When confronted by heavily-armed enemies, Muslims have often thought of creative ways to ward off aggressors. This was witnessed during the Prophet’s (pbuh) time in Madinah and we are witnessing it today in Gaza. There are some interesting similarities between the two.
First, let us recount what happened in Madinah in early Islamic history. In the fifth year of the hijrah to al-Madinah, the Prophet (pbuh) learned that a massive force of many tribes of Arabia was on its way to attack the Muslims. According to most Seerah books, the invaders were 10,000 strong.
The Muslims could muster only about 3,000 men. While the disparity in numbers had never deterred them from taking on any challenge in the past—whether at Badr where they were victorious, or at Uhud, where they suffered a serious setback—still, the threat from the invading army was formidable.
The tribal hordes, hence the name Ahzab or many tribes, coming together was serious. They were instigated by the two Jewish tribes that had been expelled from Madinah for breaking their covenant agreement the Prophet (pbuh). One of the tribes—the Banu Nadhir—had even plotted to kill the Prophet (pbuh). The invading hordes vowed to wipe out the Muslims in Madinah and put an end to their presence, once and for all, after a series of battles and skirmishes.
While the Muslims were preparing for Madinah’s defence, Salman al-Farsi, one of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh), suggested they dig a trench around the city-state to defend it. He said that this was a method the Persians used as a defence mechanism. The Arabs were unfamiliar with this tactic.
Led by the Prophet (pbuh)—yes, the noble Messenger of Allah joined his followers in digging the trench—the Muslims started to dig. It was more than 15-20 feet wide and about 10-12 feet depth. It stretched for several miles.
Madinah’s geography helped as well. In the south and east were orchards. So, the invaders could not attack from there. The trench running from east to west was dug in the north. The defenders stayed behind it.
When the tribal hordes led by Abu Sufyan arrived and saw the trench, they were confounded. Their horses could not jump over the wide trench. They camped on the north side but there was little they could do. They shot arrows and hurled abuse at the Muslims in frustration.
After a stand-off that lasted about a month and their provisions running low, there was a heavy rain and wind storm one night. It blew the invaders’ tents. They fled in fear. In the morning when the Muslims saw that their enemies had fled, the Prophet (pbuh) made his famous statement. Henceforth, the Quraysh and their allies will not attack us. We will go after them.
We need to keep this lesson from Islamic history in mind as we turn our attention to the war on Gaza today. The Palestinians face a similar situation to that of the early Muslims in Madinah. The small number of Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad fighters cannot match the numbers of the zionist hordes. The mismatch in equipment is even greater.
But what they lack in numbers and weapons, the Islamic fighters more than make up in courage, determination and ingenuity. Israeli soldiers flee in fear when confronted by the lightly-armed but intrepid al-Qassam Brigade fighters. They have inflicted massive casualties on the Israeli invaders. The zionists’ much-vaunted Golani Brigade was withdrawn from Gaza when it suffered huge losses.
In addition to their courage and willingness to court martyrdom, the Islamic fighters have another weapon in their arsenal: the vast network of underground tunnels. These have confounded the zionist aggressors in the manner of the mushrik hordes who were stumped by the trench around Madinah.
There is also another interesting detail. The deep underground tunnels strategy was proposed by the late General Qassem Solaimani to the Islamic resistance in Gaza. Like the trench idea being suggested by Salman al-Farsi, the tunnel idea also came from a Persian Muslim. Islamic history intersected in a remarkable way.
The martyred General Solaimani did more. He arranged for funding and material for the building of the tunnels in Gaza. They run into hundreds of kilometers and are so deep that nothing in the Israeli or American arsenals can destroy them.
Most western military observers as well as some Israelis have admitted that it is impossible to defeat or wipe out Hamas. The tunnels are an impregnable defence line that neutralizes the zionists’ air superiority. That is why they bomb Gaza’s civilians. Tens of thousands of defenceless women, children and men have been murdered in cold blood since the start of the zionist onslaught on Gaza on October 7.
There is one other point that needs mentioning. We are in the month of Rajab, one of the sacred months in Islam. It was on the night of 27 Rajab that the Prophet (pbuh) was rewarded with Isra and Mi‘raj—the miraculous nightly journey from Masjid al Haram in Makkah to Masjid al-Aqsa in al-Quds (Jerusalem). From there, the Prophet (pbuh) went on Mi‘raj.
When the Crusaders occupied Palestine and al-Quds (Jerusalem), Salahuddin Ayubi liberated it on the 27th of Rajab. This is an important landmark in Islamic history. The liberation of al-Quds from the clutches of the zionist crusaders is not far off either, insha’Allah.