8.1 The Qaynuqâ` Jews

After taking part in a few minor raiding expeditions, Muhammad had a confrontation with the Qaynuqâ` clan of Jews in Medina. The story is told in a very brief version by Ibn-Ishâq, but is elaborated by Ibn-Hishâm and al-Wâqidî. The events told by Ibn-Ishâq are the most reliable part of the story. This presupposes his earlier narrative of the intellectual dispute between Muhammad and the Jews and begins abruptly:

Then there was the affair of the Qaynuqâ` clan. The Messenger of God assembled them in their market and said, “Jewish people, watch out that God does not take revenge on you as he did on the Meccans. Become Muslims, since you know that I am a prophet that has been sent. You will find that in your Scripture and God’s covenant with you.” They answered, “Muhammad, you think that we are your people? Do not be deceived because you took advantage of a people who do not know how to make war. If we fight you, you will recognize that we are men. (2:47)

Ibn-Ishâq gives the impression that this threat of war in response to Muhammad’s ultimatum was itself an act of aggression, for he goes on to say:

The Qaynuqâ` clan were the first Jews to break their agreement with the Messenger of God and go to war, between the battles of Badr and Uhud, and the Messenger of God besieged them until they surrendered unconditionally.. (2:47-8)

But Ibn-Hishâm fills in the story with another seemingly fictional casus belli that led to the siege:

An Arab woman came and sold a vessel in the Qaynuqâ` market, then sat down at a goldsmith’s shop. The men wanted to see her face, but she refused. So the goldsmith surreptitiously tied the hem of her garment to her back, so that when she stood up her shame was exposed. They laughed at her, and she cried out. A Muslim man rushed to the Jewish goldsmith and killed, him, whereupon the Jews attacked the Muslim and killed him. The friends of the Muslim then roused the other Muslims, who were angered, so that they and the Qaynuqâ` became enemies. (2:48)

According to Ibn-Hishâm, the siege lasted 15 days. Ibn-Ishâq continues the story after the Qaynuqâ` people surrendered:

`Abdullâh ibn-Ubayy went to him after God had put them in his power and said, “Muhammad, deal kindly with my clients.” — They were allies of the Khazraj. — But he put him off. He repeated his request, and the Messenger of God turned away from him. `Abdallâh then put his hand into the collar of the Messenger of God’s garment, and the Messenger of God’s face turned black with anger as he demanded, “Let me go.” `Abdallâh answered, “No, by God. I will not let you go until you deal kindly with my clients.” Four hundred men without mail and three hundred with mail protected me from every sort of enemies. Will you cut them down in one morning? By God, I am a man who fears that circumstances may change.” The Messenger of God said, “You can have them.”...

When the Qaynuqâ` clan fought the Messenger of God, `Abdullâh ibn-Ubayy supported their cause and defended them. Then `Ubâda ibn-as-Sâmit, of the `Awf clan who was of the same alliance as `Abdallâh ibn-Ubayy, went to the Messenger of God and renounced all responsibility for them before God and his Messenger, saying, “Messenger of God, I make alliance with God and his Messenger and the believers, and I clear myself of any treaty or alliance with these unbelievers.”

Concerning these two men the following passage of Sűrat al-Mâ’ida was revealed (5:51-2,55-6): “Believers, do not take the Jews or Christians as allies; they are allies to one another. Anyone of you who makes an alliance with them is one of them. God does not guide evildoers. You see those whose hearts are sick,” that is, `Abdallâh ibn-Ubayy, “rushing to them saying, ‘We fear a change of circumstances.’ Maybe God will bring about victory or the like and they will be sorry for their secret plans... Your allies are only God and his Messenger and those who believe, doing salât, giving zakât and bowing down. Those who take God and his Messenger and the believers as their allies are God’s party, and they shall triumph.” (2:48-50)

With Ibn-Hishâm the story ends here. We must turn to al-Wâqidî for the conclusion. (1:178-180): Their possessions were confiscated, with one fifth going to Muhammad and the rest divided among his companions. The Qaynuqâ` themselves were allowed to keep their wives and children but —against the protests of `Abdallâh ibn-Ubayy— were exiled to Syria.

8.2 Zayd ibn-Hâritha raids a caravan

Muhammad continued his policy of raiding Meccan caravans. More often than not the Meccans eluded his raiding parties, but the following raid, led by Zayd ibn-Hâritha, was successful:

The Meccans were afraid tofollow their usual route to Syria after what happened at Badr; so they took the `Irâq route. Having hired a man of the Bakr clan to lead them by that route, some Meccan traders, including Abű-Sufyân ibn-Harb, set out. He carried much silver, which was the bulk of their goods. The Messenger of God sent Zayd ibn-Hâritha, who met them by the watering place and captured the caravan of goods, but the men got away. He brought the booty back to the Messenger of God. (2:50)

8.3 Assassination of Ka`b ibn-al-Ashraf

The Muslim victory at Badr was a disappointment to many in Medina, among them Ka`b ibn-al-Ashraf, whose mother was a Jew of the Nadîr clan. When he heard the news of the victory he moved out of Medina to Mecca and there wrote propaganda poems bewailing the Muslim victory and insulting Muslims.

Then the Messenger of God said, “Who will get rid of Ibn-Ashraf for me?” Muhammad ibn-Maslama answered, “I will, Messenger of God. I will kill him.” He said, “Then do so if you can.” Then Muhammad ibn-Maslama waited three days, not eating or drinking except what he absolutely needed. The Messenger of God was told about this and called him, “Why did you give up eating and drinking?” He said, “Messenger of God, I promised you something which I am not sure if I can fulfil.” He said, “You only have to try.” He said, “Messenger of God, I will not be able to avoid telling lies.” He said, “Say whatever seems best to you. Lying is permitted.”

So he and Silkân ibn-Salâma abű-Nâ’ila and `Ubbâda ibn-Bishr and al-Hârith ibn-Aws and Abű-`Abs ibn-Jabr conspired together. Before going themselves, they sent Silkân to the enemy of God, Ka`b ibn-al-Ashraf. He spoke with him for some time, and they recited poetry to one another, for Silkân was fond of poetry. Then he said, “Ibn-Ashraf, I came to tell you about a matter I wish you to keep secret.” He said, “All right.” He said, “The coming of this man is a great trial for us. The nomads are united against us and have blockaded us, so that we and our families are in want, privation and distress.” Ka`b answered, “I kept warning you that this would happen.” Silkân said, “Please sell us food and we will give you a good pledge of security.” He said, “Will you give me your sons as security?” He said, “You want to insult us. I have friends who are of the same opinion; I would like to bring them to you. You can sell generously to them and we will give you weapons as a pledge.” Silkân wanted him not to be alarmed when they brought weapons in. Ka`b answered, “Weapons can be your security.” So Silkân went and told his friends and ordered them to take their weapons. Then they went away and met with the Messenger of God.

The Messenger of God walked with them as far as Baqî` al-Gharqad, then sent them off saying, “Go in the name of God. God, help them,” and he returned home. There was moonlight, and they journeyed on to Ka`b’s castle. Silkân called him. He was newly married and jumped up in his sheet, but his wife held one end of it saying, “You are being attacked. People under attack do not go down at this hour.” But he said, “It is Silkân. “If he had found me asleep he would not wake me up.” She said, “By God, I can recognize evil in his voice.” He said to her, “A brave man should answer even a threat of being stabbed.” So he went down and talked with them for some time. Then Silkân said, “Would you like to walk with us to Shi`b al-`Ajűz so that we can talk for the rest of the night?” He said, “As you like.” So they went walking, and after some time Silkân ran his hand through Ka`b’s hair. He smelt his hand and said, “I have never smelt a scent finer than this. They walked on for some time, and Silkân did the same thing, putting Ka`b at ease. The third time he grabbed him by the hair and shouted, “Strike the enemy of God’” They did so, and their swords clashed on him, but with no effect.

Muhammad ibn-Maslama said, “I remembered my dagger when I saw that our swords were useless, and grabbed it. Meanwhile the enemy of God made such a cry that every castle around lit their lights. I stabbed him in the abdomen and drew the dagger until I reached his genitals, and the enemy of God fell.” Al-Hârith was wounded in his head or foot by our own swords.

We made off, passing the Umayya, the Qurayza and the Bu`âth clans.. Our companion al-Hârith lagged behind, weakened by loss of blood; so we waited a while for him until he came following our tracks. Then we carried him and brought him to the Messenger of God at the end of the night. He was up doing salât; so we greeted him and he came out to us. We told him that we had killed the enemy of God. He spat on our companion’s wounds and went back inside, while we went back to our own people. As a result the Jews were in a panic, and every one of them feared for his life. (2:54-7)

8.4 The conversion of Huwayyisa

The power, dedication and violence manifested by some of Muhammad’s companions proved an attraction for some to join Islam:

The Messenger of God said, “Kill any Jewish man you get hold of.” Muayyisa ibn-Mas`űd then attacked Ibn-Sunayna, a Jewish trader with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him. Huwayyisa, the elder brother of Mu`ayyisa, was not yet a Muslim and began to beat his brother saying, “Enemy of God, you killed him even though, by God, most of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth.” Mu`ayyisa answered, “By God, if the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you, I would cut your head off.” This was the beginning of Huwayyisa’s acceptance of Islam. He said, “If Muhammad ordered you to kill me?” He said, “Yes. By God, if he ordered me to cut your head off I would do so.” He said, “By God, a religion which can make you do this is wonderful.” So Huwayyisa became a Muslim. (2:58)

8.5 Muhammad’s marriage to Hafsa (n.4)

Ibn-Sa`d tells this story. (8:56ff; 3:193ff - Abbott, 9)   `Umar ibn-al-Khattâb’s daughter Hafsa lost her husband at Badr. To find her another husband, he first approached `Uthmân ibn-`Affân, who had just lost his wife Ruqayya, Muhammad’s daughter. `Uthmân was not interested; so `Umar approached Abű-Bakr, who also refused. `Umar then complained to Muhammad about the treatment he had received from these men.

Muhammad replied, “Shall I lead you to a better son-in-law than `Uthmân, and lead `Uthmân to a better father-in-law than you?” “Do so, indeed,” answered `Umar. “I will marry your daughter, `Uthmân shall marry mine.” `Uthmân was given Umm-Kulthűm.

Abű-Bakr tried to cover up his insult to `Uthmân by saying that he had heard Muhammad speaking of marrying Hafsa and did not wish to reveal Muhammad’s plans at the time. Otherwise he would have accepted Hafsa.

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