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Obstinacy and Treachery of the Jews of Khayber

By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
Notwithstanding these highly kind sentiments, the Jews did not give up their obstinacy and treachery. They sat in ambush for the Prophet and his companions and made plots against them. Here we quote two examples of their perfidies:
1. Some persons instigated a woman named Zaynab, who was the wife of one of the nobles of the Jews, to poison the Prophet's food. The woman sent someone to one of the companions of the Prophet and asked him as to which part of a sheep the Prophet liked most. He replied that the arm of a sheep was his favourite food. Zaynab roasted a sheep and poisoned the entire meat, but put more poison in the arm. Then she sent it to the Prophet as a present. When the Prophet put the first morsel in his mouth he felt that it was poisoned. He, therefore, threw it out of his mouth immediately. However, Bishr bin Bara' Ma'rur, who was sharing the meals with him, ate some more morsels unconsciously and passed away after some time. The Prophet ordered that Zaynab should be summoned in his presence, and, on her arrival, asked her as to why she had tried to play with his life. She put up a childish excuse and said: "You have upset the conditions of our tribe. I thought that if you were the ruler you would die of the poison and if you were a Prophet of Allah you would certainly become aware of it and would refrain from eating the meat". The Prophet forgave her and did not also prosecute the people, who had incited her to commit that crime. However, if such a thing had happened to some other ruler, who had not been a Prophet, he would have mercilessly put the culprits to death or would have sentenced them to long imprisonment.[526]
On account of such evil intentions of a Jewish woman most of the companions of the Prophet also did not trust in the Jewess Safiyah, who had now become his wife, and considered it probable that she might make an attempt on his life during night. Hence, Abu Ayub Ansari took responsibility to guard the tent of the Prophet at Khayber as well as on way back to Madina, although the Prophet was not aware of the sympathy on his part. Hence, when the Prophet came out of his tent in the morning he saw Abu Ayub pacing it with a drawn sword in his hand. On the Prophet inquiring about the reason for this he replied: "Traces of fanaticism and infidelity have not yet been effaced from the heart of this woman (Safiyah) who is now one of your wives and I put little confidence in her intentions. Hence I have been pacing your tent from night till morning so as to protect your life". The Prophet was thankful for the kind feelings of his old friend and prayed for him.[527]
2. Once Abdullah bin Sahl was appointed by the Prophet to transfer the proceeds of Khayber to Madina. While he was performing his duty he was attacked by an unidentified group of Jews. As a result of this attack his neck was seriously injured. He fell down on the ground with a broken neck and breathed his last. The attacking group threw his body in a pool. The elders of the Jews sent some persons to the Prophet to inform him of the mysterious death of his representative. The brother of the murdered person named Abdur Rahman bin Sahl came to the Prophet along with his cousins and informed him of the incident. The brother of the murdered person wished to initiate conversation on the subject, but as he was the youngest amongst all those present, the Prophet alluded to one of the social manners of Islam and said, "Kabir, Kabir" i.e. he should let the older persons speak first. Eventually the Prophet said: "If you can identify the murderer of Abdullah and swear that he is the murderer, I shall arrest him and place him at your disposal". They, however, displayed piety and righteousness and, notwithstanding their anger, did not conceal the truth and said: "We can't identify the murderer". The Prophet then said: "Do you agree that the Jews should state on oath that they have not killed him and should, on the basis of such oath, be acquitted of the murder of Abdullah?" They, however, replied that the agreements and oaths of the Jews could not be relied upon. In the circumstances the Prophet ordered a letter to be written to the elders of the Jews telling them that the dead body of a Muslim had been found in their land and they should, therefore, pay blood-money on this account. In their reply the Jews swore that they had not at all killed Abdullah and were also not aware about the murderer. The Prophet realized that the matter had reached a stage of deadlock. In order, therefore, to obviate renewed bloodshed he personally paid the blood-money for Abdullah.[528] By this act he once again showed the Jews that he was not a warmonger and in case he had been an ordinary statesman he would have made the incident of Abdullah like the shirt of Uthman and put a number of the Jews to death. However, as the Holy Qur'an introduces him, he was a messenger of blessings and a manifestation of the kindness of Allah and did not unsheathe his sword unless he was compelled to do so.

The excesses of the Jews were not confined to these incidents and they harassed the Muslims every now and then with their different schemes. Eventually, during the Caliphate of Umar, his son Abdullah, who had gone to Khayber along with some other persons to conclude an agreement was tortured by the Jews. The Caliph came to know about the incident and thought of solving the problem. Then, relying on a tradition of the Prophet which had been quoted by some persons, he said to the companions of the Prophet: "Whoever has to realize a debt from the people of Khayber should realize it, for I am going to give orders that they should leave this place". Soon afterwards the Jews of Khayber were banished from there on account of repeated excesses committed by them and they left the Peninsula.[529]

A merchant named Hajjaj bin 'Ilat was present in Khayber. He had trade dealings with the people of Makkah. The grandeur of Islam and the affection and kindness shown by the Prophet to this obstinate nation (i.e. the Jews) enlightened his heart and he came to the Prophet and embraced Islam. Then he drew up a plan to realize his dues from the people of Makkah. He entered the city of Makkah through a gate and saw that the chiefs of Quraysh were awaiting news and were very much anxious about the developments at Khayber. All of them encircled his camel and enquired impatiently about the condition of Muhammad. He replied: "Muhammad has suffered an unparalleled defeat and his companions have been killed or captured. He himself has been captured and the chiefs of the Jews have decided to bring him to Makkah and to execute him before the very eyes of Quraysh". This false report pleased them immensely. Then he turned to the people and said: "In view of this good news I request you to pay me my dues as early as possible so that I may go to Khayber earlier than other merchants and may purchase the slaves". The duped people paid him his dues in a very short time.
The circulation of this news extremely upset Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet, and he desired to meet Hajjaj. He, however, winked at Abbas which meant that he would let him know the real facts later. A short time before his departure he met the Prophet's uncle secretly and said: "I have embraced Islam and I chalked out this plan only to realize my dues. The correct news is that on the day on which I left Khayber all the forts had been conquered by the Muslims and the daughter of their leader named Hay bin Akhtab (Safiyah) had been captured and had become a wife of the Prophet. Please make these facts known to the people after three days of my departure".
After three days Abbas put on his best dress, scented himself with the costliest perfume and entered the mosque with a staff in his hand and began to go round the Ka'bah. Quraysh were surprised to see the dress of Abbas which displayed his joy and happiness, because they thought that, in view of the calamity which had befallen his nephew, he should have worn a dress of mourning. He, however, relieved them of their surprise by saying: "The report which Hajjaj furnished you was a clever device to realize his dues. He has embraced Islam and he had left Khayber when Muhammad had gained the greatest victory, and the Jews had been disarmed and some of them had been killed and others had been made captives".
The chiefs of Quraysh became very sad on hearing this news and soon afterwards they heard the same thing (from other sources as well).[530]
[526] lt is well-known that on the occasion of the illness of the Prophet which resulted in his death he said: "This ailment is due to the effects of the poisoned food which that Jewess had brought for me after the conquest (of Khayber)". Although the Prophet threw out the very first morsel, the dangerous poison got mixed with his saliva to some extent and affected his health.
[527] Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. II, pp. 399 - 340; Bihar, vol. XX, page 6.
[528] Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol II, page 356.
[529] Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. III, page 356.
[530] Biharul Anwar, vol. XXI, page 34.

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