The 60th Call: Thanking Allah for Supporting the Muslims on the Day of Al-Ahzab
Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “O you who have believed, remember the favor of Allah upon you when armies came to [attack] you and We sent upon them a wind and armies [of angels] you did not see. And ever is Allah, of what you do, Seeing. [Remember] when they came at you from above you and from below you, and when eyes shifted [in fear], and hearts reached the throats and you assumed about Allah [various] assumptions. There the believers were tested and shaken with a severe shaking.” (Al-Ahzab: 9-11)
After the command from Allah to His servants to be pious, and not to fear anyone but Him, He reminds His believing servants of the blessings He has bestowed upon them and the victory He gave them with on the Day of al-Ahzab. This was when the soldiers of the confederate forces came to Madinah, so Almighty Allah sent down terrifying wind that swept their tents and their vessels away. He sent angels from heavens as unseen soldiers to help the Muslims. They inflicted fear, terror and weakness in the spirits of the polytheists who fled in a very stormy cold night. Almighty Allah is Seeing of the deeds of the believers and their honest and truthful intentions so He supported and defended them.
The story of the Confederate Armies (al-Ahzab) is narrated in the books of Sirah as follows: “A group of the Jews of Madinah traveled to the tribe of Quraysh in Makkah in the Month of Shawal, in the fifth year of Hijrah. They incited the polytheists to fight Allah’s Messenger, Peace Be upon Him, then they went to the tribes to Ghatafan, Qays Ayalan and Assad so that they would join them. They made a treaty with them to ally against the Messenger and Muslims. So, these tribes marched towards Madinah for war.
When the Messenger, Peace Be upon Him, came to know that, he consulted with his companions. Salman al-Farisi advised him to dig a moat around Madinah in order to help the Muslims stop the progress of polytheists and ban them from entering Madinah. So, Muslims dug up the moat and when the allied tribes arrived they found the moat so they could not enter Madinah and they besieged it. Some clashes took place between the Muslims and polytheists. During the siege, Banu Qurayzah breached the treaty with Allah’s Messenger, Peace Be upon Him, because of the efforts of Huyay ibn Akhtab, the leader of Banu Nudhair Jews who were sent away to Khaybar by the Messenger. Indeed, this was a very difficult situation for the Muslims.
Then a man from Ghatafan called Nu’aym ibn Mas’ud came over to the Muslim camp and said to the Prophet (Peace Be upon Him): “Messenger of Allah, I am now a Muslim and my people are not aware of that fact. You may give me whatever orders you wish.” Keenly aware of the situation the Muslims were in, the Prophet said to Nu’aym: “If you join us, you increase our number by one. But try, if you can, to dissuade the people from attacking us. War is but a successful trick.”
Nu’aym went to Banu Qurayzah, whom he used to associate with in Jahilyah befor embracing Islam. "O Bani Qurayzah," he said. "Quraysh and Ghatafan have their own interests in this war which are different from your interests." "How so?" they queried.
"This is your city," Nu’aym asserted. "You have your wealth, children and women here and it is not in your power to flee and take refuge in another city. On the other hand, Quraysh and Ghatafan have their land, wealth, children and women away from this city. They came to fight Muhammad. They urged you to break the treaty you had with him and to help them against him. So you responded positively to them. If they were to be victorious in their encounter with him, they would reap the booty. But if they fail to subdue him, they would return to their country safe and sound and they would leave you to him and he would be in a position to exact the bitterest revenge on you. You know very well that you would have no power to confront him." "My opinion," Nu’aym suggested, "is that you should not join forces with them until you take a group of their prominent men as hostages. In that way you could carry on the fight against Muhammad either till victory or till the last of your men or theirs perish. (They would not be able to leave you in the lurch)." "You have advised well," they responded and agreed to take up his suggestion.
[Nu`aym created mistrust between the three groups forming the confederate forces, Quraysh, Ghatafan and Qurayzah. This is related in detail in books documenting the history of the period.]
Next Nu’aym went to Abu Sufyan, the Confederate leader, warning him that Banu Qurayzah had defected to Muhammad. He stated that the Jewish tribe intended to ask the Confederacy of hostages, ostensibly in return for cooperation, but really to hand over to Muhammad. Thus the Confederacy should not give a single man as hostage. Nu’aym repeated the same message to other tribes in the Confederacy. And so it was that Nu’aym was successful in causing disharmony among the confederates and splitting their ranks. They lost hope as chances of success dwindled, uninterested in continuing the siege. The confederate armies were marked by recriminations and mutual distrust.
While the mighty alliance was in this state of disarray, Allah sent down on Quraysh and their allies a fierce and bitterly cold wind which swept their tents and their vessels away, extinguished their fires, buffeted their faces and cast sand in their eyes. In this terrible state of confusion the allies fled under cover of darkness.
That very night the Prophet, Peace Be upon Him, had sent one of his companions, Hudayfah ibn al-Yaman, to get information on the enemy's morale and intentions. He brought back the news that on the advice and initiative of Abu Sufyan, the enemy had turned on their heels and fled.
When the confederate armies invaded you from above (the eastern side of the valley) and from below (the western side of the valley), and when your eyes were distracted with terror, and your hearts rose up to your throats with horror (an expression of hardship, great fear, panic and despair inflicting Muslims), the hypocrites started to spread fear and terror in Madinah, raising doubts and spreading rumors to weaken the trust and confidence of Muslims in themselves and in their ability to fight. Some of those who have weak faith thought that the confederate armies will end the Muslim State. Mu’tab ibn Qushayr said: “Muhammad was promising us that we will have the treasures of Chosroes (Kisra) and Caesar, while none of us now can go to relieve himself.”
As for the believers, they knew that what Allah and His Messenger promised was the truth. They knew that Allah will give victory to the Muslims and that He will support His religion and empower and manifest it over all religion.
There, Allah tested and tried the believers with a severe tribulation. So, the one with well-established and firm faith was obvious against the shaken unfaithful hypocrites who were severely shaken due to the panic they were feeling.
The believers were tried by difficulties and hardships so that to be stronger and to show the faithful against the hypocrite.
The verses paint an image of the whole of Madinah in the grip of great alarm and distress, with the idolaters of Quraysh and Ghatafan allied with the Jews of Qurayzah moving in from all sides. These feelings of alarm and distress affected all of the people, but their reactions and responses differed. Needless to say, people’s thoughts about Allah, their behavior, and their evaluation of causes and results were much at variance. Therefore, the test was extremely difficult and the distinction between believers and hypocrites was decisive.
We can see today the whole situation: its elements, feelings, actions and reactions as if it were happening before our eyes. We see it though from the outside: “[Remember] when they came at you from above you and from below you…” (Verse 10) We also see people’s reactions to what was unfolding: “…and when eyes shifted [in fear], and hearts reached the throats…” (Verse 10) This is a picture of profound fear, anxiety and distress, imparted through people’s expressions and feelings.
“…and you assumed about Allah [various] assumptions…” (Verse 10) The surah does not tell us about these thoughts in detail, they are implied rather than stated in the Arabic text. This gives a more vivid picture of the confusion in people’s feelings and ideas, leaving minds bewildered and perplexed. Such a state of fear and confusion is then further heightened: “There the believers were tested and shaken with a severe shaking.” (Verse 11) A test that left the believers severely shaken must have been truly fearful.