The PJ Tatler

A Poisonous Legacy: Palestinian Muslim Incitement From Islam’s Jew-Hating Canon

Yesterday (11/12/13) Palestinian Media Watch released video extracts of a November 8, 2013 sermon broadcast on the official Palestinian Authority (PA) TV network by PA Minister of Religious Affairs, al-Habbash. The good Minister insisted (despite expert forensic opinion to the contrary) Yasir Arafat was poisoned by Jews.

Validating my analysis of the founder of the modern Palestinian Arab Muslim jihadist movement, ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin el-Husseini, in a monograph just published 11/9/13, al-Habbash invoked the alleged poisoning of Islam’s prophet Muhammad by a Khaybar Jewess. This salient example of  Islam’s ancient, Jew-hating canon (i.e., in the hadith and sira) was promulgated by el-Husseini, notably in a 1937 “fatwa,” which sought to galvanize the global Muslim umma to wage an annihilationist jihad for the destruction of Palestinian Jewry. El-Husseini’s accurate recapitulation of the canonical Muslim source narrative, in his 1937 proclamation, maintains:

The Muslims conquered Khaybar, drove out most of the Jews, while Muhammad concluded a treaty with the remaining Jews and assured the peace. Only after this devastating blow could the Islamic realm develop peacefully. It is, however, no wonder, considering Jewish character, that the Jews did not give up their dark plans in spite of the agreed treaty, and tried by all means to destroy Muhammad. They invited Muhammad to a banquet and he accepted the invitation without suspicion. Splendidly roasted lamb was set before him, which was served him by Zaynab, the Jewess, the wife of Sallam b. Mishkam. There was talk about the treaty and the good understanding which now prevailed, and nothing was further from Muhammad’s mind than to suspect treachery. Muhammad and his faithful follower Bishr b. al-Baraa each took a piece of the lamb, but Muhammad did not swallow his, because he noticed an odd flavor and said “The bone tells me that the lamb is poisoned.” Muhammad had Zaynab the Jewess summoned and asked whether this meat was in fact poisoned. She answered: “You know that I have a good reputation among the Jews, and I admit that I poisoned the lamb. I thought that, if you are only a king, I would be killing a king, but if you are a true prophet, you would know that the meat was poisoned.” Muhammad’s companion died as a result of the poison. The little bit of poison that Muhammad had on his tongue became more and more noticeable, and there are historians who attribute his death to the effects of this poison. They refer to a hadith passed on by Abu Huraira in which Muhammad shortly before his death said: “The meal of Khaybar makes itself noticed repeatedly until I die.” The Muslims must think again and again of the meal of Khaybar. If the Jews could be so treacherous to Muhammad, how treacherous will they be to them.

The verbatim canonical hadith which chronicle Muhammad’s alleged poisoning by a Khaybar Jewess (reproduced below, and referenced here), confirm el-Husseini’s paraphrase of these accounts. (However, el-Husseini did incorrectly attribute to Abu Huraira the hadith reports of Aisha and Anas which recorded the long-term, purportedly terminal effects of Muhammad’s poisoning. Abu Huraira did describe the poisoning, but not its ostensibly chronic, lethal impact.)

Ibn Abbas replied, “That indicated the death of Allah’s Apostle which Allah informed him of.” Umar said, “I do not understand of it except what you understand.” Narrated Aisha: The Prophet in his ailment in which he died, used to say, “O Aisha! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaibar, and at this time, I feel as if my aorta is being cut from that poison.”

Anas reported that a Jewess came to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) with poisoned mutton and he took of that what had been brought to him (Allah’s Messenger). (When the effect of this poison were felt by him) he called for her and asked her about that, whereupon she said: “I had determined to kill you.” Thereupon he said: “Allah will never give you the power to do it.” He (the narrator) said that they (the Companions of the Holy Prophet) said: “Should we not kill her?” Thereupon he said: “No.” He (Anas) said: “I felt (the affects of this poison) on the uvula of Allah’s Messenger.”

Narrated Abu Huraira: When Khaibar was conquered, a (cooked) sheep containing poison, was given as a present to Allah’s Apostle.

Narrated Abu Huraira: When Khaibar was conquered, Allah’s Apostle was presented with a poisoned (roasted) sheep. Allah’s Apostle said, “Collect for me all the Jews present in this area.” (When they were gathered) Allah’s Apostle said to them, “I am going to ask you about something; will you tell me the truth?” They replied, “Yes, O Abal-Qasim!” Allah’s Apostle said to them, “Who is your father?” They said, “Our father is so-and-so.” Allah’s Apostle said, “You have told a lie. for your father is so-and-so,” They said, “No doubt, you have said the truth and done the correct thing.” He again said to them, “If I ask you about something; will you tell me the truth?” They replied, “Yes, O Abal-Qasim! And if we should tell a lie you will know it as you have known it regarding our father,” Allah’s Apostle then asked, “Who are the people of the (Hell) Fire?” They replied, “We will remain in the (Hell) Fire for a while and then you (Muslims) will replace us in it” Allah’s Apostle said to them. “You will abide in it with ignominy. By Allah, we shall never replace you in it at all.” Then he asked them again, “If I ask you something, will you tell me the truth?” They replied, “Yes.” He asked. “Have you put the poison in this roasted sheep?” They replied, “Yes,” He asked, “What made you do that?” They replied, “We intended to learn if you were a liar in which case we would be relieved from you, and if you were a prophet then it would not harm you.”

Additional confirmation of el-Husseini’s overall narrative regarding Muhammad’s poisoning is provided by the sira accounts of Ibn Ishaq, and Ibn Sa’d. Ibn Ishaq’s report concludes that Muhammad ultimately died from this poisoning episode, and notes his death was considered an act of “martyrdom”:

When the apostle had rested Zaynab d. al-Harith, the wife of Sallam b. Mishkam prepared for him a roast lamb, having first inquired what joint he preferred. When she learned that it was the shoulder she put a lot of poison in it and poisoned the whole lamb. Then she brought it in and placed it before him. He took hold of the shoulder and chewed a morsel of it, but he did not swallow it. Bishr b. al-Bara b. Ma’rur who was with him took some of it as the apostle had done, but he swallowed it, while the apostle spat it out, saying, “This bone tells me that it is poisoned.” Then he called for the woman and she confessed, and when he asked her what had induced her to do this she answered: “You know what you have done to my people. I said to myself, If he is a king I shall ease myself of him and if he is a prophet he will be informed (of what I have done).” So the apostle let her off. Bishr died from what he had eaten. Marwan b. Uthman b. Abu Sa’id b. al-Mu’alla told me: “The apostle had said in his illness of which he was to die when Umm Bishr d. al-Bara’ came to visit him, ‘O Umm Bishr, this is the time in which I feel a deadly pain from what I ate with your brother at Khaybar.’ ” The Muslims considered that the apostle died as a martyr in addition to the prophetic office with which God had honored him.

Ibn Sa’d (in his Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al- Kabir) focuses on the putative Jewish conspiracy behind Muhammad’s poisoning, while insisting adamantly that the Khaybar Jewess perpetrator was put to death:

The Jews discussed about poisons and became united in one poison. She [a Khaybar Jewess, Zaynab Bint al-Harith] poisoned the goat putting more poison in the forelegs. . . . The Apostle of Allah took the foreleg, a piece of which he put into his mouth. . . . The Apostle of Allah sent for Zaynab Bint al-Harith [and] . . . handed her over to the heirs of Bishr Ibn al-Barra [who the Jewess had also poisoned, leading to his rapid death] who put her to death. This is the approved version [emphasis added]. . . . The Apostle of Allah lived after this three years, till in consequence of his pain he passed away. During his illness he used to say: “I did not cease to find the effect of the poisoned morsel I took at Khaybar.”

Seventy-six years after el-Husseini’s invocation of this conspiratorial Jew-hating motif from Islam’s canon, as a sacralized form of incitement, PA Minister of Religious Affairs, al-Habbash, also seeking to foment agitation, and alluding to Yasir Arafat’s death, provided an updated, inflammatory gloss:

Yasser Arafat died a Martyr (Shahid) – we don’t have the slightest doubt that they (i.e., the Jews/Israelis) killed him. One way or another, they killed him. Even Allah’s Messenger [Muhammad] – they (i.e., the Jews) killed him with poison. When he was dying, he said to his wife Aisha: “I feel the same pain I felt from the poison that I ate at Khaibar (Jewish village).” Poison that he ate at Khaibar. He continued to feel the pain until he died. “I feel the same pain I felt from the poison that I ate at Khaibar.”…They killed him. Even Allah’s Messenger [Muhammad] – they (i.e., the Jews) killed him with poison… Be satisfied, oh mighty one, oh Martyr Arafat, that you were killed the same way Allah’s Messenger was killed… We have no doubt, and I don’t think there is a single one among us who has the slightest doubt that Arafat was killed. Deep inside we all know who killed him.

The repetition of this Jew-hating Islamic motif as a form of anti-Jewish incitement, or degradation, within (and beyond) historical Palestine, long antedates the so-called “Arab-Israeli” conflict. For example, preceding the rise of the Palestinian Arab Muslim jihadist movement by three-quarters of a century, the missionary Gregory Wortabet’s mid-19th century account from Jerusalem (published in 1856) cites this Jew-hating motif from canonical Islam’s repertoire, as a possible rationale for chronic Muslim attitudes toward Jews. (His anecdote also documents the pejorative reference to Jews as “hogs” (pigs), in accord with Koran 5:60.):

The Jew is still an object of scorn, and nowhere is the name of “Yahoodi (Jew)” more looked down upon than here in the city of his fathers. One day, as I was passing the Damascus gate, I saw an Arab hurrying on his donkey amid imprecations such as the following: “Emshi ya Ibn-el-Yahoodi (Walk, thou son of a Jew)! Yulaan abuk ya Ibn-el-Yahoodi (Cursed be thy father, thou son of a Jew)!” I need not give any more illustrations of the manner in which the man went on. The reader will observe, that the man did not curse the donkey, but the Jew, the father of the donkey. Walking up to him, I said, “Why do you curse the Jew? What harm has he done you?” “El Yahoodi khanzeer (the Jew is a hog)!” answered the man. “How do you make that out?” I said. “Is not the Jew as good as you or I?” “Ogh!” ejaculated the man, his eyes twinkling with fierce rage, and his brow knitting. By this time he was getting out of my hearing. I was pursuing my walk, when he turned round, and said, “El Yahoodi khanzeer! Khanzeer el Yahoodi! (The Jew is a hog! A hog is a Jew!)” Now I must tell the reader, that, in the Mahomedan vocabulary, there is no word lower than a hog, that animal being in their estimation the most defiled of animals; and good Mahomedans are prohibited by the Koran from eating it. The Jew, in their estimation, is the vilest of the human family, and is the object of their pious hatred, perhaps from the recollection that a Jewess of Khaibar[Khaybar] first undermined the health of the prophet by infusing poison into his food. [emphasis added] Hence a hog and a Jew are esteemed alike in the eye of a Moslem, both being the lowest of their kind; and now the reader will better understand the meaning of the man’s words, “El Yahoodi khanzeer!”

Muhammad’s alleged poisoning by a Khaybar Jewess is the apotheosis of the conspiratorial Jew-hatred embedded within Islam’s canon. Whether used to incite mass violence against Jews, or their chronic humiliation as the Jews’ deserved lot under the Sharia, this canonical Islamic motif has been invoked across space and time, since the advent of Islam.

At present, Muslim societies even indoctrinate small children with this hateful motif—witness the infamous 2002 “interview” of a three-and-a-half year old Egyptian Muslim girl, Bismallah, originally broadcast on Saudi Arabian Iqra TV, May 7, 2002, which included the following exchange:

Interviewer: Did they [Jews] love our Prophet Muhammad?

Basmallah: No.

Interviewer: What did the Jews do to him?

Basmallah: He killed someone…

Interviewer: Of course, our Prophet Muhammad was strong and could kill them. OK, do you know traditions about what the Jews did to our Prophet Muhammad? Is there a story you know?

Basmallah: Yes.

Interviewer: Which one?

Basmallah: The one about the Jewish woman.

Interviewer: What did the Jewish woman do to our Prophet Muhammad?

Basmallah: The Jewish woman?

Interviewer: Yes.

Basmallah: She invited the Prophet and his companions. When he asked her if she had put poison in his food, she said “yes.” He asked her: “Why did you do this?” She replied: “If you are a liar, you will die, and Allah will not protect you. But if you speak the truth, Allah will protect you.”

Interviewer: And God protected the Prophet, of course.

Basmallah: And he said to his companions: “I will kill this woman.”

Interviewer: Of course. She put poison in his food, this Jewess.[…]

Interviewer: Basmallah, Allah be praised. May our God bless her. No one could wish for a more devout girl. May God bless her and her parents. The next generation of children must be true Muslims, Allah willing. We must educate them while they are still children to be true Muslims.

Failure to recognize—and openly condemn—this uniquely Islamic phenomenon and its canonical origins, will only assure such sacralized Jew-hatred continues to be promulgated by Palestinian Muslims, and indeed the global Muslim umma. Worse still, continued denial of such Islamic religious incitement abets its genocidal aims.