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According to Islamic tradition, the invasion of Banu Qaynuqa,[1] also known as the expedition against Banu Qaynuqa,[2] occurred in 624. The Banu Qaynuqa were a Jewish tribe expelled by the Islamic prophet Muhammad for breaking the treaty known as the Constitution of Medina[3][4]:209 by pinning the clothes of a Muslim woman, which led to her being stripped naked. A Muslim killed a Jew in retaliation, and the Jews in turn killed the Muslim man. This escalated to a chain of revenge killings, and enmity grew between Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa, leading to the siege of their fortress.[3][5][6]:122 The tribe eventually surrendered to Muhammad, who initially wanted to kill the members of Banu Qaynuqa but ultimately yielded to Abdullah ibn Ubayy's insistence and agreed to expel the Qaynuqa.[7]

Banu Qaynuqa

In the 7th century, the Banu Qaynuqa were living in two fortresses in the south-western part of the city of Yathrib, now known as Medina, having settled there at an unknown date. Although the Banu Qaynuqa bore mostly Arabic names, they were both ethnically and religiously Jewish. They owned no land and earned their living through commerce and craftsmanship, including goldsmithery.[8] Yathrib's marketplace was in the area of the town where the Qaynuqa lived.[9]:182 The Banu Qaynuqa were allied with the local Arab tribe of Khazraj and supported them in their conflicts with the rival Arab tribe of Aws.[8]

Background and reason for attack

In March 624, Muslims led by Muhammad defeated the Meccans of the Banu Quraish tribe in the Battle of Badr. According to Ibn Hisham, a dispute broke out between the Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa (the allies of the Khazraj tribe) soon afterwards. When a Muslim woman visited a jeweler's shop in the Qaynuqa marketplace, she was pestered to uncover her face. The goldsmith, a Jew, pinned her clothing such, that upon getting up, she was stripped naked. A Muslim man coming upon the resulting commotion killed the shopkeeper in retaliation. The Jews in turn killed the Muslim man. This escalated to a chain of revenge killings, and enmity grew between Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa.[5][6]:122[10]

The Jews of Medina became increasingly hostile to Muhammad because they did not believe him as Prophet. They mocked his victory over the Pagan Meccans at the Battle of Badr, where,the Jews of the Banu Qaynuqa mocked, 'Muhammad, do you think that we are like your people? Do not be deluded by the fact that you met (fought) a people with no knowledge and you made good use of your opportunity.'". Of the three Jewish tribes, the Banu Nadir, Banu Qurayza and Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Qaynuqa were peaceful Jewish Tribes living in Arabia after thousands of years, still Muhammad chose to confront them. The other tribes were much larger, whereas the Banu Qaynuqa had only 300 soldiers with armour, and 400 without.[11]


Traditional Muslim sources view these episodes as a violation of the Constitution of Medina.[3] Muhammad himself regarded this as casus belli.[4]:209 Western historians, however, do not find in these events the underlying reason for Muhammad's attack on the Qaynuqa. According to F.E. Peters, the precise circumstances of the alleged violation of the Constitution of Medina are not specified in the sources.[9]:218 According to Fred Donner, available sources do not elucidate the reasons for the expulsion of the Qaynuqa. Donner argues that Muhammad turned against the Qaynuqa because, as artisans and traders, they were in close contact with Meccan merchants.[12] Weinsinck views the episodes cited by the Muslim historians, such as the story of the Jewish goldsmith, as having no more than anecdotal value. He writes that the Jews had assumed a contentious attitude towards Muhammad, and as a group possessing substantial independent power, they posed a great danger. Wensinck thus concludes that Muhammad, strengthened by the victory at Badr, soon resolved to eliminate the Jewish opposition to himself.[8] Norman Stillman also believes that Muhammad decided to move against the Jews of Medina after being strengthened in the wake of the Battle of Badr.[6]:13

Shibli Nomani and Safiur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri (author of the The Sealed Nectar) view this response as a declaration of war.[5][13] According to the Muslim tradition, the verses 3:10-13 of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad following the exchange.[3] Muhammad then besieged the Banu Qaynuqa for fourteen[8] or fifteen days, according to ibn Hisham,[6]:123 after which the tribe surrendered unconditionally.[3][6]:123 It was certain, according to Watt, that there were some sort of negotiations. At the time of the siege, the Qaynuqa had a fighting force of 700 men, 400 of whom were armoured. Watt concludes that Muhammad could not have besieged such a large force so successfully if the Qaynuqa's allies did not whole-heartedly support Muhammad.[4]:209–10

After the surrender of Banu Qaynuqa, Abdullah ibn Ubayy, the chief of a section of the clan of Khazraj̲, pleaded for them.[14] According to Tabari, who cites Ibn Ishaq and Asim ibn Umar ibn Qatada in his chain of narrations:[15]

The Messenger of God besieged them until they surrendered at his discretion. Abd Allah b. Ubbay b. Salul rose up when God had put them in his power, and said, "Muhammad, treat my mawali well"; for they were the confederates of al-Khazraj. The Prophet delayed his answer, so 'Abd Allah repeated, "Muhammad, treat my mawali well." The Prophet turned away from him, and he put his hand into (The Messenger's) collar. The Messenger of God said, "Let me go!" – he was so angry that they could see shadows in his face (that is, his face coloured). Then he said, "Damn you, let me go!" He replied, "No, by God, I will not let you go until you treat my mawali well. Four hundred man without armour and three hundred with coats of mail, who defended me from the Arab and non-Arab alike, and you would mow them in a single morning? By God, I do not feel safe and am afraid of what the future may have in store." So the Messenger of God said, "They are yours."

[Tabari, Volume 7, The foundation of the community, Pg 86][16][17]

According to Michael Cook, Muhammad initially wanted to kill the members of Banu Qaynuqa but ultimately yielded to Abdullah's insistence and agreed to expel the Qaynuqa.[7] According to William Montgomery Watt, Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy attempted to stop the expulsion, and Muhammad's insistence was that the Qaynuqa must leave the city, but was prepared to be lenient about other conditions; Ibn Ubayy arguded that the presence of the Qaynuqa with 700 fighting men might be helpful in view of the expected Meccan onslaught.[18][19] Maxime Rodinson states that Muhammad wanted to put all the men to death, but was convinced not to do so by Abdullah ibn Ubayy, who was an old ally of the Qaynuqa.[20] Because of this interference and other episodes of his discord with Muhammad, Abdullah ibn Ubayy earned for himself the title of the leader of hypocrites (munafiqun) in the Muslim tradition.[6]:13,123[14]


The Banu Qaynuqa left first for the Jewish colonies in the Wadi al-Kura, north of Medina, and from there to Der'a in Syria,[8] west of Salkhad. In the course of time, they assimilated with the Jewish communities, pre-existing in that area, strengthening them numerically.[21]

Muhammad divided the property of the Banu Qaynuqa, including their arms and tools, among his followers, taking for himself a fifth share of the spoils for the first time. Some members of the tribe chose to stay in Medina and convert to Islam, possibly more out of opportunism than conviction.

Islamic primary sources

Quran 8:58, 3:118, 3:12

The Quran verse 8:58 is reportedly related to this event. It states:[22]

If thou fearest treachery from any group, throw back (their covenant) to them, (so as to be) on equal terms: for Allah loveth not the treacherous. [Quran 8:58]

Ibn Kathir interprets the verse as saying that if non-Muslims broke their treaties with Muslims, then Muslims should break theirs.[23]

Muhammad reportedly asked the Jews to pay the tribute (Jizyah), but they refused and instead taunted Muhammad by claiming his God is poor. Islamic tradition says that the Quran verse 3:118 was revealed because of the comments.[24][25] It states:

O you who believe! do not take for intimate friends from among others than your own people; they do not fall short of inflicting loss upon you; they love what distresses you; vehement hatred has already appeared from out of their mouths, and what their breasts conceal is greater still; indeed, We have made the communications clear to you, if you will understand.[Quran 3:118]

The verse states not to take non-Muslims as "Bitanah", which has been interpreted as meaning, advisors, consultants, protectors, helpers and friends.[26]

Quran 3:12 and 3:13 is also related to this event.[27] It states:

Say to those who reject Faith: "Soon will ye be vanquished and gathered together to Hell, — an evil bed indeed (to lie on)! [Quran 3:12]

Ibn Kathir says about this verse, that after Muhammad "gained victory in the battle of Badr and went back to Al-Madinah, he gathered the Jews in the marketplace of Bani Qaynuqa`" then, the verse was revealed.[28]


The event is mentioned in the Sunni Hadith collection, Sahih Muslim. It states:

It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn Umar that the Jews of Banu Nadir and Banu Quraizi fought against the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) who expelled Banu Nadir, and allowed Quraiza to stay on, and granted favour to them until they too fought against him Then he killed their men, and distributed their women, children and properties among the Muslims, except that some of them had joined the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) who granted them security. They embraced Islam. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) turned out all the Jews of Medina. Banu Qainuqa' (the tribe of 'Abdullah b. Salim) and the Jews of Banu Haritha and every other Jew who was in Medina. Sahih Muslim, 19:4364

Other primary sources

The event is also mentioned by the Muslim Scholar Ibn Sa'd in his book "Kitab al-tabaqat al-kabir", as follows:


Then (occurred) the ghazwah of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, against Banu Qaynuqa' on Saturday, in the middle of Shawwal, after the commencement of the twentieth month from the hijrah. These people were Jews and allies of 'Abd Allah Ibn Ubayyi Ibn Salul. They were the bravest of the Jews, and were goldsmiths. They had entered into a pact with the Prophet, may Allah bless him.

When the Battle of Badr took place, they transgressed and showed jealously, and violated the pact and the covenant. Thereupon Allah the Blessed and the High revealed to His Prophet: "And if thou fearest treachery from any folk, then throw back to them (their treaty) fairly. Lo ! Allah loveth not the treacherous".

The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, had said: I fear the Banu Qaynuqa' but after this verse he marched against them. His standard that day was borne by Hamzah Ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib. The standard of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, was white and there were no flags that day. He left Abu Lubabah Ibn 'Abd al-Mundhir al- 'Amri as his vicegerent at al-Madinah. Then he marched against them and besieged them for fifteen days till the appearance of crescent of the month of Dhu al-Qa'dah. They were the first among the Jews to violate the pact and fight. They shut themselves up in their fortress, so he (Prophet) strongly besieged them, till Allah cast fear in their hearts.

They submitted to the orders of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, that their property would be for the Prophet while they would take their women and children with them. Then under his orders their hands were tied behind their backs. The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, appointed al-Mudhir Ibn Qudamah al-Silmi, of the Banu al-Silm, the tribe of Sa'd Ibn Khaythamah to tie their hands behind their backs. 'Abd Allah Ibn Ubayyi had a talk with the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, about them and entreated him (to release them).

Thereupon he (Prophet) said: Leave them, may Allah curse them and curse him who is with them ! He abandoned (the idea of) their killing and ordered them [P. 20] to be banished from al-Madinah. 'Ubadah Ibn al-Samit was entrusted (with the duty of) banishing them. They went to Adhri'at where they lived for a short while. The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, took (for himself) from their arms three bows — a bow called al-Katum which (later) broke in Uhud, a bow called al-Rawha and a bow called al-Baytla; he took two coats of mail from their arms — a coat of mail called al-Sughdiyah and the other called Fiddah.
[Kitab al-tabaqat al-kabir,By Ibn Sa'd,Volume 2, Pg 32][29]


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