Banu Quraizah

From WikiAhmadiyya, the free encyclopedia on Islam and Ahmadiyyat

The Banu Quraizah also spelt Qurayza, Quraitha or Koreiza, were a Jewish tribe who lived in Medina and entered into an alliance with the prophet of Islam, Muhammadsa. Banu Quraizah betrayed their alliance by waging war against the Muslims and were duly defeated. Several hundred of the tribe's male fighters were sentenced by a judge to capital punishment for their murderous treason. 

Initial Alliance

Medina at the time of Muhammadsa was a multi-religious city inhabited by a number of different tribes following a number of different faiths. Perhaps as Muhammadsa had the largest following of any leader in the city, he was elected as the city's chief. Each tribe agreed to his nomination and every tribe, including the Banu Quraizah, was granted the right to practice its own faith in peace. Moreover, each tribe would be judged according to its own laws - specifically the laws of the faith it followed. 

Banu Quraizah wage war against the Muslims

The enemies of Islam throughout Arabia united with a force some have speculated to be as large as 24,000 and advanced upon Medina with the intention of wiping out the followers of Muhammadsa. Meanwhile, the Muslims of Medina had a fraction of the strength of their enemies, with only 3,000 men, or less according to some, available to defend the city. Even so, the aggressors sent Huyayy bin Akhtab to the chief o the Banu Quraizah, Kab bin Asad. Huyayy's mission was to convince Kab to renege on his agreement with Muhammadsa and join the attack on the Muslims. Despite admitting Muhammadsa had proven himself loyal and faithful, Kab agreed to fatally betray him:

When Kab heard of Huyayy's coming he shut the door of his fort in his face, and when he asked permission to enter he refused to see him, saying that he was a man of ill omen and that he hmself was in treaty with Muhammad and did not intend to go back on his word because he had always found [Muhammadsaloyal and faithful. Then Huyayy accused him of shutting him out because he was unwilling to let him eat his corn. This so enraged him that he opened his door. He said 'Good heavens, Kab, I have brought you immortal fame and a great army. I have come with the Quraish with their leaders and chiefs which I have halted where the torrent-beds of Ruma meet; and Ghatafan with their leaders and chiefs which I have halted in Dhanab Naqma towards Uhud. They have made a firm agreement and promised me that they will not depart until we have made an end of Muhammad and his men.' 

Kab said: 'By God, you have brought me immortal shame and an empty cloud which has shed its water while it thunders and lightens with nothing in it. Woe to you Huyayy leave me as I am, for I have always found him loyal and faithful.' 

Huyayy kept on wheedling Kab until at last he gave way...Thus Kab broke his promise and cut loose from the bond that was between him and the apostle.

- ibn Hisham

The Banu Quraizah immediately began to act upon their betrayal, sending scouts to ascertain areas of weakness where unguarded Muslim women and children in Medina could be attacked and slaughtered:

Safiya bint Abdul-Muttalib...said: 'Hassan was with us there with the women and children, when a Jew came along and began to go round the fort. The Banu Quraizah had gone to war and cut our communications with the apostle, and there was no one to protect us while the apostle and the Muslims were [defending against] the enemy's throats unable to leave them to come to us if anyone turned up. I told Hassan that he could see this Jew going round the fort and I feared that he would discover our weakness and inform the Jews who were in our rear while the apostle and his companions were too occupied to help us

- ibn Hisham

Muhammad'ssa response to Banu Quraizah's betrayal

Muhammadsa did not immediately accept rumours of Banu Quraizah's betrayal and instead sent several parties to investigate the claims:

The apostle sent [for several people] and told them to go and see whether the report was true or no...They went forth and found the situation even more deplorable than they had heard; [Banu Quraizah] spoke disparagingly of the apostle, saying, 'Who is the apostle of God ? We have no agreement or undertaking with Muhammad.'

- ibn Hisham

Muhammadsa now had certain proof of the tribe's betrayal and as the battle progressed, despite overwhelming odds, the Muslims gained the upper hand. Having seen off those externally attacking Medina, the Muslims turned their attention to the Banu Quraizah who had treasonously betrayed them from within. The tribe locked themselves in their own fort and continued to act in a hostile manner. Finally, after a three week siege, chieftain Kab bin Asad realised the Banu Quraizah faced defeat and said to his people:

Kab bin Asad said to them: 'O Jews, you can see what has happened to you; I offer you three alternatives. Take which you please. (i) We will follow this man and accept him as true, for by God it has become plain to you that he is a prophet who has been sent and that it is he that you find mentioned in your scripture; and then your lives, your property, your women and children will be saved. 

They said, 'We will never abandon the laws of the Torah and never change it for another.' 

He said, 'Then if you won't accept this suggestion (ii) let us kill our wives and children and send men with their swords drawn to Muhammad and his companions leaving no encumbrances behind us, until God decides between us and Muhammad. If we perish, we perish, and we shall not leave children behind us to cause us anxiety. If we conquer we can acquire other wives and children.'

They said, 'Should we kill these poor creatures? What would be the good of life when they were dead?' 

He said, 'Then if you will not accept this suggestion (iii) tonight is the eve of the Sabbath and it may well be that Muhammad and his companions will feel secure from us then, so come down, perhaps we can take Muhammad and his companions by surprise.' 

They said: 'Are we to profane our Sabbath?'

- ibn Hisham

The Banu Quraizah were forced to surrender. Expecting their murderous treason to be punished, they demanded to select a judge from the Muslims who they thought would be partial to their case:

The people of Banu Quraiza agreed to accept the verdict of Sad bin Muadh. So the Prophetsa sent for Sad.

- Bukhari

Some Muslim historians have considered this a mistake on the Banu Quraizah's part, as Muhammadsa had consistently demonstrated both prior to and following this incident a marked degree of mercy for conquered enemies. In one earlier example, the Banu Nadir had only been expelled from Medina for a similarly hostile crime:

It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn Umar that the Jews of Banu Nadir and Banu Quraiza fought against the Messenger of Allahsa, who expelled Banu Nadir and allowed Quraiza to stay on, and granted favour to them until they too fought against him 

- Muslim

Nevertheless, Sad was selected by the Banu Quraizah as their judge and - perhaps aware of Muhammad'ssa inclinations towards merciful intervention - he was determined to ensure his decision would be binding on the Prophetsa:

Sad asked, 'Do you covenant by Allah that you accept the judgement I pronounce on them ?' 

The said Yes, and he said, 'And is it incumbent on the one who is here ?' (looking) in the direction of the apostle not mentioning him out of respect, and the

apostle answered Yes. 

Sad said, 'Then I give judgement that the [adult] men should be killed, the property divided.'

- Ibn Hisham

Although Sad's judgement was more severe than the Prophet'ssa had been in similar situations, it still remained within the confines of justice. The men of Banu Quraizah had committed treason against the state of Medina, attempted to participate in a genocide of Muslim women and children and had broken their agreement with the Muslims - an agreement they themselves admitted the Muslims had faithfully and loyally maintained. Moreover, the laws of Medina - laws which the Banu Quraizah had agreed to - stated that each tribe would be judged according to the laws of their own religion. Whereas the Quran of the Muslims promoted mercy towards one's enemies, the Jewish Bible which the Banu Quraizah followed entirely advocated the course of action taken by Sad:

When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it: And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself

- Bible, Deuteronomy 20:10-14

Muhammad'ssa merciful intervention

While Muhammadsa was bound by his earlier promise not to intervene in Sad's judgement on a general level, wherever possible he granted pardons to many members of the tribe:

Al-Zabir had spared Thabit during the pagan era.Thabit came to him (he was then and old man) and asked him if he knew him, to which he answered, 'Would a man like me not recognise a man like you ?' 

He said, 'I want to repay you for your service to me.' 

He said, 'The noble repays the noble.' 

Thabit went to the apostle and told him that al-Zabir had spared his life and he wanted to repay him for it, and the apostle said that his life would be spared. When he returned and told him that the apostle had spared his life he said, 'What does an old man without family and without children want with life?' 

Thabit went again to the apostle, who promised to give him his wife and children. When he told him he said, 'How can a household in the Hijaz live without property ?' 

Thabit secured the apostle's promise that his property would be restored and came and told him so.

- ibn Hisham

Salma...was one of the maternal aunts of the apostle who had prayed with him both towards Jerusalem and towards Mecca and had sworn the allegiance of women to him-asked him for Rifaa bin Samawal, of the Banu Quraizah, who was a grown man who had sought refuge with her, and who
used to know them. She said that he had alleged that he would pray and eat camel's flesh. So he gave him to her and she saved his life. 

- ibn Hisham