» His Biography » The Battles » The Battle of Khayber
The Battle of Khayber
THE DIVINE REWARD
Allah had promised a great reward to all those who had, at Hudaybiyah, sworn allegiance to the Prophet (peace be upon him) which was known as Baiatur-Rizwan or the oath of Paradise. Having submitted to the will of God and His Prophet (peace be upon him) in that hour of crisis, Allah foretold them of the coming victory as well as the booty they were to win shortly.
Allah was well pleased with the believers when they swore allegiance unto thee beneath the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down peace of reassurance on them, and hath rewarded them with a near victory. And much booty that they will capture, Allah is ever Mighty, Wise.
The Conquest of Khaybar was to serve as a prelude to the subsequent victories that followed in its path. Khaybar was a Jewish colony (20) comprising several citadels, some of which were built on hill tops and were virtually impregnable. It was, thus, the last but formidable Jewish stronghold in Arabia. Anxious to confront the Muslims for the plight of their brothers in Madinah, the Jews of Khaybar were willing to spend their wealth in pursuit of stirring agitation from the neighbouring Arab tribes to wage war against the Prophet (peace be upon him). At the time when the expedition to Khaybar was undertaken, the Jews of the place were in league with the tribe of Ghatfan with whom they were hatching up an agreed plot against the Muslims. (21) The Prophet (peace be upon him) thus found a good reason to act against the Jews of Khaybar. He decided that the time had come to get rid of their intrigues once and for all so that he might be able to divert his attention to other pressing matters. Khaybar was situated at a distance of 112-Km northeast of Madinah.
THE PROPHET (peace be upon him) LEADS THE ARMY
After his return from Hudaybiyah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) stayed in Madinah during Dhul-Hijjah and a part of the month of Muharram. Thereafter he marched towards Khaybar.
One of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) by the name of Amr b. al-Akhwa (radiallahu 'anhu), accompanied the Prophet (peace be upon him) on this expedition. He recited the following verses given here while he rode with the army.
Wed have not been guided, but for Allah, nor given alms, nor chanted Glory, We are the people, when attacked or treated unjustly, we resist. Send down Sakinah upon us, Against the enemy make us firm. (22)
The combatants who marched against Khaybar numbered 1,400 including 200 cavalries, and all those who had lagged behind on the occasion of Hudaybiyah were refused permission to go on this expedition. Twenty women also went along with the force so as to look after the sick and the wounded as well as to prepare food for the men.
In order to cut the communications between the two allies, the Prophet (peace be upon him) halted at Raji, a wadi between Khaybar and the Ghatfan. The Jews had other confederate tribes as well but the Prophet 's (peace be upon him) stay at Raji forced all of them to remain in their homes instead of trying to reinforce the Jews. The road to Khayber was thus left open to the Prophet (peace be upon him) .
The Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered to procure food for the army but nothing except parched corn was available. (23) When the Prophet (peace be upon him) approached Khaybar, he raised his hand to invoke and pray to God for the conquest of the colony and sought the Lords refuge from the evil of its people. The Prophet (peace be upon him) never took the offensive during the night but rather delayed it till the crack of dawn and if the call for prayer was given, he first performed it. Here, too, he endured the night and ordered to march ahead before the call for prayer was given. The Muslims met the workers of Khaybar coming out with spades and basket. As soon as they saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the army, they turned on their heels shouting, Muhammad and his force. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, God is Great. Khaybar is destroyed. When we fall upon a people the morning is cruel enough for those who have already been warned. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. III, pp. 229-30)
THE VICTORIOUS COMMANDER
The Prophet (peace be upon him) came at the fortresses and started overpowering them one by one. Marhab, the well-known Jewish warlord, held one of these citadels. It was a fortified stronghold at which the initial delegation was denied success for 'Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) was suffering from ophthalmia. After a few unsuccessful charges, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, Tomorrow I will give the flag to the man who loves Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him) and he will conquer the fort. Every companion waited in suspense, hoping to be given the emblem. The Prophet (peace be upon him) summoned 'Ali (radiallahu 'anhu), blew into his eyes with his saliva and prayed for his success. The eyes of 'Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) were cured in due time afterwhich he was then given the insignia (24) and ordered to fight the Jews until he prevailed over them. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Ali (radiallahu 'anhu), Go ahead and encompass them. First invite them to accept Islam and explain the obligations they owe to God. I swear to God that even if only one man is guided to the right path trough you, this would be better for you than the red camels. (25)
'ALI (radiallahu 'anhu) FACES THE JEWISH WARRIOR
When Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) came near the fort, Marhab, the Jew appeared on his horse protected by armor and shield, reciting a poem about his valor. Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) imposed himself upon Marhab and both fell upon each other swinging their scimitars. Ali's (radiallahu 'anhu) sword plunged first into Marhab slicing through his helmet and head until his face was divided into two equal parts. Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) had succeeded in reducing the fort. (26)
Muhammad b. Maslama (radiallahu 'anhu) also fought bravely at Khaybar and killed a number of well-known Jewish warriors.
AN EASY REWARD
The slave of Khaybar had been hired to watch over the flocks of his master. When he saw the Jews taking up arms in order to give Muslims a fight, he asked, Why do you really have to go? The Jews replied that they were going to fight the man who had laid a claim to Prophet hood. The slaves curiosity brought him to the Prophet (peace be upon him) whom he asked. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, I call you to Islam, that is, you bear witness that there is no deity save God and that I am the Prophet of God, and you serve not no one except God.
If I bear witness as you say, inquired the slave, and have faith in God, what shall I get in return?
The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, If you die with faith, you will enter paradise.
The slave accepted Islam and then asked the Prophet (peace be upon him). What should I do with this flock? I hold it in trust.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) told him to abandon the goats in the field near the fort and God would cause them to reach their owner. The man did as he had been told and true enough, the goats found their way back to their master. The Jew also came to know that his slave has gone over to the fold of the Muslims.
Before the encounter started between the Muslims and the Jews, the Prophet (peace be upon him) urged his men to fight for the sake of God. The slave also advanced with the Muslims and was killed in the battlefield. When the Muslims brought his dead body, the Prophet (peace be upon him) tried to look at him and turning to his companions, he said, Allah blessed this man and brought him to Khaybar. I saw him for two hours doing that as I was standing by his side although he never prostrated to God. (Zad al-Maad, Vol. I, p. 393.)
DEVOID OF ULTERIOR MOTIVES
A bedouin came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and after accepting Islam expressed his wish to accompany him in the expedition. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked some of his companions to take care of him and settle his needs. When the Muslims captured one of the forts and won a large booty, the man had taken out a herd of cattle for grazing. The spoils were distributed among the combatants apportioning the Bedouin also of his share. When he was given his part, he took it to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked, What is this? The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained that it was his share of the booty of war, but he said, I didnt come to you for it. Then pointing to his throat he continued, I followed you hoping that I would be hit by an arrow, entitling me of Paradise. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, If you desire it so, God will do likewise.
Then, in a subsequent battle at Khaybar the Bedouin was among those killed in the encounter. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked, Is it the same man? When the companions replied in the affirmative, the Prophet (peace be upon him) remarked, He was true to God and God made his wish come true. The Prophet (peace be upon him) shrouded his corpse with his own mantle and recited the funeral service for him. Thereafter, he said, O Allah, thy servant had come to migrate in Thy way and was killed for Thy sake. I bear witness to it. (Zad al-Maad, Vol. I, p. 394).
The people of Khaybar were beleaguered in their forts which began to fall one by one. The Jews, unable to stand the siege any longer, asked for a peace pact. The Prophet (peace be upon him) wanted to displace the Jews from Khaybar, but they bargained if they could be allowed to live in their homes and to cultivate the fields. They pleaded that they were better farmers and knew more about it than others. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not want his companions to till the soil since it would have required them to settle there and lay themselves out in farming. Therefore, he allowed the Jews to retain their farmhouses on the condition that the Muslims would get half of the produce of their fields and groves. Another condition imposed was that the Prophet (peace be upon him) could unilaterally abolish the agreement. (Zad al-Maad, Vol. pp. 394-95. For details see Sinan Abu Dawud)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) delegated the production sharing to Abdallah b. Rawaha who used to divide the produce into two equal parts, and then ask the Jews to choose one of them. The Jews often remarked on his even-handed justice: This is on which stand the heavens and the earth. (Balahuri: Futuh-ul-Buldan, Leiden, 1886, p. 34).
The booty collected by the Muslims in the battle of Khaybar included not a few copies of the Jewish scripture. The Jews requested the Prophet (peace be upon him) for their retrieval to which the Prophet (peace be upon him) acceded and ordered that they should be given back to them. (Tarikh al-Khamis, Vol. II, p. 60)
A Jewish scholar, Dr. Israel Welphenson, reviewing the conquest of Khaybar, refers to the magnanimous treatment of the Prophet (peace be upon him) towards the Jews in these words:
The event shows what a high regard the Prophet (peace be upon him) had for their scriptures. His tolerant and considerate behavior impressed the Jews who could never forget that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did nothing to degrade their sacred scriptures. The Jews knew how the Romans had, when they captured Jerusalem in 70 B.C., burnt their scriptures and trampled them underfoot. The fanatic Christians persecuting the Jews in Spain had likewise consigned their scriptures to fire. This is the great difference we find between these conquerors and the Prophet (peace be upon him) of Islam.(Al-Yahud fi Balad il-Arab, p. 170)
ARRIVAL OF JAFAR IBN ABI TALIB (radiallahu 'anhu)
Jafar b. Abi Talib, the cousin of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and other emigrants returned from Abyssinia while the Prophet (peace be upon him) was still in Khaybar. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was so pleased to see him that he kissed the forehead of Jafar and said, By God, I dont know which gives me the greater pleasure the conquest of Khaybar or the arrival of Jafar! (Zad al-Maad, Vol. p. 397)
ANOTHER JEWISH CONSPIRACY
It was during the Khaybar expedition that an attempt was made to poison the Prophet (peace be upon him). Zaynab bint al-Harith, the wife of Salam b. Mishkam presented a roasted kid to the Prophet (peace be upon him), having first inquired what part he preferred. Recognizing that the Prophet (peace be upon him) relished the shoulder, she put a lot of poison in it and offered it to him. The Prophet (peace be upon him) tasted a morsel of it but quickly threw it out realizing that it was poisoned.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) summoned the Jews and inquired from them, Will you be truthful, if I ask something from you? They said, Yes. The Prophet (peace be upon him) again asked them, Did you poison the kid? When they again replied in the affirmative, the Prophet (peace be upon him) queried what had made them to do that. They replied, We thought that if you were a pretender, we would get rid of you but if you were really a Prophet (peace be upon him), the poison would be ineffective. Zaynab bint Al-Harith was then produced before the Prophet (peace be upon him). She confessed her guilt, saying, I wanted to kill you. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, God would not allow you to gain power over me. Some of the companions asked permission to punish the woman for her crime, but the Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade them. Zainab was set free, but when Bishr b. Al-Bara who had taken the roasted lamb with the Prophet (peace be upon him) died a painful death owing to such cause, Zaynab was slain. (Al-Bukhaari).
EFFECT OF THE CONQUEST OF KHAYBAR
The magnificent victory won by the Muslims at Khaybar was of far-reaching importance to them, especially against the tribes, which have yet to accept Islam. They were aware of the wealth and prowess of the Jews of Khaybar, their impregnable strongholds and valor of the well-known warriors like Marhab and Harith Abi Zaynab. They considered its capture to be virtually impossible but their estimate of the nascent power of Madinah had proved to be futile enough. For they now realized that the Muslims strength is implicitly irresistible.
Discussing the effect of the victory gained at Khaybar on the subsequent history of Islam, Dr. Israel Welphenson says:
There is not the least doubt that the conquest of Khaybar occupies an important place in the history of the subsequent conquests of Islam. All the Arab tribes were anxiously watching for the outcome of the saber rattling between the Ansaar and the Jews. The enemies of the Prophet (peace be upon him) spread over many cities and the desert had pinned down their hopes upon this battle. (Al-Yahud Fi Balad il-'Arab, p. 162)
THE SPOILS OF KHAYBAR
Having finished with Khaybar, the Prophet (peace be upon him) directed his attention to Fadak (27), which was the principal town, fertile and populous, in the northern part of Hijaz, with strong fortifications. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 38) The Jews of Fadak sent an offer of peace to the Prophet (peace be upon him), on the condition that they should be allowed to keep half of their produce. The Prophet (peace be upon him) who used to spend the income from Fadak on the welfare of the Muslims accepted the terms. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 38)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) then moved on with the army to the Wadil Qura,(28) a colony founded by the Jews during the pre-Islamic period. Lying midway between Khaybar and Taima, it had become a flourishing town with the settlement of a number of Arab tribes in it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) invited the Arabs of Wadi Al-Qura to accept Islam. He told them that if they acceded to Islam, their life and property would be safe and they would have a goodly return from the Lord.
The Jews decided to fight, but the heroic assault led by Zubayr b. al-Awwam made them surrender the very next day. A great deal of property fell into the hands of the Muslims. The Prophet (peace be upon him) distributed the spoils among his troops but left the groves of date-palm to the Jews.
When the Jews of Taima (29) learnt about the fall of Khaybar, Fadak and Wadil-Qura and the terms on which they had made peace with the Prophet (peace be upon him), they hastened to send him an offer of peace. The Prophet (peace be upon him) accepted their proposal and allowed them to retain the possession of their land and property. Thereafter the Prophet (peace be upon him) returned to Madinah. (Zad al-Ma'ad, Vol. I, p. 405)
LARGE HEARTEDNESS OF THE MUHAJIRUN
The Ansaar of Madinah had shared their possessions with the emigrants when they had come from Mecca. Now, well-provided with the spoils of Khaybar, the Muhajirun returned the property shared earlier by their Ansaar brethren. Umm Sulaym, the mother of Anas b. Malik, had presented a few date-palm trees to the Prophet (peace be upon him), who had given them out to his freed slave-woman Umm Ayman. After the Prophet (peace be upon him) got the groves of Fadak, he returned the date-palm trees of Umm Sulaym and compensated Umm Ayman with ten trees of Fadak for every date-palm given earlier to her. (Zad al-Ma'ad, Vol. I, p. 406)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent forth a number of raiding parties under eminent companions against some of the contumacious desert tribes. Some of these detachments had to put up a fight against them while others returned without any contest. (Zad al-Ma'ad, Vol. I, p. 409-410)
THE MISSED PILGRIMAGE
The following year, in 7 A.H., the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his followers took the road to Mecca for performing the lesser pilgrimage missed by them earlier. The Quraysh thought it best to lock their house and retire to the heights of Jabl Qayqaan overlooking the valley. (30) The Prophet (peace be upon him) stayed for three days in the holy city and made the circuit of the holy house. Referring to the joyous event, the Quran says:
Allah hath fulfilled the vision (31) for his Messenger in very truth. Ye shall indeed enter the Inviolable Place of Worship, if Allah will, secure, (having your hair) shaven and cut, not fearing. But He knoweth that which ye know not, and hath given you a near victory beforehand.
RIGHTS OF WOMEN RESTORED
Islam had changed the hearts and elevated the mentality of the Arabs. The custom which prevailed in the pre-Islamic days of burying female infants alive, so as to save the honor of the family, was not only given up but the daughters came to be so dearly loved that the people vied with one another in lavishing their affection to them. All Muslims, men and women, were equal, none-possessing any privilege over another; only he was superior who was better in morals and piety. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) left Mecca after performing the Umra, the little daughter of Hamza known as Umama, followed him calling Uncle, Uncle. Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) took her and asked Fatima to look after the girl. Now Zayd and Jafar also claimed the guardianship of the child. Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) laid claim over her since accordingly, she was the daughter of his uncle. Jafar on the other hand reasoned out that she was the daughter of his uncle and her maternal aunt was his wife. Zayd, too, wanted to have the child for all the Muslims were brothers and he could very well look after the daughter of a deceased brother. The matter was brought to the attention of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who decided that the maternal aunt being in the position of the mother of the girl should be given priority and thus the girl was finally entrusted to Jafar. To appease Ali, the Prophet (peace be upon him) consoled him, You are mine and I am yours. He then reassured Jafar by saying, You resemble me in your looks and conduct. Zayd was also comforted with words, You are my brother and client. (Al-Bukhaari)