Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Muhammad and the Natural Law: The Abu Qurazya and Genocide

WE NOW TURN FROM INDIVIDUAL MURDERS of the political, prophetic, or poetic rivals which Muhammad directly ordered or about which he displayed delight. (There are others we could mention, but we are wearied with the sad subject.) We turn now to murder at a large scale, what today we would call genocide, but what Muhammad and his followers called divine behavior. We must recall our theme. It may be that Muhammad was acting out the rather conventional role of a Bedouin warlord, perhaps even in a relatively more humane way that his opponents. (The point is arguable either way depending on what one wants to stress as evidence, but the issue does not really matter.) The point is that if Muhammad is going to be touted as a universal moral model, al-insan al-kamil, the perfect man, then his morality has to be more than relatively better than the conventions of his day. Muhammad's moral behavior would have to be perfect based upon the universal natural moral law, and so good for all times and in all places, not just in Bedouin society in the 7th century A.D. Someone who did not have the ability to overcome the limits of the conventions of his day, especially where they contravened the natural moral law, is unable to speak of universal morality, or at least with respect to those conventions he was unable to overcome. He is not a trustworthy messenger.

In this regard, Jesus and Muhammad are worlds apart. There is no point in which Jesus can be condemned for violating any sort of natural morality. The verdict is manifestly different when looking at the life of Muhammad. One cannot avoid the verdict by the facile ostrich-like head-in-the-sand response typically given by Islamist apologists: الله ورسوله أعلم, Allah and his messenger know best, the natural law notwithstanding. The natural law will not be muffled. It is a constant witness. The natural law is the law of God, and so it serves as a canon, the rule, the normative standard by which to measure a man's message of God and the playing out of his life. The natural law stands as a measure against which even God's alleged commands can be measured. God will not order something against the natural law, since the natural law is participation in the eternal law, which is God himself, and so for God to order or reveal something contrary to the natural law would be to indict God in a contradiction, which is a blasphemous, not to mention irrational, position. It was perhaps this lesson that Abraham learned, in a particularly vivid way, when he stopped his hand in the sacrificial slaying of his own son, Isaac. God's order was a test, never one that God intended to be carried out. The purpose was to reveal something to all mankind through Abraham. That message was that God was not to be worshiped, or his will implemented, through unnatural acts, such as human sacrifice. Nor is God to be worshiped, or his alleged will implemented, through genocide. And this takes us to the Jewish tribe of Yathrib (Medina), the Banu Qurayza (بنو قريظة).

Historically, the setting of the matter is rather complex, but we need to address it as an introduction, even though we will necessarily be simplifying the situation. Muhammad lived in Mecca, largely a pagan trading town. The neighboring town of Yathrib (or Medina) was a largely agricultural town populated by Jewish tribes that were divided into three: the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu al-Nadir, and the Banu Qurayza. When Muhammad and his "tribe" of Muslims left Mecca to Medina (in the emigration known as the Hegira or Hijra), he entered into treaties with these tribes. The Muslims either concocted or suffered real grievances from the Banu Qaynuqa and Banu al-Nadir (we work with Muslim sources which display strong biases in favor of Islam, so it is hard to determine whether something the historian says is true or not) resulting in fighting between the Muslims and these tribes, with the result that the two tribes had to leave Medina. This left Medina occupied by the Muslims, their non-Jewish allies, and the Banu Qurayza.

Muhammad, of course, was not interested in settling down to the life of the farmer. He wanted money, power, influence, women, food, perfume, and revenge. Somewhere between the end of life in Mecca and the beginning of life in Medina, after the death of his protector Abu Talib and his wife Khadija, intravit autem satanas in Mahometum, and he began a policy of raiding the Meccan caravans which were the lifeblood of the economic wealth of Mecca.* Beginning inauspiciously with the first unsuccessful raid at al-Is, and second unsuccessful raid at Buwat, where Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas shot the "first arrow of Islam," Muhammad's raids got bolder and better, and eventually began spurring the Banu Quraysh at Mecca to do something about it. This confrontation between the Banu Quraysh of Mecca and their allies and Muhammad's followers is called the Battle of the Trench, the Ghazwah al-Khandaq ( غزوة الخندق), though it is also referred to as the Battle of the Confederates, Ghazwah al-Ahzab (غزوة الاحزاب).

So the Banu Quraysh at Mecca, along with a group of other tribes, some, like the Banu al-Nadir that Muhammad had thrown out of Yathrib or Medina, Jewish, planned their campaign against the raiding Muslim bandits in Medina. This, of course, presented Muhammad with a great threat, and he sought to gain the support of the last Jewish tribe remaining in Medina, the Banu Qurayza. With respect to the response of the Banu Qurayza, the sources are a little inconsistent here. Some suggest that Ka'b bin Asad, the leader of the Banu Qurayza allied himself with the attacking Banu Quraysh from Mecca. Others suggest that Ka'b bin Asad saw the Banu Qurayza between a rock and a hard place and so tried he tried to take a neutral role in between the battling Muslims led by Muhammad and the Banu Quraysh from Mecca. In either event, Ka'b bin Asad and his Banu Qurayza tribe incurred Muhammad's wrath.

Massacre of the Banu Qurayza
(Illustration from 19th Century Text by Muhammad Rafi Bazil)

After the Battle of the Trench, which essentially was a 27-day siege and resulted in a stalemate-- Muhammad's clever defensive tactic of digging trenches rendering the Meccan cavalry useless-- the Meccans departed. The threat of the Meccans gone, Muhammad turned in wrath against the Banu Quraysh. We shall let Muhammad's wife 'Aisha speak to us through the hadith in Sahih Bukhari 4.52.68.
Narrated 'Aisha:

When Allah's Apostle returned on the day (of the battle) of Al-Khandaq (i.e. Trench), he put down his arms and took a bath. Then [the angel] Gabriel whose head was covered with dust, came to him saying, "You have put down your arms! By Allah, I have not put down my arms yet." Allah's Apostle said, "Where (to go now)?" Gabriel said, "This way," pointing towards the tribe of Bani Quraiza. So Allah's Apostle went out towards them.

Muhammad subjected the Banu Qurayza to a lengthy siege. Eventually they capitulated, surrendering to Muhammad's forces. Their possessions and their women were seized by the Muslims and divided among them, and Sa'ad ibn Mu'adh (a Muslim convert from the Jews) was appointed the arbitrator to pronounce the judgment in the "war trial" against the Banu Qurayza. It was Sa'ad's sentence to behead all the men, and enslave the women and children,** a decision confirmed by Muhammad as consonant with Allah's will. From here, we shall quote the Islamic historian Ibn Ishaq:
Then they surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of B. 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 b. Akhtab and Ka`b b. Asad their 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.
Life, 461-64.** This is confirmed in Sahih Buhkari, 5.58.148:
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:

Some people (i.e. the Jews of Bani bin Quraiza) agreed to accept the verdict of Sad bin Muadh so the Prophet sent for him (i.e. Sad bin Muadh). He came riding a donkey, and when he approached the Mosque, the Prophet said, "Get up for the best amongst you." or said, "Get up for your chief." Then the Prophet said, "O Sad! These people have agreed to accept your verdict." Sad said, "I judge that their warriors should be killed and their children and women should be taken as captives." The Prophet said, "You have given a judgment similar to Allah's Judgment (or the King's judgment)."

A hadith in in the Sunan Abu Dawud by an eye-witness, a survivor, tells us how it was done. The boys were made to pull down their trousers, and those with pubic hair, were killed. Those without were spared. Abu Dawud, 38.4390
Narrated Atiyyah al-Qurazi:

I was among the captives of Banu Qurayzah. They (the Companions) examined us, and those who had begun to grow hair (pubes) were killed, and those who had not were not killed. I was among those who had not grown hair.

One woman was killed with the hundreds of her masculine compatriots. The poor woman had lost her mind, and was laughing uncontrollably at the horribleness of the whole thing, something the young 'Aisha, Muhammad's child wife, would never forget. So relates one hadith in the Sunan Abu Dawud 14.265:
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin:

No woman of Banu Qurayzah was killed except one. She was with me, talking and laughing on her back and belly (extremely), while the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) was killing her people with the swords. Suddenly a man called her name: Where is so-and-so? She said: I. I asked: What is the matter with you? She said: I did a new act. She said: The man took her and beheaded her. She said: I will not forget that she was laughing extremely although she knew that she would be killed.
Genocide. Pure and simple. And each young Muslim child at his madrasah, when he recites the Al-Ahzan surah in his Qur'an, recalls the glory days of the seige of the Abu Qarayza, and the beheading of the 800 or so Jews at the order of their beloved Muhammad, the hasua hasana, أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَة, the "good example," as they read in the surah Al-Ahzab, ayah 21, immediately before the Qur'anic description of this genocide of Jews in ayats 26 and 27:
And those of the people of the Scripture [the Jewish Banu Qurayza] who backed them (the disbelievers) [the Quraysh from Mecca] Allāh brought them down from their forts and cast terror into their hearts, (so that) a group (of them) you killed [the men and pubescent boys and one woman], and a group (of them) [the women and prepubescent boys] you made captives.

And He caused you to inherit their lands, and their houses, and their riches, and a land which you had not trodden (before). And Allāh is Able to do all things.

وَأَنْزَلَ الَّذِينَ ظَاهَرُوهُمْ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ مِنْ صَيَاصِيهِمْ وَقَذَفَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الرُّعْبَ فَرِيقا ً تَقْتُلُونَ وَتَأْسِرُونَ فَرِيقا

وَأَوْرَثَكُمْ أَرْضَهُمْ وَدِيَارَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُمْ وَأَرْضا ً لَمْ تَطَئُوهَا وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْء ٍ قَدِيرا
Qur'an (Al-Ahzab) 33:26-27. So they celebrate the beheading of around 800 Jews as a prodigy of Allah and act of human perfection by the perfect, universal man, al-insan al-kammil, Muhammad, the good example of all Muslim males.

This is not good. This is evil. The natural law is being trampled upon by the Qur'an, by the Sunnah, by Muhammad. Something is rotten in the State of Islam. And Muslims cannot cover it up with that mantra, as if it were a cover and excuse for all kind and manner of sins: الله ورسوله أعلم, Allah and his messenger know best, the natural law notwithstanding. The natural law is being suppressed here, but we hope that it is not altogether extinguished, and there has to be a part in every Muslim that knows that something was wrong in the heart of Muhammad and in his claimed revelation.

Fight song for the Qurayza†
Jonathan Ratosh

Toil and blood and storm
Full eye of destitute
Muhammad's law is in the sword
And the Lord in fire.

Iron on iron cheers
Iron strikes back to back,
Toil and blood and storm
and enemy riots head.

Toil and blood and storm
Fill your country
Muhammad's law is in the sword
And the Lord shall reign.

Tel Aviv 1937
יונתן רָטוֹשׁ
שִׁיר קְרָב לִבְנֵי קוֹרִיטָה

עָמָל וָדָם וָסַעַר
וְּמלֹא הָעַיִן רֵשׁ
דִין מוּחֲמֶד בֵּסַיִף
וַאֲדונָי בָּאֵשׁ.

בַּרְזֶל בַּרְזֶל יָרֹעַ
בַּרְזֶל יַךְ גֵּו בְּגֵו,
עָמָל וָדָם וָסַעַר
וְרֹאשׁ פַּרְעוֹת אוֹיֵב.

עָמָל וָדָם וָסַעַר
וּמְלֹא הָאָרֶץ לָךְ
דִין מוּחֲמֶד בֵּסַיִף
וַאֲדונָי מָלָךְ

ת"א 1937

The Christians as Christians have dropped their arms. Christians no longer fight for Christ. The Jews as Jews have dropped theirs. Jews no longer fight for Moses. It's time for the Muslims as Muslims to drop theirs, no longer to fight for Muhammad, and fold up the black banner of lesser Jihad, and make peace among all men the name of the natural moral law and of the one only God. Enough of toil and blood and storm, brother. That's God's will.
*These raids are called (s) ghazwa (الغزوة) or (pl) ghazawat (الغزوات). The word ghazwa is frequently rendered into English as razzia. These ghazwas or razzias should be distinguished from Muhammad's more elaborate expeditions or sariyahs. The raids or ghazawat played such an important role in Islamic history, that the early histories of Islam are frequently refer to them in their titles. For example, the Kitab al-Tarikh wa al-Maghazi (The Book of History and Campaigns) by the early Muslim historian al-Waqidi.
**One of the women, Rihana or Rayhana bint Zayd ibn ʿAmr (ريحانة بنت زيد بن عمرو‎) became a concubine for Muhammad rejecting his offer to convert to Islam so as to become a wife. Later, it is said she did convert to Islam, but always remained a slave and concubine, and never Muhammad's wife. Life, 466. Some sources suggest that she later was married to Muhammad, and then possibly divorced. Others that she was eventually set free.
***A. Guillaume,
The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2006), 461-464.
†From the website of the Association to Commemorate the Sho'a-Holocaust of Arabian Jews: Fight Song for the Qurayza (English) and שִׁיר קְרָב לִבְנֵי קוֹרִיטָה

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