BANU QURAYDHA’S BREACH OF FAITH
Not long after his arrival in Madinah, the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) forged a covenant between the Ansaar and Muhaajirun to which the Jews were also included and were guaranteed protection of life and property as well as freedom of professing their faith. The covenant, which was reduced to writing, accepted certain rights of the Jews and also put them under certain obligations. Some of the important considerations of this covenant were as follows:
“Those among the Jews who sided with us (Muslims) shall be liable to equality and help. Neither shall they be wronged nor shall their enemies be given help. No polytheist of Madinah shall afford protection to the property or life of any Qurayshite, nor shall he interveneagainst a believer on their behalf. The Jews shall bear the expenses so long as the war lasts, like the believers. The Jews(14) shall be considered as one community along with the believers – they shall have the freedom of their religion and the believers shall be free to profess their faith. They shall have full freedom to deal with their allies and slaves and to settle their affairs.’
The agreement also made both parties liable to help one another in the event of war, subject to the limits of divine injunctions, responsible to promote mutual co-operation, goodwill and cordial relations between the confederates. One of its terms provided that if an enemy attacked Yathrib, both the Jews and the Muslims shall join hands in its defense. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 503-4)
But in spite of these clear arrangements, Banu Quraydha was convinced by Huyayy b. Akhtab al-Nadir to give-up their commitment in order to help the Quraysh. As a matter of fact, when Huyayy b. Akhtab had come to Banu Quraydha to provoke them against the Muslims, their chief K’ab b. Asad had replied, “I have always found Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) truthful and trustworthy.” However, Ka’b b. Asad broke his word and acquitted himself of every responsibility vested upon him by the covenant.
When the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) heard of Banu Quraydha’s betrayal, he sent to the place a few persons headed by S’ad b. Mu’adh and S’ad b. ‘Ubada, the two chiefs of Aus and Khazraj, to verify if the report was correct. To their amazement, they found out that the situation was even worse than what had circulated around. Banu Quraydha spoke critically of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) and said: “Who is the Prophet of God? We have no pact or pledge with Muhammad.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 220-23)
Banu Quraydha then started making preparations for an armed conflict with the Muslims, having kept the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) and his followers (radiallahu ‘anhum) in a dilemma and at risk.(15) The situation would not have been so hazardous had the Jews declared their intention, from the very beginning, to fall out with the Muslims. The miserable plight of the Muslims at this juncture had been depicted picturesquely by the Qur’an:
“When they came upon you from above you and below you.”
It was but natural that the Muslims felt offended by the infidelity of the Jews. And the gravity of their grief against them is being summed up in the prayer fervently offered by Saad B. Muad (radiallahu ‘anhu) to Allah. As the chief of Aus, he had been in partnership with these Jews for many years and was, thus, their ally and sympathizer. When he was shot by an arrow which severed the vein of his arm and had eventually lost the hope of surviving for long, he supplicated to God, saying, ‘O Allah, do not let me die until I have set my eyes on the destruction of Banu Quraydha.”
BANU QURAYDHA ASSAILED
The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) as well as the Muslims set their arms aside after their return from the battle of the Trench. An account of what happened thereafter, as related by the traditions, is that Gabriel (Jibreel) ‘alaihi salaam, came to the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) and asked, “O Prophet of God, have you put aside your arms?” When the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) replied that he had, Gabriel (‘alihi salaam) said, “But the angels have not yet laid down their arms.” “Allah commands you”, continued Gabriel, “to march towards Banu Quraydha, where I will also go there to throb and flutter them.” Thereupon the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) made an announcement whereby everyone listened, compelling them to perform with him their ‘Asr prayer at Banu Quraydha.(16)
The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) and his people surrounded and occupied the district inhabited by the Jewish clan of Banu Quraydha, whereupon the beleaguered Jews defied the siege for twenty-five days, finally succumbing up to the pressure and then offered to surrender. Allah had thus, cast terror into their hearts. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 235)
REPENTANCE OF ABU LUBABA
In the meantime, the Jews requested the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) to send them Abu Lubaba of Banu ‘Amr ‘Auf (who were allies of the Aus) that they might consult him. The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) granted their request. When Abu Lubaba showed up to the Jews, all of them got up to receive him. Abu Lubaba was moved by the plight of the women and children who started bewailing and dissolving into tears at his presence. The Jews asked Abu Lubaba whether they should surrender to the judgement of the Prophet. “Yes,” replied Abu Lubaba, but he declared with his hand and also pointed to his throat.
Abu Lubaba says that before he had left the place it occurred to him that he had not been faithful to the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam). He hastened back home instead of presenting himself to the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) then tied himself to one of the pillars in the Prophet’s mosque. He promised not to leave the place until God had forgiven him. He also resolved neither to go back to Banu Quraydha nor to again visit the place where he had betrayed Allah and His Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam).
The repentance of Abu Lubaba eroded his guilt, as evidenced by the following revelation that descended from God:
“And (there are) others who have acknowledged their faults. They mixed a righteous action with another that was bad. It may be that Allah relented towards them. Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful.”
Several persons rushed forward to set Abu Lubaba free but he refused, saying, “No! Not by God until the Prophet of Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) release me with his own hands.” The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) removed the rope with which Abu Lubaba had tied himself with when he came out to perform the morning prayer. Abu Lubaba had remained bound to the pillar of date-palm trunk in the Prophet’s mosque for about twenty days. At prayer times, his wife used to untie him but he binds himself again every after prayer. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 236-38)
TRUTH IN ACTION
Banu Quraydha submitted to the Prophet’s (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) decision but the people of Aus who had long been friendly with the Jews cherished a soft spot in their hearts for them. They said to the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam), “O Messenger of Allah, they are our allies against Khazraj and you very well know that they have agreed to entrust the decision in the hands of an arbitrator from amongst you.” They agreed and the role was given to their chief, S’ad b. Mu’adh.
When S’ad arrived, his clansmen begged him to be lenient to Banu Quraydha; for they insisted, the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) had made him an arbiter so that they get their demand. S’ad b. Mu’ad replied, “Fate has brought this opportunity to S’ad; let him not be ashamed of the task in fulfilling the commandment of God.” Then, S’ad gave his decision: “I decided that the men should be killed, the property divided and the women and children taken as captives.” The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam), on hearing the verdict of S’ad, remarked: “You have awarded them God’s decision.” (17)
DECISION CONSISTENT WITH THE LAW OF MOSES
The decision disclosed by Sa’d b. Mu’ad was in consonance with the Israelites’ law of war. The fifth Book of Moses, called Deuteronomy, containing the sacred law of the Jews on the subject in question runs like this:
“When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace, and open unto, then shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto 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; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.” (Deut. 20: 10-14).
This was the practice followed by the Jews since the olden times. We read in the Book of Numbers that:
“And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males. And they slew the kings of Midian, besides the rest of them that were slain, namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian; Balaam also son of Boer they slew with the sword. And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their flocks, and all their goods. And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castle, with fire.” (Num. 31:7-10). This law had not only enjoyed the approval of Moses but was also enforced by him.
“And Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the princes of congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp. And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. And Moses said unto them; Have ye saved all the women alive?” (Num. 31:13-15)
The judgement declared by S’ad b. Mu’adh, executed before long, made sure that Madinah henceforth play safe with the crafty and scheming Jews. The Muslims are now assured that none would act as traitors.
Sallam b. Abul Huqayq was one of the Jews who had played a leading role in inciting the desert clans to make a united bid to subvert Islam. The Khazraj killed him at his house in Khaybar. Aus had already done away with K’ab b. As’Ashraf who had done his utmost to provoke the Quraysh against the Muslims and to slander the Prophet of God (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam). Extermination of these two implacable enemies of Islam removed the source of danger ever willing to foment unrest for the burgeoning community in Madinah.(Ibn Hisham, Vol. III, p. 273).
The settlement entered into by the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) with Banu Quraydha and other Jews of Madinah was a defensive alliance along with an arrangement providing the basis for the establishment of a confederal administration in the city. It also included a very large measure of autonomy by the units, which was consistent with the needs and wishes of the Jewish tribes of Arabia. But Banu Quraydha had broken their word without any justification whatsoever. Therefore, they needed an exemplary punishment if only to warn the other treacherous or deceitful people against running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.
Commenting upon the imperative need of a deterrent punishment to the traitors on this occasion, R.V.C. Bodley writes in “The Messenger – The life of Muhammad”, thus:
“Muhammad stood alone in Arabia, a country equivalent in area to one-third of the United States, populated by about five million people. His own dominion was not much larger than Central Park; his means of enforcing his wishes, three thousand badly armed soldiers. Had he been weak, had he allowed treachery to go unpunished, Islam would never have survived. This killing of the Hebrews was drastic but not original in religious history. From a Moslem point of view, it was justified, from now on, the Arab tribes, as well as the Jewish, thought twice about defying this man who evidently intended to have his own way.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. III, p. 217)
Another advantage gained by the destruction of this last but influential foxhole of treachery was that the bastion of hypocrisy built by ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy automatically became weak and impotent. The indifferent among the Muslims, were shocked and dejected and were ultimately driven to despair. With the Jewish stalking-horse destroyed before their very eyes, they gave up the habit of entertaining affliction against the Muslims. A Jewish scholar, Dr. Wellphenson has also reached this very conclusion that the punishment dealt out to Banu Qurayza helped to frighten and discourage the hypocrites. He had said: “In so far as the hypocrites were concerned, their clamors declined after the expedition against Banu Qurayza; thereafter they said or did nothing against the decision of the Prophet and his companions, as it was expected earlier.” (Al-Yahud fi Balad al-‘Arab, p. 155).
BENEVOLENCE AND LARGE-HEARTEDNESS
The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) sent some of his men on an expedition to Najd who captured Thumama b. Uthal, the chieftain of Banu Hanifa. When the cavaliers returned to Madinah, they tied him to a stump in the Prophet’s Mosque. God’s Messenger (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) approached him and asked, “What do you expect, Thumama?” He replied, “If you kill me, Muhammad you will kill one whose blood will be avenged; if you show me a favor, you will show it to one who is grateful; and if you want property, you will be given as much as you wish.” The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) left him and when he passed by him the next time, he asked him the same question. Thumama repeated his earlier reply and the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) left him again. When the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) passed by him for the third time, he ordered Thumama to be set free.
Thumama went away to a grove of palm-dates and returned to the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) after taking a bath. He accepted Islam and said to the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam), “I swear to God, Muhammad that there was no face on earth more detested by me than yours, but now your face is the dearest of all to me. And, I swear to God that there was no religion more hateful to me than yours in the entire world, but now the dearest of all to me. What happened to me is that your cavalry seized me when I was going to perform ‘Umra.” The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam)congratulated him and bade him for it. When Thumama reached Mecca, someone asked him if he had turned a disbeliever. He replied, “No, by God, I swore that not a grain of corn will reach you from Al-Yamamah until God’s Messenger accords permission to it.”
Al-Yamamah was the chief market of food grains in Arabia from where the Meccans used to import their requirements. When Thumama went back to Al-Yamamah, he prevented the caravans from bringing wheat to Mecca. So the people of Mecca wrote to the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) requesting him to get the ban lifted. The kind-hearted Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam)asked Thumama to repeal the ban and allow the rationing and supply of food grains back to them. (Zad al-Ma’ad, Vol. I, p. 377, Sahi Muslim, Kitab-ul-Jihad was Siyar)
EXPEDITION OF BANU AL-MUSTALIQ AND THE AFFAIR OF IFAK
After sometime, the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam)led an expedition against Banu Lihyan and went up to the hills of Dhu Qarad in pursuit of some raiders, but there was no fighting. In Sha’ban, 6 A.H., he was informed that Banu Al-Mustaliq were plotting for an attack on him. He went out with a group to face the enemy. A large party of the hypocrites, still skeptical and reticent, accompanied the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) with their leader ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul. The Hypocrites had never before gone out with the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) in such large numbers in any earlier expedition.(Ibn S’ad, Kitab ut-Tabaqat al-Kabirat, Vol. II, Part I, p. 45).
The failure of the Quraysh in the battle of the Trench despite having mustered all the warriors of their confederate clans for the destruction of Islam, had made the hypocrites bitter and sour, indeed burning with hostility in their souls. The Muslims were gaining victory after victory, the star of their fortune was on the rise, and this had sent the Quraysh, the Jews and their allies in distress. They knew that they could not humble the Muslims in an open combat and hence the only way to defeat them was by sowing dissension within their ranks and pitting them against one another. They also knew that the only way they could undermine the confidence of the Muslims in Islam and its Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) as well as trigger a rift between them were debasement of the noble Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) and arousing pre-Islamic sentiments of tribal pride. With this view in mind, the hypocrites started a clandestine campaign of casting doubts upon the honor of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam). An entirely new type of society had, however, evolved and had been in existence in Madinah at such time, whose members loved and respected every other man bound by the common ideal. These pretenders had, therefore, arrived at the conclusion that nothing could sap the foundations of this ideological fraternity more effectively than a slanderous campaign aimed at creating misgivings against the leader of such sector and his family.
Undoubtedly, this was a well-maneuvered conspiracy of the hypocrites, which was vigorously pursued during the expedition of Banu al-Mustaliq, when, for the first time, as stated earlier, a large number of them accompanied the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam). The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) met the enemy at a watering place of Banu al-Mustaliq, in the direction of Qudayd towards the shore, known as al-Muraysri(18), where the battle brought Banu al-Mustaliq to defeat and exodus from the area. While the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) was still at this place, a hired servant of Banu Ghifar, belonging to the Muhaajirun got into a row with another man coming from the tribe of Juhinah, which was an ally of al-Khazraj. The Juhini called out, “O ye Ansaar!” and the hired servant shouted, “O ye Muhaajirun.” ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul at once flared up and said to his friends who happened to be present with him, “Didn’t they dare it? They set themselves against us in our own country and tried to outnumber us. By God, it is just the same as the ancient saying: Feed the dog and it will bite you. I swear by God that when we return to Madinah those who are worthy and noble will drive out the unworthy wretches.” Then, admonishing his men, ‘Abdullah continued, “You have yourselves to blame for it. You allowed them to settle in your country and shared your property with them. By God, had you held back and not been so generous, they would have certainly gone elsewhere.”
The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) came to know about the incident and he at once gave orders to break the camp and then set off, although he was not accustomed to travelling at an abominable hour. He wanted the people to get rid of the vain disputations and provocations of the devil. The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) continued to move all daylong and braved the night till dawn extending up to the following day till the sun became annoying. He finally made a halt when the people had become so exhausted that they readily fell asleep as soon as they laid themselves over the ground.
‘Abdullah was the worthy son of the unworthy ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy. He rushed to Madinah ahead of the troops and waited for his father’s arrival. When ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy came, his son brought his camel to its knees, thereby obstructing the passage of his father whom he ordered not to enter Madinah until he had acknowledged that he was indeed an unworthy wretch while the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) was commendable and noble. In the meanwhile, the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) also showed up. He said to ‘Abdullah, “Nay, let us deal kindly with him while he is with us.” (Tabaqat Ibn S’ad, Vol. II, p. 46)
The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) used to cast lots, whenever he intended to go on an expedition, to decide who among his wives should accompany him. In the expedition of Banu al-Mustaliq the lot had fallen on ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) and she had accordingly accompanied the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam). At one of the stopovers in their journey back to Madinah, the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) spent a part of the night before he ordered to break the camp. ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) for her part had gone to answer the call of nature, and when she came back she discovered that she had dropped her necklace. She went back to hopefully recover it, but by the time she returned the army had already left. Then the camel drivers in charge of ‘Aisha’s (radiallahu ‘anhaa) transport saddled her couch thinking that she would be in it as usual. However, ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) was small and very light, so none could notice if she was in the litter or not. When ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) came back she found no trace of the army so she wrapped herself in her smock and laid down in the hope that as soon as they would discover the real situation, someone would come to fetch her.
Safwan b. al-Mu’attal al-Salam (radiallahu ‘anhu) had earlier followed behind the army for a purpose. He happened to pass by ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) and stopped at her. He saw her. “Inna Lillah”, he called out, “The Prophet’s wife!” Then he brought his camel near her and turned back a few paces. After ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) rode the dromedary, Safwan (radiallahu ‘anhu) took hold of the camel’s halter and went ahead quickly in search of the army. Safwan (radiallahu ‘anhu) overtook the army when it had again rested. Nobody noticed the incident, for such mishaps were not unusual in the caravans trekking the vast emptiness of the Arabian wilderness. To wayfaring Arabs, it was just a familiar misfortune and their code of honor, even in the days of pagan past, never tolerated the disgrace of their daughters. The Arabs, both pagans as well as after embracing Islam, were chivalrous enough to lay down their lives defending the honor of their women rather than to support any disgrace.
A poet of pre-Islamic days expresses the Arab sentiment of chastity and virtuousness in a couplet, which depicts a lovely picture of Arab womanhood.(19) “If my glance meets the looks of a neighbouring maiden, I cast my eyes low until her abode takes her in”.
The companions held the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) in the same esteem and reverence as one has for one’s father while the wives of the Prophet (radiallahu ‘anhum) all served as ‘Mothers of the Faithful’ to every Muslim. In fact, never had any people loved anyone so dearly than how the companions cherished the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam). Safwan b. al-Mu’attal was, as they say, a man of sterling qualities—noble, true-souled and God-fearing who had the reputation of being least interested in women.
In short, nobody paid any attention to the incident and the matter would have been forgotten had not ‘Abdullah b. Ubbay walked into the picture. On coming back to Madinah, ‘Abdullah b.Ubayy thought it proper for their plans to succeed to capitalize on the adversity. He had found out, as he would though, something that he could bank upon to humiliate the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) and his household and thus weaken Muslims’ sentiments of love and admiration for him and his family. His treacherous disposition was ample enough to assure him that his shameless attack on the Prophet’s honor would create sufficient misgivings to destroy even the mutual trust among the Muslims. And true enough, the crafty conspirator, had thus convinced a few circumspect Muslims who were accustomed to jumping into conclusions without verification.
‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) had no idea of the defamation against her. As it normally happens in such cases, she came to know of it very late, and when she did, she was bewildered. Plunged into sorrow, her anguish had kept her sobbing until tears overflowed her eyes.
The scandal was even more distressing to the Prophet of God (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam). When he found out the architect of this intrigue, he proceeded to the mosque and ascending the pulpit he said, “O ye believers, who would allow me to say something about the man, who I have come to know, has caused trouble to my family? What I know of my family is naught but good and what they say concerning a man, I have known only good about him. Whenever he enters my house, he enters with me.” The people of Aus were filled with indignation at the grief of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam). They said, “We are prepared to behead the man, whether he belongs to Aus or Khazraj, who has given tongue to this calumny.” ‘ Abdullah b. Ubayy belonged to Khazraj, and hence his tribesmen took the remark as an affront to tribal honor. Pent up emotions reigned until the two tribes were about to grapple with one another, but the presence of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) calmed them down finally preventing the outbreak.
‘Aisha was convinced of her innocence. She was distressed, but was also confident and composed, so typical of the one who knows that the truth ultimately prevails in the end. She knew in the abyss of her heart that God would ultimately protect her honor and bring shame to the slanderers. But it had never crossed her mind that God would send down a revelation concerning her, which would be read in the mosques during prayers, a reality that will abide ‘till the end of time. She had not waited for long when the verses attesting her innocence were sent down by God, hence:
“Lo! They who spread the slander are a gang among you. Deem is not a bad thing for you: nay, it is good for you. Unto every man of them (will be paid) that which he hath earned of the sin; and for him among them who had the greater share therein, his will be an awful doom. “Why did not the believers, men and women, when ye heard it, think good their own folk, and say: it is a manifested untruth?”
[Qur’aan 24: 11-12]
And thus ended the frightful menace which was forgotten completely by the Muslims of Madinah who devoted themselves once again to a great task which determines not only their own success, but that of the salvation of the entire humanity as well.(Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 289-302 and Al-Bukhari)