Thirdly: The Jews and the Christians sided with the pagan Arabs against Islam
The hardships the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) faced, along with those believers who followed him, were compounded by the fact that the society they were surrounded by was somewhat linked to the Jews and the Christians who lived amongst them. These Jews and Christians were jealous because the newly revealed divine guidance was not revealed directly to them so they were openly hostile to the message of Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). The pagan Arabs respected and admired the Jews and the Christians because of the books and knowledge that they possessed. Furthermore the prevailing idolatry of the times was fundamentally opposed to the message of tawheed and at war with it so they considered the attitude of the People of the Book as a legitimate support for their resistance to the message of Muhammad.
They reasoned that since the Jews and the Christians, who were the inheritors of books that had been previously revealed and more knowledgeable than them in matters of religion, denied the message of Muhammad that they too should deny it! This argument turned out to be one of the strongest arguments that the pagan Arabs used to encourage each other to reject Islam. Allah the Most High says: “And the leaders among them went about (saying): “Go on, and remain constant to your gods! Verily, this is a thing designed (against you)! We have not heard (the like) of this in the religion of these later days (i.e. Christianity). This is nothing but an invention!” [Qur’an: Sad: Verse 6-7]
Ibn Abbas, and As-Sudee, and Muhammad ibn K’ab Al-Qurdhee, and Qatada, and Mujahid all commented with reference to this verse: that the intended effect of encouraging them to ‘remain constant to their gods’ was to prevent them from listening to the message of Islam and what it had to say about the Christians.
This argument was apparently (and Allah knows best) based upon statements that the People of the Book made to the pagan Arabs in opposition to the Messenger Muhammad since the Arabs did not have much knowledge about what was contained in the previously revealed books. Allah says in another place in the Qur’an referring to statements that the Jews made to the pagan Arabs against those who believed in Allah’s oneness: “Have you not seen those who were given a portion of the Scripture? They believe in Jibt and Taghut and say to the disbelievers that they are better guided as regards the way than the believers (Muslims). They are those whom Allah has cursed, and he whom Allah curses, you will not find for him any helper.” [Qur’an 4:51-52]
And that is because the Jews allied themselves with the pagan Arabs in the fight against the Messenger of Allah and gave credibility to their religion of idolatry and because they preferred the pagan Arabs to the believers.
In a hadith narrated upon the authority of Ibn Abbas who said: “When K’ab ibn Al-Ashraf (a Jew) arrived in Mecca the Quraish said to him: ‘Are you the best of the people of Medina and their chief?’ He said: ‘yes.’ They said (asking about the Prophet): ‘Have you not seen that man who has no sons who claims that he is better than we are? We are the people of Mecca who host the pilgrims and supply them with water and we are the caretakers of the Ka’bah.’ He (K’ab ibn Al-Ashraf) said: ‘You (pagan Arabs of the Quraish) are better than him.’ (Then Allah) revealed the verse: “For he who hates you (O Muhammad), he will be cut off (from posterity and every good thing in this world and in the Hereafter).” [Surah Al-Kauthar: Verse 3]
And Allah also revealed: “Have you not seen those who were given a portion of the scripture? They believe in Jibt and Taghut…until the statement of Allah and he whom Allah curses, you will not find for him (any) helper.” [Surah An-Nisa: Verses 51-52]
In this verse Allah has described ‘those who were given a portion of the scripture’ (the Jews) as a people who glorified, worshipped and submitted themselves in obedience to other than Allah. And He has described them as a people who disbelieved in Allah and His messenger and disobeyed them both. Furthermore Allah has informed us that the Jews said that the disbelieving people were better than the believers were and the religion of the disbelievers was better and more correct than the religion of the believers.
These characteristics accurately portray Ka’b ibn Al-Ashraf (a Jew) who went to the pagan Arabs of the tribe of Quraish hoping to mobilize an army to fight against the Prophet saying to them: ‘Verily we will fight along with you against him…’
So the corrupt ones amongst the followers of the previously revealed religions who were opposed to belief joined the ranks of the idolaters out of envy from their own selves, even after the truth (that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger) became manifest unto them. They joined the ranks of the idolaters even though they were the first people who should have believed in the Qur’an and helped the Messenger and disbelieved in the idolatry of the pagan Arabs. However their perverted natures and their greed and their deep-seated hatred caused them to think that the truth was their enemy and that it would be impossible for them to live except in the quagmire of shirk and idolatry. And it was for this reason that they made such a grave statement to the pagan Arabs (i.e. that they were better than the believers were).
It is now possible for us to imagine some of the hardships that the Prophet Muhammad had to endure along with those few believers who were with him. It was as if the whole world was against them and all of the different groups had unified in opposition to the believers. This was their condition from the very beginning of this new message until Allah caused Islam to take firm root in the hearts of the Ansar in the city of Medina and the first Islamic state was established.
The message of Islam gradually advanced as a result of several victories against the intense opposition of the Jews as well as the Christians for that matter. These victories came as a result of the realization of the necessity for military operations and solidarity. The Jews tried to accomplish something similar in the Battle of Al-Ahzab when the forces of disbelief and idolatry gathered against the city of Medina so much so that the situation of the Muslims was as Allah described it in the Qur’an: “When they came upon you from above you and from below you, and when the eyes grew wild and the hearts reached to the throats, and you were harboring doubts about Allah. There the believers were tried and shaken with a mighty shaking.” [Surah Al-Ahzab:Verse 10-11]
This was despite the fact that Islam had become strong and firmly established in the city of Medina as well as other places, however there were still many dangers present for the Muslims. The manifold enemies of Islam outside of Medina were just waiting for an opportunity to attack. It is for this reason that we find an authentic hadith narrated upon the authority of Hudhaifah who said: “We were in the company of the Messenger of Allah when he said: ‘Count for me all those who profess Islam.’ We said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, do you entertain any fear concerning us and we are (at this time) between six hundred and seven hundred (in strength)? He (the Messenger of Allah) said: ‘You do not know. It may be that you will be put to some trial.’ He (the narrator of the hadith then) said: ‘We actually were put to trial so much so that some of our men were forced to pray in secret.”
Some of the scholars have explained that this hadith took place at the time of the Battle of Uhud or on the day of the Battle of the Ditch when the Muslims were completely surrounded and some of the hypocrites said: ‘Muhammad has promised us that we would conquer Persia and Rome yet here we are surrounded so much so that we can not even relieve ourselves (in privacy)! Allah and His Messenger have only promised us illusions.’
The Battle of Al-Ahzab was a scheme of the Jews inasmuch as they allied themselves with the pagan Arabs of the tribes of Quraish and Gatfan in violation of an established treaty with the Messenger of Allah. With that, the role of the Jews – and all of the People of the Book for that matter – in trying to perpetually impose hardships upon Islam and the Muslims became very clear. However Allah willed that His Light should be perfected even though the disbelievers hate it.