I read somewhere that Muslims beheaded 400-900 males of Banu Qurayza after they were defeated in war.

  • Is there any reliable reference supporting this claim?

Update: This incident is allegedly exaggerated or invented, according to the following sources:

  • Meri, Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia, p. 754.
  • Arafat, "New Light on the Story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina", p. 100-107. Arafat relates the testimony of Ibn Hajar, who denounced this and other accounts as "odd tales" and quoted Malik ibn Anas, a contemporary of Ibn Ishaq, whom he rejected as a "liar", an "impostor" and for seeking out the Jewish descendants for gathering information about Muhammad's campaign with their forefathers.
  • Nemoy, "Barakat Ahmad's "Muhammad and the Jews"", p. 325. Nemoy is sourcing Ahmad's Muhammad and the Jews.

3 Answers 3


The beheading of men is reported in the History of at-Tabari, volume 8, under the section "The Events of the Year 5," page 35:

"...Allah's Messenger went out into the market place of Medina and had trenches dug in it; then he sent for them and had them beheaded in those trenches. they were brought out to him in groups..."

It's also mention in Tafsir ibn Kathir, under the explanation of Surah al-Ahzab verse 26, under the section "The Campaign against Banu Qurayzah":

the Messenger of Allah commanded that ditches should be dug, so they were dug in the earth, and they were brought tied by their shoulders, and were beheaded. There were between seven hundred and eight hundred of them. The children who had not yet reached adolescence and the women were taken prisoner, and their wealth was seized.

  • 1
    I saw this in wikipedia: Several revisionist authors have challenged the veracity of this incident, arguing that it was exaggerated or invented.(1) (2) (3). Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 6:39
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    I've read Arafats dissertation, the problem is ibn Hajar didn't say the incident never happened. What he did was only quote Malik in regards to ibn Ishaq, but what's related to Malik can't be proven either. However, we do know the mass killing took place since ibn Ishaq wasn't the sole individual to report it. Nearly a dozen other narratives clearly show it happened, with details. But none specifically mention beheading, even though beheading were a common thing. Despite the criticism, we know hundreds were indeed killed during that time by the consent of the Prophet.
    – Sayyid
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 0:47
  • Thanks for the clarification. You would better add this comment to your answer. So, How was beheading a common thing? Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 3:08

Banu Quraiyza had a treaty with the Muslims during the war with the Meccan tribes. They broke this treaty. After a siege, they surrendered and the Prophet (PBUH) asked them who they wanted to determine their punishment. The one that they chose said that the fighters should be executed and the rest enslaved, widely believed to be based on Deuteronomy 20:12-14* since he said that his decision was based on Jewish law (perhaps since Banu Quraiyza was a Jewish tribe). So many of the men who fought were indeed killed. This punishment excludes some, such as those who broke away from the Quraiyza and seeked protection from the Muslims.

As for the enslavement, there are many rules protecting slaves in Islam ("master" responsible for providing, can't separate certain family members, can't be abused, etc.) but that's another topic altogether. It must be taken into account that after the men were killed, very vulnerable tribe filled only with women and children was left, and that is a dangerous situation to be left in.

*"12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies."

See the following link:


  • Thanks! What's your Reference? Were they "beheaded"? Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 7:46
  • My source is the link that I posted. Sorry that I can't provide a more direct reference.
    – Student
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 19:01

"It was a decision that was up to the leader. So if you were the Khalifah, you could have decided to kill the men responsible and it would have been valid because it was according to the Shariah.

The Rasool (saw) ordered the killing of Jews because they betrayed treaties he signed with them. Like the Banu Qurayzah, the Rasool (saw) besieged them after they betrayed him when the Ahzaab (confederates) rallied to destroy and exterminate the Muslims and the Islamic State once and for all. The Banu Qurayzah were convinced into supporting the ahzaab by the Jew Huyay Bin Akhtab, who hated Muhammad (saw) and Islam for taking away the leverage they had over the people of Madinah. So Muhammad (saw) laid siege on them. They sought ease to be let to leave Madinah, Muhammad (saw) rejected. They appealed in different ways but Muhammad (saw) rejected because they were treacherous. At the end, Muhammad allowed them to choose from the Muslims to choose who will judge them. They chose Mu’adh Bin Jabal al-Khazraji who took oath from them that they will accept his judgment. He judged that all the men should be executed, their children and women taking as captives. This was approved and done by the Rasool (saw). ""

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