Jihad in the Life of Muhammad: Relations with the Jews in Medina
Banu Al-Nadir

Part 8


Banu Al-Nadir



Jihad in the Life of Muhammad: The Jewish Tribe Banu al-Nadir

One Jewish tribe has gone two more to follow. Muhammad began to realise that the very fact of there being Jewish tribes left in Medina would automatically spell danger and the incidents surrounding the final fate of the Banu Qaynuqa brought home to the remaining Jewish tribes that their existence was just as precarious. The first incident linked to the Jewish Banu al-Nadir concerned a poet of the name of Ka’b b. al-Ashraf who was also a Jewish leader. His father was an Arab and his mother Jewish from the tribe of al-Nadir. On hearing the news of Muhammad’s victory at Badr and of the killing of noble men of the Quraysh and later of the exile of the Qaynuqas the poet and his wife were quite concerned. They were also concerned of the possible implications of a recent revelation that Muhammad recited:
O you who believe, take not Jews and Christians as friends. They are friends one of another. Who of you takes them as friends is one of them. (Q. 5:56)
Relations were therefore strained from the outset, it became impossible for either Muhammad or his band of Emigrants to befriend the Jewish tribes. A wedge was now being driven between them. Nothing positive could come of this and the Jews were acutely aware of impending consequences.

On obtaining confirmation that Muhammad had killed many nobles of the Quraysh during the battle of Badr. The poet enquired:

‘Did Muhammad actually kill these whom these two men mention? ... These are the nobles of the Arabs and kingly men; by God, if Muhammad has slain these people ‘twere better to be dead than alive.’ When the enemy of God became certain that the news was true he left the town and went to Mecca ... He began to inveigh against the apostle and to recite verses in which he bewailed the Quraysh who were thrown into the pit after having been slain at Badr. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 548) 1
He also composed verses insulting Muslim women and we know that Muhammad found mockery unbearable. Anyone insulting him deserved the death penalty. “Who will rid me of this man?” Muhammad asked and he immediately found volunteers to conspire to kill the poet. Using deceit they managed to create the opportune moment to murder him. They succeeded in their attempt and their objective achieved:
Our attack upon God’s enemy cast terror among the Jews, and there was no Jew in Medina who did not fear for his life. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 552) 2
No Jew was safe from the wrath of Muhammad. We have a reign of terror, terrorism prevailed. The previous document called the Medina Charter or Constitution, a fine statement of ideals made to create a sense of complacency and illusory tranquillity, had declared that Jews were to be treated with equality and incorporated into the ummah had now become a dead letter as far as the Jews were concerned. This killing came only six months after the battle of Badr.

The poet’s fears were confirmed and his murder, with the approval and authority of Muhammad, marked the beginning of a more radical attitude towards the Jews. Muhammad began to incite indiscriminate killing of those whom he had once considered the chosen people of God, protected and guided by him, the Jews:
The apostle said ‘kill any Jew that falls into your power.’ Thereupon Muhayyisa b. Mas’ud lept upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 553) 3
It is to be noted that here the context is not one of a battle or war; here the incitement to kill is purely the desire and whim of Muhammad. It was a personal issue, a personal hatred that has been growing within, the idea of being rejected created an inner rage that gnawed continually at his inner being. Personal reasons often dictated official behaviour and policy and made a mockery of the Medina Charter, often quoted by Muslims as an example of religious tolerance and pluralism. Everything must be seen in its chronological context and not only in its thematic context; the charter did convey that idea at the initial stages but as we have seen soon became obsolete.

The same fate awaited Banu al-Nadir and necessitated a special revelation from God to explain and justify the action taken. This appears in Sura (chapter) 59 of the Qur'an. Once again, Muhammad, as is customary, has recourse to divine authority to carry out this cleansing by asserting that it really was not Muhammad but God that drove them out:
All that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth extols Allah's glory: He is the Most Mighty, the Most Wise. He it is Who in the first assault drove forth the People of the Book that disbelieved from their homes at the first gathering of forces. You did not believe that they would leave, while they too thought that their fortresses would defend them against Allah. Then Allah came upon them from whence they did not even imagine, casting such terror into their hearts that they destroyed their homes by their own hands and their destruction was also caused by the hands of the believers. So learn a lesson from this, O you who have perceptive eyes. If Allah not decreed banishment, He would certainly have chastised them in this world. As for the Hereafter, the chastisement of the Fire awaits them.  (Q. 59:1-3) 4
In all of this the close link between politics and religion is quite clear. The revelations often have the function of supporting and providing credence and authority for political strategies and this is done by communicating tailor-made divine judgements to suit important decisions and events. Commenting on these last verses Mawdudi writes:
"The People of the Book that disbelieved" refers to the Jewish clan, the Banu al-Nadir, who lived in a quarter of Madinah. The Prophet (peace be on him) had a treaty of alliance with them which they repeatedly violated. As a result, the Prophet (peace be on him) eventually notified them ... either to leave Madinah or to fight. Initially they declined to leave Madinah. Thereupon the Prophet (peace be on him) amassed an army and launched an attack upon them. 5
Before fighting began the Banu al-Nadir agreed to leave and take their possessions with them, had they not done so verse 59:3 says Allah (read “Muhammad and his companions” as agents of God) would have punished them in this life and in the hereafter. Commenting on this verse Mawdudi writes:
"He would certainly have chastised them in this world" means that God would simply have effaced them. 6
Muhammad ruled on the basis of this self referential divine authority of Qur'anic revelations, the very words of God. This satisfied the need of an authority lying outside contingent reality to unite all sections of the community. It was on this absolute authority that a reign of terror prevailed while opposition remained. It would not be an exaggeration to see in this early Medina phase a clear precedent for Islamic terrorism, at least towards those who lie outside the Islamic community, those who refuse to submit to Islam 7 . This reign of terror would reach its climax in this early phase of in the way the last remaining Jewish tribe would be treated, the Banu Qurayza. Muhammad could not tolerate rejection and divine authority would always sanction what was done.


1 A. Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ibn Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh, Oxford University Press, Pakistan, 2011, p. 365.
2 Ibid., p. 368.
3 Ibid., p. 369.
4 This Sura was once known as Surat al-Nadir.
5 Sayyid Abul A ‘la Mawdudi, Towards Understanding the Qur’an, abridged version of Tafhim al-Qur’an, Translated and edited by Zafar Ishaq Ansari, UK Islamic Mission Dawah Centre, Birmingham, UK, 2011, p. 831.
6 Ibid. p. 832.
7 It is often claimed that "islam" means peace. This is not so. The word "islam" derives from the root "slm", which has a wide range of meanings, one of which is "peace". Many words have derived from this root with different meanings, one of these is "islam" meaning "submission".



Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 1 Introduction
Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 2 Jihad, Meaning and Forms
Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 3 The Qur'an
Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 4 The Hadith
Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 5 From Mecca to Medina
Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 6 Muhammad and the Jews of Medina
Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 7 Muhammad and the Jews Banu Qaynuqa
Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 8 Muhammad and the Jews Banu Al-Nadir
Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 8 Muhammad and the Jews Banu Qurayza
Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 10 Jesus Christ and Muhammad: Opposition, Mockery and rejection
Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 11 Jihad of the Sword, the Lesser or Greater Jihad
Jihad - Qital - Holy War: Part 12 The importance of Jihad available soon

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