Rabbi Mukhayriq was the first Jewish martyr of Islam; according to Dr. Muqtedar Khan, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Delaware, and Director of its Islamic Studies Program. Mukhayriq was a wealthy and learned leader of the tribe of Tha’labah who fought along side Prophet Muhammad in the battle of Uhud and was martyred on Saturday, March 19, 625 C.E.
That Saturday morning. Rabbi Mukhayriq had addressed his people and asked them to go with him to help Muhammad. His tribe's men declined, saying that it was the day of the Sabbath and fighting on the Sabbath was forbidden by God, except for self defense. Rabbi Mukhayriq chastised his congregation for not seeing a deeper meaning of the pagan Arabs of Mecca’s coming attack on Prophet Muhammad that Sabbath; and announced that if he died in the battle his entire wealth should go to Prophet Muhammad.
Rabbi Mukhayriq did die that Sabbath day in battle against the pagan Meccans. When Prophet Muhammad, who was seriously injured in that same battle, was informed about the death of Rabbi Mukhayriq, Prophet Muhammad said, "He was the best of Jews." Muhammad inherited seven gardens and other forms of wealth from Rabbi Mukhayriq and used this wealth to establish the first waqf -- a charitable endowment -- of Islam. It was from this Jewish endowment that the Prophet of Islam helped many poor people in Medina.
When Prophet Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina in 622, he signed a treaty with the various tribes that lived in and around Medina. Many of these tribes had embraced Islam, some were pagan and others were Jewish. All of them signed the treaty with Muhammad that is referred to by historians as the Constitution of Medina. The first Islamic state, a multi-tribal and multi-religious state, established by Muhammad in Medina, was based on this social contract.
According to article 2 of the constitution, all the tribes who were signatories to the treaty constituted one nation (Umma). Mukhayriq's people, too, were signatories to this treaty and were obliged to fight with Muhammad in accordance with article 37 of the constitution, which says: "The Jews must bear their expenses and the Muslims their expenses. Each must help the other against anyone who attacks the people of this document. They must seek mutual advice and consultation, and loyalty is a protection against treachery. A man is not liable for his ally's misdeeds. The wronged must be helped.”
So in a way, Rabbi Mukhayriq, this well respected Jewish scholar in Medina, was merely being a good citizen and was fulfilling his social contract.
“But his story is fantastic, especially for our times, when we are struggling to build bridges between various religious communities. Rabbi Mukhayriq's loyalty, his bravery, his sacrifice and his generosity are inspirational. Rabbi Mukhayriq, a true citizen of the state of Medina, gave his life in its defense. He was a Jew, and he was a true Islamic hero, and his story must never be forgotten.” said Dr. Kahn,
Perhaps it is about people like Rabbi Mukhayriq that the Quran says: "There are, certainly, among Jews and Christians, those who believe in God, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to God. They will not sell the Signs of God for a miserable gain! For them is a reward with their Lord" (Qur'an 3:199).
Did Rabbi Mukhayriq believe that Muhammad was indeed a legitimate prophet of the One God, who had sent so many prophets to Banu Israel? I believe he did.
First of all, Rabbi Mukhayriq may have heard directly from Prophet Muhammad that at Sinai, when Allah gives the Jewish People the Torah, He also makes a covenant with the Children of Israel. Allah raises the mountain above the whole Jewish people saying, “Hold firmly to what We have given you (the Torah) and remember what is in it.” (Qur’an 2:63)
The rabbi must have known that there is a similar narrative in the Talmud, that Prophet Muhammad could not have known about without a Divine source: “Rav Avdimi said: “The Holy One, lowered the [uprooted] mountain over them like a bucket, and said to them, ‘If you accept the Torah, fine; but if not, here will be your grave.” (Talmud Shabbat 88a)
Second, Rabbi Mukhayriq may have believed that Prophet Muhammad was not only a Prophet, but was also one of God's Anointed; who with his Arab followers would enable and facilitate the Jewish people's return to the land of Israel as is predicted in the Bible; just as the Persian King Cyrus the Great (who is called one of God's Anointed by Prophet Isaiah) had enabled and facilitated the return of Jews to Israel eleven centuries earlier.
The fact that the Persians had just a few years previously (614 CE) captured the Land of Israel from the Eastern Roman Empire may, in the rabbi's mind, have stimulated this belief. This event is mentioned in the Qur’an: “The (Roman) Byzantines have been defeated in the nearest land. But they, after their defeat, will overcome (their enemies) within three to nine years. To Allah belongs the command before and after.” (30:2-4)
Perhaps this unorthodox rabbi saw the arrival of Prophet Muhammad in Medina only eight years after the Persians had captured Jerusalem, as God’s answer to Rabbi Mukhayriq’s Messianic hopes, and viewed fighting alongside Muhammad as his personal voluntary fight in support of monotheism, as well as a witness to his faith in the imminent arrival of one of God's Anointed Messiahs (not the final Son of David Messiah, but like Elijah, Cyrus, or the Son of Joseph Messiah) who will precede the Son of David Messiah:
“See, I will send Prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful [Judgement] day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”(Malachi 4:5-6)
Indeed, 70 Jewish families from Galilee were settled in Jerusalem at the behest of Caliph ‘Umar, and thus a Jewish presence in the City of David was restored after an absence of more than 5 centuries. (N. A. STILLMAN, 1979: 154-155. the primary source to which Stillman refers is by some scholars thought to be unreliable historically; but would be a good example of early Jewish hopes.)
Thus, this unorthodox rabbi viewed fighting alongside Muhammad as his personal voluntary fight in support of monotheism as well as a witness to his faith in the arrival of one of God's Anointed Messiahs (although everyone has heard of the final Son of David Messiah, the rabbis also speak of a Son of Joseph Messiah who will precede the the Son of David Messiah).
The Qur’an refers to Prophet Abraham as a community or a nation: “Abraham was a nation/community [Ummah]; dutiful to God, a monotheist [hanif], not one of the polytheists.” (16:120) If Prophet Abraham is an Ummah; then fighting between the descendants of Prophets Ishmael and Isaac is a civil war and should always be avoided. And prior to the 20th century Arabs and Jews never did make a religious non-tribal war with each other.
If all Arabs and Jews can live up to the ideal that ‘the descendants of Abraham’s sons should never make war against each other’ is the will of God; we will help fulfill the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:23-5)
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 600 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.