Following are the causes of the Battle of Ditch:
Abu Sufyan had challenged the Holy Prophet to meet him next year at Badr. The Muslims reached there with an army of 1500 men. They waited there for 8 days but there was no trace of the Quraishites.
This had two-pronged impact: Muslims were bolstered because the Makkans didn’t appear and the Makkans themselves were now sure that the Holy Prophet and his followers were still resolute and undeterred after Battle of Ohud.
The Holy Prophet’s expeditions against the desert tribes helped the Makkans. Makkans had now the support of dozens of smaller Bedouin tribes. The Jewish tribe, Banu Nazir, which had been driven out of Madinah to Khyber also joined hands with the Quraish.
From here and there, the Makkans managed to form an army of 10,000 men for the battle. The estimates vary between 10k to 25k. It was under the command of Abu Sufyan.
The Muslims could only muster army of 3000 men.
The Main Event
In view of defeat at Ohud, Muslims this time decided to adopt defensive strategy. They knew too well that 3 sides of Madinah were covered and largely impenetrable.
Only Southern side remained undefended and opened. Salman, a close companion, suggested the trench-warfare method. They were to build trenches along the Southern border of Madinah so that the enemies wouldn’t at least get in. hence, the work to dig a trench begun and lasted for 8 days.
The enemy upon their arrival were shocked and appalled. The pagan Arabs were simple men. They liked to fight in the open. They abhorred the idea of any other and untraditional method. They started abusing the Muslims while Muslims started hurling arrows toward them.
The Prophet came to know Jewish tribe, Banu Qurayza. They were conspiring with Makkans against their fellow citizens. On the other hand, Makkans had found one weak spot in the trench. They kept coming but Muslims kept them at bay. But Muslims were weary after keeping that one spot safe for weeks now.
The Prophet thought about playing not only physical but mind game. He sent a man to Jews to request them. The man asked the Jews to ask the Makkans for hostage if they were to receive Jew aid. The man told them that the Makkans were treacherous lot. The Jews accepted the advice.
On the other hand, the Prophet sent a man to the Makkan army and told them that the Jews were a treacherous lot who would ask for hostages if the time came.
When the time came, the Jews asked for hostages and the Makkans realized the Muslims were correct. So any hope for alliance between them was thwarted this way.
The battle had been going on for 30 days now. The native Arabs were not accustomed to such long wars and so weren’t Bedouin tribes. Their supplies
were running short with each passing day. Their camels and horses were dying due to notorious winter, for which Madinah is famous.
Abu Sufyan on seeing the situation called meeting and the leaders decided to abandon the battle and return. He fully knew that Bedouin tribes would defect any day now. So, this way fled leaving behind only empty camps with dead camels and few horses.
Results & Impact
In war terms, battle of ditch was a peaceful affair. Only 9 Muslims were martyred.
The trench proved to be a determining factor. Makkans didn’t expect such wittiness from the Muslims. Again, the war was a war of waiting. Muslims had their whole city, Madinah, behind them to support them for supplies.
Whereas the Makkans had limited supplies which were dwindling with each day.
Another key cause was disunity among the army. The Makkans had promised their smaller allies bounty and return within short period. Tribes’ patience was running short.
The war also proved how sharpness can save many lives. The sharpness was first digging trench and then sowing the seeds of suspicion between Banu Qurayza and the Makkans.
By the time the war happened, the Makkans had already lost their trade to Syria. They had run short of wealth at home. In short, they were now ever in defensive position. There was also tensions within the Quraish over the leadership.
Another key impact of battle of dich was expulsion of Jews from Madinah, as we shall see later.
For complete Islamic history notes click here.