Conquest of Khayber, Three Bright Points in the Life of Imam Ali (A.S.)
By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
We bring the topic to an end here after mentioning three virtues of the Conqueror of Khayber.
One day Mu'awiyah criticized Sa'd Waqqas for not cursing Ali. He said in reply: "Whenever I am reminded of three virtues of Ali, I earnestly desire that I might have possessed at least one of them: 1. On the day on which the Prophet appointed him as his representative in Madina and himself departed for the Battle of Tabuk, he said to Ali: "You enjoy the same relationship with me which Harun enjoyed with Musa except that no prophet will come after me. 2. On the Day of Khayber the Prophet said: "Tomorrow I will give the standard to a person who is loved by Allah and the Prophet." All the great officers and commanders of Islam were anxious to acquire this honour. On the following day, however, the Prophet called Ali and gave him the standard and Allah granted us a great victory which was solely due to the self-sacrifice of Ali. 3. When it was decided that the Prophet should engage in Mubahilah (cursing) with the leaders of Najran, he held the hands of Ali, Fatimah, Hasan, and Husayn, and said: "O Allah! These are the members of my family''.
THE FACTORS PERTAINING TO VICTORY
The gates of the forts of Khayber were opened and the Jews surrendered before the army of Islam under certain special conditions. However, it should be seen as to what were the factors responsible for this victory and they are of course the distinguished points of this episode. This remarkable victory of Muslims was the consequence of the following facts:
1. Military plan and tactics.
2. Procurement of information and becoming aware of the secrets of the enemy.
3. Perfect bravery and self-sacrifice of Ali, the Commander of the Faithful.
1. MILITARY PLAN AND TACTICS
The army of Islam encamped at a place from where it cut off contacts between the Jews and their friends (the tribes of Ghatfan). Generally speaking there were a large number of swordsmen and dauntless persons in the families of Ghatfan and if they had come to the help of the Jews and had fought side by side with them, the conquest of the Forts of Khayber would have been impossible. When the tribesmen of Ghatfan came to know about the march of the army of Islam they moved immediately with sufficient equipment to assist their allies. However, while they were on their way it was rumoured amongst them that the companions of Muhammad were proceeding to their own territory from a deviated path. This rumour gained so much strength that they returned from half-way and did not move from their place till Khayber was conquered by the Muslims.
The historians consider this rumour to be the result of an occult voice. However, it is not improbable that this rumour might have been spread by the Muslims of the tribe of Ghatfan and the inventors of this rumour were the persons who were actually Muslims and were living amongst their tribesmen in the garb of unbelievers and were so expert in designing this plan that they prevented the forces of Ghatfan from proceeding to help their allies. And this action had a precedent in the Battle of Ahzab, because as a consequence of the espionage of a Ghatfani Muslim named Na'im bin Mas'ud, the army of the infidels had scattered and had withheld their assistance from the Jews.
2. PROCUREMENT OF INFORMATION
The Prophet attached great importance to the procurement of information in connection with the wars. Before besieging Khayber, therefore, he sent twenty persons to that place as fore-runners under the command of 'Abbad bin Bashir. They met one of the residents of Khayber near that locality. After conversing with him 'Abbad realized that he was one of the well-informed persons of the Jews. He, therefore, ordered his immediate arrest and sent him to the Prophet. When he was threatened with death he divulged all the secrets of the Jews. It was learnt from him that the Jews had become very nervous after receipt of report from the chief of the hypocrites (i.e. Abdullah bin Sallul) and they had also not yet received any assistance from the Ghatfan tribe.
During the sixth night of the battle the sentries of Islam arrested a Jew and brought him before the Prophet, who enquired from him about the conditions and affairs of the Jews. He said: "I will tell that provided my life is guaranteed". When he got an assurance, he said: "This night the soldiers of Khayber will shift from the Fort of Nastat to the Fort of Shiq to defend themselves from there. O Abul Qasim! You will conquer the Fort of Nastat tomorrow. The Prophet said: 'If Allah wills'. In that fort you will find hidden underground large quantities of catapults, military vehicles, coats of mail and swords, and with these weapons you can stone the Fort of Shiq. The great leader of Islam did not utilize these destructive weapons, but the information furnished by the captured person was important since he made it clear as to which fort was to be attacked on the following day, and it became known that the conquest of the Fort of Nastat would not require a large force and a greater care was needed for the conquest of the Fort of Shiq.
After the conquest of one of the forts was delayed for three days a Jew came to the Prophet, possibly to save his own life, and said: "Even if you stay at this place for one month you will not be able to over-power them. However, I can point out the source of supply of water to this fort and if you desire you may cut off their water supply". The Prophet did not agree to this proposal and said: "We don't cut off the supply of water to anyone lest he should die of thirst". However, in order to weaken the morale of the enemy he ordered that supply of water to them to be suspended temporarily. This thing frightened them so much that soon after a brief fighting, they surrendered to the army of Islam.
3. SELF-SACRIFICE OF ALl
We have briefly mentioned earlier the self-sacrifice made by Ali and now we quote here his own remark: "We were stationed opposite a bigger force and the strong forts of the Jews. Their warriors came out of the forts and challenged their adversaries to fight and killed some persons every day. In the meantime the Prophet ordered me to get up and proceed towards the fort. I faced their champions and killed some of them and pushed back others. They took refuge in the fort and shut its gate. I pulled off the gate and entered the fort alone. None opposed me and in this matter there was none who assisted me except Allah".
KIND SENTIMENTS IN THE BATTLEFIELD
When the Fort of Qamus was conquered Safiyah daughter of Hay bin Akhtab and another woman were made captives. Bilal let these two women pass by the dead bodies of the Jews, who had been killed in the battle, and brought them before the Prophet. When the Prophet learnt about the matter he got up, placed a cloak on Safiyah's head, showed her respect and provided for her a special place for rest in the encampment. Then he said to Bilal harshly: "Are you completely devoid of kind feelings, that you made these women pass by the dead bodies of their dear ones?" He did nor content himself with this only but selected Safiyah for himself and formally adopted her as his wife and thus compensated for her broken heart. Good treatment meted out to her by the Prophet and his kind sentiments had such a good effect on her that she was later considered to be one of his most affectionate and faithful wives, and she wept more than others when he was about to die.
KANANAH BIN RABI' IS KILLED
Ever since the Jews of the tribe of Bani Nuzayr had been expelled from Madina and had settled in Khayber they had formed a common chest for public matters and war expenses and for the payment of blood-money on account of those, who were killed at the hands of Bani Nuzayr. The reports received by the Prophet showed that this money was under the control of Kananah, husband of Safiyah. The Prophet summoned Kananah and enquired from him about the details of the chest. He, however, denied having any knowledge about it. Orders were, therefore, given that he might be kept in custody and more information about the chest might be collected. Those appointed for locating the money commenced investigation. Eventually a person said, "I think that this treasure is hidden at such and such place (a ruined place), because I have seen Kananah visiting that place very often during the battle and thereafter. The Prophet called Kananah once again and said: "It is said that the chest is at such and such place. If the treasure is found from there you will be killed". He again pleaded ignorance. As ordered by the Prophet the place in question was dug and the treasure of Bani Nuzayr fell in the hands of the soldiers of Islam. It now became necessary to punish Kananah for his deeds. Besides concealing this fact (i.e. the location of treasure) he had also assassinated one of the of officers of Islam in a dastardly manner (i.e. he had suddenly thrown a big stone at the head of Mahmud bin Maslamah, who died instantly). In order to take revenge and also to chastise the Jews, so that they might not practise deceit and falsehood on the Government of Islam in future, the Prophet handed over Kananah to the deceased's brother, who killed him as a measure of revenge. Kananah was the last person to be put to death for assassinating a distinguished officer of Islam.
WAR BOOTY IS DIVIDED
After the conquest of the enemy forts, and general disarmament and collection of the booty, the Prophet ordered the entire booty to be brought at a particular place. As directed by the Prophet a man proclaimed loudly amongst the soldiers of Islam: "It is incumbent upon every Muslim to return to the public treasury whatever booty has come into his hands even though it may be a thread and a needle, because breach of trust is a matter of shame and will prove to be a fire for his soul on the Day of Judgement".
The real leaders of Islam have been very strict in the matter of trusteeship; so much so that they have considered the return of deposits to be one of the signs of faith, and breach of trust to be one of the signs of hypocrisy.
Hence, when stolen property was found in the property left behind by a soldier the Prophet did not offer his funeral prayers. The details of this incident are as follows: On the day of departure from Khayber an unexpected arrow hit a slave who was responsible for fastening the camel-litters for the Prophet and he died instantly. Persons appointed for the purpose made investigations but no result was achieved. All said: "May he be blessed with Paradise". However, the Prophet said: "I don't concur with you in the matter, because the cloak on his body is a part of war booty and he committed a breach of trust, and it will encircle him in the shape of fire on the Day of Judgement" In the meantime one of the companions of the Prophet said: "I have taken two shoe-laces out of the booty without permission''. The Prophet said: "Return them; otherwise they will be fastened to your feet on the Day of Judgement in the shape of fire".
It is here that the ulterior motives of the biased orientalists become evident, because they describe the battles of Islam as plundering, but shut their eyes from their spiritual aims, as this type of discipline cannot be expected from a plundering group. It is not possible for the leader of a plundering community to treat honesty as the sign of faith and to train his soldiers in such a manner that he should be able to restrain them from taking even a shoe-lace from the public property.
A CARAVAN FROM ETHIOPIA THE MEMORABLE LAND
Before proceeding to Khayber the Prophet sent 'Amr bin Umayyah to the court of the Negus. The purpose of sending his envoy to the Ethiopian court was that he should convey a message of the Prophet to the King of Ethiopia and ask him to provide facilities for the departure of all the Muslims residing in Ethiopia. The Negus arranged two boats for them. The boats of the Muhajirs cast the anchor on the coast near Madina. The Muslims came to know that the Prophet had proceeded to Khayber and they also arrived in Khayber without any delay. The travellers of Ethiopia arrived at the time when all the forts had been conquered. The Prophet took sixteen steps forward to receive Ja'far bin Abu Talib, kissed his forehead and said: "I don't know for which thing I should be more happy-whether for that I have met you after so many years or for that Allah has opened the forts of the Jews for us through your brother Ali" . Then he added: "Today I wish to give you a gift". People thought that the gift would be just like other material gifts consisting of gold or silver. Suddenly, however, the Prophet broke the silence and taught him a prayer which later became known as the 'Prayer of Ja'far Tayyar.'
FIGURES OF CASUALTIES
The casualties of the Muslims in this battle did not exceed twenty. The casualties of the Jews were ninety three as recorded in the history books.
FORGIVENESS AT THE TIME OF VICTORY
When great and pious persons are victorious they show love and kindness to their vanquished and helpless enemies. As soon as the enemy surrenders they show indulgence to him and refrain from taking revenge and from nursing a grudge against him.
After the conquest of Khayber the great leader of the Muslims showed kind sentiments to the people of that place (notwithstanding the fact that they had spent large sums of money to instigate the idolatrous Arabs to rise against him and had subjected Madina to attack and possible fall) and conceded their demand that they might stay on in Khayber and continue to possess the lands and trees of that area subject to the condition that they would pay half of the produce to the Muslims. Not only this according to Ibn Hisham's own quotation the Prophet made the above suggestion himself and thereby accorded freedom to the Jews to remain engaged in agriculture and to plant and bring up trees.
The Prophet could put all of them to sword or expel them from Khayber or compel them to embrace Islam. However, as opposed to the thinking of the biased orientalists and the hirelings and theoretical soldiers of colonialism who imagine that Islam has been spread at the point of sword, he the Prophet did not do any such thing, but granted them complete asylum, and allowed them to follow the principles, rules, regulations and ceremonies of their religion.
If the Prophet waged war against the Jews of Khayber it was on account of the fact that Khayber and its residents were the centre of danger for Islam and always collaborated with the idolaters to topple down the newly established Government of the Muslims. The Prophet, was, therefore, obliged to fight with them and to disarm them so that they might engage themselves freely in agriculture and might perform their religious functions under the suzerainty of the Islamic Government. Otherwise life would have become very difficult for the Muslims and advancement of Islam would have come to a halt.
If he took jizyah from them it was for the reason that they enjoyed security under the Islamic Government and it was obligatory upon the Muslims to protect their lives and property. And according to minute calculations the taxes which every Muslim was obliged to pay the Islamic Government, exceeded the jizyah which the Jews and the Christians were required to pay. The Muslims had to pay zakat and khums and at times they had also to make payments out of their net property to meet the needs of the Islamic Government. As compared with this the Jews and the Christians, who lived under the banner of Islam and enjoyed collective and individual rights, had to make payments, like the Muslims, by way of jizyah, for the security of this banner. The imposition of Islamic jizyah is something different from taking tribute.
The representative of the Prophet, who was nominated every year to assess and divide (into two halves) the produce of Khayber, was a virtuous and just person, who commanded admiration of the Jews for his impartiality and justice. This person was Abdullah Rawaha, who was later killed in the Battle of Mota. He used to assess the share of the Muslims out of the produce of Khayber and at times the Jews thought that he had been mistaken in his assessment and had ear-marked (the share of the Muslims) in excess (of what it ought to have been). He used to say in reply: "l am prepared to hand over the fixed portion to you and the rest should be the property of the Muslims."
The Jews praised his justice by saying, "The skies and the earth are stable under the shadow of such equity and justice".
When the war booty was collected a fragment of the Taurat fell in the hands of the Muslims. The Jews requested the Prophet that the same might be given to them. The Prophet directed the person holding charge of the public treasury to return it (to the, Jews).
 Sahih Muslim, vol. Vll, page 120.
 Seerah-i Halabi, vol. III, page 41.
 Seerah-i Halabi, vol. III, page 47.
 Khisal, vol. II. Page 16
 Tarikh-i Tabari, vol III, page 302.
 Seerah-i ibn Hisham, vol III. page 337 and Bihar, vol. XXI, page 33.
 Wasa'ilush Shi'ah, chapter on Jihad bin Nafs, tradition No. 4.
 Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. III, page 339.
 Khisal, vol. II, page 86 and Furu'-i Kafi, vol. I, page 129.
 Biharul Anwar, vol. XXI, page 32.
 Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. I, page 327.
 Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. I, page 356.
 Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. II, p. 354 and Furu'-i Kafi, vol. l, p. 405.