24th of Rajab - the
GREATEST victory of Islam
in the battle of Khyber
Khyber was a locality at a
distance of about 160 Kms from Madina. It consisted of eight (or ten)
popular and very strong forts where the Jews lived and also gave refuge
to the enemies of Islam. They had become an active centre of
conspiracies against Islam. In the 7th Hijrah, our Holy Prophet
Mohammad(sawaw) got information about the Conspiracy being hatched by
the Jews against Muslims in connivance with other hostile elements of
Islam. He(sawaw) decided to take on the challenge.
Preparation for War
In a consultative meeting, it was decided by the Muslims to take on the
enemy outside Madina. A force of 1,400 Muslim fighters (History of
Muslims of the World by K.A.Hameed) set out of Madina to protect
themselves and their homeland against a Jewish force of more than 14,000
fighters (Allama Tabrisi). Before the start of
the battle, the Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) took ill. Imam Ali(a.s.) was
also not able to participate in this battle in the beginning due to a
illness in his eyes.
The battle starts
The battle started with the siege of the forts at
Khyber. The siege continued for a period of about one month. Some
individual battles were followed by a general assault from both sides
for three continuous days but a decisive result could not be achieved.
This was mainly due to the fact that the Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) was not
military moves himself as well as because Imam Ali(a.s.) was not taking
part in the battle. The so called �Mujahideen-e-Islam� who always
complained of not being given sufficient chance to show their skills
were in charge and no victory was in sight.
In Tarikh Abul Fada (Vol1 page 187) it is stated that �Due to the
illness of Prophet Mohammad(sawaw), Hazrat Abu Bakr took the banner and
went to fight but returned unsuccessful and then Hazrat Umar took the
banner and fought even harder but he as well returned unsuccessfully.
Thereafter, Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) was informed of
this situation�. It is quite clear that the Prophet(sawaw) never
awarded the banner to any of the two, they took it by themselves and
went to fight and returned unsuccessful.
After five days of general battle, Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) declared that
�Tomorrow I will award the Standard of the Islamic forces to a
man who loves Allah(swt) and his Prophet(sawaw) and Allah(swt) and his
Prophet(sawaw) love him. He is the one who attacks forcefully and does
not run away from the battlefield and he will not return until Allah(swt)
grants victory on his hand�. Every
Sahabi was waiting and wishing to be awarded this honour.
The next day Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) called for Imam Ali(a.s.). People
said that Ali(a.s.) was suffering from a disease in his eyes but the
Prophet(sawaw) insisted on him being called and when he arrived, the
Prophet(sawaw) applied his saliva on the eyes of Imam Ali(a.s.) which
cured him instantly and then he prayed to Allah(swt) and awarded him the
standard of Islam.
Advances of Imam Ali(a.s.)
Imam Ali(a.s.) led the Islamic forces to the strongest
fort of Khyber named QAMOOS and when they came near, the battle was
started by the Jews. One of their strongest man, Haris, attacked and
martyred two Muslims after which Imam Ali(a.s.) took on Haris and killed
him instantly. He was followed by the
strongest man among the Jews - Marhab. Marhab faced the same fate. His
body was equally divided into two parts by the zulfiqar of Imam Ali(a.s.).
After this, general battle started. The Muslim forces fought
with a lot of courage under the leadership of Imam Ali(a.s.). Upon
realizing that they were losing the battle, the Jews started running
towards the fort and closed the huge iron gate of the fort from inside.
This was the gate which used to be opened and closed by 40
strong men. Imam Ali(a.s.) alone lifted and broke the gate in one strong
jolt. He then used the same gate to make a bridge on a trench so that
the Islamic forces could enter the fort and conquer it. The
remaining frightful Jews cried of mercy and Imam Ali(a.s.) ordered to
stop the battle and declare peace for them who had surrendered. One
after the other, the Muslim fighters under the leadership of Imam
Ali(a.s.) conquered various forts of this stronghold and completed
the grand victory of Islamic forces over the Jews.
Brother Mohsin Naquvi Adds:
Marhab's mother had a dream in her youth when Marhab was only a
baby. In her dream she had seen that a lion had killed her. Because of
that dream, she used to say to her son (when he had grown up and had
become a renowned fighter in Arabia): Son,
never fight a man whose name resembles the meaning of 'lion.'
In all previous sorties the Prophet of Islam would appoint a
commander and then send some soldiers under the command of that
commander to attack the fort. When
the Prophet (pbuh) asked Ali to take charge and attack, Imam Ali(a.s.)
did not bother about the soldiers. He took the banner in one hand, the
sword in the other hand and marched uphill on the double. The
only companion who went with him was Abu Rafay (other Muslim soldiers
followed later), the personal attendant of the Prophet on whose
authority the whole story is told. Abu Rafay narrates:
When we arrived at the top of the hill, we were out of breath, because
Ali had been marching on the double uphill. He established the banner
in the rocks and looked upto the fort. When we arrived at the gate of
the fort, there was an old Jewish guard watching us approach from one of
the turrets. He looked at Imam Ali(a.s.) and shouted - Who are
YOU? Notice the emphasis on YOU. Imam Ali(a.s.) replied by reciting
the following verse:
Anal lazi sammatni ummi hydara zarghaamu aajaamin, laithun,
qaswara ~ meaning ~ I am the one who was named HYDER by his mother, I am
the lion of the valley, I am the great lion, the lion who attacks his
prey by chasing it.
The old man turned to his people inside the fort and said: YOU
ARE DESTROYED!!! Shah Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlavi writes: Apparently,
the old man had read some FAZA'EL of Imam Ali(a.s.) in his books and he
recognized him for those. That is why he said what he said to his own
It is indeed true that Imam Ali(a.s.) was named HYDER by his mother in
his infancy. What is curious is that Imam Ali(a.s.) uses three more
words meaning 'lion' of different qualities. Here is an explanation:
But before that, let us read some Urdu poetry, which in its simplicity
and recording of fact is an all-time classic.
PATTHAR PA ALAM-E-DEEN KA GARA KIS NE ~ LALKAAR KE MARHAB KO
PACHAARA KIS NE
AS-HAAB-E-PAYAMBER SABHI THEY HAZIR ~ KAHDO DAR-E-KHYBER KO UKHAARAA KIS
The Imam comes to this world with a covenant with Allah that he
would protect and preserve the law of Allah. If in that process the
Imam needs to raise his sword he will do that with that intention and
full commitment to welcome martyrdom or win over the enemy. The main
purpose of an Imam's life is to guide people and lead people. His main
purpose in life is not killing people. But, if it comes to that, the
Imam will not relent.
That is why Imam Ali(a.s.) comes to the battlefield reciting
those famous verses in which he uses three different words for the word
lion. That was the indication that the Imam will first try HIDAYAT and
then if all else fails he will not back away from using the sword. He
wanted Marhab to remember his mother's dream. And if he had any sense
he would go back and not confront Imam Ali(a.s.). As we saw, the old
Jewish guard did recognize Imam Ali(a.s.) for his FAZA'EL. But Allah
had destined something else for Marhab.
We feel good about Imam Ali(a.s.) killing
Marhab and Haris and pulling the gate of Khyber from its hinges. But
those things really did not make Ali great. What
made Imam Ali(a.s.) great was his devotion to Islam and his full
commitment to the commands of the Prophet. After the famous
victory of Khyber when Imam Ali(a.s.) was ready to leave, he asked a
question to the Prophet as to how long he should fight. The Prophet
replied: Either until you are victorious or they accept Islam. He
added: And remember Ail, if a single non-Muslim accepts Islam on your
invitation, it is better for you than having a herd of one hundred red
camels. That is why, after all the victory, Imam Ali(a.s.) did not
bother to collect even the personal armour of his slain enemies, let
alone looting wealth from the fort, which other Muslims did do after
him, and it was quite legitimate in the circumstances. Reports
tell us that he came down the hill of Khyber after victory totally
empty-handed.... That is what made Ali great.
As Imam Ali(a.s.) was coming down
the hill, the Prophet of Islam waited to greet him. Suddenly from one
side, J'afar bin Abi Talib appeared who was now returning from
Abyssinnia (Habsha) after twelve years' stay there. The Prophet was
doubly pleased. He put his one arm round Imam Ali(a.s.)'s shoulder, the
other round J'afar's shoulder. He would look at Ali and then at J'afar
and would say:I don't know what makes me happier today, my brother Ali
conquering the fort of Khyber or my brother J'afar returning from Habsha
after twelve years. It was definitely one of the happiest moments in
the life of the Prophet of Islam.
The hadeeth of Khyber is also the true manifestation of
Imam Ali(a.s.)'s personality. The Prophet had said: Tomorrow morning I
shall give this banner to a MAN, who attacks repeatedly, and does not
retreat. He loves Allah and his Rasool and Allah and His Rasool love
him. Allah will give victory(FATAH) on his hands.
There is not a single Companion for whom the Prophet of Islam
had prophesised Allah's love like that. It was reserved for Imam
Ali(a.s.), and him alone. The Prophet had ascribed in so many words
Imam Ali(a.s.)'s non-compromising attitude to his mission, and Imam
Ali(a.s.)'s future life became a living proof to that.
Then the Prophet had used the word FATAH in his statement. This word is
used in three different meaning is Arabic. The miracle of the Prophet's
speech is that all three meanings came true in this story. Fatah
means: 1. To open, 2. To conquer, and, 3. To begin ~ Imam Ali(a.s.)
was victorious, he opened the closed gate of Khyber, and, the conquest
of Khyber turned out to be the beginning of a long- lasting prosperity
on the Muslim community.