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 Banu Qurayza

The Banu Qurayza (Arabic ??? ?????; alternate spellings include Quraiza, Qurayzah, Quraytha, and the archaic Koreiza) were a Jewish tribe who lived in northern Arabia during the 7th century, at the oasis of Yathrib (now known as Medina). The bulk of the tribe`s men, apart from a few who converted to Islam, were killed in 627 CE, following a siege mounted by Muslim inhabitants of Medina and immigrants from Mecca. The Muslims claimed that the Banu Qurayza had agreed to aid their Meccan enemies in their attack on Medina, which the Muslims had just repulsed in the Battle of the Trench.


Before the Muslim refugees arrived in Medina
In the early 600s the bulk of the tribe resided in Medina, where they were allied to Arab tribe of Aws, one of the two major tribes that controlled the town. Another Jewish tribe, the Banu Nadir, was also linked to Aws, and were close allies and friends of the Banu Qurayza. A third Jewish tribe, the Banu Qaynuqa, had allied itself with Aws`s more powerful rival, the Khazraj faction. (For alliances, see Guillaume`s English translation of Ibn Ishaq, p. 253.) The Banu Qurayza were led by Ka`b ibn Asad.


The arrival of the Muslims
In 622, Muhammad arrived in Medina, transforming the political landscape; the longstanding enmity between the Aws and Khazraj tribes was dampened as both embraced Islam and accepted Muhammad`s leadership. The early Muslim historians record that the Muslims and Jews of the area signed an agreement, the Constitution of Medina, which committed the Jews and the Muslims to mutual cooperation. Some Western academics say that this "treaty" is possibly a collage of agreements, oral rather than written, of different dates, and that it is not clear when they were made or with whom[citation needed].

Tensions quickly mounted between the Muslim and Jewish communities; the Banu Nadir were expelled from Medina in 625 following what Muslim sources claim was a violation of the treaty, and the Banu Qaynuqa were expelled soon afterwards, after a quarrel over an insult to a Muslim woman`s honor escalated into murder.

War with Mecca
In 627, the army of Mecca attacked Medina under the command of Abu Sufyan. Abu Sufyan asked the Banu Qurayza tribe to help them conquer Medina, by attacking the Muslims from behind the lines or letting them into the town.

According to one early historian, Ibn Ishaq, the Banu Qurayza chief, Ka`b, was initially reluctant, but eventually decided to support the Meccans, being so persuaded by Huyayy ibn Akhtab, chief of the Banu al-Nadir.

According to the most highly regarded hadith collection, the Sahih Bukhari, this was the second time Bani Qurayza had broken the peace treaty and allied with Banu Al-Nadir against the Muslims; the first time, Banu Qurayza suffered no loss and were allowed to stay in Medina. ([1])

However, Abu Sufyan`s forces were defeated in the Battle of the Trench, and retreated, abandoning their allies to the victors. The very day of the victory, reportedly incited by the Angel Jibril, Muhammad led the Muslim troops towards the Banu Qurayza`s neighborhood. The Banu Qurayza retreated into their stronghold and contemplated their alternatives. As the Banu Qurayza morale waned (according to Ibn Ishaq), their chief made a speech to them, suggesting three alternative ways out of their predicament: embrace Islam; kill their own children and women, then rush out for a "kamikaze" charge to either win or die; or make a surprise attack on Saturday (the Sabbath, when by mutual understanding no fighting would take place). But it seems that none of these alternatives were accepted. After a siege that lasted several weeks, the Banu Qurayza surrendered unconditionally.

The judgment
After the Aws pleaded to Muhammad for Banu Qurayza, Muhammad suggested Sa`d ibn Mu`adh as the judge who would make the final decision, and the Aws agreed. Ibn Ishaq said that before the war Ibn Mu`adh had amiable relations with the Banu Qurayza. But it seemed that his sentiments had changed. He believed that the Banu Qurayza were wrong to break their agreement with the Muslims. When the arrow hit him, according to Ibn Ishaq, he had said "O God, seeing that you have appointed war between us and them grant me martyrdom and do not let me die until I have seen my desire upon the Banu Qurayza." It is not clear that Muhammad knew that Sa`d desired revenge -- or indeed, if this story is true, or merely a later embroidery suggesting a reason for Sa`d`s change of heart.

Sa`d ruled that all the adult males of the Banu Qurayza should be killed. His fellow chiefs urged him to pardon these former allies, but he refused. One report says Muhammad approved the ruling, calling it similar to God`s judgment. This ruling was taken to refer to all males over puberty, some 600-900 individuals according to Ibn Ishaq. A few converted to Islam