Fortified town of Arabia in the district of Hejaz, and four days' journey northwest of the city of Medina. In the time of Mohammed, the name "Khaibar" was borne by a whole province, which was inhabited by various Jewish tribes; the name became famous in consequence of the prominence of the town in the Islamic wars. According to Mohammedan historians, the first inhabitants of the district of Hejaz were the Amalekites, who had been expelled by the Israelites. There are various traditions in regard to the settlement of Khaibar by the Jews: that they settled there in the time of Moses; of Joshua; of Saul (who was sent by Samuel to exterminate the Amalekites); of David, when he fled before his son Absalom. But the most probable supposition is that of Rapoport (in "Bikkure ha-'Ittim," 1824, p. 53), that the Jews of Khaibar are the descendants of Jonadab b. Rechab, on whose recommendation they continued to live like nomads. They settled in that fertile place after the destruction of the First Temple, and, having no intercourse with Jews in other parts, they were entirely ignorant of the existence of the Talmud. As theRechabites were of one family with the Kenites (I Chron. ii. 55), Rapoport identifies the name "Khaibar" () with "Heber" (), the name of the chief of the Kenites. The Jews in the province of Khaibar in the time of Mohammed had seven fortresses or castles, similar to those of the Christian knights (the Arabian geographers, among them Yaḳut, derive the name from a Hebrew word meaning "fortress"), the strongest of which was Ḳamuṣ, built by the chief Ibn Ḥuḳaiḳ; these fortresses protected the Jews against the predatory incursions of the Bedouins.
In regard to the history of Khaibar prior to Mohammed, the historians report only the single fact that Al-Ḥarith al-A'raj, King of Ghassan, made an incursion into it in 524. One hundred years later, during Mohammed's war in Hejaz, a Jewish tribe, the Banu Naḍir, deserted the prophet's camp and sought refuge in the town of Khaibar. This warlike tribe exhorted its coreligionists there to resist Mohammed in the event of his besieging them. Mohammed invaded the district in 628, and the Jews retreated to their fortresses, where they bravely defended themselves. Their leaders were Kinanah ibn Rabi', a Naḍirite, and Marḥab, of Himyarite origin. The greatest resistance was offered by the fortress of Ḳamuṣ, which, in spite of the overwhelming numbers of Mohammed's forces, held out two months. Finally, the Jews capitulated, but they were allowed to remain on paying a certain tribute.
Omar, the second calif, violated the treaty of Mohammed and drove the Jews from Khaibar about 640, assigning them a strip of land near Al-Kufah, on the Euphrates. Benjamin of Tudela reports 50,000 Jews in the city of Khaibar, among whom were many learned scholars; but Ibn Sappir (book i., ch. xv.) corrects his mistake. It is hardly probable that Jews ever returned to the place. The expression "Yahud al-Khaibar" has remained as a term of reproach. Travelers of the eighteenth century, as Niebuhr and Seetzen, reported merely hearing of Jewish nomads in Khaibar.
- Abu al-Fida, Annales, ed. Adler, i. 65;
- Yaḳut, Mu'jam, ii. 504;
- Niebuhr, Voyage en Arabie, p. 326;
- S. de Sacy, in Mémoires del' Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, xlviii. 670;
- Caussin de Perceval, Essai sur l'Histoire des Arabes, ii. 237, 642-645; iii. 87, 123, 130, 132, 159, 160, 193-195, 444;
- Rapoport, in Bikkure ha-'Ittim, iv. 51-63;
- Brüll's Jahrb. vii. 53;
- Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., v. 66, 67, 100-108; vi. 250;
- Benjamin of Tudela, Itinerary, ed. Asher, p. 72;
- Benjamin II., Mas'e. Yisrael, p. 80, Lyck, 1859;
- Weil, Mohammed der Prophet, pp. 171, 186, 413;
- Hirschfeld, in R. E. J. viii. 167 et seq.