23.6 Moment of Trial
Mohamed was serene and full of courage and hope. He went about his work, placing the Muslims in positions of combat with a sure and tranquil heart. Those of true faith realized that this was the moment of trial and prepared themselves to die fighting for what they believed in, happy to attain the honor of dying for His sake. But those of little faith, the hypocrites, who had entered into Islam to gain worldly profits, were in a state of sheer panic. Entering into Islam to gain worldly profits had not been such a good idea after all! The Koran describes their condition in these perspicacious words:
Niggardly with you, when fear comes, you see them look at you
with eyes rolling like one about to faint from death.
When fear goes, they scald you with sharp tongues.
Niggardly in doing good.
These do not believe, so Allah has vitiated their deeds,
and this is always easy for Allah. (33:19)
Some of the warriors of the tribes, in high spirits after they had heard of the treachery of Banu Qurayza, and impatient for the kill, found a part of the trench narrower the rest of it and leaped their horses over it. Among them was that famous warrior of Quraysh, Ibn Wudd.
Ibn Wudd cried in a loud voice, for he knew no man was a match for him,
"Who will fight me?"
Among the Muslims none was considered a match for Ibn Wudd. No one moved. But Ali ibn Abi Talib, fearless and of infinite faith, rose to meet the challenge. Ali was very young and had not Ibn Wudd's experience or mastery of arms, nevertheless he would not let the challenge of the enemies of Allah go unanswered. Mohamed looked at his cousin, the young man he had brought up as a son, but did not forbid him, for his faith in Allah ruled all his actions. The Muslims held their breath in trepidation for Ali.
When Ibn Wudd saw who was meeting the challenge, he said,
"Nephew (a term used to address younger by the Arabs), I have no wish to kill you. Your father was always good to me."
Ali did not answer this remark but spoke to the man as Islam decreed enemies should be addressed. He offered him the worship of Allah and the rejection of idol worship. When Ibn Wudd refused, Ali said,
"Then I shall have to kill you."
"I have no wish to kill you," said Ibn Wudd.
"But I wish to kill you,"
said Ali, and without wasting more words, he walked to Ibn Wudd's horse, pulled him down and with one blow finished him. The Muslims cried in wonder,
"'Allah is the Greatest!"
Obviously Ali could not have done this without the aid of Allah. The other Qurayshi warriors were taken aback. Was there among the Muslims someone as great, even greater than Ibn Wudd? They wheeled round their horses and leaped back over the trench.
In the evening another Qurayshi warrior, testing his luck, tried to leap over the trench but fell into it and broke his neck. Abu Sufyan sent emissaries to Mohamed to ransom his corpse by a hundred camels.
"Take him, he is base and of base ransom."
He meant that the man deserved no ransom and they could take him free.
At night the tribes stoked their campfires high to strike terror in the Muslims' hearts. Everywhere they looked, they could see the tribes' fires spreading endlessly out into the desert. Meanwhile the zealots of Banu Qurayza, not satisfied with breaking the covenant, used to come out of their forts and prowl in the city around the houses where the women and children were, knowing that the men were by the mountain of Sal facing Quraysh.
In order to lessen the pressure upon the Muslims, Mohamed tried to negotiate with the tribe of Ghatafan. He offered them one-third of the harvests of Medina if they would turn back and not fight. These negotiations failed, however, for some of the Muslims he consulted said that before Islam they had never done such a thing, so now that Allah had honored them with Islam, they felt too secure under His protection to do so.