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The Battle of Badr, 'Uhud and Khandaq; the Expulsion of the Priestly Tribes

CAs mentioned above, the Bani Qainuqa, Bani Al-Nadir and Bani Quraizah were tribes made up of Cohanim, Priests. The Bani Qainuqa were the priests of the Khazraj and the Bani al Nadir and the Bani Quraizah were the priests of the Aus.[1] Because of their Cohen status and careful marriages; they had a certain prestige as the only native population the Rabbinite Jews still considered "Jews". As Cohanim they performed teaching, religious, judicial and semi-governmental services to their client tribe. When the Prophet began to become more than a Prophet, and function as judge, ruler and military chief, these "Jews" – more than any other tribe in Medinah – began to oppose the Prophet. In addition, Khaibar was settled by the remants of the Sadducean High Priesthood, and at one time they had controlled the Ka'aba. They held a particular animosity to the Quraish, the Prophet included, who had taken back religious control from them.[2]

In 624 CE, Mecca attacked Medina without success at the battle of Badr. The three tribes mentioned above had actually hoped that the pro-Persian Quraish would have won. Three Sadducean "prophets" who predicted the future success of the Persians, were assassinated by the zealous followers of the Prophet.[3] The Bani Qainuqa openly and collectively broke their covenant. Descendants of the fighters of Bar Kochba, they were proud of their bravery and valor. Being blacksmiths by profession even their children were well armed and they could instantly muster 700 fighting men from among themselves. They were also arrogantly aware that they enjoyed the protection of the the Khazraj. Abdullah bin 'Ubbay (Abbaya), the chief of the, Khazraj, was their chief supporter. The Prophet laid siege to their quarters. The siege had hardly lasted for a fortnight when they surrendered and all their fighting men were tied and taken prisoners. Abdullah bin 'Ubayy came in support of them and insisted that they should be pardoned. The Prophet conceded his request and decided that the Bani Qainuqa would be exiled from Madina leaving their properties, armor and tools of trade behind.[4]

In 625 CE, the Quraish met the Prophet's army at 'Uhud. They resolved to avenge their defeat at Badr. The Bani Nadhir would not prophecy in support of the Prophet. With poor morale, only a thousand men had marched out with the Prophet against three thousand men of the Quraish, and three hundred Jews under Abdullah ibn Ubayya returned. During the battle of Uhud the Prophet was wounded and his followers suffered reverses. The opponents of the Prophet in Medina were further emboldened. The chief of the Bani Amir treacherously slaughtered seventy followers o fthe Prophet. Afterwards, Amr bin Umayyah Damri slew by mistake two men of the Bani Amir in retaliation. These two actually were actually allies, and had been mistaken for the enemy. Because of his mistake their blood money became obligatory on the Prophet. Since the Bani an-Nadir were the priests of the Bani Amir, the Prophet went to them to ask for their help in paying the blood money. While he was there, he received a divine revelation that the Bani Nahdir were going to assassinate him. He left suddenly and ordered their expulsion from Medina. Meanwhile Abdullah bin Ubayy sent them the message that he would help them with two thousand men and that the Bani Quraizah and Bani Ghatafan also would come to their aid; therefore, they should stand firm and should not go. On this false assurance they responded to the Prophet's ultimatum saying that they would not leave Madinah. The Prophet laid siege to them, and after a few days of the siege they agreed to leave Madinah on the condition that they could retain all their property which they could carry on thee camels, except the armor.[5]

In 627 CE, the battle of Khandaq (Battle the Trench) took place. The Meccans had left 'Uhud, without despoiling the people of Medina. The Prophet foresaw that they would return again to attack Medina. Steps were immediately taken to protect the city. The Prophet was joined by Shallum ben Hushiel, after freeing him from slavery. Although only in his late twenties, Shallum was knowledgeable in many tactics of war. He suggested to the Prophet to build trenches around the city, something that had never been seen in Arabia before. There was a combined raid by many of the Arab tribes, who wanted to crush the power of Madinah. It had been instigated by the leaders of the Bani an-Nadir, who had settled in Sadducean Cohen-City Khaiber after their banishment from Madinah. They went round to the Quraish and Ghatafan and Hudhail and many other tribes and induced them to gather all their forces together and attack Madinah jointly.[6]

An unprecedentedly large army of the Arab tribes marched against the small city of Madinah. From the north came Bani an-Nadir and Bani Qainuqa who after their banishment from Madinah, had settled in Khaiber and Wad il Qura. From the east advanced the tribes of Ghatafan, Bani Sulaim, Fazarah, Murrah, Ashja, Sa'd, Asad, etc. and from the south the Quraish, along with a large force of their allies. Together they numbered from ten to twelve thousand men. They laid siege to Medina without success. They succeeded partially to incite the Cohen tribe of Bani Quraizah, who inhabited the south eastern part of the city, to rebellion against the Prophet. Meanwhile the Prophet went on the offensive and routed the combined armies. After discovering the aborted treachery of the Bani Quraizah, he dispatched Ali with a contingent of soldiers as vanguard towards the Quraizah. This was followed by the whole of the Muslim forces. In the end, unlike any previous treatment of the Cohanim, all the male members of the Quraizah were executed, their women and children were taken prisoner, and their properties were distributed among the Muslims.[7]


  1. This is supported by the fact that during Abu Karib's siege of Yathrib, Yathrib was referred to as a city of Jews even though the Khazraj and the Aus had lived there for over two hundred years.
  2. According to Ibn Abbas, once Ka'b bin Ashraf (the Jewish chief of Madinah) came to Makkah and the Quraish chiefs said to him: "Just see this boy, who is cut off from his people; he thinks he is superior to us, whereas we manage th1e Hajj, look after the Ka'bah and water the pilgrims." (Bazzar)
  3. The Sadduceans did not believe in the afterlife, nor in the re-application of prophecies, but they did believe in angels, and specific one-time messages given to the Cohenim. Three prophets (called poets in Islamic literature): Asma bint Marwan, Abu 'Afak, and Ka'b Ashraf were assassinated. Afterwards, it was said "Kill every [pro-Persian, false prophet] Jew whom you come across. Ibn Sanina was killed and the Sadducean priests "Jews" were frightened, so none of them came out, nor did they speak. They were afraid that they would be suddenly attacked as Ibn Ashraf was attacked in the night. (Wackidi, 191; K. Wackidi, 104 ; and Hashimi, 201, Ibn Sa'd, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol. 2, p. 37).
  4. Ibn Sa'd, Ibn Hisham, Tarikh Tabari
  5. Syed Abu-Ala' Maududi in his "The Meaning of the Qur'an"
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.