The Expedition of Banu Qaynuqa

(2nd year of Hijrah, month of Shawwal /AD 624)

The anxieties of the Jews in Madinah increased when Muslims had a bright victory in the Battle of Badr. Although they had signed a peace treaty with the Prophet, it was noticed that they started the activities of mischief and sedition.  Despite everything, the Prophet treated them with tolerance since they were from the People of the Book. However, they showed with their attitudes and acts that they did not deserve such humane attitudes. Their poets wrote satirical poems about the Prophet and about the Muslims to humiliate them.

As it had been mentioned before, there were three Jewish tribes in Madinah: Banu Qurayza, Banu Nadr and Banu Qaynuqa. The most mischievous and courageous one among them was Banu Qaynuqa. They were jewelers. Therefore, they were quite rich. They had also signed a treaty with the Prophet just like the other tribes. They had promised that they would not attempt any activities against Muslims, that they would defend Madinah against enemy in case of an external attack against Madinah and that they would not help the enemies of each other. However, they had started to violate the treaty by their obvious mischievous acts and seditions, by trying to set Muslims against one another and by cooperating with the polytheists of Quraysh. Meanwhile the following incident that took place was the last straw that broke the camel’s back: 

A woman from the Ansar of Madinah went to the shop of a Jewish jeweler to buy something; her face was covered. The Jews tried to make her open her face; however, the woman insisted on having her face covered. Meanwhile, a Jewish person secretly attached a thorn to the bottom part of her dress. When the woman stood up to leave, her dress was pulled and her legs were seen. The Jewish people who were there started to laugh at her. The woman screamed.  When a Muslim who was passing by heard the scream, he intervened to help the woman. The Muslim and the Jew started to fight. The Muslim killed the Jew. Then, the other Jews who were there swooped down on the Muslim and martyred him. (1) Thus, blood was shed between Jews and Muslims. The ones that caused the incident were the Jews. They violated the treaty by acting against the promises that had made.

When the relatives of the Muslim who was martyred asked for help, the Prophet gathered the Jews of Banu Qaynuqa. He called them to Islam. He told them to give up their mischievous acts and that they could face the fate of the polytheists in Badr.  However, the mischievous Jews made fun of the speech of the Prophet and gave the following answer arrogantly: “O Muhammad! Do not depend on your victory against the people who did not know how to fight. If you dare to fight us, you will see what kind of men we are.” (2) Then, they left. 

The verse that was sent down upon the conceited and arrogant answer of the Jews of Banu Qaynuqa declared what would happen to them as follows:  

“Say to those who reject Faith: "Soon will ye be vanquished and gathered together to Hell―an evil bed indeed (to lie on)!’” (3)

Another verse that was sent down regarding the same event gave the Prophet the permission to fight against these Jews, who violated their promise as follows: “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!” (4)

Thereupon, the Prophet resolved: they would fight against the Jews of Banu Qaynuqa.

After making this decision, the Messenger of God appointed Lubaba b. Abdil Mundhir as his deputy in Madinah, gave the white standard to Hazrat Hamza and set out toward Banu Qaynuqa.

The Banu Qynuqa Jews had a strong castle. When they heard that the Prophet was coming toward them, they withdrew to the castle. The Messenger of God besieged them. After the siege that lasted for fifteen days, they had to surrender. The Prophet ordered that all of them be tied by their hands one by one. Their hands were tied. (5)

Abdullah b. Ubay Applies to the Prophet

Meanwhile, the leader of the munafiqs, Abdul¬lah b. Ubay, who was the ally of Banu Qaynuqa, went to the Prophet. He said, “O Muhammad! Do my allies a favor; forgive them.” 

The Messenger of God ignored the words of Abdullah b. Ubay. Thereupon, he repeated his words:

“O Muhammad! Do my allies a favor; forgive them!”

This time, the Prophet turned his face away.

However, Abdullah b. Ubay continued to repeat the same things:

Thereupon, the Prophet said,

“Untie them. May God curse them and those who are with them!” He gave up the idea of killing Banu Qaynuqa and ordered them to be expelled to Damascus from Madinah. (6)

The Words of Ubada b. Samit

Ubada b. Samit, from Banu Awf, was also an ally of the Banu Qaynuqa Jews. He also came to the Prophet to ask him let them free. When he witnessed what happened between the Prophet and Abdullah b. Ubay, he said, “O Messenger of God! I have become the friend of God, His Prophet and believers. I have given up being allies and friends with those unbelievers.” He declared that he gave up being allies and friends with the Banu Qaynuqa Jews. 

Thereupon, the following verse was sent down:

 “O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. (7) And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.” (8)

Banu Qaynuqa Leave Madinah

The real aim of the Messenger of God was to keep the mischief and sedition of the Jews away from Madinah and to prevent the dangers caused by them. He reached his aim by expelling them from Madinah.

The time given to Banu Qaynuqa to leave Madinah was three days. When the period of three days ended, they set off to Damascus. When they reached Wadi al-Qura, they stayed there for a month. The Jews who lived there gave horses and camels to those who did not have anything to ride on and food to all of them. Then, the Banu Qaynuqa Jews left Wadi al-Qura, reached Azrua and settled there. They soon perished away. (9)


(2nd Year of Hijrah, Dhul-Hijjah, 5 Sunday)

When seven hundred people from the Jews of Banu Qaynuqa were expelled from Madinah, the city felt relieved. This act of the Prophet was very important in terms of the development of Islam. If those Jews, who were the source of mischief and sedition, had been left in Madinah, they would have definitely set many treacherous plans against Muslims. Their banishment prevented them from doing so.

Peace and calm prevailed in the city.

However, the security was not very good outside the city. The polytheists of Quraysh did not forget the pain of their defeat in Badr; they did not want to forget it, either. When many of the notables of the Quraysh were killed, Abu Sufyan started to regard himself as the leader of the Quraysh; he started to make preparations in order to take the revenge of Badr. He vowed that he would not approach women, would not put on nice smells and would not have a bath or shower unless he took his revenge on Muslims. (10)

In order to keep his vow, Abu Sufyan approached Madinah with two hundred cavalrymen. In fact, he himself knew very well that he could not fight against Muslims with that army. However, he went to Madinah only to keep his vow and to show that he did not give up his vow.

At night, he went to the leader of the Jewish tribe Banu Nadr, who were still residing in Madinah then, and received some secret information about Muslims from him. 

Then, the polytheists approached a place called Urayz, which was three miles away from Madinah, and set fire to a date orchard and two houses. Meanwhile they martyred a Muslim from Ansar and his worker, who were  defenseless and who were working on the field. (11)

Abu Sufyan regarded that he had kept his vow by having done so and left that place rapidly lest he should be followed and got caught; and he set off to Makkah.

The Messenger of God was informed about the attack. He left Madinah with two hundred men from Ansar and Muhajirs to follow the polytheists. He did not find anyone. He found out that they had fled rapidly.  

The polytheists had brought roasted wheat flour called “sawiq” with them as food. They left the bags of flour on the way because they were heavy and prevented them from running away fast. The mujahids collected those bags of sawiq. That is why the expedition was given the name “sawiq”. (12)


1. Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 3, p. 51

2. Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 3, p. 50

3. Aal-i Imran, 12

4. al-Anfal, 58

5. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 2, p. 29; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2, p. 297.

6. Ibn Sa’d, ibid, V. 2, p. 29; Tabari, ibid, V. 2, p. 297.

7. “What is the criterion for establishing friendship and relationship with non-Muslims? Is establishing only military and economic alliances included in the prohibitive boundaries of the Quran?” Badiuzzaman Said Nursi answers those questions and similar ones that can come to the mind convincingly in his book “Münazarat”. We quote the following from his book:

“Question: The Quran prohibits loving Jews and Christians.

“How can you say, ‘make friends with them’?”

“Answer: First of all, the evidence is sound and definite but its meaning and judgment needs to be sound and definite, too. However, interpretations and possibilities are present. The prohibition of the Quran is not general but absolute. The absolute one can have some conditions. Time is a great interpreter; if it shows its conditions, it is not opposed. If the judgment is based on wishes, the point of joining shows the cause of the judgment. That is, this prohibition for Jews and Christians is because they reflect Judaism and Christianity. A person is not loved because of his personality; he may be loved because of his attributes and art. It is not necessary for every attribute of a Muslim to be a Muslim attribute. Similarly, not all attributes of an unbeliever are unbeliever attributes. Therefore, why should it not be permissible to have relations with them in terms of their Muslim attributes and useful arts? If you have a wife from the People of the Book, you shall certainly love her!

Secondly, during the Era of Bliss, a great religious revolution took place. Since this revolution caused all of the minds to concentrate on the religion, people loved and hated others due to religion. Therefore, love of non-Muslims implied hypocrisy. However, today the revolution in the world is a strange worldly civilization. What keeps the minds and brains busy is civilization, progress and the world. Besides, most of the Jews and Christians are not faithful to their religions.  The reason why we become friends with them is to take their civilization and technology, and to maintain the law and order, which is an essential for the worldly bliss. This kind of friendship is by no means prohibited by the Quran.” (Ba­diuz­za­man Said Nursi, Münazarat, p. 26-27)

8. Al-Maida, 51.

9. Balazuri, Ansab, V. 1, p. 309.

10. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 2, p. 30.

11. Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 3, p. 48; Ibn Sa’d, ibid, V. 2, p. 30; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2, p. 299.

12. Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 3, p. 48; Ibn Sa’d, ibid, V. 2, p. 30.

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