Banu Nadir ( ) were a Jewish
tribe who lived in northern
Arabia until the 7th century, at the oasis of Yathrib (now
known as Medina).
They came into conflict with Muhammad
having been expelled from the city, together with the Quraysh
planned the Battle of the
. They later participated in the battle of Khaybar
In early Medina, in addition to the Banu Nadir, there were two
other major Jewish tribes: the Banu
and the Banu Qaynuqa
were joined centuries later by two non-Jewish Arab tribes from
Yemen, Banu Aus
and Banu Khazraj
The Banu Nadir settled outside the city of Yathrib, now Medina,
because of the Roman
the Jews in Palestine
. According to the
, the Banu Nadir were an Arab
tribe ethnically, which had converted to Judaism
and initially settled on the eponymous
. Some, however, believe
them to be an ethnically Jewish tribe connected with the Khaybar Jews.
Like other Medinese Jews, Banu Nadir
bore Arabic names, but spoke a distinct dialect of Arabic.
earned their living through agriculture, money lending, and trade
in weapons and jewels, maintaining commercial relations with Arab
merchants of Mecca.
Their fortresses were located half a day's march to the south of
Medina. Banu Nadir were wealthy and lived in some of the best lands
When the two Arabian tribes of Aws
went to war against each other in the
Battle of Bu'ath
, the three Jewish tribes split on different sides of
the war. The Banu Nadir, led by Ka'b
and Huyayy ibn
, and the Banu Qurayza fought with the Banu Aus, while
the Banu Qaynuqa were allied with the Banu
. The latter were defeated after a long and arduous
Arrival of Muhammad
was invited to Medina to broker a
peace between the warring tribes, and in September 622, he arrived
with a group of his followers
, who were
given shelter by members of the indigenous community known as the
. Amongst his first actions was the
construction of the first Mosque in Medina, as well as obtaining
residence with Abu Ayyub
. He then set about the establishment of a pact, known
as the Constitution of
, between the Muslims, the Ansar, and the various Jewish
tribes of Medina to regulate the matters of governance of the city,
as well as the extent and nature of inter-community relations.
Conditions of the pact included boycotting Quraysh, abstinence from
"extending any support to them", assistance of one another if
attacked by a third party, as well as "defending Medina, in
case of a foreign attack
Reaction to the expulsion of the Banu Qaynuqa
When Muhammad expelled the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qaynuqa
, the Banu Nadir did not get
involved, viewing the conflict as another example of tribal
struggle. The conflict led to a ruling that such future action by
any of the other parties to the Constitution of Medina
constitute a voiding of their benefits under the system, and
requiring subsequent punishment.
Assassination of Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf
Badr, one of the Banu Nadir's chiefs Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf, who was also a gifted
poet, wrote a poetic eulogy commemorating the slain Quraish
notables; later, he also wrote erotic poetry about Muslim women,
which the Muslims found offensive.
This poetry influenced so
many that his actions were considered directly against the Constitution of Medina
loyalty gives protection against treachery
document will not (be employed to) protect one who is unjust or
commits a crime
Other historians cite that Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf went to the Quraish
in order to lament the loss at Badr and to incite them to take up
arms to regain lost honor, noting the statement of Muhammad:
"He (Ka'b) has openly assumed enmity to us and speaks evil of
us and he has gone over to the polytheists (who were at war with
Muslims) and has made them gather against us for fighting
This too was thought to be in contravention of the Constitution of Medina
, of which the
tribe led by Ka'b ibn al-Asharf was a signatory, which prohibited
them from "extending any support" to the tribes of Mecca, namely
Muhammad called upon his followers to kill Ka'b. Muhammad ibn
Maslama offered his services, collecting four others. By pretending
to have turned against Muhammad
ibn Maslama and the others enticed Ka'b out of his fortress on a
moonlit night, and killed him in spite of his vigorous resistance.
Some attribute this action to norms of the Arab society that demand
retaliation for a slight to a group's honor. The Jews were
terrified at his assassination, and as the historian ibn Ishaq put
it "...there was not a Jew who did not fear for his life".
Expulsion from Medina
Submission of Banu Nadir to the Muslim
troops (14-century painting)
After defeat by the Quraish at the Mount
in March, 625, the Banu Nadir challenged Muhammad as the
leader of Medina.
In July of the same year, two men were killed during skirmish in
which the Muslims were involved. As a result Muhammad went to the
Nadir, asking them to make a contribution towards the blood money
of two men killed. Initially most of the Nadir, except Huyayy ibn Akhtab
, were inclined to accept
Muhammad's request. However, Ibn Ubayy
communicated to ibn Akhtab of his intent, along with allied nomads,
to attack Muhammad. The Nadir, then postponed the contribution
until later that day.
Muhammad left the locality immediately accusing the Banu Nadir of
plotting to assassinate him, saying to have learned this either
through revelation or Muhammad ibn
. Watt suggests that, in accordance with 7th century
Arabian ideals, Muhammad knew the Banu Nadir sought an opportunity
to kill him, in order to avenge the death of Ka'b bin Ashraf. Watt
deduces that Banu Nadir's postponement of the contribution gave
them such an opportunity.
According to other sources, the Banu Nadir invited Muhammad to
their habitations for a religious debate, to which Muhammad
accepted. Muhammad also accepted the condition that he bring no
more than three men with him. On his way he was notified by a Banu
Nadir convert to Islam of an assassination attempt at the
Muhammad besieged the Banu Nadir. He ordered them to surrender
their property and leave Medina within ten days. The tribe at first
decided to comply, but "certain persons of Medina who were not
Believers sent a message to the Banu al-Nadir, saying, 'Hold out,
and defend yourselves; we shall not surrender you to Muhammad. If
you are attacked we shall fight with you and if you are sent away
we shall go with you.'" Huyayy ibn
decided to put up resistance, hoping also for help from
the Banu Qurayza
, despite opposition
within the tribe. The Nadir were forced to surrender after the
siege had lasted for 14 days, when the promised help failed to
materialize and when Muhammad ordered the burning and felling of
their palm-trees. Under the conditions of surrender, the Banu Nadir
could only take with them what they could carry on camels with the
exception of weapons.
The Banu Nadir left on 600 camels, parading through Medina to the
music of pipes and tambourines. Al-Waqidi described their
impressive farewell: "Their women were decked out in litters
wearing silk, brocade, velvet, and fine red and green silk. People
lined up to gape at them." Most of Banu Nadir found refuge among the
Jews of Khaybar, while others emigrated to Syria.
According to Ibn Ishaq, the chiefs of Nadir who went to Khaybar
were Sallam b. Abu'l-Huqayq, Kinana b. al-Rabi and Huyayy b.
Akhtab. When these chiefs arrvied in Khaybar, the Jewish
inhabitants of Khaybar became subject to them.
Muhammad divided their land between his companions who had
emigrated with him from Mecca. Until then, the emigrants had to
rely upon the Medinese sympathizers for financial assistance.
Muhammad reserved a share of the seized land for himself, which
also made him financially independent.
Upon expulsion of the Banu Nadir, Muhammad is said to have received
a revelation of the Surah al-Hashr
Battle of Trench: 627
A number of Jews who had formed a party against Muhammad, including
Sallam b. Abu'l-Huqayq, Kinana b. al-Rabi and Huyayy b. Akhtab, the
chiefs of Nadir who had gone to Khaybar, together with two chiefs
from the tribe of B. Wa'ili went to Quraysh and invited them to
form a coalition against Muhammad so that they might get rid of him
altogether. Then they persuaded the tribe of Ghaftan to join the
battle against Muhammad. Banu Nadir promised half the date harvest
of Khaybar to nomadic tribes if they would join the battle against
Muslims. Abu Sufyan, the military leader of Quraysh, with the
financial help of Banu Nadir had mustered a force of size 10,000
men. Muhammad was able to prepare a force of about 3000 men. He had
however adopted a new form of defense, unknown in Arabia at that
time: Muslims had dug a trench wherever Medina lay open to cavalry
attack. The idea is credited to a Persian convert to Islam,
Salman the Persian
. The siege of
Medina began on March 31 627
and lasted for two weeks. Abu Sufyan's troops were
unprepared for the fortifications they were confronted with, and
after an ineffectual siege lasting several weeks, the coalition
decided to go home. The Qur'an discusses this battle in verses
Battle of Khaybar: 628
In 628, Muhammad attacked Khaybar. According to William Montgomery Watt
, this was
motivated by the presence of the Banu Nadir in Khaybar, who were
inciting hostilities along with neighboring Arab tribes against
Muhammad. Laura Veccia
adds other motifs such as raising his prestige among
his followers, as well as to capture booty
sustain subsequent conquests.
Later, Muhammad sent a delegation under Abdullah bin Rawaha to ask
another chief of the Banu Nadir, Usayr
to come to Medina along with other Nadir leaders to
discuss the two groups political relations. Among whom were
Abdullah bin Unays, an ally of Banu Salima, a clan hostile to the
Jews. When they came to him they spoke to him and treated him
saying that if he would come to Muhammad he would give him an
appointment and honour him. They kept on at him until he went with
them with a number of Jews. Abdullah bin Unays mounted him on his
beast until when he was in al-Qarqara, about six miles from
Khaybar, al-Yusayr changed his mind about going with them. Abdullah
perceived his intention as he was preparing to draw his sword so he
rushed at him and struck him with his sword cutting off his leg.
Al-Yusayr hit him with a stick of shauhat wood which he had in his
hand and wounded his head. All Muhammad's emissaries fell upon the
thirty Jewish companions and killed them except one man who escaped
on his feet. Abdullah bin Unays
is the assassin who volunteered and got permission to kill Banu
Nadir's Sallam ibn Abu
at a previous night mission in Khaybar.
Muhammad and his followers attacked Khaybar in May/June 628 after
the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah
Although the Jews put up fierce resistance, the lack of central
command and their unpreparedness for an extended siege sealed the
outcome of the battle in favor of the Muslims. When all but two
fortresses were captured, the Jews managed to negotiate their
surrender. The terms required them to hand over one-half of the
annual produce to the Muslims, while the land itself became the
collective property of the Muslim state.
The agreement, however, did not cover the Banu Nadir tribe, who
were not given any quarter. Muslims killed all the men of the Banu
Nadir and divided the women among themselves. According to Ibn Ishaq
, when the Banu Nadir's treasurer
Kinana ibn al-Rabi
hiding some of the tribe's wealth, he was tortured by Muhammad's
order to compel him to reveal the location of the rest, then
beheaded. Muhammad took al-Rabi's widow Safiyya bint Huyayy
, who was also the
daughter of the killed Banu Nadir chief Huyayy ibn Akhtab
, as his wife.
Muslim biographers of Muhammad tell a story that a Jewish woman of
the Banu Nadir attempted to poison Muhammad to avenge her slain
relatives. She poisoned a piece of lamb that she cooked for
Muhammad and his companions, putting a particularly high amount
into the shoulder — Muhammad's favorite part. The attempt on
Muhammad's life failed because he reportedly spit out the meat,
feeling that it was poisoned, while one of his companions ate the
meat and died. Muhammad's companions then reported that on his
deathbed Muhammad said that his illness was the result of that
- V. Vacca , Encyclopedia of Islam, Banu Nadir
- , p. 13–14.
- jewishencyclopedia.com 
- Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaayah wa al-Nihaayah, Vol II, p. 279
- Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 501.
- Saif-ur-Rahman Mubarakfuri, ar-Raheeq al-Makhtoom - "The Sealed
- Ibn Hisham, as-Seerat an-Nabaweeyat, Vol. II, p. 147-150.
- Ibn Ishaq, p. 231-235.
- Philip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, 10th edition (Macmillan
Press, 1970), p. 90.
- al-Zurqaani, Sharh al-Muwaahib, Vol II p. 10-12
- English translation from Stillman (1979), p. 125–126.
- Stillman (1979) p. 13
- Ibn Hisham (1955). English translation from Stillman (1979), p.
- Stillman (1979), p. 14.
- Watt (1956), p. 211-2.
- Translated by Muhammad Aslam Qasmi.
- The earliest biography of Muhammad, by ibn
Ishaq Some sources sources identify these persons with
Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, who however was a
Muslim, or the Banu Qurayza.
- English translation from Stillman (1979), p. 136.
- A. Guillaume, The life of Muhammad, Oxford University
- A. Guillaume, The life of Muhammad, Oxford University
- *Cyril Glasse, Huston Smith, The New Encyclopedia of
Islam, p.81 *J.A.M. Caldwell, Hizb, Encyclopedia
- The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition. Vol.4, p.1137
- Watt (1956), p. 36, 37
- See: *Rodinson (2002), pp. 209–211; *Watt (1964) p. 169
- Uri Rubin, Quraysh, Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an
- Veccia Vaglieri, L. "Khaybar", Encyclopaedia of Islam
- Ibn Ishaq, A. Guillaume, p. 665-666
- Ibn Hisham (1955). English translation in Stillman (1979), p.
- Ibn Hisham (1955). English translation in Stillman (1979), p.