Friday, 15 July 2011

At the end of Part 1 of the BBC’s The Life of Muhammad, the trailer for Part 2 (to be shown on BBC2 on the 18th July at 9pm) mentioned the massacre of the Qurayzah, a tribe of Jews who lived in Medina. They collaborated with Mohammed’s estranged tribe, the Quraysh, when the latter laid siege to Medina at the Battle of the Trench in 627, but a clever piece of deception by the Medinan Muslims broke the Qurayzah-Quraysh alliance and the siege was lifted. Mohammed then exacted revenge on the Qurayzah by beheading the men, and the womenfolk and children were enslaved.

The sirah, the biography of Mohammed, provides an account of the massacre:

Then they [the Qurayzah] surrendered, and the Apostle confined them in Medina … Then the Apostle went out to the market of Medina and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah, Huyayy bin Akhtab, and Kab bin Asad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. As they were being taken out in batches to the Apostle they asked Kab what he thought would be done with them. He replied, ‘Will you never understand? Don’t you see that the summoner never stops and those who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!’ This went on until the Apostle made an end of them.

Such battlefield retribution would be unexceptional save that it was carried out by the Prophet whom Muslims see as the ideal man, praised by Allah himself: ‘There is a good example in Allah’s apostle for those who look to Allah’ (Qur’an 33:21). With such a rôle model, it is small wonder that Muslims condone the use of violence to defend and spread their faith.

[The Arabic in the illustration reads qurayẓah]


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