The Jews of Medina

Jihad in the KoranThe three Jewish tribes of Medina did not see the rise of Islam as a threat until the Muslims developed an appetite for booty and started raiding the caravans that passed by the city on their way to and from Mecca. These raids were sanctioned by the Koran since the booty the Muslims were taking was from unbelievers.

The Muslim victory over the Meccans at Badr particularly unnerved the Jews. At the Battle of Badr, Muhammad not only demonstrated an unnatural bloodlust and thirst for revenge, but also gave reason to question his sanity. It was at Badr that he first informed his followers of the concept of life in the grave. After the battle, the Muslim dead were given a proper burial while the Meccan casualties were simply thrown down a well. God’s Messenger was seen shouting at the corpses in the well. This left some of his followers perplexed, but the Prophet had an explanation.

Narrated Ibn Umar:

“The Prophet looked at the people of the well and said, ‘Have you found true what your Lord promised you?’

Somebody said to him, ‘You are addressing dead people.’

He replied, ‘You do not hear better than they but they cannot reply.’"

Bukhari 23.452

It was not questions as to Muhammad’s sanity that most alarmed the Jews of Medina, but what God’s Messenger did after he returned victorious to their city. The victory at Badr and the prestige and wealth that came with it emboldened the Prophet to silence his most vocal and persistent critics, the poets. As aforementioned, he had the poet al-Nadr beheaded at Badr. The next to die was the oldest poet, if not the oldest man, of Medina, centenarian Abu Afak.

He waited for an opportunity until a hot night came, and Abu Afak slept in an open place. Salim b. ‘Umayr knew it, so he placed the sword on his liver and pressed it till it reached his bed. The enemy of Allah screamed and the people, who were his followers rushed him, took him to his house and interred him.

 Ibn S’ad

The next to be assassinated at Muhammad’s insistence was the poetess Asma bint Marwan. She had condemned, in verse, the murder of the old wordsmith. In the tradition of every despot through the ages, she then became the target of the assassin’s blade. With an infant suckling at her breast, whom her killer pushed aside, she too was stabbed to death while sleeping. After every murder, the assassin would return to the mosque to inform Muhammad and be praised for what had been done at his insistence.

Umayr Ibn Adi came to her in the night and entered her house. Her children were sleeping around her. There was one whom she was suckling. He searched her with his hand because he was blind, and separated the child from her. He thrust his sword in her chest till it pierced up to her back. Then he offered the morning prayers with the Prophet at Medina.

The apostle of Allah said to him: "Have you slain the daughter of Marwan?"

When Umayr replied that the job had been carried out with success,

 Muhammad said, "You have helped God and His apostle, O ‘Umayr!’"

 When Umayr asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences, the apostle said, “Two goats won’t butt their heads about her."

Muhammad then praised Umayr in front of all gathered for prayer for his act of murder, and Umayr went back to his people.

Ibn S’ad, a companion of the Prophet

God’s Messenger dared the men of her tribe to seek revenge for her murder, as was the custom. Knowing that there was nothing this man was not capable of, they avoided their own destruction by becoming Muslims. The next unfortunate poet murdered per Muhammad’s instructions was Abu-Rafi.

Narrated Al-Bara bin Azib:

Allah's Apostle sent a group of Ansari men to kill Abu-Rafi. One of them set out and entered their (i.e. the enemies) fort. That man said, "I hid myself in a stable for their animals. They closed the fort gate. Later they lost a donkey of theirs, so they went out in its search. I, too, went out along with them, pretending to look for it. They found the donkey and entered their fort. And I, too, entered along with them.

They closed the gate of the fort at night, and kept its keys in a small window where I could see them. When those people slept, I took the keys and opened the gate of the fort and came upon Abu Rafi and said, 'O Abu Rafi.’

When he replied me, I proceeded towards the voice and hit him. He shouted and I came out to come back, pretending to be a helper.

I said, 'O Abu Rafi’, changing the tone of my voice.

He asked me, 'What do you want; woe to your mother?'

I asked him, 'What has happened to you?'

He said, 'I don't know who came to me and hit me.' Then I drove my sword into his belly and pushed it forcibly till it touched the bone. Then I came out, filled with puzzlement and went towards a ladder of theirs in order to get down but I fell down and sprained my foot. I came to my companions and said, 'I will not leave till I hear the wailing of the women.'

So, I did not leave till I heard the women bewailing Abu Rafi, the merchant of Hijaz. Then I got up, feeling no ailment, (and we proceeded) till we came upon the Prophet and informed him."

Bukhari 52.264

The murder of the poet Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf:

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:

Allah's Apostle said, "Who would kill Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf (Ka'b, a poet, who wrote poems lampooning of Allan's Messenger) as he has harmed Allah and His Apostle?"

Muhammad bin Maslama (got up and) said, "I will kill him."

So, Muhammad bin Maslama went to Ka'b and said, "I want a loan of one or two Wasqs of food grains."

Ka'b said, "Mortgage your women to me."

Muhammad bin Maslama said, "How can we mortgage our women, and you are the most handsome among the Arabs?"

He said, "Then mortgage your sons to me."

Muhammad said, "How can we mortgage our sons, as the people will abuse them for being mortgaged for one or two Wasqs of food grains? It is shameful for us. But we will mortgage our arms to you."

So, Muhammad bin Maslama promised him that he would come to him next time. They (Muhammad bin Maslama and his companions) came to him as promised and murdered him. Then they went to the Prophet and told him about it.

Bukhari 45.687

Adding to the Jews of Medina’s uneasiness was a revelation Muhammad received at the time of the killings allowing him to effectively renounce any treaty at his discretion.

8:58 And should you fear treachery from any people, throw back their treaty to them in like manner. Allah does not like the treacherous.

After Badr, the Prophet not only felt his position secure enough to have his critics permanently silenced but also to put his newfound prestige on the line by seeking to impose a head tax, the jizya, on the Jews and Christians. The Jews ridiculed his proposal, saying that Allah could not be so poor as to require their money. Muhammad swallowed his pride and patiently waited for an opportunity to make the Jews pay, and pay dearly, for their insolence, as was his way.

An irresistible opportunity for revenge and for plunder presented itself with the retaliation killing of a Muslim by a Jew of the Banu Qaynuqa, the smallest of the three Jewish tribes of Medina. Here is the story as told by Abul Kasem, a former Muslim and author of A Complete Guide to Allah:

An Arab girl, married to a Muslim convert of Medina went to the Jewish shop of a goldsmith in the market place of Qaynuqua. While waiting for some ornaments, she sat down. A silly neighbour secretly pinned the lower hem of her skirt. When she arose, the awkward expose made everyone laugh. She screamed with shame. A passing Muslim witnessed the incident and killed the offending Jew. The brother of the Jew then killed the Muslim. The family of the murdered Muslim then appealed to the converts of Medina to take revenge.

The skirmish now became general and Muhammad made no attempt to mitigate the situation, nor did he try to bring the offending parties to justice. He immediately gathered his followers under the white banner in the hand of Hamzah and marched forward to attack the Jewish tribe. The Jews took shelter in their fortified apartments. So, Muhammad laid a siege and a full blockade was imposed. The siege lasted for fifteen days… [the] Jews had no choice but to surrender to Muhammad. Their hands were tied behind their backs and preparations were made for their execution.

At this time, Abd Allah ibn Ubayy … a new convert to Islam begged Muhammad for mercy, but Muhammad turned his face away. Abd Allah persisted. Finally, Muhammad yielded and let the prisoners escape execution. He then cursed the Jews and Abd Allah ibn Ubay with Allah’s punishment. Then Muhammad ordered the Jews of Banu Qaynuqa to leave Medina within three days.

After the exile of the Banu Qaynuqa the Prophet legalized the killing of Jews.

The messenger of God said, “Whoever of the Jews falls into your hands, kill him.”


The next to be forced out were the Banu Nadir. The Banu Nadir Jews owned large tracks of land on the outskirts of Medina on which they cultivated date palms. They too took refuge in their fortress when they ran afoul of the Prophet. God’s Messenger then besieged their fortifications.

There was always a chance that the remaining Jewish tribe would come to their aid. The Muslims were not yet strong enough to withstand a concerted effort by the Jews to defend themselves, therefore the siege had to be ended as quickly as possible. To dishearten and convince the Banu Nadir that there was no future for them in Medina, even if the siege was lifted, Muhammad ordered that all their date palms be cut down. This early version of scorched-earth warfare was taboo for both the Arabs and Jews. The Prophet justified his breaking of this long-standing prohibition with the usual revelation from God.

59:5 Whatever palm trees you cut of or leave standing upon their roots is only by Allah’s Leave, and that He might disgrace the sinners.

Muhammad’s share of the property of the Banu Nadir may have made some jealous. 

59:6 Whatever spoils Allah has bestowed on His Messenger from them, you did not send against them any horses or other mounts; but Allah confers on His Messengers authority over whoever he pleases. Allah has power over everything.

59:7 And whatever spoils Allah bestows on His Messenger from the inhabitants of the cities belongs to Allah, His Messenger, the kinsmen, the orphans, the destitute and the wayfarers; so that it might not circulate among the rich of you. Whatever the Messenger gives you, take; but whatever he forbids, refrain from. Fear Allah, for Allah is terrible in retribution.

Do unto others as was done to you? Part of the plunder from the siege of the Banu Nadir went to the emigrants from Mecca, and another to supporters in Medina.

59:8 Give to the poor Emigrants who were driven out of their homes and their possessions, seeking bounty from Allah and good pleasure and assisting Allah and His Messenger. Those indeed are the truthful ones.

59:9 And those who had already established themselves and embraced their Faith before them (the people of Medina known as al-Ansar or supporters, as against the Meccans known as al-Muhajirun, or emigrants) love those who emigrated to them; and they do not find in their hearts any need for what had been bestowed upon them and prefer them to themselves, even if they are in dire need. He is indeed prosperous who is guarded against the avarice of his soul.

The booty from the dispossession of the Badu Nadir, as with all the spoils from unbelievers until Judgement Day, were to be shared among all believers. That is, in essence, Moududi’s explanation of Revelation 59:10.

59:10 Those who came after them say: “Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in belief and do not instill in our hearts any rancour towards those who believe. Lord, You are indeed Clement and Merciful.”

God was not impressed with the remaining Jewish tribe of Medina, the Banu Qurayzah, who promised to come to the aid of the Banu Nadir but never showed up. In any event, it would not have made any difference. 

59:11 Have you not considered the hypocrites? They say to their brethren who have disbelieved from the People of the Book; “If you are driven out, we will go out with you and we will never obey anyone against you; and should anyone fight you, we will certainly support you.” Allah bears witness that they are liars, indeed.

59:12 If they are driven out, they will not go out with them; and if anyone fights them, they will not support them. Even if they support them, they will turn their backs in flight; then they will not receive any support.

59:13 You are indeed more terrifying in their hearts than Allah. That is because they are a people who do not understand.

59:14 They do not fight you altogether except in fortified cities or from behind walls. Their prowess is great among themselves. You think they are united, yet their hearts are at variance. That is because they are people who do not understand.

59:15 Like those who, shortly before them, tasted the futility of their action. They shall have a painful punishment.

59:16 Like Satan, when he said to man: “Disbelieve”; then, when he disbelieved, he said: “I am quit of you. Indeed, I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.”

59:17 Thereupon, their end together was to be in the Fire, dwelling therein forever. That is the reward of the wrongdoer.

With their livelihood gone, the Banu Nadir agreed to go into exile. Muhammad allowed them to take with them whatever their camels could carry. That left the Banu Qurayzah (also referred to as the Beni Qurayzah). This is what Allah had to say about the dispossession of the Banu Qaynuqa and the Banu Nadir:


59 Al-Hashr

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

59:1 Everything in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah. He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.

59:2 It is He Who drove out the unbelievers among the People of the Book from their homes at the first mustering. You did not think that they would be driven out, and they thought that their forts would protect them from Allah. Then, Allah seized them from an unexpected quarter and cast terror into their hearts, so that they destroyed their homes with their own hands, as well as the hands of the believers. Reflect, then, O people of perception!

59:3 Had not Allah decreed dispersion upon them, He would certainly have punished them in the present life, and in the Hereafter, the punishment of the Fire shall be theirs.

59:4 That is because they have opposed Allah and His Messenger, and he who opposes Allah will find Allah terrible in retribution.

Some of the exiled leaders of the Banu Nadir and Banu Qaynuqa went to Mecca and offered to join the Meccans in the fight against Muhammad. At first the Meccans were sceptical. To test their allegiance, they asked the Jews which was better: paganism or Islam? They answered that paganism was preferable to Muhammad’s type of monotheism. The Meccans then accepted the Jews of the Banu Nadir and Banu Qaynuqa as their ally, thereby sealing the fate of the Banu Qurayzah.

Allah was quick to denounce this new unholy alliance of monotheists and polytheists.

4:51 Have you not considered those who received a portion of the Book? They believe in idols and demons, and they say to the unbelievers: “Those are more rightly guided than those who believe.”

4:52 Those are the ones whom Allah has cursed; and whomever Allah curses will have no supporter.

4:53 Or do they have a share in the Kingdom? If so, they will not give the people a speck on a date-stone.

4:54 Or do they envy the people (the Arabs) for what Allah has given them of His Bounty? For we have given Abraham’s family the Book and the Wisdom and bestowed on them a great kingdom.

4:55 Some of them believed in him. Others rejected him. Sufficient is the scourge of Hell.

The Meccans and their allies, including their Jewish allies, which in the Koran are referred to as the Confederates, shortly thereafter marched on Medina with an army numbering an estimated ten thousand men. At this crucial juncture, the leader of the Banu Qurayzah announced his intention not to honour his commitment to come to the aid of the Prophet if the Muslims were attacked, and entered into negotiations with the Meccans.

Battle of the Ditch

The battle for Medina is usually referred to as the Battle of the Ditch because of a trench that was dug on the flat approaches to the city. The idea for a trench to counter the superior Meccan cavalry came from a Persian Christian convert to Islam by the name of Salman al Farsi (or Farisi). This ditch completely stymied the Meccan forces which included a 300-horse cavalry unit. For two weeks, an army of ten thousand waited for their hapless and befuddled commander Abu Sufyan to devise a strategy to overcome what should have been a minor obstacle.

In the meantime, the go-between in the negotiations for a joint operation between the Meccans and the remaining Jews of Medina against the Muslims converted to Islam. The quick-thinking Muhammad made Nu'aym ibn Mas'ud his double-agent, asking him to continue negotiations and sow distrust between the would-be allies, thereby delaying any agreement.

It worked. Negotiations were at an impasse when God decided to put an end to the siege by sending a vicious sandstorm that wreaked havoc on the exposed Meccan camp, which was already short on supplies. He may also have concealed elements of His Air Force (angels, “the host you did not see” in Revelation 33:9) in the swirling, grinding sand.

33:9 O believers, remember Allah’s grace on you when enemy hosts (of confederates allied against Muslims in the Battle of the Ditch (Khandaq) during the siege of Medina) came upon you; then We sent against them a wind and hosts you did not actually see. Allah perceives well what you do.

Disconcerted and confused, the Meccans and their allies abandoned the siege of Medina. As at the Battle of Badr, the casualties inflicted by these hosts during this desert sitzkrieg were light. Casualties for both sides were eight Meccans dead and six Muslims. However, this is not how Allah saw it:

33:10 When they came upon you from above you and from below you, and your eyes looked askew and your hearts reached your throats, while you entertained false thoughts about Allah.

33:11 Then and there, the believers were sorely tried and shaken very violently.

The following verses may give you an indication of the difficulties faced by Muhammad, the loyalty and commitment of his troops being paramount.

33:12 And when the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a sickness were saying: “Allah and His Messenger have only promised us vanity.”

33:13 And when a group of them said: “O people of Yathrib (Medina), there is no place for you to abide in, so turn back”; while another group of them were seeking the Prophet’s permission, saying: “Our homes are exposed”, whereas they were not exposed. They only wanted to flee.

33:14 And were it entered from its different quarters, and then they were asked to apostatize, they would certainly have done so, without lingering but a short while.

33:15 Although they had made a pledge to Allah, before, that they will not turn their backs. Pledges to Allah are always accountable.

33:16 Say: “Flight will not profit you, if you flee from death or murder; for then you will not partake of enjoying life except briefly.”

33:17 Say: “Who will defend you against Allah, if He wishes you ill or if He wishes you well.” They will find for themselves, apart from Allah, no protectors or supporters.

33:18 Allah would surely know those of you who hinder the others and those who say to their brothers: “Come over to us”; and they do not partake of fighting, except a little.

33:19 They are ever niggardly towards you, but if fear overtakes them, you will see them look at you, with their eyes rolling like one who is in the throes of death. But when fear subsides, they cut you with sharp tongues. They are niggardly in times of prosperity (as a result of the spoils of war); those are no believers. Thus Allah has frustrated their actions, that being for Allah an easy matter.

33:20 They think the Confederates have not departed, but were the Confederates to show up, they would wish they were desert dwellers with the Bedouins asking about your news. However, were they in your midst, they would fight but little.

33:21 You have had a good example in Allah’s Messenger; surely for him who hopes for Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah often.

33:22 When the believers saw the Confederates, they said: “This is what Allah and His Messenger have promised us, and Allah and His Messenger are truthful.” And it only increased them in faith and submission.

33:23 Of the believers, there are men who fulfilled what they pledged to Allah; some of them have died, some are still waiting, without changing in the least.

33:24 So that Allah might reward the truthful for their truthfulness and punish the hypocrites, if He wishes, or forgive them. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.

Allah vanquished the Meccans, denying them any spoils.

33:25 Allah turned back the unbelievers in a state of rage, having not won any good (spoils), and Allah spared the believers battle. Allah is, indeed, Strong and Mighty.

The Massacre of the Banu Qurayzah

With Medina secure for the time being, Muhammad received an order from the angel Gabriel to attack the Banu Qurayzah whose leaders were said to have plotted with the Meccans during the Battle of the Ditch.

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 Bani Quraiza. So Allah's Apostle went out towards them.

Bukhari 52.68

Muhammad marched on their fortress just outside Medina with three thousand Jihadists. When he neared the fortress, he called out to its defenders: “O brothers of monkeys and pigs! Fear me, fear me.”


The simian reference would make its way into the Koran as a persistent reminder of the perfidy of the Jews and an incitement for future generations of the righteous.

2:65 And you surely know those of you who violated the Sabbath; We said to them: “Be [like] dejected apes.”

2:66 Thus We made that an example to their contemporaries and to those after them, and an admonition to the righteous.


7:166 Then, when they disdained arrogantly what they were forbidden, We said to them: “Be miserable monkeys.”


After twenty-five days, the Banu Qurayzah asked for a mediator. The Prophet sent Abu Lubabah who matter-of-factly informed the Jews that God’s Messenger had slaughter on his mind.

When they saw him (Lubabah), the men rose to meet him, and the women and children rushed to grab hold of him, weeping before him, so that he felt pity for them. They said to him, “Abu Lubabah, do you think that we should submit to Muhammad’s judgment?”

“Yes”, he said, but he pointed with his hand to his throat, that it would be slaughter.


The Banu Qurayzah asked Muhammad to be allowed to go into exile. He rejected their proposal and insisted that they submit themselves to his judgement. Abu Lubabah would not be a witness to the result of his negotiations with the Jews. It was probably just as well.

Abu Lubabah felt guilty that he had broken his promise of secrecy with Muhammad. To atone for his ‘misdeed’ he went straight to the mosque and bound himself with ropes to one of the pillars. This pillar is known as the ‘pillar of repentance’ or the ‘pillars of Abu Lubabah’.

Abul Kasem

Lubabah spent six days chained to his pillar. He was freed by Muhammad after he received the following revelations in quick succession:

8:27 O you who believe, do not betray Allah and the Messenger, nor betray your trust knowingly.

9:104 Do they not know that Allah is He who accepts repentance from His servants, and accepts voluntary alms, and that Allah is All-Forgiving, Merciful?

Ignoring Lubabah’s warning, the Banu Qurayzah surrendered en-masse. They agreed to a proposal by Muhammad that a mortally wounded believer by the name of Sad bin Mu’adh decide their fate.

Some people (the Banu Qurayzah) agreed to accept the verdict of Sad bin Mu’adh so the Prophet sent for him. He came riding a donkey, and when he approached the Mosque, the Prophet said, "Get up for the best amongst you." or said, "Get up for your chief."

Then the Prophet said, "O Sad! These people have agreed to accept your verdict."

Sad said, "I judge that their warriors should be killed and their children and women should be taken as captives."

The Prophet said, "You have given a judgment similar to Allah's Judgment."

Bukhari, 58.148

A trench was dug in Medina’s marketplace and the estimated seven-hundred male and teenaged boys of the Banu Qurayzah were beheaded with Muhammad looking on. Two nearly identical versions of what took place by Tabari (839–923):

The messenger of God commanded that furrows should be dug in the ground for the B. Qurayzah. Then he sat down, and Ali and al-Zubayr began cutting off their heads in his presence.


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.


One woman was also beheaded that day. During the siege of the fortress of the Banu Qurayzah, she had killed a Muslim soldier by dropping a millstone on his head. Her death was narrated by Muhammad’s child bride Aisha:

Only one of their women was killed. By God, she was by me, talking with me and laughing unrestrainedly while the Messenger of God was killing their men in the marketplace, when suddenly a mysterious voice called out her name, saying, “Where is so and so?”

She said, “I shall be killed.”

“Why?” I asked.

She said, "a misdeed that I committed.”

She was taken away and beheaded.


Muhammad had ordered that all Jewish males with pubic hair were to be killed, but he did spare one boy who took refuge with a Muslim woman who pleaded with the Prophet to spare the boy’s life. Her pleading for mercy may not have been necessary if the following story, as told by the boy in question, is accurate.

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

The dead men’s wives and daughters were parcelled out among the holy warriors as their reward, as is done to this day by the likes of the Islamic State and its imitators.

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.

Tamam Khan, A History of the Wives of Muhammad

Muhammad took the beautiful widow Rayhanah as his share of the booty. She turned down Muhammad’s marriage proposal, thinking it unseemly considering the recent slaughter of the men of her tribe that he had engineered.


Rayhanah’s life with the Prophet was short. 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 only 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, for it must have been difficult to be intimate with the man responsible for the death of your father, your husband, your male relatives and the enslavement of your female kin.


Sad bin Mu’adh also died that day. God’s Messenger said that Allah’s throne shook when he died, so moved was the Almighty by the death of a man who had the courage to cold-bloodily send His enemies to their deaths and their wives and daughters into slavery.

It should not come as a surprise that God was shaken when he greeted Sad bin Mu’adh in Paradise; after all, not only did He approve of Sad bin Mu’adh’s decision, but also of everything that came after: the cold-blooded murder of the men and boys of the Banu Qurayzah, the enslavement of their wives and daughters and the appropriation of everything they owned by His Messenger.

33:26 And He brought those of the People of the Book who supported them from their fortresses and cast terror into their hearts, some of them you slew and some you took captive.

33:27 And He bequeathed to you their lands, their homes and their possessions, together with land you have never trodden. Allah has power over everything.

News of the massacre spread throughout the Peninsula and, not unlike the massacres committed by those who follow the example of Muhammad today, inspired both fear and admiration. One thing the massacre made perfectly clear is that you had to choose a side; you could not remain neutral in the war between the believers and unbelievers, of which the Arab civil war was the opening gambit. You either chose to become a Muslim and agreed to fight and kill to establish Allah’s Kingdom on Earth or you became a target of the believers, to be hunted down and killed.

Many converted to Islam after the massacre, not only because they believed that a man who would do such a thing could not be stopped, but to join in the general pillage of the unbelievers’ property. All you had to say was “I declare there is no god except God” and you could, with impunity, kill or enslave those who refused to say those magic life-saving words and help yourself to their property, including their wives and their daughters, for your troubles, all while guaranteeing your place in Paradise.

An Avoidable Tragedy

The surviving Jews of Medina did not blame God for what happened to them; they blamed Muhammad. They worshipped the same monotheistic deity as the Muslims and that god would not have done what He did to them.

4:77 Have you not seen those to whom it was said: “Hold back your hands, perform the prayer and give the alms-tax”; but when they were ordered to fight, a group of them appeared to fear men just as they fear Allah, or even more. They said: “Lord, why have you ordered us to fight? If only You would grant us respite for a short period.” Say: “The pleasure of this world is small and the Hereafter is far better for the God-fearing; and you will not be wronged a whit.”

4:78 Wherever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you are in high towers. And if good fortune befalls them (the Jews) they say: “This is from Allah.” But when misfortune befalls them, they say: “It is from you (Muhammad).” Say: “All is from Allah.” What is the matter with those people who barely understand any discourse!

4:79 Whatever good visits you, it is from Allah; and whatever evil befalls you, it is from yourself; and We have sent you (Muhammad) forth to mankind as a Messenger. Allah is the All-Sufficient Witness!

That the Jews of Medina bear a large responsibility for what happened is undeniable. They first welcomed and protected Muhammad because they worshipped the same god. They fell out because they could not accept him as a legitimate conduit with the Almighty, that role being reserved for “the chosen people” exclusively.

Muhammad was a Muslim, but also what we would call an Arab nationalist today. The Jews’ scriptural position meant that the Muslim Arabs would have to accept the equivalent of Jewish suzerainty, a Jewish supremacy that the Torah maintains will eventually encompass all nations. The Prophet, having borrowed so much from the Torah, borrowed one last communication from the Jewish flavour of their common God: it was the Muslims who were called upon to become rulers of everyone, i.e., "successors in the lands."

35:39 It is He Who made you successors in the lands. Then he who disbelieves, his unbelief will recoil upon him; and their unbelief will only increase the unbelievers in contempt in the sight of their Lord. No, their unbelief will only increase the unbelievers in perdition.

Realizing that they had been outmaneuvered, and not being able to modify their scriptural position to give the Muslims equal billing before God, the Jews of Medina should have all left the city or fought the good fight. They did neither, and the Battle of the Ditch sealed their faith.

The Broken Covenant

5:12 Allah made a covenant with the Children of Israel, and We raised among them twelve chieftains. And Allah said: “I am with you. Surely, if you perform the prayer, give the alms, believe in my Messengers and support them and lend Allah a fair loan (spend in the way ordered by Allah), I will forgive you your sins and admit you into Gardens, beneath which rivers flow. But if any one of you disbelieves afterwards, he certainly strays from the right path.

God reminded the Jews of Medina, some of whom may have converted to Islam, about this covenant while providing additional specifics meant for them alone.

2:83 When We made a covenant with the Children of Israel (saying): “You shall worship none other than Allah; show kindness to your parents, to the near of kin, to the orphans and to the poor; speak to people; perform the prayers, give the alms-tax.” But, with the exception of a few, you did not abide by the covenant and you turned away.

2:84 And when We made a covenant with you (saying): “You shall not shed your own blood, nor drive your people away from their homes”, you accepted and you bore witness [thereto].

2:85 Yet there you are killing each other and turning some of your folks from their homes, making common cause against them with sin and aggression. But should they come to you as captives you would ransom them. Surely it was unlawful for you to drive them away. Do you, then, believe in one part (paying the ransom) of the Book and disbelieve in another (killing and driving away their people from their homes)? The reward of those among you who do that is nothing but disgrace in this world, and on the Day of Resurrection they shall be turned over to the most severe punishment. Allah is not unaware of what you do.

2:86 Those are the people who have traded the life of this world for the Hereafter. Their punishment shall not be lightened, nor shall they be helped.

Moududi's commentary:

Before the advent of the Prophet (peace be on him) the Jewish tribes who lived on the outskirts of Madina (sic) had concluded an alliance with the Arab tribes of Aws and Khazraj. When the Arab tribes fought against one another each Jewish tribe fought on the side of its allies, which led to fratricide and so to a flagrant violation of the Book of God. Moreover, when the war ended the captives were ransomed. This ransom was justified on the basis of scriptural arguments; they extolled the Word of God when it permitted the ransom of prisoners of war, but attached no significance at all to the same Word of God when it prohibited mutual feuding.

Fakhry, in a footnote, writes that Allah’s Covenant included “believing that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” Muhammad would, of course, not have been alive when God’s Covenant with the Jews was first entered into thousands of years earlier, just before He separated them into twelve tribes. This could indicate that the following revelations about a covenant may also have been meant for Jewish contemporaries of God’s Messenger.

2:40 O Children of Israel, remember the grace which I bestowed on you. Fulfil your covenant (by believing that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah) and I shall fulfil my Covenant (by rewarding you). And Me alone you should fear.

2:41 Believe in what I have revealed confirming that which is with you (your Scriptures) and do not be the first to deny it. Do not trade My Revelations for a small price; and Me alone you should fear.

2:42 And do not confuse truth with falsehood and do not conceal the truth while you know it.

2:43 Perform the prayer; give the alms-tax and bow down with those who bow down.

2:44 Do you command others to be righteous and forget yourselves while you recite the Book? Do you not understand?

2:45 Seek assistance through patience and prayer. It is hard, except for the truly devout;

2:46 Who believe that they shall meet their Lord, and unto Him they shall return.

The Jews can look forward to spending an eternity burning in Hell, as is the case for all those with whom God is displeased.

62:5 The case of those who were loaded with the Torah, then failed to carry it, is similar to an ass which carries learned books. Wretched is the case of the people who have denounced Allah’s Signs. Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.

62:6 Say: “O you who have adopted Judaism; if you claim to be Allah’s friends, apart from other people, then do wish for death, if you are truthful.”

62:7 Yet, they will never wish it, due to what their hands have advanced. Allah knows well the wrongdoers.

62:8 Say: “The death from which you flee will surely overtake you. Then you will be turned over to Him Who knows the Unseen and the Seen, and He will inform you about what you used to do.”

A Change of Direction

41:37 Of His signs are the night and the day, the sun and the moon. Do not prostrate yourself to the sun or to the moon, but prostrate yourself to Allah Who created them, if it is He you truly worship.

41:38 Should they wax proud (the Meccan pagans), then those with your Lord (the angels, Moududi) do glorify him by night and day, without growing weary.

The first Muslims were required to prostrate themselves in the direction of Jerusalem. It was only after Muhammad’s falling out with the Jews of Medina that revelations were received from Allah informing His Messenger about a change of direction. The following are verses where God gives His reasons for this about-face (no pun intended).

2:142 The ignorant among the people (among the Jews and polytheist Arabs) will say: “What caused them (the Prophet Muhammad and the believers) to turn away from the former Qibla towards which they used to turn (Jerusalem)?” Say: “To Allah belongs the East and the West. He guides whom He wills towards the Right Path.”

2:143 And thus We have made you (the Muslim nation) a just nation, so that you may bear witness unto the rest of mankind, and that the Messenger may bear witness unto you. We did not ordain your former Qibla except that We may distinguish those who follow the Messenger from those who turn on their heels (return to disbelief). It was indeed a hard test except for those whom Allah guided. Allah would not allow your faith to be in vain. He is Clement and Merciful to mankind.

2:144 Surely, We see your face turned towards heaven (yearning for guidance through revelation). We shall turn you towards a Qibla that will please you. Turn your face then towards the Sacred Mosque (the Sacred Mosque of Mecca, the Ka’ba); and wherever you are turn your faces towards it. Those who were given the Book (the Jews and Christians) certainly know this to be the Truth from their Lord. Allah is not unaware of what they do.

2:145 Were you even to come to the People of the Book with every proof, they will not follow your Qibla, nor will you follow their Qibla. Nor will some of them follow the Qibla of the others. And were you to follow their desires after all the knowledge that came to you, surely you would be one of the evil-doers.

2:146 Those to whom We gave the Book know him (Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah) as they know their own sons; but a group of them will knowingly conceal the truth.

2:147 The truth is from your Lord. So do not be one of the doubters.

2:148 To everyone there is a direction towards which he turns. So hasten to do the good works. Wherever you are, Allah will bring you all together (in the Hereafter). Surely Allah has power over all things.

God’s instructions were not limited to the direction Muslims must face when performing the prayers.

2:149 From whatever place you come out, turn towards the Sacred Mosque. This is indeed the truth from your Lord. Allah is not unaware of what you do.

2:150 From whatever place you come out, turn your faces towards the Sacred Mosque. And wherever you all are, turn your faces towards it, lest people should have cause to argue with you, except for the evil-doers among them. Do not fear them, but fear Me so that I may complete My Grace upon you, and that you be rightly guided.