• Raya Shokatfard

PROPHET MUHAMMAD AND THE JEWS IN MADINAH (PART 1)

Updated: Nov 2, 2020


By: Raya Shokatfard


Part 2


In an effort and campaign by the West to tarnish the image of Islam, including the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him), some misguided individuals or groups have spared no effort to find issues that would ignite the public sentiment against Islam and its Prophet.

Among many unfounded accusations, is the allegation that Prophet Muhammad slaughtered 700 Jews once he settled in Madinah. Nothing could be farther from the truth—as God the creator of the Heavens and the Earth bears witness to the justice of Prophet Muhammad and the reality of events as they happened.


In order to get a clear picture of the situation of the Jews in Madinah, prior and after the migration of the Prophet of Islam there, I will first give a very brief overall historical background.


Like many former Prophets, Prophet Muhammad faced severe resistance and persecution at the hands of the inhabitants of Makkah, namely the Quraysh, after he declared his prophethood and the message of monotheism and condemned all and any kind of idol worshiping.


His message was not taken lightly and as the end result many new Muslims were persecuted, tortured and savagely killed in order to put out the light of the message of Islam. Such was also the case with many prophets of the past.


Over time and as per the order of the Prophet, some migrated to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and later, some migrated to Madinah to avert further persecution and injustice aimed at them and their families.


Prophet Muhammad was the last to migrate to Madinah on the thirteenth year of his prophethood. This was after invitation and two treaties (known as Aqabah Pledges) by the people of Madinah, offering him and his followers protection and assistance in all matters.

Those who invited Prophet Muhammad and his followers to Madinah had heard the message of Islam and had embraced it whole heartedly and were willing to give their lives to protect the Prophet and his followers.


After the second pledge, the Muslims of Makkah began to migrate to Madinah, while the polytheists of Makkah spared no effort in preventing them—knowing that such a move would be a threat and danger to their whole society. (As mentioned in Ar-Raheeq al-Makhtum -The Sealed Nectar- by Saifur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri).


The Prophet was among the last who migrated to Madinah, after he received permission from his Lord to make the move. On the fourteenth year of his prophethood, i.e. September 23rd, 622, Prophet Muhammad arrived at Quba’, at the outskirt of Madinah. There, he constructed the first mosque. Upon his arrival in Madinah crowds came flocking to him, greeting and embracing him—thus the dangerous journey ended in a much safer environment and among many supporters—unlike Makkah.


Life in Madinah

The Madinan era could be divided into three phases:

The first phase was characterized by too much trouble and discord, and too many obstacles from within coupled by a hostile wave from without aiming at the total extermination of the rising faith. It ended with Al-Hudaybiyah Peace Treaty in 6, A.H.


The second phase featured a truce with the pagan leadership and ended in the conquest of Makkah in Ramadan 8, A.H. It also witnessed the Prophet (peace be upon him) inviting kings beyond Arabia to enter the fold of Islam.


In the third phase, people came to embrace Islam in hosts. Tribes and other folks arrived in Madinah to pay homage to the Prophet. It ended at the death of the Prophet in 11 A.H.


As mentioned above, migrating to Madinah was not all together safe and without any problems for the Prophet and his followers. As the Prophet was beginning to build a new Islamic state, he had to deal with three distinctively different categories of people with various problems:

Companions, including the hosts and the immigrants.


Polytheists –uninterested in Islam and were purely Madinese tribes.


The Jews

As for the first category, the first thing Prophet Muhammad did was to unite the two tribes of Aws and Khazraj who were at war with each other for years before embracing Islam to leave out their differences and make peace with each other. He further suggested each host/helper to take an immigrant as a brother and help him in all matters. The two strategies worked well and proved to be very effective in building a cohesive society.


The second group had no problem with the Muslims, but rather still attached to their ancestor’s religious practices. However before long, they embraced Islam and were truly devoted to God. Yet, there were some notorious hypocrites among them who spared no effort in their attempt to betray the Muslims in various wars.


The Jews, who had migrated to Al-Hijaz from Syria after the Byzantine and Assyrian persecution campaigns, were the third category. They mingled with Arabs, dressed like them and sometimes intermarried. They considered themselves and their Jewish origin higher than the illiterate Arabs and thus desired wealth of others and domination over them, if they could.


The Quran addresses this: {…because they say: ‘there is no blame on us to betray and take the properties of the illiterates (Arabs)’ …} (Al-Imran 3: 75)


They were not much inclined to religion. Some engaged in fortunetelling, witchcraft and some in trade. They were also very keen at sowing seeds of discord between neighboring tribes – causing some bloody fights. Their perceived security lied in causing distrust and hatred among their fellow neighbors. Nearly 1,400 years later, we see this pattern has continued and the Muslims have been falling prey to their continuous ancient hatred and plots.


There were nearly 20 tribes in Madinah and the outskirts. The three largest and most influential tribes in Madinah were: Banu Qainuqua’, allies of Al-Khazraj tribe, Banu An-Nadir and Banu Quraizah who allied Al-Aws and lived in the suburb of Madinah.


Many Jews were awaiting their promised Prophet, foretold in their Scripture, to appear in Madinah. Some of their learned scholars had even migrated from other lands to Madinah, with the expectation of seeing a Prophet. But to their surprise, even though many of them recognized Muhammad as the Prophet of God, the fact that he was not from their decent, caused them to reject him and his message.


God informs us in the Quran that the Jews were fully aware of who Prophet Muhammad was.

{Those to whom we gave the Scripture (Jews and Christians) recognize him (Muhammad) as they recognize their sons. But verily, a party of them conceal the truth while they know it (foretold in their Scripture).} (Al-Baqarah 2: 146)


We have a compelling story of conversion of Abdullah ibn Salam, a Jewish Rabbi to Islam, which clearly demonstrates that he, as a Jewish scholar, a rabbi and a learned man was fully aware of who Prophet Muhammad was.


Yet, others, while recognizing Prophet Muhammad, turned away from him with enmity.


Safiyah, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, and the daughter of Huyai ibn Akhtab, the chief of the Jewish tribe of Bani Al-Nadir narrated a story which demonstrates that her father was fully aware that Muhammad was the Prophet of God. She said:

“I was my father’s and my uncle’s favorite child. When the Messenger of Allah came to Madinah and stayed at Quba, my parents went to him at night and when they returned they looked disconcerted and worn out. I received them cheerfully but to my surprise no one of them turned to me. They were so grieved that they did not feel my presence. I heard my uncle, Abu Yasir, saying to my father, ‘Is it really him?’ He said, ‘Yes, by Allah’. My uncle said: ‘Can you recognize him and confirm this?’ He said, ‘Yes’. My uncle said, ‘How do you feel towards him?’ He said, ‘By Allah I shall be his enemy as long as I live.” (257-58)


God praises those Jews who recognized Prophet Mohammad and his message as well as warning those who denied it:

{Those whom we gave the Scripture rejoice in that which is revealed to you (Muhammad). And of the clans there are those who deny some of it. Say: ‘I am commanded only that I serve Allah and ascribe to Him no partner. To Him I call and to Him is my return.’} (Ar-Ra’d 13:36)


For most part, there was hatred in their heart towards him as well as the state of rapport and reconciliation which Islam came to bring to Madinah. This is not what they desired.


However, Prophet Muhammad wished that all who lived in Madinah should live in peace and harmony with each other regardless of their differences in belief and religion.


He made a treaty which offered security and assurance to those who agreed to adhere to it. It is extremely important to take a close look at this treaty. It was only centuries later that various European human rights, diplomatic, and peace treaties were written which were not even a close match to what the Prophet of Islam wrote centuries earlier to insure security and cooperation between various factions in Madinah.


The most important provisions of the treaty were the following:

1. The Jews of Bani ‘Awf are one community with the believers. The Jews will profess their religion and the Muslims theirs.

2. The Jews shall be responsible for their expenditure, and the Muslims for theirs.

3. If attacked by a third party, each shall come to the assistance of the other.

4. Each party shall hold counsel with the other. Mutual relation shall be founded on righteousness; sin is totally excluded.

5. Neither shall commit sins to the prejudice of the other.

6. The wronged party shall be aided.

7. The Jews shall contribute to the cost of war so long as they are fighting alongside the believers.

8. Madinah shall remain sacred and inviolable for all who join this treaty.

9. Should any disagreement arise between the signatories to this treaty, then God, the All-High and His Messenger shall settle the dispute.

10. The signatories to this treaty shall boycott Quraysh commercially; they shall also abstain from extending any support to them.

11. Each shall contribute to defending Madinah, in case of a foreign attack, in its respective area.

12. This treaty shall not hinder either party from seeking lawful revenge.


Madinah and its suburbs, after the ratification of this treaty, turned into a coalition state, with Madinah proper as capital and Prophet Muhammad as ‘president’; authorities lay mainly in the hand of the Muslims, and consequently it was a real capital of Islam. To expand the zone of peace and security, the Prophet Muhammad started to enter into similar treaties with other tribes living around ‘his state’.


Unfortunately many of the Jews did not spare any effort to annoy Muslims even after this treaty. As they disbelieved in Jesus in the past, now they disbelieved in Muhammad – and had no intention to live in total peace with the Muslims. Had they done so, no harm would have befallen them, but a wise reader would see how the events unfolded after the peace treaty between the Muslims and the inhabitants of Madinah and how the Jews brought misfortune upon themselves. (Al-Ghazali, Fiqh Al-Seerah)


To begin with, they continuously belittled the message of Islam and denied the prophethood of Muhammad, even though they were given full authority to practice their own religion with no obligation to convert to Islam. God exposes their thoughts saying:

{They who disbelieve say: ‘You are no messenger [of Allah].’ Say, Allah and whoever has true knowledge of the Scripture are sufficient witness between me and you.’} (Ar-Ra’d 13: 43)


To be continued

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Published on Reading Islam on Monday, 18 July 2011

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    About Me

    Raya Shokatfard is an international speaker, film maker, and writer with a focus on women’s issues, Islam, and cultural issues. She holds BA and MBS degrees in Journalism and Mass Communication as well as a BA in Islamic Studies and an MD in TV Journalism.

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