Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Qur’an Surah 59: The Gathering (of Forces)

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Qur'an: a Book Report, in which I read each surah of the Qur'an and write about what I learn.

When Muhammad and his followers left Mecca and settled in Medina, they made agreements with the Jewish clans who lived there, like the Banu al-Nadir and the Banu Qaynuqa.  The agreement was that these Jewish clans would fight neither for nor against the Muslims.  It was basically an agreement of neutrality.

However, after the Muslims in Medina were defeated by their enemies from Mecca at the Battle of Uhud, the Jewish clan Banu al-Nadir broke their agreement with Muhammad and made an alliance with the Meccans.  They even tried to kill the prophet when he entered their area.  A leader named Ibn Ubayy made an agreement with the Jewish clan that, if they fought with him against the Muslims, he would fight with them.

Consequently, the Muslims (under Muhammad’s leadership) besieged the Jewish clan, defeated them, and drove them out of the city.  Some fled to Syria, other to Khaybar.  This was one of the first in a series of tragic conflicts between Jews and Muslims, which would happen throughout history, even to our own times.

The 59th surah of the Qur’an, The Gathering (of Forces), takes this conflict as its central theme, basically arguing that God was on the side of the Muslims and opposed to the Jews and “hypocrites” who’d broken their agreement with the prophet.  The surah is a particularly one-sided narrative and does not take into account the Jewish clan’s point of view.

On a (slightly) positive note, the surah says that the land and possessions taken from the dispossessed Jews and hypocrites will be distributed among “poor and needy” Muslims.  But this bit of generosity was no consolation to the Banu al-Hashim Jewish clan, who lost their homes.

Submission of Banu al-Nadir to Muslim troops (14th century painting).

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