Muhammad: The Wise Assassin
22 Dec, 2008
The story of Ka’b is very well known by the Islamic historians and general Muslims alike. This man, who was a Jew, has been awarded a status of villainy and treachery by the Muslim scholars. Needless to say no matter how great the lie, a lie will always be extinguished by the truth. Even though the Muslim scholars tried to do a good job a vilifying this man as someone who hated Prophet Muhammad and planned to kill him, yet they have left traces for those with the ability to think rationally to derive the truth.
Prophet Muhammad was a very wise man as he was deceitful. He knew how to use the situations to his own benefit. It was his deceitful nature which led to the assassination of a man called Ka’b. His crime to cry out his woes in the face of the annihilation of his near ones.
However evil and piety, good and bad all of these have different meanings for a Muslim. For him these words acquire a different dimension altogether when compared with someone who is not a Muslim. So Muslims justify every act of Prophet Muhammad, and trust not us, but the history of Islam for verifying this fact. Every act of Muhammad is a holy act done with the blessings of his Lord Allah.
In this article, we discuss the “holy” assassination of Ka’b Bin
Al-Ashraf. Understanding what made Muhammad kill this man, and how
his act is considered as an act of piety by Muslims. In this journey
we get to understand how Muslims justify the crimes of Muhammad and
present them as a benchmark for other Muslims to follow. The story
of this assassination can be found in many sources. Let us start
from the “Sirat” (The Life of Muhammad – A translation of Ibn
Ishaq’s SIRAT RASUL ALLAH. Translated by A. Guillaume). The full
story can be found on pages 364 through 368.
The “Sirat” Story of the assassination of Ka’b
In the battle of Badr, which the Meccans lost to the Muslims,
many were killed. Amongst them were some of the Meccan respected
leaders (pp.364-5). When Ka’b, one of the Bani Al-Nadir leaders (A
Jewish tribe that lived in Medina) heard of the news, he was very
upset and saddened, especially on hearing the death of two of the
Meccan leaders whom he respected and loved (Zayd and Abdullah bin
Rawaha). He was saddened by the news, and went to Mecca. And stayed
with Al-Muttalib bin Abu Wada’a who was married to Atika bint Abul
Is. She took him in and entertained him hospitably. As a side note
here we can see how the role of women in Mecca in pre-Islamic times
was honorable. They were an active part of the household. Nowadays,
when you go to a true Muslims house, women are hidden in the inner
part of the house. You can only visit with the men if you are a
male. From all that I read about the role of women in Pre-Islamic
times in the Arabian peninsula was more dignified and had an active
participation in the social life of the community that went
staggered when Islam ruled. Moving along, Ka’b bewailed the slain of
Quraysh in the battle of Badr. He composed some poetry that was
mostly grieving for the dead (pp. 365–7).
Then he composed amatory verses of an insulting nature about the
Muslim women. Does such a behavior demand a plot of assassination?
Off course not. But, according to the holy prophet it does. Here is
what Muhammad said:
Who will rid me of Ibnul’Ashraf (Meaning Ka’b. Muhammad Just wanted him killed)
Muhammad bin Maslama answers the call of the prophet of doom and says:
I will deal with him for you, O apostle of Allah, I will kill him
And Muhammad answers:
Do so if you can (note how the holy prophet is not pushing it. He is telling him to do it if only he can! This is a good moral lesson for us good Muslims. We only assassinate when we can! The idea that assassination is morally wrong just does not exist in the mind of an evil cult leader like Muhammad.)
Then Muhammad bin Maslama goes on a fasting spree for three days aside from what is absolutely necessary. The prophet summoned him after that and asked him why he gave up eating and drinking. Bin Maslama tells the prophet that this assassination undertaking may be difficult to fulfill. And, again, the prophet assures Muhammad bin Maslama by saying, “All that is incumbent upon you is that you should try.” What a passionate prophet! He is just giving Bin Maslama the green light to try to kill someone, and assures him that things will be okay, even if he fails to kill Ka’b. And again, the moral predicate of killing another human being for no good reason, if a reason at all, does not come to the mind of this evil prophet. Muhammad bin Maslama, then, tells the prophet, “O apostle of Allah, we shall have to tell lies” upon which the prophet answers, “Say what you like, for you are free in the matter”.
So far we have two major moral dilemmas that are rejected by a decent human being, but are accepted and encouraged by prophet Muhammad: assassination and lying.
The story continues, and Bin Maslama and others, including a foster brother of Ka’b, go to see Ka’b and visit with him and recite poetry and talk in a negative tone about the prophet. They ask Ka’b to give them food for their families on account of paying him back later. An agreement issues that they’ll come back for this end and bring him weapons to leave as a pledge that they’ll pay him back. It was Ka’b's foster brother who suggested weapons. Ka’b accepted that. But his foster brother’s idea is not to get him, Ka’b, alarmed when he sees them back carrying weapons. The men go back and meet with the prophet. The prophet was supportive and walked with them a good distance on their night trip to go and assassinate Ka’b. Then he sent them saying, “Go in Allah’s name. O Allah help them.” As you can see, prophet Muhammad was such a supportive man. He enlisted Allah’s help to assassinate a man!
The story continues with these men going to Ka’b's castle. His foster brother calls him while he is in bed. Ka’b had been recently married. His wife had a sixth sense and said to him: “You are at war, and those who are at war do not go out at this hour”. Ka’b is not bothered by her comment, I suspect mainly because his foster brother was calling. Those of us who, have foster children or brothers or sisters, know that such individuals are family. It is this sense of security, I believe, that delivered Ka’b to his enemies (by the way, using a family member to kill another was utilized at least twice by Muhammad. This incident is one of them. Ali Sina mentions another interesting story about a son plotting and killing his father. This is a behavior that can be seen in cult members – see Sina’s book 2nd edition, p. 232-3).
Ka’b’s wife still tells him about his foster brother, “By God, I can feel evil in his voice”. Even so, her words did not get through to Ka’b and he goes out to see the men, who came to see him. They play a cheap trick of smelling the perfume on his head and complementing him on that. Bin Maslama finally gets a hold of his head and tells his companions “Smite the enemy of Allah”. To his credit, Ka’b gave out a good fight, but with many men attacking him, he was on the losing end, and died. After that assassination, the four Muslim men involved in the incident go to the apostle of Allah, prophet Muhammad, at the end of the night and salute him while he was praying! (that must have been some prayer considering the evil he had plotted that very night!). Muhammad comes out to them and they tell him that they had just killed Allah’s enemy. One of the men was wounded and bleeding from the attack on Ka’b. Muhammad spat on the wounds and all men went back to their families afterwards. The Muslim Ummah had triumphed again, by assassinating another human being.
One of the interesting parts of the above story is having a
foster brother of Ka’b, who is really just like a blood brother,
involved in the assassination incident. It is very difficult to
understand this without understanding the mentality of a cult
member, and how a cult transforms family members to become dreaded
enemies. It is this part of the story that made Ka’b vulnerable to
the Muslims. Without his foster brother involved with the Muslims,
we believe, Ka’b would have been able to live longer. However, this
was not to be. Prophet Muhammad’s evil intentions against him fully
materialized on that cursed night.
Hadith Narrations Regarding the Assassination of Ka’b
Sahih Bukhari 4:52:271:
The Prophet said, "Who is ready to kill Ka'b bin Ashraf (i.e. a Jew)." Muhammad bin Maslama replied, "Do you like me to kill him?" The Prophet replied in the affirmative. Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Then allow me to say what I like." The Prophet replied, "I do (i.e. allow you)."
Sahih Bukhari 3:45:687:
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
Allah's Apostle said, "Who would kill Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf as he has harmed Allah and His Apostle ?" Muhammad bin Maslama (got up and) said, "I will kill him." So, Muhammad bin Maslama went to Ka'b and said, "I want a loan of one or two Wasqs of food grains." Ka'b said, "Mortgage your women to me." Muhammad bin Maslama said, "How can we mortgage our women, and you are the most handsome among the Arabs?" He said, "Then mortgage your sons to me." Muhammad said, "How can we mortgage our sons, as the people will abuse them for being mortgaged for one or two Wasqs of food grains? It is shameful for us. But we will mortgage our arms to you." So, Muhammad bin Maslama promised him that he would come to him next time. They (Muhammad bin Maslama and his companions came to him as promised and murdered him. Then they went to the Prophet and told him about it.
Sahih Bukhari 5:59:369:
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
Allah's Apostle said, "Who is willing to kill Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?" Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, "O Allah's Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?" The Prophet said, "Yes," Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Ka'b). "The Prophet said, "You may say it." Then Muhammad bin Maslama went to Ka'b and said, "That man (i.e. Muhammad demands Sadaqa (i.e. Zakat) from us, and he has troubled us, and I have come to borrow something from you." On that, Kab said, "By Allah, you will get tired of him!" Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Now as we have followed him, we do not want to leave him unless and until we see how his end is going to be. Now we want you to lend us a camel load or two of food." (Some difference between narrators about a camel load or two.) Kab said, "Yes, (I will lend you), but you should mortgage something to me." Muhammad bin Mas-lama and his companion said, "What do you want?" Ka'b replied, "Mortgage your women to me." They said, "How can we mortgage our women to you and you are the most handsome of the 'Arabs?" Ka'b said, "Then mortgage your sons to me." They said, "How can we mortgage our sons to you? Later they would be abused by the people's saying that so-and-so has been mortgaged for a camel load of food. That would cause us great disgrace, but we will mortgage our arms to you." Muhammad bin Maslama and his companion promised Kab that Muhammad would return to him. He came to Kab at night along with Kab's foster brother, Abu Na'ila. Kab invited them to come into his fort, and then he went down to them. His wife asked him, "Where are you going at this time?" Kab replied, "None but Muhammad bin Maslama and my (foster) brother Abu Na'ila have come." His wife said, "I hear a voice as if dropping blood is from him, Ka'b said. "They are none but my brother Muhammad bin Maslama and my foster brother Abu Naila. A generous man should respond to a call at night even if invited to be killed." Muhammad bin Maslama went with two men. (Some narrators mention the men as 'Abu bin Jabr. Al Harith bin Aus and Abbad bin Bishr). So Muhammad bin Maslama went in together with two men, and sail to them, "When Ka'b comes, I will touch his hair and smell it, and when you see that I have got hold of his head, strip him. I will let you smell his head." Kab bin Al-Ashraf came down to them wrapped in his clothes, and diffusing perfume. Muhammad bin Maslama said. " have never smelt a better scent than this. Ka'b replied. "I have got the best 'Arab women who know how to use the high class of perfume." Muhammad bin Maslama requested Ka'b "Will you allow me to smell your head?" Ka'b said, "Yes." Muhammad smelt it and made his companions smell it as well. Then he requested Ka'b again, "Will you let me (smell your head)?" Ka'b said, "Yes." When Muhammad got a strong hold of him, he said (to his companions), "Get at him!" So they killed him and went to the Prophet and informed him. (Abu Rafi) was killed after Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf."
Sahih Muslim 19:4436:
Chapter 41: THE MURDER OF KA'B B. ASHRAF, (THE EVIL GENIUS) OF
It has been narrated on the authority of Jabir that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Who will kill Ka'b b. Ashraf? He has maligned Allah, the Exalted, and His Messenger. Muhammad b. Maslama said: Messenger of Allah, do you wish that I should kill him? He said: Yes. He said: Permit me to talk (to him in the way I deem fit). He said: Talk (as you like). So, Muhammad b. Maslama came to Ka'b and talked to him, referred to the old friendship between them and said: This man (i. e. the Holy Prophet) has made up his mind to collect charity (from us) and this has put us to a great hardship. When be heard this, Ka'b said: By God, you will be put to more trouble by him. Muhammad b. Maslama said: No doubt, now we have become his followers and we do not like to forsake him until we see what turn his affairs will take. I want that you should give me a loan. He said: What will you mortgage? He said: What do you want? He said: Pledge me your women. He said: You are the most handsome of the Arabs; should we pledge our women to you? He said: Pledge me your children. He said: The son of one of us may abuse us saying that he was pledged for two wasqs of dates, but we can pledge you (cur) weapons. He said: All right. Then Muhammad b. Maslama promised that he would come to him with Harith, Abu 'Abs b. Jabr and Abbad b. Bishr. So they came and called upon him at night. He came down to them. Sufyan says that all the narrators except 'Amr have stated that his wife said: I hear a voice which sounds like the voice of murder. He said: It is only Muhammad b. Maslama and his foster-brother, Abu Na'ila. When a gentleman is called at night even it to be pierced with a spear, he should respond to the call. Muhammad said to his companions: As he comes down, I will extend my hands towards his head and when I hold him fast, you should do your job. So when he came down and he was holding his cloak under his arm, they said to him: We sense from you a very fine smell. He said: Yes, I have with me a mistress who is the most scented of the women of Arabia. He said: Allow me to smell (the scent on your head). He said: Yes, you may smell. So he caught it and smelt. Then he said: Allow me to do so (once again). He then held his head fast and said to his companions: Do your job. And they killed him.
Muslims' Apologetic Defence of Muhammad’s crime in
Assassinating Ka’b Bin Al-Ashraf
In a response to a gentleman named Silas, who raised some issues
against Muhammad regarding Ka’b’s assassination, Mr. Zaatari is keen
on defending the prophet no matter what. According to Zaatari, Ka’b
brought that upon himself. He says:
the prophet Muhammad killed Kab because Kab incited people to kill Muhammad. So therefore no crime was done.
Before we delve into the actual situation of Ka’b and the Muslims
here, a simple method of logical analysis shows that Mr. Zaatari’s
defence is flawed. Let us accept what he says above. This means that
person “A” is morally justified in killing person “B” if person “B”
encouraged other people to kill person “A”. I suspect no one will
accept this nonsense. Ahmed cannot be morally justified in killing
Ali just because Ali encouraged other people to kill or go to war
Let us now go back to Ka’b’s story and Zaatari’s defence of the
Zaatari’s defense rests on the fact that Ka’b went to Mecca and incited people to kill Muhammad. True, Ka’b did talk negative about the Muslims camp. His Meccan friends were killed by the Muslims. He was weeping with the Meccans in Mecca for the death of their honorable men who were also his friends. What would you do if those leaders of slain Meccans were your friends? Are you supposed to go to the Muslim camp and recite the Shahada? I find Ka’b’s reaction very understandable. But at the same time, he was not conspiring to assassinate Muhammad. In fact, the story of assassinating Ka’b shows that Ka’b never talked about assassinating Muhammad. It did show his belief that those who follow Muhammad are doing themselves a disservice. But it is evident he had no “killing” claims against the Muslims. His foster brother was one of the Muslims, and he, Ka’b, was willing to give them food they requested for sustenance. That does not tell me that Ka’b had it in him to kill the Muslims. The claim that Ka’b just wanted to kill Muslims does not stand critical scrutiny. But wait, this is not the total picture here. Let us assume that Ka’b did in fact incite the Meccans to go to war against the Muslims, does that make his assassination a morally acceptable behavior? Does not a prophet of Allah need to warn Ka’b about his behavior first? Does not a prophet of Allah need to have a direct combat with Ka’b if he wanted him dead? An honorable route of killing Ka’b would be a direct face-to-face combat with the Muslims. Did Muhammad do that? No. He resorted to treachery, lying and to sending assassins in the dark of the night. Is this the hallmark of a man who claims to be the messenger of God? By doing what he did, Prophet Muhammad set an example for his Ummah (Nation) to follow. This is what Muslims are doing today and will continue to do……
Ibn Kamuna an Arabic-speaking writer. He can be contacted at email@example.com.