The Story of Prisoners of the Battle of Badr

By Shaykh Safi ur-Rahmaan Mubarakfoori from Ar-Raheeq al-Makhtoom

On their way back to Madinah, at a large sand hill, the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam divided the spoils equally among the fighters after he had taken Al-Khums (one-fifth). When they reached As-Safra’, he ordered that two of the prisoners should be killed. They were An-Nadr bin Al-Harith and ‘Uqbah bin Abi Muait, because they had persecuted the Muslims in Makkah, and harboured deep hatred towards Allah and His Messenger sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam . In a nutshell, they were criminals of war in modern terminology, and their execution was an awesome lesson to oppressors. ‘Uqbah forgot his pride and cried out, “Who will look after my children O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam answered, “The Fire (of Hell).” Did ‘Uqbah not remember the day when he had thrown the entrails of a sheep onto the head of the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam while he was prostrating himself in prayer, and Fatimah had come and washed it off him? He had also strangled the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam with his cloak if it had not been for Abu Bakr to intervene and release the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam . The heads of both criminals were struck off by Alee bin Abi TAleeb.

The Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam exhorted the Muslims to treat the prisoners so well to such an extent that the captors used to give the captives their bread (the more valued part of the meal) and keep the dates for themselves.

Prisoners of war constituted a problem awaiting resolution because it was a new phenomenon in the history of Islaam. The Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam consulted Abu Bakr and Umar bin Al-Khattab as to what he should do with the prisoners. Abu Bakr suggested that he should ransom them, explaining this by saying: “They are after all our relatives, and this money would give us strength against the disbelievers, moreover, Allah could guide them to Islaam.” Umar advised killing them, saying, “They are the leaders of Kufr (disbelief).” The Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam preferred Abu Bakr’s suggestion to that of Umar’s. The following day, Umar called on the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and Abu Bakr to see them weeping. He showed extreme astonishment and inquired about the situation so that he might weep if it was worth weeping for, or else he would feign weeping.

“It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war (and free them with ransom) until he had made a great slaughter (among his enemies) in the land. You desire the good of this world (i.e. the money of ransom for freeing the captives), but Allah desires (for you) the Hereafter. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise. Were it not a previous ordainment from Allah, a severe torment would have touched you for what you took.” [Qur’aan 8:67-68]

The previous Divine ordainment went as follows,

“Thereafter (is the time) either for generosity (i.e. free them without ransom) or ransom.” [Qur’aan 47:4]

Which included an area providing permission to take ransom, that is why no penalty was imposed. They were rebuked only for taking prisoners before subduing all the land of disbelief. Apart from this, the polytheists taken to Madinah were not only prisoners of war but rather arch-criminals of war whom modern war penal law brings to justice to receive their due sentence of death or prison for life.

The ransom for the prisoners ranged between 4000 and 1000 Dirhams in accordance with the captive’s financial situation. Another form of ransom assumed an educational dimension; most of the Makkans, unlike the Madinese, were literate and so each prisoner who could not afford the ransom was entrusted with ten children to teach them the art of writing and reading. Once the child had been proficient enough, the instructor would be set free. Another clan of prisoners were released unransomed on grounds of being hard up. Zainab, the daughter of the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, paid the ransom of her husband Abul-‘As with a necklace. The Muslims released her prisoner and returned the necklace in deference to the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam but on condition that Abul-‘As allow Zainab to migrate to Madinah, which he actually did.

In captivity, there was also an eloquent orator called Suhail bin ‘Amr. Umar suggested that they pull out his front teeth to disable him from speaking, but the ProphetsallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam turned down his suggestion for fear Quraish should retAleeate in the same manner on one hand, and on the other for fear of Allah’s wrath on the Day of Resurrection.

Sa’d bin An-Nu’man, a lesser pilgrim detained in Makkah, was released in return for setting Abu Sufyan’s son, a captive, free.

The Story of the 600-700 Jews Beheaded by the ProphetsallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam at Bani Quraiza in 5 AH

The Bani Quraiza was a tribe of Jews in a district of Madinah that betrayed the Muslims and sided with the enemy during the Battle of Ahzaab (also known as the Battle of the Confederates and the Battle of the Trench). The Sealed Nectar describes what happened to them immediately after the Battle of Ahzaab:

Archangel Gabriel, on the very day the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam came back to Madinah after the previous battle, and while he was washing in Umm Salama’s house, visited him asking that he should unsheathe his sword and head for the habitation of the seditious Banu Quraiza and fight them. Gabriel noted that he with a procession of angels would go ahead to shake their forts and cast fear in their hearts.

The Messenger of AllahsallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam , immediately summoned the prayer caller and ordered him to announce fresh hostilities against Banu Quraiza, institued Ibn Umm Maktum as a ruler of Madinah, and entrusted the banner of war to Alee bin Abi TAleeb who marched towards the appointed target and came close enough to hear the Jews abusing the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam , who on his part set out at the head of three thousand infantry men and thirty horsemen of Ansar (Helpers) and Muhajireen (Emigrants). On their way to encounter the enemy, the afternoon prayer was due. Some Muslims refused to observe it until they had defeated the enemy, while others offered it in its proper time, as usual. The Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam objected to neither. When they reached the habitations of Banu Quraiza, they laid tight siege to their forts. Seeing this terrible situation they were in, the chief of the Jews Ka’b bin Asad offered them three alternatives: to embrace Islaam, and consequently their life, wealth, women and children would be in full security, and reminded them that such behaviour would not be incongruous with what they had read in their books about the veracity of Muhammad’s Prophethood; to kill their children and women and then challenge the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his followers to the sword to either exterminate the Muslims or be exterminated, or as a third possibility to take Muhammad sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his people by surprise on Saturday – a day mutually understood to witness no fighting.

None of those alternatives appealed them, so their chief, angrily and indignantly, turned to them saying: “You have never been decisive in decision-making since you were born.” The gloomy future already visible, they made contacts with some Muslims, who had maintained good relation with them, in order to learn about their fate in the light of the current circumstances. They requested that Abu Lubaba be despatched to them for advice. On his arrival, the men began to implore, women and children to cry desperately. In answer to their demand for advice he pointed to his throat saying it was homicide awaiting them. He then immediately reAleezed that he had betrayed the Prophet’s trust, so he headed directly for the mosque in Madinah and tied himself to a wooden tall pole swearing that no one would untie him save the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam , and added that he would never enter the habitation of Banu Quraiza in recompense for the deadly mistake he made. When the Messenger sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was informed of this incident, he said, ” I would have begged Allah to forgive him if he had asked me, but since he had tied himself out of his own free will, then it was Allah Who would turn to him in forgiveness.”

The Jews of Banu Quraiza could have endured the siege much longer because food and water were plentifully available and their strongholds were greatly fortified, whereas the Muslims were in the wild bare land suffering a lot from cold and hunger, let alone too much fatigue consequent on endless warfare operations that had started even before the battle of Confederates. Nevertheless, this was a battle of nerves, for Allah had cast fear in the the Jews’ hearts, and their morale had almost collapsed especially when two Muslim heroes, Alee bin Abi TAleeb and Az-Zubair bin ‘Awwam proceeded with Alee swearing that he would never stop until he had either stormed their garrisons or been martyred like Hamza (a former Muslim martyr).

In the light of this reluctance, they had nothing except to comply with the Messenger’s judgement. The Messenger of Allah sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam ordered that the men should be handcuffed, and this was done under the supervision of Muhammad bin Salamah Al-Ansari while the women and children were isolated in confinement. Thereupon Al-Aws tribe interceded begging the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to be lenient toward them. He suggested that Sa’d bin Mu’adh, a former ally, be deputed to give verdict about them, and they agreed.

Sa’d meanwhile stayed behind in Madinah due to a serious wound he sustained in the Confederates Battle. He was summoned and brought on a donkey. On his way to the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam , the Jews used to exhort him to be lenient in his judgement on account of former friendship. Sa’d remained silent but when they persisted he uttered: “It is time for Sa’d not to be afraid of the blame of the blamers.” On hearing this decisive attitude, some of them returned to Madinah waiting for a desperate doom.

On arrival, he Aleeghted with the help of some men. He was informed that the Jews had agreed to accept his verdict about them. He immediately wondered if his judgement would pass on all the people present, the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam included, turning his face away in honour of him. The reply was positive.

He decided that all the able-bodied male persons belonging to the tribe should be killed, women and children taken prisoners and their wealth divided among the Muslim fighters. The Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam accepted his judgement saying that Sa’d had adjudged by the Command of Allah. In fact, the Jews deserved that severe punitive action for the ugly treachery they had harboured against Islaam, and the large arsenal they have amassed and which consisted of one thousand and five hundred swords, two thousand spears, three hundred armours and five hundred shields, all of which went into the hands of the Muslims. Trenches were dug in the bazaar of Madinah and a number of Jews between six and seven hundred were beheaded therein. Hot beds of intrigue and treachery were thus exterminated once and for all.

Huyai, a chief criminal of war, a devil of Bani Nadir and Safiyah’s father, had joined the ranks of Banu Quraiza when Quraish and Ghatfan defected, was admitted into the audience of the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam with his hands tied to his neck with a rope. In audacious defiance, he declared obstinate enmity to the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam but admitted that Allah’s Will was to be fulfilled and added that he was resigned to his fate. He was ordered to sit down, and was beheaded on the spot.

Only one woman of the Jews was killed because she had killed a Muslim warrior by flinging a grinding stone upon him. A few elements of the enemy embraced Islaam and their lives, wealth and children were spared. As for the spoils of the war, the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam divided them, after putting a fifth aside, in accordance with Allah’s injunctions. Three shares went to the horseman and one to the infantry fighter. Women captives were sent to Najd to be bartered with horses and weaponry.

After the war with Banu Quraiza had been settled and they had been defeated, Sa’d bin Mu’adh’s wish was gratified and he gave his last breath. In response to his supplication ‘Aishah narrated, Sa’d’s wounds began to bleed from the front part of his neck while he was in his tent which the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had pitched for him in the mosque so that he would be in close proximity in order to inquire about and watch his well-being closely. The people were not scared except when the blood flowed towards them, and in the Mosque along with Sa’d’s tent, there was the tent of Banu Ghifar. They said: O people of the tent, what is it that is coming to us from you? Lo! it was Sa’d’s wound that was bleeding and he died thereon.

Jabir narrated that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had said: “The Throne of the Compassionate shook for the death of Sa’d bin Mu’adh.” When his bier was carried, At-Tirmidhi said: The hypocrites alleged it was too light. The Messenger of Allah sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam retorted: “The angels are carrying him.”

In the process of the seize laid to Banu Quraiza, one man of the Muslims, Khallad bin Suwaid was killed when a women of the Jews dropped the grinding stone on him, and another, Abu Sinan bin Mihsan, the brother of ‘Ukasha, died.

Abu Lubaba stayed tied for six nights. His wife used to untie him at prayer times and then he tied himself again to the pole. One early morning, Allah the All-Forgiving revealed a verse to the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to the effect that Allah had turned to Abu Lubaba with forgiveness. The Muslims rushed to release him but he insisted that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself do it. And this was done shortly before the morning prayer.

This Military Expedition took place in the month of Dhul Qa’dah in the year five Hijri (5AH), and the siege of Banu Quraiza’s forts lasted for 25 days. The Chapter of Confederates (Qur’aan, Surah 33)was revealed containing Allah’s Words concerning the basic issues relating to the believers and hypocrites during the battle of the Confederates, and the consequences of the treachery and breaching of covenants by the Jews.

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