The tribes of the Hawazin and Thaqif were of the final few tribes that did not accept the message of Islam in Mecca and they fought against Prophet Muhammad (SAW) . The battle took place during the month of Shawwal in the eighth year of Hijrah.
Under his command, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) had 12,000 armed soldiers. Ten thousand of them were of those who accompanied him during his journey from Madina to Makkah, and the remaining two thousand were those from amongst the Quraysh who had just embraced the message of Islam. At that time, this was considered to be a large army, causing the Muslims to be filled with overconfidence in achieving an effortless victory.
The Hawazin were a group of idol worshippers that were unwilling to accept the message of Islam. Their tribe leader, Malik ibn Awf Al-Nasri ordered his men to gather all the women, children, money and live stock and prepare to set off as an entire village with the intention of overwhelming Prophet Muhammad (SAW) .
It was an old Arab practice for the women and children to be brought with the army to motivate the soldiers. The thought of knowing that their women, children, and live stock were at risk gave them the will to fight more fiercely in battle.
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) discovered through his scout that the Hawazin camp was preparing for an attack on the Muslims. Malik ibn Awf also sent a spy to gather information about the Prophet’s (SAW) army. The leader of the Hawazin was intimidated that the Prophet’s (SAW) army outnumbered his own. He decided that if he was to defeat Prophet Muhammad (SAW) , he had to devise a plan.
The battle took place at Hunayn, a valley between Mecca and Ta’if. As Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) troops were approaching the valley, barely equipped in their armor, they were showered with arrows. His men began to panic, yelling and rushing out of the valley as quickly as possible. The Prophet (SAW) tried his best to yell over the crowd of panicking men, but did not succeed. Only 9 of the 12,000 men that ventured with the Prophet (SAW) stood by his side. The Prophet was calm in his faith and wisdom in that hour of danger and spurred his horse forward. His uncle Abbas was on his right and Fadl, the son of Abbas, on his left. In order to calm the Muslims and bring them back the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “I am the Prophet of Allah and never tell a lie and Allah has promised me victory.” His men took notice of his words, and were reminded of putting their trust in Allah (SWT) .
The power of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) army then overwhelmed the leaders of the Hawazin and Thaqif tribe and the battle ended with victory for the Muslims. The Hawazin leader and the remaining troops ran away to regions of Autas and Nakhlah and to the forts of Ta’if leaving behind 24,000 horses, 40,000 sheep and thousands of women.
The lesson learned from the battle of Hunayn is that victory always comes from Allah (SWT) regardless of the number of men in the army of Muslims. As mentioned in the Qur’an:
Allah has helped you on many occasions including the day of Hunayn. When you were happy with the number of your men who proved to be of no help to you and the whole vast earth seemed to have no place to hide you (from your enemies) and you turned back in retreat. (Surah al-Tawbah, 9:25)