Banu Quraiza Revisited
This article will be revisiting the topic “Banu Quraiza” massacre. I stress on the word revisiting because there are plenty of literature available on this very topic. While I do not claim to be bringing anything that can be considered “novel or prolific” it is unto readers to sort it out. Article will be rather lengthy because I can not help without inflating it for the very purpose of covering all arguments for and rebut them:
Hijra year 5 (627 AD): Almost nine hundred Jews of a Medinan tribe named Banu Quraiza were massacred by Muslims in a day. Muhammad, the prophet of Islam was the main spectator of this massacre that started early in the day to end in torchlight. Those escaped death had been taken captives by Muslims and sold in slave markets. It was genocide, total annihilation known as Banu Quraiza incident in history.
To begin with, I want to address the usual Muslim apologetics on the issue of Banu Quraiza massacre. I will be focusing on two main points in this article. First of them being, the war of Khandaq = trench was a war that never fought. Second, neither Muhammad nor his followers were accusing Banu Quraiza of treachery to besiege the tribe and eventually exterminate them. The Jewish tribe did nothing to deserve the fate that is imposed upon them. It was commemoration of blatant injustice of a merciful prophet of an all-merciful god.
Quran mentions the incident:
And He brought those of the People of the Scripture who supported them down from their strongholds, and cast panic into their hearts. Some ye slew and ye made captive some. [Chapter: 33:26]
The people of the scripture mentioned in above verse are Jews of Banu Quraiza tribe. And reason given to slay them is they supported some Meccans who came to fight Muslims of Medina. The journey of revisiting will start from this verse. I am adamant on stating this massacre has no parallels in history because of its nature and for a naked fact, it was perpetrated by a man who is claimed to be the prophet of god to the end of times for the entire humankind.
If you look at the Quranic verses above, clear it is that god; the alleged author of Quran is mentioning this incident after the occurrence. And it is god who accuses people of scripture of supporting Meccans. I would emphasize on this point, because this is going to be crucial. Muslims usually justify Banu Quraiza massacre based on these verses as the tribe broke treaty and joined Meccans against Muslims. Since breaking treaty and fighting along with Meccans was a treacherous incident, Jews of Banu Quraiza deserved total annihilation. This is the argument we have been customarily hearing over and over and over again.
In fact, Allah-the god of Islam’s allegation is totally baseless because there was not a treachery from the part of Banu Quraiza that can justify total annihilation of the tribe. They were being victimized for the vicious incentives of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. This will be made clear as we move with the holy text of Muslims, so let us see in Quran where it starts to mention the battle of trench.
“O ye who believe Remember Allah’s favor unto you when there came against you hosts, and we sent against them a great wind and hosts ye could not see. And Allah is ever Seer of what ye do” [Quran 33:9]
God of Quran is reminding his pious believers of the favors he bestowed upon them. “When there came a lot to attack, god sent a wind to turn the foes away, thus saving the believers from destruction” Focus on the verse again to confirm god is speaking of an incident that has occurred. Besides the indication of the above verse is enemies are being turned away by god. Doubt remains whether the enemies were turned away after fighting a war or before it. Let us move with Quran. The very next verse:
“When they came upon you from above you and from below you, and when eyes grew wild and hearts reached to the throats, and ye were imagining vain thoughts concerning Allah.”[Quran. 33:10]
Here, Allah reveals the state of Muslims; when they had to face a huge Meccan army. They (Muslims) started to doubt fighting a huge army will certainly be devastating to them. Ibn Kathir clarifies in his Tafsir:
Ibn Jarir said: “Some of those who were with the Messenger of Allah , had doubts and thought that the outcome would be against the believers, and that Allah would allow that to happen.” [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]
Quranic verses in conjunction with the interpretation reveal the fact, Muhammad and his army was not at all in any position to fight a war at Khandaq. Muhammad heard of the strength of Meccan army much earlier, so acting upon the advice of his companion Salman- the Persian, there were trenches dug all around to prevent hostile Meccans from entering Muslims territory. The battle gained the name “the war of trench” due to this tactic of Muhammad. Meccans were a huge army consisting two tribes namely Quraish and Ghatafans. The very reason, Muhammad adopted an extremely defensive stance in this fighting proves the weakness of Muslim army and strength of their foes.
I brought out these verses from Quran to reiterate the “war of Khandaq” was in fact a war that never fought by Muslims against Meccans. Meccans, though were a huge army which could have annihilated the entire host of Muslims at that time, had to halt at the trenches without finding an entry route to Muslims. Their only chances of entering Muslims was through the route of Banu Quraiza where Muhammad did not dig trenches, but ultimately the hostile, who came to fight and win a war had to regress and return without finding a way to enter Muslims. Allah testifies in Quran he inflicted terror on the opposition sending winds and shaking their settlements, so that they had to withdraw. It is Quran Muslim’s holy text confirms battle did not occur at all.
Now, I have to enter into what made Muhammad and his army (who could salvage their lives and pride without fighting a war) turn towards Banu Quraiza right after Meccans left. I will stick with the most authentic sources of Islam to narrate the incidents in order for not being accused of making things up on my own. First of all, let us see what happened soon after Meccans left without entering into a full-scale battle. We saw Allah himself attests he was the one who drove away Meccans and helped Muslims from otherwise an inevitable annihilation. Now see it in Ibn Kathir what happened afterwards:
Messenger of Allah returned to Al-Madinah in triumph and the people put down their weapons. While the Messenger of Allah was washing off the dust of battle in the house of Umm Salamah, may Allah be pleased with her, Jibril, upon him be peace, came to him wearing a turban of brocade, riding on a mule on which was a cloth of silk brocade. He said, “Have you put down your weapons, O Messenger of Allah” He said, “Yes.” He said, “But the angels have not put down their weapons. I have just now come back from pursuing the people.” Then he said: “Allah, may He be blessed and exalted, commands you to get up and go to Banu Quraiza.” According to another report, “What a fighter you are! Have you put down your weapons” He said, “Yes.” He said, “But we have not put down our weapons yet, get up and go to these people.” He said: “Where” He said, “Banu Quraiza, for Allah has commanded me to shake them.” So the Messenger of Allah got up immediately, and commanded the people to march towards Banu Quraiza, who were a few miles from Al-Madinah. This was after Salat Az-Zuhr. He said, No one among you should pray `Asr except at Banu Quraiza. [Ibn Kathir]
This account of Ibn Kathir is authenticated by Sahih Hadiths: See it in Sahih Bukhari:
Narrated ‘Aisha: When Allah’s Apostle returned on the day (of the battle) of Al-Khandaq (i.e. Trench), he put down his arms and took a bath. Then Gabriel whose head was covered with dust, came to him saying, “You have put down your arms! By Allah, I have not put down my arms yet.” Allah’s Apostle said, “Where (to go now)?” Gabriel said, “This way,” pointing towards the tribe of Banu Quraiza. So Allah’s Apostle went out towards them. [Sahih Bukhari. Book: 52, Hadith: 68]
Evident from this account: Muhammad and his followers were relaxed and reclining after the withdrawal of Meccan troops. Campaign against Banu Quraiza was not made an agenda for them until Gabriel slowed down with Allah’s orders. Remember, this Gabriel and God both are nothing more than Muhammad’s altered egos. He used them conveniently for his purposes all the time whenever he felt in need of a divine intervention. Here too he brings Gabriel into the picture.
What does this tell us? It does reveal the fact Banu Quraiza did not do anything atrocious to Muslims during the siege at Khandaq while Meccan army stranded at trenches. Sources say the siege lasted for almost a month, but at last Meccans departed without offering fight. It was not possible for them to fight because the dug trenches were a new tactic that they never expected from Muhammad’s side. Still they waited to get a green signal from the Banu Quraiza stronghold because that was the only route to enter. At last, losing all hopes of crossing and engaging in a full-scale war which would have resulted into wiping out of all Muslims, Meccans had to retreat. Enemy gone; it is time for Muslims to lay down arms and relax, but not for their supreme commander Muhammad. He felt it inadequate to regress without any gains. Whenever he fought a war prior to it, he and his followers emerged victorious and victory brought them booties in means of materials and human beings. Uhud was the only exception though. This time, though they could not have engaged Meccans and come out victorious, still there is something lacking. Booties..! Meccan’s resignation left them without any of such.
So, it is time for Gabriel to show up. Muhammad needs booties to satisfy himself and his fellow warriors. A small fraction stationed in a fort near would make an easy target now to acquire all these means of satisfaction. So slows down Gabriel with orders from Allah. “No Muhammad, you laid arms without meeting the objective.” And the prime objective here is slaughter then booties acquired by means of it.
If Banu Quraiza were in fact treacherous, Muhammad and his Islam should have been buried in those trenches they dug. That did not happen and Muhammad’s fellow warriors did not feel any need to carry on. All that changed because Muhammad intervened with the aid of his altered egos. This proves the alleged treason is nothing but a made up excuse or a pretext Muslims uses in our period to justify genocide. At least Muhammad’s fellow thugs then did not feel it like in the past. The very reason they reclined after Meccans left.
What happened then? The so-called holy warriors of Islam besieged a weak tribe for almost a month until those besieged had to give up. NOT fighting, but enduring. Siege ended in unconditional surrender of Jews. Now, it is all unto Muhammad who can determine the fate of the surrendered tribe.
To recount what happened then to a subjugated tribe who were on the knees to Muhammad and his fellow thugs, I will quote Muhammad Husayn Haikal’s “The life of Muhammad”
Banu Quraiza sent word to Muhammad proposing to evacuate their territory and remove themselves to Adhri’at, but Muhammad rejected their proposal and insisted on their abiding by his judgment. They sent to al Aws pleading that they should help them as al Khazraj had helped their client Jews before them. A group of al Aws tribesmen sought Muhammad and pleaded with him to accept from their allies a similar arrangement to that which he accepted from the allies of al Khazraj. Muhammad asked, “0 men of al Aws, would you be happy if we allowed one of your men to arbitrate the case?” When they agreed, he asked them to nominate whomsoever they wished. This was communicated to the Jews, and the latter, unmindful of the fate that was lying in store for them, nominated Sa’d ibn Mu’adh. Sa’d was a reputable man of al Aws tribe, respected for his sound judgment. Previously, Sa’d was the first one to approach the Jews, to warn them adequately, even to predict to them that they might have to face Muhammad one day. He had witnessed the Jews cursing Muhammad and the Muslims. After his nomination and acceptance as arbitrator, Sa’d sought guarantees from the two parties that they would abide by his judgment. After these guarantees were secured, he commanded that Banu Quraiza come out of their fortress and surrender their armour. Sa’d then pronounced his verdict that the fighting men be put to the sword, that their wealth be confiscated as war booty, and that the women and the children be taken as captives. When Muhammad heard the verdict, he said: “By Him Who dominates my soul, God is pleased with your judgment, 0 Sa’d; and so are the believers. You have surely done your duty.” He then proceeded to Medina where he commanded a large grave to be dug for the Jewish fighters brought in to be killed and buried. [The Life of Muhammad/ Muhammad: Husayn Haykal. Page 313-314]
According to Ibn Kathir:
Then the Messenger of Allah commanded that ditches should be dug, so they were dug in the earth, and they were brought tied by their shoulders, and were beheaded. There were between seven hundred and eight hundred of them. The children who had not yet reached adolescence and the women were taken prisoner, and their wealth was seized. [Ibn Kathir]
Worth mentioning here: Not all were lucky to get beheaded among Banu Quraiza. Those whose lives were spared had the worst waiting for them: again from Haykal:
The Prophet divided the properties, women, and children of Banu Quraiza among the Muslims after he had separated one-fifth for public purposes. Each man of the cavalry received two shares, one for himself and one for his horse. On that day, the Muslim force included thirty-six cavalrymen. Sa’d ibn Zayd al Ansari sent a number of Banu Quraiza captives to Najd where he exchanged them for horses and armour in order to increase Muslim military power. [Haykal. Page: 315-316]
These captives who were sold for horses were women of Banu Quraiza tribe. Ibn Ishaq testifies it:
Then the apostle sent for Sa’d bin Zayd al-Ansari brother of bin Abdul-Ashhal with some of the captive women of Banu Quraiza to Najd and he sold them for horses and weapons [Ibn Ishaq 693]
Human beings exchanged for horses and weapons..! It is how Islam honours human rights..!