Jihad in the Koran

The Civil War Which Started It All

Massacre of the Banu Qurayzah

Jihad in the KoranWith Medina secure for the time being the Prophet received an order from the angel Gabriel to attack the Banu Qurayzah whose leaders are 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

He 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.

Another revelation in the same vein:

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 the Prophet 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 the Prophet to be allowed to go into exile. God’s Messenger rejected their proposal and insisted that they submit themselves to his judgment.

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 the Prophet after God's Messenger received the following revelation.

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

Ignoring Lubabah’s warning, the Banu Qurayzah surrendered en-masse to the Prophet. They agreed to a proposal by God’s Messenger 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 the Prophet of Mercy looking on.

…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 as narrated by the Prophet’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.


God’s Messenger 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

The dead men’s wives and daughters were sold into slavery, except for the beautiful widow Rayhanah which God’s Messenger made his concubine. Rayhanah turned down the Prophet’s marriage proposal thinking it unseemly considering the recent mass murder of male members of her tribe.

Sad bin Mu’adh also died that day. The Prophet 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 death and their wives and daughters into slavery.

It should not come as a surprise that Allah was all shook up when he greeted Sad bin Mu’adh in Paradise; after all, not only did He approve of Sad bin Mu’adh’s decision but it was His terrorizing of the Jews which drove them to seek mercy from His Messenger, with His knowing full well that none was forthcoming.

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.

Not to be overlooked was the property of the deceased i.e. the booty which provided Allah, and still does, with the means of rewarding the willing executioners of His alleged enemies.  

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 Arabian Peninsula and not unlike the massacres committed by those who follow the example of the Prophet 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 slaughtered.

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 I declare that Muhammad is the Messenger of 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, their wives and their daughters for your troubles, and still be guaranteed a place in Paradise.

There is a lesson to be learned in what happened to the Jews of Medina.

Apologist and author of Muhammad – A Prophet for our Times, Karen Armstrong writes that the massacre was a tactical necessity, that the Muslims were fighting for their lives. Sending the mothers, wives and daughters of the dead men to join the former Jewish communities of Medina, which the Prophet had sent into exile, would not have had any impact on the tactical or strategic position of the Muslims.

The explanation of Tamam Khan is more to the point, that it was a tradition of the Arabs for the men to share in the plunder, the booty Allah calls it, of those they overpowered in battles or in other venues. The plunder includes the enslavement of the beaten foe, if he is not killed, his sons, wives and daughters.

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

Another of the more primitive Arab traditions that Allah saw fit to establish as a universal unchanging law in his Koran, modified only slightly to exclude the right to the life and property of the believer.

5:11 O believers, remember Allah’s grace upon you, when certain people intended to reach out to you with their hands but Allah restrained them. Fear Allah and in Allah let the believers put their trust.

Moududi’s commentary on what he claims is a reference to an attempt by the Jews of Medina to do away with the Prophet and his companions:

This alludes to the incident reported by Ibn 'Abbas when a group of Jews invited the Prophet (peace be on him) and a number of his close Companions to dinner. They had in fact hatched a plot to pounce upon the guests and thus undermine the very foundation of Islam. But by the grace of God the Prophet (peace be on him) came to know of the plot at the eleventh hour and did not go.