‘The Capture of Kaybar’

Surah 48 (Al-Fath/The Victory): 18-21

18. Allah was definitely well pleased with the believers when they, as they sat under the tree, pledged their allegiance to you. He knew what was in their heart, so He bestowed a comforting calm upon them. As a reward, He arranged for them a victory in the near future.

19. They will acquire an abundance of booty. Allah is the Mighty, the Wisest.

20 Allah has promised that you would capture a lot of booty in the future. Meanwhile, He has granted you this (victory) in advance. He restrained the hands of men (your enemies); He kept them from hurting you! So that it may serve as a sign for the believers,; so that He may guide you on to the straight path

21. And (He promises you) other (bounties)!

You are (as yet) not capable of achieving them. But Allah has earmarked them (for you). Allah is capable of accomplishing everything

[Munshey, 2000]


Ibn Ishaq records that a month after the agreement of the treaty of Hudaybiyyah 〈45.〉, Muhammad led his fighters to attack and capture wealthy Jewish settlements at Kaybar, Fadak and Wadi al-Qura.
Ibn Ishaq offers the following description of the initial assault:

One whom I do not suspect told me from Anas bin Malik: ‘When the apostle raided a people he waited until the morning. If he heard a call to prayer he held back; if he did not hear it he attacked.

We came to Kaybar by night and the apostle passed the night there. When morning came, he did not hear the call to prayer so he rode and we rode with him, and I rode behind Abu Talha with my foot touching the apostle’s foot. We met the workers of Kaybar coming out in the morning with their spades and baskets. When they saw the apostle and his army they cried: ‘Muhammad with his force’ and turned tail and fled.

The apostle said: ‘Allahu akbar! Kaybar is destroyed! When we arrive in a people’s square it is a bad morning for those who have been warned’.’ Harun told us from Umays similarly…’


Citing a different source he wrote an account of the aftermath of the raid:

When the apostle had conquered al-Qamus, the fort of Abu Huqayq, Safiya bint Huyyay bin Akhtab was brought to him along with another woman. Bilal who was bringing them led them past the Jews who were slain, and when the woman who was with Safiya saw them she shrieked and slapped her face and poured dust on her head.

When the apostle saw her, he said: ‘Take this she-devil away from me!’ He gave orders that Safiya was to be put behind him and threw his mantle over her, so that the Muslims knew he had chosen her for himself. I have heard that the apostle said to Bilal, when he saw this Jewess behaving in this way: ‘Have you no compassion, Bilal when you brought two women past their dead husbands?’

After this incident, Ibn Ishaq proceeds to describe Muhammad torturing by fire Safiya’s father who had been the treasurer of the Banu Nadir in order to discover where the tribe’s gold was hidden, before ordering him to be killed him . Muhammad then married Safiya before leaving Kaybar.


At Kaybar, Muhammad is also said to have retaken possession of Rayhana, whom he had taken as his slave following the massacre of the Banu Qurayza 〈44.〉 in similar circumstances to those in which he now took Safiya. According to Ibn Ishaq, Rayhana had refused to marry Muhammad, preferring to remain his slave, but hadith accounts expand the story by adding that she later changed her mind and agreed to become one of Muhammad’s wives, only to be subsequently divorced for her persistently melancholic disposition and permitted to leave Medina. With the Banu Qurayza destroyed, she is said to have returned to her birth tribe, the Banu Nadir, which, after Muhammad had expelled it from Medina (see 〈42.〉) had found a new home with their fellow Jews at Kaybar. And so it was that with the fall of Kaybar, Rayhana had found herself once again Muhammad’s captive. Due to her status as Muhammad’s former wife, she is said to have been taken back to Medina, where she remained as his slave until her death .


See 〈D.〉 Muhammad’s wives and concubines.


Muhammad permitted the Jews of Kaybar, and two smaller Jewish settlements, Fadak and Wadi al-Qura, to remain upon their land subject to a condition that they pay the Qur’anic community (whom according to the account of Ibn Ishaq seems to have had little peaceful means of supporting themselves) half of their crop as tribute thereafter. This is regarded as the first instance of the acceptance of jizya, see 〈50.〉


Verses {48.15-16} suggest that after the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, some Bedouins who had held back from marching upon Mecca had sought permission to join Muhammad’s force to attack Kaybar, no doubt in the hope of partaking of easy spoils. This permission is refused. Anticipating a future conversation, the passage reads:

{48.15} Those who stayed behind will say when you set out to capture spoils: ‘Let us follow you.’ They desire to change the Word of God.

Say: ‘You will not follow us, thus has God said before.’

They will then say: ‘Nay but you are jealous of us.’

Nay, but they have not understood save but a little.

{48.16} Say to the Bedouin who stayed behind: ‘You will be called against a people possessed of great might. You will fight them or they will submit. So if you obey, God will grant you a beautiful reward. But if you turn away as you turned away before he will punish you with a painful punishment.’


Having previously shown themselves to be fickle, the Bedouin must now prove their loyalty by agreeing to fight ‘a people of great might’: in all likelihood a reference to a planned raid on an outpost of the Byzantine or Sassanian empires.