Khaibar was a spacious strongly fortified territory, studded with castles and farms, lying at a distance of 60-80 miles north of Madinah, now a village known for its unhealthy climate.
The Reasons for the Battle
After the Hudaibiyah Treaty, the major party of the anti-Islam tripartite coalition, the Quraish, was neutralized. Therefore, the Prophetﷺ considered it an appropriate time to settle his affairs with the other two wings – the Jews and the Najd tribes – in order that peace and security could prevail and the Muslims may devote their time and effort in propagating the Message of Allâh and calling people to embrace it. Khaibar itself had always remained a hotbed of intrigue and conspiracy, and the Jews had always used it as a source of military provocation and an instigation center, so it was given top priority on the Prophet’s agenda of the affairs requiring urgency. The Jews of Khaibar, united by an ancient alliance with the Confederates, provoked Bani Quraizah to practice treachery, maintained contacts with Ghatafan and the Arabians and they even devised an attempt on the Prophet’s life. In fact, the continual afflictions that the Muslims sustained were primarily attributable to the Jews. Envoys were repeatedly sent to them for peaceful settlement, but all in vain. Consequently the Prophetﷺ came to the conclusion that a military campaign was a must in order to solve this problem.
Headed to Khaibar
Ibn Ishaq said: “When Allâh’s Messengerﷺ came back from AlHudaibiyah, he resided in Madinah during the month of DhulHijjah and part of Muharram. Then he left at the end of Muharram for Khaibar.”
Interpreters of the Noble Qur’ân suggest that capturing Khaibar had been a Divine promise implied in Allâh’s Words:
“Allâh has promised you abundant spoils that you will capture, and He has hastened for you this.” [48:20]
i.e., the Hudaibiyah Peace Treaty and the surrender of Khaibar. The hypocrites and people weak of heart had hung back from joining the true Muslims in the Hudaibiyah campaigns, so now Allâh the All-Mighty revealed the following words to His Prophet
Those who lagged behind will say, when you set forth to take the spoils: ‘Allow us to follow you.’ They want to change Allâh’s Words. Say: ‘You shall not follow us; thus Allâh has said beforehand.’ Then they will say: ‘Nay, you envy us.’ Nay, but they understand not except a little.” [48:151
The Number of Soldiers in the Army
For this reason, the Prophet ﷺ invited only those who were willing to fight in the cause of Allâh to accompany him in his march against Khaibar. 1400 men only, who had sworn allegiance in response to his call.
Meanwhile, Siba’ bin ‘Arfatah Al-Ghifari Radiallahu anhoo was chosen to run the affairs of Madinah. Another incident of high significance is the acceptance of Islam by Abu Hurairah Radiallahu anhoo, a venerable Muslim scholar and an authentic narrator of the Prophetic traditions, that occurred during this time.
The Hypocrites alert the Jews
The hypocrites of Arabia took notice of the fresh Islamic intentions so they began to alert the Jews to the imminent military activities. Their chief, ‘Abdullah bin Ubai sent a message
The Conquest of Khaibar
to the Jews of Khaibar warning them against the dangers approaching, and encouraging them to resist the Muslims as they outnumbered the latter and were better equipped. On hearing the news the Jews dispatched Kinanah bin Abul-Huqaiq and Haudhah bin Qais to their former allies, the tribe of Ghatafan requesting military assistance, promising to grant them half the yield of the fruit that their farms could yield if they managed to beat the Muslims.
The Road to Khaibar
The Prophetﷺ marched by way of ‘Isr Mountain and then went forward with the army till he halted in a valley called Ar-Raji’, encamping a day and a night’s journey before the Ghatafan so as to prevent the latter from strengthening the Jews. The guides accompanying him led him to an intersection from which branched out many ways, all leading to his destination. He abstained from following the first three roads on grounds of their ominous names and chose the fourth for its favorable indication.
It is noteworthy that some interesting incidents featured the Muslims’ march towards Khaibar; of which we mention the following:
- It has been narrated on the authority of Salamah bin AlAkwa’, who said: We marched upon Khaibar with Allâh’s Messenger ﷺ. We journeyed during the night. One of the men said to my brother ‘Amir: “Won’t you recite to us some of your verses, ‘Amir?” So, he began to chant his verses to urge the camels, reciting:
O Allâh, if you had not guided us, we would have neither been guided rightly nor practiced charity, nor offered prayers.
We wish to lay down our lives for You; so forgive You our lapses, and keep us firm when we encounter (our enemies).
Bestow upon us peace and tranquility, behold, when with a cry they called upon us to help
Allâh’s Messenger ﷺ said: “Who is this driver (of the camels)?”
They said: “It is ‘Amir.” He said: “Allâh will show mercy to him.” A man said: “Martyrdom is reserved for him: O Messenger of Allâh, would that you had allowed us to benefit ourselves from his life.
The Prophet’s Companions had already known that he would never invoke Allâh’s mercy upon a close Companion but to single him out for martyrdom.’
- In a spot called As-Sahba’, not far from Khaibar, the Prophet ﷺ observed the Afternoon prayer, and then he called his Companions to have whatever food provisions they had. What they brought was too little to satisfy them all. The Prophetﷺ took it by his hand and it immediately grew in quantity, so they all ate to their fill.
Shortly afterward, he and the others, rinsed their mouths and performed the Evening prayer without performing ablution; 3) he did the same for the Night prayer.’”!
As they reached above Khaibar and looked down upon it he said. “Halt.” The array halted and he said:
“O Allâh! Lord of the seven heavens and what they cover, Lord of the seven earths and what include, Lord of the devils and what they mislead: Indeed we ask You for the good of this town, the good of its people, the good that is in it, and we seek refuge with You from the evil of this town, the evil of its people and the evil that is in it. Proceed in the Name of Allâh.:15]
The Muslim Army surrounds Khaibar
The Muslims camped and slept that night near Khaibar without the Jews realizing their presence. In the morning after the prayer
they mounted and proceeded. The Muslims encountered the Jews when they had come out about their jobs with their axes, spades and strings driving their cattle along. They began to shout in surprise: “Muhammadﷺ has come along with his force!” Allâh’s Messenger ﷺ said:
“Allâh is Great, Khaibar is ruined, Allâh is Great, Khaibar is ruined, Behold! When we descend amidst the people, it will dawn a bad day for those who have been warned (but have not taken heed).
The Fortresses of Khaibar
Khaibar was divided into two sections, the first containing five fortresses or castles:
- The fortress of Na’im.
- The fortress of As-Sa’b bin Mu’ath.
- The fortress of Az-Zubair.
- The fortress of Ubai.
- The fortress of An-Nizar.
The first three were in the area known as An-Natah, the remainder were in a section called Ash-Shaq. The second section of the city was called Al-Katibah and it had three fortresses:
- Al-Qamus, which was the fortress of the family of Abul-Huqaiq from the tribe of Abu An-Nadeer.
- The fortress of Al-Watih.
- The fortress of As-Sulalim.
There were also other fortresses in Khaibar besides these eight. but they did not reach the size or fortification of these. The fighting occurred only in the first section of the city: in the second section, the three fortresses secured themselves and held their fighters without coming out to face the Muslims.
The Muslim Camp
For encampment, the Prophetﷺ had chosen a certain plot of land he deemed suitable to serve as the headquarters of his army. However, a veteran fighter of his called Hubab bin Al-Mundhir Radiallahu anhoo suggested that they should relocate under the requirements of war and for the sake of providing maximum movement facilities.
Preparing to Fight and the Good News of Victory
When the night entered or thereafter, the Prophet ﷺsaid:
“Tomorrow I will give the banner to a man who loves Allâh and His Messengerﷺ and Allâh and His Messengerﷺ love him.”
In the morning, all of the people gathered around him hoping that they were the one, the Prophetﷺ mentioned during the night. The Prophet ﷺ called for ‘Ali bin Abi Talib Karamulla wajehul kareem is who had a problem with his eyes, so he supplicated for him and the problem left. He then handed the banner to him. ‘Ali on his part, pledged he would fight the enemies until they embraced Islam. The Prophet ﷺ answered him saying: “Proceed upon your way until you enter their midst, then invite them to accept Islam and brief them on their duties towards Allâh. I swear by Allâh that if only one should be guided by you, that would surely outweigh the best camels.”
Date and Route of the Campaign:
Ibn Ishaq suggested that the battle took place in the month of Muharram, 7th A.H. Ibn Ishaq also said when the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) marched from Madinah to Khaibar, he went by way of a place called ‘Isr’ and a mosque was built for him there; then by way of Al Sahbih. Then he (S.A.W.) went forward with the army until he hatted in a valley called ‘Al-Raji, halting between the men of Khaibar and Ghatafan tribe so as to prevent the latter reinforcing Khaibar, for they were on their side against the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.).
Suwaid Ibn An-Numan (R.A.) narrated:
” In the year of the conquest of Khaibar I went with Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) till we reached Sahba, a place near Khaibar, where Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) offered the `Asr’ prayer and asked for food. Nothing but ‘saweeq’ (Arabic name for Barley’s roasted flour) was brought. He ordered it to be moistened with water. He and all of us ate it and the Prophet (S.A.W.) got up for the evening prayer (Maghrib prayer), rinsed his mouth with water and we did the same, and he then prayed without repeating the ablution.” (Sahih Bukhari: 209)
Prophet (S.A.W.) reached Khaibar:
Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) reached Khaibar before dawn and prayed Fajr in its vicinity. Then he attacked it before the sun rose. The Jewish peasants who came out to work with their cattle, hoes and baskets were surprised to see the Muslims there and exclaimed: “Mohammad and his army!” The Messenger answered: “Allahu Akbar! Khaibar is destroyed. When we descend into the open space of people, evil will be the morning for those who were warned (and heeded not)!
Anas (R.A.) narrated:
‘The Prophet (S.A.W.) set out for Khaibar and reached it at night. He used not to attack if he reached the people at night, till the day broke. So, when the day dawned, the Jews came out with their bags and spades. When they saw the Prophet; they said, “Mohammad and his army!” The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, Allahu-Akbar! (Allah is Greater) and Khaibar is ruined, for whenever we approach a nation (i.e. enemy to fight) then it will be a miserable morning for those who have been warned.” (Sahih Bukhari: 2945)
Anas Ibn Malik (R.A.) also said:
‘We reached Khaibar early in the morning and the inhabitants of Khaibar came out carrying their spades, and when they saw the Prophet (S.A.W.) they said, “Mohammad! By Allah! Mohammad and his army!” The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, “Allahu-Akbar! Khaibar is destroyed, for whenever we approach a (hostile) nation (to fight) then evil will be the morning for those who have been warned.” We then got the meat of donkeys (and intended to eat it), but an announcement was made by the announcer of the Prophet, “Allah and His Apostle forbid you to eat the meat of donkeys as it is an impure thing.” (Sahih Bukhari: 4198)
Narrated by Anas Ibn Malik (R.A.):‘The Prophet (S.A.W.) offered the Fajr Prayer near Khaibar when it was still dark and then said, “Allahu-Akbar! Khaibar is destroyed, for whenever we approach a (hostile) nation (to fight), then evil will be the morning for those who have been warned.” Then the inhabitants of Khaibar came out running on the roads. The Prophet (S.A.W.) had their warriors killed, their offspring and woman taken as captives. Safiya was amongst the captives, she first came in the share of Dahya Alkali but later on she belonged to the Prophet (S.A.W.). The Prophet (S.A.W.) made her manumission as her ‘Mahr’ (dowry).’ (Sahih Bukhari: 4200)
Failure of Banu Ghatafan:
The Jews took refuge in their strongholds and the Muslims besieged the stronghold of al Naim. Tribe of Ghatafan quickly came to the aid of the Jews of Khaibar who were their allies but they did not join in the fighting for fear that the Muslims might attack their homes. Ibn Ishaq states that they returned to their homes before reaching Khaibar.
Ibn Ishaq suggested that When Ghatafan heard about the Messenger’s (S.A.W.) attack on Khaibar, they gathered together and marched out to help the Jews against him. But after a day’s journey, they heard rumors that their families and properties had been attacked during their absence, so they went back on their tracks and left the way to Khaibar open to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.).
Ali ibn Talib (R.A.): Carrier of Flag of Muslim’s Army:
Abu Bakr Siddiq (R.A.) carried the flag of the Muslims for the first two days of the siege of Naim but it did not fall to him and stress and exhaustion overtook them. The following morning, the Prophet (S.A.W.) had prayed Fajr Salah and called Ali Ibn Talib (R.A.) and gave him the flag. Ali carried it on the third day, and he achieved the conquest. One report indicates that the flag-bearer before Ali (R.A.) was Umar ibn Khattab (R.A.), not Abu Bakr Siddiq (R.A.), but this is a weak report.
Salamah ibn Al-Akwa (R.A.) narrated:
`Ali (R.A.) remained behind the Prophet (S.A.W.) during the Ghazwa of Khaibar as he was suffering from eye trouble. He then said, “(How can) I remain behind the Prophet (S.A.W.),” and followed him. So when he slept on the night of the conquest of Khaibar, the Prophet (S.A.W.) said, “I will give the flag tomorrow, or tomorrow the flag will be taken by a man who is loved by Allah and His Apostle and (Khaibar) will be conquered through him, (with Allah’s help)”
While every one of us was hopeful to have the flag, it was said, “Here is `Ali” and the Prophet (S.A.W.) gave him the flag and Khaibar was conquered through him (with Allah’s Help). (Sahih Bukhari: 4209)
Sahl bin Saad (R.A.) said:
On the day of Khaibar, Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) said, “Tomorrow I will give this flag to a man through whose hands Allah will give us victory. He loves Allah and His Apostle, and he is loved by Allah and His Apostle.”
The people remained that night, wondering as to who would be given it. In the morning the people went to Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) and everyone of them was hopeful to receive it (i.e. the flag). The Prophet said, “Where is `Ali bin Abi Talib?” It was said, “He is suffering from eye trouble O Allah’s Apostle.” He said, “Send for him.” `Ali was brought and Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) spat in his eye and invoked good upon him. So `Ali was cured as if he never had any trouble. Then the Prophet (S.A.W.) gave him the flag. `Ali said “O Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.)! I will fight with them till they become like us.” Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) said,
” Proceed and do not hurry. When you enter their territory, call them to embrace Islam and inform them of Allah’s Rights which they should observe, for by Allah, even if a single man is led on the right path (of Islam) by Allah through you, then that will be better for you than the nice red camels.” (Sahih Bukhari: 4210)
The Prophet (S.A.W.) ordered Ali (R.A.) to call the Jews of Khaibar to Islam. The Prophet (S.A.W.) said to Ali (R.A.): “By Allah, if Allah guides one man (to Islam) through you, it is better for you than the most valuable camels.” [Sahih Muslim: 2406 narrated by Sahl bin Saad (R.A.)]
This clearly shows that the Prophet (S.A.W.) was not eager for the booty of Khaibar rather he was concerned about spreading the message of Islam and removing obstacles from the path of its preparation.
Killing of Marhab:
Mahmud ibn Maslamah Al-Ansari (R.A.) was martyred in the siege of the stronghold of Naim, when Marhab (Jews leader) threw a millstone onto him from the heights of the stronghold. Ali (R.A.) met Marhab in combat and killed him. [Sahih Muslim: 1807 (a)]. Marhab was one of the heroes of the Jews, and his death affected their morale.
Conquering of Different Tribe’s Land:
The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), as Ibn Ishaq narrated, seized the property piece by piece and conquered the forts one by one as he came to them (Khaibar). The first to fall was of Naim; then Al-Qamus the fort of Banu Al-Huqayq. The Messenger (S.A.W.) took captives from them among whom was Safiyah, daughter of Huyayy Ibn Aktab who had been the wife of Kinana Ibn Al-Rabi Ibn Al-Huqayq and two cousins of hers. The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) chose Safiyah for himself (as mentioned above in Sahih Bukhari: 4200).
The conquest of Naim took ten days. Afterward, the Muslims conquered Al-Saab ibn Mudadh in the region of Al-Natah, which contained the richest food in Khaibar. Then came Qalaat Al-Zubayr, which was the last stronghold of Al-Natah. The fugitives from Naim, Al-Saab, and the other Jewish strongholds conquered by the Muslims had gathered in Qalaat Al-Zubayr to face Muslims. However, Muslims cut off the water supply and forced the Jews to come down and fight. They killed ten of the Jews and conquered the stronghold after a siege lasting three days. After they had dealt with the people of Al-Natah, who were strongest of the Jews, the Muslims moved from Al-Raji to Al-Manzilah.
Position of the Muslims was much stronger after they had defeated the people of Al-Natah and the rest of the Jews of Khaibar were alarmed by the fall of Al-Natah.
When the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) had conquered some of their forts and got possession of some of their property, he came to their two forts Al-Watih and Al Sulaim, the last to be taken, and the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) besieged them for some ten nights.
Prophet’s (S.A.W.) marriage with Safiyah bint Huyyay (R.A.):
Anas Ibn Malik (R.A.) said:
The Prophet (S.A.W.) stayed with Safiya bint Huyai for three days on the way of Khaibar where he consummated his marriage with her. Safiya was amongst those who were ordered to use a veil. (Sahih Bukhari: 4212)
In another narration, Anas ibn Malik (R.A.) said that the Prophet (S.A.W.) stayed for three rights between Khaibar and Madinah and was married to Safiyah. I invited the Muslim to his marriage banquet (reception) and there was neither meat nor bread in that banquet but the Prophet (S.A.W.) ordered Bilal to spread the leather mats on which dates, dried yogurt and butter were put. The Muslims said amongst themselves, “Will she (i.e., Safiyah) be one of the mothers of the believers, i.e., one of the wives of the Prophet (S.A.W.), or just (a lady captive) of what his right-hand possesses.” Some of them said, “If the Prophet (S.A.W.) makes her observe the veil, then she will be one of the mothers of the believers (i.e., one of the Prophet’s wives), and if he does not make her observe the veil, then she will be his lady slave.” So when he departed, he made a place for her behind him (on his mount) and made her observe the veil.” (Ref. An-Nasai: 3382)
The Conquest of Khaibar’s Forts:
According to Ibn Ishaq, the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) besieged the people of Khaibar in their two forts Al-Watih and Al-Sulaim until they could hold out no longer they asked him to let them go, and spare their lives, and he did so. Now, the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) had taken possession of all their property – Al-Shaqq, Al-Nata, and Ak¬ Katibah and all their forts – except what appertained to these two.
When the people of Fadak (garden oasis in Khaibar,) heard of what had happened, they sent to the Messenger (S.A.W.) asking him to let them go and spare their lives and they would leave him their property, and he did so. The one who acted as intermediary was Muhqyisa Ibn Masud, brother of Banu Harithah (one of Jews tribe). When the people of Khaibar surrounded on these conditions, they asked the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) to employ them on the property with half share in the produce, saying, “We know more about it than you and we are better farmers.”
The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) agreed to this arrangement on the condition that: “If we wish to expel you we will expel you.” (Ref. Sahih Bukhari: 2338)
The rest of Khaibar fell to the Muslims. The people of Fadak, to the north of Khaybar, hastened to ask for peace, and to be allowed to leave in safety, and leave their wealth in return for that. The Prophet (S.A.W.) agreed to their request.
After conquering Khaibar, the Jews were not expelled from Khaibar at the time of the Prophet (S.A.W.). There is an authentic report that the Prophet (S.A.W.) allowed the Jews to stay in Khaibar on the condition that they work in agriculture and spend their own money on it, and that the Muslims would receive one half of their crops. This was in spite of the fact that the Muslims had the right to expel them if they wanted to.
Martyrs and Deaths during the Battle:
The number of Jewish men killed in the battle of Khaibar was 93. Twenty Muslims were martyred, according to Ibn Ishaq.
The Division of the Booty:
In his Sahih, Al-Bukhari reported the following narrations that explain how the Prophet (S.A.W.) divided the booty in Khaibar:
Jubair bin Mutim (R.A.) said:
‘ Uthman bin Affan (R.A.) and I went to the Prophet (S.A.W.) and said, “You had given Banu Al-Muttalib from the Khumus of Khaibar’s booty and left us in spite of the fact that we and Banu Al-Muttalib are similarly related to you.” The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, “Banu Hashim and Banu Al-Muttalib only are one and the same.” So the Prophet (S.A.W.) did not give anything to Banu Abd Shams and Banu Nawfal.’ (Sahih Bukhari: 4229)
So the Prophet (S.A.W.) did not give anything to Banu Abd Shams and Banu Nawfal.
Ibn Umar (R.A.) said that on the day of Khaibar, Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) divided (the war booty of Khaibar) with the ratio of two shares for the horse and one-share for the foot soldier. (Sahih Bukhari: 4228)
The sub-narrator, Nafi explained this, saying, “If a man had a horse, he was given three shares and if he had no horse, then he was given one share.”
By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, were I not afraid that the other Muslims might be left in poverty, I would divide (the land of) whatever village I may conquer (among the fighters), as the Prophet (S.A.W.) divided the land of Khaibar. But I prefer to leave it as a (source of) a common treasury for them to distribute it revenue amongst themselves. (Sahih Bukhari: 4235)
Abu Said Al-Khudri (R.A.) and Abu Hurairah (R.A.) narrated that:
Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) appointed a man as the ruler of Khaibar who later brought some Janib (i.e. dates of good quality) to the Prophet. On that, Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) said (to him). “Are all the dates of Khaibar like this?” He said, “No, by Allah, O Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.)! But we take one Sa of these (dates of good quality) for two or three Sa’s of other dates (of inferior quality).” On that, Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) said, “Do not do so, but first sell the inferior quality dates for money and then with that money, buy Janib.” (Sahih Bukhari: 4244 & 4245)
Abu Said (R.A.) and Abu Hurairah (R.A.) said:
“The Prophet (S.A.W.) made the brother of Bani Adi (Tribe) from the Ansaar as the ruler of Khaibar.” (Sahih Bukhari: 4246 & 4247)
A Poisoned Sheep Gifted to the Messenger (S.A.W.):
At Khaibar, the Jews cooked a sheep containing poison and presented it to the Prophet (S.A.W.).
Narrated by Abu Hurairah’s (R.A.) saying:
“When Khaibar was conquered, a (cooked) sheep containing poison, was given as a present to Allah’s Apostle (S.A.W.).” (Sahih Bukhari: 4249)
Aishah (R.A.) said:
The Prophet (S.A.W.) in his ailment in which he died, used to say, “O `Aisha! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaibar, and at this time, I feel as if my aorta is being cut from that poison.” (Sahih Bukhari: 4428)
Outcome of the Battle:
The conquest of Khaibar improved economic position of the Muslims.
Aishah (R.A.) said:
‘When Khaibar was conquered, we said, “Now we will eat our fill of dates.’ (Sahih Bukhari: 4242)
Ibn Umar (R.A.) said,
“We did not eat our fill until we conquered Khaybar”. (Sahih Bukhari: 4243)
These reports give a clear picture of the benefits of the conquest of Khaibar in strengthening the economic position of the Muslims and of the economic situation before the conquest.