The Holy Prophet had scarcely had time to wash and change on his return home after the lifting of the siege, when he felt a strong urge, which he interpreted as a divine direction, to deal with the situation that had been created by the treachery and rebellion of Banu Quraidhah. He therefore announced that everyone should get ready to set forth towards the strongholds of Banu Quraidhah, and that the afternoon Prayer service would be held in camp. He sent all in advance at the head of a small detachment to reconnoitre. When Ali arrived at the strongholds of Banu Quraidhah, he found them in a truculent mood, and when he sought to speak to their leaders they abused the Holy Prophet and shamelessly held up his wives to ridicule.
Shortly after the departure of Ali and his men, the Holy Prophet set out himself riding a horse accompanied by a large number of Muslims. When he was approaching the strongholds of Banu Quraidhah, he met by Ali who was waiting to receive him, and who suggested that the Holy Prophet should not proceed any further in person; the Muslims could resolve the situation between Banu Quraidhah and themselves. The Holy Prophet enquired from Ali whether his suggestion was prompted by any abuse of him by Banu Quraidhah. Ali replied in the affirmative, on which the Holy Prophet observed, ‘Never mind, they persecuted Moses even more than they have persecuted me.’ The Holy Prophet advanced with his followers and invested the strongholds of Banu Quraidhah.
In the beginning, the Jews behaved arrogantly and insolently. On one occasion, when a few Muslims had incautiously sat down in the shade of a wall of the stronghold, a Jewish woman cast down a heavy mill-stone upon them from the top of the wall, which killed one of the party, Khallad, and the others escaped. But as time passed they began to feel the privation and distress imposed upon them by the siege and began to cast about for means of relief. Their chief, Ka’ab bin Asad, made three proposals to them and told them to adopt whichever they pleased. He said, ‘My first proposal is that we should all believe in the truth of Muhammad, as events have proved it and our scriptures support him. Once we embrace Islam, all controversy between us would cease.’ His proposal was immediately and firmly rejected. He then said, ‘My second proposal is that we should slaughter our women and children and then, without fear of consequences, take up our swords and go forth and fight the Muslims.’ This proposal was also rejected as it was pointed out that after they had slaughtered their women and children, life would not be worth living. Finally, he said, ‘My last proposal is that as this is the eve of Sabbath, and Muhammad and the Muslims would be unwary, believing themselves secure against any action on our part, we should emerge suddenly from our strongholds during the night and attack the Muslim force. If they are taken by surprise, we might repel them and put them to flight.’ His people rejected this proposal also as they were afraid that they might incur divine wrath by dishonouring the Sabbath.
As their suffering and distress continued to mount, they thought of a device whereby they might be able to discover what the Holy Prophet had in mind concerning them, and they sent an emissary to the Holy Prophet requesting that Abu Lubaba bin Mundhar of Aus might be sent to them as that they might seek his advice. When he came to them, he was overcome by the piteous wailings of the Jewish children and the cries of the Jewish women, and in answer to the query whether Banu Quraidhah should offer to open their gates leaving their fate to be decided by the Holy Prophet, he nodded an affirmative, but, symbolically drawing his hand across his throat, intimated that they might fight to the last, as death was all they could expect. On retiring, he was greatly distressed that he had acted without any authority on the part of the Holy Prophet, and had been guilty of a grievous sin. So bitter was his remorse that he went and tied himself to a pillar in the mosque, occupying himself with supplication and seeking forgiveness. He continued in this condition till the Holy Prophet himself released him therefore. His indiscretion became ultimately the cause of the ruin of Banu Quraidhah, who, instead of throwing themselves upon the mercy of the Holy Prophet, determined upon resistance to the bitter end.
At last when the siege had continued for about three weeks, Banu Quraidhah sent word to the Holy Prophet that they were prepared to abide by whatever might be determined by Sa’d bin Muaz, chief of Aus, who still suffered from the injury inflicted upon him by an arrow in the trench, and was under treatment in a tent pitched in the courtyard of the mosque under the directions of the Holy Prophet. Aus had been, in pre-Islamic days, confederates of Quraidhah, and they expected that Sa’d would deal leniently with them. The Holy Prophet signified his assent and Sa’d was summoned. He was conducted to the camp, supported on the back of a donkey. During his progress his tribesmen crowded round him with appeals for mercy for Banu Quraidhah. He answered not a word till he approached the scene, and then replied, ‘Sa’d has been given the grace that he careth not, in the cause of God, for any reproach of the reproachful.’
In the meantime, three of Banu Quraidhah who had been convinced of the truth of Islam had declared themselves Muslims, and a fourth had been so ashamed of the treachery of his people that he had left them and had departed from Medina.
As Sa’d drew near, the Holy Prophet directed his Companions, ‘Stand up to meet your chief, and assist him to dismount.’ When Sa’d, having alighted, advanced towards the Holy Prophet, he told him, ‘Banu Quraidhah have accepted you as an arbiter and have agreed to abide by your decision.’ Sa’d turned himself to his people, who were still urging mercy upon him, and said, ‘Will ye bind yourselves by the covenant of God that whatever I shall decide, ye will accept?’ They assented. He then turned in the direction of the Holy Prophet and said, ‘Does he who is present here also promise to abide by my decision?’ The Holy Prophet replied, ‘I promise.’ Thereupon, Sa’d announced his judgment: ‘The able-bodied males of Quraidhah shall be put to death, their women and children shall be made prisoners and the spoils shall be divided amongst the Muslims,’ upon which the Holy Prophet observed, It appears that your judgment has been inspired by divine decree.’ There can be no doubt that the situation had so developed that Sa’d’s judgment was brought about by divine decree. Banu Quraidhah had requested that Abu Lubaba be sent to them, and he indicated something that was utterly without any basis, in consequence of which Banu Quraidhah had decided not to throw themselves upon the mercy of the Holy Prophet. At last, they had declared themselves ready to abide by the judgment of Sa’d, hoping that as chief of Aus, who had been their confederates, he would deal mercifully with them. On his side, Sa’d became determined that he would not let any ulterior consideration influence his judgment, which must conform to the will of God as he understood it. Before pronouncing his judgment, he secured the Holy Prophet’s express promise to give full effect to it. All this could not have been mere chance. It was the Divine Will that the judgment should be left to Sa’d, and it was the Divine Will that moved Sa’d to pronounce the judgment that he did, which was in accord with Deuteronomy 20:10-14. It was also the Divine Will that this terrible judgment, which the treachery and rebellion of Banu Quraidhah had earned, should not be pronounced by the Holy Prophet himself, but that he should be bound to carry it through to the full.
The Holy Prophet directed that the able-bodied men of Banu Quraidhah should be separated from their women and children, and should be separately conducted to Medina. In the city they were lodged in separate houses and, under the direction of the Holy Prophet, were well looked after.
The attitude of the Jews towards the Holy Prophet and the Muslims had, from the beginning, been at the best suspicious and at the worst treacherous. Concerning the situation at the time of the investment of Medina by Quraish and their allies, E. Dermenghem has observed (The Life of Mahomet, p. 326):
Quraish had allied themselves to the Bedouins and the Jews, and their formidable coalition was preparing to deal a decisive blow to Islam. The Banu Nadhir who had taken refuge at Khaibar incited their hosts against the new power that had risen threatening all anarchistic Arabia; they represented Muhammad as a tyrant waiting to put all the tribes into chains. The Bedouins of Tihama and Nejd joined Quraish in a body and the confederation had spies in the very heart of Medina amongst the Jews of Banu Quraidhah who desired, almost openly, the ruin of their burdensome ally …. The situation, if prolonged, might have become serious, the more so because Banu Quraidhah had allied themselves with the enemy.
Stanley Lane-Poole has observed (Studies in a Mosque, p. 68):
Of the sentences on the three clans, that of exile, passed upon two of them, was clement enough. They were a turbulent set, always setting the people of Medina by the ears; and finally, a brawl followed by an insurrection resulted in the expulsion of one tribe; and insubordination, alliance with enemies and a suspicion of conspiracy against the Prophet’s life, ended similarly for the second. Both tribes had violated the original treaty, and had endeavoured in every way to bring Muhammad and his religion to ridicule and destruction. The only question is whether their punishment was not too light. Of the third clan a fearful example was made, not by Muhammad, but by an arbiter appointed by themselves. When Quraish and their allies were besieging Medina and had well-nigh stormed the defences, this Jewish tribe entered into negotiations with the enemy, which were only circumvented by the diplomacy of the Prophet. When the besiegers had retired, Muhammad naturally demanded an explanation of the Jews. They resisted in their dogged way and were themselves besieged and compelled to surrender at discretion. Muhammad, however, consented to the appointing of a chief of a tribe allied to the Jews as the judge who should pronounce sentence upon them. This chief gave sentence that the men, in numbers some 600, should be killed, and the women and children enslaved; and the sentence was carried out. It was a harsh, bloody sentence; but it must be remembered that the crime of these men was high treason against the State, during a time of siege; and one need not be surprised at the summary execution of a traitorous clan.
The next morning, the judgment of Sa’d bin Muaz was put into effect. The Holy Prophet directed that every sentenced person should be executed separately, and not within sight of others. When Huyay bin Akhtab, chief of Banu Nadhir, was being led to execution, observing the Holy Prophet, he said, ‘Muhammad, I do not regret having opposed you, but the truth is that he who abandons God, is abandoned by God. No remedy is available against the decree of God. This is His command and His decree.’
When Ka’ab bin Asad, chief of Banu Quraidhah, was being conducted to the place of execution, the Holy Prophet urged him impliedly to the acceptance of Islam. He replied, ‘Abu Qasim, I am held back from embracing Islam only by the consideration that if I were to do so, it might be said that I had been afraid of death. So let me die a Jew.’
Zubair bin Batia was a leading member of Banu Quraidhah, who had at one time done a favour to a Muslim, Thabet bin Qais, who pleaded with the Holy Prophet that Zubair may be spared, to which he agreed. Thabet carried the good news to Zubair. He said his life would be worth little to him while his wife and children were prisoners. Thabet went back to the Holy Prophet and mentioned to him what Zubair had said, whereupon he directed that Zubair’s wife and children may be freed. When Thabet told Zubair of this further favour, he said, what would he and his wife and children subsist upon? Thabet again approached the Holy Prophet, who directed the restoration of his property to Zubair. When Thabet went to him with the news of this final concession, he inquired, ‘How have our chief, Ka’ab bin Asad, and the chief of the Jews of Arabia, Huyay bin Akhtab fared?’ Thabet told him that they had been executed, on which Zubair observed, ‘When they have been executed, what shall I do with my life?’
Another Jew, Rifa’h, persuaded a Muslim lady to plead for his life with the Holy Prophet, who gave effect to her plea and directed that Rifa’h’s life be spared. There were two or three other similar instances in which the Holy Prophet gave effect to a plea of mercy on behalf of a condemned person. In no single case did he reject such a plea. Someone reminded him that he had promised to give effect in full to the judgment of Sa’d bin Muaz, to which he replied that he was entitled to exercise the prerogative of mercy as the chief executive. This is an indication, that though he was bound to carry out Sa’d’s judgment, his own inclination was towards mercy. Approximately 400 men of Banu Quraidhah were executed under the judgment of Sa’d bin Muaz and were given proper burial under the directions of the Holy Prophet.
The women and children of Banu Quraidhah were held prisoners in Medina. Some of them obtained their freedom by payment of ransom and some were freed by the Holy- Prophet as a matter of grace. In the course of time, all of them became Muslims. The names of Atiyah Qurdhi, Abdur Rahman bin Zubair bin Bafla, Ka’ab bin Saleem and Muhammad bin Ka’ab, the last one a Muslim of note, are mentioned in this context by historians.
Though some Western writers like Stanley Lane-Poole and Margoliouth have not only justified the execution of Banu Quraidhah, but, in the words of Margoliouth, have pronounced it as inevitable and inescapable, yet several of them have criticized it in very harsh terms. For the benefit of such hostile critics, most of them Christians, and some of them Jews, a concrete instance might be cited from the Torah itself of the carrying into effect of the provisions in that behalf of Deuteronomy 20:10-14 (Numbers 31:6-12):
And Moses sent them to the war a thousand of every tribe… and they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males, and they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi and Rekem and Zur, and Hur, and Raba, five kings of Midian; Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captive, and their little ones, and took the spoils of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and their goodly castles, with fire. And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and beasts. And they brought the captives and the prey, and the spoils unto Moses, and – Eleazar the priest, and then to the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.
It has been mentioned that Sa’d bin Muaz, chief of Aus, had been wounded in one of the encounters during the siege of Medina by Quraish and their allies. After the lifting of the siege, the Holy Prophet had directed that he should be looked after in a tent in the courtyard of the mosque, where a Muslim lady of the name of Rafeidah, who was a trained nurse, was ministering to the wounded. Despite all her care, Sa’d’s injury did not improve and the wound repeatedly burst open. It was in this condition that he was summoned to act as arbiter in the matter of Banu Quraidhah. In the discharge of this function, Sa’d had to endure considerable fatigue and hardship and his health deteriorated still further. In that condition he supplicated earnestly one night, ‘Lord, Thou well knowest my eagerness to strive in the cause of Thy faith against the people who rejected Thy Prophet and expelled him from his home. Lord, I conceive that the armed struggle between Quraish and ourselves has come to an end. But if it is within Thy knowledge that there is to be still some further fighting with Quraish, I beg Thee to grant me enough time so that I might participate in such fighting. But if our fighting them has come to an end, I have no desire to live longer and do Thou permit me to die a martyr.’ It is reported that the same night Sa’d’s wound burst open and there was so much bleeding from it that some of the blood flowed out of the tent. Those who noticed it rushed into the tent and found that Sa’d was in extremity. He breathed his last shortly after.
The Holy Prophet was much grieved over Sa’d’s death which was an irreplaceable loss for the Muslims. Sa’d had occupied the same position among Ansar which was occupied by Abu Bakr among Emigrants. His sincerity, his devotion, his sacrifices in the cause of Islam, and his love of the Holy Prophet were almost matchless. Every action and every movement of his demonstrated that the love of Islam and of the Holy Prophet was the nurture of his soul. As he was chief of his tribe, his example had been a great source of strength for Ansar. The Holy Prophet bore his great loss with his customary fortitude. He led the funeral prayer over him, helped to carry the bier to the graveyard, supervised the burial and returned only after the burial had been completed and he had prayed over the grave.
Later in the same year, an earthquake was felt in Medina, whereupon the Holy Prophet admonished the Muslims that earthquakes and other such natural manifestations should cause a Muslim to be alert in all respects and to concentrate his attention upon his relationship with God.
About the same time, the Holy Prophet fell from his horse and received injuries to his leg, which necessitated his performing Salat in a sitting position.
By the end of the fifth year of the Hijra, the Muslims, having passed through all manner of trials and tribulations, and after suffering the extremes of distress and hardship, through the sheer grace of God became supreme in Medina, and therefore it might be said that at that time, a Muslim state had come into being. Islam has laid down only certain fundamental principles of statehood and has left the details to be worked out according to the needs and conditions of time, region, country and people.
The first fundamental principle is that there is perfect equality among people in matters of governance, and that authority for such governance is vested in the people, who should commit matters of administration into the hands of those best fitted to discharge them, as is said in the Holy Quran (4:59):
Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those best fitted to discharge them and those who are entrusted with them should carry out their duties with equity and justice. Excellent indeed is that with which Allah admonishes you. Allah is All Hearing, All Seeing.
In this verse, governance has been described as a trust, and the implication is that the authority of governance is vested in the people who should entrust it to those most competent among them for the discharge of such trust. Those who are so trusted must discharge their trust equitably and justly. This is illustrated by a well known hadith comprised in the compilation of Muslim, in which it is narrated that Abu Dhar, one of the principal Companions of the Holy Prophet, having begged him to be appointed a governor, was told, ‘Abu Dhar, you are a weak person; governance is a trust which, on the Day of judgment, may prove to have been a source of humiliation and remorse, except in the case of a person who discharges all its obligations to the full.’ In another hadith reported by Muslim it is narrated that the Holy Prophet said, ‘I do not appoint to public office anyone who asks for it or is desirous of it.’
Another fundamental principle is that those entrusted with authority in public matters should exercise that authority in consultation with the people. For instance, among the characteristics of the believers it is mentioned, ‘Those who hearken to their Lord, and observe Prayer and whose affairs are administered by mutual consultation, and who spend out of whatsoever We have bestowed upon them’ (42:39). The Holy Prophet himself was directed: ‘Take counsel with them in matters of administration, and when thou hast made up thy mind concerning a matter, put thy trust in Allah. Surely, Allah loves those who put their trust in Him’ (3:160).
These are the two great and firm pillars on which an Islamic state is based. First, that the authority for governance is vested in the people, and that they should entrust that authority to those most competent among them for its discharge; and second, that he who is entrusted with such authority should discharge it equitably and with justice, in consultation with the people. Islam does not admit any hereditary right of governance, nor does it permit the exercise of public authority without consultation with the people. There is no room for dictatorship in Islam. Details with regard to the manner of electing or selecting the head of state, the procedure for consultation with the people or their representatives, the scope of such consultation and such like, are left to be worked out and established by the people according to their needs and circumstances in every age and in every region. There are many considerations that bear upon these matters into which it is not necessary, or even permissible, to enter in the course of a biography.
One further development that had now taken place was that Quraish ceased to be the principal centre of opposition to Islam in Arabia. Opposition had now become widespread throughout the country and the scope of the responsibilities of the Holy Prophet and the Muslims was correspondingly expanded. One consequence of the widening of the horizon in this matter was that the area of the authority of the Muslim state increased progressively and a large number of non-Muslims became subject to that authority. The basic direction in this context is (5:9):
O ye who believe, be steadfast in the cause of Allah and be witnesses of justice to all concerned. Let not a people’s hostility towards you incite you to act contrary to justice; adhere to justice in all situations, that is closest to righteousness. Be mindful of your duty to Allah; surely, Allah is aware of all that you do.
Any treaties and covenants made with, or pledges given to, any people, must be strictly adhered to: ‘Fulfil every covenant, for you will be called to account for it’ (17:35). So much is this obligation stressed and insisted upon that, though it is the duty of a Muslim state to assist Muslims in the matter of religion, this obligation is subject to any covenant or treaty entered into by a Muslim state with a non-Muslim state or people, as is said (8:37):
You are under no obligation towards those who have believed but have not migrated, until they migrate. Nevertheless, if they seek your help in the matter of religion, it is incumbent on you to help them, except against a people between whom and yourselves there is a pact. Allah sees that which you do.
Concerning the non-Muslim subjects of a Muslim state, Bokhari has reported that the Holy Prophet said: ‘He who kills any of those towards whom the Muslim state is under an obligation will be deprived of the breezes of heaven.’ Abu Dawood has related that the Holy Prophet said: ‘If a Muslim wrongs one towards whom the Islamic state has undertaken an obligation, or causes him loss, or requires from him that which is beyond his capacity, or takes from him something without his free consent, I shall demand justice for such non-Muslim against his Muslim wrong-doer on the Day of Judgment.’ The Holy Quran goes further and prescribes: ‘Allah does not forbid you to be benevolent and to act equitably towards those who have not fought you because of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes. Surely, Allah loves those who are equitable’ (60:9).
The sixth year of the Hijra was one of considerable activity. No important battle was fought, nor any great expedition undertaken. But small parties were constantly in motion, for the chastisement of hostile tribes, or the interception of caravans, or for the repulse of robbers and marauders. There were as many as seventeen such affairs during the year. They generally resulted in the dispersion of the enemy and the capture of flocks and herds; they also served to uphold the prestige of Islam.
In the very beginning of the year, the Holy Prophet received intimation of some hostile design on the part of the clan Qurta, a branch of Banu Bakr, who were settled at Dhariyyah in Nejd, seven days’ journey from Medina. He dispatched a light detachment of thirty mounted men under the command of Muhammad bin Maslamah Ansari to Nejd. Little opposition was encountered and the clan scattered, leaving their women and children behind. Muhammad bin Maslamah took no action against the women and children and, having captured a number of camels and goats, returned to Medina. On the way back, they captured one person on suspicion of hostility who did not disclose his identity to them. In fact, he was Thumamah bin Uthal of Yamamah, an influential chief of Banu Haneefah. He was bitterly hostile towards Islam and was always after slaying innocent Muslims. On one occasion, he conspired to kill an emissary of the Holy Prophet who had been sent to his part of the country. On another occasion he planned to kill the Holy Prophet himself. He realized, therefore, that if his captors came to know of his identity he would be severely dealt with. When the party arrived in Medina and Thumamah was brought before the Holy Prophet, he recognized him immediately and inquired from his captors whether they knew him. They confessed their ignorance and the Holy Prophet told them who he was. He directed that Thumamah should be well treated and sent him food from his own house.
The Holy Prophet gave orders that Thumamah should be confined in the mosque by being secured against a pillar of the mosque, so that he was able to watch the prayer services of the Muslims and all the other activities of the Holy Prophet and his Companions. Every morning the Holy Prophet went to him and inquired what did he have in mind. Thumamah replied, ‘Muhammad, if you direct my execution, you would be justified as I have been guilty of grave offences against your people; but if you would extend benevolence to me, you would find me grateful. If you are willing to accept ransom, I am prepared to provide it.’ On the third morning the Holy Prophet directed that Thumamah should be set free. As soon as he was released, he walked quickly out of the mosque, and those who were present imagined that he was returning home. But he went to a garden nearby, having washed and bathed, returned to the mosque and embraced Islam at the hands of the Holy Prophet. Thereafter he submitted, ‘Messenger of Allah, there was a time when I entertained bitter enmity towards you and your faith and your city; but now you and your faith and your city are dearer to me than everything else.’
Sometime later, Thumamah submitted to the Holy Prophet, ‘Messenger of Allah, when I was captured I was on my way to the Ka’aba for the performance of Umra. Now, what is your pleasure concerning me?’ The Holy Prophet told him that he was free to proceed on his original errand, and gave him his blessings, and Thumamah left for Mecca. Having arrived in Mecca and performed the Umra he began to propagate Islam openly in Mecca. Quraish were outraged and seized him, and would have put an end to him but for the consideration that he was a chief of Yamamah and they had close commercial relations with Yamamah. So they rebuked him and let him go. When he was departing, he told Quraish that he would not let a grain of corn come to them from Yamamah unless the Holy Prophet permitted it. Arriving in Yamamah, he put his threat into effect and stopped the movement of the caravans of Quraish through Yamamah. As the greater part of the food supply of Mecca came from or through Yamamah, Quraish soon began to feel the pinch severely and they wrote to the Holy Prophet that, having regard to the kinship between them, he might be pleased to intervene and procure them relief from their distress. They followed this up by sending Abu Sufyan to Medina who described their distress to the Holy Prophet and sought his compassionate intervention, whereupon the Holy Prophet sent directions to Thumamah not to interfere with the movement of food supplies to Mecca, and the situation was thus relieved.
Thumamah continued the propagation of Islam zealously among his people and many of them were won over to Islam. Later, shortly after the death of the Holy Prophet when many of the Muslims in Yamamah turned away from Islam under the influence of Musailamah, the false claimant to Prophet hood, Thumamah not only stood firm himself, but, through his devoted efforts, he held back many from submitting to Musailamah and helped them so adhere steadfastly to Islam. He rendered outstanding service to Islam during that crisis.
At one time Banu Tha’lbah, in their search for pasture, were tempted to advance beyond their usual limits in the direction of Medina. Herds of camels belonging to the Muslims had been sent out to graze in the same direction. They offered a tempting prize for a foray, and neighbouring tribes were suspected to be gathering for the purpose. Muhammad bin Maslamah was deputed by the Holy Prophet to visit the locality with ten followers and ascertain how matters stood. At Dhul Qassa, two or three days’ distance from Medina, he was surrounded at night by overpowering numbers. After a short resistance, his men were all slain, and he himself was left for dead on the field. Someone who knew him, happening to pass that way, assisted him on his journey back to Medina. Bodies of forty well mounted fighters were dispatched under Abu Obadiah to chastise the offenders; but they had dispersed among the neighbouring heights and beyond the capture of some flocks and household stuff, no reprisals were effected.
During the autumn of that year a well-freighted caravan from Mecca venturing to resume the sea-shore route to Syria was overpowered at ‘Ees and was carried into Medina with a large store of silver and some of those who guarded it as prisoners. Among these was Abul Aas, son-in-law of the Holy Prophet. He was a nephew of Khadija and was a prosperous trader in Mecca. While declining to embrace Islam, he had equally resisted the bidding of Quraish to abandon his wife, Zainab, daughter of the Holy Prophet, and choose one of their daughters in her stead. ‘I will not separate from my wife,’ he said, ‘neither do I desire any other woman from amongst your daughters.’ The Holy Prophet much appreciated his faithfulness to Zainab. The attachment was mutual, for when the family migrated to Medina; Zainab remained behind at Mecca with her husband.
In the battle of Badr, Abul Aas had been amongst the captives, and when Quraish deputed men to ransom their prisoners, Zainab sent by their hands such property as she had for her husband’s freedom. Among these things was a necklace, which Khadija had given to her on her marriage. The Holy Prophet, seeing this touching memorial of Khadija, was deeply moved, and said to his Companions, ‘If it seems right in your eyes, let my daughter’s husband go free, and send these trinkets back.’ All agreed, but as the condition of his freedom, the Holy Prophet required of Abul Aas that he should at once send Zainab to Medina. Accordingly, on his return to Mecca, he sent her away mounted on a camel-litter in charge of his brother Kinana. Certain of the baser sort, however, from amongst Quraish, went in pursuit, determined to bring her back. The first that appeared was Habbar, who struck her camel with his spear, and so a frightened Zainab as to bring on a miscarriage. Kinana at once made the camel sit down, and by the mere show of his bow and well-filled quiver, kept the pursuers at bay. Just then, Abu Sufyan came up and held parley with Kinana, ‘Ye should not,’ he said, ‘have forth thus publicly, known the disaster we have so lately sustained at the hands of Muhammad. The open departure of his daughter would be regarded as proof of our weakness and humiliation. But it is no object of ours to keep back this woman from her father, or to retaliate our wrongs upon her. Return, therefore, for a little while to Mecca, and when this excitement shall have died away, then set out secretly.’ His advice was followed, and some days after, Zainab, escorted by Zaid, who had been sent to fetch her, reached Medina in safety.
It was three or four years after this that Abul Aas was now again made prisoner with the caravan at ‘Ees. As the party carrying him captive approached Medina, he contrived by night to have an interview with Zainab, who gave him the guarantee of her protection, upon which he rejoined the other prisoners. At morning Prayer she called aloud from her apartment that she had passed her word to Abul Aas. When prayers were ended, the Holy Prophet thus addressed the assembly; ‘Ye have heard, as I have, the voice of my daughter. I call God to witness, that I knew nothing of her guarantee until this moment. But the pledge even of the least of us must be kept.’ Thus saying, he retired to his daughter, and desired her to treat Abul Aas with honour, as a guest, but not to recognize him as her husband. Then sending for the captors of the caravan, he reminded them of his connection with Abul Aas, and said, ‘If ye treat him well, and return his property unto him, it would be pleasing to me; but if not, the booty is yours which the Lord hath given unto your hands, and it is your right to keep it.’ They all with one consent agreed to let the prisoner go free, and returned to him his property. This generosity, and the continued attachment of Zainab, so wrought on Abul Aas, that when he had adjusted his affairs at Mecca, he made profession of Islam and rejoined her at Medina. Their domestic happiness, however, was not of long duration, for Zainab died the following year from the illness caused by the attack of Habbar at Mecca.
About the same time Medina was early one morning startled by a cry of alarm from the adjoining height of Sal’a. The chieftain Oyeina, with a troop of Fezara horse, came down upon the plain of Ghaba, within a few miles of Medina, fell upon the camels of the Holy Prophet which were grazing there, drove them off, and having killed the keeper, carried off his wife. An Ansari, early on his way to the pasture lands, saw the marauding band and gave the alarm. Troops of horses were dispatched at once in pursuit, and the Holy Prophet himself with some 600 men followed shortly after. The advance party hung daringly upon the rear of the marauders, slew several of them, and recovered half of the plundered camels. On the side of the Muslims only one man was killed. The Holy Prophet, with the main body, marched onwards as far as Dhu Qarad, in the direction of Khaibar; but by this time, the robbers were safe away in the desert. The wife of the keeper of the camels effected her escape on one of the plundered camels which she vowed to offer up as sacrifice of thanksgiving on reaching her home in safety. On mentioning her vow to the Holy Prophet, he rallied her on the ingratitude of seeking to slay the animal which had saved her life, and which was not hers to offer up. He bade her to go to her home in peace.
In the same year, Dihya was sent by the Holy Prophet on a mission to one of the governors of Syria. He was graciously received, and was presented with a dress of honour. On his way home, he was plundered of everything near Wadil Qura by the tribe of Judham. A neighbouring tribe, under treaty with the Holy Prophet, attacked the robbers, recovered the spoils, and restored his property to Dihya. On the news of the robbery reaching the Holy Prophet, he dispatched Zaid with 500 men to chastise the delinquents. Marching by night and concealing themselves by day, they fell unexpectedly upon Judham, killed their leader and several others, and carried off some women and children, with all their herds and flocks. It so happened that the branch thus punished had, unknown to Zaid, just tendered submission to the Holy Prophet. Their chief hastened to Medina and appealed to the Holy Prophet against these proceedings and demanded justice. On the Holy Prophet repeatedly expressing his grief over the death of those who had been slain, the chief submitted that they were prepared to overlook their death as a result of misunderstanding, but that their prisoners should be released and their herds and flocks should be restored to them. The Holy Prophet acknowledged the justice of the demand and sent Ali to effect restoration. He met Zaid returning to Medina, and the prisoners and the booty were immediately surrendered to the chief.
Soon after, Abdul Rahman bin Auf was sent with 700 men on a second expedition to Dumatul Jandal, whence trouble was expected. He was first to gain over the people, if possible, and fight only in the last resort. But in no case, directed the Holy Prophet, shalt thou use deceit or perfidy, or kill any woman or child. On reaching Dumatul Jandal, Abdul Rahman summoned the tribes around to embrace Islam, and allowed them three days’ grace. Within that period, Al-Asbagh, a Christian chief of Banu Kalb, gave his adherence, and many of the tribe followed his example. Others preferred to be tributaries, with the condition of being allowed to retain profession of the Christian faith. Abdul Rahman sent tidings of this success to the Holy Prophet, who in reply desired him to marry Tomadhir, daughter of the chief. Abdul Rahman accordingly married the lady, who bore him Abu Salamah, a famous jurist of after days.
It has been mentioned that a party of Banu Nadhir, after their exile, had settled down among their brethren at Khaibar. One of their leaders, Huyay bin Akhtab, had been executed along with Banu Quraidhah. But another of their leaders, Sallam bin Abu Huqaiq, generally known as Abu Rafe’, was now the centre of their intrigues. He had taken a prominent part in the confederate force, which had besieged Medina and was now busy in inciting Ghatafan and other tribes of Nejd to further depredations and aggression. Five men of Khazraj were appointed to carry out the execution of Abu Rafe’, which they accomplished successfully. Abu Rafe’s place among the Jews of Khaibar was taken by Usair bin Razam, who was not less bitterly opposed to Islam and the Muslims than Abu Rafe’. He now determined to carry into effect the designs of Abu Rafe’ which he had not been able to accomplish. His very first action was to harangue the assembled Jews, informing them that he had determined upon certain new plans through which, with the help of Ghatafan and other tribes, he would accomplish the ruin of Islam and the Muslims. Thereafter, he started visiting Ghatafan and other tribes of Nejd and so provoked them that they began to prepare another expedition against Medina. When the Holy Prophet learnt of his activities, he sent Abdullah bin Rawaha with three Companions to Khaibar, to gather intelligence and return quickly. On their return they reported that what they had seen and heard left no doubt in their minds that the Jews were actively plotting against the Holy Prophet and the Muslims. About the same time, a non-Muslim, Kharajah bin Husail, happened to arrive in Medina from the direction of Khaibar and confirmed the report of Abdullah bin Rawaha. He said that he had left Usair making preparation to lead an attack against Medina. The Holy Prophet thereupon decided to make an effort to come to some understanding with Usair whereby all these conspiracies and alarms and excursions might be terminated and conditions of peace and security might be established. If Usair could be persuaded to abandon his mischievous activities directed against the Muslims, he could be acknowledged as the chief of Khaibar. With this in mind, he deputed Abdullah bin Rawaha and thirty Companions to proceed to Khaibar and to persuade Usair to come to Medina with a view of discussing such a possibility. When Abdullah’s party arrived in Khaibar they called upon Usair to guarantee their security while they were in Khaibar; Usair agreed to do so on a mutual basis. During the conversation that ensued Abdullah explained that the Holy Prophet’s purpose was to establish peace and security and to put an end to all fighting and hostility, and that the best way of achieving this was that he should himself proceed to Medina and talk directly to the Holy Prophet. If an understanding could be reached, the Holy Prophet would deal graciously with him and might recognize him as the chief of Khaibar. Usair expressed his approval of such a design and called together the leading personalities among the Jews of Khaibar for consultation. Most of them opposed the plan and in order to discourage Usair said that they did not expect that Muhammad would acknowledge him as chief of Khaibar. He told them that his own appraisal of the situation was that Muhammad was sick of the constant state of conflict and hostility and was anxious to put an end to it.
Thus Usair bin Razam agreed to accompany Abdullah bin Rawaha and his party to Medina and, on his side, selected an equal number of Jews to accompany him to Medina. It is difficult to determine whether he had any secret design in his mind against Abdullah and his party, or whether he changed his mind after the two parties had set out from Khaibar on the journey to Medina. What happened is that when the parties arrived at Qarqarah, distant six miles from Khaibar, in the course of an apparently amicable conversation Usair stretched his hand towards the sword of Abdullah bin Unais Ansari who, apprehending mischief from him, spurred his mount forward and then veering round towards Usair called out to him, ‘Enemy of God, have you determined upon treachery?’ To which Usair made no reply. Abdullah repeated his question but Usair still remained silent and adopted an aggressive attitude. This was possibly a predetermined signal for the Jews to fall upon the Muslims and to destroy them. Swords were drawn on both sides and though the parties were equal in number and several of the Muslims were wounded, yet none of them was killed and they succeeded in disposing of all the Jews.
Abu Sufyan had since his frustrated flight from Medina after the siege felt greatly humiliated and thought that the best way of wiping out his disgrace would be to procure the assassination of the Holy Prophet through some device. He knew that the Holy Prophet went about freely in Medina, and spent the greater part of his day in the
Mosque or other places among his people, and that there was no one to guard him and that, therefore, anyone who had a murderous design against him could easily carry it into effect. He continued to brood over this and, having made up his mind, he one day incited a party of young men that one of them should carry out his design and thus rid the country of the source of all trouble. A few days later, a Bedouin youth came to Abu Sufyan and told him that he had come to know of his design and that he was prepared to carry it out if he was appointed for the purpose and was helped in achieving it. He said he was familiar with the route to Medina and that he had a sharp dagger, which he knew how to conceal on his person so that no one would suspect that he was carrying it. He would, on finding a suitable opportunity, attack Muhammad, and having afflicted a mortal injury upon him, would escape and join some caravan so that the Muslims would not be able to trace him. Abu Sufyan approved of his design, provided him with a fast camel and needed provisions, and promised him a large reward on his return after accomplishing his mission. He warned him not to disclose his design to anyone.
This person travelling secretly by night arrived in Medina after six days, and finding that the Holy Prophet was at the time in the mosque of Bani Abdul Ashhal, immediately proceeded thither. As soon as the Holy Prophet perceived him among the people in the mosque, he said that this person was bent upon some mischief. Hearing this, he advanced rapidly towards the Holy Prophet but Usyad bin Hudhair, chief of Aus, seized him in his embrace, and in the struggle discovered the dagger, which he had concealed on his person. When he had been overpowered and made secure the Holy Prophet asked him to tell him truly who he was and what was his purpose. He replied that he would disclose everything if his life was spared. He was assured that if he told the truth, he would be forgiven, whereupon he related the whole story from beginning to end and also mentioned what reward Abu Sufyan had promised him. He continued for some days in Medina and at the end voluntarily embraced Islam.
The Holy Prophet, having been alerted of Abu Sufyan’s design, dispatched Amr bin Umayya Dhamri and Salama bin Aslam to Mecca to gather whatever intelligence they could, and, if they found an opportunity to do away with Abu Sufyan, they might put an end to him. When they arrived in Mecca, their identity was discovered and they returned to Medina. On the way back, they encountered two Quraish spies and in the attempt to capture them one of them was killed in the scuffle and the other was brought captive to Medina.
These were dangerous times for the Muslims. Under the instigation of Quraish and the Jews, the whole country was aflame with enmity towards them. The enemies of Islam had, for the moment, abandoned any design of open attack against Medina but had adopted the policy of causing the utmost harm and damage to the Muslims by all secret and perfidious means. One of the links in this foul chain was the deceitful design of certain men of ‘Ak and Urainah clans of Bedouins. Eight of them arrived in Medina and, professing love for and attachment to Islam, became Muslims. After some time, they represented to the Holy Prophet that the damp climate of Medina had upset their stomachs and spleens and that as they were not accustomed to city life and had lived in the open among animals they might be permitted to go and live somewhere outside Medina. The Holy Prophet told them to go and live among his herd of camels grazing in the plain south of Qaba, and drink of their milk. Following his advice, they soon recovered their strength, and suddenly, one day, attacked the keepers of the camels, and, having overpowered them, tortured them in diverse ways till they succumbed to the torment inflicted upon them. They then rounded up the camels and drove them away with them. One of the keepers, who had escaped, carried the tale of this tragedy to the Holy Prophet, whereupon a party of twenty was immediately dispatched in their pursuit, who overtook them after they had traversed a short distance and, having secured them with ropes, brought them to the Holy Prophet, who in accordance with his practice, that in default of any revealed commandment with reference to any situation, he followed the Mosaic law, directed that they should be treated in the same way as they had treated their victims. The directions of the Mosaic law in this context may be gathered from the following: ‘And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe’ (Exodus, 21:23-5); and: ‘If a man cause a blemish to his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: As he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again’ (Leviticus, 24:19-20). After this event, however, the Holy Prophet was vouchsafed the revelation: ‘The recompense of an injury is a penalty in proportion thereto; but whoso forgives and effects a reform thereby has his reward with Allah’ (42:41). Thereafter, as Bokhari has mentioned, the Holy Prophet urged benevolence and good treatment even of the enemy and utterly forbade mutilation.