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Jews of Medina Killing Muslims??

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Muhammad Drove out the Jews of Medina for Attacking & Killing Muslims?

Slaughter of Banu QuraizaIn the course of exchanging comments on an article The Quran and Hadith: Which is More Authentic? in islam-watch.org, Mr. Abu Shuja’ah, a prominent Islamic propagandist on the Internet, made a number of outrageous claims. On the question of why Muhammad attacked, slaughtered and exiled the Jews of Medina, he claimed:

The Jews were driven out of Medina for attacking and killing Muslims. Consider it a mirror of today’s Gaza.
While Shuja’ah makes a case for justification of Muhammad’s atrocities against the Jews of Medina, I, before going into this discussion, affirm that Muhammad had no justification at all.

 

Let us start with a review of Prophet Muhammad’s encounter with the Jews of Medina. He relocated to Medina in June 622 CE on the background that his mission at Mecca had failed, had become stagnant, while his faith was making rapid progress in Medina even in his absence acquiring some 76 converts over the previous three years. It should be noted that his mission in Mecca, his hometown, made only 150 converts at least over the previous 13 years of his prophetic mission.

The prophet was invited to Medina by his Medinan disciples (those 76 or so), who belonged to the two Pagan tribes, Aws and Khazraj; and he settled down without facing any opposition from any group, including the Jews, who were richer and more influential in Medina. It is anticipated that the Jews might’ve been welcoming of him, as he was converting them to a monotheism, which he presented to the Jews as a sister-religion to Judaism and Christianity.

Muhammad continued his preaching unimpeded and the polytheists converted to Islam at a high frequency. But the problem with the Jews started only after Muhammad became too ambitious to present himself also as a prophet, a savior, of the Jews (& Christians) too. So Muhammad initially started pampering the Jews & Christians. He gave Moses a status even higher than his own [Bukhari 4:610,612]. Quranic verses pampered them saying, Allah gave them ‘guidance and light’ in the form of Torah [Q 5:44] and the Jews are “righteous” people [Q 6:153-54], who ‘excelled the nations’ [Q 45:16].

 

And he adopted many Jewish rituals and customs—fasting, circumcision, praying toward Jerusalem etc.—to make Islam truly look like an Abrahamic creed for the first time. Allah’s and Muhammad’s reason behind all these goody-goody sayings and gestures toward the Jews was to come out later; it was Muhammad’s ambition to become a prophet of Jews as well. So Allah reveals (Q 3.5):

YUSUFALI: (I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me.

The same is repeated in Q 5:48:

And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed…

But, if they failed to follow Muhammad, Allah threatens them with punishments in the next verse (Q5:49):

…And if they turn away, then know that Allah's Will is to smite them for some sin of theirs. Lo! many of mankind are evil-livers.

Despite all these pleadings and threats, the Jews did not accept Muhammad as their prophet and ruler. Instead, the Jews became staunch critics of Muhammad’s revelations, because they had the inner knowledge of what is in the Torah, which Muhammad said he brought in its entirety through his Quran. They could easily point out the errors in Muhammad’s messages, which they did putting Muhammad in a defensive and embarrassing position.
Muhammad (or Allah) eventually became sure that the Jews (& Christians) would, in no way, embrace his message. So Allah came down with a verse (Q 2:120) to relieve Muhammad from further persuasion of them, allowing him do what was needed—the subject of this debate:

Q 2:120
Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: “The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance.” Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither Protector nor helper against Allah.

And not long after Allah revealed these verses, Muhammad, while pursuing with some 300-plus Muslim raiders to attack and plunder a Meccan caravan returning from Syria under Abu Sufian, engaged the Meccans in the battle of Badr and achieved stunning success against an opposition at least double in strength. Muhammad’s confidence was ‘sky high’. The Jews can be challenged now to mete out Allah’s promised punishment to them for rejecting Muhammad, such as in verse 5:49 cited above.

Now let us see how Muhammad initiate violence against the Jews, according to the prophet’s earliest and most original biographer Ibn Ishaq (c. 750 CE, preserved through Ibn Hisham)1:

Meanwhile there was the affair of the B. Qaynuqa. The apostle assembled them in their market and addressed them as follows: ‘O Jews, beware lest God bring upon you the vengeance that He brought upon Quraysh and become Muslims. You know that I am a prophet who has been sent—you will find that in your scriptures and God's covenant with you.’ They replied, ‘O Muhammad, you seem to think that we are your people. Do not deceive yourself because you encountered a people (i.e. the Quraysh) with no knowledge of war and got the better of them; for by God if we fight you, you will find that we are real men!’

So Muhammad obviously tried to threaten the Jews to submission to his religious and political authority, pointing to them what happened to the Quraysh at Badr—a fate that may visit them too, if they didn’t submit. But they Jews rejected his threatening invitation with defiance.
Now, the plot to punish the Jews will be well-coordinated by both Muhammad and Allah. So, Allah also comes with his own threats to the Jews as Ibn Ishaq (p. 363) notes:

A freedman of the family of Zayd b. Thabit from Sa'Id b. Jubayr or from Tkrima from Ibn 'Abbas told me that the latter said the following verses (Q 3:13) came down about them:
‘Say to those who disbelieve: you will be vanquished and gathered to Hell, an evil resting place. You have already had a sign in the two forces which met’, i.e. the apostle’s companions at Badr and the Quraysh. ‘One force fought in the way of God; the other, disbelievers, thought they saw double their own force with their very eyes. God strengthens with His help whom He will. Verily in that is an example for the discerning.’ [Quran 3:13]

As the threatening notice of submission served to Banu Qainuqa first by Muhammad, followed by Allah was flatly rejected, it was time for Muhammad to look for an excuse to execute the threat. If Allah is to be believed, Muhammad found no excuse to attack the Jews. So Allah had to create one, an outrageously silly one at that in verses 8:55–58. The Jews are the worst of beasts, of living creatures, because they would not believe in Muhammad’s messages:

Q 8:55: For the worst of beasts in the sight of Allah are those who reject Him: They will not believe.

What punishment do they deserve for being the worst beast because of their rejection of Muhammad? It’s defined in previous verse (Q 8:54), which says they deserved the same punishment Pharaoh suffered for rejecting the ‘Signs of their Lord’ (brought by Moses):

…after the manner of the people of Pharaoh and those before them: They treated as false the Signs of their Lord: so We destroyed them for their crimes, and We drowned the people of Pharaoh: for they were all oppressors and wrong-doers.

To create an excuse for attacking the Jews, Allah falsely accused the Jews of breaking treaty in the next verse 8:56:

They are those with whom thou didst make a covenant, but they break their covenant every time, and they have not the fear (of Allah).

Here Allah says the Jews broke treaty repeatedly. In this verse, Allah lied on two counts. First, there was no treaty between Muhammad and the Jews that the latter ever signed, which I will address at the end of this discussion. Second, even if a treaty existed, the Jews never broke it, even not once, forget about their breaking it ‘every time’ as Allah accuses them of. It becomes evident from the next verse, in which Allah commands Muhammad to attack the Jews:

Q 8:58: If thou fearest treachery from any group, throw back (their covenant) to them, (so as to be) on equal terms: for Allah loveth not the treacherous.

Revelation of this verse was a direct command to attack Banu Qainuqa, the first Jewish tribe to face Muhammad’s sword, as Al-Tabari cites the account of al-Zuhri that a verse being brought by Gabriel to Muhammad, which said, ‘And if thou fearest treachery from any folk, then throw back to them their treaty fairly’ [Q 8:58]. Whereupon, Muhammad said, ‘‘I fear Banu Qaynuqa’’ and ‘the Messenger of God advanced upon them.’2

So, if Allah is to be believed, this verse was obviously a command, a license, to attack Banu Qainuqa. Although Allah accused the Jews of breaking treaty repeatedly in the earlier verse, here Allah only mentions Muhammad’s fear that the treaty may be broken in the future; the Jews hadn’t broken any treaty yet, which didn’t exist anyway.

In fact, the real reason as to why the Jews should be attacked can be found in the next verse (Q 8:59):

And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s Purpose). Lo! they cannot escape.

The Jews were trying to outstrip Allah’s purpose. Allah tried to persuade them in so many verses to accept Muhammad as their prophet, but they not only rejected the repeated pleadings of Allah, but they also ridiculed those messages; they found so many faults with his messages, causing ridicule and embarrassment to Muhammad (& Allah). How dare they! They deserve the gravest of punishment for crime of such mammoth proportion. Let them not escape.

In sum, Muhammad attacked the Jews for his fear that Banu Qainuqa might break some treaty sometime in the future—that is, they did not break it yet but they likely would; and he rushed to attack them.

While this is the reason given by Allah and Muhammad for attacking Banu Qainuqa, there is another story created by later about the Jews, who allegedly killed a companion of Muhammad. Mr. Shuja’ah also mentioned about it in our previous exchange in making his case as to why the Jews deserved what Muhammad did to them, saying:

The Jews hated Islam and still do. They poisoned Muhammad (saw) and killed one of his companions.

Prophet Muhammad was poisoned after his conquest of Khaybar in 628 CE by an enslaved Jewish woman in revenge. By this time, Muhammad had cleansed all the Jews of Medina. So this poisoning incident cannot be considered as a reason for Muhammad’s punishing the Jews of Medina.
Concerning the Jews’ killing one of Muhammad’s companions, a story is included in his later biography by Al-Waqidi (d. 822). According to the story, sometime after the threat to Banu Qainuqa by Muhammad and Allah, a Meccan girl, married to an ansar (Medinan convert), went to the shop of a goldsmith in the market-place of Banu Qainuqa (Qainuqa were goldsmiths & richest community), where waiting for some ornaments, she sat down. A silly Jewish prankster pinned the lower hem of her skirt behind to the upper dress. When she stood up, the awkward exposure excited laughter, and she screamed with shame. A Muslim, apprised of the affront, slew the prankster; and the brethren of the Jew fell upon the Muslim murderer and killed him in return.

It should be noted here that because of this silly incident, nobody deserved to die. The prankster deserved a rebuke at best. Muslims’ killing him was an act of barbarism, unacceptable to any kind of justice. And of course, after the two lives from the two parties, one from Banu Qainuqa and other from Muslims, had been lost, the justice/injustice was equal on both side; and it should been resolved by calling a meeting between leaders of the two parties.

But no, Muhammad was just waiting for something like this to occur. And on the pretext of this brawl, says al-Waqidi, Muhammad besieged the entire community of Banu Qaynuqa. After a fifteen-day siege, the Jews surrendered. In order to mete out the deserving punishment to the Jews, which was to be similar to the way Allah had destroyed the people of Pharaoh by drowning them all, Muhammad ordered the surrendered men to be tied for their summary execution. At this point, Abdullah ibn Obayi—the famed hypocrite of Islam, but a rather humane chief of the Khazraj clan, who had converted to Islam but had a dubious allegiance to Muhammad’s mission—firmly intervened. He even threatened Muhammad with consequences had he slaughtered the Jews. As a result, Muhammad prudently relented from slaughtering the prisoners. Instead, he exiled them to Syria.

 On the basis of this discussion, I conclude the Jews never ever aggressively attacked and killed Muslims, as Shuja’ah claims, which made Muhammad to attack and evict them. Muhammad, therefore, had no justification to attack the Jews. Instead, it is Muslims, who were responsible for shedding blood of a Jew of Banu Qainuqa first for no justifiable reason. And Muhammad’s attacking the whole community and attempting to slaughter them en masse, on account of an individual ignorable silly act, was an instance of taking unjustified barbarism to the extreme.

Did a treaty, the so-called Constitution of Medina, exist between Muslims and the Jews?

We have noted above that Allah accuses the Jews of repeatedly breaking a treaty. Ibn Ishaq likewise writes:

Asim b. ‘Umar b. Qatada said that the B. Qaynuqa were the first of the Jews to break their agreement with the apostle and to go to war, between Badr and Uhud, and the apostle besieged them until they surrendered unconditionally.

Muslims boast about this so-called treaty—known as the ‘Constitution of Medina’ and considered the ideal blueprint of the Islamic state—as an epitome of tolerance, human rights and justice to people of all faiths in Islamic state. I will go into detail of the terms of the treaty, which is readers can find in Ibn Ishasq (p. 231-232): it is nothing but a document, demanding unconditional subjugation of all Medinans to the political and religious commands of Muhammad, a recent refugee in Medina. I will, however, prove that the treaty was never signed by the Jews; they probably never saw it. This treaty, according to Ibn Ishaq, begins as thus:

In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful. This is a document from Muhammad the prophet between the believers and Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib, and those who followed them and joined them and labored with them.4

It becomes clear that this document was an invitation from Muhammad and his Muslim community to other tribes of Medina (the Jews included) to assemble after Muhammad and follow his commands. This opening in no way suggests that it was signed by any non-Muslim party. And moreover, we have seen above that not only Muhammad but also Allah agreed that the Jew would not accept Islam and submit to Muhammad’s leadership. Under these circumstances, is there any ground to believe that the Jews would sign a document, which starts with the words: “This is a document from Muhammad the prophet…” Signing this document means not only submitting to Muhammad’s leadership, but also to his prophethood, a claim which the Jews ridiculed in the least.

Similarly the document ends with these words:

God approves of this document… Muhammad is the apostle of God.

We can again be sure that the Jews would never have signed this document, which says “Muhammad is the apostle of God”, which they flatly rejected, indeed ridiculed, all along. Quite agreeing with this assertion, Montgomery Watt (a Western Islamic scholar favorite to Muslims, whose books are published in Pakistan) records that there were nine contracting parties in this document: they were the Muslim refugee from Mecca and Medinan Arab tribes (non-Jewish), who had become essentially Islamic by converting to Islam in large numbers after Muhammad’s arrival in Medina. None of the Jewish tribes were a co-signatory in this document.5

This proves beyond doubt that the Jews would never have signed this document. Instead, it was most likely a document that records a secret understanding between Muhammad and the Medinan pagan-turn-Muslim tribes, who had long-standing alliances with the Jewish clans. As Muhammad was planning to deal with the Jews because of their obstinate refusal to embrace Islam, he needed this document or understanding with his Medinan converts to create an excuse to strike the Jews. There is no alternative “logical” explanation to it.


References:

1. Ibn Ishaq, Life of Muhammad, trs. A Guillaume, Oxford Uiversity Press, Karachi, 2004 impint, p. 363
2. Al-Tabari, History of Al-Tabari, State University of New York Press, Vol. VII, p. 86   
3. Ibn Ishaq, p. 363-64
4. Ibn Ishaq, p. 231-232
5. Watt  M (1961) Islam and The Integration of Society, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, p. 19

 



 

 

MA Khan is the editor of islam-watch.org and the author of Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery.
Last Updated on Friday, 17 July 2009 13:56  

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