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Saturday, October 11, 2008


Modern historians agree that one reason for Muhammad's decision to attack Khaybar was the need to raise his prestige among his followers, which had been eroded by the Treaty of Hudaybiyya, in March 628. In addition, the Hudaybiyya agreement gave Muhammad the assurance of not being attacked by the Meccans during the expedition.Watt sees the intriguing of the Banu Nadir in Khaybar as the primary motive for the attack. The Banu Nadir had paid Arab tribes to go to war against Muhammad, Watt argues, leaving him little choice but to attack Khaybar. Vaglieri concurs that the Jews were responsible for the coalition that besieged the Muslims in the Battle of the Trench, but suggests that Muhammad's attacks against the Jews, first in Medina and then in Khaybar, had economic roots similar to those which have brought about persecutions and pogroms in other countries in the course of history. The conquest of Khaybar, Vaglieri argues, would enable him to satisfy with ample booty his companions who hoped to capture Mecca and were discontented at the treaty with the Quraysh. Stillman adds that Muhammad needed the victory to show the Bedouins, who were not strongly tied to the rest of the Muslim community, that the alliance with him would pay off. Shibli Nomani, sees Khaybar's alliance with the Ghatafan tribe, which had attacked Muhammad during the Battle of the Trench, as the main reason for the battle. He also draws attention to the actions of Banu Nadir's leader Huyayy ibn Akhtab, who had gone to the Banu Qurayza during the battle to instigate them to attack Muhammad. As war with Muhammad seemed imminent, the Jews of Khaybar entered into an alliance with the Jews of Fadak oasis. They also successfully persuaded the Bedouin Ghatafan tribe to join their side in the war in exchange for half their produce. However, the lack of central authority at Khaybar prevented any further defensive preparations, and quarrels between different families left the Jews disorganized. The Banu Fazara, related to the Ghatafan, also offered their assistance to Khaybar, after their unsuccessful negotiations with the Muslims.

Hazrat Ali slays Marhab.
Before the battle, the people of Khaybar no doubt knew of the war. The Muslims set out for Khaybar in May 628, Muharram 7 AH. According to different sources, the strength of his army varied from 1,400 to 1,800 men and between 100 and 200 horses. Some Muslim women (including Umm Salama) also joined the army, in order to take care of the wounded. Compared to the Khaybarian fighting strength of 10,000, the Muslim contingent was small, but this gave Muslims advantages. It allowed Muslims to swiftly and quietly march to Khaybar, catching the city by surprise. It also made Khaybar over-confident in themselves. As a result, the Jews failed to mount a centrally organized defense, leaving each family to defend its own fortified redoubt. Knowing the outcome of Muhammad's battles with other Jewish tribes, the Jews of Khaybar put up fierce resistance, and Muslims were forced to take fortresses one by one. During the battle, the Muslims were able to prevent Khaybar's Ghatafan allies (consisting of 4,000 men) from providing them with reinforcements. One reason given is that the Muslims were able to buy off the the Bedouin allies of the Jews. Watt, however, also suggests that rumors of a Muslim attack on Ghatafan strongholds might also have played a role. The Jews, after a rather bloody skirmish in front of one of the fortresses, avoided combat in the open country. Most of the fighting consisted of shooting arrows at a great distance. On at least one occasion the Muslims were able to storm the fortresses. There were also some single combats, the most notorious one being between Ali and Marhab, a famed Arab warrior.
The besieged Jews managed to organize, under the cover of darkness, a transfer of people and treasures from one fortress to another as needed to make their resistance more effective. Neither the Jews nor the Muslims were prepared for an extended siege, and both suffered from a lack of provisions. The Jews, initially overconfident in their strength, failed to prepare their water supplies even for a short siege. After the forts at an-Natat and those at ash-Shiqq were captured, there was little resistance. The Jews speedily met with Muhammad to discuss the terms of surrender.The people of al-Waṭī and al-Sulālim surrendered to the Muslims on the condition that they be "treated leniently" and the Muslims refrain from shedding their blood. Muhammad agreed to these conditions and did not take any of the property of these two forts.
Muhammad met with Ibn Abi Al-Huqaiq, al-Katibah and al-Watih to discuss the terms of surrender. As part of the agreement, the Jews of Khaybar were to evacuate the area, and surrender their wealth. The Muslims, would cease warfare, and not hurt any of the Jews. After the agreement some Jews approached Muhammad, with a request to continue to cultivate their fine orchards, and remain in the oasis. In return, they would give one-half of their produce to the Muslims. Muhammad accepted the proposal. He also ordered the restitution to the Jews of their holy scriptures.
According to Ibn Hisham's version of the pact with Khaybar, it was concluded on the condition that the Muslims "may expel you [Jews of Khaybar] if and when we wish to expel you." Norman Stillman believes that this is probably a later interpolation intended to justify the expulsion of Jews in 642.[29] The agreement with the Jews of Khaybar served as an important precedent for Islamic Law in determining the status of dhimmis, (non-Muslims under Muslim rule). After hearing about this battle, the people of Fadak, allied with Khaybar during the battle, sent Muḥayyisa b. Masūd to Muhammad. Fadak offered to be "treated leniently" in return for surrender. A treaty similar to that of Khaybar was drawn with Fadak as well. Among the Jewish women there was one who was chosen by Muhammad as wife. It was Safiyya bint Huyayy, daughter of the killed Banu Nadir chief Huyayy ibn Akhtab and widow of Kinana ibn al-Rabi, the treasurer of Banu Nadir. According to Ibn Ishaq, when Muhammad asked him to locate the tribe's treasure, al-Rabi denied knowing where it was. A Jew told Muhammad that he had seen Al-Rabi near a certain ruin every morning. When the ruin was excavated, it was found to contain some of the treasure. Muhammad ordered Al-Zubayr to torture al-Rabi until he revealed the location of the rest, then handed him to Muhammad ibn Maslamah, whose brother had died in the battle, to be beheaded.
Muslim biographers of Muhammad tell a story that a Jewish woman of the Banu Nadir tribe attempted to poison Muhammad to avenge her slain relatives. She poisoned a piece of lamb that she cooked for Muhammad and his companion, putting especially much poison into the shoulder — Muhammad's favorite part of lamb. The attempt on Muhammad's life failed because he reportedly spat out the meat, feeling that it was poisoned, while his companion ate the meat and died. Muhammad's companions reported that, on his deathbed, Muhammad said that his illness was the result of that poisoning. The victory in Khaybar greatly raised the status of Muhammad among his followers and, local Bedouin tribes, who, seeing his power, swore allegiance to Muhammad and converted to Islam. The captured booty and weapons strengthened his army, and he captured Mecca just 18 months after Khaybar.
The traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad report that in one of the fortresses, first Abu Bakr, then Umar, took up the standard in the hope of breaking down their resistance, by putting themselves at the head of the attacks, but both failed. According to this tradition, Muhammad then called to his standard-bearer Ali, who killed a Jewish chieftain with a sword-stroke, which split in two the helmet, the head and the body of the victim. Having lost his shield, Ali is said to have lifted both of the doors of the fortress from its hinges, climbed into the moat and held them up to make a bridge whereby the attackers gained access to the redoubt. The door was so heavy that forty men were required to put it back in place. This story is one basis for the Muslim view, especially in Shi'a Islam, of Ali as the prototype of heroes.
One single narration regarding temporary marriage (Arabic: Nikah Mut'ah) that most, but not all Sunnis regard as authentic claim that Nikah Mut'ah was forbidden by Muhammad at this moment. Shi'a view that narration as fabricated. On one occasion, Muslim soldiers killed and cooked a score of donkeys, which had escaped from a farm. The incident led Muhammad to forbid to Muslims the meat of horses, mules, and donkeys, unless consumption was forced by necessity. Muhammad ordered the felling of 400 palms around one fortress to force its defenders to capitulate. Finally, the Jews surrendered when after a month and a half of the siege, all but two fortresses were captured by the Muslims.

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