at the end of the night and just before it was daybreak, the prophet [pbuh] moved and when he got to ash-shawt he observed the dawn prayer. there he was close enough to the enemy that they could see one another. it was there that ‘abdullah bin ubai — the hypocrite — rebelled against the muslims. one-third of the army withdrew with him — that is to say three hundred fighters. he said, "we do not know why we shall kill ourselves." he claimed that his withdrawal was no more than showing protest against the messenger of allâh [pbuh] who had already refused his opinion and accepted that of the others.
undoubtedly that was not the real cause of his detachment. if it had been the refusal of his opinion — as the hypocrite claimed — there would have no sense whatsoever for his joining the prophetic army. if it had been so, he would have refused to go out with the army from the very beginning of the march. as a matter of fact the real purpose of this rebellion, withdrawal and detachment — at this delicate and awkward position and time — was to produce bewilderment, confusion of mind, and disorder in the muslims army who were within the sight and hear range of the enemy who were also looking forward to seeing more and more dissension on the side of the muslims, like themselves. they also aimed at breaking the high morale of the believers. that would accelerate — in their opinion — the breakdown and consequently the death of muhammad, his faithful companions and islam as a whole. the way would then be clear for the reclaim of presidency, which that hypocrite had lost on the advent of islam into madinah.
short of allâh’s care, the hypocrite’s plot would have been successful. banu haritha of al-aws and banu salama of al-khazraj were partially impressed by the hypocrite’s behaviour. both of them were overwhelmed by confusion and they had almost started to withdraw, but allâh’s care saved them from that disgrace. about their incident allâh says:
"when two parties from among you were about to lose their heart, but allâh was their wali (supporter and protector). and in allâh should the believers put their trust." [al-qur'an 3:122]
‘abdullah bin haram — the father of jabir bin ‘abdullah — attempted to stop their withdrawal. he reminded the hypocrites of their duty at this delicate and awkward condition, but in vain. he followed them, reproached them and urged them to go back saying: "come and fight in the way of allâh or at least be defenders." they said: "if we had known that you would really fight we would have not gone back." having despaired of them, he addressed them saying: "may allâh cast you away, you enemies of allâh. allâh will certainly suffice his prophet." allâh says about those hypocrites:
"and that he might test the hypocrites, it was said to them: ‘come, fight in the way of allâh or (at least) defend yourselves.’ they said: ‘had we known that fighting will take place, we would certainly have followed you.’ they were that day, nearer to disbelief than to faith, saying with their mouths what was not in their hearts. and allâh has full knowledge of what they conceal." [al-qur'an 3:167]