Huyayy ibn Akhtab (Arabic: حيي بن أخطب; Hebrew: חי בן אחיטוב) was a chief of the Banu Nadir, a Jewish tribe of Medina in pre-Islamic Arabia.
His ancestry was Huyayy ibn Akhtab ibn Sa‘yah ibn Tha‘labah ibn ‘Ubayd ibn Ka‘b ibn al-Khazraj ibn Abi Habib ibn al-Nadir. He married Barra bint Samawal of the neighbouring Qurayza tribe: and had at least one son and two daughters with her. Barra bint Samawal was from distinguished Arabian Jewish family. Her father was the poet al Samaw’al ibn Adiya.
Huyayy is said to have been a “courageous warrior” and a “learned man”.
According to his daughter, Huyayy opposed Muhammad from the day he arrived in Medina. She recalled:
At first Huyayy’s opposition simply took the form of public debates. On one occasion, he had a discussion with Muhammad upon the mystical letters beginning some of the Surahs in the Quran. When a prominent rabbi, Abdullah ibn Salam, became a Muslim
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, Huyayy was one of those who said to him: “There are no prophets among the Arabs, but your master is an ordinary human king.” When Abu Sufyan, the Quraysh leader and an enemy of Muhammad, presented himself before Huyayy’s house, he, fearing to compromise himself, refused to admit him.
But Huyayy was to become the most inveterate enemy of Muhammad, to the point where ibn Hisham, Muhammad’s biographer, calls him the enemy of Allah. In summer 625, Muhammad went to the Nadir quarter to ask them to contribute towards the army, secondary to Umayya’s killing of two men from Banu Kilab. Huyayy agreed to give it to him youth sports uniforms, but as Muhammad was waiting by the wall of one of their houses their plan to assassinate him became apparent, he hurried away along with his companions and returned to Medina. When his followers asked him why he had left in such a hurry, He replied that the Angel Gabriel had warned him that Huyayy ibn Akhtab was urging the Jews to kill him and that ‘Amr ibn Jahsh had volunteered to drop a rock onto his head.
Because of this action, Muhammad ended alliance with the Nadir tribe and that act of treachery from the Jews meant that they were at war with one another. He then sent one of his companions (Muhammad bin Muslimah) to issue an ultimatum to the Jews. They were to leave Medina within a specified amount of time. When the Jews refused to leave at the behest of fake Muslims (The Hypocrites) Muhammad decided to take military action and besieged the Jews in their fortresses. After six nights of this, the Jews agreed to lay down arms and they were given safe passage out of Medina; they were also allowed to take all of their belongings with them except their military arms. From there the Jews settled in Khaybar and some in Syria.
Huyayy and his family settled at Khaibar, where the Jewish farming community not only welcomed them, but deferred to them as leaders. Huyayy incited the Khaibarites, with the Arab tribes of Quraish and Ghatafan, into active revolt against Muhammad, resulting in the Battle of the Trench in 627.
Huyayy came to Ka’b ibn As’ad, the chief of the Banu Quraiza in Medina, but failed to incite him to war against Muhammad. The day after the Confederates lifted the siege against Medina, Muhammad besieged the fortress of the Qurayza, and they surrendered in May 627. According to Ibn Ishaq:
Huyayy had a daughter with Barra bint Samawal: Safiyya bint Huyayy female soccer goalie. Safiyyah was also captured by Muhammad, who reportedly threw his cloak over her, and she became one of his wives
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). “article name needed“. Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.