The Banu Qaynuqa (also spelled Banu Kainuka, Banu Kaynuka, Banu Qainuqa, Banu Qaynuqa, Arabic: بنو قينقاع) was one of the three main Jewish tribes living in the 7th century of Medina, now in Saudi Arabia. In 624, the great-grandfather of Banu Qaynuqa tribe is Qaynuqa ibn Amchel ibn Munshi ibn Yohanan ibn Benjamin ibn Saron ibn Naphtali ibn Hayy ibn Moses and they are descendant of Manasseh ibn Joseph ibn Jacob ibn Isaac son of Abraham they were expelled during the Invasion of Banu Qaynuqa, by the Islamic prophet Muhammad for breaking the treaty known as the Constitution of Medina.
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Arrival of Muhammad
In September 622, Muhammad arrived at Yathrab now called as Medina with a group of his followers, who were given shelter by members of all indigenous tribes od the city who came to be known as the Ansar. He proceeded to set about the establishment of a pact, known as the Constitution of Medina, between the Muslims, the Ansar, and the various Jewish tribes of Yathrab to regulate the matters of governance of the city, as well as the extent and nature of inter-community relations. Conditions of the pact, according to traditional Muslim sources, included boycotting the Quraysh, abstinence from "extending any support to them", assistance of one another if attacked by a third party, as well as "defending Medina, in case of a foreign attack".
The nature of this document as recorded by Ibn Ishaq and transmitted by Ibn Hisham is the subject of dispute among modern historians many of whom maintain that this "treaty" is possibly a collage of agreements, oral rather than written, of different dates, and that it is not clear when they were made or with whom.
Muhammad's quick rise to power in Medina shook the pre-existing power relations that existed there, causing resentment among the Jewish and non-Jewish elites who were seeing their power on the wane. As a consequence, in order to protect their self-interest and maintain their privileges they may have come in contact with the enemy Quraish to restrict Muslims from gaining even more power. As such this suspicion may have given an impetus to the expulsion of this elite merchant Jewish tribe.
In March 624, Muslims led by Muhammad defeated the Meccans of the Banu Quraish tribe in the Battle of Badr. Ibn Ishaq writes that 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 molested. 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. A mob of Jews from the Qaynuqa tribe then pounced on the Muslim man and killed him. This escalated to a chain of revenge killings, and enmity grew between Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa.
Traditional Muslim sources view these episodes as a violation of the Constitution of Medina. Muhammad himself regarded this as casus belli. 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. 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, the latter were in close contact with Meccan merchants. Weinsinck views the episodes cited by the Muslim historians, like 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. 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.
Muhammad then approached the Banu Qaynuqa, gathering them in the market place and addressing them as follows,
O Jews, beware lest God bring on you the like of the retribution which he brought on Quraysh. Accept Islam, for you know that I am a prophet sent by God. You will find this in your scriptures and in God's covenant with you.
To which the tribe replied,
Muhammad , do you think that we are like your people? Do not be deluded by the fact that you met a people with no knowledge of war and that you made good use of your opportunity. By God, if you fight us you will know that we are real men!
Shibli Nomani and Safi al-Mubarakpuri view this response as a declaration of war. According to the Muslim tradition, the verses 3:10-13 of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad following the exchange. Muhammad then besieged the Banu Qaynuqa for fourteen or fifteen days, according to ibn Hisham, after which the tribe surrendered unconditionally. 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 without Qaynuqa's allies' support.
According to William Montgomery Watt, Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy was attempting 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 argument was that presence of Qaynuqa with 700 fighting men can be helpful in the view of the expected Meccan onslaught. 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.
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, west of Salkhad. In the course of time, they assimilated with the Jewish communities, pre-existing in that area, strengthening them numerically.
Muhammad divided the property of the Banu Qaynuqa, including their arms and tools, among his followers, taking for the Islamic state a fifth share of the spoils for the first time. Some members of the tribe chose to stay in Medina and convert to Islam. One man from the Banu Qaynuqa, Abdullah ibn Salam, became a devout Muslim. Although some Muslim sources claim that he converted immediately after Muhammad’s arrival to Medina, modern scholars give more credence to the other Muslim sources, which indicate that 8 years later, 630, as the year of ibn Salam’s conversion.
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- Guillaume 363, Stillman 122, ibn Kathir 2
- Watt (1956), p. 209.
- al-Mubarakpuri (1996), pg. 197-8
- Ibn Hisham, as-Seerat an-Nabaweeyat, Vol. II, pp. 147-150
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- Firestone 118; Welch, "Muhammad", Encyclopaedia of Islam.. For opinions disputing the early date of the Constitution of Medina, see e.g., Peters 119.
- Peters 218
- Donner 231–232
- Wensinck, A.J. "Kaynuka, banu". Encyclopaedia of Islam
- Stillman 13
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- Guillaume 363, Stillman 123
- Watt (1956), pg. 209-10
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- William Montgomery Watt. "Abd Allah b. Ubayy b. Salul." Encyclopaedia of Islam
- William Montgomery Watt. "Abd Allah b. Ubayy b. Salul." Encyclopaedia of Islam, see also Stillman 13, 123
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