Saturday, January 21, 2012

Muhammad-Sanctioned Assassinations

Clare Lopez

It is written in the authoritative ahadith (the sayings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad) and in his biographies (Sira) that Muhammad ordered the assassination of a number of people, including old men and a nursing mother, merely because they had offended or opposed him. Here are just a couple of examples:

Having met with scant success at convincing people in his home town of Mecca to follow his teaching, Muhammad and the few followers he’d managed to attract moved to Yathrib (Medina) in the year 622 CE, in what has come to be called the hijra. Once there and even though the group was mostly welcomed, there were those who disagreed with Muhammad and were outspoken in their opposition to his new ideas. Some even ridiculed him in verse.

According to the Ibn Ishak Sira, Abu Afak was an elderly Jewish man who composed lines criticizing Muhammad for having killed another man and urged his fellow Medinans not to follow Muhammad. And so Muhammad asked for a volunteer who would rid him of this unwelcome critic and a follower named Salim b. Umayr went out and murdered Abu Afak in the dead of night, the better to conceal the crime.

A Medinan poetess named `Asma' bint Marwan spoke out against the murder of Abu Afak and laid the blame with Muhammad and his followers. And once again, as we read in the Sirat Rasul Allah, Muhammad asked for a volunteer to commit another assassination. A Muslim named `Umayr ibn `Adiy al-Khatmi responded and went to the woman’s home in the night, where he found her sleeping with her children around her with one of them even nursing when he came in.

As the story is told, ‘Umayr ibn ‘Adiy had to feel around in the dark to pull the child away from its mother, whereupon he drove his sword through her chest and killed her. According to Ibn Ishak’s account, the morning after the murder, al-Khatmi went back to Muhammad and told him what he’d done, asking if he would face any consequences for the heinous act. Muhammad is reported to have responded that, “Two goats won’t butt their heads about her.”

These two assassinations and many others recorded in the ahadith and Sira are provided as examples of what happens to those who oppose Muhammad and Islam—even when that opposition is merely verses from an old man or a nursing mother. The purpose of the murders was to stifle all opposition in the target community and instill terror among any who even spoke against subjugation by Muhammad and his Muslim band. What is even more troubling today, though, is the realization that, among Muslims, Muhammad is considered the perfect man whose life and deeds are to be emulated.

We may recall that the Qur’an describes Muhammad as the perfect example of behavior:

Ye have indeed in the Apostle of God a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in God and the Final Day, and who engages much in the praise of God. – Q 33:21

Muslims everywhere revere Muhammad as a role model and his behavior is held as an example for emulation. It is considered slander, potentially a capital crime in Islam, to criticize any aspect of Muhammad’s behavior. Today, however, these accounts of assassinations in the night of old men and nursing mothers, which are from authoritative Islamic sources and not disputed, must give pause to all who consider the practice and role of Islam in the 21st century.


Sirat Rasul Allah (A. Guilaume's translation "The Life of Muhammad")

Ibn Sa`d's Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, translated by S. Moinul Haq

Clare M. Lopez, a senior fellow at the Clarion Fund, writes regularly for, and is a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on Middle East, national defense, and counterterrorism issues.

No comments: