Karen Armstrong, 1991 Muhammad,
Victor Gollancz, London. ISBN 0-575-05012-8

These two passages cover the Souk of Medina in which 700 Jews were beheaded and their wives and children sent into slavery and the Sakina of Hudaybiyah in which Muhammad discovered the peace option as a mystical force which made this cruel genocide unnecessary in history, for Mecaa was not taken by jihad - CK.


The Jews rejected all these options and asked Muhammad to let them leave the oasis on the same terms as the Bani Nadir. Muhammad refused: Nadir had proved to be even more dangerous to the umma after it had left Medina, so this time he was determined to exact total surrender. He allowed Qurayzah to consult one of their former allies: Abu Lubabah ibn Abd al-Mundhir, the chief of Auf. This part of the story is obscure. The Jews are said to have asked Abu Lubabah what Muhammad intended to do and he touched his throat, tacitly telling them that they had been sentenced to death. He was then so overcome by remorse that he bound himself to a pillar of the mosque for fifteen days until Muhammad released him. If he had told the Jews of their fate in this way, it does not seem to have affected their decision, so it has been suggested that he had perhaps indicated that he would honour his old allegiance to Qurayzah. The next day, the Qurayzah agreed to accept Muhammad's judgement and opened their gates to the Muslim army, presumably trusting in the support of their former confederates in the tribe of Aws.

Indeed, the Aws begged Muhammad to be merciful; had he not granted the Bani Qaynuqa their lives at the request of Ibn Ubbay, a Khasrajite? Muhammad asked them if they would accept the decision of one of their own leading men and they agreed. During the siege, Sa'd ibn Muadh had received a fatal wound, but he was carried to the territory of Qurayzah on a donkey. His fellow chiefs urged him to spare their former allies, but Sa'd would have realised that this could be the thin end of the wedge that would bring chaos back to Medina. Should an old loyalty take precedence over commitment to the umma? Sa'd judged that all the 700 men should be killed, their wives and children sold into slavery and their property divided among the Muslims. Muhammad cried aloud: 'You have judged according to the very sentence of al-Llah above the seven skies! 162 The next day Muhammad ordered another trench to be dug, this time in the souk of Medina. Some individuals were spared at the request of the Muslims, but the rest were tied together in groups and beheaded; their bodies were thrown into the trench. Only one woman was executed, for throwing a millstone on one of the Muslims during the siege of the tribe. Aisha remembered her vividly:

She was actually with me and was talking with me and laughing immoderately as the apostle was killing her men in the market when suddenly an unseen voice called her name. 'Good heavens,' I cried, 'what is the matter?"I am to be killed,' she replied. 'What for?' I asked. 'Because of something I did,' she answered. She was taken away and beheaded. Aisha used to say, I shall never forget my wonder at her good spirits and her loud laughter when all the time she knew that she would be killed.63

It is probably impossible for us to dissociate this story from Nazi atrocities and it will inevitably alienate many people irrevocably from Muhammad. But Western scholars like Maxime Rodinson and W. Montgomery Watt argue that it is not correct to judge the incident by twentieth-century standards.



At Badr God had revealed His presence in the midst of a battle, which had been a sign and a salvation, but God had also been present in the apparent humiliation of Hudaybiyah, when He had sent down His sakina, the spirit of peace and tranquillity:

It is He who sent down the sakina
into the hearts of the believers, that
they might add faith to their faith.18

God had sent down His sakina once before, when Abu Bake and Muhammad had hidden for three days in the Cave outside Mecca, despised and rejected by their kinsmen and facing the possibility of imminent, pointless death. The sakina, it will also be recalled, seems to have been related to the Hebrew Shekinah, the term for God's presence in the world. Badr and Hudaybiyah, therefore, were both 'signs' of salvation that revealed that God was mysteriously present in current historical events. He was just as active in peace as in war and could make what looked like a defeat into a manifest victory. The sura goes on to say that when the pilgrims had undertaken the perilous enterprise of the unarmed pilgrimage to Mecca, they had made an act of faith which the Bedouin who had refused to accompany Muhammad had not been ready for. 19 They had made another act of faith and trust when they had pledged fealty to Muhammad under the acacia tree. The Quraysh could have wiped them out, but they had promised to obey Muhammad even though he had led them into the darkness of the shadow of humiliation; the consequent treaty was also a 'sign' which the Muslims had to interpret, looking beyond the externals to the inner meaning.20 At Badr the victory had been afurqan which had separated the just from the unjust in battle; the victory (fath) of Hudaybiyah had distinguished believer from unbeliever by the spirit of peace: