The Prophet (saw) received the revelation in Mecca, but its people (Quraysh) humiliated and tortured him and his followers. Whilst he first told to his followers to seek the protection in the Abyssinia, tribes in Medina (al-Aws and al-Khazraj) accepted Islam and invited the Prophet to lead their city. A while later, the Prophet and his companions migrated and Medina became the centre of Islam.
Medina contained three groups, new Muslim citizens, Jewish settlements (Banu Qaynuqa', Banu an-Nadeer and Banu Qurayzah) and Muslim migrants. In dealing with this problem, the Prophet (saw) strengthened the ties of brotherhood between Muslims and agreed on a treaty between its groups.
The main articles of this treaty comprised:
ولَا يُنْصَرُ كَافِرٌ عَلَى مُؤْمِنٍ ... وَإِنَّهُ مَنْتَبِعَنَا مَنْيَهُودَ، فَإِنَّلَهُ النَّصْرَوَالْأُسْوَةَ ... وَإِنَّهُ لَا يُجِيرُ مُشْرِكٌ مَالًا لقريش وَلَا نفسا، ... (ولا يحل) أَنْيَنْصُرَ مُحْدِثًا وَلَا يُؤْوِيهِ... وَإِنّ الْيَهُودَ يُنْفِقُونَ مَعَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ مَا دَامُوا مُحَارَبِينَ ... وَإِنَّ عَلَى الْيَهُودِ نَفَقَتَهُمْ وَعَلَى الْمُسْلِمِينَ نَفَقَتَهُمْ، إِلَّا مَنْ ظَلَمَ وَأَثِمَ فَإِنَّهُ لَا يَوْتَغُإِلَّا نَفْسَهُ وَأَهْلَ بَيْتِهِ. ... وَإِنَّ بَيْنَهُمُ النَّصْرَ عَلَى مَنْ حَارَبَ أهل هَذِهِ الصَّحِيفَةِ، ... وَإِنَّهُ لَا تُجار قُرَيْشٌ وَلَا مَنْ نَصَرَهَا وَإِنَّ بَيْنَهُمْ النَّصْرَ عَلَى مَنْ دَهَمَ يَثْرِبَ "There is no support given to a disbeliever over a believer …
Whoever follows us from the Jews, we will provide him with support and victory …
It is not allowed to financially or personally co-operate with Quraysh …
It is not allowed to give support or shelter to enemies …
Jews should spend with believers as long as they afford war …
Whoever oppresses (betrayed) or does wrong will be destroyed with his family …
Jews cover their financial expenses and Muslims afford their financial expenses ...
They are to give support to one another when anyone fights against the allies of this treaty. …
No protection is to be given to Quraysh nor any of its allies. They (Jews and Muslims) are to co-fight against anyone that attacks Yathrib (Medina)."
(Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah, Vol. 4, p. 554-558, asunnan al-Kubra, Sirat Ibn Ishaq)
Whilst the Jewish communities signed the treaty agreeing to follow its articles, they then violated it. They tried many times to kill the Prophet (saw) and his companions; they criticized Islam and rebelled against its legislation; they became increasingly hostile and belligerent resulting in a struggle that saw their expulsion and disappearance in Arabia.
Five years after the treaty was signed, the leaders of Banu Qurayza started to secretly gather allies of disbelieving tribes throughout Arabia to fight Muslims and promised them help. The disbelievers' numbers reached over ten thousand soldiers, a large number at the time outnumbering the inhabitants of Medina.
There were only two entrances to Medina; the north entrance in which the Prophet dug a trench, and a southern entrance in which the Banu Qurayza (their allies) lived.
The Violation of the Treaty
Banu Qurayza, at this crucial time, violated the treaty and publicly announced that they will fight beside the outsider invaders. The Prophet (saw) and his companions were sieged from everywhere; the disbelievers are outside, the hypocrites are inside and Jews are at the back.
The Qur'an describes the situation saying:
إِذْ جَاؤُوكُم مِّن فَوْقِكُمْ وَمِنْ أَسْفَلَ مِنكُمْ وَإِذْ زَاغَتْ الْأَبْصَارُ وَبَلَغَتِ الْقُلُوبُ الْحَنَاجِرَ
"When they came at you from above you and from below you, and when eyes shifted (in fear), and hearts reached the throats." (Qur'an 33:10)
The Prophet sent envoys to them asking them to keep the treaty, but they refused and insulted the Prophet (saw). The enemies from outside and from inside decided to perish Islam; all the Muslim children, women, and elders would have been killed if they were succeeded, but the battle of the trench made a serious but unsuccessful attack on Medina and then the invaders left.
Banu Qurayza's Contribution
Do you still think they are not guilty?
Banu Qurayza violated all the articles of the treaty above and so were then besieged by the Prophet for twenty-five days. The Prophet promised whoever did not contribute and comes out peacefully will be released. A number of people did such as Amr ibn Sa'd. They later surrendered and asked the Prophet (saw) to be subjected to the arbitration of Sa'd ibn Mu'adh, a member of the Aws tribe, who was their old ally.
It was narrated on the authority of Abu Said al-Khudari:
لَمَّا نَزَلَتْ بَنُو قُرَيْظَةَ عَلَى حُكْمِ سَعْدٍ ـ هُوَ ابْنُ مُعَاذٍ ـ بَعَثَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم، وَكَانَ قَرِيبًا مِنْهُ، … فَجَاءَ فَجَلَسَ إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ لَهُ " إِنَّ هَؤُلاَءِ نَزَلُوا عَلَى حُكْمِكَ ". قَالَ فَإِنِّي أَحْكُمُ أَنْ تُقْتَلَ الْمُقَاتِلَةُ، وَأَنْ تُسْبَى الذُّرِّيَّةُ. قَالَ " لَقَدْ حَكَمْتَ فِيهِمْ بِحُكْمِ الْمَلِكِ
"When the tribe of Bani Quraiza was ready to accept Sa`d's judgment, Allah's Messenger (saw) sent for Sa`d who was near to him. …
Then Sa`d came and sat beside Allah's Messenger (saw) who said to him. 'These people are ready to accept your judgment.'
Sa`d said, 'I give the judgment that their warriors should be killed and their children and women should be taken as prisoners.' The Prophet (saw) then remarked, 'O Sa`d! You have judged amongst them with (or similar to) the judgment of the King Allah.'" (Sahih al-Bukhari 3043)
The Execution of Warriors
The judgement of Sa'd was the execution of the fighters or warriors in a market place, those who contributed in the war and prepared for it (unlike the narration of killing the teenagers which should be understood in light of the statement of Sa'd; i.e. only the warriors). Some of them were released, such as Zubayr ibn Batta and others, by the intermediation of the companions.
This judgment is approved in the above-signed treaty:
إِلَّا مَنْ ظَلَمَ وَأَثِمَ فَإِنَّهُ لَا يَوْتَغُإِلَّا نَفْسَهُ وَأَهْلَ بَيْتِهِ.
"Except the transgressors (who violate the treaty) and do wrong, they and their family will be distorted."
This judgement is the judgement of the Hebrew Bible in which Jews believe:
"When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace.
If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you.
If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city.
When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it.
As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies.
This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby." (Deut 20:10-15)
It is the punishment of the high treason. For example, in the United States, according to U.S. Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 115 § 238:
"Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States."
So it depends on the kind of sin a person does against his country, you would not find a serious situation than what Banu Qurayza did. In other cases of betrayals, such as the story of Hattib ibn Abi Balta'ah who only sought the protection of his family, when it did not lead to mass destruction Muslims, the Prophet (saw) did not kill the person who committed it.
So the judgement is not unjust, rather compatible with the treaty they approved, the Scripture they believe in and our modern international law.
The Number of executed People or Soldiers
The number does not matter because the point lies in whether they are criminals or innocents. If only one innocent person is killed, this is conceded unjust and if they all deserve, so they got what they deserve.
The killing of all the men in the city does not match with the teachings of the Qur'an because not all of them took part of the war, so killing all men more probably include certain innocent people. The Qur'an clearly condemns the killing of innocent people:
من قَتَلَ نَفْساً بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعاً
"Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption (done) in the land - it is as if he had slain mankind entirely." (Qur'an 5:32)
Only the leaders and the warriors participated in this and Allah also condemns the punishment of some because of the sins of others:
وَلاَ تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى
"And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another." (Qur'an 6:164)
Arafat (1976) in his research paper "New Light on the Story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina included a number of objection to such narrations.
There is a hot debate over the number of executed soldiers, the number varying from 40 to 960. The number must fall between 40 to 400 maximum. None were innocent as they were prepared to wipe out Muslims with whom they had a treaty.
When putting the story in its historical context, we see their treatment was not unjust. It was compatible with the treaty signed by the Jews which they reneged on, the scriptures they believe in and modern international law.
Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib at-Tahdhib
Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah
Sirat ibn Ishaq
Al-Ghazali, Fiqh as-Sirah
Ibn al-Qayim, Zad al-Ma'ad
W. N. Arafat, New Light on the Story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina.
I have been reading into this topic and have discovered the following:
The Banu Qurayza were a Jewish tribe who lived in Medina and entered into an alliance with the prophet of Islam, Muhammad(pbuh). He had the largest following of any leader in the city, hence he was elected as the city's chief. Each tribe agreed to his nomination and every tribe, including the Banu Qurayza, was granted the right to practice its own faith in peace. The point to be noted is that each tribe would be judged according to its own laws - specifically the laws of the faith it followed. So Muslims would be judged according to the Quran and the Jews according to the Torah.
In 627 AD, the enemies of Islam united and marched onto the city of Medina to wipe away the Muslims. It is recorded that at first the Jews of the tribe remained loyal, however, after being informed that the Muslims were heavily outnumbered and due to the persistence of the enemy, they decided to abandon the Muslims. Not only this, but they agreed to attack the Muslims from the rear while the Meccans engaged the Muslim army at the ditch. Fortunately, the Muslims became aware of this secret plot and placed 500 soldiers in their way.
When the Holy Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) became aware of their treachery he did not immediately accept the rumours. He sent parties forth to their tribe in order to investigate the claims, who rejected having any agreement with the Muslims and confirmed their betrayal. Following on from this, the Muslims laid siege to the Jews’ fortress. When Banu Qurayza could not hold out any longer, they sent a message to the Holy Prophet(pbuh) that they would surrender, but would like their fate to be decided by one of their allies. Sa’d bin Muadh, the chief of the tribe of Aus, was appointed the arbiter. Sa’d passed the judgment on the Banu Qurayza according to the law of the Torah, which states:
‘When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it: And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself.’ (Bible, Deuteronomy 20:10-14)
According to the Jewish law the punishment for treason was death. In passing the death sentence on Banu Qurayza, Sa’d reminded the Jews of the fact that had the Jews succeeded in carrying out their plan, they would have put all the Muslims to death. As a result of Sa’d bin Muadh’s judgment, all the male members of the Banu Qurayza tribe who were of fighting age were executed and their women, children and elders expelled, who went to Syria.
To read more about this event and the reasons behind it, visit the following page: https://www.alislam.org/question/did-prophet-muhammad-kill-700-jews/
Even to this day many states of the US and other countries uphold the death penalty for the crime of treason. Wherever the capital punishment has been abolished, such as the UK, life imprisonment implies. Many historians claim that the Jews made a mistake by asking one of their allies to decide their fate. Instead, they say that if the tribe had entrusted Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) to make the decision he would most likely have shown leniency and simply banished them from Medina. Ibn Hisham reports of two men of the tribe being set free and pardoned by the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh). He showed this kindness despite promising not to intervene in Sad’s judgement on a general level.
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