Home > History > The Execution of Banu Quraizah: Just or Injust?

The Execution of Banu Quraizah: Just or Injust?


Incident & Orientalists’ Claim

This paper will analyze the famous incident after the battle of Ahzab, when the men of the Jewish tribe of Banu Quraizah were executed and their women and children spared. This incident has been the rallying point of many Orientalist’s accusations that Prophet Muhammad had unjustly killed the Jews of the tribe. This article will look at the background of the incident and analyze whether the claim of the Orientalists is justified.

Background Information

The Pact and Initial Attitude towards Jews
With the developed of the new Islamic state in Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) tried his level best to unite the people of Madinah, including the Jews. The “Saheefa” agreement went into great lengths to guarantee the rights and security of the Jewish minority in return for their cooperation in the affairs of the state and acceptance of Prophet Muhammad as the leader of Madinah and loyalty towards him.

The Saheefah was the epitome of equal rights and far preceded the so called first bill of rights, “The Magna Carta.” The universal justice of the document can be summarized in this ayat:

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah , witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” [Quran 5:8]

Furthermore, there were specific written agreements in the document that guaranteed the Jews their rights, such as, “And those who follow us from the Jews: They have the right to be helped and they will not be wronged, and (we) will not support others against them.” Furthermore, The Saheefah recognized The People of the Book (Christians and Jews) living in Madinah as citizens of the Muslim state – “the Jews of Banu Auf are a nation with the believers.”

Jewish Transgressions

Despite the rights given to the Jews and freedom to practice their religion, the Jewish tribes were consistently persisting to undermine the leadership of Muhammad (pbuh) and the stability of the Islamic state. They did this in every way conceivable by trying to reignite the old flame of rivalry between the Aws and Khazraj, making unacceptable remarks about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), other messengers and the Quran. They also offered their full support to the hypocrites in their efforts to undermine Islam. They attacked Jewish scholars who believed in Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and embraced Islam. These were only the tip of the iceberg in the many ways the Jewish tribes displayed their animosity towards the Muslims.

The height of the opposition culminated when the Banu Qaynuqaa tribesmen exposed a Muslim women in the market place for which they were expelled. Later , the defiance further peaked when members from the Banu Nadhir clan plotted and attempted to assassinate Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) for which they were laid under siege and expelled. Finally, the Banu Quraizah tribe outdid their Jewish counterparts by forming a transnational alliance across tribes from the peninsula, instigating and encouraging the enemies of Islam, including Quraysh, funding and providing the necessary support to amass an army of 10,000 that had planned to wipe out the Muslims from the face of the map.
Reaction proportional to Transgression

It is clear from the actions of Banu Quraizah that despite the protection given to them and the rights to participate as citizens of Madinah, they violated their agreement in the vilest way possible. They not only collaborated with the enemies of the state and committed treason, but they were the initiators, motivators, funders of a massive force of 10,000 that was bent on not only defeating the Muslims but wiping them out altogether. This crime was betrayal at it its worse and deserves capital punishments, even in the courts of today’s world.

Hence, after the 25 day siege, when the tribe surrendered; Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) left the fate of Banu Quraizah in the hands of Sa’ad Bin Muaad (RA). Sa’ad gave the verdict that “their fighters be killed, the women and children taken as slaves and that their wealth be distributed.” Upon the verdict, Prophet Muhammad (saw) commented that “You have rendered a judgment that is in exact harmony with the judgment of Allah.” Consequently, ditches were dug in the Madinah marketplace and around 400 fighters of Banu Quraiza were executed and buried.

Orientalist writers have different on their opinions regarding the incident. While some like Watts and Paret mention that the Banu Quraiza were eliminated not because of their faith but due to Treason; others like Michael Lecker and Irving Zeiltin consider this “unprecented in the Arabian Peninsula – a novelty” and further add that “prior to Islam, , the annihilation of an adversary was never an aim of a war.”

While some claim that the treatment of the Banu Quraiza was a “genocide,” in reality, the punishment befitted the crime. As Dr. Sallaabee pointed out, the tribe was talking an all out gamble – If they won, they would win everything and eliminate the Muslims as they could not afford to let the Muslims take revenge or punish them for treachery and if they lost, they had to pay dearly with their lives. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) could not take a lenient stance with Quraiza as he did with the Banu Nadhir as the latter left to Khaybar only to organize themselves to further oppose the Muslims. Banu Qurayza showed their rebellious nature and determination to undermine the Muslims. Hence, ransoming them would just mean an opportunity for them to regroup and wage another war against the Muslims. The only punishment they deserved for their treachery was the death penalty.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while some claim that the judgment to execute the fighters of Banu Quraiza was unjust, the facts pointed out in this essay clearly demonstrate that their determination to undermine the Muslims, break their covenant, organize and mastermind a massive force to eliminate the Muslims, and persistent drive to rebel against the Muslims clearly warranted the capital punishment that was delivered.

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