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Siege of Medina, and Massacre of the Bani Coreitza
Dzul Cada, A.H. V. February, March, A.D. 627.

More stirring scenes open upon Mahomet

WHILE Mahomet thus occupied himself with the cares of his increasing harem, and, by messages addressed to them from heaven, enjoined upon his wives virtue and propriety of life, more weighty and stirring scenes suddenly opened out before him.

The Coreish, joined by an immense force of Bedouin tribes, march against Medina

The winter season was again come round at which The Coreish, it had now become customary with the Coreish to prepare for hostilities against Mahomet1. Their enmity was at this time farther stimulated by Huwey and other Jewish chiefs exiled from Medina, who undertook the duty of rousing the Bedouin tribes of the neighbourhood, bound by alliance or sympathy in the same cause. Among these allies were several clans of the great Ghatafan family, between whom and Mahomet there had already been some warlike passages. The Bani Ashja and Murra, each brought four hundred warriors; and the Bani Fezara,

1 Badr was fought in January, A.H. II., but that was brought on by Mahomt himself. Ohod occurred about the same season, A.H. III.; and the abortive preparations for the second Badr took place in the same month, A.H. IV.

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a large force, with one thousand camels, under Uyeina;2 the Bani Suleim, who had been concerned in the massacre at Maunia, joined the army at Marr al Tzahran, with seven hundred men3. The Bani Sad and Bani Asad also swelled the force, the latter still smarting from the attack made on them by Mahomet about two years before4. The Coreish themselves brought four thousand soldiers, including three hundred horse, and one thousand five hundred riders upon camels, into the field. The entire force was estimated at ten thousand men. They marched in three separate camps; all were under the general leadership of Aba Sofian, but when the time for action came, the several chiefs appear each for a day to have commanded in succession.

Mahomet defends Medina by digging a trench. Shawwal, A.H. V. February, A.D. 627.

Mahomet had notice of their approach barely in time to prepare for their reception. The unfortunate issue of the affair at Ohod, against numbers much inferior, put it out of the question to offer battle. A happy suggestion was made by Salman, "the Persian," who was familiar with the mode in which camps and cities were defended in other countries.5

2 See above, p. 226.

3 For these tribes, see table, vol. i. p. ccxxiv.

4 Namely, the expedition to Catan. The Bani Sad ibn Bakr were a branch of the Hawazin. Mahomet had been nursed among them. Vol.i. p.19.

5 He is said to have been a Christian captive of Mesopotamia, bought by a Jew from the Bani Kalb, and ransomed on his profession of Islam. This is the first occasion on which he comes to notice.

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Mahomet and his followers, by his advice, at once adopted the stratagem hitherto unknown in Arabia, of entrenching the town. The stone houses of Medina were built so compactly together that, for a considerable distance, they presented a high and nearly unbroken wall, of itself a sufficient protection. But it was necessary to connect this on the northwest by a line of defence with the rugged mass of rocks which there approach the town,6 and to carry it round the other open and defenceless quarters on the east and south. The work, consisting of a deep ditch and rude earthen dyke, was portioned out amongst the various clans. Mahomet stimulated the enthusiasm of his followers by himself carrying the excavated earth, and joining in their song, as at the building of the Mosque:-

"O Lord! there is no happiness but that of Futurity; Wherefore have mercy on the men of Medina and the Refugees!"

He also frequently repeated the following verses, covered as he was, like the rest, with earth and dust:-

The fortress or castle of Medina is now built on this "outcropping mass of rock." Burton, ii. 29. Burckhardt calls it a small rocky elevation, p. 321. Speaking of the great Syrian chain, be also says : - "The last undulations of these mountains touch the town on the north side." This is apparently what, in tradition, is called Sila, though Burckhardt gives that name "Jebel Sila," to the Monakh (or encamping ground) lying immediately south of it. See p.327. I gather that the part of modern Medina immediately to the east of the fort was in ancient times open and unbuilt upon.

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"Oh Lord! without thee, we had not been guided! We should never have given alms, neither should we have prayed! Send down upon us tranquillity, and in battle stablish our steps ! For they have risen up against us, and sought to pervert us. but we refused! - Yea, WE REFUSED !"

And as he repeated the last two words, he raised his voice high and loud.

The army of Medina posted within the trench. 8th Dzul Cada A.H. V. 2nd March A.D. 626 7

In six days, the trench was finished, deep and wide throughout almost the whole length of the defence. The houses outside the town were evacuated, and the women and children were placed for security on the tops of the double-storied houses within the entrenchment. These arrangements were hardly completed when the enemy was reported to be advancing by Ohod. The army of Medina, three thousand strong, was immediately marshalled and posted across the road, leading to Ohod, having the trench in front, and their rear resting upon the north-eastern quarter of the city and the rising ground of Sila8. The northern face was the point most vulnerable to the enemy, the approaches from the east being covered by walls and palm enclosures.

The Coreish encamp opposite them,

The Coreish, with their allies, encamped at first upon their old ground at Jorf and al Ghaba, near Ohod. Then passing unopposed by the scene of their former

7 Some authorities hold that the hostilities occurred in Shawwul, I suppose to avoid the holy months. But Wackidi and his secretary are consistent in their dates throughout, and I have followed them..

8 For Sila, see note in preceding page.

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victory, and finding the country deserted, they swept rapidly up the road to Medina. The enemy formed their several camps in front of the Moslem army, the picquets of which were now posted closely along the trench. The Coreish were astonished and disconcerted at the new tactics of Mahomet. Unable to come to close quarters, they contented themselves for sometime with a distant discharge of archery.

and detach the Bani Coreitza from the side of Mahomet

Meanwhile, Abu Sofian succeeded in detaching at the Jewish tribe of Coreitza from their allegiance to Mahomet. Huwey, the Jewish chief was sent to their fortress, and was at first refused admittance. But, persevering in his solicitations, dwelling upon the ill-concealed enmity of Mahomet towards the Jews, and representing the overwhelming numbers of the confederate army as "a surging sea," he at last persuaded Kab, their chief to relent. It was agreed that the Coreitza would assist the Coreish, and that Huwey should retire into their fortress, in case the allies marched back without inflicting a fatal blow upon Medina. Rumours of this defection reaching Mahomet, he sent the Sad ibn Muadz and Sad ibn Obada, chief men of the Aws and Khazraj, to ascertain the truth of the report, and strictly charged them, if the result of their inquiry was unfavourable, to divulge it to none but to himself They found the Coreitza in a sullen mood. "Who is Mahomet," said they, "and who is the Apostle of God, that we should obey him? There is no bond or compact betwixt us and him." After high words

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and threats, the two messengers took their leave, and reported to Mahomet that the temper of the Jews was even worse than he had feared.9

9 I have much hesitation in determining what the compact was, at this time existing between Mahomet and the Coreitza, and what part the Coreitza actually took in assisting the allies. The evidence is altogether ex parte, and is of course as adverse to the Coreitza as possible. Canon, I. H. v. i. p. lviii.

The Coran, our surest guide, says simply that they "assisted" the allies, (S. xxxiii. 20); and the best traditions confine themselves to this general expression. Had there been any active hostilities entered upon, they would, I think, according to Mahomet's habit, have been more distinctly specified in the Coran.

On the other hand, a tradition from Ayesha states that, when the allies broke up, the Coreitza "returned", to their fort; and some traditions, though not of much weight, speak of them as part of the besieging force before Medina.

There is also a weak tradition that Hodzeifa, sent as a spy to the enemy's camp, overheard Abu Sofian telling his comrades the good news that the Coreitza had agreed to join him, after ten days' preparation , provided he sent seventy warriors to hold their fortress while they were absent in the field; and that Hodzeifa's report was the first intelligence Mahomet had of the defection.

On the whole, any impression is that the Coreitza entered into a league with Huwey, making common cause with him, and promising to take part in following up any success on the part of the Coreish, - a promise which they were in the best position to fulfill, - their fortress being, though at some distance, on the undefended side of Medina. But, before any opportunity offered, they saw the likelihood of the siege failing, and then distrust and disunion broke out.

It is to be noticed that the compact existing betwixt them and Mahomet is admitted to have been a slight one K.Wackidi, 114 ˝. Al Jowhari says that this term means a treaty entered into without forecast or design, or without confirmation, a slight one. "Foedus vel pactum forte initum, vel haud firmum."

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Danger to Medina from this defection and measures for its safety

This news alarmed Mahomet. He justly apprehended that his previous treatment of the Jewish tribes might now drive the Coreitza to desperate measures. The south-eastern quarter of the city, which lay on their side, was the least capable of defence. The Jews had still many friends and adherents among the citizens. Disaffection lurked everywhere. Even amongst the professed followers of the Prophet, some began to talk already of deserting. To protect the families of his followers throughout the town, and to guard against surprise or treachery, Mahomet was obliged to detach from his force, already barely adequate to man the long trench, two parties, each composed of two or three hundred soldiers, which night and day patrolled the streets.10 A strong guard was also kept over his own tent.

A party of the enemy’s horse clear the ditch, but are driven back by Ali

The enemy, notwithstanding their numbers, were paralyzed by the vigilance of the Moslem outposts. They professed to regard the trench as an unworthy subterfuge "Truly," they said in their chagrin, "this is a foreign artifice, to which no Arabs have ever yet descended." But, it was nevertheless the safety of Medina. The confederate army resolved if possible to storm it, and having discovered a certain narrow and weakly-guarded part, a general attack was made upon it. The cavalry spurred their horses forward,

10 One party of three hundred was under Zeid, Mahomet's freedman and another of two hundred under a Medina chief. K. Wackidi, 112.

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and a few of them, led by Ikrima, son of Abu Jahl, cleared the ditch, and galloped vauntingly in front of their enemy. No sooner was this perceived than Ali with a body of picked men moved out against them. These, by a rapid manoeuvre, gained the rear of Ikrima, and occupying the narrow point which he had crossed, cut off his retreat. At this moment Amr, son of Abd Wudd, an aged chief11 in the train of Ikrima, challenged his adversaries to single combat. Ali forthwith accepted the challenge, and the two stood alone in the open plain. Amr, dismounting, maimed his horse, in token of his resolve to conquer or to die. They closed, and for a short time were hidden in a cloud of dust. But it was not long before the well-known Takbir, "Great is the Lord!" from the lips of Ali, made known that he was the victor. The rest, taking advantage of the diversion, again spurred their horses, and all gained the opposite side of the ditch, excepting Nowfal, who failing in the leap, was despatched by Zobeir.

General attack on the following day upon the line of defence - unsuccessful

Nothing farther was attempted that day. But great preparations were made during the night; and next morning, Mahomet found the whole force of the allies drawn out against him. It required the utmost activity and an unceasing vigilance on his side to frustrate the manoeuvres of the enemy, who sought, by massing their troops on the least protected

11 Said to have been ninety years of age.

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points, and by a sustained and galling discharge of arrows, to gain the opposite side of the trench. This continued throughout the day ; and as the army of Mahomet was but just sufficient to guard the long line, there could be no relief. Even at night Khalid, with a strong party of horse, kept up the alarm, and still threatening the line of defence, rendered outposts at frequent intervals necessary. But all their endeavours were without effect. The trench was not crossed; and during the whole operations Mahomet lost only five men.12 Sad ibn Muadz, a chief of the Bani Aws, was wounded severely by an arrow in the shoulder. The archer, as he shot it, cried aloud : - " There, take that from the son of Arca." Mahoinet, with a savage play upon the name, exclaimed, - "The Lord cause thy face to sweat13 in hell fire!" The confederates had but three men killed.

Prayers repeated in the evening for those missed during the day

No prayers had been said that day : the duty at the trench was too heavy and incessant. When it was dark, therefore, and the greater part of the enemy during the had retired to their camp, the Moslem troops were assembled, and a separate service was repeated for each prayer which hail been omitted. Mahomet on this occasion is said to have cursed the allied army, and said, -- "They have kept us from our daily prayers: God fill with fire their bellies and their graves!"14

12 One of these was killed by Wahshi with his African javelin.

13 Arrac, in reference to the name of the archer Arca.

14 K. Wackidi, 112 ˝; Hishami, 292. The words are confirmed by several independent traditions; see especially the Secretary's

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Secret negotiation to buy off the Ghatafan, abandoned

Though the loss of life had been trifling, yet the army of Medina was harassed and wearied with the unceasing watch and duty. They were moreover dispirited by finding themselves hemmed in, and by seeing no prospect of the siege being raised. Mahomet himself was in constant alarm lest the trench should be forced, and lest his rear should be threatened by the Jews or other disaffected citizens. Many of his followers, whose habitations and possessions lay at a distance, afraid or pretending to fear that they would be plundered, begged leave to go and protect them. Mahomet appeared now in the eyes of his people to be weak and helpless. "Where," it was asked," were the Prophet's hopes, and all his promises of Divine assistance?" It was indeed a day of grievous trial. In the vivid language of the Coran : --- "The enemy came upon them from above and from beneath; and the Sight became confused; and Hearts reached to the throat; and the people imagined concerning God strange Imaginations." In this state of alarm, when the siege had now lasted eleven or twelve days,15

collection of traditions on the point, p. 113. There is a tradition that Safia, Mahomet's aunt, from the top of her house, espied a Jew prowling about. She asked Hassan the Poet, who was present, to go down and kill him, as he would be likely to go back and tell his people of their defenceless state. Hassan declined; and so Safia herself went down and slew him. Hishami, 292. The story may be true, but the same tale is told of Safia during the action at Ohod. Wackidi, p.282.

15 The words may mean any number above ten and below twenty. What I have stated seems, from other considerations, the likeliest.

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Mahomet bethought him of a stratagem for buying off the least hostile portion of his foe. He sent secretly to Uyeina, chief of the Fezftra,16 and sounded him as to whether he would engage to withdraw the Ghatafan tribes, and thus break up the confederate army, on condition of receiving one third of the produce of the date-trees of Medina. Uyeina signified his readiness, if one half were guaranteed to him. But Mahomet had over- estimated his own authority. On sending for the two Sads, as representatives of the Aws and Khazraj, they spurned the compromise. But, still maintaining their subordination to the Prophet, they added, -- If thou hast received a command from God, then do thou act according to the same." "Nay," said Mahomet, "if I had received a command, I would not have consulted you; I ask only your advice as to that which is most expedient." "Then our counsel is," they replied, "to give nothing unto them but the Sword." And so the project dropped.17

Mutual distrust excited by an emissary from Mahomet, between the Jews and the Coreish

Another and more artful device was now tried. There was a man of the allied army, who possessed the ear of both sides, --- the same Nueim who had been employed in the previous year to prevent Mahomet

16 Hishami joins with Uyeina, in this negotiation, Harith, leader of the Bani Murra.

17 Hishami asserts that the negotiation had gone the length of being drawn up in writing, though not attested: and that the two Sads effaced the record, and said: "Now let them do their utmost against us!" p.291.

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from advancing on Badr, by exaggerated accounts of the preparations at Mecca. He is now represented as an exemplary believer,18 but secretly, for fear of his tribe the Bani Ashja. This man offered his services to the Prophet and they were gladly accepted. "See now;" said Mahomet to him, "whether thou canst not break up this confederacy against us: for War verily is a game of deception." Nueim went first to the Bani Coreitza, and representing himself as a true friend, artfully insinuated that the interests of the Allies were diverse from theirs, and that before they coinpromised themselves irretrievably with Mahomet, by joining in the impending general attack on Medina, they ought to demand from the Coreish hostages, as a guarantee against being deserted and left in their enemy's power.19 They suspected no harm, and agreed to act on his advice. Going next to the allied chiefs, he cautioned them against the Jews: - "I have heard;" he said, " that the Bani Coreitza intend to ask for hostages; beware how ye give them, for they have already repented of their compact with you, and promised Mahomet to give up the hostages to be slain, and then to join in the battle against you." The insidious

18 K. Wackidi, 112 ˝.

19 The tenor of Nueim's advice, as given uniformly by tradition, is opposed to the supposition that the Coreitza had as yet joined in active hostilities against Mahomet, or committed any such overt act as would have prevented them rejoining his cause.

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plot immediately took effect; for when the Coreish sent to demand of the Coreitza the fulfilment of their engagement to join in a general attack on the following day, they pleaded their Sabbath as a pretext against fighting, and their fear of being deserted as a ground for demanding hostages. The Allies regarded this as a confirmation of Nueim's intelligence, and were so fully persuaded of the treachery of the Coreitza that they began even to fear an attack from that quarter.

A tempest: Abu Sofian orders the allied forces to break up

The confederate chiefs were already disheartened. After the two days of vigorous but unsuccessful fighting described above, they had not again attempted any general assault. Perhaps the system by which the chiefs commanded each on successive days had paralyzed their energies.20 The hope entertained from another engagement, during which the Coreitza were to have fallen upon the city in the rear of Mahomet, was now changed into the fear of hostilities from the treacherous Coreitza themselves. Their provisions were running short; and their camels and horses were dying daily in numbers. Wearied and damped in spirit, the night set in upon them cold and tempestuous. Wind and rain beat mercilessly on the unprotected camp.21 The

20 K Wackidi 112.

21 Such sudden and violent storms or wind and rain, lasting for one or two days, are common in the winter at Medina. Burckhardt, p.398. See also quotations above, p.16, on the climate of Medina.

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storm rose to a hurricane. Fires were extinguished; tents were blown down; cooking vessels and other equipage overthrown. Cold and comfortless, Abu Sofian suddenly resolved on an immediate march. Hastily summoning the chiefs, he made known his decision:-" Break up the camp," he said, "and march ; - as for me, I am gone." With these words

The enemy retires

he leaped on his camel (so great was his impatience) while its fore leg was yet untied, and led the way.22 Khalid with two hundred horse brought up the rear, as a guard against pursuit. The Coreish took the road by Ohod for Mecca, and the Bani Ghatafan retired to their haunts in the Desert.

which Mahomet attributes to Divine intervention

The grateful intelligence soon reached Mahomet, who had sent Hodzeifa in the dark, to spy out the enemy's movements. In the morning not one of them was left in sight. The Prophet was not slow in attributing this happy issue to the divine interposition. It was an answer, he said, to the earnest prayer which he had for some days been offering up, in these words :- "O Lord! Revealer of the Sacred Book, who art swift in taking account! turn to flight the confederate Host! Turn them to flight, O Lord, and make them to quake!"23 It was God

22 It is possible that Abu Sofian feared lest the rain should fill the valleys, especially Al Ghaba, which he had to pass, and embarrass his army in case or pursuit; and that tinis added to the precipitation or his march.

23 K. Wackidi 113 ˝. This prayer was repeated for three days, and it was answered on the fourth.

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who, hearing these petitions, sent the tempestuous wind; and the armies of heaven fought likewise, striking terror into the enemy.24

The Moslem army breaks up.

The army of Medina, thus unexpectedly relieved, joyfully broke up their camp, in which they had been besieged flow for fifteen days,25 and returned to their homes. Mahomet had no thoughts of a pursuit, - it would have been affording the Coreish that which they perhaps still desired, - an action in the open country; but he had thoughts of a surer and more important blow nearer home.

But is immediately formed again, to chastise the Bani Coreitza

He had just begun to cleanse himself from the dust of the campaign, when suddenly he pretended that Gabriel had brought him a command to proceed immediately against the Bani Coreitza. "What!" said

24 Sura, xxxiii. 9. Striking terror was all they could have done, as the Allies had but three men killed during the whole siege.

25 The secretary's chronology is clear enough, pp.112 and 112 ˝. Mahomet went forth to oppose the Coreish on Monday, 8th Dzul Cada (2nd March). He broke up his camp and returned home on Wednesday, seven days from the close of Dzul Cada, i.e. on the 22nd or 23rd (16th or 17th March). The same day he marched against the Coreitza, and returned home finally on Thursday, 7th Dzul Hijj (31st March), after a siege of fourteen or fifteen days. Others make the siege of Medina to have lasted three weeks, and that of the Coreitza twenty-five days.

The only patent discrepancy of the secretary is as to the day of the week on which the Coreish retired. The Coreitza objected to join in the last grand attack on the following day, because it was their Sabbath; and the tenor of the narrative is that the camp was broken up that night. But all have said before, the evidence of the treachery of the Jews is open to suspicion; and the desire to incriminate them more deeply may have led tradition into inconsistencies.

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the heavenly visitant, in the language of reproach, "hast thou laid asside thine armour, while as yet the angels have not laid theirs aside! Arise and go forth against the Coreitza. Behold I go before thee, to shake the foundations of their walls."26 Instantly Bilal was sent to make proclamation throughout the town.

Siege of the Bani Coreitza: Dzul Cada and Dzul Hijj. A.H. V. March, A.D. 626

An immediate march was ordered; all were to be present at the evening prayer in the camp, before the fortress of the Coreitza, which lay two or three miles to the south-east of Medina. The standard raised to oppose the Coreish stood yet unfurled in the Mosque: it was now placed in the hands of Ali. Mahomet mounted his ass, and the army (as before, three thousand strong, with thirty-six horse,) followed after him. The fortress of the Coreitza was at once invested, and a discharge of archery kept up steadily, but without any effect. One man approaching incautiously near, was killed by a Jewess, who

26 Tradition abounds with stories of Gabriel on this occasion. He was seen to go before the Mussulman army in the appearance of Dihya the Kalbite: - "Now Dihya resembled Gabriel in his beard and face." Again, Mahomet desired to postpone the campaign a few days, as his people were fatigued, but Gabriel would not admit of a moment's delay, and galloped off with his troop of angels, raising a great dust. K. Wackidi, 114 ˝. Gabriel's dress is particularized: he rode on a mule with a silken saddle, a silken turban, &C K. Wackidi 113 1/2, 263; Hishami, 296. Mahomet was washing his face after his return from the campaign of the Ditch, when Gabriel appeared; he had washed the right cheek and was beginning to wash the other when he received the order to march to the siege of the Coreitza; and leaving thus his face half washed, obeyed at once!

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cast down a mill-stone on him. But the improvident Jews, whom the fate of their brethren should have taught to better purpose, had not calculated on the chances and the necessities of a siege; they were soon reduced to great distress and sought to capitulate. But Mahomet, having no longer any other Jewish neighbours to alarm or alienate by his severity, was bent on a bloody revenge, and refused to listen. In their extremity, the Coreitza appealed to their ancient friendship with the Bani Aws, and the services rendered to them in bygone days.27 They begged that Abu Lubaba, of that tribe, might be allowed to visit and counsel them.

Abu Lubaba visits them,

He came, and overcome by the wailing of the children and the cries of the women, he had no heart to speak, but symbolically drawing his hand across his throat, intimated that they must fight to the last, as death was all they had to hope for. On retiring, he felt that he had been too plain and honest in his advice; for "war," as the Prophet had said, "is a game of deception." Therefore he went to Mahomet, and confessing his guilt, said, - " I repent: for verily I have dealt treacherously with the Lord, and with his Prophet." Mahomet vouchsafed no reply; and Abu Lubaba, more strongly to mark his contrition, went straightway to the Mosque and bound himself to one of its posts. In this position he remained for several days, till at last Mahomet relented, and sent to pardon and release him. The

27 As at the battle of Boath, vol. i. p. ccxxxiii.

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"pillar of repentance" is still pointed out in the Mosque to the pious pilgrim.28

They surrendered at the discretion of the Bani Aws

At last the wretched Jews, brought now to the last verge of starvation, offered to surrender, if their fate were decided by their allies, the Bani Aws. To this Mahomet agreed; and, after a siege of fourteen days, according to others of twenty five,29 the whole tribe, men, women and children, came forth from their stronghold. The men were hand-cuffed behind their backs, and placed upon one side, under charge of Mohammad son of Maslama, the assassin of Kab; the women and children, torn from their fathers and husbands, were put under the care of Abdallah, a renegade Jew. As the women passed before the conqueror, his eye marked the lovely features of Rihana, and he destined her to be his own.30 The

28 It is also called the "pillar of Abu Lubaba." Burton, ii. p. 303. Hishami says that Abu Lubaba did not go to Mahomet, but went straight to the Mosque. Sura, viii. 26, is said to have been revealed as signifying the displeasure of God at Abu Lubaba's conduct. "O believers! deceive not God and his Apostle, nor violate your faith," &C. If this be so, it of course makes the case as against Mahomet (in punishing the honest speaking or Lubaba,) a great deal worse. But I doubt this being the occasion of the passage. Hishami farther makes Sura, ix. 104, the warrant of God's pardon to him, but this refers altogether to another matter.

Hishami says that Aba Lubaba remained bound at the pillar six days, and that on the divine revelation of forgiveness, Omm Salma obtained leave to announce it to him.

29 See note above, p.269. The Secretary gives both terms, pp. 114, and 263 ˝.

30 Tradition does not say where Mahomet saw her first. He may possibly have heard of her before; or her beauty may now

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household stuff of the captives, their clothes and armour,31 their camels and flocks, were all brought forth to await the award of the arbiter. The wine and fermented liquors were poured forth, the use of such being now forbidden to the believer.

Sad ibn Muadz appointed arbiter of their fate

The Bani Aws were importunate that their ancient allies should be spared. "These were our confederates;" they urged. "We pray thee that the same consideration may be shown to them, as aforetime, at the suit of the Bani Khazraj, thou didst show to their allies."32 "Are ye content, then; replied Mahomet, "that their fate be committed to one of yourselves?" They expressed their satisfaction, and Mahomet forthwith nominated Sad ibn Muadz to be their judge.33

have been reported to him by some sycophant. It is to be noted that Mahomet appropriated her before the division of the spoil, under his personal privilege (previously described), and consequently the first sight of her is as likely to have been in the manner stated in the text, as in any other, if not more so. But I think it right to distinguish always between my own conjecture and the statement of tradition.

31 There were fifteen hundred swords, one thousand lances, five hundred shields, and three hundred coats of mail.

32 Alluding to the Bani Nadhir, who were allowed to emigrate, with all the property they could carry away.

33 There are great varieties in the narrative. I have chosen the most consistent and probable statement. Some say that the Coreitza offered to surrender and abide by the decision of Sad, naming him themselves, - which, however, is most unlikely, as this chief had, when deputed to them on a late occasion, parted from them with the most hostile threats. Vide p.259. Others say that they surrendered at the sole discretion of Mahomet, who, being importuned by the Bani Aws, made over the decision to Sad. But after

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The bloody judgement of Sad

Sad still suffered from the severe wound received at the trench. From the field of battle he had been carried to a tent pitched by Mahomet in the courtyard of the Mosque, where the wounded men were waited on by Rufeida, an experienced nurse. His wound had begun apparently to heal. But the sense of the injury still rankled in his heart: and Mahomet knew well the bitter hate into which his former friendship had been turned by the treachery or the Coreitza.34 He was now summoned. His figure was large and corpulent. Having been mounted with some difficulty on a well-padded ass, he was conducted to the camp. The men of his tribe who thronged about him by the way continually reminded him of the friendship and services of the Coreitza, and urged him as their own representative to deal gently with the prisoners. He answered not a word till he approached the scene: and then he said - "Verily, this grace is given to Sad, that he careth not, in the affairs of God, for any blame the Blamers may cast upon him." As he drew near, Mahomet called aloud to those around him, - "Stand up to meet your master, and assist him to alight."35 Then he commanded that Sad should

Abu Lubaba's intimation of Mahomet's thirst for their blood, this also is unlikely. K. Wackidi, 113 ˝, 263-4, et seq. Hishami, 299.

34 It is said that on his being wounded, Sad cursed the Coreitza and prayed, - "O Lord! suffer me not to die until my heart hath had us revenge against them."

35 The refugees held with much pertinacity that this order was only addressed to the citizens of Medina, as Sad was their chief.

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pronounce his judgment on the Coreitza. It was a scene well worthy the pencil of a painter. In the background, the army of Medina watch with deep interest this show of justice, regardinig with eager eye the booty, the household stuff, the armour, the camels, the flocks, and the deserted town, as about, by the expected decree of confiscation, to become their own. On the right, with hands pinioned behind their backs, are the captive men, seven or eight hundred in number, dejection or despair at the ominous rigour of their treatment stamped on their faces. On the left, are the women and the little children, pale with terror, or frantic with grief and alarm for themselves and for the fate of their husbands and fathers, from whom they have been just now so rudely dragged. In front is Mahomet, with his chief companions by his side, and a crowd of followers thronging behind. Before him stands Sad, supported by his friends, weak and jaded with the journey, yet distinguished above all around by his portly anid commanding figure. "Proceed with the judgement!" repeated tge Prophet. Sad turned himself to his people, who were still urging mercy upon him, and said, - "Will ye, then, bind yourselves by the covenant of God that whatsoever I shall decide, ye will accept the same?" There was a general murmur of assent. Then he proceeded: - "This

The citizens, on the contrary regarded the words as addressed to all them present, including the refugees, and as significant of the honorable and commanding post of judge, assigned to Sad.

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verily is my judgment, that the male captives shall be put to death, that the female captives and the children shall be sold into slavery, and the spoil be divided amongst the army." Many a heart quailed, besides the hearts of the wretched prisoners, at this savage and bloody decree. But all questionings were forthwith stopped by Mahomet, who adopted the verdict as his own, nay, declared it to be the Solemn judgment of the Almighty ; - cold and unmoved, he said, -- "Truly thou hast decided according to the judgement of God pronounced on high from beyond the seven heavens."

The butchery of the Bani Coreitza

No sooner was the sentence passed and ratified than the camp broke up, and the people wended their way back to Medina. The captives were dragged roughly along; one alone was treated with tenderness and care,- it was Rihana the beautiful Jewess, set apart for Mahomet. The men were penned up in a closed yard, while graves or trenches were being dug for them in the chief marketplace of the city. When these were ready, Mahomet, himself a spectator of the tragedy, gave command that the captives should be brought forth in companies of five or six at a time.36 Each company

36 M. C. de Perceval gives these numbers. My authorities only say , i.e. in companies. Hishami adds that one man, Rifan, was spared at the request of Salma, Mahomet's aunt, "as she trusted he would yet join in the prayers and eat camel's flesh." p.303. Another man is said during the siege to have been permitted to pass the Moslem picquets, as he had not concurred in the treacherous counsel of the Coreitza. He spent the night in

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was made to sit down by the brink of the trench destined for its grave, and there beheaded. Party by party they were thus led out, and butchered in cold blood, till the whole were slain.37 One woman alone was put to death; it was she who threw the millstone from the battlements.38 For Zoheir, an aged Jew, who had saved some of his allies of the Bani Aws in the battle of Boath, Thabit interceded and procured a pardon, including the restoration of his family and his property. "But what hath become of all our chiefs, - of Kab, of Huwey, of Ozzal the son of Samuel?" asked the old man. As one after another he named the leading chiefs of his tribe, he received to each inquiry the same reply; - they had all been slain already. - "Then of what use is life to me any longer? Slay me also, that I may go and join those that have preceded me." When this was told to Mahomet, he said, "Yea, he shall join them, in the fire of Hell?"

the Prophet's Mosque: be left in the morning, and nothing was ever beard of him afterwards.

37 In one tradition it is said that as the messenger went to bring up each successive party, the miserable prisoners, not conceiving wholesale butchery possible, asked what was about to be done with them. "What! will ye never understand?" said the hard-hearted keeper: "will ye always remain blind? See ye not that each company goeth and returneth not hither again ? What is this but death?" Hishami, 301.

38 Ayesha relates that this woman, whose heart perhaps was sustained by faith in the God of her fathers, went smiling and fearlessly to her fate. Ayesha says that she could never get the image or this woman out of her mind. Hishami 301.

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Mahomet takes Rihana, a captive girl, for his concubine

Having sated his revenge, and drenched the market-place with the blood of eight hundred victims,39 and having given command for the earth to be smoothed over their remains, Mahomet returned from the horrid spectacle to solace himself with the charms of Rihana, whose husband and all whose male relatives had just perished in the massacre. He invited her to be his wife, but she declined; and chose to remain (as indeed, having refused marriage, she had no alternative) his slave or concubine.40 She also declined the summons to conversion, and continued in the Jewish faith, at which the Prophet was much concerned. It is said, however, that she afterwards embraced Islam. She lived with Mahomet till his death.

The women and children sold as slaves

A fifth of the booty was, as usual, reserved for the Prophet, and the rest divided. From the fifth

39 The numbers are variously given as six hundred, seven hundred, eight hundred, and even nine hundred. If the number or the arms enumerated among the Spoil in a former note be correct, nine hundred would seem to be a moderate calculation for the adult males: but I have taken eight hundred as the number more commonly given.

40 She is represented as saying, when he offered her marriage and the same privileges as his other wives: - "Nay, O Prophet! But let me remain as thy slave; this will be easier both for me and for thee." By this is probably meant that she would have felt the strict seclusion as a married wife irksome to her. Hishami, 303. That she refused to abandon the faith of her fathers shews a more than usual independence of mind, and there may have been scenes of sorrow in her poor widowed heart, and aversion from her licentious conqueror, which tradition is too one-sided to hand down, or which indeed tradition may never have known.

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In Najd, in exchange for horses

Mahomet made certain presents to his friends, of female slaves and servants;41 and then sent the rest of the women and children to be sold among the Bedouin tribes of Najd, in exchange for horses and arms; for he kept steadily in view the advantage of raising around him a body of efficient horse.42

Notice of these events in the Coran

The siege of Medina, and the massacre of the Bani Coreitza, are noticed, and the Disaffected bitterly reproached for their cowardice, during the siege of Medina, in a passage of the Coran revealed shortly after, and recited by Mahomet, as was customary, from the pulpit:

Sura xxxiii

"O ye that believe! Call to mind the favour of God Upon you, when Hosts came against you, and We sent against them a Tempest and hosts which ye saw not; and God beholdeth that which ye do.

"When they came at you from above you, and from beneath you, and when the Sight was confused, and the hearts reached to the throat, and ye imagined of God (strange) Imaginations. There were the Faithful tried and made to tremble violently.

"And when the Disaffected said, and they in whose hearts is a Disease43 said, God and his Prophet have promised only a Delusion:

"And when a Party amongst them said -- O men of Yathreb, there is no security44 for you, wherefore retire; and a part of them asked leave of the Prophet to depart, saying, Our Houses are without protection; and they were not without protection, but they desired only to escape.

"And if an entrance had been effected amongst them (by the enemy) from some adjacent quarter, and they had been invited to

41 K. Wackidi, 114.

42 Hishami, 303.

43 i.e. Cowardice (though ordinarily used for incontinent desire).

44 lit. Standing-place.

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desist, they had surely consented thereto; then they had hot remained in the same, but for a little.

"And verily they had heretofore covenanted with God, that they would not turn their backs; and the covenant of God will surely be inquired after.

"Say, - Flight will not profit you, were ye to flee from death or slaughter; and if ye did, ye would enjoy this life but for a little.

"Say, - Who is he that shall defend you from God, if he intend Evil for you, or if he intend Mercy for you and they shall not find for themselves besides God any patron, or any helper.

"Verily God knoweth those amongst you that turn (others) aside, and those that say to their brethren, - Come hither to us; and they go not to the battle excepting for a little.

"Covetous are they towards you. But when rear cometh thou mayest see them looking towards thee, their eyes roiling about, like unto him that is overshadowed with death. Then, when the fear hath gone, they attack thee with sharp tongues, being covetous of the best part (of the booty). These do not believe; wherefore God hath made their works of no avail; and with God that is easy.

"They thought that the Confederates would not depart. And if the Confederates should come (again), they would wish themselves were amongst the Arabs of the desert, asking tidings of you. And if they were amongst you, they would not fight, excepting a little.

"Verily, ye have in the Apostle of God an excellent example, to him that hopeth in the Lord and in the last Day, and remembereth God frequently.

"And when the Believers saw the Confederates, they said, - This is what God and his Apostle promised us, and God and his Apostle have spoken the Truth. And it only increased their faith and submission.

"Of those that believe, some men have fulfilled that which they covenanted with God; and some of them have finished their course; and some of them are waiting; and they have not changed their covenant in anywise.

"That God may reward those that fulfil (their covenant) on

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account of their Fidelity; and may chastise the Disaffected, if he pleaseth, or may be turned unto them. Verily God is Forgiving and Merciful.

"And God drove back the Infidels in their wrath. They obtained no advantage. And God sufficeth for the Believers in battle. God is strong and mighty.

"And he hath caused to descend from their strongholds the Jews45 who assisted them; and he struck terror into their hearts. A part ye slaughtered, and ye made captive a part. And he hath made you inherit their land, and their habitations, and their wealth, and a land which ye had not trodden upon46; and God is over all things Powerful.47

These events greatly improved the position of Mahomet

In reviewing these transactions, it is evident that the position of Mahomet had, at their close, become greatly improved in strength and influence. The whole weight of the Coreish and of the Ghatafanide tribes, with all their mighty preparations, had been successfully repelled, and that with hardly any loss. The entire defence of Medina, by tacit consent, had been conducted by Mahomet; notwithstanding the ill-concealed disaffection of some of the inhabitants, he was now the acknowledged Chief, as well as Prophet, of the city. His negotiation with Uyeina was no doubt a proof of his weakness at the moment, and of distrust in his own cause; but, fortunately for

45 lit Those of the people of the Book.

46 Commentators refer this prophetically to the conquest of Persia, Greece, Kheibar,-all or any lands, in fact, subsequentjy eonquered by the Moslems. But it seems to mc to refer to certain possessions of the Coreitza, perhaps at some distance from their fortress.

47 Sura, xxxiii. 9-26.

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him, it was hardly entered upon when, by the firmness of the two Sads, it was broken off; and the episode was lost sight of afterwards in the signal success of the defence. We cannot, indeed, approve the employment of Nueim to break up the confederacy by falsehood and deception, but this perhaps would hardly affect his character in Arab estimation.

Effect of the massacre of the B. Coreitza

The sanguinary fate of the Coreitza removed the last remnant of open opposition, political or religious, from the neigbourhood of Medina; and, though it did not at the time escape criticism,48 yet it struck so great a terror into the hearts of all, and the authority of the Prophet was already invested with so mysterious and supernatural a sanction, that no one dared openly to impugn it: and, moreover, the links which bound this ill-fated tribe to the citizens of Medina had begun to grow obsolete and feeble.

Its moral bearing on the character of Mahomet

That the massacre was savage and cruel, to a barbarous and inhuman degree, it does not require any comment to prove. The ostensible grounds upon which Mahomet proceeded were purely political, for as yet he did not profess to force men to join Islam, or to punish them for not embracing it.49 It may be admitted that a sufficient casus belli had arisen. The compact with the Coreitza was indeed

48 See below (p.286) the remarks of the Disaffected, on the lightness of Sad's corpse.

49 He still continued to reiterate in his Revelations the axiom used at Mecca, "I am only a public Preacher;" as will be shown in the next chapter.

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weak and precarious.50 Mahomet's policy towards the Jews, from a very early period after his arrival at Medina, had been harsh and oppressive; he had attacked and expatriated two whole tribes on very doubtful grounds; he had caused the assassination of several Jews in so perfidious a manner, as to create universal distrust and alarm; after the murder of Kab and the incautious permission then given to slaughter the Jews indiscriminately, he himself felt that the existing treaty had been practically set aside, and, to restore confidence, he had entered into a new compact.51 All these circumstances must plead against the strength of obligation which bound the Coreitza to his cause. They, moreover, had stood by the second compact at a time when they might fairly have set it aside, and joined the Bani Nadhir. That they now hearkened to the overtures of the Coreish, though a proof of want of prudence and foresight, was no more than Mahomet might have expected, as the result of his own hostile and treacherous conduct. Still the Coreitza had joined his enemies at a critical period, and he had now a good cause for warring against them. He had, furthermore, fair grounds of political necessity for requiring them perhaps even to quit altogether a vicinity where they must have continued to form a dangerous nucleus of disaffection, and possibly of renewed attack upon Medina. We

50 See note above, p.260.

51 See above, p. 150.

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might even concede that the conduct of their leaders amounted to treason against the city, and warranted a severe retribution. But the indiscriminate slaughter of eight hundred men, and the subjugation of the women and children of the whole tribe to slavery, can be recognized by no civilized people otherwise than as an act of enormous ferocity. The plea of Divine ratification or command may allay the scruples of the credulous Moslem; but it will be summarily rejected by others, who call to mind that the same authority was now habitually produced for personal ends, and for the justification event of unhallowed actions. However much Mahomet may have deluded himself into the vain belief that he had the Divine sanction for that which he did, a candid and severe examination of his heart must have shown him that these so-called revelations were but the counterpart of his own will, that they followed the course of his own longings and desires, and that he was himself responsible for their shape and colour. The butchery of the Coreitza leaves a dark stain of infamy upon the character of Mahomet.

Death-bed of Sad ibn Muadz

Before closing this chapter, I will follow to its end the career of Sad ibn Muadz. After delivering himself of the bloody decree, he was conducted back upon his ass to Rufeida's tent. But the excitement was fatal to him; the wound burst forth anew. Mahomet hastened to the side of his bed: embracing him, he placed the dying man's head upon his knee and prayed thus : -- "O Lord! Verily Sad hath laboured

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in thy service. He hath believed in thy Prophet, and hath fulfilled his covenant. Wherefore do Thou, O Lord, receive his Spirit with the best reception wherewith Thou receivest a departing soul!" Sad heard the words, and in faltering accents whispered, - "Peace be on thee, O Apostle of God! - Verily I testify that thou art the Prophet of the Lord." When he had breathed his last, they carried home the corpse.52 After the forenoon prayer, Mahomet proceeded to join the burial; he reached the house as they were washing the body. The mother of Sad, weeping loudly, gave vent to her grief in appropriate Arab verse. They chided her for reciting poetry on such an occasion; but Mahomet

52 Accounts greatly vary, as usual. Some make Sad to have been taken by his tribe from the tent to his home, where he became very ill, and died. Others say that the wound broke out in the tent, into which Mahomet hurried, and clasping the dying man was covered with his blood. Others again hold that Gabriel appeared at midnight, and announced the death of Sad to Mahomet, who hastened to his bedside and round that he had just died.

The tale of Sad is surrounded with supernatural associations. For instance, when Mahomet went to be present at the washing of the body, he walked so rapidly that the people could scarcely keep up with him : - "You would have thought the thongs of their sandals would have broken, and their mantles fallen from their shoulders, they hurried so fast." when they asked the reason, he replied: "Verily, I fear lest the Angels should reach his house before us, as they got before us unto Hantzala; " - alluding to the burial of the latter, and the supposed washing of his corpse by the angels. Then there are numerous legends about the angels crowding into the room where the corpse was laid out, and one of them spreading out his wing for Mahomet to sit upon. K. Wackidi, 204. See Inrod. vol. i. p. lxv.

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met interposed, saying: "Leave her alone; all other poets lie but she?" The bier was then carried forth, Mahomet helping to bear it for the first thirty or forty

and his burial.

yards. Notwithstanding that Sad was so large and corpulent a man, the bier was reported to be marvellously light. The Disaffected said: "We have never heard of a corpse lighter in the bier than that of Sad: know ye why this is? It is because of his judgment against the Bani Coreitza."53 Mahomet hearing the rash remark, turned aside its point by a mysterious explanation, which was eagerly caught up by his followers:- "The angels are carrying the bier, therefore it is light in your hands. Verily the Throne on high doth vibrate on account of Sad, and the portals of heaven are opened, and he is attended by seventy thousand angels that never trod the earth before."

I believe all these traditions to hang upon the reply of Mahomet as given below to the Disaffected, viz. that the bier was light, because supported by a crowd of Angels.

53 This is the passage to which I have alluded in a previous note, p.282. The death of Sad followed so immediately on his sanguinary judgment, that the Disaffected could hardly avoid coupling the two together. To avert this inference, it is pretended in tradition that Sad prayed thus, - "O Lord! If thou hast in store any further fighting with the Coreish, then preserve me to take part in it: but if thou hast put an end to their warning against thy Prophet, then take me unto Thyself!" - which when he prayed, be was to all appearance well, the wound presenting only a slight cicatrised ring. But shortly after he was carried to the tent, and died.

Although, in fact, it may be said with truth that there was hardly any more fighting with the Coreish after this date, yet the prayer is evidently an after-thought. So far as the author of the Coran is concerned (and the Moslems refer the authorship to the

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The long procession, with Mahomet at the head, wended its way slowly to Backi al Gharcad, the burial-ground of the Mussulmans. When they readied the spot, four men descended into the grave, and lowered the body into its place. At this moment the colour of Mahomet changed, and his countenance betrayed strong emotion. But he immediately recovered himself, and gave praise to God. Then he three times uttered the Takbir, "Great is the Lord!" and the whole concourse, which filled the burial-ground to overflowing, took up the words, until the place re-echoed with the shout. Some of the people asked him concerning his change of colour, and he explained it to them thus: "At that moment the grave had become strait for your comrade, and the sides thereof closed in upon him. Verily, if any one could have escaped the straitening of the tomb it had been Sad. Then the Lord gave him expansion therein." The mother of Sad drew near, desiring to look into the grave, and they forbade her. But Mahomet said, "Suffer her to look." So she looked in, before the body was covered over: As she gazed on the remains of her son, she said, "I commit thee unto the Lord;" and Mahomet comforted her. Then he went aside and sat down near the grave, while they built it over with bricks, and filled in the earth.

Deity) it was at the time quite uncertain whether Medina might not again be besieged by the Coreish, in proof of which see Sura xxxiii. 20.

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When the whole was levelled, and the tomb sprinkled with water, the prophet again drew near and standing over the grave, prayed once more for the departed chief. Then he turned, and returned to his home.

The Life of Mahomet, Volume III [Table of Contents]