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Banu I-Nadir

NAḌĪR, BANŪ I-, one of the three major Jewish tribes in *Medina (pre-Islamic Yathrib) that became famous in Islamic historiography through their conflict with *Muhammad . Following their defeat, the Naḍīr left their fortifications and orchards and went into exile. The Naḍīr and their brother-clan, the *Qurayẓa , probably considered themselves descendants of Aaron ben Amram, and hence their nickname al-kāhināni, "the two priests," or "the two priestly tribes." Several years before Muhammad's arrival at Medina (the hijra), the two tribes cooperated with the Arab tribe of Aws in the battle of Buʿāth, although the Naḍīr had been beforehand, and were afterwards, allied with the Arab tribe of Khazraj; the Qurayẓa were constantly allied with the Aws. But with regard to tribal status the two tribes were unequal: the Naḍīr were more prestigious than the Qurayẓa and were entitled to a higher rate of blood money. Against this background there was tension between the tribes of which Muhammad presumably took advantage.

Roughly up to the middle of the sixth century Medina was controlled by a Sassanian military governor whose seat was in al-Zāra on the coast of the Persian Gulf; the Naḍīr and Qurayẓa were then "kings" and exacted tribute from the Aws and Khazraj on behalf of the Sassanians. In the last quarter of the sixth century the king of al-Ḥīra made an Arab of the Khazraj the king of Medina, which indicates that the Jews were no longer "kings" and tribute collectors. However, they later regained their power, and in the above-mentioned battle of Buʿāth they, together with the Aws, defeated the stronger Khazraj. After Muhammad's arrival the Jews were still the owners of fortresses and weapons par excellence. Muhammad concluded non-belligerency agreements with the Naḍīr as he did with the other main Jewish tribes; these agreements were not related to the so-called "Constitution of Medina" in which the main Jewish tribes did not participate.

The town of Zuhra in the Medina area that was close to al-Quff, the town of the *Qaynuqāʿ , was "the town of the Naḍīr," although it was also inhabited by others. In Zuhra there were reportedly 300 goldsmiths, but it is not clear whether all or part of them belonged to the Naḍīr. The town was located near the eastern Ḥarra (stony tract) of Medina that was named after it, Ḥarrat Zuhra.

Beside agriculture, the Naḍīr were involved in commerce: one of them, Abu Rafi, is referred to as "the biggest merchant among the people of Hijaz." They traded in textiles, wine, and weapons. In addition to the common tower-houses (uṭum, pl. āṭām) which were also used for residence, the Naḍīr had a castle capable of sheltering the whole tribe in times of war. But the accounts of Muhammad's war against them speak of house-to-house fighting, which may indicate that they were taken by surprise.


V. Vacca, "Naḍīr," in: EIS2, 7, 852b–853a; M.J. Kister, "Notes on the Papyrus Text about Muhammad's Campaign against the Banu al-Naḍīr," in: Archív Orientální, 32 (1964), 233–36; M. Lecker, Muslims, Jews and Pagans: Studies on Early Islamic Medina (1995).

[Michael Lecker (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.