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The Banu Quraizah Massacre: The Story of an Israelite Tribe in 7th Century Arabia

The story of Banu Quraizah; sometimes seen written as Bani Qurayzah, Koreiza, Kurayza, Quraiza, or Quraytha, is an interesting and sad one. One that is shrouded around a lot of different accounts of the historic event. Whether some items of the story are disputed or not, it does not change its validity in history; meaning the fact that it happened.

The Quraizah tribe were a group of Israelites that were living in the city of Yathrib in Arabia during the 7th century. According to history, they fled there seeking refuge, safety and peace from the invasion of Jerusalem by the Romans known as the Israelite-Roman wars. One source says that they; Banu Quraizah, 'claimed' Israelite descent and were dubbed the "priestly tribe;" meaning that they were of Levitical origin or from the Tribe of Levi. This source also says that the Quraizah tribe intermarried with the Arabs. It goes on further to say that this tribe's lineage was traced back to Aaron and Abraham with only eight (8) people or generations in between Aaron and the said founder of the Quraizah tribe.

"Just like the other Jews of Yathrib, the Qurayza claimed to be of Israelite descent and observed the commandments of Judaism, but adopted many Arab customs and intermarried with Arabs. They were dubbed the "priestly tribe" (kahinan in Arabic from the Hebrew kohanim)."

"Ibn Ishaq, the author of the traditional Muslim biography of Muhammad, traces their genealogy to Aaron and further to Abraham but gives only eight intermediaries between Aaron and the purported founder of the Qurayza tribe."

Source: Wikipedia: Banu Qurayzah - "History In Pre-Islamic Arabia"

These Israelites were said to have introduced agriculture to the city of Yathrib by growing date palms and even cereals. This gave them a major upper hand in the politics and economics over the local Arabs. The early Muslim historian Al-Waqidi, an early Muslim historian wrote that "the Banu Qurayza were people of high lineage and of properties." Ibn Khordadbeh, a high ranking bureaucrat of Persian descent stated that these Israelites of the Quraizah tribe worked as tax collectors for the Shah at that time.

The Quraizah tribe were very valuable to the community and society that they had come to live in after fleeing from Israel. Anyone who knows history, knows that having Jews and Muslims living side by side in peace was not an uncommon thing. So what caused this massacre?

As I have said before, I have come across many different accounts of what actually happened between Muhammed; the leader of Islam, and Banu Quraizah the massacred Israelite tribe on that fateful day in January 627 AD in Yathrib, Saudi Arabia. The most common account is that there was an established treaty (The Constitution of Medina) between Muhammed and the Israelites stating that the Israelites would help Muhammed defend himself and the new converts of Islam against the other Pre-Islamic Arab polytheistic tribes that were against Muhammed and the spreading of his new religion. Some historians say that "this "treaty" is possibly a collage of agreements, of different dates, and that it is not clear when they were made." Other historians state, "that the Qurayza and Nadir were probably mentioned in an earlier version of the Constitution requiring the parties not to support an enemy against each other." (Note: Nadir is another Israelite Tribe in 7th century Arabia).

Other historians doubt that this "treaty" ever existed.

On the day of the siege, Muhammed accused the Israelite tribe of treason, meaning that they were supposedly in breach of their "treaty" by helping the other Arab tribe (Quraysh) in their attack against the Muslims. These claims, I believe were vehemently denied by the Quraizah tribe. It is said that after the Meccan non-Islamic Arabs withdrew from the Battle to claim and siege Yathrib, the Quraizah tribe retreated in their stronghold for 25 days at the which they were presented with three options by Muhammed and his men: embrace Islam; kill their own children and women, then rush out for a charge to either win or die; or make a surprise attack on the Sabbath. All of these ridiculous options we denied. According to sources, the Quraizah tribe was advised to surrender to Muhammed by Abu Lubaba one of their said allies. The Quraizah was said to have listened to his advice and surrendered to Muhammed and his Muslim companions. After the surrender of the Quraizah tribe, 400-900 men and adolescent boys were said to have been beheaded in a trench that Muhammed had dug out for this occasion. Most Muslim scholars and historians deny this number but they do admit that some Israelite men, and boys along with 1 woman (said to have kill a Muslim) were beheaded from the Quraizah tribe.

I think it is very important to place here this tidbit of information that comes straight from the Wikipedia source: "The circumstances of the Qurayza's demise have been related by Ibn Ishaq and other Muslim historians who relied upon his account." Ibn Ishaq was an 8th century Muslim historian who collected oral traditions. He lived in the 8th century, one hundred years after this incident occurred. So all of the accounts of what happened to this Israelite tribe were collected and recounted by Muslims. As far as I can see at this point there are no Israelite accounts of what happened, only Muslim recounts, which to me leaves a lot of gray areas.

It must be pointed out that the other Israelite tribes in the area; Banu Qaynuqa and the Banu Nadir were both expelled by Muhammed because of questionable means. The Banu Qaynuqa were said to have been a threat to Muhammed's political position as well as having been accused of assaulting a Muslim woman, demanding that she remove her face covering to reveal her face and when she refused the Israelite goldsmith was said to have pinned her garment in such a way that revealed her leg(s) when she got up. This account has also been disputed. Muslims hold that this was some type of violation against the "treaty" (Constitution of Medina) in the same way that the Quraizah tribe was in violation of the "treaty," whereas others completely disagree. They believe that there is no clear reason as to why Muhammed decided to attack and expel this Israelite tribe.

Muhammed has been quoted as saying to them: "O Jews, beware lest God brings on you the like of the retribution which he brought on Quraysh. Accept Islam, for you know that I am a prophet sent by God. You will find this in your scriptures and in God's covenant with you." To the which they replied: "Muhammad, do you think that we are like your people? Do not be deluded by the fact that you met a people with no knowledge of war and that you made good use of your opportunity. By God, if you fight us you will know that we are real men!" This response was seen as a "declaration of war" by Muhammed and he attacked. According to historical sources, after about 15 days or so, the Qaynuqa tribe surrendered; some believe that there were negotiations involved and help from their allies as the tribe had 700 men fighting, of which 400 were armored. Muhammed once again, ordered that these men be beheaded. Arab chief Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, asked for mercy for them but Muhammed refused and was quoted as saying; “may God curse them, and may he curse (Abd Allah ibn Ubayy) with them." Note, It is stated that this tribe was actually expelled instead of beheaded.

The Banu Nadir tribe had a similar fate. The chief of the Israelite tribe, Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf, was also accused of violating this "treaty" when it was said that he "went to the Quraish in order to lament the loss at Badr and to incite them to take up arms to regain lost honor." At this news, Muhammed is quoted as saying,"He (Ka'b) has openly assumed enmity to us and speaks evil of us and he has gone over to the polytheists (who were at war with Muslims) and has made them gather against us for fighting." This was once again seen as a violation of the "treaty" in Muhammed's eyes and cause for attack. This same Israelite chief (Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf) was a poet and was also said to have "written erotic poetry about Muslim women" which offended the Muslims and was, you guessed it, a violation of the "treaty" thus bringing reason for attack.

One last accusation that came against the Banu Nadir tribe from Muhammed was an [alleged] assassination attempt on his [Muhammed's] life. Muhammed was believed to receive this news either through 'revelation' or from a man named Muhammad ibn Maslama. At this news, Muhammed besieged the city and ordered that they be expelled. The Bani Quraizah tribe was said to have told the Banu Nadir tribe to not surrender to Muhammed but to hold up and fight it out. After 14 days, the Bani Quraizah tribe was said to never come to the aid of the Banu Nadir tribe which led to them being expelled out of the city with only what they could carry on one camel. 600 people were said to be expelled in a parading fashion; the women were said to have been dressed in fine linen while people lined up to see them and played tambourines and pipes. After they left, Muhammed burned their date palms; one of the things used by the Israelites to gain economic control and influence, and divided their land among his companions that came with him to Medina, who beforehand relied on the sympathy and goodwill of others for financial assistance. Also note that Muhammed had Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf, the Israelite chief assassinated.

I said all of this to point out that all of the Israelite tribes in Arabia in the 7th Century, that had gained some type of financial, political and economical power in the area all had [to me] very suspicious accusations of violations of a "treaty" brought up on them that led to their expulsion or beheading. At one point and time the Israelites and Muhammed were all living in peace for years prior to Muhammed's revelation of Islam. He, Muhammed, followed, copied/adopted many of our customs which he carried over into Islam and even prayed towards Jerusalem for years up until the expulsion or execution of all of the Israelites in the land. It wasn't until after the Quraizah Massacre; the last of the Israelite tribe in the land to be expunged, that he told Muslims to stop praying towards Jerusalem and start praying towards Mecca. He also changed the name from Yathrib to Medina Al-Nabiy or "The City of the Prophet. It is also important to note that at this same time, Muhammed was working tirelessly to convert us to Islam and accept him as a prophet. You read that above in his quote to the Banu Qaynuqa tribe, "O Jews...Accept Islam!" as well as in the options given to the Quraizah tribe during their 25 day stand off; "Embrace Islam!" When we did not accept and convert, we all endured very similar fates of mass expulsion and/or execution.

Many Muslims deny that Muhammed's actions were because of the fact that the tribes were Israelites (Jews) or because they did not and would not convert to Islam and accept him. However; for me, there are far too many things that cause reasonable doubt but decide for yourself. During this new month of January, reflect on this time, reflect on these events that occurred to our people because of [in my belief] their adamant stand for YAHAWAH and His Laws, Word, righteousness and obedience to serve only Him.

-The citation source for all information in this post is from the Wikipedia pages: "Banu Qurayza," "Banu Qaynuqa" and "Banu Nadir."

-For another source of information on this topic;  Check this link too.



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