“Allah Akbar! truly when I light upon the coasts of any people, woe unto them in that day.”
Then he assembled all his men and put the sacred eagle standard at their head, the white standard with the black eagle embossed, wrought out of the cloak of his wife, Ayesha. He bade them lead the assault upon Kamuss and spare nothing until it should fall to them. In the carnage that followed Marhab, chief of Kheibar, was slain, and at length the Jews were beaten back with terrible loss. There was now no hope left: the fortress Kamuss must fall, and with it the last resistance of the Jews. Their houses, goods, and women were seized, their lands confiscated. Kinana, the chief who had dared to try and originate a coalition previously against Mahomet, was tortured by the burning brand and put to death, while Safia, his seventeen year old bride, passed tranquilly into the hands of the conqueror. Mahomet married her and she was content, indeed rejoiced at this sudden change; for, according to legend, she had dreamed that such honour should befall her.
But all the women of the Jews were not so complacent, and in Zeinab, sister of Marhab, burned all the fierceness and lust for revenge of which the proud Hebrew spirit is capable. She would smite this plunderer of her nation, though it might be by treacherous means. Had he not betrayed her kindred far more terribly upon the bloody slaughter ground of the Koreitza? She prepared for his pleasure a young kid, dressed it with care, and placed it before him. In the shoulder she put the most effective poison she knew, and the rest of the meat she polluted also. When Mahomet came to the partaking he took his favourite morsel, the shoulder, and set it to his lips. Instantly he realised the tainted flavour. He cried to his companions:
“This meat telleth me it is poisoned; eat ye not of it.”
But it was too late to save two of the Faithful, who had swallowed mouthfuls of it. They died in tortures a few hours afterwards. Mahomet himself was not immune from its poison. He had himself bled at once, and immediate evil was averted. But he felt the effects of it ever after, and attributed not a little of his later exhaustion to the poisoned meats he had eaten in Kheibar. The woman was put to death horribly, and the Muslim army hastened to depart from the ill-omened place.
They returned to Medina after several months absence, and there the spoil was divided. The land as usual was given out to Muslim followers, or the Jews were allowed to keep their holdings, provided they paid half the produce as tribute to Mahomet. Half the conquered territory, however, was reserved exclusively for the Prophet, constituting a sort of crown domain, whence he drew revenues and profit. Thus was temporal wealth continually employed to strengthen his spiritual kingdom and put his faith upon an unassailable foundation.