‘The Battle of Hunayn’

Surah 9 (Al-Tawbah/Repentance): 25

Surely Allah has succoured you before on many a battlefield, and (you have yourselves witnessed His succour to you) on the day of Hunayn when your numbers made you proud, but they did you no good, and the earth, for all its vastness, constrained you.

Immediately following the conquest of Mecca, Muhammad organised his fighters, now joined by many Meccan recruits, to march upon the Meccan’s traditional enemies to the south, the Banu Hawazin. It has been suggested that the largely peaceful capture of Mecca had posed Muhammad a problem, in that many of his fighters had joined him with the expectation of plunder which had in the end been denied to them, so that Muhammad may have been compelled to present them with the opportunity not to return north empty handed.


According to Ibn Ishaq, the Banu Hawazin placed their women and children at the far end of a narrow valley with a line of men at the front of them in order to trick Muhammad into thinking that he was marching towards their main force, and then they ambushed Muhammad’s army from both flanks as it moved down the valley.
{9.25}, above, is said to refer to the foremost Muslim fighters’ initial attempt to flee the Hawazin attack but inability to retreat due to the size of the force behind them and the narrowness of the valley. Unable to go back, they were forced to turn again and fight the Banu Hawazin, eventually routing them in what would be the largest battle said to have been fought by Muhammad’s fighters in his lifetime.
After the battle, Muhammad captured the Hawazin women and children. He initially divided them amongst his fighters as spoils of war before agreeing to release them in return for the submission of the Hawazin leadership to him. It was during this allocation of the captives, recounted in unsavoury detail, by Ibn Ishaq and in several hadith, that {4.24}, permitting intercourse with captured women even if they were married, is reported to have been announced, see 〈65.〉 below.