At the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), there were quite a few Jews living in Arabia. Judaism was thus a prominent religion in Arabia in those days. Hence, the Prophet (PBUH) frequently had to deal with Jews during his prophetic mission. Muslims should study the Prophet’s (PBUH) relations with the Jews to learn about Allah’s final Prophet (PBUH), who is our ultimate role model, treatment of them.
Jews were invited to Islam
A fundamental aspect of calling to Islam is affirming that Islam is the only true religion acceptable to Allah. The Prophet (PBUH) would, therefore, strive to give Dawah to the Jews. He invited them to Islam, communicating its pristine teachings to them. He did not even commence any battle with the Jews without first inviting them to Islam and informing them of their duties to Allah.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) distinguished between the Muslims and the Jews
It is essential for believers to oppose all disbelief. Muslims must remember that we should only establish alliances and close friendships with fellow believers. The Prophet (PBUH) taught us that Islam is the basis of brotherhood. Thus, all believers are brothers, and it is their faith that unites them, regardless of their race, nationality, status, etc.
Muslims are not allowed to have allies and dear friends from those who are disbelievers. Islam enjoins the fair treatment of everyone. However, one’s closest allies and friends should always be believers. Upon his arrival in Madinah, the Prophet (PBUH) ensured that he distinguished between Islam and Judaism.
In the Charter of Madinah, it was declared that the Muslims are one community. All non-believers exist outside of the community of believers. The distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims in the Charter served the purpose of governing the relationships of the residents of Madinah.
The bonds of brotherhood and close friendship are purely for Muslims. They do not include others, whether Jewish or of some other faith. The explicit distinction between Islam and other religions serves to strengthen the unity of the believers. Moreover, it increases the Muslims’ pride in their identity as believers in the One true God, who adhere to Islam, the faith of pure monotheism that is binding on all of mankind.
The Prophet (PBUH) gave the Jews rights to life and faith
Disagreeing with the religious beliefs of Jews and considering them to be on the path of falsehood does not mean that one denies them justice and fair treatment and does not give them their rights. Anyone who believes that our opposition to the faith of the Jews means that we should not give them their rights is ignorant. On the contrary, the Prophet (PBUH) recognized the rights of the Jews, as well as the Christians.
The Prophet (PBUH) became the ruler of Madinah and accepted that the Jewish community were residents of Madinah. In the Charter of Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) granted various rights to the Jews. They were guaranteed the right to life. None of them would be executed unless he was guilty of treason and betrayal.
The Jews also had the right to choose their religion. Therefore, they were permitted to continue following their Jewish faith, and nobody was compelled to become a believer. This right is in line with Islamic teachings, which prohibit compulsion in faith, as mentioned in Surah Al-Baqarah. In the Charter of Madinah, the Prophet (PBUH) stated that the Jews have their faith, and the Muslims have theirs.
The Jews were given various rights
The Jews had the right to own property. The Prophet (PBUH) did not confiscate their property. In addition, he had no issue with the Muslims doing business with the Jews. The Jews also had the right to safety and defense. In the Charter of Madinah, Jews and Muslims were instructed to both bear their expenses. They were also supposed to assist each other against any attacks on the people of the Charter.
The Jews were also entitled to just treatment. They would not face unfair treatment. Neither were their foes to be helped. The Prophet (PBUH) was impartial in his judgment, even when it went against Muslims.
In the case of the killing of Abdullah ibn Sahl by the people of Khaybar, the Prophet (PBUH) did not make them pay blood money, nor did he punish them, as there was no concrete evidence against them. In fact, the Prophet (PBUH) paid his blood money using the believers’ wealth. There was also an occasion on which the Prophet (PBUH) ruled in favor of a Jewish man in a land dispute.
Furthermore, the Prophet (PBUH) granted the Jews the right to follow their own laws when judging between themselves. They weren’t obliged to follow Islamic law in their judgments as long as both parties were Jewish. If they asked the Prophet (PBUH) to judge between them, however, he would judge according to Islamic law.
The Prophet (PBUH) treated them well
The Prophet (PBUH) treated everyone well, and the Jews were no exception. He would visit unwell Jews. He also accepted gifts from Jews. Muhammad (PBUH) would do business with them. In business dealings with Jews, he would be honest. He was humble in debates with them and responded to their queries, even if they were not asking with pure intentions and arguing based on falsehood. Moreover, the Prophet (PBUH) would pray for their guidance.
The Prophet (PBUH) punished the Jews who wronged the Muslims
As with anyone who wronged the Muslims, the Prophet (PBUH) punished the Jews if they wronged the believers. An example of the Prophet (PBUH) taking action against Jews who were malicious in their conduct with the Muslims is how he dealt with Banu Nadir. They repeatedly tried to murder the Prophet (PBUH). Banu Nadir also collaborated with Quraish against the Muslims after inciting them to attack Madinah. The Prophet (PBUH) did not tolerate their deceit and evil. He gave the command to expel Banu Nadir from Madinah.
In summary, Prophet Muhammad’s interactions with the Jewish communities in Arabia during his time demonstrated a balanced approach of inviting them to Islam while respecting their rights and treating them fairly. His actions emphasized the importance of justice, tolerance, and the recognition of rights for all, regardless of their faith.