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Nuaym Ibn Masud sahaba stories biography, sahabah, sahaabah, companion of prophet muhammad saw, sahabi, sahabi's
|Nuaym Ibn Masud R.A Sahaba
Nuaym ibn Masud was from Najd in the northern highlands of Arabia. He belonged to the powerful
Ghatafan tribe. As a young man, he was clever and alert. He was full of enterprise and travelled widely.
He was resourceful, every ready to take up a challenge and not prepared to allow any problem to get the
better of him.
This son of the desert was endowed with extraordinary presence of mind and unusual subtlety. He was
however someone who liked to enjoy himself and gave himself over to the pursuit of youthful passions.
He loved music and took delight in the company of songstresses. Often when he felt the urge to listen to
the strings of a musical instrument or to enjoy the company of a singer, he would leave the hearths of his
people in the Najd and make his way to Yathrib and in particular to the Jewish community which was
widely known for its song and music.
While in Yathrib, Nuaym was known to spend generously and he in turn would be lavishly entertained.
In this way Nuaym came to develop strong links among the Jews of the city and in particular with the
At the time when God favored mankind by sending His Prophet with the religion of guidance and truth
and the valleys of Makkah glowed with the light of Islam, Nuaym ibn Masud was still given over to the
pursuit of sensual satisfaction. He stopped firmly opposed to the religion partly out of fear that he would
be obliged to change and give up his pursuit of pleasure. And it was not long before he found himself
being drawn into joining the fierce opposition to Islam and waging war against the Prophet and his
The moment of truth for Nuaym came during the great siege of Madinah which took place in the fifth
year of the Prophet's stay in the city. We need to go back a little to pick up the threads of the story.
Two years before the siege, the Prophet was compelled to banish a group of Jews belonging to the tribe
of Banu an-Nadir from Madinah because of their collaboration with the Quraysh enemy. The Banu
Nadir migrated to the north and settled in Khaybar and other oases along the trade route to Syria. They
at once began to incite the tribes both near and far against the Muslims. Caravans going to Madinah
were harassed partly to put economic pressure on the city.
But this was not enough. Leaders of the Banu an-Nadir got together and decided to form a mighty
alliance or confederacy of as many tribes as possible to wage war on the Prophet, and to put an end once
and for all to his mission. The Nadirites went to the Quraysh in Makkah and urged them to continue the
fight against the Muslims. They made a pact with the Quraysh to attack Madinah at a specified time.
After Makkah, the Nadirite leaders set out northwards on a journey of some one thousand kilometers to
meet the Ghatafan. They promised the Ghatafan the entire annual date harvest of Khaybar for waging
war against Islam and its Prophet. They informed the Ghatafan of the pact they had concluded with the
Quraysh and persuaded them to make a similar agreement.
Other tribes were also persuaded to join the mighty alliance. From the north came the Banu Asad and
the Fazar. From the south the Ahabish, allies of the Quraysh, the Banu Sulaym and others. At the
appointed time, the Quraysh set out from Makkah in large numbers on cavalry and on foot under the
Leadership of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb. The Ghatafan too set out from Najd in large numbers under the
leadership of Ubaynah ibn Hisn. In the vanguard of the Ghatafan army was Nuaym ibn Masud.
News of the impending attack on Madinah reached the Prophet while he was half-way on a long
expedition to Dumat al-Jandal on the Syrian border some fifteen days journey from Madinah. The tribe
at Dumat al-Jandal was molesting caravans bound for Madinah and their action was probably prompted
by the Banu an-Nadir to entice the Prophet away from Madinah. With the Prophet away, they reasoned,
it would be easier for the combined tribal forces from the north and the south to attack Madinah and deal
a mortal blow to the Muslim community with the help of disaffected persons from within the city itself.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, hurried back to Madinah and conferred with the Muslims.
The forces of the Ahzab or the confederate enemy tribes amounted to over ten thousand men while the
Muslims fighting were just three thousand men. It was unanimously decided to defend the city from
within and to prepare for a siege rather than fight in the open. The Muslims were in dire straits.
"When they came upon you from above and from below you, and when eyes grew wild and hearts
reached to the throats. and you were imagining vain thoughts concerning God. Then were the believers
sorely tried and shaken with a mighty shock." (The Quran, Surah al-Ahzab, 33:1O)
To protect the city, the Muslims decided to dig a ditch or khandaq. It is said that the ditch was about
three and a half miles long and some ten yards wide and five yards deep. The three thousand Muslims
were divided into groups of ten and each group was given a fixed number of cubits to dig. The digging
of the ditch took several weeks to complete.
The ditch was just completed when the mighty enemy forces from the north and the south converged on
Madinah. While they were within a short distance from the city the Nadirire conspirators approached
their fellow Jews of the Banu Qur~yzah who lived in Madinah and tried to persuade them to join the war
against the Prophet by helping the two armies approaching from Makkah and the north. The response of
the Qurayzah Jews to the Nadirite leaders was: "You have indeed called us to participate in something
which we like and desire to have accomplished. But you know there is a treaty between us and
Muhammad binding us to keep the peace with him so long as we live secure and content in Madinah.
You do realize that our pact with him is still valid. We are afraid that if Muhammad is victorious in this
war he would then punish us severely and that he would expel us from Madinah as a result of our
treachery towards him."
The Nadirire leaders however continued to pressurize the Banu Qurayzah to renege on their treaty.
Treachery to Muhammad, they affirmed, was a good and necessary act. They assured the Banu
Qurayzah that there was no doubt this time that the Muslims would be completely routed and
Muhammad would be finished once and for all.
The approach of the two mighty armies strengthened the resolve of the Banu Qurayzah to disavow their
treaty with Muhammad. They tore up the pact and declared their support for the confederates. The news
fell on the Muslims ears with the force of a thunderbolt.
The confederate armies were now pressing against Madinah. They effectively cut off the city and
prevented food and provisions and any form of outside help or reinforcement from reaching the
inhabitants of the city. After the terrible exhaustions of the past months the Prophet now felt as if they
had fallen between the jaws of the enemy. The Quraysh and [he Ghatafan were besieging the city from
without. The Banu Qurayzah were laying in wait behind the Muslims, ready to pounce from within the
city. Added to this. the hypocrites of Madinah, those who had openly professed Islam but remained
secretly opposed to the Prophet and his mission, began to come out openly and cast doubt and ridicule
on the Prophet.
"Muhammad promised us." they said, "that we would gain possession of the treasures of Chosroes and
Caesar and here we are today with not d single one of us being able to guarantee that he could go to the
toilet safely to relieve himself!"
Thereafter, group after group of the inhabitants of Madinah began to disassociate themselves from the
Prophet expressing fear for their women and children and for their homes should the Banu Qurayzah
attack once the fighting began. The enemy forces though vastly superior in numbers were confounded
by the enormous ditch. They had never seen or heard of such a military stratagem among the Arabs.
Nonetheless they tightened their siege of the city. At the same time they attempted to breach the ditch at
some narrow points but were repulsed by the vigilant Muslims. So hard-pressed were the Muslims that
the Prophet Muhammad and his companions once did not even have time for Salat and the Zuhr, Asr,
Maghrib and Isha prayers had to be performed during the night.
As the siege wore on and the situation became more critical for the Muslims. Muhammad turned
fervently to his Lord for succour and support.
"O Allah," he prayed, "I beseech you to grant Your promise of victory. O Allah I beseech You to grant
your promise of victory."
On that night, as the Prophet prayed, Nuaym lay tossing in his bivouac. He could not sleep. He kept
gazing at the stars in the vast firmament above. He thought hard and long and suddenly he found himself
exclaiming and asking: "Woe to you, Nuaym! What is it really that has brought you from those far off
places in Najd to fight this man and those with him? Certainly you are not fighting him for the triumph
of right or for the protection of some honor violated. Really you have only come here to fight for some
unknown reason. Is it reasonable that someone with a mind such as yours should fight and kill or be
killed for no cause whatsoever? Woe to you, Nuaym. What is it that has caused you to draw your sword
against this righteous man who exhorts his followers to justice, good deeds and helping relatives? And
what is it that has driven you to sink your spear into the bodies of his followers who follow the message
of guidance and truth that he brought?"
Nuaym thus struggled with his conscience and debated with himself. Then he came to a decision.
Suddenly he stood upright, determined. The doubts were gone. Under the cover of darkness, he slipped
away from the camp of his tribe and made his way to the Prophet of God, peace and blessings of Allah
be on him.
When the Prophet beheld him, standing erect in his presence, he exclaimed, "Nuaym ibn Masud?"
"Yes, O Messenger of God," declared Nuaym. "What has brought you here at this hour?"
"I came", said Nuaym, "to declare that there is no god but Allah and that you are the servant of God and
His Messenger and that the message you have brought is
He went on: "I have declared my submission to God, O Messenger of God, but my people do not know
of my submission. Command me therefore to do whatever you desire."
"You are only one person among us," observed the Prophet. "So go to your people and act as if you have
nothing to do with us for indeed war is treachery."
"Yes, O Messenger of God," replied Nuaym. And if God wills, you shall witness what pleases you."
Without losing any time, Nuaym went to the Banu Qurayzah. He was, as was mentioned earlier, a close
friend of the tribe. "O Bani Qurayzah," he said. "You have known my love for you and my sincerity in
"Yes ," they agreed, "but what are you suspicious of so
far as we are concerned?" Nuaym continued: "The Quraysh and the Ghatafan have their own interests in
this war which are different from your interests." "How so?" they queried.
"This is your city," Nuaym asserted. "You have your wealth, your children and your womenfolk here
and it is not in your power to flee and take refuge in another city. On the other hand, the Quraysh and the
Ghatafan have their land, their wealth, their children and their womenfolk away from this city. They
came to fight Muhammad. They urged you to break the treaty you had with him and to help them
against him. So you responded positively to them. If they were to be victorious in their encounter with
him, they would reap the booty. But if they fail to subdue him, they would return to their country safe
and sound and they would leave you to him and he would be in a position to exact the most bitter
revenge on you. You know very well that you would have no power to confront him."
"You are right," they said. "But what suggestion do you have?" "My opinion," Nuaym suggested, "is
that you should not join forces with them until you take a group of their prominent men as hostages. In
that way you could carry on the fight against Muhammad either till victory or till the last of your men or
theirs perish. (They would not be able to leave you in the lurch)." "You have advised well," they
responded and agreed to take up his suggestion.
Nuaym then left and went to Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, the Quraysh leader and spoke to him and other
Quraysh leaders. "O Quraysh," said Nuaym, "You know my affection for you and my enmity towards
Muhammad. I have heard some news and I thought it my duty to disclose it to you but you should keep
it confidential and do not attribute it to me"
"You must inform us of this matter," insisted the Quraysh.
Nuaym continued: "The Banu Qurayzah now regret that they have agreed to participate in the hostilities
against Muhammad. They fear that you would turn back and abandon them to him. So they have sent a
message to Muhammad saying: 'We are sorry for what we have done and we are determined to return to
the treaty and a state of peace with you. Would it please you then if we take several Quraysh and
Ghatafan nobles and surrender them to you? We will then join you in fighting them - the Quraysh and
the Ghatafan - until you finish them off.' The Prophet has sent back a reply to them saying he agrees. If
therefore the Jews send a delegation to you demanding hostages from among your men do not hand over
a single person to them. And do not mention a word of what I said to you."
"What a good ally you are. May you be rewarded well ," said Abu Sufyan gratefully.
Nuaym then went to his own people the Ghatafan, and spoke to them in a similar vein. He gave them the
same warning against expected treachery from the Banu Qurayzah.
Abu Sufyan wanted to test the Banu Qurayzah so he sent his son to them. "My father sends greetings of
peace to you," began Abu Sufyan's son. "He says that our siege of Muhammad and his companions has
been a protracted affair and we have become weary...We are now determined to fight Muhammad and
finish him off. My father has sent me to you to ask you to join battle with Muhammad tomorrow."
"But tomorrow is Saturday," said the Jews of Banu Qurayzah, "and we do not work at all on Saturdays.
Moreover, we would not fight with you until you hand over to us seventy of your nobles and nobles
from the Ghatafan as hostages. We fear that if the fighting becomes too intense for you would hasten
back home and leave us alone to Muhammad. You know that we have no power to resist him..."
When Abu Sufyan's son returned to his people and told them what he had heard from the Banu
Qurayzah, they shouted in unison!
"Damned be the sons of monkeys and swine! By God, if they were to demand from us a single sheep as
a hostage, we would not give them".
And so it was that Nuaym was successful in causing disharmony among the confederates and splitting
While the mighty alliance was in this state of disarray, God sent down on the Quraysh and their allies a
fierce and bitterly cold wind which swept their tents and their vessels away, extinguished their fires,
buffeted their faces and cast sand in their eves. In this terrible state of confusion the allies fled under
cover of darkness.
That very night the Prophet had sent one his companions, Hudayfah ibn al-Yaman, to get information on
the enemy's morale and intentions. He brought back the news that on the advice and initiative of Abu
Sufyan, the enemy had turned on their heels and fled... The news quickly spread through the Muslims
ranks and they shouted in joy and relief!
La ilaha ilia Allahu wahdah
Wa nasara abdah
Wa a azza jundah
Wa hazama-l ahzaba wahdah.
There is no god but Allah alone
To His promise He has been true
His servant He has helped
His forces He has strengthened
And Alone the confederates He has destroyed.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, praised and gave thanks to his Lord for His deliverance from the threat
posed by the mighty alliance. Nuaym, as a result of his subtle but major role in the blasting of the
alliance, gained the confidence of the Prophet who entrusted him thereafter with many a difficult task.
He became the standard-bearer of the Prophet on several occasions.
Three years after the Battle of the Ditch, on the day the Muslims marched victoriously into Makkah,
Abu Sufyan ibn Harb stood surveying the Muslim armies. He beheld
a man carrying the Ghatafan flag and asked: "Who is this?" "Nuaym ibn Masud," came the reply.
"He did a terrible thing to us at al-Khandaq," Abu Sufyan confessed. "By God, he was certainly one of
the fiercest enemies of Muhammad and here he is now carrying his people's flag in the ranks of
Muhammad and coming to wage war on us under his leadership."
Through the grace of God and the magnanimity of the noble Prophet, Abu Sufyan himself was soon to
join the same ranks.
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