24th of Rajab marks the anniversary of the victory of Islam against
the Jews in the battle of Khyber. This battle was fought in the 7th
Khyber was a locality at a distance of about 96 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 center 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
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
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
commanding the 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 honor.
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 had a dream in her youth and 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
Translation: 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
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 people.
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 DEEN KA GARA KIS NE
LALKAAR KE MARHAB TO PACHAARA KIS NE
AS-HAAB-E-PAYAMBER SABHI THAI HAZIR
KAHDO DAR-E-KHYBER KO UKHAARAA KIS NE
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
committment 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 hadeeth of Khyber when Imam Ali(a.s.) was
ready to leave, he asked a question of 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 ALi, 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 te
Prophet of Islam.
The hadeeth of Khyber is also the true manisfestation of Imam Ali
(a.s.)'s personality. The Prophet had said: Tomorrow mrning shall I
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
fulfilled the prophecy of 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.