In the seventh year of the Hijra the apostle rode out
with sixteen hundred followers on an expedition against the Jewish tribe
of Khaybar, about one hundred miles distant. They travelled by a route
which would prevent the Khaybar from receiving assistance from their
allies, the Ghatafan.
When the apostle reached the
he halted his companions and prayed to Allah. 'Lord of the heavens and the
earth they embrace, Lord of both worlds and all they contain, Lord of the
devils and those they pervert, Lord of the winds and all that they
scatter! We ask Thee for the good of this village, the good of its
inhabitants, and the good of whatever is in it, and we flee to Thee for
refuge from its evil, from the evil of its inhabitants, and from the evil
of whatever is in it. Onward, in the name of Allah!' These words he
uttered in every village he entered.
The apostle of Allah would not attack the Khaybar
until next morning; if he heard the call to prayers, he would not attack,
but if he failed to hear them, he would attack. 'We halted at Khaybar for
the night, and the apostle waited and heard no morning call to prayer, so
he mounted his horse and we mounted ours. I [the prophet's servant, Anas]
rode behind Abu Talha, so close that my foot touched that of the apostle
of Allah. We met a few labourers going forth early to their work, bearing
spades and baskets, and when they beheld the apostle with his army they
cried out and fled. The apostle said "Allah Akbar! Khaybar will be
The apostle occupied the Jewish forts one after the
other, taking prisoners as he went. Among these were Safiya, the wife of
Kinana, the Khaybar chief, and two female cousins; the apostle chose
Safiya for himself. The other prisoners were distributed among the
Muslims. Bilal brought Safiya to the apostle, and they passed the bodies
of several Jews on the way. Safiya's female companions lamented and
strewed dust on their heads. When the apostle of Allah observed this
scene, he said, 'Remove these she‑devils from me’ But he ordered
Safiya to remain, and threw his reda [cloak] over her. So the
Muslims knew he had reserved her for his own. The apostle reprimanded
Bilal, saying, 'Hast thou lost all feelings of mercy, to make women pass
by the corpses of their husbands?'
The Muslims were in the habit of eating the flesh of
their own donkeys, but on this day the apostle made various prohibitions
for the future; no Believer was to eat the flesh of tame donkeys. Although
the apostle of Allah forbade this flesh, he permitted consumption of horse
flesh. He also declared, 'It is not lawful for a Believer to irrigate
another man's harvest [to have intercourse with pregnant captives]; nor
shall any Believer have intercourse with a captive woman until she has
been purified; neither shall a Believer ride a captured animal which has
not been assigned to him and return it, emaciated, to the joint stock of
plunder; neither shall he wear a captured garment and return it, worn out,
to the stock of plunder.'
After the apostle of Allah had conquered the Khaybar
forts and possessions, he arrived near the forts of al‑Watih and al-Sulalim,
which were the last strongholds. These he besieged.
Then Marhab the Jew came out and uttered the
challenge to single combat. The apostle said, 'Who will answer this man's
challenge?' and Muhammad b. Maslama replied, 'I shall! I must avenge my
brother who was slain yesterday!'
As they approached one another the two combatants
were separated by an aged tree which served both of them as a shelter, and
when one of them dodged behind it the other lopped off branches with his
sword; and they continued this game until the tree was quite denuded of
branches, and looked like a man. Then Marhab assailed the Muslim and
struck at him, but he held out his shield and the sword stuck fast in it;
then the Muslim killed him.
Ali performed great feats in the battle. 'When he
approached the castle its people came out and he attacked them. A Jew
struck him so as to make him drop his shield from his hand, but Ali took
up a door near the fort and used it as a shield to protect himself, using
it as such until Allah bestowed victory on him; then he threw it away.
When all was over, I and seven men tried to turn this door over, but we
had not the strength.'
After about ten days, the people realized the
hopelessness of attempting to hold out; so they asked for peace and that
their lives be spared. The apostle agreed, because he had already subdued
all the other territory.
Kinana, the husband of Safiya, had been guardian of
the tribe's treasures, and he was brought before the apostle, who asked
where they were hidden. But Kinana refused to disclose the place. Then a
Jew came who said, 'I have seen Kinana walk around a certain ruin every
morning.' The apostle asked Kinana, 'Art thou prepared to die if we find
thou knewest where the treasure was?' And he replied, 'Yes.' So the
apostle ordered the ruin to be dug up, and some of the treasure was found.
After that Kinana was asked again about the remainder, but he still
refused to tell. The apostle of Allah handed him over to al‑Zubayr,
saying, 'Torture him until he tells what he knows', and al‑Zubayr
kindled a fire on his chest so that he almost expired; then the apostle
gave him to Muhammad b. Maslama, who struck off his head.
When the people of Fadak, a Jewish town nearby, heard
what was taking place they sent emissaries to the apostle to ask him to
spare them and they would abandon to him all their property. He agreed.
After he had reached an understanding with the people of Khaybar, they
asked to be allowed to cultivate their own lands, and to retain
one‑half of the produce, saying, 'We know the estates better than
thou, and how to cultivate them.' The apostle concluded peace with them on
this basis, but added, 'If we should find it convenient to expel you, we
shall do so.' The people of Fadak made peace with him on the same terms;
the property of Khaybar was thus common to all the Muslims, but that of
Fadak belonged to the apostle of Allah, because he had conquered it
without the aid of cavalry or camels.
After the apostle of Allah had rested, the captive
woman Zaynab brought him a roasted sheep. She had asked what portion of
the sheep the apostle of Allah most enjoyed and, having been told that it
was the leg, she put much poison into it, although she also poisoned the
whole sheep. When she placed it before the apostle he took a bite, but did
not swallow; Bishr likewise took a piece, but he did swallow. Then the
apostle of Allah spat his out, saying, 'This bone informs me that it is
poisoned.' He summoned the woman, who confessed what she had done, and
asked, 'What made thee do this?' She replied, 'It is no secret to thee,
what my people feel towards thee. I said to myself, "If he be only a
king, we shall be delivered of him; but if he be a prophet, he will know
of the poison and guard himself."' The apostle released her, but
Bishr died of the piece he had eaten.
During his last sickness, years later, the apostle
said, 'I feel the vein of my heart bursting from the food I ate at Khaybar';
from these words, Muslims conclude that the apostle died a martyr of
battle, as well as being favoured by Allah with the dignity of prophetic
The plunder of Khaybar, the richest part of the Hijaz,
was greater than any before. There were dates, oil, honey and barley, as
well as sheep and camels and jewels.
Punishment for disobeying the prohibitions given on
the day of Khaybar was swift. On the way back to
a slave of the apostle was struck by a chance arrow and killed. 'We said,
"May he rejoice in paradise", but the apostle replied, "By
no means! I swear that the cloak which he stole from the booty at Khaybar
is now burning on him in hell!" A companion of the apostle who heard
these words approached, and said "0, apostle of Allah! I took two
thongs for my sandals", and he replied, "Then you will suffer
two thongs of fire." '
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