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Islam / Muhammad /
Battle of the Trench
Arabic: khandaq
Also called: War of the Confederates; War of the Ditch

In Islam, battle fought in 627 between an alliance of non-Muslims led by Abu Sufyan of Mecca and certain desert tribes, among them the Jewish Banu Nadir and the Muslims of Yathrib (later Madina).
Although it is called both 'battle' and 'war', the conflict was settled mainly through non-fighting. The Muslims had secured their position in Yathrib by digging trenches in front of the unprotected parts of the town, making it difficult to pass for intruders. The trenches were not wide, 150 years later they could be bridged simply by throwing a few high doors across them.
According to the legends, the trenches were made during 6 days of intense labour. Its background may both have been rumors of the attack, but it may also have been planned ever since the defeat of the Muslims in the Battle of Uhud.
The attacking army was made up of 4,000 men from Mecca, 5,000 from their allies, while the Muslims counted 3,000. Not that the numbers ever came to matter. The attackers could only pass the trench at one point, where they ended up in limited man-to-man fights.
After about 2 weeks the moral of the attacking forces was virtually gone, and then a violent wind with torrents of rain lasting for 3 days destroyed what was left. The siege was lifted, the attackers returned home.
In the aftermath, it is told that Muhammad came to know that the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza in Yathrib had promised to assist the attackers. He responded with besieging their quarter of the town, and either he or his general Saad bin Muadh had all male members of the tribe executed, between 600 and 900 in numbers, while all women and children were enslaved. This was the first example of Muslim religious cleansing, bridging the tradition of brutal intolerance inherent to Islam back to its founder.

By Tore Kjeilen