Adapted from: Noor al-Islam No. (61-62) March/April 1996 pp.24-27
According to their sacred books, the Jews were sure that it was the time of a new prophet to appear in Hijaz and settle in Yathrib. They emigrated from their country and settled in that area. They worked on farming and on making weapons. They instigated wars among the Arab tribes in Yathrib, especially between the Aus and Khazraj. They prospered by selling weapons to both sides. They built strong fortresses and flourished. They also spread the glad tiding of an imminent appearance of a new prophet whom they believed to come from amongst them. When Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) was chosen for the mission of Islam, the Jews not only rejected the new religion but also supported the idolaters in opposition to the Prophet.
The Holy Qur'an says:
And when there came to them a Book from Allah verifying that which they have, and aforetime they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieve, but when there came to them (Prophet) that which they did not recognize, they disbelieved in him; so Allah's curse is on the unbelievers. [Qur'an 2:89].On his immigration to Yathrib, the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) did not confront the Jews, though they refused his calling them to Islam. He signed peace treaties with them and allowed them to live amid the believers on condition that they never conspire against him nor help his enemies.
The Jewish tribes who signed the treaties were: AI-Qinaqa'a, AI-Nadhir and Quraidha. All of them violated the treaties sooner or later.
At the battle of Badr (the first year of Hijrah), the Jews of Qinaqa'a supplied the infidels of Makkah with weapons, hence the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) declared war against them in the second year of Hijrah, and besieged their fortress. They consisted of 600 brave warriors, but after two weeks they surrendered. Their families were expelled and their property was confiscated. Some of them took refuge in AI-Sham (Great Syria), some settled in Khaibar, a Jewish district some 3O km. north of Yathrib, and in other nearby land. AI-Nadhir Jews were more diabolical. When the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) was in need of some money to compensate for some one killed by mistake, he went to the Jewish moneylenders of AI-Nadhir. They agreed to lend him the money and asked him to wait near the fortress wall. They secretly plotted to kill him by throwing a millstone on his head. He was informed of the plot and immediately left the place. He told his followers of the Jews' plot and declared war against them. They were ordered to leave Yathrib or be killed after a specified time.
Meanwhile the hypocrites of Yathrib along with some other Jews sympathised with them and promised to side with them if they were forced to leave. Thus, they were encouraged and refused the Prophet's order. They said to him, "Do what you will. We are not leaving our homes."
The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) besieged their fortress for many days. Realising that no one was coming to help them, they finally surrendered. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) allowed them to leave peacefully and take with them only that which their camels could carry. They refused and squabbled over the condition, hence the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) ordered them to leave empty-handed.
The Holy Qur'an refers to the event:
He it is Who caused those who disbelieved of the followers of the Book to go forth from their homes at the first banishment, ... While they were certain that their fortresses would defend them against Allah... [Quran 59:21]The Jews of Quraidha observed the peace treaty a little longer but violated it three years later, at the battle of the Trench (AI-Khandaq) in the 5th year of Hijrah.
The Chief of AI-Nadhir Jews, Hayy ibn Akhtab met with the infidels of Makkah and the leaders of the Arab tribes of: Ghattafan, Assad, Ashja'a and Saleem, and encouraged them to mobilise forces and attack the Muslims, since the infidels had previously achieved victory in the battle of Uhud.
He secretly met Quraidha's leader and encouraged him to violate the peace treaty and take the side of Quraysh.
On hearing of the near attack on Yathrib, the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) at the advice of Salman AI-Farisi (A Persian Muslims pioneer) ordered the believers to dig a trench round the city as the Persian people used to do in wars.
Amru ibn Auff relates the incident: "Salim, Hudhaifa, AI-Na'aman and I, along with six of the Ansar, were digging forty yards of the trench, when our axes hit a white rock that was difficult to break. We sent Salman to the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) to see to it. He came to the spot, took an axe and with his first hit, a lightening came out turning the dark night into a glittering lamp. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) glorified Allah and we did so after him. With the second hit there was another lightening and so was with the third. At every hit we glorified Allah. The rock was broken into pieces. Salman said, "Oh, Messenger of Allah, what is this that we have just seen?"
He (P.B.U.H.) said, "With the first hit Allah showed me the castles of Yemen, with the second the castles of AI-Sham and the West and with the third the castles of Persia and the East".
The Muslims considered the good news as a herald of victory. The enemy army was more than ten thousand fighters, led by Abi Suffian. They were stunned on seeing the trench. He said, "This has never been an Arab scheme!" They set up their camp and a few of their brave men on their horses tried to cross the trench.
The bravest who managed to get to the Muslims' side was Amru ibn Widd. He challenged the Muslims to come out and fight him. Ali was the only one who asked the Prophet's permission to fight him. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) said, "It is Amru ibn Widd! " Ali (a.s.) said, "Be it, Amru ibn Widd, I don't care. "The Prophet allowed him and he managed to kill the bravest fighter in the enemy's army. It was a major victory for the Muslims and a major defeat to the enemy. While Ali (a.s.) was fighting Amru, the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) said, "Absolute Truth is fighting absolute Falsehood."
At the encouragement of Hayy ibn Akhtab, Quraidha violated the treaty and the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) wanted to make sure of their violation. He sent Sa'ad ibn Ma'ath, leader of the Aus, and Sa'ad ibn Abada leader of Khazraj along with Abdullah ibn Rawaha and Khawatt ibn Jubair to get the information from the Jews themselves. He (P.B.U.H.) said to them, "Go and see. If it is true come back but do not say it in public to avoid confusion in our camp. If they still observe the treaty and have not taken the side of the enemy, then say it in public. They went to the fortress of Quraidha and found that the Jews had actually violated the treaty. They said, "There is no covenant between Muhammad and us."
The Ausi and the Khazraji leaders were angry and left cursing them. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) was informed of their treason, hence he made up his mind to fight them later. The enemy besieged the Muslims for more than twenty days.
During the besiege, Naeem ibn Masoud of the Ashja'a tribe came secretly to the Prophet's tent and said to him, "O, Messenger of Allah, I have embraced Islam but none of my folk knows of that. Order me and I am ready to obey".
The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) said, "You are to us no more than one man. If you can, keep secret your new religion and discourage our enemy. War is a deceit. "
Naeem went to the Jews of Quraidha and said, "You know I am a true friend of yours. Your situation to Muhammad is not the same as the situation of Quraysh and Ghattafan. This is your town, where you live with your children and women. Quraysh and the other tribes have their own towns. If they find it to their interest, they will fight, if not, they will go back to their homes and leave you alone to face Muhammad. Surely you can not fight him."
They said, "What do you suggest?"
He said, "I suggest you tell Quraysh and Ghattafan that you will not fight at their side unless they send you ten of their nobles to stay with you as a proof that they will not leave you alone."
The Jews said, "It is a good suggestion."
Then Naeem went to the Quraysh leaders and said, "O, Quraysh you know how I love you and oppose Muhammad's religion. I am here to advise you, on, condition you keep it a secret."
They said, "We do. Tell us what you have."
He said, "You know the Jews of Quraidha have regretted the violation of their peace treaty with Muhammad and promised him to take ten of your nobles and hand them over to him to kill them."
Naeem went to Ghattafan and told them the same story.
It was then a Saturday morning in the month of Shawal when Abu Suffian sent Akrama ibn Abi Jahil along with few Quraysh to the Jews to convey his message to them. He told them about the crucial situation and asked the Jews to come out of their fortress and start the fight against Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.). The Jews said, "To day is Saturday; besides we are not going to fight unless you send us ten of your nobles to stay with us, to make sure you will not leave us alone."
Abu Suffian refused their demand and said, "Naeem has warned us of this."
Then strong wind blew and the enemy retreated suffering great loss.
Hudhaifa ibn Laiman relates the event:
"During the battle of the trench, we suffered fatigue, hunger and fear for nearly twenty days. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) stood up one night and said, "Can one of you steal into the enemy's camp to bring us some news? He will be my companion in Paradise."
We all were afraid and no one answered. He then called me by the name and I had no other way but to answer. He said to me, 'Go and fetch some news. Do nothing more than that.'
I went and I saw the strong storm uprooting the enemy's tents, throwing away every thing, spreading confusion every where. Abu Suffian got on his camel and said, 'O, Quraysh you can not stay any longer with such storm and Quraidha's refusal of help. Let us all leave the place.'
I prepared my bow and arrow to shoot him but I remembered the Prophet's instruction and refrained. I went back and told the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) about the situation. He glorified Allah and we all prayed to Allah for His helps."
The Muslims were spared the fight against Quraysh and the Arab tribes. On that day the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) ordered the Muslims to fight the Jews of Quraidha. They were besieged for three weeks during which they were scared to death. There was no escape for them. Their leader Ka'ab ibn Assad suggested to them to make their own choice: Either to vow allegiance to the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) since they were sure that he was a Divine Messenger, as mentioned in their Torah, to secure their safety; or to kill their women and children and take the Muslims by surprise and attack them on Saturday.
They refused his suggestions but asked the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) to send them an arbiter. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) agreed and they chose Sa'ad ibn Ma'adh who sentenced their fighters to death, their women to be enslaved except for one who was accused of killing a Muslims, she was killed, and their property confiscated. The Holy Qur'an refers to this event:
And Allah turned back the unbelievers in their rage; they did not obtain any advantage, and Allah sufficed the believers in fighting; and Allah is Strong, Mighty.
And He drove down those of the followers of the Book who backed them from their fortresses and He cast awe into their hearts; some you killed and you took captive another part. [Quran 33:25-26].