The Final Blow to Jewish Mischief: The Conquest of Khaybar

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What is the conquest of khaybar?

The Jews of Khaybar had joined the hypocrites in taking the Treaty of Hudaybiyah at face value and assuming it to be a supposed reflection of the inner weakness of Muslims. Incited by the many exiled Jews who had taken refuge in their forts, a great fire of antagonism soon took Khaybar in its flames. The Jews promised to give half their yearly crops to the tribe of Ghatafan, provided they joined forces with them against the Believers. With Ghatafan more than ready and prepared to collaborate, they quickly thought of ways to put their forces into effect. Sending an army to Medina was the proposed scheme.[1]

To curb Jewish hostility, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- sent Abdullah ibn Rawaha -Allah be well-pleased with him- to Khaybar to ensure peace. The Companion soon returned with an unwelcoming refusal. A battle had become inevitable and a march on Khaybar was now imminent. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- declared:

“Let only those who want jihad join us!” (Ibn Sad, II, 92, 106)

Medina, on another note, was located right between Mecca and Khaybar; and thus each time there was a war with Mecca, Khaybar always posed a potential threat from behind.

The Companions enthusiastically heeded the Blessed Prophet’s call. However, the Prophet of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- did not allow entry for those who were not present at Hudaybiyah. The Muslim army had suffered on more than an occasion, in the most delicate of times, from the betrayals of hypocrites, who had previously somehow managed to sneak in during previous campaigns with the sole incentive of acquiring spoils. The same people now desperately wanted to join, in hope of laying their hands on the dazzling riches of the Khaybar Jews. They were thus denied. Besides, that was the Will of the Allah, glory unto Him:

“…Say: You shall never tag along with us!” (al-Fath, 15)

The Muslim preparation for Khaybar cast anxiety over the remaining Jews in Medina, still bound to a treaty with the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. They had a hunch feeling that their fellow Jews of Khaybar were awaiting a similar loss that had previously befallen Qaynuqa, Nadir and Qurayza. In hope of perhaps weakening the Believers, every Jew in Medina who had a Muslim owing him money asked for an immediate payment. The below incident, together with attesting to this change of circumstance, also exemplifies the Blessed Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- sensitivity in observing the rights of others:

Abu Shahm, a Jew, had Abdullah ibn Hadrad -Allah be well-pleased with him- owing him five dirhams for some barley he had sold. When Abu Shahm abruptly asked him to close his debt, Ibn Hadrad -Allah be well-pleased with him-, urged him to give him “…a little more time. Allah willing, I will close my debt, for the Almighty has promised His Messenger the spoils of Khaybar. We are going to the richest town in the whole of Hijaz!”

These words only fueled the anger and jealousy of the Jew.

“Do you think the Jews of Khaybar are like the Arabs you have fought until now? I swear on the Torah that there are ten-thousand warriors there!”

“You enemy of Allah”, replied Ibn Hadrad -Allah be well-pleased with him-, “you are forgetting you live under our protection. By Allah, I will take you to the Messenger of Allah!” He then took him by the arm and brought him to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

“Listen to what this Jew is saying, Messenger of Allah”, he then said, recounting to him the words of Abu Shahm. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- kept silent and did not say a word. They could only observe a slight movement of his lips but they were unable to make out what he said.

“He has committed injustice against me, Abu’l-Kasim”, complained the Jew. “He has not closed his debt!”

“Give him what is his due”, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- told Ibn Hadrad.

Ibn Hadrad spoke of his poverty and assured he would pay Abu Shahm off with the spoils of Khaybar. Still, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- repeated his command twice. Thereupon Ibn Hadrad -Allah be well-pleased with him- went to the bazaar. When he returned, he had taken the clothes of his back and enshrouded himself in his imamah.

“I will sell you my clothes”, he said to the Jew, who agreed to buy them for four dirhams with which he was able to close off his debt. (Ahmad, III, 423; Waqidi, II, 634-635)

As the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was leading the army of Companions towards Khaybar, he was seeking refuge in the Almighty, like always, with the following prayer:

“Allah, the Lord of the seven heavens and what is under, the seven earths and what is inside, of the devils and whom they lead astray, the winds and what they hurl! We ask from You the good of this town, its dwellers and what is inside of it! And we seek refuge in You from the evils of this town, its dwellers and what is inside of it!”[2] (Ibn Hisham, III, 379; Waqidi, II, 642)

On the way, the Companions began to shout takbir, in the form of ‘Allah-u Akbar Allah-u Akbar; La ilaha ill-Allah-u w-Allahu Akbar!’ The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- then urged them to “Have mercy on yourselves, for you are not addressing one who is deaf; nor is your collocutor absent! You are addressing One who Sees and Hears you, and is with you wherever you may be. The One who you pray, is closer to each of you than the neck of his mount!” (Bukhari, Daawat, 50, 67; Muslim, Dhikr, 44)

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- arrived at Khaybar at night and waited until daybreak, appropriate to his custom of never launching an onslaught at night and always waiting until morning, to strike. Come morning, the Jews left their forts with their shovels and picks, to work at their fields as usual. But seeing the Muslim army encamped right in front of their forts, they ran back inside, screaming, “It is Muhammad…Muhammad and his army!”

Thereupon the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- said, “Allah-u Akbar…Destroyed is Khaybar! When we descend on their land, awful shall then be the morning of those who were warned!” (Bukhari, Maghazi, 38; Ibn Hisham, III, 380)

The Prophet of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- set up his camp right at Raji, between Ghatafan and Khaybar, thereby cutting the access of the two allies with one another and preventing their planned, mutual aid. In fact, when Ghatafan did make an attempt to help the Jews compliant with their requests, they had no other choice than to return, in fright, seeing their path had been cut by the Believers. Forced to battle the Muslims all on their own, the Jews of Khaybar, on the other hand, retreated into their forts.

Someone during the siege had spread rumors among the Jews to incite them to take arms against the Muslims, as indicated by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- :

“A devil came to the Jews and said, ‘Muhammad is fighting you only to take possession of your wealth!’ Call out to them, ‘Say La ilaha ill-Allah and therewith protect your wealth and blood…as to your trial in the Hereafter that is upto Allah!’”

The Jews were called out to in that fashion but their response was, “By the Torah of Musa which we have with us, neither will we do what you want us to do, nor will we leave our religion!” (Waqidi, II, 653)

The siege lasted for days. The Believers had almost run out of supplies. The Battle was becoming really severe. Muslims were giving many casualties, while many others were carrying heavy wounds. Regardless, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- had only calling people to Allah, glory unto Him, in mind. An incident during the siege of Khaybar, which goes to show that the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- never saw anyone unimportant when it came to calling them to Islam, saw the Prophet of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- explain Islam, at length, to a slave herding some sheep belonging to a Jew near the forts, eventually guiding him to the light of truth.[3] Such was how it all unfolded:

Yasar, who used to earn his living through shepherding of a herd of sheep belonging to a Jew, came across the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- one morning while herding outside the walls of the fort. After some talking, Yasar decided to become Muslim and changed his name to Aslam on the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- recommendation. He then asked the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- as to what to do with the sheep entrusted in his care.

“Turn them back and chase them!” advised the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- . “Have no doubt…they shall all return to their owner.”

Aslam then grabbed a handful of pebbles from the ground and flung them towards the sheep, shouting, “Go on; return to your owners…By Allah, we are parting ways forever!”

The sheep meekly turned back in unison and entered the fort, as if someone had been guiding them along. Aslam then joined the rest of the Muslims in their battle beneath the walls of the fort.[4]

Taking active part in the battle the instant he became Muslim, Aslam -Allah be well-pleased with him- was martyred a short while later. His corpse was subsequently brought to the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-, who, staring at the deceased Aslam for a while with a group of Companions around him, suddenly turned his face towards another direction. When asked for the reason, he explained:

“He is now with his two wives of the lovely-eyed houris!” (Ibn Hisham, III, 398; Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, I, 38-39)

At a stage when the Battle had really begun to test the Believers’ forbearance, as they were becoming overwhelmed with fatigue from having all their onslaughts repelled, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- announced:

“Tomorrow, I shall give my flag to someone through whose hands Allah will grant the fall of Khaybar. He loves Allah and His Messenger and Allah and His Messenger love him…”

The Companions present at the battle spent the night wondering and speculating who would end up with the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- flag. With the break of day, they all rushed next to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- in hope of being the one to have attained the love of Allah, glory unto Him, and His Messenger. So lively was their enthusiasm that Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- later confessed, “I have never wished to be commander more than I did that day. I kept on trying to make myself noticed hoping the Messenger of Allah would call me!”

To give the flag, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- ultimately sent for Ali  -Allah be well-pleased with him-, who, carrying an illness of the eye at the time, had to be carried to the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- presence; he could not even see in front of him. Seeing Ali -Allah be well-pleased with him- struggling to see, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- breathed into his eyes and with the permission of the Almighty, ‘the Lion of Allah’ was healed. The Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- then donned him in armor and handing the flag to him, said:

“Advance now, Ali…and do not look left or right until Allah grants you the fath!”

Ali -Allah be well-pleased with him- pressed forward instantly and then stopped. He then asked, without looking behind, “What shall I fight them for, Messenger of Allah?”

“Fight them until they bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger. If they accept, unless they commit what the religion forbids, they will have protected their wealth and blood from you, and their true accounts will remain for Allah to settle. Approach them slowly and calmly. First, invite them to Islam. A single person guided through your call is better for you than to be given red camels!” (Bukhari, Ashab’un-Nabi, 9; Muslim, Fadail’us-Sahabah, 32-34; Haythami, VI, 151)

The Jews’ most famed warriors were all slain that day. Khaybar fell, with all its eight forts, two of which surrendered without fighting. What the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- previously foretold came true. The Jews had ninety-three casualties in total, compared to the fifteen Muslim martyrs.[5]

Abu Hurayrah -Allah be well-pleased with him- explains:

“We were with the Messenger of Allah at the Khaybar Campaign. Regarding one who used to say he was a Muslim, the Messenger of Allah said, ‘He is in Hellfire’. When the battle eventually broke out, that man fought valiantly and received a heavy wound. Some Companions informed the Messenger of Allah, saying, ‘the man who you just declared to be in Hellfire has fought courageously and died!’ The Messenger of Allah, again, said, ‘He has gone to Hell!’

Some Muslims were in the verge of falling into doubt following the response. And then, a short while later, they told the Messenger of Allah that the man had not yet died after all but is lying with a fatal wound. At night, the man could no longer bear the pain and pushing his body against the sharp edge of the sword, committed suicide. The Messenger of Allah was made aware of the situation.

Allah-u Akbar…! I bear witness that I am a servant and messenger of Allah’, he said. He then commanded Bilal -Allah be well-pleased with him- to announce, ‘Only Muslims will enter Paradise. This much is certain that Allah strengthens this religion with a sinner, too.’” (Bukhari, Jihad, 182, Maghazi, 38; Qadar, 5; Muslim, Iman, 178)

Following the victory at Khaybar, the Jews wished to remain working on their lands in return for giving half the produce. So, the Prophet of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- did not send all the Jews into exile. On the condition that he could expel them when he saw fit, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- accepted the Jews’ offer of working on these fertile lands and receiving half of the entire harvest. These Jews remained on the land until the caliphate of Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him-.[6]

Abdullah ibn Rawaha -Allah be well-pleased with him- was assigned to go to Khaybar each year to estimate and collect half the harvest from the Jews as agreed. So irritated the Jews soon became with the diligence and precision of Ibn Rawaha -Allah be well-pleased with him- in estimating the crops, that they even offered to bribe him to be shown a little lenience.

“For all that you have done, you are, by Allah, the most despicable to me among the entire creation of Allah. Still, that does not prevent me from being just towards you. What you offer me is a bribe; and indulging in bribery is impermissible. We do not touch that!” Ibn Rawaha -Allah be well-pleased with him- pronounced.

“‘It is with such justice”, replied the Jews in admiration, “that the skies and earth remain in order!” (Muwatta, Musaqat, 2)

[1] See, Waqidi, II, 530-531, 566, 640; Ibn Saad, II, 92.

[2] This is a prayer the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- used to always say right before entering a given settlement, when he saw the settlement from a distance. (Hakim, I, 614/1634)

[3] Ibn Hisham, III, 398.

[4] Ibn Hisham, III, 397-398; Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, I, 38-39.

[5] In allusion to the event, Sayyid Sayfullah says,

“Praise not the bad for a loaf of bread, for that is ignorance, bleak,

Destroy your Khaybar like self, for that is courage at its peak…”

[6] Muslim, Musaqat, 5; Abu Dawud, Kharaj, 23-24/3007.

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, The Prophet Muhammed Mustafa the Elect II, Erkam Publications

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