Muhammad and Ka`b bin al-Ashraf


While Muhammad lived in Medina he grew in power. There were a number of Jews that opposed him. Muhammad asked several of his followers to murder a number of these Jews. One of them was Ka`b bin al-Ashraf. This paper deals with Ka`b's murder.


In Yathrib, Muhammad began to experience opposition by the Jewish tribes living nearby. For the most part, they rejected his message and Islam. The Jews had several treaties with Muhammad, but that did not mean they were on good terms. One of the Jews, Ka`b bin al-Ashraf, vocally supported the Meccans (Quraysh) against Muhammad. He let it be known that he believed that Muhammad was a phoney, not a prophet at all.

Note that I provide a lot of detail; I want to quote the references in full, to provide the proper context. I also quote the sources as they are written in English. Some of the words are arcane, but I want to present the words as they have been translated into English.

Ka`b was a Jew. He hated Muhammad. Ka`b never lifted a weapon against Muhammad or any Muslim, he only voiced his opinion against Muhammad, and made up some unsavory poems about Muslim women. Muhammad saw him as a threat, and therefore had him murdered in the night.

The Jews around Medina were not under Muhammad's rule; they had only entered into a treaty with the Muslims. Muhammad did not have legal right to murder Ka`b, rather he took it upon himself to rid himself of a man who hated him.

It's understandable for a Mafia chieftain to commit such crimes, but not understandable for a man who claims to be a prophet of a righteous God, and implies that it is God's will that the murder be committed. David, the king of Israel also had a man killed - Uriah, but David never said it was the will of God, and when confronted with his sin, David repented. Muhammad never repented for his crimes.


Let's start with Ka`b bin al-Ashraf. From Bukhari vol 5 #369: [Note, this is a very long Hadith. Also note the actual killer in this Hadith is another man named Muhammad bin Maslama. I have referred to him as Maslama.]


Narrated Jabir Abdullah:

Allah's messenger said "Who is willing to kill Ka`b bin al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His apostle?" Thereupon Maslama got up saying, "O Allah's messenger! Would you like that I kill him?" The prophet said, "Yes". Maslama said, "Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Ka`b). The prophet said, "You may say it."

Maslama went to Ka`b and said, "That man (i.e. Muhammad) demands Sadaqa (i.e. Zakat) [taxes] 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!" 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." Ka`b said, "Yes, but you should mortgage something to me." 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 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."

Maslama and his companion promised Ka`b that Maslama 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 Maslama and my (foster) brother Abu Na'ila have come." His wife said, "I hear a voice as if blood is dropping from him." Ka`b said, "They are none by my brother Maslama and my foster brother Abu Na'ila. A generous man should respond to a call at night even if invited to be killed."

Maslama went with two men. So 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. Maslama said, "I 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." Maslama requested Ka`b "Will you allow me to smell your head?" Ka`b said "yes." Maslama 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 Maslama 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."


Note here that:

Muhammad wanted this man killed because he had "Hurt Allah and His apostle!" Now then, how does a man hurt Allah?

Muhammad got someone else to do his dirty work. Muhammad did not partake in killing the man who was hurting Allah, and himself.

Muhammad allowed Maslama to lie to draw Ka`b out of his home.

Now we will examine other source references to this event.

From the Sirat, page 365. The background to his murder is that after the battle of Badr, Ka`b bin al-Ashraf was horrified by Muhammad's victory, and the death of certain Arab leaders. I'll start with Ka`b's quote expressing his surprise at the Muslim victory.


"Is this true? Did Muhammad actually kill these whom these two men mention? These are the nobles of the Arabs and kingly men; by God, if Muhammad has slain these people it were better to be dead than alive."

When the enemy of God became certain that the news was true he left the town and went to Mecca to stay with al-Muttalib who was married to `Atika. She took him in and entertained him hospitably. He began to inveigh against the apostle and to recite verses in which he bewailed the Quraysh who were thrown into the pit after having been slain at Badr.

The Sirat now lists some of the poems made up by Ka`b and others. The narrative continues:

Then he composed amatory verses of an insulting nature about the Muslim women. The apostle said - according to what Abdullah Burda told me, "Who will rid me of Ibnu'l-Ashraf?" Maslama said, "I will deal with him for you, O apostle of God, I will kill him." He said, "Do so if you can." So Maslama returned and waited for three days without food or drink, apart from what was absolutely necessary. When the apostle was told of this he summoned him and asked him why he had given up eating and drinking. He replied that he had given him an undertaking and he did not know whether he could fulfil it. The apostle said, "All that is incumbent upon you is that you should try." He said, "O apostle of God, we shall have to tell lies." He answered, "Say what you like, for you are free in the matter."

Thereupon he and Silkan [Abu Na'ila], and Abbad, and Harith, and Abu `Abs b. Jabr conspired together and sent Silkan to the enemy of God, Ka`b, before they came to him. He talked to him some time and they recited poetry one to the other, for Silkan was fond of poetry. Then he said, "O Ibn Ashraf, I have come to you about a matter which I want to tell you of and wish you to keep secret." "Very well", he replied. He went on, "The coming of this man is a great trial to us. It has provoked the hostility of the Arabs, and they are all in league against us. The roads have become impassable so that our families are in want and privation, and we and our families are in great distress." Ka`b answered, "By God, I kept telling you, O Ibn Salama, that the things I warned you of would happen." Silkan said to him, "I want you to sell us food and we will give you a pledge of security and you deal generously in the matter." He replied, "Will you give me your sons as a pledge?" He said, "You want to insult us. I have friends who share my opinion and I want to bring them to you so that you many sell to them and act generously, and we will give you enough weapons for a good pledge." Silkan's object was that he should not take alarm at the sight of weapons when they brought them. Ka`b answered, "Weapons are a good pledge."

Thereupon Silkan returned to his companions, told them what has happened, and ordered them to take their arms. Then they went away and assembled with him and met the apostle.

Thaur b. Zayd told me the apostle walked with them as far as Gharqad. Then he sent them off, saying, "Go in God's name; O God help them." So saying, he returned to his house. Now it was a moonlight night and they journeyed on until they came to his castle, and Abu Na'ila called out to him. He had only recently married and he jumped up in the bedsheet, and his wife took hold of the end of it and said, "You are at war, and those who are at war do not go out at this hour." He replied, "It is Abu Na'ila. Had he found me sleeping he would not have woken me." She answered, "By God, I can feel evil in his voice." Ka`b answered, "Even if the call were for a stab a brave man must answer it."

So he went down and talked to them for some time, while they conversed with him. then Abu Na'ila said, "Would you like to walk with us to Shi`b al-`Ajuz, so that we can talk for the rest of the night?" "If you like", he answered, so they went off walking together; and after a time Abu Na'ila ran his hand through his hair. Then he smelt his hand, and said, "I have never smelt a scent finer than this." They walked on farther and he did the same so that Ka`b suspected no evil. Then after a space did it for the third time and cried, "Smite the enemy of God!" So they smote him, and their swords clashed over him with no effect. Maslama said, "I remembered my dagger when I saw that our swords were useless, and I seized it. Meanwhile the enemy of God had made such a noise that every fort around us was showing a light. I thrust it into the lower part of his body, then I bore down upon it until I reached his genitals, and the enemy of God fell to the ground. Harith had been hurt, being wounded either in his head or in his foot, one of our swords having stuck him. We went away, passing by the Umayya and then the Qurayza and then both until we went up the Harra of Urayd. Our friend Harith had lagged behind, weakened by loss of blood, so we waited for him for some time until he came up, following our tracks. We carried him and brought him to the apostle OT the end of the night. We saluted him as he stood praying, and he came out to us and we told him that we had killed God's enemy. He spat upon our comrade's wounds, and both he ad we returned to our families. Our attack upon God's enemy cast terror among the Jews, and there was no Jew in Medina who did not fear for his life."


Ibn Sa'd adds another interesting feature to this story. From Ibn Sa'd, vol 1, page 37:

Then they cut his head and took it with them. ... they cast his head before him [Muhammad]. He (the prophet) praised Allah on his being slain.


Note what really happened here. Ka`b encouraged Muhammad's enemies, and made up some poems about Muslim women. Muhammad didn't like it, and had him murdered. After they kill Ka`b, they behead him and bring his head to Muhammad. When Muhammad sees his head, Muhammad praises God for Ka`b being slain!


What does this say for society, i.e., that a man can murder one that only vocally opposes him?

Did Muhammad abide by the treaty he signed with the Jews?

What does this say for true law? If Ka`b were a real criminal, couldn't Muhammad have dealt with him according to the local law or treaty he signed with the Jews?

What are the implications for Islamic society? In effect, can Muslims murder in the night those who oppose them or Islam? At that time, the Islamic state did not rule over all Medina.

What does this say about the real character of Muhammad?


All in all, we see a cold blooded murder take place. Muhammad took things into his own hands, and murdered a man who verbally opposed him. This was a brutal murder. A man was tricked by his friends into coming out to help them. Once out, they murdered him.

Once again, when Muhammad was confronted with a challenge, he dealt with it in a violent fashion. When he lived in Mecca, prior to his flight to Medina, Muhammad was weak and unable to use force to obtain his wants. But after he gained power, he used it to his own advantage, to accomplish his desires. He had become a law unto himself.

This is not the work or actions of a real prophet.

Muhammad and his enemies
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