Battle Of Hunayn

The Battle of Hunayn (غَـزوة حُـنـيـن‎, Ghazwat Hunayn) was fought by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and his followers against the Bedouin tribe of Hawazin and its subsection the Thaqif, in 630 CE, in the Hunayn valley, on the route from Mecca to At-Ta’if. The battle ultimately ended in a decisive victory for the Muslims, who captured enormous spoils. It is mentioned in Surat at-Tawbah of the Qur’an and is one of the few battles mentioned by name in the Qur’an.



The Hawazins had been long-standing enemies of Meccans. They were located northeast of Mecca and their territory sat beside the trade route to Al-Hirah in Iraq. The Hawazins were allied with the Thaqifs, which had settled in Ta’if, a town south-east of Mecca whose trade routes ran through Hawazin territory. The alliance had engaged in several wars probably concerning trade routes between Ta’if and Mecca. Given this history, they saw Muhammad as another powerful Quraishi leader who had come to lead his people. They thought among themselves that a war with Muslims was imminent and that the once-persecuted minority of Muslims had gained the upper hand against their non-Muslim Arab enemies, and they may have wanted to take advantage of the likely chaos in Mecca after the Muslim takeover. Some tribes favoured fighting him and the Muslims. Ahead of these were the tribes of Hawazin and Thaqif. According to the Muslim scholar Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri “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. Malik persuaded other tribes to fight and gathered them before him. The confederation of tribes consisting of Nasr, Jusham, Sa‘ad bin Bakr, Bani Hilal, Bani ‘Amr bin Amir, and Bani ‘Awf bin Amir gathered at Autas along with the Thaqif and Hawazin.

On that day Muhammad had twelve thousand armed soldiers under his standard. Ten thousand of them were those who had accompanied him from Medina and had taken part in the conquest of Mecca, and the other two thousand were from amongst Quraysh, who had embraced Islam recently. The command of this group rested with Abu Sufyan. In those days such an army was hardly found anywhere and this numerical strength of theirs became the cause of their initial defeat. It was because, contrary to the past, they prided themselves on a large number of their soldiers and ignored military tactics. When Muslim soldiers including the new Meccan converts who saw a large number of men they said: “We shan’t at all be defeated because our soldiers far outnumber those of the enemy.




The Hawazin and their allies, the Thaqif, began mobilizing their forces when they learned from 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 the Muslim forces had left Medina to conquer Mecca.

The course of the battle

Folio from the Tarikhnama by Muhammad Bal'ami with the Battle of Hunayn

Folio from the Tarikhnama by Muhammad Bal’ami with the Battle of Hunayn

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 of four thousand men 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 bin Abdullah, Fadl ibn Abbas, Usamah, and Abu Sufyan bin al-Harith.

Ibn Kathir writes that according to Ibn Ishaq, Jabir ibn Abdullah, who witnessed the battle, the Muslim army was panicked by a surprise attack from the enemy and many men fled the battlefield. However, a group of Muhajirun stood firmly and defended the Prophet on the battlefield. There were only 8 men who didn’t leave the Battlefield. Ali ibn Abi Talib, Abdullah Ibn Masood, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith, Fadl ibn Abbas, Rabi’ ibn al-Harith, Usama ibn Zayd and Ayman ibn Ubayd. Ayman ibn Ubayd was killed that day whilst defending the Prophet Muhammad.

“Come on, people! I am the Messenger of Allah. 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, 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.

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. Durayd was an important asset of the pagan forces due to his great number of experiences in battle and knowledge of terrain and war tactics. 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- [1666] 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 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, 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]


Graveyard of the battle near Jaranah Mosque, Hunayn

Graveyard of the battle near Jaranah Mosque, Hunayn

Because Malik ibn Awf al-Nasri had brought the families and flocks of the Hawazin along, the Muslims were able to capture huge spoils. 6,000 prisoners taken 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 At-Ta’if, where Muhammad besieged them. William Montgomery Watt states that Muhammad took on the role as the hero of Meccans by facing their Bedouin arch-enemies, the Hawazins and the Thaqifs of the city of Al-Ta’if.

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

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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