Khaibar is not just another of the many bloody pitiless battles waged by the Prophet Muhammad to establish his rule on the Arabian Peninsula. After Badr, no battle gets more mention in the hadiths than that of Khaibar (also spelled Khaybar)
The horde of holy warriors descending on the villages and towns of the Peninsula intent on slaughter, destruction and plunder, with God's Messenger announcing to their inhabitants their imminent annihilation in his god's name, as he does at Khaibar, must have been terrifying.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Allah's Apostle reached Khaibar in the early morning and the people of Khaibar came out with their spades, and when they saw the Prophet they said, "Muhammad and his army!" and returned hurriedly to take refuge in the fort.
The Prophet raised his hands and said, "Allah is Greater! Khaibar is ruined! If we approach a nation, then miserable is the morning of those who are warned."
The call to prayer only delayed the inevitable.
Anas bin Malik said, "Whenever the Prophet went out with us to fight (in Allah's cause) against any nation, he never allowed us to attack till morning and he would wait and see: if he heard Adhan (the call to prayer) he would postpone the attack and if he did not hear Adhan he would attack them ..."
Dawn was when the unbelievers could expect the horde's onslaught.
The Prophet set out for Khaibar and reached it at night. He used not to attack if he reached the people at night, till the day broke. So, when the day dawned, the Jews came out with their bags and spades. When they saw the Prophet; they said, "Muhammad and his army!"
The Prophet said, Allahu Akbar! (Allah is Greater) and Khaibar is ruined, for whenever we approach a nation (i.e. enemy to fight) then it will be a miserable morning for those who have been warned."
In another hadith, which includes the Prophet's ban on eating the meat of domesticated donkey, God’s Messenger reached Khaibar in the morning.
The Prophet reached Khaibar in the morning, while the people were coming out carrying their spades over their shoulders. When they saw him they said, "This is Muhammad and his army! Muhammad and his army!" So, they took refuge in the fort.
The Prophet raised both his hands and said, "Allahu Akbar, Khaibar is ruined, for when we approach a nation (i.e. enemy to fight) then miserable is the morning of the warned ones."
Then we found some donkeys which we (killed and) cooked: The announcer of the Prophet announced: "Allah and His Apostle forbid you to eat donkey's meat." So, all the pots including their contents were turned upside down.
You could still however fill your belly with the flesh of the onager, a wild variety of donkey.
Narrated Abu Qatada:
We were in the company of the Prophet at a place called Al-Qaha (which is at a distance of three stages of journey from Medina) ...
I noticed that some of my companions were watching something, so I looked up and saw an onager. (I rode my horse and took the spear and whip) but my whip fell down (and I asked them to pick it up for me) but they said, "We will not help you by any means as we are in a state of Ihram." So, I picked up the whip myself and attacked the onager from behind a hillock and slaughtered it and brought it to my companions.
Some of them said, "Eat it." While some others said, "Do not eat it." So, I went to the Prophet who was ahead of us and asked him about it, He replied, "Eat it as it is Halal (i.e. it is legal to eat it)."
On the day of the battle, the eating of horse flesh was made lawful.
Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah:
On the Day of the battle of Khaibar, Allah's Apostle made donkey's meat unlawful and allowed the eating of horse flesh.
On the day of the battle, temporary marriages were forbidden, or so it would seem.
Narrated Ali bin Abi Talib:
On the day of Khaibar, Allah's Apostle forbade the Mut'a (i.e. temporary marriage) and the eating of donkey-meat.
Narrated Muhammad bin Ali:
Ali was told that Ibn Abbas did not see any harm in the Mut'a marriage.
Ali said, "Allah's Apostle forbade the Mut'a marriage on the Day of the battle of Khaibar and he forbade the eating of donkey's meat."
Some people said, "If one, by a tricky way, marries temporarily, his marriage is illegal."
Others said, "The marriage is valid but its condition is illegal."
The taking of a town or village was as straightforward as it was pitiless. First prayers, then an assault on the unbelievers' position. If successful, as most of these massacres were, then came the plunder and apportioning of the property of the men killed including their wives, daughters and sons which were taken into slavery. Young women and girls were especially prized for duty as slave-girls. At Khaibar, God’s Messenger obtained the seventeen year old Safiya (also spelled Safiyya) for his troubles. She would become his eleventh wife.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) offered the Fajr prayer when it was still dark, then he rode and said, "Allah Akbar! Khaibar is ruined. When we approach near to a nation, the most unfortunate is the morning of those who have been warned."
The people came out into the streets saying, "Muhammad and his army."
Allah's Apostle vanquished them by force and their warriors were killed; the children and women were taken as captives. Safiya was taken by Dihya Al-Kalbi and later she belonged to Allah's Apostle who married her and her Mahr (dowry) was her manumission.
Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law and future caliph (Leader of the Believers) may have been reluctant to join the fight due to an eye ailment which his father-in-law cured with a dab of saliva.
Narrated Sahl bin Sad:
That he heard the Prophet on the day (of the battle) of Khaibar saying, "I will give the flag to a person at whose hands Allah will grant victory."
So, the companions of the Prophet got up, wishing eagerly to see to whom the flag will be given, and every one of them wished to be given the flag. But the Prophet asked for Ali. Someone informed him that he was suffering from eye-trouble. So, he ordered them to bring Ali in front of him.
Then the Prophet spat in his eyes and his eyes were cured immediately as if he had never any eye-trouble.
Ali said, "We will fight with them (i.e. infidels) till they become like us (i.e. Muslims)."
The Prophet said, "Be patient, till you face them and invite them to Islam and inform them of what Allah has enjoined upon them. By Allah! If a single person embraces Islam at your hands (i.e. through you), that will be better for you than the red camels."
Another account of Ali's lateness in joining the assault on Khaibar:
Narrated Salama bin Al-Akwa:
Ali remained behind the Prophet during the battle of Khaibar as he was suffering from some eye trouble but then he said, "How should I stay behind Allah's Apostle?" So, he set out till he joined the Prophet.
On the eve of the day of the conquest of Khaibar, Allah's Apostle said, "(No doubt) I will give the flag or, tomorrow, a man whom Allah and His Apostle love or who loves Allah and His apostle will take the flag. Allah will bestow victory upon him."
Suddenly Ali joined us though we were not expecting him. The people said, "Here is Ali." So, Allah's Apostle gave the flag to him and Allah bestowed victory upon him.
During the battle of Khaibar, a camel driver and storyteller by the name of Amir apparently committed suicide; but not before dispatching an undetermined number of unbelievers. In the first of two narrations about the circumstances surrounding Amir’s demise, it’s again donkey meat which gets most of the Prophet’s attention.
Narrated Salama bin Al-Akwa:
We went out with the Prophet to Khaibar. A man among the people said, "O Amir! Will you please recite to us some of your poetic verses?"
So Amir got down and started chanting among them, saying, "By Allah! Had it not been for Allah, we would not have been guided."
Amir also said other poetic verses which I do not remember.
Allah's Apostle said, "Who is this (camel) driver?"
The people said, "He is Amir bin Al-Akwa."
He said, "May Allah bestow His Mercy on him."
A man from the People said, "O Allah's Apostle! Would that you let us enjoy his company longer."
When the people (Muslims) lined up, the battle started, and Amir was struck with his own sword (by chance) by himself and died.
In the evening, the people made a large number of fires (for cooking meals).
Allah's Apostle said, "What is this fire? What are you making the fire for?"
They said, "For cooking the meat of donkeys."
He said, "Throw away what is in the pots and break the pots!"
A man said, "O Allah's Prophet! May we throw away what is in them and wash them?"
He said, "Never mind, you may do so."
In the second narration, the preoccupation is thankfully no longer about donkey meat but about Amir’s death, and whether the way he died – by his own hand or by accident – means that he has voided Allah’s guarantee of a reward i.e. Paradise for whomever dies killing unbelievers.
We went out with the Prophet to Khaibar. A man (from the companions) said, "O Amir! Let us hear some of your Huda (camel-driving songs.)" So he sang some of them (i.e. a lyric in harmony with the camels walk).
The Prophet said, "Who is the driver (of these camels)?"
They said, "Amir."
The Prophet said, "May Allah bestow His Mercy on him !"
The people said, "O Allah's Apostle! Would that you let us enjoy his company longer!" Then Amir was killed the following morning.
The people said, "The good deeds of Amir are lost as he has killed himself."
I returned at the time while they were talking about that. I went to the Prophet and said, "O Allah's Prophet! Let my father be sacrificed for you! The people claim that Amir's good deeds are lost."
The Prophet said, "Whoever says so is a liar, for Amir will have a double reward as he exerted himself to obey Allah and fought in Allah's Cause. No other way of killing would have granted him greater reward."
The Prophet Muhammad, as God's Messenger, was not only entitled to one fifth of the booty obtained the hard way, but all the booty that was obtained without a fight, the Fai. Technically, the valuable farmland surrounding Khaibar had not been fought over therefore under the doctrine of Fai (see chapter Booty and the Unbelievers) it belonged to God's Messenger exclusively.
What made the land around the oasis of Khaibar extraordinarily valuable was the Jewish farmers who worked the land; something the Messenger's holy warriors would not have cared to do, even if they had known how to grow dates and such, for absconding with the belongings of the unbelievers was a much more profitable enterprise.
The Prophet let the Jewish farmers of Khaibar continue to work the land in return for half of what they produced.
Narrated Abdullah bin Umar:
Allah's Apostle gave the land of Khaibar to the Jews to work on and cultivate and take half of its yield. Ibn Umar added, "The land used to be rented for a certain portion (of its yield)."
Nafi mentioned the amount of the portion but I forgot it.
Rafi' bin Khadij said, "The Prophet forbade renting farms."
Narrated Ubaid-Ullah Nafi' said: Ibn Umar said: (The contract of Khaibar continued) till Umar evacuated the Jews (from Khaibar).
Some of the Jewish farmers were not grateful, or simply wanted to test the Prophet's claim to being God's Messenger, therefore under His Protection.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
When Khaibar was conquered, a roasted poisoned sheep was presented to the Prophets as a gift (by the Jews). The Prophet ordered, "Let all the Jews who have been here, be assembled before me."
The Jews were collected and the Prophet said (to them), "I am going to ask you a question. Will you tell the truth?''
They said, "Yes."
The Prophet asked, "Who is your father?"
They replied, "So-and-so."
He said, "You have told a lie; your father is so-and-so."
They said, "You are right."
He said, "Will you now tell me the truth, if I ask you about something?"
They replied, "Yes, O Abu Al-Qasim; and if we should tell a lie, you can realize our lie as you have done regarding our father."
On that he asked, "Who are the people of the (Hell) Fire?"
They said, "We shall remain in the (Hell) Fire for a short period, and after that you will replace us."
The Prophet said, "You may be cursed and humiliated in it! By Allah, we shall never replace you in it.''
Then he asked, "Will you now tell me the truth if I ask you a question?"
They said, "Yes, O Abu AI-Qasim."
He asked, "Have you poisoned this sheep?"
They said, "Yes."
He asked, "What made you do so?"
They said, "We wanted to know if you were a liar in which case we would get rid of you, and if you are a prophet then the poison would not harm you."
The Prophet on his death bed said that the pain he was experiencing was like the ache he felt after eating the poisoned sheep (see chapter Death of the Prophet - Official Cause). This saying is largely responsible for the tradition that Jews caused the death of God's Messenger. If they did, this would lend credence to their suspicion that the victor of Khaibar was not who he pretended to be, as unlikely as that may seem.
What the Jewish farmers of Khaibar produced was one of the most profitable acquisition of the Prophet and may explain his successor's unilateral takeover of God's Messenger's interests.
Fatima sent somebody to Abu Bakr asking him to give her her inheritance from the Prophet from what Allah had given to His Apostle through Fai (i.e. booty gained without fighting).
She asked for the Sadaqa (i.e. wealth assigned for charitable purposes) of the Prophet at Medina, and Fadak, and what remained of the Khumus (i.e., one-fifth) of the Khaibar booty.
Abu Bakr said, "Allah's Apostle said, 'We (Prophets), our property is not inherited, and whatever we leave is Sadaqa, but Muhammad's Family can eat from this property, i.e. Allah's property, but they have no right to take more than the food they need.' By Allah! I will not bring any change in dealing with the Sadaqa of the Prophet (and will keep them) as they used to be observed in his (i.e. the Prophet's) life-time, and I will dispose with it as Allah's Apostle used to do,"
Then Ali said, "I testify that None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Apostle," and added, "O Abu Bakr! We acknowledge your superiority."
Then he (i.e. Ali) mentioned their own relationship to Allah's Apostle and their right.
Abu Bakr then spoke saying, "By Allah in Whose Hands my life is. I love to do good to the relatives of Allah's Apostle rather than to my own relatives"
Abu Bakr added: Look at Muhammad through his family (i.e. if you are not good to his family you are not good to him).
Fatima, the Prophet's daughter and mother of his grandsons, confronted Bakr but was unsuccessful in getting him to give her what should have been her due. Bakr's excuse was that he needed her father's legacy for charitable works and to feed his now destitute widows who were also denied a share of their husband's estate.
Fatima and Al Abbas came to Abu Bakr, seeking their share from the property of Allah's Apostle and at that time, they were asking for their land at Fadak and their share from Khaibar.
Abu Bakr said to them, "I have heard from Allah's Apostle saying, 'Our property cannot be inherited, and whatever we leave is to be spent in charity, but the family of Muhammad may take their provisions from this property."
Abu Bakr added, "By Allah, I will not leave the procedure I saw Allah's Apostle following during his lifetime concerning this property."
Therefore Fatima left Abu Bakr and did not speak to him till she died.
Bakr, by absconding with the Prophet's estate and Allah, by forbidding any man to marry His Messenger's widows, meant that they were reduced to the status of beggars, dependent on the whims of the parsimonious acquisitive Bakr for their survival.
33:53 … You should never hurt the Messenger of Allah, nor take his wives in marriage after him. That is truly abominable in the sight of Allah.
Umar, Bakr's successor, would return some of the Prophet's property which was allegedly meant for charity to Ali, Fatima's husband. The property had probably lost much of its value after Umar exiled the Jews who farmed the land, justifying his actions in a hadith, that it was always the Prophet’s intention expel the Jews of Khaibar.
Narrated Ibn Umar:
Umar expelled the Jews and the Christians from Hijaz. When Allah's Apostle had conquered Khaibar, he wanted to expel the Jews from it as its land became the property of Allah, His Apostle, and the Muslims. Allah's Apostle intended to expel the Jews but they requested him to let them stay there on the condition that they would do the labor and get half of the fruits.
Allah's Apostle told them, "We will let you stay on thus condition, as long as we wish."
So, they (i.e. Jews) kept on living there until Umar forced them to go towards Taima and Ariha.
Umar accused the Jews of harming a believer, then used what the Jews thought was a joke made at their expense by the Prophet (Abu-l-Qasim in the following hadith) to nullify God's Messenger's agreement.
Narrated Ibn Umar:
When the people of Khaibar dislocated Abdullah bin Umar's hands and feet, Umar got up delivering a sermon saying, "No doubt, Allah's Apostle made a contract with the Jews concerning their properties, and said to them, 'We allow you (to stand in your land) as long as Allah allows you.' Now Abdullah bin Umar went to his land and was attacked at night, and his hands and feet were dislocated, and as we have no enemies there except those Jews, they are our enemies and the only people whom we suspect, I have made up my mind to exile them."
When Umar decided to carry out his decision, a son of Abu Al-Haqiq's came and addressed Umar, "O chief of the believers, will you exile us although Muhammad allowed us to stay at our places, and made a contract with us about our properties, and accepted the condition of our residence in our land?"
Umar said, "Do you think that I have forgotten the statement of Allah's Apostle: 'What will your condition be when you are expelled from Khaibar and your camel will be carrying you night after night?'"
The Jew replied, "That was a joke from Abu-l-Qasim."
Umar said, "O the enemy of Allah! You are telling a lie."
Umar then drove them out and paid them the price of their properties in the form of fruits, money, camel saddles and ropes, etc.
Umar would eventually expel all Jews and Christians from the Hejaz, the so-called holy land of Islam, which comprises most of the western part of modern-day Saudi Arabia and is centered on Mecca and Medina.
Narrated Ibn Umar:
Umar bin Al-Khattab expelled all the Jews and Christians from the land of Hijaz. Allah's Apostle after conquering Khaibar, thought of expelling the Jews from the land which, after he conquered it belonged to Allah, Allah's Apostle and the Muslims.
But the Jews requested Allah's Apostle to leave them there on the condition that they would do the labor and get half of the fruits (the land would yield).
Allah's Apostle said, "We shall keep you on these terms as long as we wish." Thus they stayed till the time of 'Umar's Caliphate when he expelled them to Taima and Ariha.
Amongst the captives was Safiya. First she was given to Dihya Al-Kalbi and then to the Prophet.
Under normal circumstances, Islamic law, backed by the Koran, demands that a man give his bride a dowry before marrying her. This is meant to give the wife-to-be some means of looking after herself, if only for a short period, should her husband divorce her and she must leave his home forthwith. A believing man unhappy with a marital choice need only repeat twice to her “I divorce you” before sending her packing after ascertaining she is not pregnant with his child.
A wife’s dowry is her only possession, everything else including the family home is exclusively her husband’s. Her dowry is also one of the few means she has of “ransoming herself” i.e. foregoing her diary to obtain a divorce from an abusive husband.
2:229 Divorce may be pronounced twice. Then they (women) are to be retained in a rightful manner or released with kindness. And it is unlawful for you [men] to take back anything of what you have given them, unless both parties fear that they cannot comply with Allah’s Bounds (by obeying His commands). If you fear that they cannot do that, then it is no offence if the woman ransoms herself (pays money to be set free). Those are the bounds set by Allah. Do not transgress them. Those who transgress the bounds set by Allah are the wrongdoers.
The Prophet essentially got his eleventh wife cost-free, setting her free, "he manumitted her", the same day she was made a slave, before marrying her was the equivalent of a dowry.
Narrated Abdul Aziz:
Anas said, "When Allah's Apostle invaded Khaibar, we offered the Fajr prayer there early in the morning) when it was still dark. The Prophet rode and Abu Talha rode too and I was riding behind Abu Talha. The Prophet passed through the lane of Khaibar quickly and my knee was touching the thigh of the Prophet. He uncovered his thigh and I saw the whiteness of the thigh of the Prophet.
When he entered the town, he said, 'Allahu Akbar! Khaibar is ruined. Whenever we approach near a (hostile) nation (to fight) then evil will be the morning of those who have been warned.'
He repeated this thrice. The people came out for their jobs and some of them said, 'Muhammad (has come).' (Some of our companions added, "With his army.")
We conquered Khaibar, took the captives, and the booty was collected.
Dihya came and said, 'O Allah's Prophet! Give me a slave girl from the captives.'
The Prophet said, 'Go and take any slave girl.'
He took Safiya bint Huyai.
A man came to the Prophet and said, 'O Allah's Apostles! You gave Safiya bint Huyai to Dihya and she is the chief mistress of the tribes of Quraiza and An-Nadir and she befits none but you.'
So the Prophet said, 'Bring him along with her.'
So Dihya came with her and when the Prophet saw her, he said to Dihya, 'Take any slave girl other than her from the captives.'"
Anas added: "The Prophet then manumitted her and married her."
Thabit asked Anas, "O Abu Hamza! What did the Prophet pay her (as Mahr i.e. dowry)?"
He said, "Herself was her Mahr for he manumitted her and then married her."
Anas added, "While on the way, Um Sulaim dressed her for marriage (ceremony) and at night she sent her as a bride to the Prophet. So the Prophet was a bridegroom and he said, 'Whoever has anything (food) should bring it.'
He spread out a leather sheet (for the food) and some brought dates and others cooking butter. (I think he (Anas) mentioned As-SawTq). So they prepared a dish of Hais (a kind of meal). And that was Walrma (the marriage banquet) of Allah's Apostle ."
It is not clear in the hadiths consulted if the Prophet’s broad interpretation of Allah’s decree concerning a dowry became a precedent where any men could now take a slave-girl as a wife without spending a penny on a dowry. The Prophet may also have been looking at saving money, in Allah’s Cause I am sure, in having a very frugal marriage banquet.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet came to Khaibar and when Allah made him victorious and he conquered the town by breaking the enemy's defense, the beauty of Safiya bint Huyai bin Akhtab was mentioned to him and her husband had been killed while she was a bride. Allah's Apostle selected her for himself and he set out in her company till he reached Sadd-ar-Rawha' where her menses were over and he married her.
Then Hais (a kind of meal) was prepared and served on a small leather sheet (used for serving meals). Allah's Apostle then said to me, "Inform those who are around you (about the wedding banquet)."
So that was the marriage banquet given by Allah's Apostle for (his marriage with) Safiya. After that we proceeded to Medina and I saw that Allah's Apostle was covering her with a cloak while she was behind him. Then he would sit beside his camel and let Safiya put her feet on his knees to ride (the camel).
A hadith on how believers ascertained if the Prophet had taken a wife or a slave-girl (Safiya is spelled Saffiyya in the following hadith):
The Prophet stayed for three days between Khaibar and Medina, and there he consummated his marriage to Safiyya bint Huyai.
I invited the Muslims to the wedding banquet in which neither meat nor bread was offered. He ordered for leather dining-sheets to be spread, and dates, dried yoghurt and butter were laid on it, and that was the Prophet's wedding banquet.
The Muslims wondered, "Is she (Saffiyya) considered as his wife or his slave girl?" Then they said, "If he orders her to veil herself, she will be one of the mothers of the Believers; but if he does not order her to veil herself, she will be a slave girl."
So when the Prophet proceeded from there, he spared her a space behind him (on his she-camel) and put a screening veil between her and the people.
Safiya was not the first valued war prize to become the wife of God’s Messenger after another of the Prophet’s many, mostly unprovoked merciless attacks on the unbelievers.
Narrated Ibn Aun:
I wrote a letter to Nafi and Nafi wrote in reply to my letter that the Prophet had suddenly attacked Bani Mustaliq without warning while they were heedless and their cattle were being watered at the places of water. Their fighting men were killed and their women and children were taken as captives; the Prophet got Juwairiya on that day.
Nafi said that Ibn Umar had told him the above narration and that Ibn Umar was in that army.
The most doleful story of a woman whom the Prophet took into his household is that of Rayhanah (also spelled Rayhana). God’s Messenger had the audacity to ask her to marry him after overseeing the slaughter of the more than seven hundred men and boys of her tribe – the last remaining Jewish tribe of Medina – including her father and husband.
The messenger of God went out into the marketplace of Medina and had trenches dug in it; then he sent for them and had them beheaded in those trenches. They were brought out to him in groups … They numbered 600 or 700—the largest estimate says they were between 800 and 900 … the affair continued until the Messenger of God had finished with them.
Narrated Atiyyah al-Qurazi:
I was among the captives of Banu Qurayzah. They 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.
Abu Dawud 38.4390
From From Merchant to Messenger - Wives of the Messenger, Boreal Books, 2012:
Rayhanah is “not usually listed as a wife” of God’s Messenger. Gheorghiu writes that she only agreed to become his concubine, seeing it as unseemly to accept the Prophet’s marriage proposal after he had just ordered the beheading of all the men and boys (males with traces of pubic hair) of her tribe after the battle of the Ditch (also referred to as the battle of the Trench) ...
After the battle of the Trench [Rayhanah was] marched into the courtyard with the several hundred other women and their children to be claimed as a reward by the Muslim soldiers, while the Qurayzah man were led away to be executed.
Rayhanah was not only a beautiful young woman. “Rayhana’s name means ‘extremely fragrant’ and Muhammad loved perfumes” making her even more irresistible to God’s Messenger.
Rayhanah’s life with the Prophet was short and tumultuous: some say she converted to Islam, others that she died as a slave of Muhammad, and still others that she was allowed to rejoin her Jewish community, which is somewhat unlikely as she is buried, along with other wives of God’s Messenger, in Baqi cemetery of Medina.
She died a short two years after the massacre of the men and boys of her tribe. Her age and how she died remains a mystery; all that we know is that the beautiful, tragic Rayhanah died young.
I would not exclude suicide. It must have been difficult to be intimate with a man, even an extraordinary man, who was responsible for the death of your father, your husband, your male relatives and the enslavement of your female kin.