The Death of Asma and Abu Afak

Does the Quran Prohibit the Killing of Mockers?

Sam Shamoun

In this second part (cf. Part 1) we will seek to interact with some of the typical Muslim polemics used to deny the veracity of the Islamic reports that mention Muhammad ordering the cold-blooded murders of Abu Afak and Asma bint Marwan. More specifically, we will try to address two main objections raised by the Muslim site Bismikaallahuma and polemicist Hesham Azmy.

Here is how Bismikaallahuma responds to the charge that Muhammad was a murderer for killing Asma and Abu Afak:

The first thing that strikes us here is that five out of the six alleged cases of "assassination" and "massacre" relate to Jews. The Jews were "the people of the Book," and ordinarily the dealings of Muslims with the people of the Book were much more lenient than their dealings with Arab idolaters. How was it then that the people of the Book, people whose Prophets are frequently mentioned with the utmost respect in the Holy Qur’an - how was it that these very people were chosen for assassination and such crimes were not perpetrated against the Arab idolaters who had most relentlessly persecuted the Muslims for thirteen years at Makkah, and had taken up the sword to deal a decisive blow at Madinah? Sir William Muir assert that all these persons were murdered for no offence other than that of composing verses "which annoyed the Mussalmans." Poetry was not a special vocation of the Jews, and verses abusing Islam and the Muslims were produced in much greater abundance by idolatrous Arabs than by Jews. In fact, it was the Arab, not the Jew, whose particular vocation was poetry, and satire and abusive poetry were used as weapons to discredit and defame Islam specially by the Arabs. Neither Muir nor the missionaries has taken the trouble of testing the reliability of the record on whose basis he has dared to condemn the most merciful and truest of men as cruel and treacherous. If the writer had gone to the root of the question, he would have found that the Prophet and the Muslims bore patiently the severest abuses and the annoying verses of all their opponents, whether Jews or idolaters. Indeed, the Holy Qur’an had plainly enjoined on them that they should bear all abuses patiently, whether they came from idolaters or from Jews and Christians. Here is a verse belonging to a period when the Muslims had already entered on a state of war with their opponents:

"And you will certainly hear from those who have been given the Book before you and from the idolaters much abuse. And if you are patient and keep your duty, surely this is an affair of great resolution" (3:186)

This verse occurs in a chapter which contains an account of the battle of Uhud, fought in the 3rd year of Hijrah, and could not therefore have been revealed earlier than that year, and this is just the period to which most of the alleged assassinations relate. How was it possible for the Prophet and his follower’s to go directly against the plain injunction of the Holy Qur’an? The Holy Prophet could not go against any Quranic injunction, and the Qur’an says plainly, and says it at a time when war was going on with both the polytheistic Arabs and the Jews, that Muslims shall have to hear such abuse, and they must not only bear the abuse patiently but should even guard against doing similar evil, to say nothing of murdering their abusers. How could the Prophet in the face of such a plain injunction order the murder of those who abused him, and how could the Muslims carry out an order which was directly opposed to the Holy Qur’an? It was simply impossible, and if Ibn Hisham or Waqidi says that the Prophet(P) ordered the assassination of his abusers, it is Ibn Hisham or Waqidi — a frail authority after all — that must be rejected, and not the Qur’an, which is admittedly the most reliable source of information as to the doings of the Prophet. The Qur’an had allowed fighting against an aggressive enemy, yet it refused to give sanction to the murder of any who abused the Prophet(P) and Islam; nay, it plainly required such abuse to be borne patiently. It is simply inconceivable that the Prophet(P) should order the murder of people for annoying poems and, at the same time and in the same breath, forbid that abuse should be met with otherwise than by patient endurance. (MENJ, False Allegations of Atrocities By Prophet Muhammad (I); source)

There are several problems with the foregoing statements. First, Islamic sources provide plenty of examples of Muhammad killing individuals for satirizing him, showing that he did not act in accord with the injunction of Q. 3:186. Thus, by accepting the argument of Bismikaallahuma we must conclude that Muhammad was a sinner since he broke the explicit orders of his god to put up with those who were insulting him!

Second, the text of Q. 3:186 is contradicted by other passages which command Muslims to fight Jews and Christians, as well as those who mock Islam:

Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden -- such men as practise not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book -- until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled. S. 9:29 Arberry

But (even so), if they repent, establish regular prayers, and practise regular charity, - they are your brethren in Faith: (thus) do We explain the Signs in detail, for those who understand. But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith, - fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained. S. 9:11-12 Y. Ali

This last text expressly permits Muslims to fight those who taunt Islam, as even some of Islam’s greatest exegetes admit:

(And if they) the people of Mecca (break their pledges) which are between you and them (after their treaty (has been made with you) and assail your religion) and defame the Religion of Islam, (then fight the heads of disbelief) fight the leaders of disbelief: Abu Sufyan and his host. (Lo! they have no binding oaths in order that they may desist) from breaking their pledges. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

But if they break, [if] they violate, their oaths, their covenants, after [making] their pact and assail your religion, slander it, then fight the leaders of unbelief, its heads (here an overt noun ['the leaders of unbelief'] has replaced the [third person] pronominalisation) - verily they have no [binding] oaths, [no] pacts (a variant reading [for ayman, 'oaths'] has the kasra inflection [for the alif, sc. iman, '[no] faith']) - so that they might desist, from unbelief. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

<and attack your religion…> with disapproval and criticism, it is because of this that one who curses the Messenger, peace be upon him, or attacks the religion of Islam by way of criticism and disapproval, they are to be fought. This is why Allah said afterwards,

<then fight (you) against the leaders of disbelief -- for surely, their oaths are nothing to them -- so that they may stop.> so that they may refrain from the disbelief, rebellion and the transgression they indulge in. Qatadah and others said that the leaders of disbelief were Abu Jahl, `Utbah and Shaybah, Umayyah bin Khalaf, and he went on to mention several others. Al-A`mash narrated from Zayd bin Wahb from Hudhayfah; "The people of this Ayah were never fought again." A similar statement was reported from `Ali bin Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him. However, this Ayah is general, even though the specific reason behind revealing it was the idolators of Quraysh. So this Ayah generally applies to them and others as well, Allah knows best. Al-Walid bin Muslim said that Safwan bin `Amr narrated that `Abdur-Rahman bin Jubayr bin Nufayr said that when Abu Bakr sent an army to Ash-Sham, he advised them, "You will find some people with shaved heads. Therefore, strike the swords upon the parts that contain the devil, for by Allah, it is better to me to kill one of these people than to kill seventy other men. This is because Allah said,

<then fight (you) against the leaders of disbelief.>" Ibn Abi Hatim collected it. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman al-Mubarakpuri; sources: 1, 2; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Muslimah Aisha Bewley provides the translation of several other renowned Muslim exegetes, one of whom includes:

as-Suyuti:

(If they break their oaths...) This ayat is used as a proof by those who say that if a dhimmi attacks Islam or the Qur'an or mentions the Prophet in a bad manner, HE IS KILLED whether he has broken a treaty or not. Those who say that his repentance is accepted use as a proof, "hopefully they will stop." (source; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Seemingly aware of the contradiction between Q. 3:186 and 9:12 and 29, certain Muslims resorted to the doctrine of abrogation to explain away the discrepancy:

Narrated Usama bin Zaid:

That Allah's Apostle rode over a donkey covered with a Fadakiya (velvet sheet) and Usama was riding behind him. He was visiting Sa'd bin 'Ubada (who was sick) in the dwelling place of Bani Al-Harith bin Al-Khazraj and this incident happened before the battle of Badr. They proceeded till they passed by a gathering in which 'Abdullah bin Ubai bin Salul was present, and that was before 'Abdullah bin Ubai embraced Islam. In that gathering there were Muslims, pagan idolators and Jews, and among the Muslims there was 'Abdullah bin Rawaha.

When a cloud of dust raised by (the movement of) the animal covered that gathering, 'Abdullah bin Ubai covered his nose with his garment and said, "Do not cover us with dust." Allah's Apostle greeted them, stopped, dismounted and invited them to Allah (i.e. to embrace Islam) and recited to them the Holy Qur'an. On that 'Abdullah bin Ubai bin Salul said to him, "O man! There is nothing better than what you say, if it is the truth. So do not trouble us with it in our gatherings, but if somebody comes to you, you can preach to him." On that 'Abdullah bin Rawaha said "Yes, O Allah's Apostle! Call on us in our gathering, for we love that." So the Muslims, the pagans and the Jews started abusing one another till they were about to fight with one another. Allah's Apostle kept on quieting them till all of them became quiet, and then Allah's Apostle rode his animal and proceeded till he entered upon Sa'd bin 'Ubada. Allah's Apostle said, "O Sa'd! Didn't you hear what Abu Habab said?" (Meaning 'Abdullah bin Unbar). "He said so-and-so." Sa'd bin Ubada said, "O Allah's Apostle! Let my father be sacrificed for you! Excuse and forgive him for, by Him Who revealed to you the Book, Allah sent the Truth which was revealed to you at the time when the people of this town had decided to crown him ('Abdullah bin Ubai) as their ruler.

So when Allah had prevented that with the Truth He had given you, he was choked by that, and that caused him to behave in such an impolite manner which you had noticed." So Allah's Apostle excused him. (It was the custom of) Allah's Apostle and his companions to excuse the pagans and the people of the scripture (Christians and Jews) as Allah ordered them, and they used to be patient when annoyed (by them). Allah said: 'You shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Scripture before you.....and from the pagans' (3.186).

He also said: 'Many of the people of the scripture wish that if they could turn you away as disbelievers after you have believed. ....' (2.109) So Allah's Apostle used to apply what Allah had ordered him by excusing them TILL HE WAS ALLOWED TO FIGHT AGAINST THEM. When Allah's Apostle had fought the battle of Badr and Allah killed whomever He killed among the chiefs of the infidels and the nobles of Quraish, and Allah's Apostle and his companions had returned with victory and booty, bringing with them some of the chiefs of the infidels and the nobles of the Quraish as captives, 'Abdullah bin Ubai bin Salul and the pagan idolators who were with him, said, "This matter (Islam) has now brought out its face (triumphed), so give Allah's Apostle the pledge of allegiance (for embracing Islam.)." Then they became Muslims. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 226)

And:

<and you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Scripture before you (Jews and Christians) and from those who ascribe partners to Allah> 3:186.

Allah said to the believers upon their arrival at Al-Madinah, before Badr, while comforting them against the harm they suffered from the People of the Scriptures and the polytheists;

<but if you persevere patiently, and have Taqwa, then verily, that will be a determining factor in all affairs.>

Therefore, Allah commanded the believers to be forgiving, patient and forbearing until He brought His awaited aid.

Al-Bukhari recorded that Usamah bin Zayd said that Allah's Messenger rode a donkey with a saddle covered by a velvet sheet and let Usamah ride behind him (on the donkey). The Prophet wanted to visit Sa`d bin `Ubadah in Bani Al-Harith bin Al-Khazraj, and this occurred before the battle of Badr. The Prophet passed by a gathering in which `Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul was sitting, before `Abdullah bin Ubayy became Muslim. That gathering was made up of various Muslims as well as Mushriks, who worshipped the idols, and some Jews. `Abdullah bin Rawahah was sitting in that gathering. When the Prophet reached `Abdullah bin Ubayy, the donkey caused some sand to fall on the group. Then, `Abdullah bin Ubayy covered his nose with his robe and said, `Do not fill us with sand.' The Messenger of Allah greeted the gathering with Salam, called them to Allah and recited some of the Qur'an to them. `Abdullah bin Ubayy said, `O fellow! No other speech is better than what you said, if it was true! However, do not bother us in our gatherings. Go back to your place and whoever came to you, narrate your stories to him.' `Abdullah bin Rawahah said, `Rather, O Messenger of Allah! Attend our gatherings for we like that.' The Muslims, Mushriks and Jews then cursed each other, and they almost fought with each other. The Prophet tried to calm them down, until they finally settled. The Prophet rode his donkey and went to Sa`d bin `Ubadah, saying, `O Sa`d! Have you heard what Abu Hubbab said (meaning `Abdullah bin Ubayy)? He said such and such things. ' Sa`d said, `O Messenger of Allah! Forgive and pardon him. By Allah, Who sent down the Book to you, Allah brought us the truth that you came with at a time when the people of this city almost appointed him king. When Allah changed all that with the truth that He gave you, he choked on it, and this is the reason behind the behavior you saw from him.' The Messenger of Allah forgave him. Indeed, the Messenger of Allah and his Companions used to forgive the Mushriks and the People of the Scriptures, just as Allah commanded them, and they used to tolerate the harm that they suffered. Allah said,

<and you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Scripture before you (Jews and Christians) and from those who ascribe partners to Allah;> 3:186, and,

<Many of the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) wish that they could turn you away as disbelievers after you have believed, out of envy from their own selves, even after the truth has become manifest unto them. But forgive and overlook, till Allah brings His command> 2:109.

The Prophet used to implement the pardon that Allah commanded him UNTIL HE GAVE HIS COMMAND (to fight the disbelievers). When the Messenger fought at Badr, and Allah killed, by his hand, the leaders of the disbelievers from Quraysh, `Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul and the Mushriks and idol worshippers who were with him said, `This matter has prevailed,' and they gave their pledge to the Prophet and became Muslims.

Therefore, every person who stands for truth, enjoins righteousness and forbids evil, will be harmed in some manner. In such cases, there is no cure better than being patient in Allah's cause, trusting in Him and returning to Him. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; source; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Whether Q. 3:186 has been abrogated or not, this point is clear: the command of Q. 9:12 to fight those who taunt Islam, which naturally includes those who mock Muhammad, provides corroboration that the murders of Abu Afak and Asma most likely occurred.

This now leads us to our next section.


Do the Murders of Abu Afak and Asma Violate
The Prohibition of Killing Women and the Elderly?

Bismikaallahuma appeals to specific statements in the hadith literature which forbid the killing of women and the elderly in order to disprove the veracity of the stories of Abu Afak and Asma bint Marwan:

Interdiction against Killing Women

Let us now take the cases individually. The first case cited is that of Asma’ of the tribe of Aus. She is said to have been a poetess who wrote some verses stating that the ProphetP) was an upstart who had slain many of their chiefs, referring to the battle of Badr. It is stated that she was brutally murdered for this abuse by a Muslim named `Umair, and that the Prophet not only approved of this murder but also praised `Umair for the deed. The authorities quoted are Waqidi, Ibn Hisham and Ibn Sa’d. That this is not a reliable record is shown not only by what has been stated above — that the Holy Qur’an never allowed the murder of an abuser — but also by clear directions repeatedly given by the Prophet(P) that no woman was to be killed even though she took part in actual war with the Muslims. No less an authority than Bukhari has a chapter on the "Murder of Women during War" (Kitab al-Jihad) in which the following report from Ibn `Umar is recorded: "A woman was found killed in one of the battles fought by the Holy Prophet, so the Holy Prophet forbade the killing of women and children." If the Holy Prophet forbade the killing of women even when they were actually accompanying the enemy forces, how could he approve or applaud the killing of a woman for simply abusing or composing some annoying verses? Even the Companions of the Holy Prophet were so well aware of his strict orders against the killing of women that when Abul Huqaiq’s wife interposed herself between them and Abul Huqaiq, they had to withhold their raised swords "because they remembered that the Holy Prophet had forbidden the killing of a woman"1. In the face of this clear testimony, none but a biased mind can accept as reliable a report which relates that the Holy Prophet had ordered and applauded the killing of a woman simply for the offence that she composed annoying verses. This report is undoubtedly a forgery.

The fact is thus established beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Holy Prophet gave a clear interdiction against the murder of women even in wars. In this connection, a saying of the Holy Prophet has been quoted from the most reliable traditionist of Islam, the Imam Bukhari. The heading under which Bukhari quotes this saying is "Murder of Women during Wars," thus showing that the interdiction against the murder of women was to be observed even in wars. Bukhari is not alone in reporting the incident and the interdiction; it is contained in all the books of the Sahih as-Sittah2 with the exception of only one, and therefore its authenticity is beyond dispute. Moreover, their interdiction is accepted as a basic principle by later jurists. Thus according to Malik and Auza’i, the killing of women and children is not allowed under any circumstances whatsoever, and according to Shafi’i and Kufis, a woman may be killed only when she is a combatant, while according to one authority, even when a woman is a combatant it is not lawful to kill her intentionally unless she is about to kill or attack a man with the intention of killing him. 3. According to Malik and Auza’i, however, as already stated, a woman should not be killed under any condition, so much so that if a fighting force takes the shelter of women and children or takes shelter in a fort or a boat in which there are also women and children with them, it is not lawful to shoot at or set fire to the fort or the boat 4. In the face of these facts it is simply unthinkable that the Prophet should have ordered the assassination of a woman, under peaceful conditions, for no other fault than singing certain annoying verses.

It goes on to say regarding Abu Afak that:

Abu Afak

The next incident is that relating to the alleged assassination of Abu Afak, "an aged Jewish proselyte, whose offence was similar to that of Asma’." We have no hesitation in calling this story as baseless a fabrication as that relating to the murder of Asma’. Our reason for doing this is that the interdiction against the murder of women also included two other classes, viz., children and old men. It is true that the saying of the Prophet as reported in the Bukhari mentions only women and children, and not aged persons, but there is a hadith in Abu Dawud5 reported by Anas, son of Malik, according to which the Holy Prophet said: "Do not kill an aged person, nor a child, nor a minor, nor a woman." That the Prophet expressly forbade the killing of old men appears also from the directions given by Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, to Yazid, son of Abu Sufyan, when he sent him in command of an army to Syria. In the directions given to him the following relates to our subject: "Do not kill children, nor women, nor old men."6. It is clear that Abu Bakr could give such directions only on the authority of the Holy Prophet. Hence there was an interdiction against the killing of old men as there was against the killing of women. And it is impossible, we repeat, that the Holy Prophet should have given such clear injunctions and then himself ordered the killing of "an aged Jewish proselyte," as Abu Afak is said to have been, and for no offence but that he composed some annoying verses.

Hesham Azmy uses this same argument (*).

In the first place, both Bismikaallahuma and Hesham Azmy are operating under the false assumption that Muhammad acted consistently and that he faithfully carried out his own commands. The fact of the matter is that Muhammad often acted contrary to his own directives and failed to live up to his standards (*). To, therefore, quote certain texts where Muhammad prohibited the killing of older persons and women doesn’t mean that the stories of Abu Afak and Asma are fabrications; it simply means that Muhammad failed to comply with his own moral and ethical standards. The arguments of the Muslims are simply non sequitur.

Illustration: For centuries the German people have been known as "das Volk der Dichter und Denker" (the nation of poets and philosophers). Looking at their history and highly developed culture, including the ethical and legal traditions, it is simply inconceivable that they would commit the atrocities that happened in the Third Reich under Hitler. Moreover, for the last fifty years Germany had a stable democracy and was clearly committed to peace. Does that imply the holocaust never happened? Certainly not! Neither admirable traditions nor moral values of the past, nor exemplary behavior afterwards can undo or disprove horrible crimes like the holocaust nor any other historical event. Germany did start World War II, the Nazi regime did kill millions of Jews (and other people as well). Having had or preached high values or principles doesn’t disprove a historical fact. Muhammad was neither the first nor the last person who acted inconsistently, who said one thing and did another.

More importantly, in the case of Muhammad, this issue is not really a case of inconsistency. These murders were not simply two horrible exceptions, completely out of character for this otherwise peaceful and tolerant ruler. No, Muhammad had his critics killed rather regularly, see the section on Muhammad and his enemies (1; 2).

In fact, the ahadith literature contains statements which allow Muslims to murder older persons, women and children. Certain narrations claim that Muhammad permitted his soldiers to engage in night raids that would have exposed innocent women and children to physical harm:

Narrated As-Sab bin Jaththama:
The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans)." I also heard the Prophet saying, "The institution of Hima is invalid except for Allah and His Apostle." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 256)

I.e., they are all the same—both the women and children are nothing more than pagans! This tradition testifies that some of Muhammad's fighters had apparently a more sensitive conscience. They felt uneasy about night raids and the consequence of killing innocent people during those attacks. Muhammad disregarded this concern and explicitly allowed their killing despite the objection of some of his followers. The above narration is repeated in several, different hadith collections:

Chapter 9: PERMISSIBILITY OF KILLING WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN THE NIGHT RAIDS, PROVIDED IT IS NOT DELIBERATE

It is reported on the authority of Sa'b b. Jaththama that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), when asked about the women and children of the polytheists being killed during the night raid, said: They are from them. (Sahih Muslim, Book 019, Number 4321)

It is narrated by Sa'b b. Jaththama that he said (to the Holy Prophet): Messenger of Allah, we kill the children of the polytheists during the night raids. He said: They are from them. (Sahih Muslim, Book 019, Number 4322)

Sa'b b. Jaththama has narrated that the Prophet (may peace be upon him) asked: What about the children of polytheists killed by the cavalry during the night raid? He said: They are from them. (Sahih Muslim, Book 019, Number 4323)

NOTE: The statement found in the subheading regarding the killing of women and children being permissible as long as it isn’t deliberate is not part of the narration. The hadiths do not explicitly say this, and yet the compiler assumed that this was the clear implication and meaning of these narrations.

One Muslim apparently was so troubled by this concession on the part of Muhammad that he claimed that the killing of women and children was abrogated!

Al-Sa‘b b. Jaththamah said that he asked the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) about the polytheists whose settlements were attacked at night when some of their offspring and women were smitten. The Prophet (may peace be upon him) said: They are of them. ‘Amr b. Dinar used to say: They are regarded in the same way as their parents.

Al-Zuhri said: Thereafter the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) prohibited to kill women and children. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 14, Number 2666)

Not all Muslims share al-Zuhri’s conviction. The English translator makes the following comments regarding the above narration:

2018. This tradition allows to kill women and children of the infidels IN THE BATTLE. The other traditions indicate that it is prohibited to kill women and children in the battle. These CONTRADICTORY traditions have been reconciled by saying that the tradition of al-Sa‘b b. Jaththamah has been abrogated. The other interpretation is that it is allowable to kill women and children when the settlements of the infidels are attacked AT NIGHT, as they cannot be distinguished from the fighting men in the dark. (Sunan Abu Dawud, English translation with explanatory notes by Prof. Ahmad Hasan [Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters; Lahore, Pakistan, 1984], Volume II, p. 739; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Ahmad Hasan’s explanation is no excuse and provides absolute no comfort for the women and children who were killed, or for their surviving families. A true God-inspired prophet would be more cautious and not allow such night raids so as to prevent the unnecessary killing of women and children.

Nearly all cultures have the honor codex that in wars the women and children are to be spared, i.e. the fight only goes against the men of a group or nation. The very fact that Muhammad is asked this question shows that the questioner had doubts in his mind about it. Maybe Muhammad had ordered such a raid or attack, and the Muslim wanted to be sure that Muhammad knew the consequences if they went ahead with it. It was going against his conscience, but if Muhammad would order it anyway, knowing of the parameters, then he would obey. The answer of Muhammad shows that these women and children were of little concern to him. The advantage gained by a surprise attack in the night was more important to him, even if it meant the killing of women and children.

Abu Dawud provides a couple of more examples of women being killed for disparaging Muhammad:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas:

A blind man had a slave-mother who used to abuse the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. When the morning came, the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) was informed about it.

He assembled the people and said: I adjure by Allah the man who has done this action and I adjure him by my right to him that he should stand up. Jumping over the necks of the people and trembling the man stood up.

He sat before the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and said: Apostle of Allah! I am her master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her.

Thereupon the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Oh be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4348)

Narrated Ali ibn AbuTalib:

A Jewess used to abuse the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) declared that no recompense was payable for her blood. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4349)

Noted Islamic commentator and historian Al-Tabari mentioned another:

In this year a raiding party led by Zayd b. Harithah set out against Umm Qirfah in the month of Ramadan. During it, Umm Qirfah (Fatimah bt. Rabi‘ah b. Badr) suffered a cruel death. He tied her legs with rope and then tied her between two camels until they split her in two. She was a very old woman.

Her story is as follows. According to Ibn Humayd – Salamah – Ibn Ishaq – ‘Abdallah b. Abi Bakr, who said: The Messenger of God sent Zayd b. Harithah to Wadi al-Qura, where he encountered the Banu Fazarah. Some of his companions were killed there, and Zayd was carried away wounded from among the slain. One of those killed was Ward b. ‘Amr, one of the Banu Sa‘d b. Hudhaym: he was killed by one of the Banu Badr [b. Fazarah]. When Zayd returned, he vowed that no washing [to cleanse him] from impurity should touch his head until he had raided the Fazarah. After he recovered from his wounds, the Messenger of God sent him with an army against the Banu Fazarah. He met them in Wadi al-Qura and inflicted causalities on them. Qays b. al-Musahhar al-Ya‘muri killed Mas‘adah b. Hakamah b. Malik b. Badr and took Umm Qirfah prisoner. (Her name was Fatimah bt. Rabi‘ah b. Badr. She was married to Malik b. Hudhayfah b. Badr. She was a very old woman.) He also took one of Umm Qirfah’s daughters and ‘Abdallah b. Mas‘adah prisoner. Zayd b. Harithah ordered Qays to kill Umm Qirfah, and he killed her cruelly. He tied each of her legs with a rope and tied the ropes to two camels, and they split her in two. Then they brought Umm Qirfah’s daughter and ‘Abdallah b. Mas‘adah to the Messenger of God. Umm Qirfah’s daughter belonged to Salamah b. ‘Amr b. al-Akwa‘, who had taken her - she was a member of a distinguished family among her people: the Arabs used to say, "Had you been more powerful than Umm Qirfah, you could have done no more." The Messenger of God asked Salamah for her, and Salamah gave her to him. He then gave her to his maternal uncle, Hazn b. Abi Wahb and she bore him ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Hazn. (The History of Al-Tabari: The Victory of Islam, translated by Michael Fishbein [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1997], Volume VIII, pp. 95-97; bold emphasis ours)

The above story is also found in Ibn Hisham’s recension of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasulullah:

The Attack of Zaid bin Harithah against Bani Fazarah and the fate of Um Qarfah

Ibn Ishaq narrated: When Zaid bin Harithah came back (from a battle), he vowed not to wash himself up until after he retaliated against Banu Fazarah. Once his wounds were healed, the messenger of Allah sent him to Bani Farazah with an army. Then Zaid fought them at al-Qura Valley, and he inflicted them with losses. And Qays bin Al Ma’shar Al Ya’mary killed Mas’adah bin Hakamah bin Malik bin Hudhayfah bin Badr. Also captured was Umm Qarfah Fatima bint Rabee’ah bin Badr, and she was a very old lady; her daughter and Abdullah bin Mas’adah were captured too. Then Zaid bin Harithah ordered Qays bin Al Ma’shar to kill Umm Qarfah. And he did kill her in a violent way. Then they came to the messenger of Allah and they brought with them her daughter and the son of Mas’adah. (Sirat Ibn Hisham, Part 2, translated by Muteea Al-Fadi; source)

As if this weren’t bad enough, al-Tabari mentions that Muhammad ordered the beheading of the young boys of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayzah:

The Messenger of God had commanded that all of them who had reached puberty should be killed. (The History of Al-Tabari, Volume VIII, p. 38)

Abu Dawud informs us as to how the Muslims were able to determine whether a person had reached puberty:

Narrated Atiyyah al-Qurazi:
I was among the captives of Banu Qurayzah. They (the Companions) examined us, and those who had begun to grow hair (pubes) were killed, and those who had not were not killed. I was among those who had not grown hair. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4390)

Moreover, both al-Tabari and Abu Dawud confirm that Muhammad had one of the women of Banu Qurayzah beheaded:

According to Ibn Ishaq, the conquest of the Banu Qurayzah took place in the month of Dhu al-Qa‘dah or in the beginning of Dhu al-Hijjah. Al-Waqidi, however, said that the Messenger of God attacked them a few days before the end of Dhu al-Qa‘dah. He asserted that the Messenger of God commanded that furrows should be dug in the ground for the Banu Qurayzah. Then he sat down, and ‘Ali and al-Zubayr began cutting off their heads in his presence. He asserts that the woman whom the Prophet killed that day was named Bunanah, the wife of al-Hakam al-Qurazi- it was she who had killed Khallad b. Suwayd by throwing a milestone on him. The Messenger of God called for her and beheaded her in retaliation for Khallad b. Suwayd. (The History of Al-Tabari, Volume VIII, pp. 40-41; bold capital ours)

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin:
No woman of Banu Qurayzah was killed except one. She was with me, talking and laughing on her back and belly (extremely), while the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) was killing her people with the swords. Suddenly a man called her name: Where is so-and-so? She said: I. I asked: What is the matter with you? She said: I did a new act. She said: The man took her and beheaded her. She said: I will not forget that she was laughing extremely although she knew that she would be killed. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 14, Number 2665)

Abu Dawud also records Muhammad’s command to kill old men:

Narrated Samurah ibn Jundub:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Kill the old men who are polytheists, but spare their children. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 14, Number 2664)

There is more. When Muhammad conquered Mecca he ordered the murder of a couple of singers solely because they had made fun of him in song!

Also among them was ‘Abdallah b. Khatal, a member of the Banu Taym b. Ghalib. The Messenger of God ordered that he should be killed only for the following reason: He was a Muslim, and the Messenger of God sent him to collect alms, sending with him one of the Ansar. With him went a mawla of his, also a Muslim, to serve him. He halted at a resting place and commanded the mawla to slaughter him a goat and make him a meal; then he went to sleep. When he woke up, the mawla had done nothing for him; so he attacked him and killed him. He had two singing girls, Fartana and another with her. The two used to sing satire about the Messenger of God; so the latter commanded that the two of them should be killed along with him

Also among them were ‘Ikrimah b. Abi Jahl and Sarah, a mawla of one of the sons of ‘Abd al-Muttalib. She was one of those who used to molest the Messenger of God in Mecca…

‘Abdallah b. Khatal was killed by Sa‘id b. Hurayth al-Makhzumi and Abu Barzah al-Aslami: the two shared in his blood. Miqyas b. Subabah was killed by Numaylah b. ‘Abdallah, a man of his own clan…

As for Ibn Khatal’s two singing girls, one was killed and the other fled. The Messenger of God later was asked to grant her a promise of safety, and he did so. [As for Sarah, he was asked to grant her a promise of safety, and he did so.] She lived until someone in the time of ‘Umar b. al-Khattab caused his horse to trample her at al-Abtah and killed her. Al-Huwayrith b. Nuqaydh was killed by ‘Ali b. Abi Talib.

According to al-Waqidi: The Messenger of God commanded that six men and four women should be killed. Of the men, [al-Waqidi] mentioned those whom Ibn Ishaq named. The women he mentioned were Hind bt. ‘Utbah b. Rabi‘ah, who became a Muslim and swore allegiance; Sarah, the mawla of ‘Amr b. Hashim b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib b. ‘Abd Manaf, who was killed on that day; Quraybah, who was killed on that day; and Fartana, who lived until the caliphate of ‘Uthman. (The History of Al-Tabari, Volume VIII, pp. 179-181; bold emphasis ours)

Muhammad’s command to kill women for mocking him conclusively shows that he was more than willing to have people murdered who would dare satirize him, and therefore corroborates the historical veracity of his ordering the death of Asma bint Marwan for writing poems against him.

We now turn to Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri’s Reliance of the Traveler: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law In Arabic English Text, Commentary And Appendices edited and translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (Amana Publications, Beltsville Maryland, revised edition 1994). It is one of the more respected, classical works in Islamic theology. This 1200+ page volume contains fundamentals of Islamic jurisprudence compiled by "the great 13th century hadith scholar and jurisprudent", Imam Nawawi, and others. Keep in mind that this work was not written with a Western audience in mind since Imam Nawawi wanted to produce a book on Islamic law that was precise, and accurate, one that taught true Islamic values, specifically for a Muslim audience. All bold, capital and underline emphasis is ours:

O9.3 Jihad is also (O: personally) obligatory for everyone (O: able to perform it, male OR FEMALE, old or YOUNG) when the enemy has surrounded the Muslims… A woman too has a choice between fighting or surrendering if she is certain that she will not be subjected to an indecent act if captured. If uncertain that she will be safe from such an act, she is obliged to fight, and surrender is not permissible).

WHO IS OBLIGED TO FIGHT IN JIHAD

O9.4 Those called (O: to perform jihad when it is a command obligation) are every able-bodied man who has reached puberty and is sane. (p. 601)

THE RULES OF WARFARE

O9.10 It is not permissible (A: in jihad) to kill women or children UNLESS they are fighting against the Muslims. Nor is it permissible to kill animals, unless they are being ridden into battle against the Muslims, or killing them will help defeat the enemy. It is permissible to kill old men (O: old man (shaykh) meaning someone more than forty years of age) and monks. (p. 603)

Let us not forget that Islam views any criticisms of its prophet as a type of fighting, as even Ibn Taymiyyah, the darling of Salafi anthropomorphists and cultists, admitted:

"As for those who cannot offer resistance or cannot fight, such as women, children, monks, old people, the blind, handicapped and their likes, they shall not be killed, unless they actually fight with words [e.g. by propaganda] and acts [e.g. by spying or otherwise assisting in the warfare]. Some [jurists] are of the opinion that all of them may be killed, on the mere ground that they are unbelievers, but they make an exception for woman and children and they constitute property for Muslims." (Sheikh Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah, The Religious and Moral Doctrine of Jihad, p. 28; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

According to this Shaykh, to speak against Islam and Muslims is considered fighting and anyone engaging in this type of warfare can be killed, which agrees with Q. 9:12. Thus, any man, woman or child who has made comments and/or written articles or books disagreeing with Muhammad and Islam, or has publicly exposed and called into question Muhammad’s actions, is an enemy that can be murdered, their blood being lawful for a Muslim to shed without impunity!

This puts to rest the claims of Bismikaallahuma that Islam only permits the killing of women that are engaged in combat against Muslims, which they take to mean physical or military action, since the Islamic source material defines criticisms of Muhammad as fighting which thereby justifies the killing of such persons.

Moreover, Ibn Taymiyya’s comments demonstrate that the reason why some scholars stated that women and children should not be killed is because they are nothing more than the property of the Muslims to do with them as they see fit! In other words, the reason for sparing them has nothing to do with the sanctity of life, that human life is precious and sacred because humanity bears the divine image of its Creator (cf. Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1-3; 9:4-6). Since Islam views them as nothing more than property, chattel, they have no real value in the eyes of Muslim terrorists and Jihadists.

This is why the Quran allows for the raping of married women that have been taken captive by the Muslims:

Forbidden to you are your mothers and your daughters and your sisters and your paternal aunts and your maternal aunts and brothers' daughters and sisters' daughters and your mothers that have suckled you and your foster-sisters and mothers of your wives and your step-daughters who are in your guardianship, (born) of your wives to whom you have gone in, but if you have not gone in to them, there is no blame on you (in marrying them), and the wives of your sons who are of your own loins and that you should have two sisters together, except what has already passed; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

And all married women EXCEPT THOSE WHOM YOUR RIGHT HANDS POSSESS (this is) Allah's ordinance to you, and lawful for you are (all women) besides those, provided that you seek (them) with your property, taking (them) in marriage not committing fornication. Then as to those whom you profit by, give them their dowries as appointed; and there is no blame on you about what you mutually agree after what is appointed; surely Allah is Knowing, Wise. S. 4:23-24 Shakir

It makes economic sense to spare the women and children since their Muslim overlords could either sell them into slavery or, in the case of the women, enjoy them sexually.


Dealing with One Muslim’s Inconsistency

What makes this even more interesting, in fact intriguing, is that one of the main writers of Bismikaallahuma named Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi (MENJ) tried to defend Muhammad’s order to murder Asma bint Marwan, which means that he accepts the historicity of this event. In a reply to a Buddhist which he posted on the Bismikaallahuma forum (*), MENJ writes:

She thus proceeds to quote from the following link, of which she claims

....is a Buddhist "Hadith" of how the Buddha advised his disciples on how to deal with criticism directed against him.

and then attempts to "contrast" the above with the missionary polemic on Asma' bint Marwan. Of her comments on the Christian missionary polemic surrounding the incident of Asma' bint Marwan, she says

Here we'll see how Muhammad gave an ultimate example to his followers on how to treat anyone critical against him/Islam that is still devotedly practiced by Muslims around the globe to the horror of the rest of humanity.

And of course, here is where we beg to differ. The reason why Asma' bint Marwan was treated as such was nothing to do with the freedom to criticise or criticism of Islam, but rather, it was her incitement and her behaviour in sowing distress and resentment amongst Muslims which leads to her killing. Islam's history is replete with people speaking their mind and even openly disagree with the Prophet (P), to which he(P) would listen their views and calmly answers them if their views are in contrast to what Islam teaches. (MENJ, A Point-By-Point Response To A Buddhist Inquiry Into The Character of Muhammad(P); source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

MENJ went on to say the following on September 05, 2003, 05:07:36 PM:

Good claim, but a really bad understanding of the polical[sic] situation at the time. Since Asma' bint Marwan was a war criminal, she would not bow down to the judgement of the Prophet (P) and yet she would still remain under the protection of her tribe and free to do her mischief… (Bold emphasis ours)

Note how MENJ justifies her murder on the basis that she was a war criminal, which essentially confirms what we stated earlier, namely that Islam does permit the killing of women who criticize Muhammad since this is classified as warfare or fighting.

Yet here is where MENJ exposes his blatant inconsistency. Notice that if MENJ or his Bismikaallahuma team can show that the story of Asma bint Marwan is based on weak sources he or they will then try to adopt the position that such murders are implausible on the grounds that Islam prohibits the killing of women. But if he thinks that Asma’s murder is based on historically credible sources he will conveniently adopt the stance that her killing was justified on the grounds that she was a war criminal who incited unbelievers against the Muslims! Thus, MENJ is not basing his arguments on absolute justice but on whatever answer serves his purpose in defending Islam. MENJ will basically adopt whatever explanation happens to absolve Muhammad from his crimes, which shows that he is not interested in truth.

Moreover, MENJ wants us to accept that Muhammad was right to kill Asma on the grounds that she was trying to incite individuals against him, even though she was simply seeking justice for his murders. MENJ wants his readers to believe Muhammad was completely righteous in killing Abu Afak and Asma for speaking out against his atrocities whereas Asma was wicked for demanding that Muhammad suffer for his crimes!

Finally, MENJ conveniently avoids mentioning that the reason Asma incited people to fight Muhammad is because he had ordered the bloody murder of Abu Afak (at least according to the version of Ibn Ishaq). Asma was demanding justice since she knew that Muhammad couldn’t be allowed to continue with his murdering spree. Unfortunately, there was no one who was willing to hold Muhammad responsible for his crimes against humanity.


Concluding Remarks

The preceding data demonstrates that the assertion that Islam prohibits the killing of women and older individuals cannot be conclusively proven from the primary Islamic sources. Specific narrations do allow Muslims to kill women and elderly people under certain circumstances, especially when such persons compose songs and/or recite poems mocking Muhammad.

What the foregoing basically means is that there is nothing in Muhammad’s orders to murder Abu Afak and Asma bint Marwan that go against the Islamic directives. Thus, whereas we have a solid basis to accept the historical veracity of these events we have no good reasons to reject them. At the very least, Bismikaallahuma and Hesham Azmy haven’t provided any valid arguments which would lead us to question whether these murders ever happened.


Further Reading

http://answering-islam.org/Muhammad/Enemies/abuafak.html
http://answering-islam.org/Muhammad/Enemies/asma.html
http://answering-islam.org/Green/assassins.htm
http://answering-islam.org/Silas/abu-afak.htm
http://answering-islam.org/Silas/asma.htm
http://answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/dead_poets.htm
http://answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/mockers.htm


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