The Killing of Abu Afak and Asma’ bint Marwan ?

The vul­gar Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ary using the pseu­do­nym Silas” has accused Prophet Muham­mad(P) of being respon­si­ble for the killing of Abu Afak and the death of Asma bint Mar­wan. The impli­ca­tions of these charges are that he(P) stiffles” crit­i­cism by mur­der­ing his opponents. 

In this paper, insha’al­lah, we are going to refute these false charges against the Holy Prophet(P), wa Allah-ul-Must’aan.

Islam­ic Method­ol­o­gy of Reports Evaluation

We must explain the method­ol­o­gy of Mus­lim schol­ars before we com­ment on any report from the Islam­ic sources. Take for exam­ple, the news report­ed on Pres­i­dents of any nation today. If the Vice-Pres­i­dent gives a cer­tain state­ment con­cern­ing the opin­ion of the Pres­i­dent in a cer­tain mat­ter, then this state­ment is trans­mit­ted by a mem­ber of the sec­re­tary to a jour­nal­ists who pub­lished it in the news­pa­per, what is the val­ue of this report ?

Our answer is that it could be right or wrong and we can­not be sure unless we know the reli­a­bil­i­ty of the source.

If we find that the report is indeed trans­mit­ted by the sec­re­tary mem­ber on the author­i­ty of the Vice-Pres­i­dent and that each of them is well known for accu­ra­cy in trans­mis­sion and truth­ful­ness in speech, how can we eval­u­ate this report ?

Our answer is that we will tend to believe it.

This is exact­ly what Mus­lim schol­ars require in any report to be valid and its attri­bu­tion to God’s Messenger(P) can be accept­ed. They actu­al­ly add two more things ; they must make sure that the report itself is not con­tra­dic­to­ry to oth­er more authen­tic reports oth­er­wise it will be con­sid­ered eccen­tric ! Also, they must exclude any hid­den flaws in the text of the report, these flaws are detailed in spe­cial­ized vol­umes of Hadith.

Can we then accept the report as valid ?

Not yet. After we had ver­i­fied that the chain of trans­mit­ters is intact with­out inter­rup­tion and that all reporters are hon­est, sane indi­vid­u­als, we must make sure that each reporter has received the report direct­ly from the pre­ced­ing one and that the report itself is in agree­ment with oth­er authen­tic reports with­out flaws. The emi­nent hafiz Ibn Kathir states that :

Authen­tic Hadith is the trans­mit­ted hadith whose chain is con­tin­u­ous through trans­mis­sion of an accu­rate sane mem­o­riz­er on author­i­ty of an accu­rate sane mem­o­riz­er till its ter­mi­na­tion with­out being eccen­tric or flawed.Ibn Kathir, Al-Ba’ith Al-Hadi (Mak­ta­bat-us-Sun­nah, Cairo, Egypt), p. 28

Is there a method more pre­cise and metic­u­lous than this ?

There is no nation in the entire his­to­ry that took care of report­ing events and their ver­i­fi­ca­tion as the Mus­lims have done. The West­ern Ori­en­tal­ist Bernard Lewis notes that :

From an ear­ly date Mus­lim schol­ars rec­og­nized the dan­ger of false tes­ti­mo­ny and hence false doc­trine, and devel­oped an elab­o­rate sci­ence for crit­i­ciz­ing tra­di­tion. Tra­di­tion­al sci­ence”, as it was called, dif­fered in many respects from mod­ern his­tor­i­cal source crit­i­cism, and mod­ern schol­ar­ship has always dis­agreed with eval­u­a­tions of tra­di­tion­al sci­en­tists about the authen­tic­i­ty and accu­ra­cy of ancient nar­ra­tives. But their care­ful scruti­ny of the chains of trans­mis­sion and their metic­u­lous col­lec­tion and preser­va­tion of vari­ants in the trans­mit­ted nar­ra­tives give to medieval Ara­bic his­to­ri­og­ra­phy — a pro­fes­sion­al­ism and sophis­ti­ca­tion with­out prece­dent in antiq­ui­ty and with­out par­al­lel in the con­tem­po­rary medieval West. By com­par­i­son, the his­to­ri­og­ra­phy of Latin Chris­ten­dom seems poor and mea­gre, and even the more advanced and com­plex his­to­ri­og­ra­phy of Greek Chris­ten­dom still falls short of the his­tor­i­cal lit­er­a­ture of Islam in vol­ume, vari­ety and ana­lyt­i­cal depth.Bernard Lewis, Islam In His­to­ry (Open Court Pub­lish­ing, 1993), pp. 104 – 105

Then we talk about his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ences writ­ten by Mus­lim authors. First of all, these books are not trust­wor­thy ref­er­ences due to the fact that they do not fol­low prop­er method­ol­o­gy of transmission.

Imam Ahmad ibn Han­bal sums up the Mus­lim point of view as regards the trust­wor­thi­ness of the bio­graph­i­cal reports when he declares that the biogra­phies “…are not based on any principle.”

The ear­ly Mus­lim schol­ars who com­piled books of hadith and scru­ti­nized this par­tic­u­lar field under­took thor­ough and painstak­ing inves­ti­ga­tions to deter­mine the authen­tic­i­ty of the reports from the Holy Prophet’s time by trac­ing them back to eye-wit­ness­es of the time, through unbro­ken lines of reli­able nar­ra­tors. As a result, they nev­er held a high opin­ion of the biogra­phies whose authors had sim­ply copied mass­es of reports with­out check or crit­i­cism. One such schol­ar of hadith, Hafiz Zayn al-Abidin of Iraq says about the biogra­phies as follows :

The stu­dent should know that the biogra­phies con­tain all kinds of reports, both true and false.

We believe that this should make us depend only upon reli­able sources that have been prop­er­ly authen­ti­cat­ed by Mus­lim spe­cial­ists in the Hadith sciences.

The Killing of Abu Afak : Where is The Isnad ?

Accord­ing to Ibn Sa’d and Ibn Ishaq, Abu Afak was a 120 years old Jew­ish man who had abused the Prophet(P) ver­bal­ly, so the lat­ter launched a raid under the com­mand of Sal­ha Ibn Umar to kill him. We do know that Ibn Ishaq lived in the 2nd half of the 2nd cen­tu­ry after Hijra, as well as Al-Waqi from whom Ibn Sa’d (died 230 A.H.) copied the sto­ry of Abu Afak.

As explained above, the chain of reporters of the sto­ry from eye-wit­ness­es of the event until Ibn Ishaq or Al-Waqi must be exam­ined and ver­i­fied. So, our legit­i­mate ques­tion is : where is the isnad (i.e., chain of reporters)?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, ref­er­ences of the Sahih do not pro­vide such infor­ma­tion. Actu­al­ly, we are told that this sto­ry has no isnad at all ; nei­ther Ibn Ishaq (or his dis­ci­ple Ibn Hisham) nor Al-Waqi (or his dis­ci­ple Ibn Sa’d) had pro­vid­ed such a thing ! In this case, the sto­ry is rat­ed by hadith schol­ars as “…of no basis”, indi­cat­ing that it has reached the low­est degree of crit­i­cism regard­ing its isnad.

This is, in fact, a prop­er sci­en­tif­ic posi­tion because we can­not accept such a prob­lem­at­ic sto­ry with­out evidence.

In brief, we have no com­mit­ment to accept such a base­less sto­ry — accord­ing to sci­en­tif­ic cri­te­ria of hadith crit­i­cism — which strange­ly had appeared in the 2nd half of the 2nd cen­tu­ry after Hijra. We are there­fore oblig­ed to reject the sto­ry of the killing of Abu Afak by Sal­ha Ibn Umar at the Prophet’s command.

The Killing of Asma’: True Sto­ry or Forgery ?

Basi­cal­ly, the charge is that the Prophet(P) had ordered the killing of Asma’ when she insult­ed him with her poet­ry. As it is usu­al­ly the case where the his­to­ry of Islam and the char­ac­ter of the Prophet(P) is con­cerned, it is left to the Mus­lims to throw some light on authen­tic­i­ty of the sto­ry in which this inci­dent is report­ed by the sources and edu­cate the mis­sion­ar­ies in mat­ters which they have no clue about.

The sto­ry of the killing of Asma’ bint Mar­wan is men­tioned by Ibn Sa’d in Kitab At-Tabaqat Al-Kabir Ibn Sa’d, Kitab At-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, Vol. 1, pp. 27 – 28 and by the author of Kinz-ul-‘Ummal under num­ber 44131 who attrib­ut­es it to Ibn Sa’d, Ibn Adiyy and Ibn Asak­er. What is inter­est­ing is that Ibn Adiyy men­tions it in his book Al-Kamil on the author­i­ty of Ja’­far Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muham­mad Ibn As-Sabah on author­i­ty of Muham­mad Ibn Ibrahim Ash-Sha­mi on author­i­ty of Muham­mad Ibn Al-Haj­jaj Al-Lakh­mi on author­i­ty of Mujalid on author­i­ty of Ash-Shu’abi on author­i­ty of Ibn Abbas, and added that :

…this isnad (chain of reporters) is not nar­rat­ed on author­i­ty of Mujalid but by Muham­mad Ibn Al-Haj­jaj and they all (oth­er reporters in the chain) accuse Muham­mad Ibn Al-Haj­jaj of forg­ing it.Ibn Adiyy, Al-Kamel, Vol. 6, p. 145

It is also report­ed by Ibn al-Gawzi in Al-‘IlalIbn al-Gawzi, Al-‘Ilal, Vol. 1, p. 279 and is list­ed among oth­er flawed reports. So accord­ing to its isnad the report is forged — because one of its reporters is noto­ri­ous for fab­ri­cat­ing hadith. Hence, such a sto­ry is reject­ed and is bet­ter off being put into the trash can.

Prophet­ic Atti­tude Toward Women and Old Men in War

Here we are going to dis­cuss the authen­tic Sun­nah of the Prophet(P) regard­ing women and old men in war. No base­less or forged reports are allowed here ; we will only dis­play authen­tic reports.

In brief, the authen­tic Sun­nah pro­hibits the killing of women in war.

Nar­rat­ed Anas bin Malik : A Jew­ish woman brought a poi­soned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet who ate from it. She was brought to the Prophet and he was asked, Shall we kill her?” He said, No.” I con­tin­ued to see the effect of the poi­son on the palate of the mouth of God?s Apos­tle.Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 3, Bk. 47, No. 786 

The Prophet(P) refused to kill a woman who did inten­tion­al­ly try to poi­son him, but the Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ar­ies, by using a fab­ri­cat­ed sto­ry, wants us to believe that he ordered the killing of a woman who only abused him verbally.

Nar­rat­ed Ibn Umar : Mes­sen­ger of God (peace be upon him) saw the corpse of a woman who had been slain in one of the raids, and he dis­ap­proved of it and for­bade the killing of women and chil­dren.Ibid., Vol. 4, Bk. 52, No. 257 & 258. Also see Mut­ta Malik, Book 21, Sec­tion 3, Num­ber 9 

Due to this pro­hi­bi­tion, schol­ars of Abu Han­i­fah’s mad­hab (school of thought) have stat­ed that apos­tate women are not to be killed because the Prophet(P) for­bade the killing of women, and since the pro­hi­bi­tion is gen­er­al it includes apos­tate women.Al-Hasafky, Sharh Ad-Durr-el-Mukhtar, Vol­ume 1, p. 483 

Even after the Prophet’s demise, his Sun­nah remain pre­served by the Muslims :

Abu Bakr advised Yazid : I advise you ten things : Do not kill women or chil­dren or an aged, infirm per­son. Do not cut down fruit-bear­ing trees. Do not destroy an inhab­it­ed place. Do not slaugh­ter sheep or camel except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scat­ter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cow­ard­ly.“Mut­ta Malik, Book 21, Sec­tion 3, Num­ber 10


The West­ern Ori­en­tal­ist Bernard Lewis notes that :

From an ear­ly date Mus­lim schol­ars rec­og­nized the dan­ger of false tes­ti­mo­ny and hence false doc­trine, and devel­oped an elab­o­rate sci­ence for crit­i­ciz­ing tra­di­tion.Bernard Lewis, op. cit., pp.104 – 105 

We have uti­lized their sci­en­tif­ic method­ol­o­gy to expose the false nar­ra­tives attrib­uted to the Prophet(P) about the alleged killing of Abu Afak and Asma’ bint Mar­wan. Exam­i­na­tion of the isnad (i.e., chain of reports) has revealed the unre­li­a­bil­i­ty of both sto­ries. Also, an exam­i­na­tion of the matn (i.e., text) has revealed their inevitable con­tra­dic­tion with vig­or­ous­ly authen­tic tra­di­tions and estab­lished Islam­ic prin­ci­ples. Abd Rah­man I. Doi had stat­ed that :

As far as the Matn is con­cerned, the fol­low­ing prin­ci­ples of crit­i­cism of the Hadith are laid down :

(1) The Hadith should not be con­trary to the text or the teach­ing of the Qur’an or the accept­ed basic prin­ci­ples of Islam.
(2) The Hadith should not be against the dic­tates of rea­son or laws of nature and com­mon experience.
(3) The Hadith should not be con­trary to the Tra­di­tions which have already been accept­ed by author­i­ties as reli­able and authen­tic by apply­ing all principles.
(4) The Hadith which sings the prais­es and excel­lence of any tribe, place or per­sons should be gen­er­al­ly rejected
(5) The Hadith that con­tains the dates and minute details of the future events should be rejected.
(6) The Hadith that con­tains some remarks of the Prophet which are not in keep­ing with the Islam­ic belief of Prophet­hood and the posi­tion of the Holy Prophet or such expres­sions as may not be suit­able to him, should be reject­ed.Abd Rah­man I. Doi, Intro­duc­tion to the Hadith (A.S. Nordeen, 2001), p. 15

But crit­ics may have an objec­tion : if these sto­ries are false, then why they are men­tioned in Islam­ic ref­er­ences in the first place ? In response, we have ear­li­er shown the posi­tion of learned Mus­lim schol­ars toward these ref­er­ences in the biogra­phies, whose authors used to relate hun­dreds of reports with­out check­ing them or rely­ing on seri­ous crit­i­cism. These par­tic­u­lar sto­ries even proved their unsci­en­tif­ic method­ol­o­gy because they are report­ed with­out isnad at all. This is extreme­ly irreg­u­lar of any respectable schol­ar. Ibn Jarir At-Tabari (224310 A.H.) in his ency­clo­pe­dic book of his­to­ry Tarikh Al-Umam wa Al-Mulid did not men­tion these sto­ries at all, despite the fact that he had men­tioned far less sig­nif­i­cant reports in his work.

Hence, based on the empir­i­cal evi­dence, we can there­fore con­clude that the so-called killing” of Abu Afak and Asma’ bint Mar­wan respec­tive­ly are inher­ent­ly false and had nev­er hap­pened. This cer­tain­ly throws the span­ner into the works of the mis­sion­ary’s con­clu­sions, which is based upon noth­ing but hatred, para­noia and xeno­pho­bia towards the elect Apos­tle of God, Muham­mad(P).

And Allah knows best. The Killing of Abu 'Afak and Asma' bint Marwan? 1Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Hes­ham Azmy, The Killing of Abu Afak and Asma’ bint Mar­wan ?,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Sep­tem­ber 19, 2005, last accessed Decem­ber 11, 2023, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​m​u​h​a​m​m​a​d​/​k​i​l​l​i​n​g​-​a​b​u​-​a​f​a​k​-​a​s​m​a​-​b​i​n​t​-​m​a​r​w​an/






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