Baha’u'llah’s “Tablet of the Banu Qurayza”
Posted by Sen on March 6, 2010
The Banu Qurayza were a Jewish tribe in Medina in the time of Muhammad. In 627, when the Meccans brought a great army against Muhammad in Medina, he resolved to meet them in the city itself, which meant that the treaty of Medina would oblige all of the clans in the city – including the Jewish ones – to join in its defence. During their brief and unsuccessful siege (known as the Battle of the Trench), the Meccans apparently negotiated with the Jewish clan of Qurayza within the city, hoping that they would switch sides, and did persuade them to renounce their alliance under the treaty of Medina. Once the Meccans had withdrawn, Muhammad attacked the Qurayza. After a siege of three weeks they had to surrender. Their fate was decided by an arbiter from among the Aus (the Arabic patrons of the Banu Qurayza), who decreed that the men of the tribe should be executed, their property confiscated, and the women and children sold into slavery. Muhammad carried out the executions himself, of some 600 or 700 adult men, although some reports say that Ali and al-Zubayr performed the executions.
One interesting thing about the massacre of the Qurayza is that Muhammad is not in charge of events. It is not his ruling that the men should be killed, and if it had been up to him, Medina would have made peace with the attackers. But the rulers of Medina rejected the treaty he had negotiated. To me this adds up to Muhammad as the Sheriff of Medina, not its ruler. Medina had outsourced its security function to Muhammad and his refugee followers. The execution of those condemned to death was part of his job description. (The historical sources and details are on this blog in ‘Muhammad at Medina‘)
This sad event had an unlikely echo centuries later. A young boy in Tehran, later to be known as Baha’u'llah, was reading Majlisi‘s account of the massacre of the Banu Qurayza sometime around 1830, and he was so shocked by what he read that he spent 12 days in turmoil, and then, after some sort of religious experience, resolved to do something about it. He went on to found the Bahai Faith, and to write:
The first Glad-Tidings which the Mother Book hath, in this Most Great Revelation, imparted unto all the peoples of the world is that the law of holy war hath been blotted out from the Book.
(Tablets of Baha’u'llah, 21)
The tablet in which he describes this experience in his childhood has not been available on line in English, in a searchable form, and a friend asked me for it, so I am posting it here.
The translation is my own. I have used a partial translation by Juan Cole in Modernity and the Millenium page 115 and an almost complete translation by Nader Saiedi in Logos and Civilization 304-5. Their translations are based on two slightly different versions of the original. I have discussed the sources, and the dating of the twelve-day event Baha’u'llah describes here, in the first comment to this posting.
By my name that has unlocked the gates of bounty before all who are in heaven and on earth: the atoms of all created things, and the realities of all beings, testify that this servant did not and does not have any intention in manifesting and proclaiming the Cause  other than redeeming mankind and quenching the fire of hatred and fanaticism. In the night season his lamentation has been raised, at dawn his groaning, and his wailing by day.
As certain parties have said, and are proclaiming today, in the scriptures one finds the burning of books and the killing of people, and the prohibition of fellowship, which is the greatest means for the advancement of mankind and the development of nations. In fact, things even more grievous are recorded in the Qur’an and the Bayan.
When this wronged one was a child, he read about the subjugation of the Banu-Qurayza, in a book attributed to Mulla Baqir Majlisi, and immediately became so grieved and saddened that the Pen is unable to recount it, even though what occurred was the command of God and had no purpose except to cut the roots of the oppressors. . Despite this, with the ocean of forgiveness and boundless mercy before his eyes, in those days he beseeched the One True God, exalted be His glory, for whatever would be the cause of universal love, fellowship, and the unity of all the peoples of the earth – until  before sunrise on the second day of the month of His birth,  all his manners, speech and thought were thrown into confusion, a tumult that gave glad tidings of exaltation. This tumult was sent down and manifest repeatedly, without interruption, for twelve days, after which the waves of the sea of utterance became manifest and the rays of the sun of assurance dawned, until it culminated in the moment of Manifestation.
Thus I attained unto that which God hath made the source of joy to all mankind and the dawning-place of His bounty to all who are in heaven and on earth. Afterwards, by means of an ineluctable and irrevocable decree of the Most Sublime Pen, we eliminated whatever had been the cause of suffering, distress, and discord, and rained down the instruments of unity and fellowship. None can deny the overflowing bounty of this Revelation, except for heedless ones who are veiled and the detested oppressor. The sacred tablets which have been sent down and the Tablet of the Sacrifice  bear witness. “Blessed are those who are fair in their judgement, and happy are they who are trustworthy and sincere.”
Truly, if you have heard my voice from my tablet, and if you perceive what has shone forth from the horizon as a token of my grace, say:
O my God, O my God. Praise be to thee that Thou didst cause me to hear Thy call and enable me to know the things hidden in Thy knowledge, and concealed from the eyes of Thy servants. I beseech Thee, O King of Creation, who rules over the seen and the unseen, to aid me to remember Thee and serve Thee and Thy loved ones. Strengthen me with a constancy unaffected by the changes and chances of Thy creation or the doubts of Thy servants. Verily, Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty and the Most Bountiful.
Corrections and improvements on the translation are welcome: please use the comments section.
Short link to this item: http://tinyurl.com/lawh-banu-qurayza