Jihad in the Koran

The Civil War Which Started It All


The Jews of Medina

Jihad in the KoranIn Medina lived three Jewish Tribes. The Jews of Medina were a wealthy, prosperous community. They were also considered the intellectual class of the city.

If it had not been for the Jews of Medina who intervened to shelter the budding Prophet and prevent his Meccan kin who were pursuing him to to kill him for promoting what they considered a hateful intolerant religion, Islam would have been dead on arrival.

When Muhammad sought refuge in the city, he was welcomed by the Jews, in part, because of his preaching that the god of the Old Testament was the one and only god. They even entered into a covenant with him to come to his (the Muslims) aid if he was ever attacked. In return, he signed a promise of non-aggression.

The three Jewish tribes of Medina did not see the rise of Islam as a threat to them 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. The Muslims at Badr defeated a much larger force dispatched by Mecca to protect a rich caravan returning from Damascus which the Prophet planned on plundering. At the Battle of Badr the Prophet not only demonstrated a unnatural blood-lust and a thirst for revenge but also may again have given some reason to question his sanity.

It was at Badr, that the Prophet 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 yelling at dead people 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

But it was not questions as to the Prophet’s sanity that 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.

The first poet to be killed was al-Nadr. The Meccans had praised his verses as superior to those of the Prophet and this had enraged the perfect human being. When God’s Messenger spotted al-Nadr among the prisoners captured at Badr he had him beheaded on the spot. Next to die was the poetess Asma bint Marwan. She was stabbed to death while sleeping with an infant suckling at her breast. Next, the Jewish poet Abu Afak who was also killed while he slept.

“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

After every murder the assassin would go to the Mosque to inform God’s Messenger and be praised for what they had done at his insistence. For example, the killer of Asma bint Marwan had just entered the mosque when the Prophet asked him “Have you slain the daughter of Marwan?”

Ibn S’ad’s on the words first spoken by “the Apostle of Allah”:

This was the word that was first heard from the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him. 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.

The Medinan Arabs who converted to Islam, the so-called Ansar (helpers), proved particularly pitiless in depriving unbelievers of their lives and property.

Narrated Abdur-Rahman bin Auf:

I got an agreement written between me and Umaiya bin Khalaf that Umaiya would look after my property (or family) in Mecca and I would look after his in Medina.

When I mentioned the word Ar-Rahman' in the documents, Umaiya said, "I do not know Ar-Rahman.' Write down to me your name, (with which you called yourself) in the Pre-lslamic Period of Ignorance." So, I wrote my name 'Abdu Amr'.

On the day (of the battle) of Badr, when all the people went to sleep, I went up the hill to protect him. Bilal saw him (i.e. Umaiya) and went to a gathering of Ansar and said, "(Here he is) Umaiya bin Khalaf! Woe to me if he escapes!"

So, a group of Ansar went out with Bilal to follow us ('Abdur-Rahman and Umaiya).

Being afraid that they would catch us, I left Umaiya's son for them to keep them busy but the Ansar killed the son and insisted on following us.

Umaiya was a fat man, and when they approached us, I told him to kneel down, and he knelt, and I laid myself on him to protect him, but the Ansar killed him by passing their swords underneath me, and one of them injured my foot with his sword. (The sub narrator said, "Abdur-Rahman used to show us the trace of the wound on the back of his foot.")

Bukhari 38.498

Adding to the Jews of Medina’s uneasiness caused by the cold-blooded murder of the poets was a revelation the Prophet received at about this time telling him that he could 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.

God’s Messenger was a patient man. With Allah giving him a freehand to break any non-aggression promise he had made, it was only a matter of time before an opportunity arose to use his newfound power.

After Badr, the Prophet not only felt his position secure enough to have his critics silence with a dagger or a sword 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.

God’s Messenger 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.

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.” Tabari

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. Again God’s Messenger besieged their fortress.

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 disheartened and convince the Banu Nadir that there was no future for them in Medina, even if the siege was lifted, God’s Messenger ordered that all the Banu Nadir’s 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 Allah.

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.

The Prophet’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 spoils from the dispossession of the Badu Nadir, as are the spoils from unbelievers until Judgement Day are to be shared among all believers. That is, in essence, Moududi’s explanation of revelation 59:10, “And it also belongs to those who came after them … till the Day of Resurrection”:

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.”

Allah was not impressed with the remaining Jewish tribe of Medina, the Banu Qurayzah, who promised to come to the aid of the Badu 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. The Prophet allowed them to take with them whatever their camels could carry. That left the Banu Qurayzah (also referred to as the Beni Qurayzah).

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 to fight Muhammad. At first the Meccans were sceptical. To test their allegiance they asked the Jews which was better—paganism or Islam? The Jews 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 Jewish allies, which in the Koran are referred to as the Confederates, shortly thereafter marched on Medina with an army estimated at least ten thousand men strong. 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 are attacked, and entered into negotiations with the Meccans.