[Rushtalk] Muhammad and the Banu Qurayza

Carl Spitzer cwsiv at juno.com
Wed Apr 26 14:41:44 MDT 2017

The Myth:

Muhammad Lived at 

Peace with the Jews 

Part 3: 

The Banu Qurayza 

The Truth:

Verses 5:45-48 of the Quran affirm the Old Testament rule of “an eye for
HERE: http://www.aish.com/atr/Eye-for-an-Eye.html ] but also add the
Christian principle that forgiveness is more noble than retaliation.  If
ever there was proof that these words do not necessarily apply to the
treatment of non-Muslims, however, it is in Muhammad’s conduct toward
the Jews in general and the Qurayza tribe in particular.

Muhammad and his band of immigrants arrived in Medina in 622 completely
dependent on the hospitality of the three Jewish tribes that lived there
alongside the Arabs.  In less than two years, two of the tribes that had
welcomed him, the Banu Qaynuqa and the Banu Nadir would be evicted,
losing their land and their wealth to the Muslims as soon as their
guests gained the power to conquer and confiscate.  Muhammad
accomplished this by deftly exploiting his opponents divisions.

The prophet of Islam chose the order of the doomed tribes carefully.  He
knew that the other two tribes would not come to the assistance of the
first, for example, since they had been aligned against one another in a
recent conflict.  He also knew that the third would not assist the
second - due to a dispute over "blood money."

The last tribe to remain was the Banu Qurayza.  Like the others, the
Qurayza were a peaceful community of farmers and tradesmen who
eventually surrendered to Muhammad without a fight.  Although the
prophet of Islam had been wise enough not to order the wholesale
slaughter of the first two tribes following their defeat (which
certainly would have stiffened the resistance of the Qurayza), there was
no practical reason for Muhammad to repress his genocidal urges once the
last tribe had surrendered their wealth and power.

Over 800 surrendered men and boys (and at least one woman) from the
Qurayza tribe were beheaded by the prophet of Islam in a bloodbath that
is of acute embarrassment to today’s Muslim apologists.  It is an
episode that is not only completely at odds with the idea that Islam is
a peaceful religion, but also the claim that it is the heir to
Christianity, since even that religion’s most dedicated critics could
hardly imagine Jesus and his disciples doing such a thing.

It is only in modern times (as Islam finds itself having to compete with
morally mature religions in open debate) that the story of the massacre
has become controversial.  Some Muslims deny the episode, largely on the
basis of mere inconvenience.  Others are unaware of it altogether.  But,
not only is the incident well documented in the Hadith and Sira
(biography of Muhammad), there is even a brief reference to it in the
Quran (verse 33:26). 

Since Islam makes no apologies, particularly for anything that Muhammad
personally did, contemporary Muslims generally try to convince
themselves that the victims of Qurayza deserved their fate.  They must
have turned on the Muslims in battle and inflicted many deaths, forcing
Muhammad to yield to the wishes of his people and respond in kind. 

Unfortunately, the accounts of what happened, as related to early Muslim
historians by eyewitnesses, do not support this myth.  In fact, it was
the Qurayza who were caught in an impossible situation at the time,
between the Muslims and their Meccan adversaries.

Shortly after arriving in Medina in 622, Muhammad began raiding the
merchant caravans traveling to and from neighboring Mecca.  He would
steal their property and kill anyone who defended it (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham
424-425).  The Jews of Qurayza had nothing to do with this.  Much like
the Meccans, the Jews were also traders, and they appreciated the value
of doing business securely in a crime-free climate.  They neither
encouraged Muhammad’s raids nor shared in his ill-gotten gain.

After a few years of this, the Meccans eventually realized that they
would have to try and capture Medina, since it was being used as a base
of piracy operations by Muhammad's gang.  In 627, they sent an army to
the outskirts of the city and appeared poised to take it in what has
been called the Battle of the Trench (the Muslims dug a trench around
the exposed northern and western parts of the city to stop the Meccan
military advance).

The Qurayza, who lived to the east of Medina, away from the battle, were
caught in a bad situation. Not responsible for Muhammad’s war, they were
nonetheless drawn into it, particularly when they were approached by an
emissary (a previously evicted Jewish leader) and asked not to assist
Muhammad in his defense against the siege (to that point, the Qurayza
had contributed digging tools to the Muslims, but not fighters).

The chief of the Qurayza did not wish even to entertain the envoy, but
he was tricked into allowing him into his home (Ishaq/Hisham 674).  Once
there, the envoy began making the case that the battle was going against
Muhammad and that his fall was imminent.  The anguish of the Qurayza
chief over the trying circumstances of the position that he felt forced
into is noted even by Muslim historians:

        When Ka'b heard of Huyayy's coming he shut the door of his fort
        in his face, and when he asked permission to enter he refused to
        see him, saying that he was a man of ill omen... Then Huyayy
        accused him of [being inhospitable]... This so enraged Ka'b that
        he threw open his door. [Huyayy] said to him, "Good heavens,
        Ka'b, I have brought you immortal fame and a great army... They
        have made a firm agreement and promised me that they will not
        depart until we have made an end of Muhammad and his men. "Ka'b
        said, "By God, you have brought me immortal shame and an empty
        cloud while it thunders and lightenings with nothing in it. Woe
        to you Huyayy, leave me as I am." (Ishaq/Hisham 674) 

After much “wheedling” by the Meccans, however, the Qurayza leader
finally gave in and agreed to remain neutral in the conflict.  He would
neither contribute troops to the city’s defense nor assist its impending
capture at the hands of an army with superior numbers.  The Muslims
would be left on their own to deal with the conflict they had provoked
with the Meccans.

The first twenty days of the conflict passed "without fighting" (Ibn
Ishaq/Hisham 676) other than a few exchanges of arrows across the
trench.  A half-hearted effort on that day to breach the defenses proved
fatal to the Meccan tribe, thus convincing their leader that they could
not win unless the Qurayza joined the battle from the other side.
However, the Qurayza refused, ironically enough, thus prompting the
Meccans to abandon the siege.

A grand total of just six Muslims had been killed at the Battle of the
Trench.  Each of their names were carefully recorded (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham
699) - none were killed by the Qurayza or by anything done by the

With the battle over, however, Muhammad surprised his army by turning
them against the Qurayza fortress, claiming that the neutrality of the
leader was a breach of the original constitution of Medina which the
prophet of Islam had personally drawn up for the tribes five years
earlier.  The original language of this 'treaty' is not known, however,
and later guesses as to what it might have said seem suspiciously

It is unlikely, for example, that the tribes of Medina would have given
Muslims the right to slaughter them for merely speaking out against him,
yet several prominent Jewish leaders and poets had been assassinated on
Muhammad’s order prior to the Qurayza affair.  At least one innocent
merchant was slain by his Muslim business partner following Muhammad’s
order in 624 for his men to “kill any Jew who falls into your
power” (al-Tabari 7:97).  Muhammad had also attacked the two other
Jewish tribes – parties to the same agreement – looting their property
and then evicting them from their land.

It is likely that the troubles Muhammad brought on Medina, through his
mistreatment of the Jews and his relentless pursuit of hostilities
against the Meccans, were part of the sales pitch made by the Meccans to
the Qurayza leader to win his neutrality - along with the implicit
threat of slaughter if the city were taken by the Meccans.  From Kab's
perspective, it would only be a matter of time before Muhammad found an
excuse to attack and plunder his tribe as well.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, however, the Qurayza had not
attacked the Muslims.  In fact, had they attacked, then it surely would
have been the end of Muhammad and his band of pirates since the southern
end of the city was completely exposed to the Qurayza.  In a terrible
irony, it was the decision not to engage in violence that later sealed
the fate of the Jews, who were only the first in a very long line of
victims to horribly overestimate the value that Islam places on the
lives of unbelievers.

According to Muhammad, it was the angel Gabriel (seen only by himself,
of course) who ordered the siege on the Qurayza.  After twenty-five days
of blockade, the Jews gave in and surrendered to the prophet of Islam.
As Ibn Ishaq/Hisham puts it, they “submitted themselves to the Apostle’s
judgment” (Ishaq/Hisham 688).

Another misconception is that Muhammad did not render the death sentence
against the Qurayza and was therefore not responsible for it.  There is
a partial truth in this, in that Muhammad clearly attempted to offload
responsibility onto another party.  However, from the narrative, it is
obvious that Muhammad clearly approved of the subsequent massacre - a
fact further verified both by his choice of "arbitrator" and his
subsequent reaction.

First, the prophet of Islam tricked the Qurayza by getting them to agree
to put their fate in the hands of "one of their own."  In fact, this was
a convert to Islam, a Muslim who had fought in the Battle of the Trench.
Unbeknownst to the Qurayza, Sa’d bin Muadh had also been one of the few
Muslims fatally injured in the battle (Ishaq/Hisham 689), which one can
reasonably assume to have influenced his judgment.  According to the
Hadith, he was quite eager to continue slaying "unbelievers" even as he
lay dying in his tent (Bukhari 59:448).

Secondly, when Sa’d did render his decree that the men of Qurayza should
be killed and their women and children pressed into slavery, Muhammad
did not express the slightest bit of disapproval.  In fact, the prophet
of Islam confirmed this barbaric sentence to be Allah’s judgment as well
(Bukhari 58:148).

Consider the contrast between the historical Muhammad and the man of
“peace and forgiveness” that today’s Muslims often assure us he was.  In
light of the fact that the Qurayza had not killed anyone, wouldn’t a
true man of peace have simply sought dialogue with them to try and
determine their grievance, find common ground and then resolve the
matter with dignity to both parties? 

Instead, the prophet of Islam had the men bound with rope.  He dug
trenches and then began beheading the captives in batches.  In a scene
that must have resembled footage of Hitler’s death squads, small groups
of helpless Jews, who had done no harm to anyone, were brought out and
forced to kneel, staring down at the bodies of others before their own
heads were lopped off and their bodies were pushed down into the ditch.

There is some evidence that Muhammad personally engaged in the
slaughter.  Not only does the earliest narrative bluntly say that the
apostle “sent for them” and “made an end of them,” but there is also
support for this in the Quran. Verse 33:26 says of the Qurayza, “some
you slew, some you took captive.”  The Arabic "you: is in the plural,
but the Quran is supposed to be Allah’s conversation with Muhammad, so
it makes no sense that he would be excluded.

In any event, there is no denying that Muhammad found pleasure in the
slaughter, particularly after acquiring a pretty young Jewish girl
(freshly "widowed" and thus available to him for sexual servitude)
(Ishaq/Hisham 693).  

Other women were not quite as compliant.  The historians record the
reaction of one woman who literally lost her mind as her family was
being killed. The executioners apparently found her maniacal laughter
annoying and beheaded her as well. As Aisha later recounted:

        “I will not forget that she was laughing extremely although she
        knew that she would be killed" (Abu Dawud 2665)

(One can forgive Aisha's obtuseness. At the time that she and her
husband sat observing the carnage together, the wife of Muhammad was
only 12-years-old).

Boys as young as 13 or 14 were executed as well, provided that they had
reached puberty.  The Muslims ordered the boys to drop their clothes.
Those with pubic hair then had their throats cut (Abu Dawud 4390).
There was no point in trying to determine whether or not they were
actual combatants because there were none.  There had been no combat!

Muhammad parceled out the widows and surviving children as slaves to his
men for sexual servitude and labor. The wealth accumulated by the
Qurayza was also divided.  Since the tribe had been a peaceful farming
and trading community, there were not enough weapons and horses taken to
suit Muhammad’s tastes, so he obtained more of these by trading off some
of the Qurayza women in a distant slave market (Ishaq 693).  

In addition to the main question as to why people who had not killed
anyone were put to death and enslaved, there are several others raised
by Muhammad's massacre of the Qurayza.  For example, the Quran says that
no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another" (Quran 53:38) yet
every member of the tribe was punished for a decision pressed on one
reluctant member.

And what of the places in the Qur'an where violent passages are
sometimes mitigated by the occasional admonishment to cease killing
those who stop fighting?  The surrendered Qurayza had never even fought
in the first place.

While Muslim apologists grapple with the challenges posed by this
episode, the fate of the Qurayza is only the first of many such
massacres that the Religion of Peace has provided the world.  Whether it
be the 4,000 Jews at Granada in 1066, the 100,000 Hindus on a single day
in 1399, or the million or so Christian Armenians in the early 1900's,
untold tens of millions of innocents have perished in mass executions at
the hands of Islam's dedicated disciples...  

Yet, there has never been, nor will there ever be in the future, an
apology from those who follow Muhammad, since the massacre of infidels
was the example personally set by their prophet at Qurayza.


Further Reading:

Muhammad's Atrocity Against the Qurayza Jews (Answering Islam)

Myths of Muhammad Index

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