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Conquest of Khaybar

Conquest of Khaybar

Khaybar consisted of several castles. Its people were engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry. Due to its good agricultural capacities, it was referred to as the wheat store of °ij¡z.[1] Its people also enjoyed good economic prosperity. The great goods and ammunitions which fell in the hands of Muslims after the collapse of the castles witness to this issue. The very structure of the castles was strong and enduring and the number of their troops was in thousands.[2] For this reason, they considered themselves strong enough to stop the attacks of Muslims.[3]

The Jews of Khaybar made use of any chance available to try to destroy the newly built Islamic government as their city was turned into a permanent center for conspiracies against Islam. Having been defeated in Medina, the chiefs of Ban£’l-Na¤¢r joined Khaybar to cooperate with them against Islam.

In the sixth year of Hegira, Sall¡m ibn Ab¢’l-°uqayq, one of Ban£’l-Na¤¢r's chiefs who had obtained the leadership of the Jews of Khaybar through cooperation with the tribe of Gha§af¡n and other infidel tribes, gathered a great troop to fight against Muslims. After he was killed by Muslims due to plotting conspiracies against them, people of Khaybar appointed Usayr ibn Z¡rim as their leader.[4] This man, too, engaged himself in aggression and provocation of tribes against Muslims.[5]

To eradicate the previous signs of enmity, the Holy Prophet dispatched a group under the supervision of `Abdull¡h ibn Raw¡¦ah to the newly appointed leader to secure his consent for peace. The new leader, together with `Abdull¡h and a group of Jews, was on his way to Medina to talk to the Holy Prophet. However, on the way, he changed his mind and tried to kill `Abdull¡h. Due to this confrontation, he and his company all were killed.[6] In this way, the Holy Prophet’s peaceful plans became null and void.

A contemporary historian states that in addition to these conspiracies, Muslims anticipated that the Jews of Khaybar who had already incurred the hostility of Muslims might be used by the Iranian or Roman empires to prepare for an attack against Islam as a compensation for the defeat and failure of Ban£-Qaynuq¡`, Ban£’l-Na¤¢r, and Ban£-Quray¨ah.[7]

After the convention of the °udaybiyah Truce through which the Holy Prophet was at ease regarding the dangers from the south, he, together with fourteen Muslim warriors, headed to the north to disarm the Jews of Khaybar. That was in the beginning of the seventh year of Hegira. He chose such a direction for his involvement as to cut the relations of Gha§af¡n, the powerful ally of Khaybar, with the people of Khaybar depriving them of any cooperation with each other.[8] Using the tactic of surprise, all the castles and strongholds of Khaybar fell to Muslims and the Jewish chiefs presumed predicament with dawn.

The encounter was unequal; warriors of Khaybar were in their stronghold, they had the doors firmly closed and through their guards on the towers and high walls hindered any Muslim approach. In one attack, fifty Muslim warriors were wounded.[9]

Besides, the warriors of Khaybar had sufficient supplies, but Muslims felt short of supplies as the war continued. Finally, with great hardships on the part of Muslims, the castes fell one after another. However, the last castle, called Q¡m£s, which was supervised by the famous Jewish hero named Mar¦ab, continued to defend itself and Muslim warriors were unable to capture.

One day, the Holy Prophet gave the banner to Ab£-Bakr and the next day to `Umar with some troops to attack the castle, but they both failed.[10] Seeing this, the Holy Prophet declared:

“Tomorrow, I will hand this banner to one who, with God's support, will capture this castle; one who is loved by God and His Apostle and God and His Apostle love; he is not a quitter.”

That night, every Muslim desired that he would be given the banner. When dawn came, the Holy Prophet asked, “Where is `Al¢?” They replied, “He is suffering a severe eye-ache and he is now at rest.” The Holy Prophet summoned `Al¢ and cured his eyes. Submitting the banner to `Al¢, the Holy Prophet ordered him,

“Move towards them; as soon as you arrive at their castle, invite them to Islam and remind them of their rights. I swear to God that to conduct one person to the truth is better for you than having red-haired camels.”[11]

Imam `Al¢ headed for the mission; he could kill Mar¦ab through a heroic encounter in which Imam `Al¢ showed a unique bravery. He then could conquer that castle.

Attacking the castles of Khaybar, which were centers of conspiracy against Islam, shows a number of important matters some of which are as follows:

(1) This shows that the Holy Prophet enjoyed an effective management when he chose the quite suitable person to this mission.

(2) He used effective military tactics, such as the principle of surprise and the gathering of information.

(3) Imam `Al¢ showed such a unique bravery that none else had.

Imam `Al¢'s self-sacrifice and bravery in this war was so great that the Holy Prophet appreciated it and praised him for his vigor and stamina, declaring his precedence before all other Muslims.

Muslims also remembered this praise on many occasions. For instance, when he came to power, Mu`¡wiyah ordered everybody to curse Imam `Al¢ openly. Sa`d ibn Ab¢-Waqq¡¥ abstain from carrying out this order. When Mu`¡wiyah asked for the reason, Sa`d answered,

“I will never curse him, because I remember that the Holy Prophet mentioned three of his virtues, which I wished I could have only one of them. (1) In one of the wars [i.e. Tab£k], the Holy Prophet appointed him as his successor in Medina. `Al¢ asked, ‘Do you leave me with women and children in town?’ The Prophet answered, ‘Do you not like to be my successor in the same way as (Prophet) Aaron was the successor of (Prophet) Moses, except that there will be no prophet after me?’ (2) In the war of Khaybar, the Prophet declared, ‘I will submit the banner to a person who loves God and His Apostle and God and His Apostle love him.’ On that day, every one of us wished to gain such a prestige. The Prophet then ordered his men to summon `Al¢. `Al¢ came, while he was suffering from a bad eye-ache. The Prophet rubbed his eyes with his own saliva. Suddenly, `Al¢'s pain drove off and he received the banner from the Holy Prophet. God caused the castle to be conquered through `Al¢. (3) When it was arranged for the Holy Prophet to enter into Mub¡halah [mutual cursing] with the Christian priests of Najr¡n, this verse was revealed to him: ‘Say: Let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women. (3:61)’ The prophet thus called `Al¢, F¡§imah, °asan and °usayn and declared, ‘O God, these are my Household.’”[12]

Referring to that epoch-making war, Imam `Al¢ says,

“We were faced with a mountain of men and military ammunitions; their castles were invincible and their number was huge. Their heroes left the castles each day, asking for warriors. Any one of us who arrived at the battlefield was killed. When the fire of war was blazing and the enemy was asking for warriors to duel with; and when our troops were suffering from fright and fear; and they were looking at one another in a timid way, I was asked to go on the scene. The Prophet asked me to rise and attack the castle. I went forward and confronted their hero, killing him on the spot; I did the same thing with others. I made many of them retreat. Then, like a lion chasing the prey, I followed them until they took shelter inside the castle. Then they closed down the gates. I tore off the gate and entered the castle alone… I had nobody to help except for God…”[13]

The people of Khaybar surrendered after the fall of the last castle and the war terminated. The casualties of the troops of Khaybar reportedly were forty-three[14] and the number of the martyrs was twenty-eight.[15]



[1] al-W¡qid¢, al-Magh¡z¢ 2:434; Ibn Hush¡m, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 4:360.

[2] al-W¡qid¢, op cit, pp. 637-703. Al-Ya`q£b¢ states that the number of these letters was twenty thousand (2:46).

[3] al-W¡qid¢, op cit, pp. 637.

[4] According to Ibn Hush¡m, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 4:266, the name was Yusayr ibn Riz¡m.

[5] Ibn Sa`d, al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 2:91-92.

[6] Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, 4:266-267.

[7] Mu¦ammad °asanayn Haykal, °ay¡t Mu¦ammad, pp. 386.

[8] al-W¡qid¢, op cit, pp. 634.

[9] Al-W¡qid¢, op cit, pp. 646.

[10] ±abar¢, T¡r¢kh al-Umam wa’l-Mul£k 3:93; Ibn Hush¡m, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 4:349; Ibn Kath¢r, al-Bid¡yah wa’l-Nih¡yah 4:186.

[11] The Holy Prophet’s statement and Imam `Al¢’s mission were reported with some differences in the following reference books: ¯a¦¢¦ al-Bukh¡r¢ 1:5; ¯a¦¢¦ Muslim 15:76-177; Ibn Sa`d, Al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 2:110-111; Shaykh al-¯ad£q, Kit¡b al-Irsh¡d, pp. 311; T¡r¢kh al-±abar¢ 3:93; al-Qanad£z¢, Yan¡b¢` al-Mawaddah 1:47; Ibn al-Ath¢r, al-K¡mil f¢’l-T¡r¢kh 2:219; Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Is¢`¡b 3:36; al-°¡kim al-Nays¡b£r¢, al-Mustadrak `Al¡’l-¯a¦¢¦ayn 3:104; Ibn Hush¡m, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 3:349; Ibn °ajar, al-¯aw¡`iq al-Mu¦riqah, pp. 121; al-W¡qid¢, al-Magh¡z¢ 2:635; Ibn W¡¤i¦, T¡r¢kh al-Ya`q£b¢ 2:46; Ibn Kath¢r, al-Bid¡yah wa’l-Nih¡yah 4:186; al-S¢rah al-°alabiyyah 2:733-736; Shaykh al-±£s¢, al-Am¡l¢, pp. 380.

[12] ¯a¦¢¦ Muslim 15:176.

Sa`d ibn Ab¢-Waqq¡¥ (belonged to Ban£-Zuhrah) was one of the early converts to Islam at the age of seventeen (Al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 3:134) or fourteen (al-S¢rah al-°alabiyyah 1:434) in Mecca. In Medina, he was considered one of the great figures of Muh¡jir£n. He was among `Al¢'s political rivals and one of the members of the six-member council who was set to select a caliph after `Umar’s assassination. He refused to vote for `Al¢ (Ibn Ab¢’l-°ad¢d, Shar¦ Nahj al-Bal¡ghah 1:188). After the assassination of `Uthm¡n, Imam `Al¢ was elected by all Muslims except a few group among was Sa`d who rejected to pay homage to Imam `Al¢ (Mas`£d¢, Mur£j al-Dhahab 2:353; Ibn al-Ath¢r, al-K¡mil f¢’l-T¡r¢kh 3:191). Despite his situation from Imam `Al¢, he had to confess these three unmatched virtues of `Al¢.

[13] ¯ad£q, al-Khi¥¡l, pp. 369, chapter 7.

[14] al-Majlis¢, Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r 21:32.

[15] Mu¦ammad Ibr¡h¢m ªyat¢, the History of the Prophet of Islam, pp. 473-475.

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