Na'im bin Mas'udís excellent espionage plan against the enemies of Islam
By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
Na'im bin Mas'ud, who had embraced Islam recently, played a great part in creating differences between the tribes. He chalked out an excellent espionage plan which was not less shrewd than the activities of the spies of the present times; it was rather superior and more effective.
He came in the presence of the Prophet and said: "I have embraced Islam recently and have very old friendly relation with all these tribes, but they are not aware of my conversion to Islam. If there are any orders you may like to give, I shall carry them out". The Prophet said: "Do something to scatter these people" i.e. there is no harm if planning is done and a remedy is sought to safeguard some sublimer interests.
Na'im thought over the matter for some time. Then, in the first instance, he went to the tribe of Bani Qurayzah who were in fact the fifth column of the enemy and were threatening the Muslims from the back door. He arrived in the fortress of Bani Qurayzah and expressed deep affection and friendship with them and said all sorts of things whereby he could gain their confidence. Then he added: "Your position is different as compared with the allied tribes (viz. Quraysh and Ghatfan), because Madina is the residence of your women and children and all your property is here and you cannot at all afford to shift elsewhere, whereas the centres of life and business of the allied tribes, who have come to fight against Muhammad, are outside Madina and far away from it. If they are successful in the war they will achieve their object, but if they are defeated they will at once march off to their places which are beyond the reach of Muhammad. You should, however, know that if the tribes are not successful and return to their places abandoning warfare, you will be left at the mercy of the Muslims. I think that now, as you have associated yourselves with the tribes, it is better that you should stick to this decision. However, in order to ensure that the tribes will not leave you alone during the war and return to their homes you should take some of their nobles and chiefs as hostages so that when the circumstances become difficult they should not abandon you and should settle the affairs, because they will be obliged to fight against Muhammad to the last in order to get their men released".
The views of Na'im were endorsed unanimously and he was satisfied that his words had the desired effect on them. Then he left their fortress and went to the camping-place of the tribes. The chiefs of Quraysh were his old friends. Hence, during his conversation with them he said: "Bani Qurayzah are very much ashamed and repentant to have violated their pact with Muhammad and now wish to make amends for it. They have, therefore, decided to take some of your men as hostages and hand them over to Muhammad. In this way they will prove their sincerity and Muhammad will kill your men immediately. They have already discussed this matter with Muhammad and have assured him that they will henceforth support him to the last moment of their lives and Muhammad has also endorsed their plan. Hence, if the Jews demand hostages from you, you should not agree at all. You should know that the result of such an action will be dangerous. A clear proof of this fact is that in case you ask them tomorrow to take part in the battle and attack Muhammad from behind you will see that they will not at all agree to do so and will put forth different excuses. Then he went to the camping-place of Ghatfan and had a talk with them in a particular manner. He said: "You, the tribe of Ghatfan are my kith and kin. I don't think you will accuse me for what I say. I will talk with you about something but I wish that you will not mention it to anyone. All acknowledged him to be a truthful person and their friend. Then he told them in detail what he had already told Quraysh and warned them about the activities of Bani Qurayzah and said: "You should not give them a positive reply in any circumstances".
He discharged his responsibility creditably well. Then he came to the camping-place of the Muslims secretly and published all this gossip amidst the army of Islam (i.e. the Jews wanted to take hostages from the forces of the Arabs and to surrender them to the Muslims). No doubt the object of this publicity was that the matter should cross the ditch and reach the ears of the Arabs.
REPRESENTATIVES OF QURAYSH VISIT THE FORTRESS OF BANI QURAYZAH
Abu Sufyan decided during the night preceding Saturday to settle the affair. The chiefs of Quraysh and Ghatfan sent their representatives to the fortress of Bani Qurayzah and they said to them (i.e. to Bani Qurayzah): "This is not the region of our residence, and our animals are dying. You should attack the Muslims tomorrow from the back door so that we may settle this affair". The chief of Bani Qurayzah said in reply: "Tomorrow is Saturday and we Jews don't undertake any work on that day, because some of our ancestors resorted to work on this day and were subjected to Divine wrath. Furthermore, we are prepared to participate in fighting only if some of the nobles of the tribes are available in our fortress as hostages, so that you may fight to the last moment to ensure their release and may not leave us friendless".
The representatives of Quraysh returned and informed the chiefs of the tribes of the position. All of them said: "Na'im was correct in expressing sympathy with us and Bani Qurayzah want to deceive us". The representatives of Quraysh contacted the chiefs of Bani Qurayzah and said: "It is not possible for us to surrender our nobles to you as hostages and we are not prepared to give you even one of our men as a surety. In case you are inclined to attack the Muslims you should do so tomorrow and we shall assist you with all our resources".
The words of the representatives of Quraysh and especially their saying that they were not prepared to surrender even one person as a hostage convinced Bani Qurayzah that whatever Na'im had said was correct. It confirmed their fears that Quraysh were far-sighted and if they did not succeed in the matter they would return home and leave them (i.e. Bani Qurayzah) at the mercy of the Muslims.[Ibn Hisham, vol. II, pp. 229-231; Tarikh-i Tabari, v. II, pp. 242-243].