Weekly word: Khaybar

September 15, 2010

Defenders of the jizya love making false claims that jizya paid by non-Muslims is a smaller tax than zakat paid by Muslims.  That is a lie, but even if it were true, it still excludes the sinister kharaj tax that non-Muslims are supposed to pay on the harvests of their land.

The Jews of Khaybar were forced by Muhammad to pay a 50 percent tax on their harvests!  Some people refer to the taxes on the Khaybar Jews as jizya, although technically it was kharaj.  Either way, that level of taxation is extraordinary and punitive even in the contemporary world of high-tech income and VAT taxes.

To put it in context, The Qur’an: an Encyclopedia* offers this entry on by Colin Turner on Khaybar:

Traditionally populated by Jewish farmers, Khaybar was a fertile, well-irrigated tract of volcanic land, 90 miles north of Medina, which became a centre of dissent and focus of unrest, particularly after the Siege of Medina.  Gradually developing into an almost wholly Jewish colony, complete with citadels and fortresses, it became the headquarters of the Jewish garrison and the last and most formidable Jewish stronghold in the Arabian peninsula.  Most of the expelled members of the Banu Nadhir were domiciled in Khaybar, where they made tactical alliances with other Jewish tribes as part of a larger Jewish conspiracy to attack Medina.  It was during their preparations for this that the Prophet marched against Khaybar, assisted by 1,400 men, including 200 cavalry.  Those who had “lagged behind” on the Hudaybiyya mission were famously barred from taking part, while two dozen women accompanied the troops to help tend to the injured.  The citadels of Khaybar were besieged for three weeks.  A fierce battle finally ensued, with ‘Ali b. Abi Talib displaying legendary strength and heroism.  Following the Muslim victory, Muhammad forged a tactical alliance with the conquered Khaybarites by marrying Safiyya, daughter of the chief of the Banu Nadhir.  The Jews were allowed to remain in Khaybar on the proviso that they give the Muslims in Medina half of all the grain and fruit produced on their farms each season.  Prophetic Tradition has it that the Jews were more content with this arrangement, lauding Muhammad’s sense of justice as something upon which “the heavens and earth stand.”

Khaybar, Arabia

Benjamin of Tudela stopped in Khaybar in his Near East travels

You see, the Jews were thrilled to be conquered and give up half their food (that they had cultivated at great pains by irrigating desert land until it became productive) in return for the “benefit” of living as second-class citizens in a Muslim sea without the right to worship in public.  Yes, I’m sure they marveled at Muhammad’s “sense of justice.”

*Leaman, Oliver, The Qur’an:  an Encyclopedia (New York:  Routledge, 2006).


  1. Must edit..simply must edit ….

    Prophetic (STRIKE)(INSERT)PATHETIC Tradition has it that the Jews were more content with this arrangement, lauding Muhammad’s sense of justice as something upon which “the heavens and earth stand.”

    …ahhh feel much better now.

  2. […] of infidel wealth.  The fatwa may also be partly inspired by the kharaj, an Islamic tax against defeated non-Muslims and their […]

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