In the mid 620s CE, the Muslims were growing in popularity and power.  After standing strong in both the Battle of Badr in 624 and the Battle of Uhudin 625, the Muslims had become a force to reckon with.  The Muslims had been expelled from Mecca in 622 and migrated to Medina.  By 627, a confederacy of those concerned with Muslim expansion — Meccans, Jews, and the Banu Qurayza tribe — marched against Medina.  In anticipation of battle, the Muhammad-led Muslims dug a “trench” around the city that immobilized the confederacy’s cavalry.  Though outnumbered three to one, the Muslims withstood what was a three week “battle of the wits.”  Discouraged and bothered by poor weather, the confederacy disbanded and returned home.  So went the Battle of the Trench.

Of course, the battle was seem by the Muslims as a great deliverance from God.  The first part of this new Medinan surah, “Joint Forces” or “The Confederates,” recounts the emotions of that campaign. The Muslims were surrounded.  Their “eyes rolled with fear” (33:10).  Some were ready to give up on God.  They looked for a way to escape the battle (33:13).

Others saw this for what it was: a test (33:11, 24).  They rose to the occasion.  They promised not to abandon their calling as God’s people (33:15), even if that meant to fight and even die (33:23).  These people God protected and rewarded.

The Battle of the Trench will be used in the rest of this surah as a “reminder” (33:9) of God’s care and control.