The Conquest of Khaibar (In Moharram, 7A.H.)
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 uncongenial climate. After Al-Hudaibiyah Treaty, the major party of the anti-Islam tripartite coalition — Quraish, the bedouin horde of Najd tribes and the Jews — was neutralized, therefore, the Prophet [pbuh] deemed 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 constituted it a source of military provocations and war instigation centre, so it was given a top priority on the agenda of the Prophet’s compelling exigencies. The Jews of Khaibar had united by an ancient alliance with the Confederates, triggered Bani Quraiza to practise treachery, maintained contacts with Ghatfan and the Arabians and they even devised an attempt at the Prophet’s life. In fact, the continual afflictions that the Muslims had sustained were primarily attributable to the Jews. Envoys were repeatedly sent to them for peaceful settlement, but all in vain. Consequently the Prophet [pbuh] came to the conclusion that a military campaign was a must in order to forestall their hostilities.
Interpreters of the Noble Qur’ân suggest that capturing Khaibar had been a Divine promise implied in Allâh’s Words:
i.e., Al-Hudaibiyah Peace Treaty and the surrender of Khaibar.
The hypocrites and people weak of heart had hung back from joining the true Muslims in Al-Hudaibiyah campaigns, so now Allâh, the All-Mighty inculcated the following words in His Prophet’s ears:
For this reason, the Prophet [pbuh] 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 was chosen to run the affairs of Madinah. Another incident of high significance is noteworthy, namely the Islamization of Abu Huraira, a venerable Muslim scholar and an authentic narrator of the Prophetic traditions.
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 delegated an envoy to the Jews of Khaibar warning them against the dangers approaching, and nerving them to resist the Muslims as they outnumbered the latter and were better equipped. On hearing the news the Jews despatched Kinanah bin Abi Al-Huqaiq and Haudha bin Qais to their former allies, the tribe of Ghatfan 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 Prophet marched by way of Isra Mountain and then went forward with the army till he halted in a valley called Ar-Raji‘, encamping between Khaibar and Ghatfan so as to prevent the latter from reinforcing the Jews. The guides accompanying him led him to an intersection from which branched out three roads with different designations; all leading to his destination. He abstained from following the first two roads on grounds of their ominous designation and chose the third for its propitious indications.
It is noteworthy that some interesting incidents featured the Muslims’ march towards Khaibar; of which we mention the following:
The Messenger of Allâh [pbuh] 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." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/603; Sahih Muslim 2/115] 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. [Sahih Muslim 2/115]
The following morning, at sunrise, 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: "Muhammad has come along with his force!" The Messenger of Allâh [pbuh] said: "Allâh is Great, Khaibar shall face destruction. Behold! When we descend in the city centre, it will be a bad day for those who have been warned (but have not taken heed). [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/603, 604]"
For encampment, the Prophet [pbuh] 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 suggested that they, under the exigencies of war requirements and for the sake of providing maximum logistic facilities, shift to another place. On approaching the vicinity of Khaibar, the Prophet ordered his troops to halt, and began to invoke his Lord saying: "O Allâh! Lord of the seven heavens and what they harbour beneath, Lord of the seven earths and what lies in their wombs, Lord of devils and whomsoever they have led astray; we beseech You to grant us the good of this village (Khaibar), the good of its inhabitants and the good that lies in it. We seek refuge with You from the evil of this village, the evil of its inhabitants, and the evil that lies in it." Then he ordered, "Now march (towards the village) in the Name of Allâh." [Ibn Hisham 2/329]
"The banner", the Prophet [pbuh] declared "would be entrusted to a man who loves Allâh and His Messenger and they (Allâh and His Messenger) love him." All the Muslims came forward in the following morning hoping to be granted the honour of carrying the banner. The Prophet [pbuh] called for ‘Ali bin Abi Talib whose eyes used to hurt, and handed it to him. ‘Ali, on his part, pledged he would fight the enemies until they embraced Islam. The Prophet [pbuh] answered him saying: "Take things easy and invite them to accept Islam and brief them on their duties towards Allâh. I swear by Allâh that if only one should be guided through your example, that would surely outweigh the best of our camels." [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/505, 606]
Khaibar, it seems, was split into two parts with five forts in the first: Na‘im, As-Sa‘b bin Mu‘adh, the castle of Az-Zubair, ’Abi Castle, and An-Nizar in Ash-Shiqq; three others were in part two: Al-Qamus, Al-Wateeh and As-Salalim.