Abu Shuja'ah, a prominent internet propagandist for Islam, justified Muhammad's attack, deportation and slaughter of the Jews of Medina saying: "The Jews were driven out of Medina for attacking and killing Muslims." Is that true??? [Read in Bangla]
In the course of founding Islam by Prophet Muhammad (610–632 CE), the Jews, who had lived in Muhammad’s adopted home of Medina for many centuries, suffered horrible pogrom, the first holocaust of the Jews. Muhammad attacked and deported two Jewish tribes, while he slaughtered, en masse, the males of the third tribe, Banu Quraiza, and enslaved their women and children. Muhammad extirpated idolatry from Arabia by giving polytheists a choice between death and conversion to Islam, as demanded by annihilatory divine verses 9:5, and 8:39 etc.
Muslims always have justifications for those atrocities of Muhammad, as Abu Shuja’ah, a prominent Islamic propagandist, claims: “The Jews were driven out of Medina for attacking and killing Muslims. Consider it a mirror of today’s Gaza”.
Upon proper investigation of canonical Islamic literature, those claim turn out baseless, which I have enumerated in my book, Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery. This claim of Shuja’ah is also false, proven below.
Let us start with a review of Prophet Muhammad’s encounter with the Jews of Medina. He relocated to Medina in June 622 CE on the background that his mission at Mecca, his city of birth, had failed. His prophetic mission had become stagnant there at the time, but was making rapid progress in Medina acquiring, even in his absence, some 76 converts over the previous three years. His prophetic mission at Mecca had made only some 150 converts over the previous 13 years.
The prophet was invited to Medina by his Medinan disciples (those 76), who belonged to the two Pagan tribes: ‘Aws’ and ‘Khazraj’. He settled down in Medina without facing any opposition from any group, including the richer and more influential Jews. It is anticipated that the Jews might’ve been welcoming of him, as he was actively converting the idolaters to a monotheism, which he presented as a sister-religion to Judaism and Christianity.
Muhammad continued his preaching unimpeded at Medina and the polytheists converted to Islam at a high frequency. But the problem with the Jews started only after Muhammad became too ambitious to present himself also as a prophet, a savior, of the Jews (& Christians) as well. So Muhammad initially started pampering the Jews & Christians by saying good things about them and adopting their customs. He initially held Moses above himself: “The Prophet said, “Don’t give me superiority over Moses”” [Bukhari 4:620]. Quranic verses also started showing down to pamper them saying, Allah gave them ‘guidance and light’ in the form of Torah [Q 5:44]; Jews were a “righteous” people [Q 6:153-54], who ‘excelled the nations’ [Q 45:16] etc.
And he adopted many Jewish rituals and customs—fasting, circumcision, and praying toward Jerusalem etc.—to give Islam an Abrahamic creed-like look for the first time. Allah’s and Muhammad’s reason behind all these goody-goody sayings about, and gestures toward, the Jews was to come out later; it was Muhammad’s ambition to become a prophet of the Jews as well. So, Allah later revealed (Q 3.5):
(I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me.
The same is repeated in Q 5:48:
And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed…
But, if they failed to follow Muhammad, Allah threatens them with punishments in the next verse (Q5:49):
…And if they turn away, then know that Allah's Will is to smite them for some sin of theirs. Lo! many of mankind are evil-livers.
Despite Allah’s pleadings initially, followed by threats, the Jews did not accept Muhammad as their prophet. Instead, they became staunch critics of Muhammad’s revelations, because they had the inner knowledge of what is in the Torah, which Muhammad said he brought in its entirety through his Quran. They could easily point out the errors in Muhammad’s messages, which they did irrefutably putting Muhammad and Allah in a defensive and embarrassing position.
Allah eventually became sure that the Jews (& Christians) would not embrace his message whatsoever. So, Allah came down with a verse (Q 2:120) to relieve Muhammad from further persuasion of them:
Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: “The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance.” Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither Protector nor helper against Allah [Q 2:120].
The stage was set for Muhammad to do what the Jews deserved—i.e. their extermination from Medina—for refusing to accept Muhammad’s prophethood. Soon (January 624), Muhammad, while pursuing with some 300-plus Muslim raiders to attack and plunder a Meccan caravan, engaged a Meccan rescue-army, double (or triple) in strength, in the battle of Badr and achieved a stunning victory. Muhammad’s confidence was ‘sky high’. The Jews can be challenged now to mete out Allah’s promised punishment to them (e.g. verse 5:49) for rejecting Muhammad’s mission.
Now let us see how Muhammad initiate violence against the Jews, according to the prophet’s earliest and most original biographer Ibn Ishaq [Life of Muhammad (c. 750), Karachi, p. 363]:
Meanwhile there was the affair of the B. Qaynuqa. The apostle assembled them in their market and addressed them as follows: ‘O Jews, beware lest God bring upon you the vengeance that He brought upon Quraysh [Meccans] and become Muslims. You know that I am a prophet who has been sent—you will find that in your scriptures and God's covenant with you.’ They replied, ‘O Muhammad, you seem to think that we are your people. Do not deceive yourself because you encountered a people (i.e. the Quraysh) with no knowledge of war and got the better of them; for by God if we fight you, you will find that we are real men!’
Here Muhammad threatened the Jews to submit to Islam (i.e. to his religious and political authority), pointing to them what happened to the Meccans at Badr—a fate that may visit them too, if they didn’t embrace Islam. But the Jews rejected his threatening invitation with defiance, promising to strike back hard if Muhammad would attack them.
After Muhammad’s threat, Allah also came with his own threat to the Jews as Ibn Ishaq (p. 363) notes:
A freedman of the family of Zayd b. Thabit from Sa'Id b. Jubayr or from Tkrima from Ibn 'Abbas told me that the latter said the following verses (Quran 3:13) came down about them:
‘Say to those who disbelieve: you will be vanquished and gathered to Hell, an evil resting place. You have already had a sign in the two forces which met’, i.e. the apostle’s companions at Badr and the Quraysh. ‘One force fought in the way of God; the other, disbelievers, thought they saw double their own force with their very eyes. God strengthens with His help whom He will. Verily in that is an example for the discerning.’ [Quran 3:13]
As the Banu Qainuqa Jews flatly rejected both threats, it was time for Muhammad to look for an excuse for putting the threat into action. It seems Muhammad found no excuse whatsoever for attacking the Jews. So, Allah had to create one for Muhammad, an outrageously silly one at that in verses 8:55–58. The Jews, for rejecting Muhammad, suddenly became the worst of beasts:
For the worst of beasts in the sight of Allah are those who reject Him: They will not believe. [Quran 8:55]
What punishment do they deserve? It’s stated in previous verse (Quran 8:54):
…after the manner of the people of Pharaoh and those before them: They treated as false the Signs of their Lord: so We destroyed them for their crimes, and We drowned the people of Pharaoh: for they were all oppressors and wrong-doers.
The Jews, for rejecting Muhammad, deserved similar punishment as Pharaoh suffered (i.e. complete destruction) for rejecting Moses. To create an excuse for attacking the Jews, Allah falsely accused Banu Qainuqa of breaking treaty in the next verse 8:56:
They are those with whom thou didst make a covenant, but they break their covenant every time, and they have not the fear (of Allah).
Here Allah says that Muhammad had made a treaty with the Jews of Medina, which they broke repeatedly. In this verse, Allah lied on two counts: 1) No such treaty existed between Muhammad and the Jews, and 2) Even if it existed, the Jews never broke. It will be made clear below.
1) Did a treaty exist between Muhammad and the Jews?
There existed no treaty between Muhammad and the Jews, duly signed by both parties, which will become clear below.
By existence of a treaty between Muhammad and the Jews, Muslims mean the so-called “Constitution of Medina” [Ibn Ishaq, p. 231-232]. Muslims boast about this so-called treaty—deemed ‘ideal blueprint’ of the Islamic state—as an epitome of tolerance, freedom, human rights and justice for people of all faiths in Islamic states. But this treaty, singed within the first year of Muhammad’s relocation to Medina, actually demands unconditional subjugation of all Medinans to the political and religious authority of Muhammad, a recent refugee there. What I will prove here is that the treaty was never signed by the Jews; they probably never saw it.
The wording of the treaty starts as thus: "In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful. This is a document from Muhammad the prophet between the believers and Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib, and those who followed them and joined them and labored with them.”
And it ends with the words: “God approves of this document… Muhammad is the apostle of God."
The words of both Allah and Muhammad, discussion above, have proven beyond doubt that the Jew would never accept Islam and submit to Muhammad’s leadership, never accept Muhammad as a prophet.
Would the Jews, then, sign something, which says twice that this is a document from Muhammad the prophet of God?
Signing of this document would mean that the Jews accepted Muhammad’s claim of ‘prophethood’, which they flatly and persistently rejected, indeed ridiculed, all along. They even suffered horribly at Muhammad’s hand; still, they didn’t accept him as a prophet. Therefore, it becomes clear that this document would never be signed by the Jews. Indeed, according Montgomery Watt (a Western Islamic scholar favorite to Muslims, whose books are published in Pakistan): there were nine contracting parties in this document: they were the Muslim refugee from Mecca and the Medinan Arab tribes (non-Jewish), who had become essentially Islamic by converting to Islam in large numbers after Muhammad’s arrival in Medina. None of the Jewish tribes were co-signatory in this document. [Watt M, Islam and the Integration of Society, 1961, p. 19]
Wording of this treaty makes it evident that it was an invitation from Muhammad to other tribes of Medina (the Jews included) to assemble under Muhammad and follow his commands. The Jews had no participation in its creation. It was, most likely, a document that records a secret understanding between Muhammad and the Medinan pagan-turn-Muslim tribes, who had formal alliance with the Jewish tribes. The Jews probably never saw this document.
2) Did the Jews break any treaty?
Even if a treaty existed, the Jews never broke it, even not once, forget about their breaking it ‘every time’ as Allah accuses them of. It becomes evident from Allah’s own words, the next verse, in which Allah commands Muhammad to attack the Jews:
If thou fearest treachery from any group, throw back (their covenant) to them, (so as to be) on equal terms: for Allah loveth not the treacherous [Quran 8:58].
This verse is Allah’s direct command to attack Banu Qainuqa, the first Jewish tribe to face Muhammad’s sword, as Al-Tabari cites the account of al-Zuhri that a verse was brought by angel Gabriel to Muhammad, which said [History of Al-Tabari, New York, VII:86]:
‘And if thou fearest treachery from any folk, then throw back to them their treaty fairly’ [Quran 8:58]. Whereupon, Muhammad said, ‘‘I fear Banu Qaynuqa’’ and ‘the Messenger of God advanced upon them.’
This verse gives clear command to Muhammad to attack Banu Qainuqa, and as the reason, Allah only mentions Muhammad's fear that the treaty may be broken in the future; the Jews hadn’t broken it yet—not even once, forget about many times as Allah claimed in previous verse.
In fact, the real reason as to why the Jews should be attacked can be found in the next verse (Quran 8:59):
And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s Purpose). Lo! they cannot escape.
The Jews were obviously trying to “outstrip Allah’s purpose”. Allah tried to persuade, indeed pleaded, the Jews in so many verses to accept His revelations, sent through Muhammad. They not only rejected Allah’s pleadings, but also ridiculed those messages: they found so many faults with his messages, causing ridicule and embarrassment to Muhammad-Allah duo.
How dare they? They deserve the gravest of punishment for a crime of such huge proportion. Let them not escape, commands Allah.
In sum, Muhammad attacked the Jews for his fear that Banu Qainuqa might break a treaty sometime in the future, not because they already broke one. Over this fear, Muhammad besieged Banu Qaynuqa. After a fifteen-day siege, the Jews surrendered. In order to mete out the deserving punishment to them (Allah had promised to smite them in Q5:49 and drown and destroy them completely like Pharaoh in Q8:54), Muhammad ordered the surrendered men to be tied for their summary execution. At this point, Abdullah ibn Obayi—vilified as hypocrite in Islam, but a rather humane chief of the Khazraj clan, who had converted to Islam, but never approved Muhammad’s cruelties—firmly intervened. He even threatened Muhammad with consequences had he slaughtered the Jews. As a result, Muhammad prudently relented from slaughtering the prisoners. Instead, he exiled them to Syria [Ibn Ishaq, p. 363-64].
Here’s another hadith, which describes Muhammad’s threat against the Jews most clearly [Bukhari 9:85:77]:
Narrated Abu Huraira: While we were in the mosque, Allah's Apostle (Muhammad) came out to us and said, "Let us proceed to the Jews." So we went along with him till we reached Bait-al-Midras (a place where the Torah used to be recited and all the Jews of the town used to gather). The Prophet stood up and addressed them, "O Assembly of Jews! Embrace Islam and you will be safe!" The Jews replied, "O Muhammad! You have conveyed Allah's message to us." The Prophet said, "That is what I want (from you)." He repeated his first statement for the second time, and they said, "You have conveyed Allah's message, O Muhammad." Then he said it for the third time and added, "You should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I want to exile you from this land, so whoever among you owns some property, can sell it, otherwise you should know that the Earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle."
This discussion makes it clear that the Jews never ever aggressively attacked and killed any Muslim, which, Muslims claim, forced Muhammad to attack and evict them in defence. They even didn’t break any treaty, which Muslims offer as the most common justification. Even treaty probably never existed. Hence, Muhammad had no justification to attack the Jews. Muhammad’s attacking and evicting, and even mass slaughtering and enslavement, of the Jews was an instance of unjustified barbarism to the extreme.
M. A. Khan is the author of Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery.