses are part of the booty and personal effects are as well.” Then the man repeated his question, and Ibn Abbas repeated his answer.
Then the man said, “What are the spoils which He, the Blessed, the Exalted, mentioned in His Book?” He kept on asking until Ibn Abbas was on the verge of being annoyed, then Ibn Abbas said, “Do you know who this man is like? Ibn Sabigh, who was beaten by Umar ibn al-Khattab because he was notorious for asking foolish questions.” Yahya said that Malik was asked whether someone who killed one of the enemy could keep the man’s effects without the permission of the Imam. He said,
“No one can do that without the permission of the Imam. Only the Imam can make ijtihad. I have not heard that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, ever said, ‘Whoever kills someone can have his effects,’ on any other day than the day of Hunayn.” [Al-Muwatta, 21 10.19]
The Battle of Hunain
Speaking about this battle, the Glorious Qur’an says.
“Assuredly Allah did help you in many battle-fields and on the Day of Hunain: behold: your great numbers elated you but they availed you naught; the land, for all that if is wide, did constrain you, and ye turned back in retreat. But Allah did pour His calm on the Messenger and on the Believers, and sent down forces, which ye saw not: He punished the unbelievers: thus doth He reward those without faith. Again will Allah, after this, turn (in mercy) to whom He wills: for Allah is Off- Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [At-Tawbah: 25-27]
According to the majority of scholars of Siyrah, the battle of Hunain took place in Shwwal, 8 AH.
The Occasion of the Battle
When Hawazin, a neighboring tribe of Makkah, heard the news of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the Conquest of Makkah, 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. Other tribes joined these two tribes.
Malik Ibn ‘Awf, the chief of Hawazin, put forward a plan. He ordered his men to bring their families and belongings with them thinking that this would compel his men to fight fiercely. Durayd, an old, blind man, blamed him for doing so arguing that, “If a man is so cowardly as to leave the battle, then he will leave his family as well. The women and children will be a great worry for us and if we arc defeated all our wealth will fall into the enemy hands.” But Malik ignored this advice ad stuck to his original plan.
When the Prophet (peace ad blessings of Allah be upon him) heard what the enemy tribes were planning, he found himself forced to fight and ordered his army towards Ta’if.
The March of the Muslim Army
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) marehed with 2.000 Makkans and 0.000آ of his Companions who had gone out with him when he eonquered Makkah; 12.000 in all. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) left in charge of Makkah ‘ Attab Ibn Asid Ibn Abu Al-‘Is Ibn Umayyah ibn’Abd Shams to look after the men who had stayed behind. Then he went forward to meet Hawazin.
The Commenee of War
According to Ibn Ishaq, Jabir Ibn ‘Abdullah, who witnessed Hunain, said, “When we approached the valley of Hunain we came down through a valley wide and sloping. We were descending gradually in the morning twilight. The enemy had got there before us and had hidden themselves in it by paths and side tracks and narrow places. They had collected and were fully prepared, and by Allah we were terrified when, as we were coming down, the squadrons attacked us as one man, the people fled none heeding the other.
The men ran away except that a number of Muhajrun and Ansar and men of his family remained with the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Muhajirun who stood firm were Abu Bakr and ‘ Umar; of his family ‘Ali, Al-‘Abbas, and Abu Sufyan Ibn Al- Harith and his son and Al-Fadl Ibn ‘Abbas, Rabi’ Ibn Al-Harith, Usamah Ibn Zaid and Ayman Ibn Umm Ayman Ibn ‘Ubaid who was killed that day.
On seeing the men fleeing, the Messenger of Allah withdrew to the right and said,
“Where are you going, men? Come to me.
I am Allah’s Messenger. I am Mahammad the son of Abdullah.”
And not for nothing did the camels bump one into the other.
In this context, Al-Bukhari narrated on the authority of Abu Ishaq who said,
“I heard Al-Bara’ narrating when a man came and said to him, ‘O Abu ‘Umara! Did you flee on the day (of the battle) of Hunain?’ Al-Bara’ replied, ‘I testify that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not flee, but the hasty people hurried away and the people of Hawazin threw arrows at them. At that time, Abu Sufyan Ibn Al-Harith was holding the white mule of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) by the head, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was saying,
I am the Prophet undoubtedly: I am the son of ‘Abdul-Muttalib.
Finally a hundred men were gathered by him and they went forward and fought. At first the cry was, ‘to me, Ansar..! And finally, ‘to me, Khazraj They were steadfast in the fight. The men went on fighting and those who has run away returned; they found only prisoners handcuffed with the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Many disbelievers were killed and they were defeated. Allah granted His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) their property and children as booty.
According to Al-Bukhari, Abu Qatada narrated, “We set out along with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) during the year of (the battle of) Hunain, and when we faced the enemy, the Muslims (with the exception of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and some of his Companions) retreated (before the enemy). I saw one of the pagans over-powering one of the Muslims, so I struck the pagan from behind his neck causing his armor to be cut off.
The pagan headed towards me and pressed me so forcibly that I felt as if I was dying. Then death took him over and he released me. Afterwards I followed ‘Umar and said to him, ‘What is wrong with the people? He said, ‘It is the Order of Allah. Then the Muslims returned (to the battle after the flight) and (after overcoming the enemy) the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sat and said,
‘Whoever had killed an Infidel and has an evidence to this issue, will have (he Salb (i.e., the belongings of the deceased e.g., clothes, arms, horse, etc). ’
I (stood up) and said, ‘Who will be my witness?’ and then sat down. Then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) repeated his question. Then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said the same (for the third time). I got up and said, ‘Who will be my witness?’ and then sat down. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asked his former question again. So I got up.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘What is the matter, O Abu Qatada? So I narrated the whole story; A man said, ‘Abu Qatada has spoken the truth, and the Salb of the deceased is with me, so please compensate Abu Qatada on my behalf. Abu Bakr said, ‘No! By Allah, it will never happen that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) will leave a Lion of Allah who fights for the Sake of Allah and His Messenger and give his spoils to you.’ The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
‘Abu Bakr has spoken the truth. Give it (the spoils) back to him (O man)..!
So he gave it to me and I bought a garden in (the land of) Banu Salamah with it (i.e., the spoils) and that was the first property I got after embracing Islam.
When the spoils were collected, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ordered his Companions to take itto Al-Ja’franah. Mas’ud Ibn “Amr Al-Ghifari was put by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in charge of the spoils.
The Division of the Spoils
In Iris Sahih, Al-Bukhari narrated the following ahadith that refer to the division of the spoils at Hunain:
Marwan and Al-Miswar Ibn Makhrama narrated that when the delegate of Hawazin came to Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) declaring their conversion to Islam and asked him to return their properties and captives, Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) got up and said to them,
“There is involved in this matter, the people whom you see with me, and the most beloved talk to me, is the true one. So choose one of two alternatives: Either the captives or the properties. I have been waiting for you (i.e., have not distributed the booty).”
Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had delayed the distribution of their booty over ten nights after his return from Ta’if. So when they came to know that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was not going to return to them but one of the two, they said, “We prefer to have our captives.” So Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) got up amongst the Muslims, and praising Allah as He deserved, said,
“Your brothers have come to you with repentance and J see (it is logical) to return their captives. So, whoever of you likes to do that as a favor then he can do it. And whoever of you likes to stick to his share until we give him from the very first booty which Allah will give us, then he can do so.”
The people said, “We do that (i.e., return the captives) willingly as a favor, ‘O Allah’s Messenger!” Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“We do not know which of you have agreed to it and which have not; so go back and let your chiefs forward us your decision.”
They went back and their chief’s spoke to them, and they (i.e., the chiefs) returned to Allah’s
Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and informed him that all of them had agreed (to give up their captives) with pleasure’, and had given their permission (i.e., that the captives be returned to their people).
Anas narrated that when it was the day of (the battle of) Hunain, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) confronted the tribe of Hawazin while there were ten-thousand (men) besides the Tulaqa’ (i.e., those who had embraced Islam on the day of the Conquest of Makkah) with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). When they (i.e., Muslims) fled, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “٠ the group of Ansar!” They replied, “Labbaik (here we are at your service), ‘O Allah’s Messenger and Sa’daik (we are under your commmad)!” Then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) got down (from his mule) and said,
‘’I am Allah’s servant and His Messenger.”
Then, the pagans were defeated. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) distributed the war booty amongst the Tulaqa’ and Muhajirun (i.e.. Emigrants) and did not give anything to the Ansar. So the Ansar spoke (i.e., were dissatisfied) and he called them and made them enter a leather tent and said,
“Won’t you be pleased that the people take the sheep and camels, and you take Allah ’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) along with you?”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) added,
“If the people took their way through a valley and the Ansar took their way through a mountain pass, then I would choose a mountain pass of the Ansar.”
Anas also narrated that when it was the day of the Conquest (of Makkah) Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) distributed the war booty amongst the people of Quraish, which caused the Ansar to become angry. So the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“Won’t you be pleased that the people take the worldly things and you take Allah ’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) with you..?”
They said, “Yes.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“If the people took their way through a valley or mountain pass, I would take my way through the Ansar’s valley or mountain pass.“