‘Annihilation of the Banu Qurayza’

Surah 33 (Al-Ahzab/The Parties): 26-27

26. He has brought those of the People of the Book (the Jews) who had backed them, down from their fortresses, and cast awe into their hearts, so as to make you kill some of them and take others as captives

27. And He let you inherit their land and their homes and their wealth, and a land you have not trodden (so far). And Allah is Powerful to do any thing.

[‘Quran-e-Karim’, 2007, Mufti Taqi Usmani, 2007, Deobandi and former Pakistan Federal Shariat Court justice]


Ibn Ishaq reports that during the Meccan siege of Medina, the so-called Battle of the Trench 〈43.〉 a Jewish tribe within Medina, the Banu Qurayza, received messages from the Meccans. In these, the Meccans urged the Qurayza to attack Muhammad and draw his fighters away from the trench, enabling them to storm across. These negotiations had ultimately broken down in mutual distrust, created by an agent loyal to Muhammad who purported to pass messages between the Qurayza and the Meccans, but did so in such a way as to sow doubt between them.


Immediately following the abandonment of the siege of Medina, Muhammad turned his triumphant army against the Qurayza, and for a third time in three years besieges a Jewish tribe in its compound. Ibn Ishaq does not say so, but the Qurayza appear at that time to have been be last remaining Jewish tribe in Yathrib/Medina. At any rate no free Jews are mentioned in Medina thereafter. As a condition for their surrender,  the Banu Qurayza secured the agreement by Muhammad that their fate should be determined by a member of a tribe that traditionally been its allies, one Sa’d ibn Mu’adh. In his verdict, Sa’d required ‘that the men should be killed, the property divided and the women and children taken as captives’ . The first part of this sentence was promptly carried out by Muhammad’s men, as described by Ibn Ishaq.

Then (the Banu Qurayza) surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina in the quarter of al-Harith, a woman of Banu al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches.

Among them was the enemy of Allah, Huyayy bin Akhtab (the Meccan who had first proposed that the Qurayza enter an alliance with the Meccans) and Ka`b bin Asad (the Banu Qurayza’s) chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900.

As they were being taken out in batches to the apostle, they asked Ka`b what he thought would be done with them. He replied: ‘Will you never understand? Don’t you see that the summoner never stops and those who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!’ This went on until the apostle made an end of them.

Huyayy was brought out wearing a flowered robe in which he had made holes about the size of the finger-tips in every part so that it should not be taken from him as spoil, with his hands bound to his neck by a rope. When he saw the apostle, he said: ‘By God, I do not blame myself for opposing you, but he who forsakes God will be forsaken.’

Then he went to the men and said: ‘God’s command is right. A book and a decree, and massacre have been written against the Sons of Israel.’

Then he sat down and his head was struck off.


The women and children of the Banu Qurayza were enslaved. Muhammad is said to have taken one widow of the massacre, Rayhana, as his concubine, after she had refused his proposal to marry her (see 〈D.〉 Muhammad’s wives and concubines below.) Some of the other female captives were said to have been exchanged for horses and weapons, further increasing Muhammad’s military strength.