The Battle of Ta’if

 The Battle of Ta’if

 The Battle of Ta’if

Ta'if is one of the fruitful country towns of the Hijaz. It is located in the south-east of Makkah at a distance of twelve leagues from there. It is one thousand metres above sea level. On account of its fine weather, gardens, and palm orchard , the town of Ta'if was the centre of a group of people who guided very convenient lives.

This town was populated by the tribe of Saqif who were one of the strong and popular tribes of the Arabs. The Arabs of Saqif tribe were amongst those people, who combated against Islam in the Battle of Hunayn. After suffering a signal defeat they took refuge in their own town which owned strong and elevated fortresses.

In order to complete the triumph , the Prophet commanded the fugitives of the Battle of Hunayn to be pursued. Abu 'Amar Ash'ari and Abu Musa Ash'ari were deputed along with a unit of the soldiers of Islam to pursue some of the fugitives who had taken refuge in Awtas. The first leader lost his life in the battle , but the second one scored entire triuph and scattered the foes .1

The Prophet himself marched to Ta'if along with the remaining foe and, while on his way, devastated the fortress of Malik, (who had sparked off the Battle of Hunayn). Of course, the destruction of the fortress of Malik did not carry an aspect of vegeance .

What the Prophet desired was that he should not leave a point which could serve as an asylum to the foes .

The groups of the force of Islam moved one after the other and made the different sides of the town their camping places. The Fortress of Ta'if was located at a great height and had very strong walls, and its watch towers entirely controlled the outside area.

The force of Islam proceeded to blockade the fortress, but it had not yet been entirely enveloped , when the foes checked their march with a shower of arrows and murder some of them on the spot in the very first moment.3

The Prophet command the force to withdraw and to transfer its encampment to a point which was beyond the reach of the arrows of the foes .4 Salman Muhammadi, from whose military plans the Muslims had availed at the time of the Battle of the Ditch, suggested to the Prophet that the fortress of the foe might be stoned by means of catapults. During the battles of those days a catapult served the same target as gunnery serves in modern war. The Muslim officers erected a catapult under the direction of Salman and stoned the towers and the interior of the fortress for about twenty days. However, the foes , too, persisted to shoot arrows and thereby inflicted injuries on the soldiers of Islam.

Now let us see as to how the Muslims procured a catapult at that juncture. Some say that Salman made it himself and taught the Muslim soldiers how to operate it. Others think that the Muslims came in possession of this military weapon at the time of the conquest of Khayber and brought it with them to Ta'if.5 It is not implausible that Salman himself made the catapult and instructed the Muslims how to install and use it.

History tells us that this was not the only catapult available with the Muslims, because, simultaneously with the Battles of Hunayn and Ta'if, the Prophet had sent Tufayl bin 'Amr Dowsi to pull down the idol-temples of the tribe of Dows. He went back after successfully carrying out his mission and came to the Prophet at Ta'if along with four hundred soldiers, all of whom belonged to his own tribe, as well as a catapult and a military vehicle. And during this battle these military equipments, which had been gained by Tufayl bin 'Amr Dowsi as war booty, came into use.6

Splitting The Wall Of The Fort By Means Of Military Vehicles
In order to make the foe give up, it was fundamental to assault it from all sides. It was, therefore, determined that, simultaneously with the installation of the catapult and throwing stones, the military vehicles should also be utilized to create a rent in the wall of the fortress, so that the force of Islam might enter it.

However, the battalions of the force of Islam were faced with a great difficulty in fullfilling this mission , because arrows were showered on their heads from the towers and other spots of the fortress and none could manage to approach the wall. The best means of fullfilling this target were the military vehicles which were available with the organized armies of those times in an imperfect form . A military vehicle was made of wood and was covered with a thick hide. Strong soldiers took their places inside it and pushed it towards the fortress and started making holes in the wall under its cover.

By making use of this military device the soldiers of Islam busied themselves courageously in splitting the wall. However, the foes threw melted iron and wires on the vehicle and burnt its covering; inflicted injuries on them. This military device, therefore, proved to be unsuccessful on account of the planning of the foe and the Muslims failed to fullfill triumph . Hence, when a number of Muslims were injuried and murdered , they gave up their endeavor ."7

Economic And Moral Blows
Accomplishment of triumph does not depend on material military devices only. A skillful chiefs can decreased the power of the foe by dealing economic and moral bangs at him and can thus make him give up . More often than not moral and economic bangs prove to be more effective than corporal injuries which are occasionally sustained by the soldiers of the foe .

Ta'if was an area of date-palms and vine and was famous  throughout the Hijaz for its richness . As its inhabitants had taken great pains in advancing the palm-groves and the vineyards, they were keenly interested in their safety.

In order to threaten those, who had shut themselves within the fortress, the Prophet declared that, if they persisted to resist, their gardens would be plundered. However, the foes did not pay any heed to this threat, because they did not imagine that the sort and merciful Prophet would resort to such an action.

However, as they noticed , all of a sudden that compliance with the commands to pull down the gardens and to cut the date-palms and the vines had already commenced, they started to lament and cry and demanded the Prophet to abstain from this action as a mark of respect for the proximity and relationship which existed between them.

The Prophet, notwithstanding the fact that those who had now taken refuge in the fort were the very persons, who were responsible for the battles of Hunayn and Ta'if and these two battles had proved very costly, he showed his mercy and kindness once again in the battleground, which is usually a theatre of wrath and revenge . He commanded his escorts to desist from cutting down the trees.

Though he had lost many officers and men in these two battles (which had been occasioned by the plot of the people of the Saqif tribe who had conducted a night attack on the army of Islam and had now taken refuge in their burrow like a fox) and would have been justified in devastating their farms and gardens as a measure of revenge, his kindness and mercy subdued his outrage and he requested his friends to refrain from taking punitive action.

From the conduct of the Prophet and the manner in which he always treated his foes , it can be safely said that the orders given by him to cut down the trees were a mere threat and if this weapon had not proved effective, he would certainly have refrained from using it.

The Last Stratagem To Conquer The Fort
The people of Saqif tribe were rich and affluent and owned a large number of slaves and slave-girls. In order to gain information about the state of affairs within the interior of the fort and to assess the strength of the foe as well as to create differences amongst that organized group, the Prophet got declared that those slaves of the foe, who came out of the fortress  and took refuge with the force of Islam, would become free.

This device proved effective to some extent and about twenty slaves ran away from the fortress very skillfully and joined the Muslims. On enquiries having been made from them it was known that those within the fort were not prepared to give up at any cost, and even if the siege persisted for one year they would not be faced with any shortage of provisions.

The Force Of Islam Returns To Madina
The Prophet used all the physical and moral military devices in this battle, but the experience gained thereby proved that the conquest of the fort needed further activities and patience, whereas the conditions prevailing at the time, the prolongation of war, and the resources of the army of Islam, did not permit any further stay in Ta'if, because, firstly during the period of this siege thirteen persons had been murdered .

Out of them seven were from amongst Quraysh, four were Ansar and one belonged to some other tribe. Furthermore, some persons, whose number and names have not unfortunately been recorded in the books, were also murdered as a consequence of the deceitful assault of the foe in the valley of Hunayn and consequently there appeared lack of discipline and morale in the Muslim army.

Secondly, the month of Shawwal was terminating and the month of Zi Qa'd (during which warfare was forbidden amongst the Arabs, and Islam later confirmed this tradition as well) was fast approaching.8

In order to safeguard this tradition it was substantial that the siege should be raised as early as possible so that the Arab tribe of Saqif might not be able to charge the Prophet with the violation of the good tradition.

Moreover, the Haj season was near and the supervision of Haj ceremonies was the responsibility of the Muslims, because before this all the ceremonies of Haj were performed under the supervision of the polytheists of Makkah.

A very large number of the people came to Makkah from all parts of Arabia to participate in Haj ceremonies and it was the best occasion to propagate Islam and to acquaint the people with the realities of the Divine faith. It was necessary that the Prophet should take full advantage of this opportunity, which had become available to him for the first time and should think of much more important matters as compared with the conquest of an outlying fort. Keeping all these matters in view, the Prophet raised the siege of Ta'if and proceeded, along with his soldiers, to Ji'ranah.

Events After The War
The war of Hunayn and Ta'if terminated and, without achieving any final consequence , the Prophet proceeded to Ji'ranah to distribute the trophy of the Battle of Ta'if.

The war booty which fell in the hands of the Muslims in the Battle of Hunayn was the largest of the booties which had so far been acquired by the army of Islam in different battles, because, when the Prophet reached Ji'ranah, 6000 prisoners, 24,000 camels, more than 40,000 sheep and 852 grams of silver were with him9 and during those days a part of the expenses of the army of Islam was also met from this source.

The Prophet stayed in Ji'ranah for thirteen days. During this period he was engaged in distributing the war booty in a special manner; setting some prisoners free and returned them to their kinsmen; drawing up a plan for the surrender and embracement of Islam by Malik bin Awf (the man who was solely responsible for the battles of Hunayn and Ta'if); manifesting the spirit of appreciation and gratefulness for the services rendered by different persons; attracting, with his wise policies, the hearts of the enemies of Islam to the true religion; and ending, by means of an attractive speech, a dispute which had arisen between him and a group of the Ansar.

Here are the details of the matters mentioned above:

1. One of the distinguished qualities of the Prophet was that he never ignored the services rendered by the people or the rights belonging to them, however insignificant and small they might be. And if any person rendered some service to him, he compensated him for it to a longer extent than that.

The Prophet had spent his childhood amongst the tribe of Bani Sa'd, which was a branch of the tribe of Hawazin, and Halimah Sa'diyah had fostered him and had brought him up in her tribe for five years.

The tribe of Bani Sa'd who had participate in the Battle of Hunayn against Islam, a number of their women and children as well as property had fallen into the hands of the Muslims, were now repentant for what they had done. However, they had in mind that Muhammad had been brought up in their tribe and had been nurtured by their women, and being a sort , chivouly and thankfull person, he would certainly set their prisoners free if he was reminded of his childhood.

Hence, fourteen leaders of the tribe, all of whom had embraced Islam, came to the Prophet. They were directed by two persons one of whom was Zuhayr bin Sa'd and the other was the foster-uncle of the Prophet and spoke thus:

"Among the prisoners are your foster-aunts and foster-sisters as well as those, who served you during your childhood, and kindness and affection requests that, keeping in view the rights, which some of our women have upon you, you should free all our prisoners, containing women, men and children. And in case we had made such a demand to No'man bin Munzir or Harith bin Abi Shamir, the governors of Iraq and Syria, we would have hoped for its acceptance by them, not to speak of yourself who are the embodiment of all kindness and love".

In response to this, the Prophet asked them: "What do you value more; your women and children or your property?" They replied: "We would not exchange our women and children for anything". The Prophet said:

"I am ready to forego my own portion as well as that of the descendants of Abdul Muttalib, but the shares of the Muhajirs, the Ansar and other Muslims concern them and it is essential that they themselves should surrounder their rights. When I have finished the noon prayers you should stand up between the rows of the Muslims and declaimed them thus:

"We make the Prophet our mediator before the Muslims and make the Muslims our intermediaries before the Prophet so that our women and children may be returned to us". In the meantime I shall stand up and shall go back to you my own portion as well as that of the descendants of Abdul Muttalib and shall also advise others to do the same".

The representatives of Hawazin declaimed the Muslims after the noon prayers as advised by the Prophet and the Prophet gifted away to them his own portion as well as that of the descendants of Abdul Muttalib. Imitating him the Muhajirs and the Ansar also agreed to forgo their portions .

However, only a very few persons like Aqra' bin Habis and 'Uyainah bin Hisn Fazari declined to give up their portion . The Prophet said to them: "If you hand over your prisoners, I shall give you, against every one of them, six prisoners, who fall into my hands in the first battle to be fought hereafter''.10

The practical steps taken by the Prophet and his impressive words occasioned the liberation of all the prisoners of the Hawazin tribe except one old woman whom 'Uyainah rejected to liberate. Thus a good and pious action, the foundation of which was laid by Halimah Sa'diyah sixty years ago in the tribe of Bani Sa'd, proved fruitful after a very long time and as a consequence of it all the prisoners of Bani Hawazin got freedom.

Then the Prophet called Shaymah, his foster-sister and having spread his own cloak on the ground made her sit on it and inquired about her own welfare as well as that of her family.11 By liberating their prisoners the Prophet made the people of Bani Hawazin incline towards Islam. All of them, therefore, embraced Islam whole-heartedly and consequently Ta'if lost its last ally as well.

Malik Bin 'Awf Embraced Islam
2. In the meantime the Prophet took benifit of the chance to solve, through the representatives of Bani Sa'd, the trouble of Malik, the headstrong chief of Nasr tribe, who had provoked the Battle of Hunayn, and to attract him towards Islam. In this connection he inquired about the state of his affairs and was informed that he (Malik) had taken refuge in Ta'if and was co-operating with Bani Saqif. The Prophet said: "Convey my message to him, that if he embraces Islam and joins us, I shall release his people and shall also present him one hundred camels".

The representatives of Hawazin conveyed the Prophet's message to him. Malik had realized that the force of Bani Saqif had weakened and was also aware of the ever-increasing power of Islam. He, therefore, decided to leave Ta'if and join the Muslims. He was, however, fearful that if Bani Saqif became aware of his resolution they would detain him within the fortress.

He, therefore, chalked out a plan. He guided that a camel-litter might be kept ready for him at a place distant from Ta'if. Arriving that place he came to Ji'ranah promptly and embraced Islam. The Prophet meted out the same treatment to him as he had already promised and later appointed him as the leader of the Muslims belonging to the tribes of Nasr, Thamalah and Salimah. On account of his pride and the honor which he granted from the side of Islam, he made life wretched for the people of Saqif tribe and subjected them to economic calamity .

Malik felt ashamed of the kindness displayed to him by the Prophet and recited verses in praise of his sublimity: "I have not seen or heard of amongst the complete mankind anyone, who may be like Muhammad''.12

Distribution Of War Trophy 
3. The escorts of the Prophet insisted that the warfare  trophy should be distributed as early as possible. The Prophet, in order to prove his disinterestedness, stood by the side of a camel, took some wool from its hump and, while holding it between his fingers, turned to the people and said: "I don't enjoy any right in your trophy , even in this wool, except khums and I shall go back to you even the khums to which I am entitled. Hence, everyone of you should return all sorts of trophy , even though it may be a needle and a thread, so that it may be distributed amongst you equally".

The Prophet distributed the complete contents of the treasury amongst the Muslims and also distributed its khums, which was his own portion , amongst the leaders of Quraysh, who were converted to Islam only lately . He gave one hundred camels to each containing Abu Sufyan, his son Mu'awiyah, Hakim bin Hizam, Harith bin Harith, Harith bin Hisham, Suhayl bin Amr Huwaytab bin Abdul 'Uzza, 'Ala' bin Jariyah and others, all of whom had till a few days earlier been the commanders of blasphemy and polytheism and the sworn foes of Islam. To persons belonging to another group, whose position was lower as compared with the aforementioned persons, he presented fifty camels per head.

On account of these big donations and special shares these persons started amusing feelings of love and affection for the Prophet and were, however, drawn to Islam. In Islamic jurisprudence such people are called Mu'allafatul Qulub (those whom it is desired to promote ) and one of the targets for which zakat can be spent is expenses on them.13

Ibn Sa'd said: "All these donations were presented from khums which was the personal property of the Prophet and not even a Dinar was spent out of the shares of the others for the inducement of the people belonging to this group."14

These donations and expenses permitted by the Prophet were strongly resented by a number of the Muslims and especially by some of the Ansar. They, who were not aware of the higher interests kept in view by the Prophet in making these donations , thought that ties of kinsmanship had motivated him to distribute the khums of the trophy among his relatives.

A man named Zul Khuwaysirah who belonged to the tribe of Bani Tamim displayed so much impudence that he said to the Prophet: "Today I have studied your activities very accurately and have seen that you have not been just in distributing the trophy ". The Prophet was disturbed on hearing his words. Marks of irritation appeared on his face and he said: "Woe be to you! If l don't act according to equity and justice who else will do so?"

The Second Caliph demanded the Prophet for permission to murdrer that man but the Prophet said: "Leave him alone. In future he will be the commander of a group who will quit Islam in the same manner in which an arrow quits a bow".15 As predicted by the Prophet, this man became the commander of the Khawarij (apostates) during the Rulership of Ali and undertook the guidance of that risky group. However, as it is opposed to the rules of Islam that retribution be endowded before an offence is committed, the Prophet did not take any action against him.

Representing the Ansar, Sa'd 'Ubadah communicated their complaint to the Prophet, whereupon the Prophet said to him:

"Assemble all of them at one place so that I may explain the matter to them". The Prophet reached in the assembly of the Ansar with great dignity and declaimed them thus: "You were a deluded group of people and you received guidance through me. You were poor and you became wealthy . You were foes and became friends". All of them said: "O Prophet of Allah! All this is right ".

Then the Prophet said; "You can give me a response in another way as well and as against my services and can mention the rights which you have over me and may say: "O Prophet of Allah! When Quraysh refuted you, we acknowledged you. They didn't assist you and we aided you. They made you shelterless and we supplied you asylum. There was a time when you were bankrupt and we aided you". O group of Ansar! Why have you been depressed because I have given some small property to Quraysh so that they may become steadfast in Islam and have given over Islam to you?

Are you not content that others should take away the camels and the sheep whereas you should take away the Prophet with you. By Allah! If all other people go one way and the Ansar go the other way, I will select the way adopted by the Ansar. Thereafter he implored Allah's blessings for the Ansar and for their children. The words of the Prophet aroused their passions so much that all of them started to cry and said: "O Prophet of Allah! We are convinced with our share and don't have the least complaint in this behalf".

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