Assassinations Ordered By Mohammed

July 2010 version

Mohammed did not just fight defensively, and he did not just honorably engage people in open battle. He also ordered many assassinations. Here is a list taken from the collections of authoritative Sunni hadiths and the early Muslim historian al-Tabari. After mentioning each assassination and quoting from sources, where known this will give the background and rationale for the assassination.

Assassination of Ka'b bin Ashraf

Reason given: Sahih Muslim vol.3 no.4436 p.990-991 says that Ka'b b. Ashraf "has maligned Allah, the Exalted, and His Messenger." Bukhari says that Ka'b bin Ashraf in an unspecified way harmed Allah [he harmed God?] and his apostle. However, since Allah was "harmed" this was probably not a violent or military thing Ka'b did, but more likely saying Mohammed was not really from Allah.

Here is the quote and the context from Bukhari vol.3 book 45 ch.3 no.687 p.415.

(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 foodgrains.'" After dickering over what to hold as mortgage, they agreed that Muhammad bin Maslama would mortgage his weapons. So he promised him that he would come with his weapons next time." Bukhari vol.3 book 45 ch.3 no.687 p.415 (That is all this passage says.)

"Narrated Jabir : 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.' [i.e. to lie]. The Prophet replied 'I do (i.e. allow you).'" Bukhari vol.4 book 52 ch.159 no.271 p.168

Bukhari vol.5 book 59 no.360 p.248 is the longest hadith on the assassination of Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf. "(369) Narrated Jabin 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, Ka'b 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 differences between narrators about a camel load or two.) Ka'b said, 'Yes, (I will lend you), but you should mortgage something to me.' Muhammad bin Maslama 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 peoples' 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 [weapons] to you.'

Muhammad bin Maslama and his companion promised Ka'b that Muhammad would return to him. He came to Ka'b at night along with Ka'b's foster brother, Abu Na'ila. Ka'b 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?' Ka'b 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.' Ka'b said, 'They are none but my brother Muhammad bin Maslama and my foster brother Abu Na'ila. A generous man should respond to a call at night even if invited to be killed." Muhammad bin Maslama went with two men. (Some sub-narrators mention the men as Abu 'Abs bin Jabr, Al-Harith bin Aus and 'Abbad bin Bishr.) So Muhammad bin Maslama went in together with two men, and said 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, strike him. I will let you smell his head.' Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf came down to them, wrapped in his clothes, and diffusing perfume. Muhammad bin Maslama said, 'I have never smelt a better scent than this.' K'ab replied, 'I have got the best Arab women who know how to use the high class of perfume.' Muhammad bin Maslama requested Ka'b 'Wall you allow me to smell our 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." Bukhari vol.5 book 59 no.369 p.248-250

While the previous only mentions multiple companions, Sahih Muslim vol.3 no.4436 p.990-991 says:

(4436) 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). ... The rest is very similar to Bukhari.

In the translation of the Sahih Muslim hadiths, footnote 2269 p.990 says, "Ka'b b. Ashraf was a Jew belonging to the tribe of Nadir and thus he was pledged to honour the treaty made between the Muslims and Banu Nadir, but he never honoured that pledge. He conspired against the life of the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him), helped the Meccans against the Muslims, sang obscene songs and amatory sonnets with a view to defaming the Muslim women. The victory of Badr mortified him and he shifted to Mecca and stirred up the Quraish to avenge their heroes of Badr. All these acts of his were directly contravening the covenant in which he had entered along with the members of his tribe. Who can tolerate such an immoral conspirator who breaks the treaty, conspires against the Head of the Islamic State, and the State itself, and drags the honour of the women into the mire and pollutes the pious atmosphere of the Islamic society with immoral songs? All these crimes were enough to take his life."

There is nothing in early Muslim literature I am aware of that says Ka'b did any of these things mentioned in the footnote. Without any evidence, I am left to conclude that the English translator made up this defense of Mohammed. Mohammed (truly or falsely) believed he said or did something, but the footnote might be inventing charges to justify the assassination.

Sahih Muslim vol.3 footnote 2272 p.991 says, "Maulana Maududi, after discussing the reasons for which Ka'b b. Ashraf was killed observes: 'This man conspired against the Muslims secretly and he never dared come to the forefront, but his activities were highly objectionable and fell under the category of high treason. Thus there was no other way out but to take his life secretly. It is, however, wrong to infer from this that taking of the lives of the chiefs of the enemy secretly is a permanent clause in the ethics of Islamic warfare. [not true] Had it been so, Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) would have planned to take the life of the sworn enemies like Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan. [Abu Jahl is not a good example. Sahih Muslim vol.3 no.4434 p.990 says Abu Jahl was already killed in battle prior to this at Badr. Either the footnote writer is ignorant or lying here. Muslims did attempt to assassinate Abu Sufyan in al-Tabari vol.7 p.147-150.] And there was no dearth of his devoted followers who could make secret attempts on their lives. But we find in the whole history of Islam only two persons who were killed in this way: one Ka'b b. Ashraf and the other Abu Rafi'. [not true. There was also at least al-Aswad, Khalid b. Sufyan, Yusayr b. Rizam.] These were not his only enemies; he had numerous foes around him. This goes to prove that killing of an enemy secretly is not the war policy of Islam, but an exceptional case, which is permitted under exceptional circumstances, when the enemy does not come to the forefront, but constantly conspires against the Muslims secretly (al-Jihad fi'i Islam pp.259-260)." (Note that they first said that Ka'b openly sang obscene songs, and then said he conspired secretly.)

Ka'b bin Ashraf was a Meccan. He actually had a Jewish mother and a pagan Arab father but the hadiths just call him a Jew (See al-Tabari vol.7 p.xxix)

After the battle of Badr, Ka'b bin al-Ashraf was assassinated al-Tabari vol.7 p.xxix; p.95

According to al-Waqidi in al-Tabari vol.7 p.101 al-Ashraf was assassinated before the battle of Uhud.

"Between the battles of Badr and Uhud, the Messenger of God sent Muhammad b. Maslamah with his companions to Ka'b b. al-Ashraf, and they killed him. The Messenger of God sent 'Abdallah b. Unays to Khalid b. Sufyan b. Nubayh al-Hudhali while he was in Nakhlah or 'Uranah preparing to attack the Messenger of God and killed him." al-Tabari vol.9 p.121

Assassination of Abu Rafi'

Reason given: Bukhari vol.5 book 59 no.371 p.251 says, "Abu Rafi' used to hurt Allah's Apostle and help his enemies against him. He lived in his castle in the land of Hijaz." So this was probably for military reasons. Tabari says, "The reason for his being killed was, it is said, that he used to take the part of Ka'b b. al-Ashraf against the Messenger of God."

Bukhari vol.5 book 59 chapter 15 p.250-251 says "The killing of Abu Rafi', 'Abdullah bin Abi Al-Huqaiq and he was also called Salam bin Abi Al-Huqaiq who used to live in Khaibar, and some said the he used to live in his castle at the land of Hijaz. Az-Zhuri said, 'He (Abu Rafi') was killed after Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf."

Abdullah bin 'Atik and some other Muslims were sent to assassinate Abu Rafi' Sallam bin abi Al-Huqayq, the Jew. They attacked him in the dark while he was sleeping. He broke his leg escaping, but Mohammed miraculously healed it. (Bukhari vol.5 book 59 no.370-372 p.250-255)

You can also read about this in detail in al-Tabari vol.7 p.99-105, where it mentions he lived in the Hijaz. They spared his wife according to al-Tabari vol.7 p.99,101,103.

Assassination of People Not Under Muslim Rule

If someone criticizes a leader, and they do not live under the control of that leader, should they be killed? If a Muslim criticized a non-Muslim leader, does the non-Muslim have the right to kill the Muslim? If a non-Muslim criticized Mohammed, should the non-Muslim be assassinated? That is what Mohammed ordered. This may be why assassinations and killings are so common in some Muslim countries today.

Al-Harith ibn Suwayd ibn Samit was another opponent murdered at Muhammad's instigation. This set off something of a chain reaction. One Abu Afak, annoyed at the incident, composed a satire defending the ancestors of those who were disaffected at the Prophet which prompted him to respond "Who will deal with this rascal for me?" at which another of his companions, Salim ibn `Umayr, went forth and slaughtered him. (Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasulullah, p.675). In reply to this `Asma bint Marwan, another resident of Medina disenchanted with Islam, composed a satire charging her fellow townsmen of the Aus and Khazraj "You obey a stranger who is none of yours ... Is there no man of pride who would attack him by surprise and cut off the hopes of those who expect aught from him?" When Muhammad heard this he said "Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?" at which `Umayr ibn `Adiy al-Khatmi immediately crept into her house and murdered her. On his return he confirmed that he had killed her at which Muhammad was greatly pleased and said to him "You have greatly helped God and his Apostle, O `Umayr!" (op. cit., p.676).

(end from other sources)

One women of the Banu Quraizah was executed. Abu Dawud vol.2 no.2665 Footnote 2017 p.739 explains this by saying "she used to abuse the Prophet (may peace be upon him). Hence she was killed." In other words, since she had said bad things about Mohammed she was assassinated. This may have been 'Asma bint Marwan or possibly someone else.

For more on this assassination see

Attempted Assassination of Abu Sufyan

Reason: None is explicitly given, but Abu Sufyan was the commander of the forces of Mecca.

"The story of 'Amr b. Umayyah al-Damri, when he was sent by the Messenger of God to kill Abu Sufyan b. Harb.

When the men whom the Prophet had sent to 'Adal and al-Qarah were killed at al-Raji' and the news reached the Messenger of God, he sent 'Amr b. Umayyah al-Damri and one of the Ansar to Mecca, ordering them to kill Abu Sufyan b. Harb...." They circumambulated the Ka'aba, using that ritual as a pretense that they came to Mecca to worship. The Meccans suspected them, and they were unsuccessful.

al-Tabari vol.7 p.147-150

Assassination of al-Aswad (= Dhu al-Khimar 'Abhalah b. Ka'b)

Reason given: Claimed he was a prophet.

Mohammed ordered the assassination of al-Aswad al-Tabari vol.9 p.167 Al-Aswad was assassinated because he claimed that he was a prophet, after coming out of the Khubban cave. He was killed a day or two before Mohammed's death.

Assassination of Khalid b. Sufyan

Reason given: al-Tabari vol.9 p.121 says that Mohammed said word had reached him that Khalid b. Sufyan was gathering a force to attack Mohammed.

"The Messenger of God called me and said, 'It has reached me that Khalid b. Sufyan b. Nubayh al-Hudhali is gathering a force to attack me. He is either in Nakhlah or 'Uranah, so go to him and kill him.'" al-Tabari vol.9 p.121

"He (the prophet) said, :Go and kill him. I saw him when the time of the afternoon prayer had come. I said : I am afraid if a fight takes place between me and him (Khalid b. Sufyan), that might delay the prayer. I proceeded walking towards him while I was praying by making a sign. When I reached near him, he said to me : Who are you? I replied : A man from the Arabs ; it came to me that you were gathering (any[sp] army) for this man (i.e. the Prophet). Hence I came to you in connection with this matter. ... I then walked along with him for a while; when it became convenient for me, I dominated him with my sword until he became cold (dead)." Abu Dawud vol.1 no.1244 p.328

Killing Yusayr b. Rizam

Reason given: Mohammed did not order this one. The Muslims with Yusayr "sensed" that he had second thoughts about making peace with Mohammed, so they killed him. Mohammed in al-Tabari vol.9 p.120

"It is reported about Yusayr b. Rizam, the Jew, that he was gathering Ghatafan in Khaybar to attack the Messenger of God, so the latter sent 'Abdallah b. Rawahah with a number of his companions, among whom were 'Abdallah b. Unays, an ally of the Banu Salamah." The urged him to come to Mohammed with them, which he started to do. On the way he regretted it, and they sensed it, so they attacked him and his Jewish companions and killed them. al-Tabari vol.9 p.120

Killing of the Chieftain of Dumah

In Mohammed's lifetime the Muslims made a surprise attack on an unsuspecting Christian king [chieftain] of Dumah and he was killed. al-Tabari vol.9 p.58-59

Mohammed Ordered Torture to Find Where a Man Buried His Treasure

This was not an assassination, but was still very heinous.

According to Ibn Ishaq: Kinanah b. al-Rabi' b. Abi al-Huqayq who had the treasure of the Banu al-Nadir, was brought to the Messenger of God, who questioned him, but he denied knowing where it [the treasure] was. Then the Messenger of God was brought a Jew who said to him, "I have seen Kinanah walk around this ruin every morning." The Messenger of God said to Kinanah: "What do you say? If we find it in your possession, I will kill you. "All right he answered. The Messenger of God commanded that the ruin should be dug up, and some of the treasure was extracted from it. Then he asked him for the rest of it. Kinanah refused to surrender it, so the Messenger of God gave orders concerning him to al-Zubayr b. al-'Awwam, saying, "Torture him until you root out what he has." Al-Zubayr kept twirling his firestick in his breast until Kinanah almost expired [died]; then the Messenger of God gave him to Muhammad b. Maslamah, who beheaded him to avenge his brother Mahmud b. Maslamah." al-Tabari vol.8 p.122

Subsequent Muslim History

'Uthman was murdered by Muslims while reading the Qur'an. Sunan Nasa'i vol.1 #67 p.130. 'Ali became caliph after that.

Some Muslims masquerading as pilgrims went to Medina and killed 'Uthman. al-Tabari vol.15 p.159

Riders from Egypt came to present their grievances to 'Uthman. He made promised to them which he did not intend to keep. The Egyptians found a letter on a slave riding after them, on 'Uthman's camel and sealed with 'Uthman's ring, telling the governor of Egypt to imprison and kill these people. They returned to Medina, besieged 'Uthmans' house, and then killed him. al-Tabari vol.15 p.165-185

'Ali was murdered in a mosque by 'Abdur Rahman ibn Muljam in 40 A.H. Sunan Nasa'i vol.1 #19 p.109.

The Abbasids in 747-750 A.D. under Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah overthrew the Umayyads. (al-Saffah means the blood spiller.) Every Umayyad heir was beheaded except Abd al-Rahman, who escaped to Spain.

Nu'man bin Bashir took allegiance to 'Abdullah bin Zubair, and because of this he was murdered by men of Marwan bin Kakun in 94 A.H. Sunan Nasa'i vol.1 #49 p.124

Assassination of the non-Muslim general al-Aswad by Muslims while Mohammed was alive. al-Tabari vol.10 p.27-33

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