Akram Diya al Umari
Excerpted from Madinan Society At the Time of the Prophet, International Islamic Publishing House & IIIT, 1991
Khaybar is an agricultural oasis situated approximately 165 kilometers to the north of Madinah, at an altitude of 850 m above sea level. It is the second largest Harrah in Arabia, after the Harrah Banu Salim. Khaybar enjoys fertile land and abundant water, hence it was famous for having many palm trees, apart from the corn and fruits it produced. For this reason it was known as the garden of the Hijaz, because of its fertility, impregnability, and livestock. There was a market place in Khaybar called Suq al Natah, which was guarded by the tribe of Ghatafan, who considered Khaybar to be within their borders. Because of its economic position, many merchants and craftsmen lived there, and there was much money-changing activity.
Before the conquest, Khaybar was inhabited by a mixture of Arabs and Jews. The number of Jews increased after the expulsion of the Jews from Madinah at the time of the Prophet.
The Jews of Khaybar did not show any hostility toward the Muslims until the leaders of Banu al Nadir settled among them. These leaders had been deeply hurt by their expulsion from their homes. The expulsion had not destroyed their power, because they had left Madinah with their wives and children and their wealth, followed by singers beating drums and playing wind-instruments in an act of conceit and pride, the like of which had never been seen among any people at that time.
The most prominent leaders of Banu al Nadir who settled in Khaybar were Salam ibn Abu al Haqiq, Kinanah ibn Abu al Haqiq, and Huyayy ibn Akhtab. When they came to Khaybar, the people accepted their leadership.
The leadership of these three men was enough to drag the Jews of Khaybar into conflict aimed at retaliation against the Muslims. They were driven by an inner hatred and strong desire to return to their homes in Madinah.
Their first move against the Muslims came in the Battle of the Ditch, when the Jews of Khaybar, led by the leaders of Banu al Nadir, played a significant role in the incitement of Quraysh and the desert Arabs against the Muslims, and spent their own money for that purpose. Then they succeeded in persuading Banu Qurayzah to betray the Muslims and cooperate with their enemies.
After God had aided the Muslims in defending Madinah and defeating the tribes, the Messenger felt that it was important to deal with the situation in Khaybar, which had become a source of great danger for the Muslims.
Ibn Ishaq reports ?with an isnad containing a majhul narrator? that the Messenger sent a letter to them, calling them to Islam and reminding them of what their own Scriptures said about his coming. Of course, the Jews did not accept his invitation, nor did they apologize for inciting the enemies of the Muslims. The Messenger therefore decided to liquidate their leaders who had played a part in the incitement against him, including Salam ibn Abd al Haqiq. The Messenger sent Abd Allah ibn Atik and some of the Ansar, and they killed him.
Al Bukhari gave the story of his killing in detail: Abd Allah ibn Atik found and ingenious way to enter his house, which was within his stronghold and surrounded by his bodyguard, and killed him in his bedroom. This indicates that Abd Allah ibn Atik was courageous, eager and ready to make sacrifices for the sake of his beliefs.
But eliminating some of the Jewish leaders was not sufficient to remove the danger to the Muslims. The treaty of al Hudaybiyah, between the Muslims and Quraysh, which took place in the sixth year of the Hijrah, gave the Muslims the opportunity to devote themselves to the conquest of Khaybar. Many of the Qur?anic commentators suggest that God promised the Muslims that they would conquer Khaybar and take booty from it, in Surat al Fath, which was revealed on the way back from al Hudaybiyah:
“God’s good pleasure was on the believers when they swore fealty to thee under the tree: He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down tranquility to them; and He rewarded them with a speedy victory; and many gains will they acquire (besides): and God is exalted in power, full of wisdom. God has promised you many gains that you shall acquire, and He has given you these beforehand; and He has restrained the hands of men from you; that it may be a sign for the believers, and that He may guide you to a straight path; and other gains (there are), which are not within your power, but which God has compassed: and God has power over all things.” (Al Fath, 48:18-21)
The date of the campaign
Ibn Ishaq suggested that it took place in Muharram of the seventh year. Al Waqidi suggested that it took place in Safar or Rabi al Awwal of the seventh year, after the return from al Hudaybiyah in Dhu al Hijjah of the sixth year. Al Zuhri and Imam Malik suggested that it took place in Muharram of the sixth year. The historians followed these pioneers in establishing the date of the campaign, so their suggestions also differ. There is no great difference between Ibn Ishaq and al Waqidi; it is less than three months. The difference between them and al Zuhri and Imam Malik stem from the differences in defining the beginning of the hijrah calendar. Some of them included the months preceding Rabi? al Awwal, the month in which the hijrah took place, so they added a year to the dates of the events which took place at the time of the Prophet; others ignored those months, and considered Rabi? al Awwal as the beginning of the calendar, so they dropped a year from the dates of the events. Ibn Hajar preferred Ibn Ishaq?s suggestion to that of al Waqidi.
On the way to Khaybar
When the Muslims set off for Khaybar under the leadership of the Prophet, they were shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Most Great) and “La Ilaha illa Allah” (There is no god but Allah) in loud voices, and he asked them to calm down, saying: “You are calling One who is All-hearing and Close, and He is with you.”
This gives a clear picture of the spirit which was controlling the Islamic army. They were motivated by strong faith and their morale for fighting was high, while they were marching towards strongholds full of men, weapons, provisions and supplies. None of these could prevent the believers from achieving their noble aims.
Al Waqidi is the only one who gives a detailed description of the Prophet?s route to Khaybar. Al Waqidi is an expert in describing routes and in defining the places where the events of the Sirah took place. He used to follow the routes himself and ask questions about them. He explained that the Prophet left Madinah and went through Thinyat al Wada, Zaghabah, Nuqma, al Mustanah, al Watih, Asr, Sahba, and al Kharasah; he then passed between al Shiqq and al Natah, went through al Manzilah and al Raji?, from where he set off to conquer Khaybar. Since al Raji? lies to the northeast of Khaybar, it seems that the Prophet wanted to cut Khaybar off from Syria and its allies in Ghatafan.
Description of the conquest of Khaybar
The Prophet conquered al Natah first, and its two strongholds, Na’im and al Sa?b, fell to the Muslims. Then he conquered al Shiqq, and its two strongholds, Abi and al Nizar, fell. Al Natah and al Shiqq lie to the northeast of Khaybar. Then he conquered al Katibah, and its stronghold, al Mani (or al Qamus), fell. This was the stronghold of Ibn Abu al Haqiq. Then he conquered al Watil, and then al Salalim, and their strongholds fell. This is the sequence of the conquest areas around Khaybar according to al Waqidi’s description. Ibn Ishaq?s description differs in the order of events. He agrees with al Waqidi that the conquest began with the capture of the stronghold of Na’im in the region of al Natah, but he differs in that he puts the capture of al Qamus before the capture of al Sa’b.
The authentic hadith indicate that the Prophet reached Khaybar before dawn and prayed Fajr in its vicinity. Then he attacked it before the sun rose. The Jewish peasants who came out to work with their cattle, hoes and baskets were surprised to see the Muslims there and exclaimed: “Muhammad and his army!” The Messenger answered: “Allahu Akbar! Khaybar is destroyed. When we descend into the open space of people, evil will be the morning for those who were warned (and heeded not)!”
The Jews took refuge in their strongholds, and the Muslims besieged the stronghold of al Na’im. Ghatafan quickly came to the aid of the Jews of Khaybar, who were their allies, but they did not join in the fighting for fear that the Muslims might attack their homes. Al Waqidi states that Ghatafan reached the strongholds of Khaybar, but Ibn Ishaq states that they returned to their homes before reaching Khaybar. Al Waqidi is the only one who says that the Prophet offered Ghatafan a year?s date harvest from Khaybar in return for their withdrawal, and that they refused. This report cannot be relied upon because al Waqidi is weak and he is the only one who reported it.
Abu Bakr carried the flag of the Muslims for the first two days of the siege of Na’im, but it did not fall to him, and stress and exhaustion overtook them. The Prophet said: ?Tomorrow I will give the flag to a man whom Allah and His Messenger love, and who loves Allah and His Messenger. He will not return until the stronghold has fallen to him??? The Muslims? spirits revived. After the Prophet had prayed Fajr the following morning, he called Ali and gave him the flag. Ali carried it on the third day, and he achieved the conquest.
One report indicates that the flag-bearer before Ali was Umar ibn al Khattab, not Abu Bakr, but this is a weak report relying on Maymun al Basri who is daif. Another report tells that Abu Bakr, Umar and Ali took turns in carrying the flag on the third day. This is also a weak report because its narrator, Baridah ibn Sufyan, is weak.
The Prophet commanded Ali to call the Jews of Khaybar to Islam, and to tell them what their duties towards God were. He said to him: “By God, if God guides one man (to Islam) through you, it is better for you than the most valuable camels.” This shows that the Prophet was not eager for the booty of Khaybar; rather he was concerned about spreading the message of Islam and removing obstacles from the path of its preparation.
When Ali asked him: “O Messenger of God, on what basis shall I fight?” he said: “Fight them until they say ‘There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah If they do so, their blood and wealth will be protected from you, except what is due from it (i.e., zakah, etc.) and Allah knows their intentions.”
Mahmud ibn Maslamah al Ansari was martyred in the siege of the stronghold of Na’im, when Marhab threw a millstone onto him from the heights of the stronghold. Ali met Marhab in combat and killed him. Marhab was one of the heroes of the Jews, and his death affected their morale.
Several reports tell that Ali carried a gate of the fortress of Na?im as a shield after a Jew had knocked his shield from his arm, but these are all unsubstantiated reports. Rejecting these reports is not a denial of Ali?s strength and courage. There are many other reports which establish this beyond doubt.
The conquest of Na?im took ten days. Afterward, the Muslims set off toward the stronghold of al Sa?b ibn Mu?adh in the region of al Natah, where there were 500 warriors with food and provisions. The Muslims were suffering from lack of food. Al Habbab ibn al Mundhir carried the flag at the conquest, and he did well and fought the Jews bravely. The conquest took three days. Then the Muslims conquered the stronghold of Qal?at al Zubayr, which was the last stronghold of al Natah. The fugitives from Na’im, al Sa?b, and the other Jewish strongholds conquered by the Muslims had gathered in Qal’at al Zubayr, and it was a high and impregnable stronghold. The Muslims cut off the water supply, and forced the Jews to come down and fight; they killed ten of the Jews and conquered the stronghold after a siege lasting three days. After they had dealt with the people of al Natah, who were strongest of the Jews, the Muslims moved from al Raji? to al Manzilah.
Undoubtedly, the position of the Muslims was much stronger after they had defeated the people of al Natah and seized their food and provisions, and the rest of the Jews of Khaybar were alarmed by the fall of al Natah.
The Muslims set off to conquer al Shiqq. This area contained many strongholds, including Abi and al Nizar. The Muslims began by conquering Abi; some of the Jewish warriors were killed in single combat in front of the stronghold. Then the Muslims stormed the fortress and gained the food and provisions inside. Some of the Jewish warriors managed to escape and barricade themselves in the fortress of al Nizar, where they fought the Muslims with arrows and stones. Their resistance collapsed before the siege of the Muslims, who conquered the fortress. The rest of the people of al Shiqq fled from their strongholds to the area of al Katibah, to the southwest of Khaybar, and barricaded themselves in the stronghold of al Qamus (al Mani’). Some of the defeated barricaded themselves with the people of the strongholds of al Watih and al Salalim. The Muslims besieged them for 14 days, before they asked for peace without there having been any fighting. Al Nizar was the last stronghold in which there was fighting. Afterwards the Jewish resistance collapsed and the Jews limited themselves to barricading themselves inside their strongholds, and this barricading always ended with their asking for peace.
The description of the conquest of the strongholds of al Sa’b and al Zubayr, and of the regions of al Shiqq and al Katibah, is based on al Waqidi. He is the only one who gives a clear picture of the conquest of these areas. He is an historian (akhbari) who has abundant information, despite his being weak in the opinion of the hadith scholars. His report is of the kind which is allowable.
Ibn Ishaq?s reports about the conquest of Khaybar are confused and lack precision when compared with the location of the strongholds of Khaybar. An authentic report mentions that the Prophet fought the people of Khaybar, then seized their land and palm trees, and forced them back to their citadel. They agreed that the gold and silver, weapons and armor were for the Messenger of God, and that they could have whatever their mounts could carry, on condition that they restrained themselves and did not conceal anything. If they did so, there would be no protection for them and no treaty with them. They concealed some musk belonging to Huyayy ibn Akhtab, who had been killed before Khaybar, and who had brought it with him on the day Banu al Nadir were expelled. Sayah was asked: “Where is the musk of Huyayy ibn Akhtab?” He answered: “It was spent on war and other expenses.” Then the Muslims found the musk, and killed the two sons of Abu al Haqiq, and took their women and children as prisoners.
Ibn Ishaq mentions without isnad, that the one who concealed the treasure and was asked about it was Kinanah ibn al Rabi?. Ibn Sa’d mentions Kinanah and his brother al Rabi’. Ibn Sa’d’s isnad includes Muhammad ibn Abd al Rahman ibn Abu Layla, who is saduq, but he has a very bad memory.
It has been proved that the Jews of the stronghold of al Qamus asked the Prophet for peace, but afterward broke the treaty, so he took their wealth.
The people of al Watih and al Salalim realized, after the fall of al Natah, al Shiqq and al Qamus, that their resistance was futile. They asked the Prophet to let them go and to spare their lives, and he did so.
The rest of Khaybar fell to the Muslims. The people of Fidak, to the north of Khaybar, hastened to ask for peace, and to be allowed to leave in safety, and leave their wealth in return for that. The Prophet agreed to their request.
Fidak was exclusively for the Messenger of Allah, because he had not made an expedition to it with either cavalry or camelry. The Muslims then besieged Wadi al Qura, a group of villages a few days? travel between Khaybar and Tayma. The villages surrendered, and the Muslims took much wealth as booty, but they left the land and palm trees to the Jews, and treated them as they had treated Khaybar. Tayma made a peace treaty similar to the treaties of Khaybar and Wadi al Qura.
Thus the rest of the Jewish strongholds fell before the Muslims. The report of the request for a peace treaty on the part of the people of al Watih and al Salalim, and of Fidak, was transmitted by Ibn Ishaq with a munqati isnad which is not valid evidence for the rules of Islamic jurisprudence. It is valid for describing historical events. Its narrator, Abd Allah ibn Abu Bakr ibn Amr ibn Hazm is famous for transmitting information of the Maghazi.
The number of Jewish men killed in the battle of Khaybar was 93 and their women and children were taken prisoners. Among the prisoners was Safiyah bint Huyayy ibn Akhtab. The Prophet freed and married her.
Twenty Muslims were martyred, according to Ibn Ishaq, al Waqidi said that there were 15. It is a sign of Allah?s abandoning the Jews that the number of their men killed while defending well-fortified strongholds was far greater than the number of Muslims who were martyred while fighting on open ground. There is a sahih report that a Jewish woman gave the Prophet a roasted sheep she had poisoned; she had put the most poison into the shoulder when she learned that this was the part he preferred. When he tasted some of the shoulder, he realized that it had been poisoned, so he spat out the mouthful. The woman confessed, and he did not punish her but later he killed her when Bishr ibn Ma?rur died as a result of having eaten poison in his food.
What helped the Muslims to conquer Khaybar was the fact that after the treaty of al Hudaybiyah they were free to fight the Jews without Quraysh helping them (the Jews), and that the tribe of Ghatafan abandoned the alliance with the Jews of Khaybar out of fear for their own homes. Quraysh became dejected and angry when they heard the news of the Muslims? victory over the Jews of Khaybar. The victory was unexpected, because the impregnability of the forts and strongholds of the Jews in Khaybar, and the great numbers of warriors and weapons, were well-known. Similarly, the victory at Khaybar had a resounding effect on the other Arab tribes who were astonished by the news and so panic-stricken by the victory, that they held back their hostility and turned to reconciliation. Thus new horizons opened up for the spread of Islam.
The Jews were not expelled from Khaybar at the time of the Prophet. There is an authentic report that the Prophet allowed the Jews to stay in Khaybar on the condition that they work in agriculture and spend their own money on it, and that the Muslims would receive one half of their crops. This was in spite of the fact that the Muslims had the right to expel them if they wanted to. The Jews hastened to make this offer to the Prophet, saying, ?We know the land better than you do? He agreed to this although he had intended to expel them. This does not contradict the report in the Sunan of Abu Dawud which says:
“When the Prophet and the Muslims gained the wealth (i.e., of Khaybar, including the land), they did not have enough workers to work the land for them, so the Messenger of Allah called the Jews, and made an agreement with them? It is possible to reconcile the two reports by explaining that the Jews made this offer to the Messenger and that he accepted after he had thought about it and seen that it was in the interests of the Muslims. Subsequently, he called the Jews and made an agreement with them).”
The fact that he intended to expel them is an indication that all of Khaybar was conquered by force, because those who made peace did so on condition that their lives would be spared and they would be able to leave.
The Jews settled in Khaybar, and the Prophet sent a man on his behalf to evaluate the crops and take the Muslims? share. On one occasion he sent Abd Allah ibn Rawahah, who evaluated half the crop as being 20,000 camel-loads (wisq) of dates. He gave the Jews the choice of taking this half, or of leaving it for him (and taking the other half). They admired his fairness and said: “This is justice, upon which the heavens and the earth are established. We agree to take it, as you said”.
But there is another authentic report which says that he evaluated the crop at 40,000 camel-loads; they accepted his evaluation and had to pay 20,000 camel-loads. The two authentic reports may be reconciled by explaining that by ’40’ was meant the share of both the Jews and the Muslims, and by ’20’ was meant the share of only one of the two groups.
The effects of the conquest of Khaybar
Undoubtedly, the conquest of Khaybar brought great benefits to the Muslims, and improved their economic possibilities with a continual economic income. Aishah said, commenting upon the conquest of Khaybar, “Now we can eat our fill of dates”. Ibn Umar added, “We did not eat our fill until we conquered Khaybar”.
Undoubtedly, these reports give a clear picture of the benefits of the conquest of Khaybar in strengthening the economic position of the Muslims and of the economic situation before the conquest. In spite of the Muslims’ desperate need before Khaybar, the Messenger would have preferred the Jews’ becoming Muslim to receiving the booty, as is made clear by his command to Ali. Nor did he want to destroy or expel the Jews; for this reason he accepted the peace agreement which the Jews of al Qamus, al Watih and Salalim offered. After the agreement ? according to which the Jews accepted expulsion from Khaybar ? had been made, he agreed to let them stay in Khaybar according to their request, an indication of tolerance and justice. This action served the economic and military interests of the Islamic state, in that it conserved the military energies which could then be directed towards continual struggle aimed at unifying the Arab peninsula under the suzerainty of Islam. The Muslims did not turn to agriculture, which needs continual work in cultivating the land and tending plants and palms, and would use their time and energy. They also benefited from the experience and energies of the Jewish presence who maintained the level of agricultural production in Khaybar because of their experience with the land and its cultivation. The Muslims were provided with a large share (of the produce) which the state could use to equip the army and cover other expenses.
The Muslims gained moveable wealth; each man took whatever food he needed, without sharing it with the Muslims or giving 1/5 (khums) of it to the state, because it was little. This contradicts Al Waqidi’s report that there was much wealth and it was sufficient for the Muslims to feed themselves for a month or more.
 In collecting reports on this topic and selecting those which are authentic, I referred to the thesis by al Shaykh ?Awad Ahmad al Shahri, entitled Marwiyat Ghazwat Khaybar (Reports of the Khaybar Campaign), which he has submitted for a Master’s Degree in the Department of Postgraduate Studies in the Islamic University of Madinah al Munawwarah. I was a member of the examining panel.
 This is the distance by modern road, which is different from the route which was followed by the Messenger to Khaybar.
 See al Mawsu’ah al Arabiyyah al Muyassarah (The Simplified Arabic Encyclopedia), p. 770. Hamad at Jasir, Fi Shimal Gharb al Jazirah, 236-8
 Ibn Hisham, al Sirah, 3/272
 Ibn Hisham, al Sirah, 3/253, transmitted it from the Sirah authorities, joining their isnads together. The isnads contain a majhul narrator, who is invalidated by being mursal, but this report is acceptable, because soundness from a hadith point of view is not a condition for accepting akhbar.
 Ibn Hisham, al Sirah, 2/195
 Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Kitab al Maghazi, Bab Qatal Abu Rafiq, 7/340
 Ibn Hisham, al Sirah, 2/130; al Waqidi, al Maghazi, 2/634
 Ibn Asakir, Tarikh Madinat Dimashq (The History of the City of Damascus), 1/33
 Fath al Bari, 7/464
 al Bukhari, al Sahih, Kitab al Maghazi, Bab Ghazwat Khaybar, 7/470
 Al Waqidi, al Maghazi, 2/639
 Ibn Hisham, al Sirah, 3/438
 Al Bukhari, al Sahih, Kitab al Salah, 1/478; Kitab al Adhan, 2/89; Muslim, al Sahih, Kitab al Jihad wa al Siyar, Bab Ghazwat Khaybar, 3/426
 Al Waqidi, al Maghazi, 3/650; Ibn Hisham, al Sira, 3/438
 Ahmad, al Musnad, 5/353; al Hakim, al Mustadrak, 3/37; al Haythami, Majma al Zawa?id, 6/150. Al Hakim judged that its isnad was sahih, and both al Dhahabi and al Haythami agreed with him.
 Ahmad, al Musnad, 5/358; al Haythami, Kashf al Astar ?an Zawa?id Musnad al Bazar, 2/338; al Tabari, Tarikh al Rusul, 2/300; lbn Hajar, Taqrib al Tahdhib, 2/292
 Ibn Hisham, al Sirah, 3/455; al Tabari, Tarikh al Rusul, 2/300; al Hakim, al Mustadrak, 2/37; see also Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib, 1/433. Al Haythami (Majma al Zawa?id, 9/124) and al Bazar. Ibn Kathir, Al Sirah al Nabawiyah, 3/353) reported it with another isnad, which includes Hakim ibn Jubayr, who is daif, as mentioned in Ibn Hajar’s Taqrib al Tahdhib, 1/292
 Muslim, al Sahih, Kitab Fada?il al Sahabah, 4/1872
 Sharh al Nawawi ?ala Muslim, 15/177
 Ibn Hisham, al Sirah, 3/438; al Waqidi, al Maghazi, 2/645
 Muslim, al Sahih, Kitab at Jihad wa al Siyar, Bab Ghazwat Dhu Qarad, 3/1433
 Al Sa’ati, al Fath al Rabbani, 21/120; Ibn Hisham, al Sirah, 3/446; Ibn Kathir, al Sirah al Nabawiyyah, 3/359; Ibn Hajar, al Isabah, 2/509
 Al Waqidi, al Maghazi, 2/657
 Ibid., 2/259, 670
 The paternal uncle of Huyayy ibn Akhtab, Awn al Ma’bud (The Help of God), 8/241
 Abu Dawud, al Sunan, Kitab al Kharaj wa al Imarah wa al Fay Bab Ma Ja’a fi Hukm Ard Khaybar, 3/408
 Ibn Hisham, al Sirah, 3/449
 Ibn Sa’d, al Tabaqat, 2/112
 Ibn Hajar, Taqrib al Tahdhib, 2/184
 Ibn Hisham, al Sirah, 32/449
 Khalifah, Tarikh, 85, transmitted from Ibn Ishaq
 Ibn al Qayyim, Zad al Ma’ad, 1/405
 Al Waqidi, al Maghazi, 2/699
 Muslim, al Sahih, Kitab al Nikah, 2/1645
 Ibn Hisham, al Sirah, 2/804-5, where he gives a list of their names.
 Al Waqidi, al Maghazi, 2/700
 Al Bukhari, al Sahih, 5/176; Muslim, al Sahih, 7/14-15
 Ahmad, al Musnad, 3/138; Mawa’rid al Zaman, 413
 Al Bukhari, al Sahih, Kitab al Maghazi, Bab Mu?amalat al Nabi Ahl Khaybar, 7/496; Muslim, al Sahih, Kitab Musaqah, Bab al Musaqah wa al Muamalah bi Juz? min al Tamr wa al Zar 3/1186-1187; Abu Dawud, Sunan, Bab fi al Musaqah, 3/697
 Kitab al Kharaj, Bab Ma Ja’a fi Hukm Ard Khaybar, 3/412
 Al Sa’ati, al Fath al Rabbani, 21/25; it is a Sahih hadith.
 Abu Da’ud, Sunan, Kitab al Buyu; Bab al Khuras; Abu Ubayd, al Amwal, 198
 Al Bukhari, al Sahih, Kitab al Maghazi, Bab Ghazwat Khaybar, 7/495