Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) reflects on the lessons of the Battle of the Trench, the attributes of the believers and the consequences of disobeying the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. A summary of a Friday khutbah delivered in Masjid al-Rawdah, Tarim, on 20th Dhu’l-Hijjah 1434 / 25 October 2013.
Allah Almighty says:
The believers are those who believe in Allah and His Messenger and when they are with him on a matter requiring collective action, they do not depart until they have asked his leave. Those who ask for your leave are those who believe in Allah and His Messenger. So when they ask for your leave, for some business of theirs, give leave to those whom you wish, and ask Allah for their forgiveness, for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Deem not the summons of the Messenger among yourselves like the summons of one of you to another. Allah knows those of you who slip away secretly. Let those who disobey his order beware lest some tribulation befall them or a painful punishment be inflicted upon them.1
These verses were revealed concerning the Battle of the Trench. A number of tribes united with Quraysh to attack al-Madīnah. They numbered ten thousand. Salmān al-Fārisī suggested digging a trench to defend the city. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ agreed and he commanded his Companions to dig the trench. Everyone worked digging the trench and no-one would return to their home or their family or attend to any type of business without first seeking leave from the Prophet.
Allah clarifies the state of the believers in relation to their connection to the Prophet ﷺ:
When they are with him on a matter requiring collective action, they do not depart until they have asked his leave.
They only depart in a state of obedience to him, certain that he is content for them to do so. This is a sign of someone possessing true faith. Their faith is manifested in their following of the Chosen One in public and in private. The hypocrites, however, half-heartedly joined in with the work and looked for opportunities to slip away and return to their homes:
Allah knows those of you who slip away secretly.
The weather was extremely cold, but the Companions went out day after day to dig the Trench. Some of them possessed no warm clothes and the only garment they could find to keep warm was their wives’ cloaks. The Prophet had drawn lines for them to follow in digging the trench. At one point they came across a rock which they were unable to split with their pickaxes. They debated whether to change the direction of the trench slightly, but some of them reminded them: “This is a line that the Messenger of Allah drew with his own hand. By Allah, we have no right to change the course of the trench in any way.”
This is how the people of truthfulness and sincerity are. They refused to depart from the line which the Messenger of Allah had drawn.
Think how many lines the Prophet has drawn for us: in ourselves, in our words, in our deeds. How seldom have we stuck to those lines! They tried once again to split the rock. When they were unable to do so, they finally went to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ . He came to where the rock was, took a pickaxe with his own noble hand and struck the rock, saying, “Allāhu akbar!”
When he struck the rock, what appeared to be a lightning bolt emanated from it. A third of the rock turned into smooth sand. He said:
“Allāhu akbar! Ṣan`ā’ has been opened to me!”
He struck the rock a second time and the same thing happened. He said:
“Allāhu akbar! Kisra’s Madā’in has been opened to me!”2
Another third of the rock turned into smooth sand. He struck the rock a third time and the same thing happened. He said:
“Allāhu akbar! The palaces of Rome have been opened to me!”
The rock was now completely reduced to sand and they carried on digging, following the lines that the Prophet had dug. Meanwhile the hypocrites said: “How can he promise them that he will take Ṣan`ā’ and the palaces of the Persians and the Romans and we are not even safe in al-Madīnah?”
The believers were different, however:
When the believers saw the Confederate forces they said: ‘This is what Allah and His Messenger promised us and Allah and His Messenger told the truth.’ It merely increased them in belief and submission.3
There will always be people who act as the believers acted and there will always be people who act as the hypocrites acted until the Day of Judgement. There will be people who implement the instructions of the Messenger to the letter. They make him the judge in their disputes, find no difficulty in their hearts in accepting his judgement and they surrender totally to it. There will always be people who use the sacred texts to suit their own desires. They ask what benefit is Islam and where is the victory that Allah promised? Allah describes the believers who cried when they realised they were unable to accompany the Prophet on one of his expeditions:
When you said: ‘I can find no mounts for you,’ they turned away, their eyes streaming with tears of grief that they found nothing to spend (on the expedition).4
There are people who resemble them in every time who are saddened by their inability to perform certain actions from the Sunnah. Others, meanwhile, make light of the Sunnah and do not care if they are unable to perform those same actions. So ask yourself which group you are in.
It is not fitting for a believer, male or female, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger, to have any option about their decision. Anyone who disobeys Allah and His Messenger has clearly strayed from the path.5
Veneration for Allah and His Messenger is a core principle of Islam. Allah says:
Deem not the summons of the Messenger among yourselves like the summons of one of you to another.
Do not treat the Messenger of Allah like anyone else. He is the Best of Allah’s Creation. If you call him, do not say: “O Muhammad!”, but rather say: “O Messenger of Allah, O Prophet of Allah.”
Beware of him praying for your destruction, for his prayer is not like the prayer of any human, angel or jinn. Through venerating and honouring him and then following and emulating him we save ourselves from tribulation and painful punishment:
Let those who disobey his order beware lest some tribulation befall them or a painful punishment be inflicted upon them.
The cause of any punishment in this life or the next and the cause of the various tribulations that befall the believers has been clarified by Allah in His Book: disobeying the order of His Beloved ﷺ. The Ummah must understand this. Our attachment to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and obeying him in all our affairs is the foundation of our religion. Whatever time we live in or whatever state we are in, if we disobey him we should expect tribulation and punishment. So if we witness tribulations we should look at the cause behind them. The only way out of these tribulations is returning to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and to his teachings. This is a remedy from the Lord of the Heavens and Earth so let us use it to rectify our state.
Only the teachings of Allah and His Messenger can rectify us:
So follow me and Allah will love you and forgive your sins, and Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.6
1 Al-Nūr, 24:62-3
2 Ṣan`ā’ was the capital of Yemen and Madā’in was the capital of Kisrā, the Persian Emperor
3 Al-Aḥzāb, 33:22
4 Al-Tawbah, 9:92
5 Al-Aḥzāb, 33:36
6 Al `Imrān, 3:31