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"Discover the Truth's" Game

The Banu Qurayza

From Discover the Truth:

The evidences shown proves that the Banu Qurayza broke the pact they had, they sided with enemy against the Muslims. They attacked Muslims, waged war against the Muslims.... given these facts, we can safely state that, what those treacherous Banu Qurayza warrior-men got was justice of the highest order demanded for them to be their fate.

(January 1, 2016)

What the Apologists Want You to Believe

The story of Muhammad beheading all of the men (and boys as young as 12) of a tribe known as the Banu Qurayza is one of the most embarrassing for contemporary apologists.  It occurred after the Battle of the Trench.  Those who were not beheaded were mostly enslaved, mainly the children and women.

The challenge for Discover the Truth is to shift blame from Muhammad to the victims.  DTT poses that the Qurayza broke a treaty and "fought" Muhammad, even "openly taking sides" during the Battle of the Trench.  In other words, they were treacherous and posed a threat that had to be eliminated.

Since the punishment (of mass execution) was excessive, DTT argues that it was determined by someone other than Muhammad, who was simply performing his humble duties in carrying it out.  Enslaving the women and children was an act of humanitarianism, since their men had been executed and could no longer take care of them.

What They Offer as Proof

Discover the Truth posts several articles to mitigate the slaughter, rape and enslavement of the Banu Qurayza.  The most detailed frames the argument with snippets of Ibn Ishaq, al-Tabari, Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Abu Dawud and sahih verses from Sunan an-Nasai'i and Jami at-Tirmidhi - which are accepted as generally reliable sources.

History is written by the winners, however, and each of these sources is a devout Muslim who wants to portray Muhammad in a flattering light.  Understanding what really happened sometimes means reading between the lines and considering events from the persepective of the other side. 

In the Islamic texts, anything Muhammad does, no matter how worldly or cruel, is dressed up in rhetoric denoting Allah's approval, while non-Muslim characters are disparaged in highly bigoted terms.  When Muhammad breaks a treaty, for example, we are told that he has "permission from Allah" - which constitutes thin reasoning in the real world.  When there is even a hint that someone else hasn't lived up to the letter of an agreement, however, it's called "treachery" and the entire tribe is subject to eviction or extermination.

The conclusions reached by DTT with which we disagree are as follows:

1) The Banu Qurayza broke an agreement unjustifiably

2) The Banu Qurayza fought Muslims at the Battle of the Trench

3) The Banu Qurayza helped other tribes kill Muslims

4) The Banu Qurayza were deserving of their fate

5) Muhammad was powerless to stop the beheadings and thus bore no blame

Obviously, if one or more of these is false, then the apologist case collapses.

What They Leave Out and Why They are Wrong

When Muhammad arrived in Medina, he had his hosts sign an agreement in which each of the tribes agreed not to fight the other and would help the other.  This included the Muslims (both the Ansar - Arab 'helpers' - and emigrants, who had all arrived after the three Jewish tribes were present - Ibn Kathir v.2 p212).

The historical context leading up to the Battle of the Trench is that Muhammad had evicted the two other Jewish tribes which purportedly had signed the pact, the Banu Qaynuqa and the Banu Nadir.  He also confiscated the wealth of both.

The pretext for the Banu Qaynuqa was that a Muslim woman had been harassed by a member of the tribe.  The Banu Nadir were accused (in some accounts) of plotting to kill Muhammad.  This is quite tenuous given that information in both cases came from an angel seen only by Muhammad.  Each eviction also followed the assassination of prominent members of the Jewish community at Medina by the Muslims.

Had the shoe been on the other foot, DTT would surely claim that these were all excessive and egregious violations of the agreement - and they would be right.  None of the other tribes had waged a battle against the Muslims.  If Muhammad did not respect the pact, why should anyone else?

The Battle of the Trench occurred when the Quraish sent an army against the Muslims at Medina.  Although DTT does not mention it, the conflict owed its origins to caravan raids against the Quraish.  Prior to Muhammad's arrival, trade to and from Mecca passed unmolested by the tribes in Medina: everyone played by the rules.  Muhammad quickly changed that - and there is no indication that he warned the Jewish tribes prior to signing the pact that he would be provoking a war.

While DTT paints the picture of a man struggling to get along in a treacherous world, the reality is that Muhammad was at the center of every conflict with everyone who would not agree to be his subordinate.  A victim of circumstance... trouble just has a way of finding him, right?

This is the context in which the Banu Qurayza's alleged "betrayal" of Muhammad occurs.  The other Jewish tribes had been looted and evicted on flimsy pretenses by a man who professed peace when he first arrived.  Long-standing members of the community had been assassinated on the orders of unseen angels.  Now, an army is at the doorstep, brought on by the same troublemaker.

Amidst this, a leader from the Banu Nadir arrives (one of the tribes that had been evicted) and tricks the Qurayza leader, Ka'b, into letting him in.  Far from scheming with the 'enemies of Muhammad', it is obvious, even from the account quoted liberally by DTT, that Ka'b does not want to have a conversation and wants no involvement in the conflict.

Talked into believing that the city will be overrun, Ka'b still refuses to join the fight against the Muslims, but does agree to stay out of it.  This is ironic, because had his tribe led a true revolt from within the city, Muhammad would have suffered defeat, the Qurayza men would have lived, their women would not have been raped nor their children enslaved.

To justify what happened afterwards, apologists desperately need a Hadith verse or Sira account stating that the Qurayza attacked the Muslims in battle or participated substantially in the fight against them.  Unfortunately, none exists.

In a section pretentiously titled "Banu Qurayza Siding, Waging War and Supplying Enemies with Weapons", DTT provides only three sahih hadith verses.  Two generically state that the Qurayza "fought against the prophet" at an unspecified time in an unspecified manner - probably in the same way that unbelievers "fight against Allah" via their unbelief.  Another says simply that Muhammad feared an attack by the Qurayza.  There is no record of any physical battle. 

The Sira is meticulous in recording who died at the Battle of the Trench on both sides.  The idea that another front was opened without any supporting detail is absurd.  There is simply no evidence that the Qurayza killed Muslims or contributed materially to the battle against them.  After the Quraish left, Muhammad even went home and took a bath.

So desperate is Discover the Truth for something... anything... that seems to show engagement by the Qurayza that they actually reference al-Waqidi, who claims (in contradiction to everyone else) that Qurayza members "sprayed" Muslims with arrows.  Here is what is said elsewhere about al-Waqidi:
al-Waqidi has been condemned as an untrustworthy narrator and has been frequently and severely criticized by scholars, thus his narrations have been abandoned by the majority of hadith scholars. Yahya ibn Ma'een said: "Al-Waqidi narrated 20,000 false hadith about the prophet"
Sounds about accurate in this case.  In fact, Discover the Truth even trashes their own source in a separate article:
He [al-Waqidi] is a liar; he alters hadeeths. Ibn Ma‘een said: He is not trustworthy. On one occasion he said: His hadeeth is not to be written down. Al-Bukhaari and Abu Haatim said: He is matrook (rejected). Abu Haatim and an-Nasaa’i said: He fabricates hadeeth. Ibn ‘Adiyy said: His hadeeths are odd and problematic. Ibn al-Madeeni said: al-Waaqidi fabricates hadeeth. Mizaan al-I‘tidaal, 3/663 (DTT April 4, 2015)
In addition to the fact that no Muslims were killed or injured by the Qurayza, the tribe surrendered peacefully after their garrison was besieged by Muhammad.  They obviously did not anticipate mass beheadings, rape and enslavement, since they had not done anything of that sort to the Muslims.

The carnage that followed was brutal.  Even the sahih Hadith relates that boys who had reached puberty were beheaded along with the men.  At least one woman was among those murdered. Another was taken by Muhammad as a personal sex slave.  Yet, the apologists insist that every victim was deserving of the same barbaric practice that we see today in ISIS videos.

At this point DTT makes a very disingenuous argument that Muhammad was not the one who ordered their deaths but rather his Muslim subordinate Sa'd, who had been injured in the Battle with the army from Mecca. 

This sounds a bit like the argument Nazi concentration camp guards used: they were just following orders.  However, this is much worse because Muhammad was the one in charge.  Unlike the guards, he actually did have the power to stop the genocide - with no personal consequence.  DTT even admits that he did not kill those who agreed to convert to Islam.

Further Reading

MYTH: Muhammad Lived at Peace with the Jews - The Banu Qurayza

Discover the Truth Propaganda Index

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