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Judaism was already well established in Medina two centuries before Muhammad's birth.

Although influential, the Jews did not rule the

oasis. Rather, they were clients of two large Arab tribes there, the Khazraj and the Aws Allah, who protected them in return for feudal
loyalty. Medina's Jews were epert jewelers, and weapons and armor ma!ers. "here were many Jewish clans#some records indicate
more than twenty, of which three were prominent#the $anu %adir, the $anu &aynu'a, and the $anu &urayza.
(arious traditions uphold different )iews, and it is unclear whether Medina's Jewish clans were Arabized Jews or Arabs who practiced
Jewish monotheism. *ertainly they were Arabic spea!ers with Arab names. "hey followed the fundamental precepts of the "orah,
though scholars 'uestion their familiarity with the "almud and Jewish scholarship, and there is a suggestion in the &ur'an that they
may ha)e embraced unorthodo beliefs, such as considering the +rophet ,zra the son of -od.
"here were rabbis among the Jews of Medina, who appear in Muslim sources soon after Muhammad proclaimed himself a prophet. At
that time the 'uizzical Meccans, !nowing little about monotheism, are said to ha)e consulted the Medinan rabbis, in an attempt to put
Muhammad to the test. "he rabbis posed three theological 'uestions for the Meccans to as! Muhammad, asserting that they would
!now, by his answers, whether or not he spo!e the truth. According to later reports, Muhammad replied to the rabbis' satisfaction, but
the Meccans remained uncon)inced.
Muhammad arri)ed in Medina in .// belie)ing the Jewish tribes would welcome him. *ontrary to epectation, his relations with se)eral
of the Jewish tribes in Medina were uneasy almost from the start. "his was probably largely a matter of local politics. Medina was not
so much a city as a fractious agricultural settlement dotted by fortresses and strongholds, and all relations in the oasis were uneasy. 0n
fact, Muhammad had been in)ited there to arbitrate a bloody ci)il war between the Khazraj and the Aws Allah, in which the Jewish
clans, being their clients, were embroiled.
At Muhammad's insistence, Medina's pagan, Muslim and Jewish clans signed a pact to protect each other, but achie)ing this new social
order was difficult. *ertain indi)idual pagans and recent Medinan con)erts to 0slam tried to thwart the new arrangement in )arious
ways, and some of the Jewish clans were uneasy with the threatened demise of the old alliances. At least three times in fi)e years,
Jewish leaders, uncomfortable with the changing political situation in Medina, went against Muhammad, hoping to restore the tense,
sometimes bloody#but predictable#balance of power among the tribes.
According to most sources, indi)iduals from among these clans plotted to ta!e his life at least twice, and once they came within a bite
of poisoning him. "wo of the tribes##the $anu %adir and the $anu &aynu'a##were e)entually eiled for falling short on their agreed
upon commitments and for the conse'uent danger they posed to the nascent Muslim community.
"he danger was great. 1uring this period, the Meccans were acti)ely trying to dislodge Muhammad militarily, twice marching large
armies to Medina. Muhammad was nearly !illed in the first engagement, on the plains of 2hud just outside of Medina. 0n their second
and final military push against Medina, now !nown as the $attle of the "rench, the Meccans recruited allies from northwestern Arabia
to join the fight, including the assistance of the two eiled Jewish tribes. 0n addition, they sent en)oys to the largest Jewish tribe still in
Medina, the $anu &urayza, hoping to win their support. "he $anu &urayza's crucial location on the south side of Medina would allow
the Meccans to attac! Muhammad from two sides.
"he $anu &urayza were hesitant to join the Meccan alliance, but when a substantial Meccan army arri)ed, they agreed.
As a siege began, the $anu &urayza ner)ously awaited further de)elopments. 3earning of their intention to defect and realizing the
gra)e danger this posed, Muhammad initiated diplomatic efforts to !eep the $anu &urayza on his side. 3ittle progress was made. 0n
the third wee! of the siege, the $anu &urayza signaled their readiness to act against Muhammad, although they demanded that the
Meccans pro)ide them with hostages first, to ensure that they wouldn't be abandoned to face Muhammad alone. 4et that is eactly
what happened. "he Meccans, nearing ehaustion themsel)es, refused to gi)e the $anu &urayza any hostages. %ot long after, cold,
hea)y rains set in, and the Meccans ga)e up the fight and marched home, to the horror and dismay of the $anu &urayza.
"he Muslims now commenced a /5#day siege against the $anu &urazya's fortress. 6inally, both sides agreed to arbitration. A former
ally of the $anu &urayza, an Arab chief named 7a'd ibn Muadh, now a Muslim, was chosen as judge. 7a'd, one of the few casualties of
battle, would soon die of his wounds. 0f the earlier tribal relations had been in force, he would ha)e certainly spared the $anu &urayza.
8is fellow chiefs urged him to pardon these former allies, but he refused. 0n his )iew, the $anu &urayza had attac!ed the new social
order and failed to honor their agreement to protect the town. 8e ruled that all the men should be !illed. Muhammad accepted his
judgment, and the net day, according to Muslim sources, 9:: men of the $anu &urayza were eecuted. Although 7a'd judged
according to his own )iews, his ruling coincides with 1euteronomy /:;</#<=.
Most scholars of this episode agree that neither party acted outside the bounds of normal relations in 9th century Arabia. "he new
order brought by Muhammad was )iewed by many as a threat to the age#old system of tribal alliances, as it certainly pro)ed to be. 6or
the $anu &urayza, the end of this system seemed to bring with it many ris!s. At the same time, the Muslims faced the threat of total
etermination, and needed to send a message to all those groups in Medina that might try to betray their society in the future. 0t is
doubtful that either party could ha)e beha)ed differently under the circumstances.
4et Muhammad did not confuse the contentiousness of clan relations in the oasis with the religious message of Judaism. +assages in
the &ur'an that warn Muslims not to ma!e pacts with the Jews of Arabia emerge from these specific wartime situations. A larger spirit
of respect, acceptance, and comradeship pre)ailed, as recorded in a late chapter of the &ur'an;
We sent down the Torah, in which there is guidance and light, by which the Prophets who surrendered to
God's will provided judgments for the Jewish people. lso, the rabbis and doctors of the !aw "did li#ewise$,
according to that portion of God's %oo# with which they were entrusted, and they became witnesses to it as
well&. Whoever does not judge by what God has sent down "including the Torah$, they are indeed
unbelievers. "'())$
7ome indi)idual Medinan Jews, including at least one rabbi, became Muslims. $ut generally, the Jews of Medina remained true to their
faith. "heologically, they could not accept Muhammad as a messenger of -od, since, in !eeping with Jewish belief, they were waiting
for a prophet to emerge from among their own people.
"he eiled $anu %adir and the $anu &aynu'a remo)ed to the prosperous northern oasis of Khaybar, and later pledged political loyalty
to Muhammad. >ther Jewish clans honored the pact they had signed and continued to li)e in peace in Medina long after it became the
Muslim capital of Arabia.