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The Treachery of Banu Quraidha


category: History & Biographies


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Not long after his arrival in Madeenah, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) forged a covenant between the Ansaar and Muhaajirun to which the Jews were also included and were guaranteed protection of life and property as well as freedom of professing their faith. The covenant, which was reduced to writing, accepted certain rights of the Jews and also put them under certain obligations. Some of the important considerations of this covenant were as follows:

“Those among the Jews who sided with us (Muslims) shall be liable to equality and help. Neither shall they be wronged nor shall their enemies be given help. No polytheist of Madeenah shall afford protection to the property or life of any Qurayshite, nor shall he interveneagainst a believer on their behalf. The Jews shall bear the expenses so long as the war lasts, like the believers. The Jews(14) shall be considered as one community along with the believers – they shall have the freedom of their religion and the believers shall be free to profess their faith. They shall have full freedom to deal with their allies and slaves and to settle their affairs.’

The agreement also made both parties liable to help one another in the event of war, subject to the limits of divine injunctions, responsible to promote mutual co-operation, goodwill and cordial relations between the confederates. One of its terms provided that if an enemy attacked Yathrib, both the Jews and the Muslims shall join hands in its defense. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 503-4)

But in spite of these clear arrangements, Banu Quraydha was convinced by Huyayy b. Akhtab al-Nadir to give-up their commitment in order to help the Quraysh. As a matter of fact, when Huyayy b. Akhtab had come to Banu Quraydha to provoke them against the Muslims, their chief K’ab b. Asad had replied, “I have always found Muhammad (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) truthful and trustworthy.” However, Ka’b b. Asad broke his word and acquitted himself of every responsibility vested upon him by the covenant.

When the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) heard of Banu Quraydha’s betrayal, he sent to the place a few persons headed by S’ad b. Mu’adh and S’ad b. ‘Ubada, the two chiefs of Aus and Khazraj, to verify if the report was correct. To their amazement, they found out that the situation was even worse than what had circulated around. Banu Quraydha spoke critically of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and said: “Who is the Prophet of God? We have no pact or pledge with Muhammad.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 220-23)

Banu Quraydha then started making preparations for an armed conflict with the Muslims, having kept the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and his followers (radiallahu 'anhum) in a dilemma and at risk.(15) The situation would not have been so hazardous had the Jews declared their intention, from the very beginning, to fall out with the Muslims. The miserable plight of the Muslims at this juncture had been depicted picturesquely by the Qur’an:

"When they came upon you from above you and below you." [Qur'an 33:10]

It was but natural that the Muslims felt offended by the infidelity of the Jews. And the gravity of their grief against them is being summed up in the prayer fervently offered by Saad B. Muad (radiallahu 'anhu) to Allah. As the chief of Aus, he had been in partnership with these Jews for many years and was, thus, their ally and sympathizer. When he was shot by an arrow which severed the vein of his arm and had eventually lost the hope of surviving for long, he supplicated to God, saying, ‘O Allah, do not let me die until I have set my eyes on the destruction of Banu Quraydha.”


The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) as well as the Muslims set their arms aside after their return from the battle of the Trench. An account of what happened thereafter, as related by the traditions, is that Gabriel (Jibreel) 'alaihi salaam, came to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and asked, “O Prophet of God, have you put aside your arms?” When the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) replied that he had, Gabriel ('alihi salaam) said, “But the angels have not yet laid down their arms.” “Allah commands you”, continued Gabriel, “to march towards Banu Quraydha, where I will also go there to throb and flutter them.” Thereupon the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) made an announcement whereby everyone listened, compelling them to perform with him their ‘Asr prayer at Banu Quraydha.(16)

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and his people surrounded and occupied the district inhabited by the Jewish clan of Banu Quraydha, whereupon the beleaguered Jews defied the siege for twenty-five days, finally succumbing up to the pressure and then offered to surrender. Allah had thus, cast terror into their hearts. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 235)


In the meantime, the Jews requested the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) to send them Abu Lubaba of Banu ‘Amr ‘Auf (who were allies of the Aus) that they might consult him. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) granted their request. When Abu Lubaba showed up to the Jews, all of them got up to receive him. Abu Lubaba was moved by the plight of the women and children who started bewailing and dissolving into tears at his presence. The Jews asked Abu Lubaba whether they should surrender to the judgement of the Prophet. “Yes,” replied Abu Lubaba, but he declared with his hand and also pointed to his throat.

Abu Lubaba says that before he had left the place it occurred to him that he had not been faithful to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). He hastened back home instead of presenting himself to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) then tied himself to one of the pillars in the Prophet’s mosque. He promised not to leave the place until God had forgiven him. He also resolved neither to go back to Banu Quraydha nor to again visit the place where he had betrayed Allah and His Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam).

The repentance of Abu Lubaba eroded his guilt, as evidenced by the following revelation that descended from God: “And (there are) others who have acknowledged their faults. They mixed a righteous action with another that was bad. It may be that Allah relented towards them. Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful.” [Qur'an 9:102]

Several persons rushed forward to set Abu Lubaba free but he refused, saying, “No! Not by God until the Prophet of Allah (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) release me with his own hands.” The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) removed the rope with which Abu Lubaba had tied himself with when he came out to perform the morning prayer. Abu Lubaba had remained bound to the pillar of date-palm trunk in the Prophet’s mosque for about twenty days. At prayer times, his wife used to untie him but he binds himself again every after prayer. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 236-38)


Banu Quraydha submitted to the Prophet’s (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) decision but the people of Aus who had long been friendly with the Jews cherished a soft spot in their hearts for them. They said to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), “O Messenger of Allah, they are our allies against Khazraj and you very well know that they have agreed to entrust the decision in the hands of an arbitrator from amongst you.” They agreed and the role was given to their chief, S’ad b. Mu’adh.

When S’ad arrived, his clansmen begged him to be lenient to Banu Quraydha; for they insisted, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) had made him an arbiter so that they get their demand. S’ad b. Mu’ad replied, “Fate has brought this opportunity to S’ad; let him not be ashamed of the task in fulfilling the commandment of God.” Then, S’ad gave his decision: “I decided that the men should be killed, the property divided and the women and children taken as captives.” The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), on hearing the verdict of S’ad, remarked: “You have awarded them God’s decision.”(17)


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