Qurayẓa, Banū

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QURAYẒA, BANŪ , One of the three major Jewish tribes in *Medina (pre-Islamic Yathrib) that became famous in Islamic historiography through their conflict with *Muhammad. Their defeat in 627 came after that of the *Qaynuqāʿ and the *Naḍīr. Following Qurayza's siege and unconditional surrender, hundreds of their men were beheaded and their women and children were sold into slavery. The tribe of Qurayza was divided into two subdivisions, the ʿAmr and the Kaʿb, each having its own assembly (majlis). They had tower-houses used for residence that were owned by leaders such as al-Zabīr ibn Bāṭā, "the last of the QurayẒa" in Saul *Tchernichowsky's famous poem, and Kaʿb ibn Asad, their chief at the time of Muhammad. In addition, they had a central fortification, al-Muʿrid, which was large enough to shelter the whole tribe in wartime. As was always the case in a settled tribal society, QurayẒa's defense was also based on alliances. When these alliances collapsed, their fall was only a matter of time.

The dramatic events surrounding QurayẒa's demise dominate the reports about them in Islamic literature. They were preceded by the Battle of the Ditch (Khandaq) in which Medina was besieged by a coalition of Muhammad's enemies that included his own tribe, Quraysh, and several nomadic tribes. The QurayẒa who had a non-belligerency agreement with Muhammad – not to be confused with the so-called "Constitution of Medina" in which they did not participate – probably remained neutral: they lent the Muslims tools for digging the defensive ditch, but also sold provisions to the besiegers. After their surrender their fate was reportedly decided not by Muhammad, but by the fatally wounded Saʿd ibn Muʿādh of the Aws. His decision was met with opposition among the Aws with whom the QurayẒa had an old alliance. One of the QuraẒī women taken captive was Rayḥāna, who became Muhammad's wife or concubine. The QuraẒī boys who were spared because they had not yet reached puberty were literate, and hence an asset for the emerging Islamic culture. When we read QurayẒa stories "from within" that favorably describe certain QuraẒī leaders, otherwise known as Muhammad's enemies, they should be attributed to the role of these survivors as Muslim informants. The son of one such survivor achieved great fame a century after Muhammad: it was Muhammad ibn Kaʿb al-QuraẒī who was a leading authority on *Koran exegesis.


W.M. Watt, "Ḳurayza," in: eis2, 5, 436a–b.; M.J. Kister, "The Massacre of the Banū QurayẒza: A Re-Examination of a Tradition," in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 8 (1986), 61–96. Reprinted in: idem, Society and Religion from Jāhiliyya to Islam, (1990), no. 8; M. Lecker, "On Arabs of the Banū Kilāb Executed together with the Jewish Banū QurayẒa," in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 19 (1995), 66–72. Reprinted in: Jews and Arabs in Preand Early Islamic Arabia (1998), no. 10.

[Michael Lecker (2nd ed.)]