Thursday, June 19, 2008

Muhammad and the Jews Part 3: Bitter End

Some of the Jews who had been expelled from Medina settled in a town about 100 miles away called Khaybar. It was an agricultural community, set up in the style of individual settlements, and quite wealthy.

After six years in Medina, Muhammad established a treaty with Mecca, the city that had first cast him out. Soon after that, he marched against Khaybar. He approached early in the morning as the people were coming out with their farm implements to work in the fields. As soon as they saw his army, they panicked and fled back into the town. Muhammad shouted, "Allahu Akbar! This town will be destroyed." His soldiers took the town building by building, capturing the men and dividing the women up as slaves. During the battle, a Muslim soldier named Mahmud was killed by a millstone thrown down on him.

Muhmmad believed that a local leader named Kinana was guarding the town's treasure. When Kinana refused to divulge its location, Muhammad ordered that he be tortured until he talked. Red-hot bars of steel were placed on Kinana's chest until he was close to death. Muhammad then turned him over to the brother of the slain Mahmud, who beheaded Kinana in revenge for his brother's death.

Seventeen year old Safiyah, Kinana's new bride, was extremely beautiful so Muhammad took her for himself. Her father and other male relatives had been beheaded by Muhammad in Medina. One of Muhammad's companions thought he had claimed her first, but Muhammad gave him her two cousins in exchange. In one day Safiyah went from being the bride of a Jewish farmer to the fiancée of the man who tortured and killed him, as well as her father and brothers.

As a soldier brought Safiyah and a second woman to Muhammad on a path that took them past their husbands' dead bodies, the other woman began to scream. Muhammad quickly told the soldier to get that "devil" away from him. He married Safiyah as soon as she finished her next menstrual cycle, granting her freedom from her slave status as a wedding present.

Waiting until the end of the menstrual cycle was not insignificant. Sex with captured slaves was permitted, but Muhammad had ruled that his soldiers could not have intercourse with them if they were pregnant. Since pregnant women usually sold for less in the slave markets, soldiers who ended up with pregnant women had a double disadvantage. Safiyah, of course, was not one of those.

Muhammad realized it would not be to his advantage to exile the Jews again, or slaughter them as he had the Qurayza. Since they were skilled agriculturalists, he allowed them to continue farming their land in exchange for giving him fifty percent of all produce. This was the first instance of the celebrated "dhimmi" status, where Christian and Jewish minorities are allowed to live in Muslim countries under specified conditions. It is also the first example of the "jizya", the tax they are expected to pay. One of the conditions put down by Muhammad for the Jews of Khaybar was to be prepared to leave anytime. In his final sermon at Mecca soon afterwards, he announced that Islam would be the only religion allowed in Arabia. Successor Umar then expelled all remaining Jews from Khaybar and a few other scattered locations to Syria. No children of apes and pigs have lived in Saudi Arabia for almost 1400 years.


Anonymous said...

Hello STATV.

Are you aware of this hadith regarding the attack on Khaybar?

Volume 5, Book 59, Number 512:

Narrated Anas:

The Prophet offered the Fajr Prayer near Khaibar when it was still dark and then said, "Allahu-Akbar! Khaibar is destroyed, for whenever we approach a (hostile) nation (to fight), then evil will be the morning for those who have been warned." Then the inhabitants of Khaibar came out running on the roads. The Prophet had their warriors killed, their offspring and woman taken as captives. Safiya was amongst the captives, She first came in the share of Dahya Alkali but later on she belonged to the Prophet . The Prophet made her manumission as her 'Mahr'.

What is your take on what the hadith means when Muhammad had their warriors killed? From my understanding, the male refugees from B. Nadhir who fled to Khaybar were later executed. Perhaps you're in a better position to comment?


Quotable Quotes: said...

When I wrote the above, I was using Ibn Ishaq as my source. It sounds as if Muhammad killed some of them, and allowed the others to live and till the ground. Perhaps as you suggest the ones who were killed were the Nadir tribe members who had been exiled from Medina, and the ones who were allowed to live were the ones originally from Khaybar. I'm not sure.