Previously, we discussed Muhammed’s (pbuh) resounding victory over the forces of Qureish, at Badr (commonly known today as Saudi Arabia).
We also spoke about the heavy casualties the Meccans suffered and how they repaired to Mecca with such haste that it was left to the Muslims to bury all the dead (on both sides)—significantly, counting the nobles such as Abu Jahl, leader of the Qureish army, Utbah bin Rabi’ah, a notable Qureishi businessman, his brother, Shaybah, his son, Walid ibn Utbah, and highly respected personalities such as Umayyah bin Khallaf and Al Aswad ibn Al Makhzumi—all dead and insignificant amongst the scores of unknown Qureishi warriors who had paid the ultimate price.
However, we find that on returning to Medina, Muhammed (pbuh) and his ‘Companions’ once again found themselves faced with the same kind of dilemma that had dogged them ever since the Prophet (pbuh) had entered the ‘City’. There was an ominous buzz simmering threateningly amongst the non-Muslims of Medina.
We find that some of the Jewish tribes—those who had signed the ‘Medina Accord’ with the Prophet (pbuh), especially the Banu Qaynuqa—were cause for great concern to the Muslims.
But perhaps circumstances compel us to spare a moment and take stock of what had happened thus far, or perhaps what was happening all the time on a much higher level.
Nobody can refute the fact that Muhammed (pbuh) had achieved what very few individuals before him had ever managed to achieve. No one (as history tells us) could sway a people’s hearts and minds—and their lifestyles!—the way Muhammed (pbuh) did. So it stands to reason that much hatred and envy was heaped on him by those who had thought that his ‘Mission’ was just a fad, a passing phase. But, as we have mentioned in so many previous episodes, the mere fact that he had initiated a brand new religion and the fact that up till today people from all walks of life—from all creeds and color—are flocking to that religion tells us that something more than just the personality and character of the Prophet (pbuh) was in progress here.
We saw how envious the clansmen of Qureish became when their best laid plans of discrediting Muhammed (pbuh) failed. We know how they tortured those in their employ, their slaves, their acquaintances—even members of their own family—when these refused to denounce their new-found ‘Faith’.
Medina’s non-Muslims were no different to the Qureish of Mecca; they plotted and planned continuously, bemoaning the advent of Muhammed’s (pbuh) emergence in their city, wondering how it was possible that a fugitive from Mecca, someone whom everyone (i.e. the opponents of the Prophet (pbuh), of course) hated, could come to power, so rapidly, and usurp their birthright…wholesale!
And now that the Muslims had won the Battle of Badr, the enmity of their opponents knew no bounds!
People like Abu Afk, a poet from the tribe of Banu Amir ibn Awf, and Asma, daughter of Marwan, from the tribe of Banu Umayyah ibn Zaid, took it upon themselves to circulate abusive rhetoric about the Prophet (pbuh) and Islam—inciting all and sundry of their respective tribes to take up arms against the Muslims.
Ka’b ibn Al Ashraf was another classic example of abject hatred against Islam. It is reported that he had said, on learning about the fall of the nobles of Mecca: ‘Those were the nobles of Arabia, the kings of mankind. By God! if Muhammad has vanquished these people, the interior of the earth is a better dwelling than the top of it!’
He then systematically went about spreading false rumors about the Prophet (pbuh), incited everyone he came into contact with to fight the Muslims, and never let a day go by without reciting war poetry to all those who were prepared to listen to him. He also falsely accused the Muslim women—those who had helped at Badr and were returning home to Medina—of loose morals and seedy behavior, and he was very convincing. And so fervent and atrocious was he in his rumors that the Muslims summarily decided to kill him and put an end his lies.
It was then decided unanimously by the Muslims to employ someone by the name of Abu Na’ilah, to befriend Ka’b’ ibn Al Ashraf and to win his confidence. He was also authorized to kill Ka’b.
According to some historians, the killing of Ka’b ibn Al Ashraf was the catalyst that fueled Jewish fears and aggression.
The Jews began to feel more and more insecure in their daily dealings with the Muslims and clandestinely hatched their own plan of resistance against Muhammed (pbuh) and his followers.
It is said that a Muslim woman one day came into the shop of a Jewish man, in the Jewish quarter of the Banu Qaynuqa, to have some remodeling done to her jewelry. The owner, a balding man in his late 40s, asked her to remove her veil, which the woman refused to do.
The man insisted and the woman kept refusing. Moments later, an acquaintance of the Jew came in and having ascertained what their debate was all about, he stealthily went behind the woman and tacked her veil to a wall.
The woman got up to leave and her veil was then unceremoniously ripped from her body, exposing her nakedness. The Jews laughed derisively.
The woman then began to cry and a Muslim, one of the ‘Companions’ of the Prophet, on passing by, saw what had happened and furiously jumped onto the Jew and killed him!
The other Jews, summoned by the cries of the men as they scuffled in the shop, quickly gathered round and summarily killed the Muslim.
All hell broke loose.
The relatives of the Muslim who was killed confronted the Jews and a bloody encounter ensued.
Muhammed (pbuh) pleaded with the Jews (Banu Qaynuqa) to honor the treaty they had signed with him, the ‘Medina Constitution’, and to stop their fighting.
Their response was, ‘O Muhammad! Fall not under the illusion that you are invincible. The people with whom you have fought were inexperienced. By God, if you were to turn your arm against us, you will find us adept in the arts of war!’
But Allah Almighty tells us in the Holy Quran: ‘There has already been for you a Sign in the two armies that met (in combat): One was fighting in the cause of Allah, the other resisting Allah; these saw with their own eyes Twice their number. But Allah doth support with His aid whom He pleaseth. In this is a warning for such as have eyes to see.’
The Muslims now found themselves forced to fight the Jews, for already some of the other non-Muslims, like the Banu Nadir, the Banu Quraizah, as well as some of the Christians and non-aligned Arabs were starting to pass remarks. They openly showed their discontent.
For 15 consecutive days the Muslims blockaded the Banu Qaynuqa and confined them to their quarters. No one could leave and no one could enter. There was much discomfort amongst them. At length the Jews decided to surrender and give themselves up to the judgement of Muhammed (pbuh).
The Prophet (pbuh) then consulted with his advisers and after great deliberation the Prophet (pbuh) took the decision to kill all his captives.
Great consternation followed.
Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul, aligned to both Muslims and Jews, interceded: ‘Please, O, Muhammed (pbuh), have mercy on my Allies!
The Prophet (pbuh) refused.
‘I beg you, O, Muhammed (pbuh). Please take pity on their souls!’
And again the Prophet (pbuh) refused.
Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul became desperate and grabbed the Prophet (pbuh) by his shield, refusing to let go.
At this, the Prophet seemed rather angry and said with a loud voice, ‘Leave me; hands off!’
Ibn Ubayy replied, ‘No, by God, I shall not let you go until you give mercy to my proteges. Three hundred armed and four hundred unarmed men have so far protected me against every sort of people. Would you kill them all at once? By God, I will never agree to such a judgment, for I fear the turns of fortune!’
The Prophet (pbuh) finally relented and agreed to spare all his captives’ lives—provided they left Medina for good.
The stage was set for the next great confrontation in Islam.