the combatants of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza when they committed treachery against the Muslims during the battle of Khandaq. (trenches) in 627 CE.
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SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE STORY OF BANU QURAYZAH : A RE – Muhammad Munir * ABSTRACT One of the univers ally accepted stories in Islamic jus in Bello is that the Prophet Peace be Upon Him ordered the killing of all the combatants of Banu Qurayzah (Qurayza) for their treachery. It seems that this story is blindly accepted by Muslims themselves without knowing that this is perhaps the greatest fabrication in Islamic jus in Bello. This article attempts to elaborate the inner contradictions in the Banu Qurayza episode. It is concluded that the killing of all the combatants of Banu Qurayza never took place. Key w ords : Banu Qurayzah , Jews, Islamic law, Islamic jus in Bello . * Dr. Muhammad Munir, PhD, is Professor at Faculty Professor of Jurisprudence and Isl amic Law at the University College, Islamabad.

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8 INTRODUCTION One story that is reported as a Gospel truth in our history is the killing of the combatants of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza when they committed treachery against the Muslims during the battle of Khandaq (trenches) in 627 CE. Historians have relied on Muhammad Ibn Ishaq Ibn Yathar (d. 153 AH/770 CE) for this story without questioning the authenticity of his accounts. This article attempts to discuss that Ibn the Banu Qurayza episode is full of contradictions and he seems to have fabricated the story but has presented it in such a way as to make it a Gospel truth. Finally, this work also analyses the article of M.J. Kister who has strongly defended Ibn Ishaq an d considered the Banu Qurayzah IBN ISHAQ S ACCOUNT OF THE STORY OF BANU QURAYZA : A RE-EVALUATION According to Ibn Ishaq, the Banu Qurayzah committed treachery during the battle of Khandaq (trench) also known as ahzab, betrayed the Muslims during the battle of ahzab, breached the treaty between the two sides (Muslims and Banu Qurayzah ), and supported the large anti -Muslim coalition ( ahzab ) headed by the infidels of Makka. This was against the treaty they had with the Muslims whic h stated that

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9 both sides shall defend the city together against any external attack. Once the battle was over, the Muslim army besieged the forts of Banu Qurayzah who eventually surrendered and were taken captives by the Muslim army and their fate was refe rred to an arbitrator 1 According to Ibn Isha q, some 600 -900 combatants were executed in the market place in Madinah in special trenches dug for them; that all of the Banu Quraydah were put into one house Dar bint al -Harith in Madina; that trenches were dug; and that all of them (combatants) were e xecuted by just two persons b. Abi Talib and Zubair b. al – is also reported by the compilers of ahadith with some conflicts in reports. 2 The words of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are identical. 1 Ibn Ishaq has given the story in minute detail. See, Muhammad b. Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad , trans. A. Guillaume (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), 461 -467. 2 See, Bukhari, Sahih , hadith no. 2878 avai lable at (last accessed 01 May, 2014); Muslim b. al -Hajjaj al -Nisapuri, Sahih Muslim , hadith no. 1769. Also see, Muhammad b. E isa al -Tirmizi, Sunan, Hadith no. 1582.

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10 they could assist Muslims. Tirmizi 3 The report in Musannaf is identical to the one in Bukhari and Muslim. 4 The episode is also mentioned in al – 5 Ahmad 6 The words of the first report ar e similar to that of Tirmizi with the only difference that the later mentions the enslavement of children as well. Ahmad also puts their number to be 400. Some commentators of ahadith have completely relied on Ibn Ishaq regarding the incident of Banu Qurad ha, such as Badruddin al – Ibn Ishaq, they were either 600 or 900 ( wa qila ).7 According to another commentator of hadith , they were between 600 to 800 in number. He states that they were imprisoned in one house called Dar bint al -Harith in Madina; trenches were dug; and that all of them (combatants) were executed by just two persons 3 See, Muhammad b. Eisa al -Tirmizi, Sunan, hadith no. 1582. 4 -Yamani, Al-Musannaf , hadith no. 9737. 5 -Juzjani, Sunan , hadith no. 2962; Also see, Ishaq b. Ibrahim (Ibn Rahw iya), Musnad ibn Rahwiya , hadith no. 1126. 6 Ahmad b. Hanbl, Musnad , hadith 14773, 24295, and 25097. 7 -Qari Sharhsahih al -Bukhari , hadith no. 158.

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12 summarized as follows: the head of Banu Qurayzah who is reported to have given three alternatives to his people: first, that since Muhammad Peace be Upon Him was a Prophet of God therefore they should follow him but they rejected this option; secondly, he told them that they shou ld kill their wives and children and fight the Muslims. This plan was also rejected by the Qurayzah fight the Muslims on the night of Sabbath. The Qurayzah also rejected this. 12 The story of Banu Quray zah as reported by Ibn Ishaq has too many inner contradictions which makes it very difficult to accept with all the details. However, the credibility of the mass execution of all the combatants as reported by Ibn Ishaq has been seriously questioned. A full account of criticism of the story of executions is beyond the scope of this work but some of the important points are summarized here. 1) It is very difficult to believe that the Qurayzah knowingly rejected the Prophet Peace be Upon Him and that 600 to 9 00 men were going to fight an army of 3000 soldiers, who had returned victorious 12 See the full story in Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad , 461 -62.

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13 from the Battle of ahzab.13 2) Ahmad argues that since the Maccabean revolt (175 -135 B.C.) a rule has been promulgated that the preservation of life overrides the observance of the Sabbath. 3) He later tradition. 14 4) He mentions that the episode of the Qurayzah requesting to consult Abu Lubabah b. Mundhir who pointed his hand towards his throat signifying slaug hter is not true either because it would mean that the fate of Qurayzah was already decided by the Apostle and Abu Lubababah already knew it. 5) In addition, when Aws were asked by the Apostle to decide the fate of Qurayzah and o had earlier been deputed by the Apostle to go to Banu Qurayzah and remind them about the treaty and when the Jews told him that they had no agreement or understanding with the Prophet Peace be Upon Him reviled them and they reviled him. Ahmad opines that his intention to sentence them to death had spread and yet he went through the formalities of asking the Banu Qurayzah if they would accept his judgment and these very people who had asked for kind treatment f or the Qurayzah 13 Ahmad, Muhammad and the Jews , 74. 14 Ibid., at 76.

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14 Prophet Peace be Upon Him the same question although his opinion was known to Abu Lubabah who had already communicated it to Banu Qurayzah judgm ent was prearranged which is impossible. 15 6) Moreover, the speech of the leader of the Jews at the fort of Masada. 16 7) Arafat argues that the number of those killed at Masada were 960 in t otal, that the number of sicarii who were killed numbered 600, and that at the time of despair they were addressed by their leader Eleazar precisely descendants of Jews who fled south to Arabia after the Jewish wars 17 Ahmad disagrees with Arafat although Ibn Ishaq narrated reports from the children of Jewish converts it did not make mu ch difference in the shaping of the story. -Qurazi is the only Jewish convert from whom Ibn Ishaq has narrated a report on this story. 9) I n addition, the actual sentencing raises many questions as there is no unanimity in 15 Ibid., at 79, 80. 16 17 Ibid., at 106, 107.

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15 reports. This would exclude sick, infirm, old, and other adult male population. every adult of -Qurazi who was from Banu Qurydha and who says that since the razor had not passed him he was not killed. 18 10) How could such a large number of captives (600 -900) men, their women and children 19 be taken to Madinah without any resistance and incarcerated in one house Dar Bint al -Harith? 20 11) Ahmad argues as to why were the captives taken to Madina h as they could have been executed in their own forts and why were new trenches dug for them when trenches were already dug by Muslims to defend Madinah against ahzab?21 – reported to share their experiences with 18 See, Abu Dawud Suliman b. al – Sunan, hadith no. 4404. 19 In a small family of those days if every family had four children the total number would be 3,600. 20 The forts of Banu Qurayzah were at a distance of about 5 -6 hours from the centre of Madinah. See, Ahmad, Muhammad and the Jews , 82. The question is that were there such large houses in Madina at that time? 21 Ibid., at 83.

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