The Invasion of Banu Quraidha
archangel gabriel [aws], on the very day the messenger of allâh [pbuh] came back to madinah after the previous battle, and while he was washing in umm salama’s house, visited him asking that he should unsheathe his sword and head for the habitation of the seditious banu quraidha and fight them. gabriel noted that he with a procession of angels would go ahead to shake their forts and cast fear in their hearts.
the messenger of allâh [pbuh], immediately summoned the prayer caller and ordered him to announce fresh hostilities against banu quraidha, institued ibn umm maktum as a ruler of madinah, and entrusted the banner of war to ‘ali bin abi talib who marched towards the appointed target and came close enough to hear the jews abusing the messenger of allâh [pbuh], who on his part set out at the head of three thousand infantry men and thirty horsemen of ansar (helpers) and muhajireen (emigrants). on their way to encounter the enemy, the afternoon prayer was due. some muslims refused to observe it until they had defeated the enemy, while others offered it in its proper time, as usual. the prophet [pbuh] objected to neither. when they reached the habitations of banu quraidha, they laid tight siege to their forts. seeing this terrible situation they were in, the chief of the jews ka‘b bin asad offered them three alternatives: to embrace islam, and consequently their life, wealth, women and children would be in full security, and reminded them that such behaviour would not be incongruous with what they had read in their books about the veracity of muhammad’s prophethood; to kill their children and women and then challenge the prophet [pbuh] and his followers to the sword to either exterminate the muslims or be exterminated, or as a third possibility to take muhammad [pbuh] and his people by surprise on saturday — a day mutually understood to witness no fighting.
none of those alternatives appealed them, so their chief, angrily and indignantly, turned to them saying: "you have never been decisive in decision-making since you were born" the gloomy future already visible, they made contacts with some muslims, who had maintained good relation with them, in order to learn about their fate in the light of the current circumstances. they requested that abu lubaba be despatched to them for advice. on his arrival, the men began to implore, women and children to cry desperately. in answer to their demand for advice he pointed to his throat saying it was homicide awaiting them. he then immediately realized that he had betrayed the prophet’s trust, so he headed directly for the mosque in madinah and tied himself to a wooden tall pole swearing that no one would untie him save the messenger of allâh [pbuh], and added that he would never enter the habitation of banu quraidha in recompense for the deadly mistake he made. when the messenger [pbuh] was informed of this incident, he said, " i would have begged allâh to forgive him if he had asked me, but since he had tied himself out of his own free will, then it was allâh who would turn to him in forgiveness."
the jews of banu quraidha could have endured the siege much longer because food and water were plentifully available and their strongholds were greatly fortified, whereas the muslims were in the wild bare land suffering a lot from cold and hunger, let alone too much fatigue consequent on endless warfare operations that had started even before the battle of confederates. nevertheless, this was a battle of nerves, for allâh had cast fear in the the jews’ hearts, and their morale had almost collapsed especially when two muslim heroes, ‘ali bin abi talib and az-zubair bin ‘awwam [r]ã proceeded with ‘ali swearing that he would never stop until he had either stormed their garrisons or been martyred like hamza (a former muslim martyr).
in the light of this reluctance, they had nothing except to comply with the messenger’s judgement. the messenger of allâh [pbuh] ordered that the men should handcuffed, and this was done under the supervision of muhammad bin salamah al-ansari while the women and children were isolated in confinement. thereupon al-aws tribe interceded begging the prophet [pbuh] to be lenient towards them. he suggested that sa‘d bin mu‘adh, a former ally, be deputed to give verdict about them, and they agreed.
sa‘d meanwhile stayed behind in madinah due to a serious wound he sustained in the confederates battle. he was summoned and brought on a donkey. on his way to the prophet [pbuh], the jews used to exhort him to be lenient in his judgement on account of former friendship. sa‘d remained silent but when they persisted he uttered: "it is time for sa‘d not to be afraid of the blame of the blamers." on hearing this decisive attitude, some of them returned to madinah waiting for a desperate doom.
on arrival, he alighted with the help of some men. he was informed that the jews had agreed to accept his verdict about them. he immediately wondered if his judgement would pass on all the people present, the prophet [pbuh] included, turning his face away in honour of him. the reply was positive.
he decided that all the able-bodied male persons belonging to the tribe should be killed, women and children taken prisoners and their wealth divided among the muslim fighters. the prophet [pbuh] accepted his judgement saying that sa‘d had adjudged by the command of allâh. in fact, the jews deserved that severe punitive action for the ugly treachery they had harboured against islam, and the large arsenal they have amassed and which consisted of one thousand and five hundred swords, two thousand spears, three hundred armours and five hundred shields, all of which went into the hands of the muslims. trenches were dug in the bazaar of madinah and a number of jews between six and seven hundred were beheaded therein. hot beds of intrigue and treachery were thus exterminated once and for all.
huyai, a chief criminal of war, a devil of bani nadir and safiyah’s father, had joined the ranks of banu quraidha when quraish and ghatfan defected, was admitted into the audience of the prophet [pbuh] with his hands tied to his neck with a rope. in audacious defiance, he declared obstinate enmity to the prophet [pbuh] but admitted that allâh’s will was to be fulfilled and added that he was resigned to his fate. he was ordered to sit down, and was beheaded on the spot.
only one woman of the jews was killed because she had killed a muslim warrior by flinging a grinding stone upon him. a few elements of the enemy embraced islam and their lives, wealth and children were spared. as for the spoils of the war, the prophet [pbuh] divided them, after putting a fifth aside, in accordance with allâh’s injunctions. three shares went to the horseman and one to the infantry fighter. women captives were sent to najd to be bartered with horses and weaponry. for himself, the prophet [pbuh] selected rehana bint ‘amr bin khanaqah, manumitted and married her in the year 6 hijri. she died shortly after the farewell pilgrimage and was buried in al-baqi‘[ibn hisham 2/245; talqeeh fuhum ahl al-athar p.12].
after the war with banu quraidha had been settled and they had been defeated, sa‘d bin mu‘adh’s wish was gratified and he gave his last breath. in response to his supplication ‘aishah [r] narrated, sa‘d’s wounds began to bleed from the front part of his neck while he was in his tent which the prophet [pbuh] had pitched for him in the mosque so that he would be in close proximity in order to inquire about and watch his well-being closely. the people were not scared except when the blood flowed towards them, and in the mosque along with sa‘d’s tent, there was the tent of banu ghifar. they said: o people of the tent, what is it that is coming to us from you? lo! it was sa‘d’s wound that was bleeding and he died thereon.[sahih al-bukhari 2/591]
jabir narrated that the messenger of allâh [pbuh] had said: "the throne of the compassionate shook for the death of sa‘d bin mu‘adh.[sahih al-bukhari 1/536; sahih muslim 2/294; jami' at-tirmidhi 2/225]" when his bier was carried, at-tirmidhi said: the hypocrites alleged it was too light. the messenger of allâh [pbuh] retorted:
"the angels are carrying him."
in the process of the sieze laid to banu quraidha, one man of the muslims, khallad bin suwaid was killed when a women of the jews dropped the grinding stone on him, and another, abu sinan bin mihsan, the brother of ‘ukasha, died.
abu lubaba stayed tied for six nights. his wife used to untie him at prayer times and then he tied himself again to the pole. one early morning, allâh the all-forgiving revealed a verse to the messenger of allâh [pbuh] to the effect that allâh had turned to abu lubaba with forgiveness. the muslims rushed to release him but he insisted that the messenger of allâh [pbuh] himself do it. and this was done shortly before the morning prayer.
this ghazwah took place in the month of dhul qa‘dah in the year five hijri[ibn hisham 2/237,238; sahih al-bukhari 2/590,591; za'd al-ma'ad 2/72-74; mukhtasar seerat ar-rasool p.287-290], and the siege of banu quraidha’s forts lasted for 25 days. the chapter of confederates was revealed containing allâh’s words concerning the basic issues relating to the believers and hypocrites during the battle of the confederates, and the consequences of the treachery and breaching of covenants by the jews.