570 AD to 590 AD, Psalm 76: Khaibar.

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This generation is that of the 570s and the 580s

On the side of Byzantium, this generation sees the end of the reign of Justin II (565-578) to which succeeds Tiberius II Constantine (578-582) and Maurice (582-602). On the Persian side, Khosrô I (531-579) succeeded Hormozd IV (579-590).
The relative peace created by Justinian I and Khosro 1st between Byzantium and Persia ceases with the arrival of their successors.

Justinian [1], after breaking with Justinian’s negotiating policy, is confronted by the Lombards’ attacks in Italy and Avars, with which he ends up concluding a truce less advantageous than the treaty negotiated by his predecessor.

In 571, the Armenians revolt against the Persians and ask Justin for help. Early 572, the war against the Persians resumed.
During this generation Christianity becomes more intolerant towards Jews and there are many cases of forced conversions or strong pressures for conversion.
In Spain, where, until then, the Visigoths showed a certain tolerance towards the Jews, this is also changing negatively.
The Persian kingdom is not in rest.
In all his attacks, the Jews of Judea oppose a symbolic resistance by associating themselves with the Samaritans:

Arches de CsareIn 578 [2], a second covenant was signed between Jews from several localities of Israel and Samaritan villages against the persecutions of Christians rising in the Byzantine Empire. The first revolt broke out in Caesarea in 556.

Also:

The succession [3] of Justinian is a sign of growing tensions between Byzantium and the Jews. Under Justin II, there was again a Judo-Samaritan revolt in Palestine (578).

It is this resistance that is evoked at the beginning of the psalm of this generation that juxtaposes Judah (the Jews) and Israel (and so Samaria and so Samaritans, Samaria is another name of the ancient kingdom of Israel), Shechem was close to the city of Samaria, ancient capital of the kingdom of Israel):

(extract of the psalm 76 associated to this generation, verses 1 to 4 )

  • For the conductor on neginoth, a psalm of Asaph, a song.
  • God is known in Judah; in Israel His name is great.
  • His Tabernacle was in Salem, and His dwelling place in Zion.
  • There He broke the arrows of the bow, shield and sword and war forever.
However this resistance is called to failure in view of the forces involved.
Besides, this revolt has no future on the military level. It is likely to have a favorable influence on Maurice, the future emperor of Byzantium who inflects the policy towards the Jews.
The tensions undergone by the Jews during this generation in Christian lands show that if the world remains subject to this dominant uni-polarity, the Jewish people will be able to subsist only a few generations, the time that eventually the Persians are seduced in their turn by the monotheistic religion.
But this is not the purpose of God who recalls that it is he who directs the affairs of men on earth.
These can win victories over their fellow creatures, their pride swell, the destinies of this world are not their responsibility.
It is this divine power which dominates the destinies of the world which is recalled in the following of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 76 associated to this generation, verses 5 to 11 )

  • You are destructive; mightier than the mountains of prey.
  • The stout-hearted became mad; they slumbered in their sleep, and none of the men of the army found their hands.
  • From Your rebuke, O God of Jacob, chariot and horse were stunned.
  • You-awesome are You, and who can stand before You once You are angry?
  • From heaven, You let judgment be heard; the earth feared and became calm.
  • When God rises for judgment, to save all the humble of the earth forever.
  • For man’s anger will thank You; it will prevent the residue of wrath.
In fact, the designs of the powerful of this world will soon be questioned by a prince of the desert of the Arabian Peninsula of which neither Byzantium nor the Persians are still of any importance.
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Indeed this generation is that of the birth of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam whose birth takes place at the beginning of this generation.

Due to an unfortunate wish of Muhammad’s grandfather, the father of the future Muhammad should have been sacrificed, which would have resulted in the non-birth of the prophet of Islam.
Puits_de_Zamzam_avant_les_modificationsThe origin of the vow, according to the Muslim legend is:
  • Abdu ‘l-Mottalib [4] (grandfather of Muhammad) had learned of a tradition that a man in Ishmael’s time, wanting to leave Mecca, had buried his wealth in the well of Zemzem. […] When he began to dig, he made a vow to sacrifice to God one of his ten sons if he succeeded, after having withdrawn the water and after having dug the soil and found the treasure, to repair the well. So he dug, he found the treasure, then he put it back in good condition, and the water rose. Abdou Mottalib was very happy. With steel swords he had a door made for the Ka’ba; he melted the two golden gazelles, made plates of them, and put on the iron doors. Abdu’l-Mottalib was the first to put the door of the Ka’ba in gold plates and cover it with brocade stuffs.
  • Abdu’l-Mottalib then wished to fulfill his vow, by sacrificing one of his sons, the youngest of whom was Abdallah, the father of the Prophet (Mohammed). […] Abdu’l-Mottalib cast lots on all his sons three times, and three times the lot fell on Abdallah. Abdou ‘l-Mottalib was preparing to kill him.

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After the insistence of his sons who refused this decision and after the advice of relatives, Abdu ‘l-Mottalib resigned himself to consulting a Khaibar diviner. Khaibar was one of the most powerful Jewish strongholds in the Arabian Peninsula. What Abdou ‘l-Mottalib did:
  • This one [5] (the diviner of Khaibar) says: Place on one side ten camels, and on the other Abdallah; then consult the spell. If the spell falls on the camels, you will know that God accepts the ransom of your son; if the spell falls on your son, increase the number of the camels, and start again, and always increase the number until the spell falls on them; then you will know that God accepts this ransom, and you will offer the camels as a sacrifice. Abdu ‘l-Mottalib returned happy to Mecca. He placed ten camels in front of Abdallah, and consulted the lot; the fate fell on Abdallah. Then he added ten more camels, and ten others, and so on; finally, when the number was one hundred camels, the fate fell on the camels. Abdu ‘l-Mottalib offered them as a sacrifice and gave the flesh to the poor.

fort khaibar annote حصون_خيبر_-_2This favorable intervention of the Jews of Khaibar in the outbreak of Islam will not prevent a few years later Mohammed to fight against them during the Khaibar expedition. The chiefs were killed and the Jews of the first garrisons were allowed to go into exile, abandoning their property as had been granted to Beni Nadhir, another Jewish tribe previously defeated by Muhammad.

However, the fighters of the last garrisons (the sixth and the seventh) obtained in return for their surrender a special status:
  • The fight [6] lasted three days without result. Then the inhabitants of the two forts asked to surrender. They wanted the prophet to give them life and was content to take their property, and let them stay in the land, and keep the Jewish religion, without asking them for capitation: they would give the Prophet their date plantations ( all the oases of the Hejaz were then exploited by Jewish tribes) that they would continue to cultivate; and every year, at the time of harvest, he would take half the fruit, leaving the other half. The prophet shared these propositions with his companions. All, Mohadjir and Ançar, found them acceptable; And they said, We will have their goods, and we will have their own plantations, and they shall be our farmers. These trees, if they remained without landlords, would wither, as happened with those of the Beni-Nadhir (another Jewish tribe vanquished by Muhammad, obviously only the Jews knew how to maintain the date palms in this region). The prophet consented, and granted to the Jews these conditions, saying to them: I will, when I judge it by right, or if I perceive on your part some act of treason, to be able to expel you. The Jews consented. Then he had Ali write the treatise, and gave it to them.
This treaty was respected by Muhammad, who assured them of his benevolence, since he went so far as to pay himself the blood money of a Muslim found dead near Khaibar after the Jews of Khaibar assured him that they were innocent.
The treaty, though validated by Muhammad himself, was broken by his successors (Caliphate of Omar) who did not respect his word and finally expelled the Jews from the Arabian Peninsula with unclear pretexts.
The wife of Kinana, one of the Jewish leaders of Khaibar, became one of the women of Muhammad without a priori abandoning her religion (contrary to what Tabari asserts) if we rely on the wedding menu respecting the Jewish food laws:
  • The Messenger of Allah (Mohammed) [7] married Safyyah, daughter of Huyayy b. ‘Akhtab. He had taken her as captive to Khaybar; he chooses it for himself. He had a wedding feast where there was no bacon or meat, only sawiq and dried dates. Before him, she was the wife of Kinâna b. Abi al-Huqayq.
In marrying Safyyah, Muhammad performed a significant political act because it made each of his relatives related to himself. Thus his companions who held his relatives in slavery emancipated them en masse for respect to Muhammad. The Moslem troops, on the eve of the great conquest, were thus endowed with an elite which until now made them sorely lacking, since only the disinherited and those who had nothing to lose had been among the first faithful of Muhammad.
Another of Muhammad’s wives was also Jewish, since he also took Rayhânah, a captive of the Jewish tribe of the Qur’an-Qoraizha, another Jewish tribe vanquished with that of Khaibar.
She, too, remained Jewish despite her union with Muhammad (although her late conversion is evoked by the commentators in an elliptical and not credible way):
  • Allah’s Messenger [8] had offered to marry him and to impose the veil on him. Then she answered, « O Messenger of Allah! Leave me in your possession (only), because it is easier for me as well as for you « . So, he left it (as it is). When Allah’s envoy had made her a prisoner, she refused to convert to Islam, and wanted no other religion than Judaism. Then the Messenger of Allah put him aside; but he felt it in his soul. While he was one day with his followers, he heard the blows of a pair of shoes behind him; so he says, « It must be Thalabah b. Said who comes to announce to me the good news of the conversion to Islam of Rayhânah. Indeed, it was he who came to him and said, « O Messenger of Allah! Rayhânah has embraced Islam. The envoy of Allah rejoices in it
These unions conform to the precepts of the Koran, which places the Jewish woman in the same rank as the Muslim woman:
  • Today [9], all the good things have been made lawful to you: —the food of those who were given the Book (The Jews) is lawful to you, and your food is lawful to them (the Quran takes some liberties with Jewish food rules) — and the chaste ones from among faithful women (Muslim women), and chaste women of those who were given the Book (Jewish women) before you, when you have given them their dowries, in wedlock, not in license, nor taking paramours. Should anyone renounce his faith, his work shall fail and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter.
The victory of Khaibar will bring terror to Mecca because Khaibar was the main city of Hedjaz in fertility, fortification and inhabitants. The battle of Badr had been a defeat for Muhammad who had seen that his men had deserted in search of loot and women, the battles against the Jewish tribes helped to remedy these shortcomings.
The rather conciliatory reaction of Mahomet after the victory against the Jews shows that the strategic importance of his battles prevailed over the religious conquest.
The capture of Khaibar in particular was of great strategic importance, completing the conquest of the other Jewish fortifications and will enable Muhammad and his successors to continue their irresistible victorious march towards Mecca and the rest of the east, causing the princes to fall. after others, including in particular the prestigious Persian kingdom.
This explains the end of the psalm of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 76 associated to this generation, verses 12 and 13 )

 

  • Vow and pay to the Lord your God; all those around Him will bring a gift to Him Who is to be feared.
  • He will cut down the spirit of princes; He will be feared by the kings of the earth. 
    • Muhammad’s grandfather had in fact sacrificed his son, Mohammed’s future father. This vow was acquitted by the contribution of presents (the hundred camels). The consequence is the birth of Muhammad, whose journey begins with this generation, which will be the starting point, after the terrassement of many princes, a new geopolitics of the world that will see the division between East and West, between Christianity and Islam. If this conquest is trying at first for the Jews it will allow their survival through the generations because of this new sharing of the world. Survival that would have been impossible if Christianity had remained the only monotheistic religion outside of Judaism.

 

 

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[1] According to: John Julius Norwich: « History of Byzantium » / Chapter: « The first centuries » (French: « Histoire de Byzance » / Chapitre : « Les premiers siècles » (p.106/107) )

[2] According to: website www.hebraica.org

[3] According to: Peter Schäfer: « History of the Jews in Antiquity » / Chapter: « The Persian Conquest » (French: « Histoire des Juifs dans l’antiquité » / Chapitre : « La conquête Perse » (p. 219) )

[4] TABARI: « The Chronicle: History of the Prophets and Kings » / Mohammed, Seal of the Prophets (French: « La Chronique : Histoire des prophètes et des rois »/Mohammed, sceau des prophètes (p. 54) ).

[5] TABARI: « The Chronicle: History of the Prophets and Kings » / Mohammed, Seal of the Prophets (French: « La Chronique : Histoire des prophètes et des rois »/Mohammed, sceau des prophètes (p. 55,56) ).

[6] TABARI: « The Chronicle: History of the Prophets and Kings » / Mohammed, Seal of the Prophets (French: « La Chronique : Histoire des prophètes et des rois »/Mohammed, sceau des prophètes (p. 256,257) ).

[7] Ibn ‘Ishaq: « Muhammad » / Chapter: « the wives of the Messenger of Allah » (Volume II) (French: Ibn ‘Ishâq : « Muhammad » /  Chapitre : « les épouses de l’envoyé d’Allah »  (Tome II, p.571) )

[8] Ibn ‘Ishâq: « Muhammad » / Chapter: « The case of Rayhânah » (Volume II) (French: Ibn ‘Ishâq : « Muhammad » /  Chapitre : « le cas de Rayhânah »  (Tome II, p.196) )

[9] The Koran, Surah 5 (The Table, « al-Māʾidah » ( المائدة ) ), verse 5