Farrukh Tahir & Tariq Mahmood, Canada
Social media has a way of twisting information. By the time it reaches us consumers, information has been stripped of factual credibility and is littered with emotions, personal opinions and false notions.
If something is developing in the world, the context of that development is crucial, and every individual should have all the facts before they form an opinion. Some context is inherent, but other times it needs to be provided by the source or involved parties.
That’s where abuse of a narrative comes in. People leave out scenarios surrounding an event to bend you, the consumer of information, toward their opinion. They leave out context to gain the support of the masses, or at least convince them to become indifferent.
In today’s social media-driven world, media corporations have also aided in propelling false narratives and turning the masses against one another. Islam has been made the target of such attacks as well.
Among the cornucopia of allegations hurled by Islamaphobes and Anti-Islamic ‘scholars’ who choose to neglect context, one stands out due to its eye-catching hook:
‘Muhammad executed 600 Jews to maintain his control in Madinah’
The story behind this allegation – the actual story – goes like this.
After being subject to 13 years of relentless persecution, in 622 CE, the Holy Prophet (sa) was forced to leave Makkah and migrate to a nearby city, Madinah. At the time, the residents of Madinah comprised polytheists – the majority of whom had accepted Islam – and three Jewish tribes.
When he arrived in Madinah, the Holy Prophet (sa) first established a ‘Charter of Peace’. This charter was signed between the Muslims and the Jewish tribes in Madinah. You can read more about that here.
This treaty stipulated that the Muslims and Jews of Madinah would live in peace and harmony, and would not conspire against, nor harm one another among other conditions. The charter also stated that anyone who commits a crime – whether in violation of the charter itself or otherwise – would be judged according to their own Divine Law. All parties unanimously accepted this charter.
As time progressed, the Jewish tribes violated the terms of the treaty, two of whom were exiled from Madinah. This was a very mild punitive measure, especially when compared to the punishment of breaking a covenant as prescribed by Jewish Divine Law.
One Jewish tribe, namely the Banu Quraizah, still lived alongside the Muslims in Madinah.
Concurrently, the Muslims were engaged in a series of battles against their earliest enemy, the polytheists of Makkah. This time, the entirety of Pagan Arabia would unite and arrive at the doorstep of Madinah to completely exterminate the Muslims.
The Muslims dug a ditch to protect Madinah on its most vulnerable front, while the other fronts were protected by large trees, large boulders, and the homes of residents. On another side, they were protected by the Banu Quraizah tribe.
Before the battle ensued, Huyayy bin Akhtab, a chief of an exiled Jewish tribe, made his way to meet the chief of the Banu Quraizah. Huyayy desired to turn the remaining Jews in Madinah against the Muslims; thus, he tried to convince the leader of the Banu Quriazah, Ka’b bin Asad, to betray the Muslims and allow the Makkans to attack Madinah.
Initially, Ka’b showed integrity and refused to betray the Muslims, admitting that Prophet Muhammad (sa) had always been loyal to the covenants he made. However, Huyayy convinced him by assuring him of the imminent destruction of Islam. R.V.C Bodley, whilst referring to the treachery of the Jewish tribe, writes,
‘The Jews were not at first inclined to listen to Abu Sofian’s proposal, but after a while they compromised and agreed to betray the Moslems when the time seemed opportune.’
The Holy Prophet (sa) had learned of this treachery and sent a delegation of his Companions to reason with the Jews, but by then, Ka’b had undergone a change of heart and affirmed his treachery by denying the covenant he had made with the Holy Prophet (sa).
The Muslims in Peril
Now, the Muslims were threatened by:
- An army of 10,000 to 15,000 (or according to other narrations, 24,000) soldiers at the city limits of Madinah.
- A treacherous Jewish tribe within the city of Madinah.
As the enemy forces attacked at the borders, the Muslims were also forced to focus their limited resources on protecting the inner streets of the city from the Jews that had betrayed them. An attack from inside Madinah would inevitably result in the civilian casualties of innocent children and women. The Muslims began to feel the adversity and hardship that comes with siege.
This was the situation the Muslims found themselves in. Nevertheless, the outcome of this battle and the Muslims’ successful defense of Madinah is a separate matter. In short, as a result of the Muslims’ wisdom and Divine help, the enemy troops were forced to suddenly retreat.
The Threat from Within
Following the dispersal of the enemy forces, the Holy Prophet (sa) immediately set out to address the threat looming within Madinah. Upon arriving at the fortress of the Jewish tribe, the Muslims saw that the Jews showed no remorse or regret over their treachery, rather, they were even more emboldened in their enmity for Islam. Instead of trying to reconcile the matter peacefully, the Jews prepared themselves for war and barricaded themselves in their fortress.
Consequently, the Muslims lay siege to the fortress. Growing tired of the siege, the Jews devised a plan whereby they requested Abu Lubabah bin Mundhir (ra), a companion of the Holy Prophet (sa) to come and discuss the terms of their release. This was in an effort to persuade him to advocate for the Jewish people after witnessing their miserable state, especially because he was already sympathetic towards them.
Abu Lubabah advised the Jews to present their case to the Holy Prophet (sa), but at the same time, conveyed that they would be sentenced to death. This was completely false, and the Holy Prophet (sa) had not indicated toward this in the slightest. As a result, the Jews remained adamant on staying within their fortress and were besieged for approximately 20 days.
Finally, the Jews descended from their fortress, but yet again, they refused to present themselves to the Holy Prophet (sa) – who would have shown mercy to them as he did to the other Jewish tribes. Instead, they put their fate completely in the hands of another Muslim, Hazrat Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh, who was previously their confederate and sympathiser.
It is worth mentioning here that some Jews did not agree with their tribe’s collective decision, some of whom accepted Islam, and others who asked to leave Madinah. Nevertheless, when the Jewish people’s chosen arbiter, Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh arrived, he first confirmed whether the Jews, the Muslims, and the Holy Prophet (sa) would accept whatever verdict he passed. All confirmed that they would accept and comply with his verdict.
Thus, in light of following passage from the Old Testament and in accordance with Jewish Divine Law, Hazat Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh sentenced the Jewish combatants to death, while their wealth, women and children would be taken by the Muslims.
‘”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; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amoiites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee: That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the Lord your God.”’
Accordingly, the Jews were subjected to the very punishment stated in their holy scripture, and they happily accepted. Whilst elaborating on the above circumstances, The Second Caliph (ra) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community writes,
‘According to the teaching of the Bible, if the Jews had won and the Holy Prophet (sa) had lost, all Muslims – men, women and children – would have been put to death. We know from history that this was the very intention of the Jews”, i.e. to kill all the men, women and children. “The least the Jews would have done was to put to death the men, to enslave the women and children and make away with the belongings of the Muslims, this being the treatment laid down in Deuteronomy for enemy nations living in distant parts of the world. Sa’d(ra) was friendly to the Banu Quraizah and his tribe was in alliance with theirs. When he saw that the Jews had refused to accept the verdict of the Holy Prophet (sa) in line with the Islamic Shariah, which no doubt protected their lives, he gave the verdict of punishment according to the Jewish Law, which Prophet Moses (as) had stated in Deuteronomy. The responsibility for this verdict does not rest with the Holy Prophet (sa) or the Muslims, but lies with Moses (as) and his teaching and with the Jews who had treated other nations in the same manner for centuries. They refused to accept the decision of the Holy Prophet (sa) which would have based on mercy and compassion. But, instead of accepting this, they insisted on a verdict by Sa’d (ra). Sa’d(ra) decided to punish the Jews in accordance with the Law of Moses(as).’
With all of this context, it is unequivocally clear that the Holy Prophet (sa) is absolved of any allegation in relation to the Jews of Madinah. However, if there is some ambiguity, the following points should be considered:
- The verdict passed in respect to the Jewish tribe, deemed as a cruel verdict, was not decided by the Holy Prophet (sa), but by Sa’d bin Mu’adh, the arbiter of choice in the eyes of the Jewish people.
- This verdict was not faulty, nor was it barbaric. According to the peace treaty they had entered into with the Muslims, the Jews were liable to be punished according to their own Divine Law should they violate the treaty; and the treaty was violated on multiple accounts. For instance, the treaty stipulated that the Jews would live together with the Muslims in harmony, and the two groups would not harm one another. Secondly, all disputes would be presented to the Holy Prophet (sa) as the head of state, and judgment would be passed according to Divine Law. Thirdly, if another nation waged war against the Jews or Muslims, one party would stand up in defense for the other. And fourthly, if Madinah was attacked, all parties would join in its collective defense. All of the aforementioned clauses were violated by the Jewish tribe.
- Sa’d bin Mu’adh has taken a covenant with all those who were present before announcing his verdict, and according to that covenant, all were bound to accept his verdict.
- The Jews themselves admitted to their treachery and accepted this verdict, considering it to be divine decree.
- An act of rebellion, especially during times of war, has always been execution. If strict punishment is not given to the party guilty of such a crime, then it is an injustice to the government, society and its peace-abiding citizens.
- During the aforementioned battle, the Jews sought out the women and children in Madinah with the intention to attack them.
- Any of the Jews subjected to this verdict who sought forgiveness from the Holy Prophet (sa) were granted it, and Muslims who wished to grant respite to any Jew were allowed to do so.
- If the Holy Prophet (sa) was truly desirous of the blood of Jews, he would have enacted the same verdict on the other Jewish tribes who violated the treaty. Instead, he exiled them, as mentioned earlier.
Thus, in no way is this action taken against the Jewish tribe questionable, and by no means necessary can it be attributed to the Holy Prophet (sa). Even to the Jewish people of that era – and to his enemies – Prophet Muhammad (sa) was hailed as a merciful, tender leader who sought only the betterment of mankind. There were many instances during his lifetime where he could pass the harshest of verdicts upon his enemies and oppressors, however, he always adopted the path of mercy and strived for reconciliation as opposed to retribution.
About the Authors:
Farrukh Tahir is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Canada, serving in the Review of Religions.
Tariq Mahmood is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Canada and serves as Secretary of The Existence Project Team for The Review of Religions.
 R.V.C Bodley, The Messenger; The Life of Muhammad (1946), p. 207.
 Deuteronomy, 20:10-18
 Introduction to the Study of the Holy Quran, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 20, pp. 162-165