I noted here that non-Muslims often do not fare well in debates with Muslims because the latter easily throw out "facts" the non-Muslim is ill-prepared to counter. I came across a classic example recently while watching a spurious film claiming Muhammad is mentioned by name in the Song of Solomon. In the film, British convert to Islam Anthony Green (now known as Abdurraheem Green) described a conversation with a Jewish Rabbi in London in which the Rabbi insisted that Jews never change their religion. "But," said Green, "Half the Rabbis of Medina became Muslims." The Rabbi replied, "That is true, but still we Jews never change our religion."
Half the Rabbis of Medina accepted Islam? That sounds impressive, but is it true? As is always the case, the only way to find out is not by listening to Muslim apologists but by going back to Islam's original sources.
The most authoritative biography of Muhammad was written 150 years after his death by historian Ibn Ishaq. This biography serves as the main source for current biographies such as In the Footsteps of the Prophet by Tariq Ramadan and Memories of Muhammad by Omid Safi.
Ibn Ishaq describes in great detail Muhammad's migration from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD and his initial relationships there. Medina at the time had a majority Jewish population, with educated and prosperous tribes that had migrated there from Jerusalem after being exiled by Roman emperors centuries before. As described in Muhammad and the Jews, Part One, Part Two, and Part Three, Muhammad fully expected these Jews to welcome him as the Prophet he claimed to be. The non-Jewish Arabs of Medina, as noted here, accepted him as their tribal leader in large part to unite them and give them supremacy over the Jews.
Instead of believing in Muhammad, according to Ibn Ishaq, "the Jewish rabbis showed hostility to the Apostle in envy, hatred, and malice, because God had chosen His Apostle from the Arabs...they used to annoy the Apostle with questions and introduce confusion, so as to confound the truth with falsity." Ibn Ishaq even listed some of these questions including this classic, "Why do children sometimes resemble their mothers when the semen comes from the man?" What was the Prophet of God's scientific response? "By God, do you not know that a man's semen is white and thick, while a woman's is yellow and thin? The child will resemble that which first comes to the top!"
Ibn Ishaq went on to name every single Rabbi who opposed Muhammad, as well as those who accepted Islam. Sixty-five Rabbis "stirred up trouble against Islam to try to extingiush it". Only two, Mukhayriq and Abdullah bin Salam, accepted Islam.
There is no indication any of these 65 Rabbis ever accepted Islam. One of them, Labid bin Asam, "bewitched the Prophet of God so that he could not come near his wives" for a year, a little-known fact that most Western Muslims would deny but which has been accepted as true throughout Muslim history.
Among the most vocal of the Jewish Rabbis who questioned Muhammad were three brothers named Huyayy, Abu Yasir, and Judayy. They were exiled a few years later when Muhammad forced their Nadir tribe from Medina and expropriated their goods and property. Huyayy and his young son happened to be back in Medina the following year and were included among the 800 men and boys Muhammad beheaded in his final expulsion of all remaining Jews from the city. Huyayy's daughter Sofiya was exiled to Khaybar where she married a young man named Kinana. When Muhammad raided Khaybar the following year, he tortured and beheaded Kinana to steal his money, and then "married" Sofiya the same night. Muslims still believe this brutal rape was just another example of a young woman "choosing" Muhammad as her husband.
I invite any Muslim scholar who reads this post to verify Green's claim that half the Rabbis of Medina accepted Islam. Until they do so, I'll believe this is just another example of a Muslim apologist deliberately presenting false information to convince non-Muslims (and perhaps quell the doubts of thinking and questioning Muslims) that Muhammad is indeed a Prophet of God and the religion he created is true.