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The Battle of Khaybar
category: History & Biographies
Allah had promised a great reward to all those who had, at Hudaybiyah, sworn allegiance to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) which was known as Bai’atur-Rizwan or the oath of Paradise. Having submitted to the will of God and His Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) in that hour of crisis, Allah foretold them of the coming victory as well as the booty they were to win shortly.
“Allah was well pleased with the believers when they swore allegiance unto thee beneath the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down peace of reassurance on them, and hath rewarded them with a near victory. And much booty that they will capture, Allah is ever Mighty, Wise.” [Qur'an 48:18-19]
The Conquest of Khaybar was to serve as a prelude to the subsequent victories that followed in its path. Khaybar was a Jewish colony(20) comprising several citadels, some of which were built on hill tops and were virtually impregnable. It was, thus, the last but formidable Jewish stronghold in Arabia. Anxious to confront the Muslims for the plight of their brothers in Madeenah, the Jews of Khaybar were willing to spend their wealth in pursuit of stirring agitation from the neighbouring Arab tribes to wage war against the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). At the time when the expedition to Khaybar was undertaken, the Jews of the place were in league with the tribe of Ghatfan with whom they were hatching up an agreed plot against the Muslims.(21) The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) thus found a good reason to act against the Jews of Khaybar. He decided that the time had come to get rid of their intrigues once and for all so that he might be able to divert his attention to other pressing matters. Khaybar was situated at a distance of 112-Km northeast of Madeenah.
THE PROPHET (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) LEADS THE ARMY
After his return from Hudaybiyah, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) stayed in Madeenah during Dhul-Hijjah and a part of the month of Muharram. Thereafter he marched towards Khaybar.
One of the companions of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) by the name of ‘Amr b. al-Akhw’a (radiallahu 'anhu), accompanied the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) on this expedition. He recited the following verses given here while he rode with the army.
“We’d have not been guided, but for Allah, nor given alms, nor chanted Glory, We are the people, when attacked or treated unjustly, we resist. Send down Sakinah upon us, Against the enemy make us firm.(22)
The combatants who marched against Khaybar numbered 1,400 including 200 cavalries, and all those who had lagged behind on the occasion of Hudaybiyah were refused permission to go on this expedition. Twenty women also went along with the force so as to look after the sick and the wounded as well as to prepare food for the men.
In order to cut the communications between the two allies, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) halted at Raj’i, a wadi between Khaybar and the Ghatfan. The Jews had other confederate tribes as well but the Prophet's (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) stay at Raj’i forced all of them to remain in their homes instead of trying to reinforce the Jews. The road to Khaybar was thus left open to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) .
The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) ordered to procure food for the army but nothing except parched corn was available.(23) When the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) approached Khaybar, he raised his hand to invoke and pray to God for the conquest of the colony and sought the Lord’s refuge from the evil of its people. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) never took the offensive during the night but rather delayed it till the crack of dawn and if the call for prayer was given, he first performed it. Here, too, he endured the night and ordered to march ahead before the call for prayer was given. The Muslims met the workers of Khaybar coming out with spades and basket. As soon as they saw the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and the army, they turned on their heels shouting, “Muhammad and his force.” The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, “God is Great. Khaybar is destroyed. When we fall upon a people the morning is cruel enough for those who have already been warned.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. III, pp. 229-30)
THE VICTORIOUS COMMANDER
The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) came at the fortresses and started overpowering them one by one. Marhab, the well-known Jewish warlord, held one of these citadels. It was a fortified stronghold at which the initial delegation was denied success for 'Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) was suffering from ophthalmia. After a few unsuccessful charges, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, “Tomorrow I will give the flag to the man who loves Allah and His Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and he will conquer the fort.” Every companion waited in suspense, hoping to be given the emblem. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) summoned ‘'Ali (radiallahu 'anhu), blew into his eyes with his saliva and prayed for his success. The eyes of ‘'Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) were cured in due time afterwhich he was then given the insignia(24) and ordered to fight the Jews until he prevailed over them. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said to ‘Ali (radiallahu 'anhu), “Go ahead and encompass them. First invite them to accept Islam and explain the obligations they owe to God. I swear to God that even if only one man is guided to the right path trough you, this would be better for you than the red camels.(25)
'ALI (radiallahu 'anhu) FACES THE JEWISH WARRIOR
When ‘Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) came near the fort, Marhab, the Jew appeared on his horse protected by armor and shield, reciting a poem about his valor. ‘Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) imposed himself upon Marhab and both fell upon each other swinging their scimitars. ‘Ali's (radiallahu 'anhu) sword plunged first into Marhab slicing through his helmet and head until his face was divided into two equal parts. ‘Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) had succeeded in reducing the fort.(26)
Muhammad b. Maslama (radiallahu 'anhu) also fought bravely at Khaybar and killed a number of well-known Jewish warriors.
AN EASY REWARD
The slave of Khaybar had been hired to watch over the flocks of his master. When he saw the Jews taking up arms in order to give Muslims a fight, he asked, “Why do you really have to go?” The Jews replied that they were going to fight the man who had laid a claim to Prophethood. The slave’s curiosity brought him to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) whom he asked. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) replied, “I call you to Islam, that is, you bear witness that there is no deity save God and that I am the Prophet of God, and you serve not no one except God.”
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