Abu 'Afak

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Abu 'Afak (Arabic: أبو عفك‎, c. 7th century) was a Jewish poet who lived in the Hijaz region (today Saudi Arabia). Abu 'Afak did not convert to Islam and was vocal about his opposition to Muhammad. He became a significant political enemy of Muhammad.

As an elderly man, Abu 'Afak Arwan wrote a politically charged poem against Muhammad and his followers that is preserved in the Sira.The affair was recorded by Ibn Ishaq in "Sirat Rasul Allah" (The Life of the Prophet of God), the oldest biography of Muhammad.


Ibn Ishaq's account[edit]

The following is an excerpt from Alfred Guillaume's translation of Ibn Ishaq's prophetic biography, chapter "Salim b. Umayr's expedition to kill Abu Afak".

Abu Afak was one of the B. Amr b. Auf of the B. Ubayda clan. He showed his disaffection when the apostle [Muhammad] killed al-Harith b. Suwayd b. Samit and said:

Long have I lived but never have I seen
An assembly or collection of people
More faithful to their undertaking
And their allies when called upon
Than the sons of Qayla when they assembled,
Men who overthrew mountains and never submitted,
A rider who came to them split them in two (saying)
"Permitted", "Forbidden", of all sorts of things.
Had you believed in glory or kingship
You would have followed Tubba.[1]

The apostle [Muhammad] said, "Who will deal with this rascal for me?" Whereupon Salim b. Umayr, brother of B. Amr b. Auf, one of the "weepers", went forth and killed him. Umama b. Muzayriya said concerning that:

You gave the lie to God's religion and the man Ahmad [the prophet]!
By him who was your father, evil is the son he produced!
A hanif gave you a thrust in the night saying
Take that, Abu Afak, in spite of your age!
Though I knew whether it was man or jinn
Who slew you in the dead of night (I would say naught).[2]

Ibn Sa'd's account[edit]

Another description of this story comes from The Major Classes by ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi, although this work is based on the former source:

"Then occurred the "sariyyah" [raid] of Salim Ibn Umayr al-Amri against Abu Afak, the Jew, in [the month of] Shawwal in the beginning of the twentieth month from the hijra, of the Apostle of Allah. Abu Afak, was from Banu Amr Ibn Awf, and was an old man who had attained the age of one hundred and twenty years. He was a Jew, and used to instigate the people against the Apostle of Allah, and composed (satirical) verses [about Muhammad]. Salim Ibn Umayr who was one of the great weepers and who had participated in Badr, said, "I take a vow that I shall either kill Abu Afak or die before him. He waited for an opportunity until a hot night came, and Abu Afak slept in an open place. Salim Ibn Umayr knew it, so he placed the sword on his liver and pressed it till it reached his bed. The enemy of Allah screamed and the people who were his followers, rushed to him, took him to his house and interred him."[3]

Hadith scholars view[edit]

It is mentioned in ibn Ishaq's book, considered the first biography of Muhammad, and is recensed in ibn Hisham and Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari.

The story, however, has no Isnad (chain of transmission)--a requirement for scholars to discern the authenticity of a narration,[citation needed] and therefore cannot be counted as authentic. Scholars have came to the realization that this is a fabricated story also.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tubba was a ruler from Yemen who invaded the Hijaz and was resisted by the Qaylites
  2. ^ Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, p.675
  3. ^ The book of The Major Classes, Volume 2, (2), p.32