23.8 The Storm
Night fell and with it came an unexpected guest, a ferocious wind, ruthless in its fury. It pulled down their tents and killed their horses and camels. In the dark, amid the howling winds, a nameless terror struck in their hearts. Unseen hands battered and buffeted them from all sides. Then voices screamed out that the Muslims had come to assassinate them. Some were attacked by their own animals that had been driven wild by the storm. Talha ibn Khuwaylid said,
"Quraysh, Mohamed has fallen upon you with evil, so save yourselves, save yourselves!"
They ran bewildered, stumbling in the dark. Then in a moment of stillness, at the break of dawn, Abu Sufyan rose and said,
"Quraysh, we are in a hostile and uninhabitable place. Our horses and camels are dead, Banu Qurayza has altered their agreement with us, and we have heard from them words we do not like. You have seen what we have suffered from the storm, so let us turn back. I am for returning to Mecca."
Quraysh took only the light things they could carry, and walked towards Mecca on foot, while the winds continued to harass them. Ghatafan followed the example of Quraysh and the lesser tribes did the same. Thus dispersed the greatest army that the idol worshippers had ever gathered against the Muslims. The Muslims spent a quiet night, mostly in prayer, then gathered together to pray the dawn prayer, unaware of what the day would bring.
Morning came and the Muslims found the desert before them still and lifeless. Where had the formidable army vanished as if it had never been? At first they went out tentatively to find out whether this was a ruse, but soon reports verified what they could see with their own eyes - Abu Sufyan and remnants of his army were seen walking towards Mecca. On this occasion the holy verses say:
When they came to you from above and from below you,
when eyes rolled in fear and hearts leaped to the throat.
and you thought different thoughts about Allah.
That moment believers were being tried and severely shaken.
When the Hypocrites and those with disease in their hearts said, Allah and His Messenger have promised us only deceptions. (33:10-12)
The verses continue to describe how Allah sent the winds to save those who believed and torture the polytheists. Allah does not charge a soul with more than it can do. He tested the Muslims, but at the end He saved them from an unfair and uneven battle. The Muslim camp was only three miles from the polytheists' camp, but the storm neither frightened nor harmed them.