Jihad in the Life of Muhammad: Relations with the Jews in Medina
Banu Qurayza

Part 9


Banu Qurayza



Jihad in the Life of Muhammad: The Jewish Tribe Banu Qurayza

After jihad was waged on the tribe of al-Nadir in 625 AD, the last Jewish tribe remaining, Banu Qurayzah also felt threatened and sided with the Meccans against Muhammad when they decided to attack Medina. To ward off an attack on the part of the Meccans Muhammad instructed his men to dig a trench. The Meccans were unable to enter Medina and there were only limited skirmishes before the invaders retreated. This is known as the Battle of the Trench. In revenge Muhammad put the Qurayzah village under siege and eventually the Jewish tribe had to surrender. Trenches were dug in the Medina marketplace and the men of the Qurayzah tribe were taken there and beheaded. At the time of surrender they were an innocuous group and in no way constituted a threat to Muhammad. It was a holocaust on an enormous scale; 600-900 lives were literally cut short. This was the literal application of the Qur'anic verse:
And recall when your Lord inspired the angels: “I am certainly with you. So make firm the feet of those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. So strike at their necks and strike at every pore and tip.” (Q. 8:12)
As far as the booty was concerned, women, children and money, 20% of the money went to Muhammad and the women and children were sold into slavery. To avoid the suspicion that this account is somewhat exaggerated it is necessary to quote directly from the Muslim canonical source Ibn Ishaq's biography, Sirat rasul Allah:
'God commands you, Muhammad, to go to B. Qurayza. I am about to go to them to shake their stronghold'. ... When the apostle approached their forts he said, 'You brothers of monkeys, has God disgraced you and brought His vengeance upon you?' ... The apostle besieged them for twenty-four nights until they were sore pressed and God cast terror into their hearts. Sa'd  said 'Then I give judgement that the men should be killed, the property divided, and the women and children taken as captives.' ... Then they surrendered, and the apostle confined them to Medina ... Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina ... and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. .. There were 600 or 700 hundred in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. ... 'Aisha said: 'Only one of their women was killed. She was actually with me and was talking with me and laughing immoderately as the apostle was killing her men in the market when suddenly an unseen voice called her name. 'Good heavens' I cried, ' what is the matter?' 'I am to be killed she replied. 'What for?' I asked. 'Because of something I did,' she answered. She was taken away and beheaded. 'Aisha used to say, 'I shall never forget my wonder at her good spirits and her loud laughter when all the time she knew that she would be killed'. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 684-691) 1

Children of a certain age were stripped naked and examined and if any had traces of pubic hair they were included among the adults and suffered the same fate of beheading:

The apostle had ordered that every adult of B. Qurayza should be killed. I was a lad and they found that I was not an adult and so they let me go. 2

Narrated Atiyyah al-Qurazi: I was among the captives of Banu Qurayzah. They (the Companions) examined us, and those who had begun to grow hair (pubes) were killed, and those who had not were not killed. I was among those who had not grown hair. 3
Given these and other episodes of this nature one cannot say that Muhammad was a model of mercy, although at times he did feel an urge to leniency. Clearly these episodes show that there is little or no correspondence between the emphasis placed on the mercy and compassion of God and the killings that Muhammad indulged in or for which he was ultimately responsible. It would seem that the values of mercy, compassion and peace are more for the Muslim community itself than for those lying outside that community and it is difficult to see any enduring values for humanity in these episodes. If there is a lesson to be learnt from all of this it is the spiral effect of violence. Violence begets violence in an unending process of destruction. Violence can never beget peace as they belong to different and opposing realms. The end cannot justify the means; it just does not work that way. Given the fact that the Sira depicts Muhammad, his thought, words and actions they are invaluable source material enabling the sincere Muslim to draw closer to the founder of Islam and to imitate him here we have an extremely dangerous model for future generations of faithful believers. The news media are replete with examples of true Muslims following such an example.


1 A. Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ibn Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh, Oxford University Press, Pakistan, 2011, p.  461-465.
2 Ibid., p. 466.
3 Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 38, Number 4390.






Know Britain Home Page
General Index