Muhammad Ibn Maslamah

The departure of the Qaynuqa did not end Jewish feelings of animosity towards the Prophet although the nonaggression agreement was still in force. One of those who was consumed with hatred against the Prophet and the Muslims and who openly gave vent to hi s rage was Kab ibn al-Ashraf.

Kab’s father was in fact an Arab who had fled to Madinah after committing a crime. He became an ally of the Banu Nadir, another important Jewish group, and married a Jewish lady name Aqilah bint Abu-l Haqiq. She was Kab’s mother.

Kab was a tall and impressive looking person. He was a well-known poet and was one of the richest men among the Jews. He lived in a castle on the outskirts of Madinah where he had extensive palm groves. He was regarded as a Jewish leader of importance thr oughout the Hijaz. He provided means of support and sponsorship to many Jewish rabbis.

Kab was openly hostile to Islam. He lampooned the Prophet, besmirched in verse the reputation of Muslim women, and incited the tribes in and around Madinah against the Prophet and Islam. He was particularly distressed when he heard the news of the Muslim victory at Badr. When he saw the returning army with the Quraysh prisoners of war, he was bitter and furious. He took it upon himself then to make the long journey to Makkah to express his grief and to incite the Quraysh to take further revenge. He also w ent to other areas, from tribe to tribe, urging people to take up arms against the Prophet. News of his activities reached the Prophet, peace be on him, who prayed: “O Lord, rid me of the son of Ashfar, however You wish.”

Kab had become a real danger to the state of peace and mutual trust which the Prophet was struggling to achieve in Madinah.

Kab returned to Madinah and continued his verbal attacks on the Prophet and his abuse of Muslim women. He refused, after warnings from the Prophet, to stop his dirty campaign and sinister intrigues. He was bent on fomenting a revolt against the Prophet an d the Muslims in Madinah. By all these actions, Kab had openly declared war against the Prophet. He was dangerous and a public enemy to the nascent Muslim state. The Prophet was quite exasperated with him and said to the Muslims: “Who will deal with Kab i bn al-Ashraf? He has offended God and His Apostle.”

“I shall deal with him for you, O Messenger of God,” volunteered Muhammad ibn Maslamah.

This, however, was no easy undertaking. Muhammad ibn Maslamah, according to one report, went home and stayed for three days without either eating or drinking, just thinking about what he had to do. The Prophet heard of this, called him and asked him why h e had not been eating or drinking. He replied: “O Messenger of God, I gave an undertaking to you but I do not know whether I can accomplish it or not.” “Your duty is only to try your utmost,” replied the Prophet.

Muhammad ibn Maslamah then went to some other companions of the Prophet and told them what he had undertaken to do. They included Abu Nailah, a foster brother of Kab ibn al-Ahsraf. They agreed to help him and he devised a plan to accomplish the mission. T hey went back to the Prophet to seek his approval since the plan involved enticing Kab from his fortress residence through some deception. The Prophet gave his consent on the principle that war involved deceit.

Both Muhammad ibn Maslamah who was in fact a nephew of Kab by fosterage and Abu Nailah then went to Kab’s residence. Muhammad ibn Maslamah was the first to speak: “This man (meaning the Prophet, peace be on him) has asked us for sadaqah (charitable tax) a nd we cannot even find food to eat. He is oppressing us with his laws and prohibitions and I thought I could come to you to ask for a loan.”

“By God, I am much more dissatisfied with him,” confessed Kab. “We have followed him but we do not want to leave him until we see how this whole business will end. We would like you to lend us a wasaq or two of gold,” continued Muhammad ibn Maslamah.

“Isn’t it about time that you realize what falsehood you are tolerating from him? asked Kab as he promised to give them the loan. “However,” he said, “you must provide security (for the loan).”

“What security do you want?” they asked. “Give me your wives as security,” he suggested. “How can we give you our wives as security ,” they protested, “when you are the most handsome of Arabs?”

“Then give me your children as security,” Kab suggested. “How can we give you our children as security when any one of them would thereafter be ridiculed by being called a hostage for one or two wasaqs of gold. This would be a disgrace to us. But we could give you our (means of) protection (meaning weapons) since you know that we need them.”

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