Banu Harith

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The Banu Harith (Arabic: بَنُو الْحَارِثBanū al-Ḥārith or Arabic: بَنُو الْحُرَيْثBanū al-Ḥurayth, Hebrew: בני חורית‎‎ Bnei Chorath[1]) is one of the Jewish[2][3][4][5] tribes of Arabia which once governed the city of Najran, now located in southern Saudi Arabia.

Location of Banu Harith along with some of the major tribes of the Arabian Peninsula at the dawn of Islam (approximately 600 CE / 50 BH).


Origins and early history[edit]

The Banu Harith descend from the Qahtanite people, one of the most prominent Arab tribes originating from Yemen.[6] The earliest recorded ancestor of the Qahtanites is Joktan, one of the two sons of Eber. The Qahtanite people are divided into the two factions, the Himyarite and Kahlani tribes.[6] The Kahlani tribe can be further broken into smaller sub-groups which include the Banu Harith which was established by Harith bin Ka'b.[6][7] The Banu Harith converted to Judaism during pre-Islamic times.[8] They wore a jambiya on their belt and worked primarily in goldsmithing and repairing arms.[9] In 524, the Himyarite king Yusuf As'ar Dhu Nuwas (Dunaan), who had converted to Judaism, massacred the Christians there. [1] Arethas (martyr)

The Banu Harith allied with Banu Madh'hij in order to launch an attack on Najran and they were able to successfully conquer the city.[10] Banu Harith lived peacefully beside Banu Hamdan and they were the most powerful house which ruled Najran for many centuries. This was brought to an end during the Christian invasion.[10] After the Christian acquisition of Najran, a sub-clan of the tribe emigrated to the Dhank region of Oman while another emigrated south and founded the district of Bani Al Harith in Sana'a.[11][12]

After the rise of Islam[edit]

They were included in Point 31 of the Constitution of Medina and honored as allies to the Muslims, being as "one nation", but retaining their Jewish religion.[13][14] They were given the same rights as Banu Awf and entered into mutual protection pacts with the Muslim tribes.[4]

The small remnants of Banu Harith continued to live semi-autonomously in the border city of Najran until the 1930s. As a result of the Saudi–Yemeni War the Saudis had conquered Najran in 1934. Persecution increased and the governor, Amir Turki bin Mahdi, allowed the Najrani Jews a single day to either evacuate or to convert to Islam. The Banu Harith fled south to Sana'a and Aden.[15][16][17] Their descendents currently make up a very small component of the Yemenite Jewish population which now mostly reside in Israel today.[18][19]

Notable people[edit]

  • Harith bin Ka'b, a warrior and the founder of the Banu Harith.
  • Dus ibn Milhan, a man who appealed to Dhu Nuwas after two of his sons were brutally murdered by the Christians who had captured Najran. After hearing of his plight, Dhu Nuwas swore to avenge the deaths and to liberate Jews of Najran.[20]
  • Samaw'al ibn 'Adiya, an Arabian poet and warrior, esteemed by the Arabs for his loyalty, which was commemorated by an Arabic idiom: "awfá min as-Samaw’al" (أوفى من السموأل / more loyal than al-Samaw'al).
  • Barra bint Samaw'al, the daughter of Samaw'al ibn 'Adiya and a woman from the Qurayza tribe and mother of Safiyya bint Huyayy.
  • Shuraih ibn Samaw'al, one of the sons of Samaw'al ibn 'Adiya and a warrior-poet.
  • Safiyya bint Huyayy, her mother belonged to the Banu Harith while her father belonged to the Banu Nadir tribe. She was captured at age 17 and became Muhammad's wife. She was, along with all other wives of Muhammad, titled Umm-ul-Mo'minin the "Mother of Believers".
  • Thebith ben Chorath, a 12th-century astrologist and mathematician.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Five Muslim Rulers That Saved Jews
  2. ^
  3. ^ Archived October 29, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ a b Charles Kurzman, Liberal Islam, p. 172
  5. ^ Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book, p. 117
  6. ^ a b c De Lacy O'Leary (2001). Arabia Before Muhammad. p. 18. 
  7. ^ ʻUmāra Ibn-ʻAlī al-Yamanī; Ibn Khaldun; Muhammad Ibn Yaqub Janadi; Henry Cassels Kay (2005). Yaman, its early mediæval history. Mansfield Centre, Conn.: Martino Publ. p. 217. ISBN 9781578985340.  Originally published: London : Edward Arnold, 1892
  8. ^ Lecker, Michael (1995). Judaism among Kinda and the Ridda of Kinda. 
  9. ^ Najran
  10. ^ a b ʻUmāra Ibn-ʻAlī al-Yamanī; Ibn Khaldun; Muhammad Ibn Yaqub Janadi; Henry Cassels Kay (2005). Yaman, its early mediæval history. Mansfield Centre, Conn.: Martino Publ. p. 183. ISBN 9781578985340.  Originally published: London : Edward Arnold, 1892
  11. ^ Samuel Barrett Miles (1919). The Countries and Tribes of the Persian Gulf. 
  12. ^ Mitsuo Nakamura; Sharon Siddique; Omar Farouk Bajunid (2001). Islam and Civil Society in Southeast Asia. 
  13. ^ Constitution_of_Medina s:Constitution of Medina
  14. ^ Archived May 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Gilbert, Martin, "In Ishmael's House", 2000, (p. 5)
  16. ^ Ahroni, Reuben "Jewish emigration from the Yemen, 1951-98", 2001 (p. 27)
  17. ^ Shulewitz, Malka Hillel "The Forgotten Millions", 2000 (p.86)
  18. ^ Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab lands: A history and source book, p. 117
  19. ^ Moshe Gil, "The Origins of the Jews of Yathrib," J.S.A.I. 4 (1984)
  20. ^ The last Himyarite king [permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts in the British Museum. 1808.