27.3 Jewish State within State
The treaty of Al-Hudaybiya made the south of Arabia safe for Muslims, but in the north lived the most powerful and numerous of the Jewish tribes who had such great influence inside the peninsula as well as influence and connections outside it that they formed a separate entity within the Arab polity.
Some of the Jewish tribes evacuated from Medina had joined the tribes of Khaybar making them more powerful and numerous. It was no use making pacts with these tribes for it was they, with Huyayy ibn Akhtab at their head, who had gathered the polytheist Arab tribes to come and exterminate the Muslims at Medina. Every Jewish tribe Mohamed had made a covenant with had broken it at the convenient moment, therefore the only thing to do was to fight these tribes and subjugate them.
Mohamed had received the command to proclaim his religion to all men and to fight the Jews of Khaybar at the same time, and he proceeded with both actions simultaneously. Some historians state that it was an error to do so, for the Jews who had great influence outside the peninsula could have combined militarily with Chosroes of Persia and Caesar, both of whom had received Mohamed's letters calling them to Islam, and with their huge resources could have overwhelmed the Muslims. The Messenger was not a politician -Allah's Messenger obeyed His orders and trusted in Him.
The Jews of Khaybar did not ask for outside help for they thought themselves more than a match for Mohamed and his men. They had everything in their favor - men, money, power, and experience in war. All the Arabian Peninsula held its breath for no one knew how the issue would end. Those who trusted in Allah knew that Allah would let His Messenger prevail; those who did not felt that the Jews with their great forts and large numbers had the advantage. Quraysh even made bets as to who would be victorious.
Mohamed marched out at the head of one thousand five hundred men. Meanwhile the Jews, in preparation for the battle, placed their women and children in two forts, their treasures in a third fort, and the warriors occupied the fourth fort. Unlike the Jews who went to harass the women and children in the fortified houses when Medina was besieged, the Muslims would not approach the women and children or the fort that contained the treasures, but sought the men in the fourth fort, as Islam decrees that women, children, and elderly men are not to be injured, and houses and fields are not to be burnt unless they are occupied by fighters.
The battle raged fierce and long for the fourth fort, and fifty Muslims were killed on the first day. On the Jewish side a great number were killed, including their leader who was immediately replaced by another and battle raged on.
The Prophet had asked Abu Bakr to lead an attempt to force the gate, and both he and those with him fought bravely, but so did the Jews and the gate was not breached. The next day the Prophet sent Umar ibn Al-Khattab to make a breach. Umar was fierce and brave, nevertheless he failed in the attempt. On the third day the Prophet sent Ali ibn Abi Talib and, giving him a banner, dispatched him with these words,
"Take this banner and keep fighting until Allah opens the fort to you."
Ali powerfully built and absolutely fearless, kept fighting until one of the Jews struck his shield away. Ali wrenched out a door and, using it as a shield, kept on fighting until the fort was breached.
Thus the most powerful Jewish tribes in the peninsula were subjugated. The lands of the Jewish tribe came under the Muslims' control. Mohamed, not caring for material possessions, allotted the revenue of much of these lands to the poor, for the heritage of prophets is not in this world but in the next.