Leaving Islam



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When Muhammad heard what Asma had said he told his assassins, `Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?’, and one of the devotees, Umayr bin Adiy-al Khatmi, who was from the tribe of Asma’s husband, killed Asma the same night. In the morn­ing the murderer Umayr came to Muhammad and told him what he had done and Muhammad blessed him, `O Umayr! You have helped God and His Apostle’. However, Umayr was afraid of retaliation from Asma’s five sons and he told Muhammad he was afraid. Muhammad replied in his cryptic symbolic tongue, `not even two goats will butt their heads about her’. To protect his assassin, Muhammad sent a challenge to Asma’s tribe, the Banu Khatma, `I have killed the daughter of Marwan, O sons of Khatma! Now stand against me if you can; don’t keep me waiting.’ The threat worked and, fearful of Muhammad’s assassination methods, the men of the Banu Khatma came to Muhammad and became Muslims. Muhammad’s official poet Hisan bin Thabit celebrated the Muslim victory over a defenceless woman as follows:

Your tribes, the Banu u Wa’il, the Banu Waqif and the Banu Khatma

Are inferior to the Banu Khazraj – the Ansar

In her grief, when she called upon her tribes to stupidity

Death befell her – as it was hovering over her head

She challenged Muhammad - a man of glorious origins

Noble in his demeanour and manners

Hence, before midnight he dyed her in her own blood

And was still not a sinner[i]

The last verse, `and was still not a sinner’ needs explanation: Because Muhammad had made lawful the secret killings of those who tried to reveal the truth behind his `apostolate’, his assassins felt blessed and were free from guilt; they were not sinners even after a wanton murder. This is what poor Abu Afak had meant when he had said that Muhammad had made moral what used to be immoral. Also, the criterion for `nobleness’ had changed; a noble in Islamic terminology was the one who would kill Muhammad’s critics [[1]].

At these assassinations, ordered on the basis of reports of Muhammad’s spies, Nabtal bin Harith remarked: `Muhammad believes in anything that people tell him’. Again, Muhammad’s spies informed him about the remarks and he said, `if you want to see the Devil, look at Nabtal bin Harith’[ii]. Then Muhammad issued threats hidden in `divine revelations’:

Among them are those who hurt the Apostle

By saying that the Apostle believes in all that is told to him

Say to them the Apostle believes to benefit you

And trusts and blesses the Believers

As for those who hurt the Apostle

There will be painful punishment. (The Qur’an, ch. 9 verse 61).

On another occasion, Muhammad called his assassin Abdallah bin Unays and said that he had heard that Khalid bin Sufyan bin Nubayh of the Al Hudhayl tribe was gathering people to attack him, and hence should be killed. Abdallah asked Muhammad to describe Khalid so that he could recognize him, and Muhammad said, `when you will see him he will remind you of Satan. A sure sign is that when you will see him you will feel a shudder.’ Abdallah’s testimony in first person can be quoted as follows:

`I went in search until I found Khalid with a number of women in a howdah seeking a resting place. It was the time for afternoon prayer, and when I saw Khalid I felt a shuddering as the Apostle had said. I feared that something would prevent my prayers and so I prayed as I walked towards him with my head bowed. When I approached Khalid, he asked who I was and I answered, `an Arab who has heard of your gathering a force against this fellow and has come to help you.’ He said, `Yes, I am doing so.’ I walked a short distance with him, struck him with my sword, killed him, and ran off leaving his women bending over him. When I returned to the Apostle and he saw me, the Apostle said, `Is the task accomplished?’ I said, `I have killed him, O Apostle,’ and he said, `You are right.’ Then he took me into his house and gave me a stick telling me to keep it. When I went out with it the people asked me what I was doing with a stick. I told them that the Apostle had given it to me and told me to keep it, and they said, `why don’t you go back to the Apostle and ask him why?’ So I did so, and the Apostle said, `This stick will be a sign between you and me on the resurrection day. There are few men who will be carrying such sticks then.’

So Abdallah bin Unays fastened the stick to his sword and it remained with him until his death. He bequeathed that the stick should be placed in his winding sheet and so it was buried with him. Abdallah had boasted about his assassination of Khalid as follows:

I left that son of a cow or that of a camel

In a state where all around him

His women mourned and tore their dresses in grief

My sparkling Indian sword had swallowed him.

Before cutting his head, I told him

`I am the son of a rich and generous man

And I follow the straight religion of Muhammad

So take this plunge from a noble man

When the Apostle decides to kill an unbeliever[iii]

I fall upon him with my tongue and my hands’[iv]

One might question that though most of Muhammad’s warrior devotees were poor, why did then Abdallah say in his verse, `I am the son of a rich and generous man’? The answer may be found in a detailed analysis of the Bedouin culture of Medina and the psychology of the Bedouins as revealed in their poetry. A large part of old Arabic poetry consists of boasting about one’s wealth and generosity and taunting one’s rivals of being poor or stingy. Abdallah also boasted about being `noble’ while we know from cultural studies of the period that truly noble Arabs wouldn’t assassinate on someone else’s orders.

Secret assassinations of a few men and women who had cast doubts on Muhammad’s claims to prophethood created an atmosphere of fear in Medina and more and more people began to revere and fear Muhammad. A large number of people accepted Islam to get rid of the fear of murder hanging over their heads but in their hearts many still respected their Jewish neighbours and their scholars[v]. Gradually most of the non-Jewish people of Medina began to follow Muhammad’s still developing religion. When the Aus tribal chief Sa’ad bin Mu’az became a Muslim, his whole tribe accepted `Islam’[vi]. However, secret assassinations were carried out all through Muhammad’s career as the `Prophet’ and will be described in this work as chronologically as is possible.


[1] This criterion for nobleness has lasted to modern times; In British India the Muslims hailed the murderer Ghazi Alam Din as a hero who had murdered the author of the book, `A Colourful Prophet’; The Iranian Ayatollahs issued death sentence against Salman Rushdie for writing the `Satanic Verses’ guaranteeing that Rushdie’s killer would enter Paradise. See here the desire to emulate Muhammad’s behaviour to full extent.

[i] Syrah, vol. 2, p. 781-783.

[ii] Syrah, vol. 1, p. 580-581.

[iii] Syrah, vol. 2, p. 760-763.

[iv] Part of the translation comes from A. Guillaume, `The Life of Muhammad’, p. 666.

[v] Syrah, vol. 1, p. 573.

[vi] Syrat-al-Nabi [The Prophet’s Biography], vol. 1, p. 158.


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