'Asma' bint Marwan

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ʻAṣmāʼ bint Marwān (Arabic: عصماء بنت مروان‎ "'Asmā' the daughter of Marwān") was a female member of the Ummayad clan who lived in Medina in 7th century Arabia. Bint Marwan was known for having ridiculed the people of Medina for obeying a chief not of their kin.

Islamic sources[edit]

Family and death[edit]

The story of bint Marwan and her death appears in the works of Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Sa'd, who included narrations regardless of their authenticity. According to the reports, her family viewed Muhammad and his followers as unwelcome interlopers in Medina. After the Muslim victory over the Quraysh in Mecca in 624 in the Battle of Badr a number of Muhammad's opponents were killed. She composed poems that publicly defamed the local tribesmen who converted to Islam and allied with Muhammad, and called for his death.[1] In her poems, she also ridiculed Medinians for obeying a chief not of their kin.[2] Ibn Ishaq mentions that bint Marwan also displayed disaffection after the Medinian Abu Afak was killed for inciting rebellion against Muhammad. The poem said: "do you expect good from (Muhammad) after the killing of your chiefs" and asked: "Is there no man of pride who would attack him by surprise/ And cut off the hopes of those who expect aught from him?" Upon hearing the poem, Muhammad then called for her death in turn, saying "Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?" Umayr bin Adiy al-Khatmi, a blind man belonging to the same tribe as Asma’s husband (i.e., Banu Khatma) responded that he would. He crept into her room in the dark of night where she was sleeping with her five children, her infant child close to her bosom. Umayr removed the child from Asma's breast and killed her.[1]

Ibn Ishaq's account[edit]

Ibn Ishaq collected oral traditions about the life of Muhammad, some of which mainly survive through the writings of Ibn Hisham and Ibn Jarir al-Tabari.

Ibn Sa'd's account[edit]

This account is found in Ibn Sa'd's Kitāb al-ṭabaqāt al-Kubrā and is given the rank of Mawḍūʻ, fabricated, by hadith scholars including Al-Albani, Majdi, and Al-Jawzi.[3][4][5]

Hadith Scholar views on authenticity of the story[edit]

Classical and post-classical hadith scholars have unanimously rejected the story, declaring it as fabrication (mawdu’), pointing out in their arguments against the factuality of the incident that the chains of transmission (isnads) by which the story was transmitted are all weak (daʻif) of the lowest degree (mawḍūʻ).[7][3][4][5][8]

Ibn Ishaq's narrative[edit]

Ibn Ishaq's Sīratu Rasūlu l-Lāh, an important early work of sīra, was composed over 100 years after the Prophet's death using oral traditions passed down from his early followers. However, its accuracy for use as hadith, a body of traditions of the prophet that Muslim scholars use to flesh out Islamic doctrine, is not completely accepted. This particular story has been challenged by Muslim scholars for having a weak chain of transmission, on account of it containing a known fabricator, Muhammad Ibn Al-Hajjaj.[9]

Ibn Ishaq's version of the story has a number of chains of transmission (isnads) that go back to Ibn ‘Abbas, a companion of Muhammad. However, all those various isnads include Muhammad ibn al-Hajjaj al-Lakhmi, also a known fabricator of hadith:[3][4]

Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Shami Muhammad ibn al-Hajjaj al-Lakhmi Mujalid ibn Sa’ed Al-Shu'abi Ibn ‘Abbas

Muhammad ibn al-Hajjaj al-Lakhmi has been accused by hadith scholars of fabricating this and other hadiths. Ibn ʻAdī (died 976) stated: "...this isnad (chain of reporters) is not narrated on authority of Mujalid but by Muhammad ibn al-Hajjaj al-Lakhmi and they all (other reporters in the chain) accuse Muhammad Ibn Al-Hajjaj of forging it".[8][9] Ibn al-Jawzi (died 1201) said something similar in his Al-'ilal.[5]

Regarding Al-Lakhmi, Al-Bukhari said: "his hadith is abandoned",[4] Yahya ibn Ma'een said: "compulsive liar" and once said: "not trustworthy".[4] Al-Daraqutni denounced him as a liar.[4]

Ibn Sa'd's narrative[edit]

Al-Albani declared Ibn Sa'd's chain of transmission to be weak as well, as it includes Al-Waqidi:[3]

Ibn Sa'd Al-Waqidi 'Abd Allah ibn al-Harith ibn al-Fudayl Al-Harith ibn al-Fudayl

Al-Waqidi has been condemned as an untrustworthy narrator and has been frequently and severely criticized by scholars, thus his narrations have been abandoned by the majority of hadith scholars.[4] Yahya ibn Ma'een said: "Al-Waqidi narrated 20,000 false hadith about the prophet". Al-Shafi'i, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Al-Albani[3] said: "Al-Waqidi is a liar" while Al-Bukhari said he didn't include a single letter by Al-Waqidi in his hadith works.

In addition, this isnad is discontinued (muʻḍal) as Al-Harith ibn al-Fudayl never met any of Muhammad's companions.[4]

Contemporary assessments[edit]

Richard Gottheil, and Hartwig Hirschfeld in Jewish Encyclopedia state: "Some Moslem traditionists, in order to excuse the murder, make Asma a Jewess. It is, however, very doubtful that she was one, although Grätz ("Gesch. der Juden," v. 144) accepts this assertion as a fact."[10]

Richard Gabriel states that "Here we see assassination for political ends" and for "ideological reasons or personal revenge". Muhammad, according to the scholar Gabriel, believed he was doing God's work, therefore he had to eliminate any opponent of him or Islam.[11]

V. J. Ridgeon sees the certain parallels between Khomeini's declaration of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the incident of Asma bint Marwan's execution.[12]

Jane Smith, in her detailed study "Women, Religion and Social Change in Early Islam" points at the high influence of poets at the time Muhammad in Arabia. She states that executions of poets such as Asma, Abu Afak, and those poets who were killed after Muhammad's final victory were the result of Muhammad's fears of "their continuing influence". "This constitutes interesting testimony of the power of their position, as well as of the recited words".[13]

Antonio Elorza, historian and professor at Complutense University of Madrid, reviews Asma's execution and similar cases and suggests that eliminating political opponents by any and all means possible, was common practice during Muhammad's time. Elorza asserts that the psychological effect of such actions by Mohammad cannot be ignored when studying the background of terrorism in Islam.[14]

Contemporary Muslim writers respond to these charges by stating that on top of the stories of both Asma bint Marwan and Abu Afak being graded as weak and fabricated by the majority of Islamic scholars in history,[15] even in the hypothetical stories these two individuals were not simply mocking but also instigating violence against the Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad. "They were inciting their people to rise up to fight and kill the Muslim population, and this made them direct enemy combatants."[16] This falls in the general understanding of the conflict between the non-Muslim Meccans of Quraysh (who are recorded in Muslim tradition as the "Pagan Quraysh") and the Muslims who would migrate to the city of Medina for safety and to escape from the oppression of the non-Muslim Meccans.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Life of Muhammad. A translation of Ishaq's "Sirat Rasul Allah", pgs. 675–676, A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, 1955
  2. ^ Ruthven, Malise (2006). Islam in the world. Oxford University. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-19-530503-6. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Al-Albani, Nasir al-Din. "Hadith#6013". Silsilat al-aḥādīth al-ḍaʻīfah wa-al-mawḍūʻah 33. p. 13. (موضوع...محمد بن الحجاج...قلت : وهو كذاب خبيث ؛ كما قال ابن معين ، وهو واضع حديث الهريسة ... والراوي عنه محمد بن إبراهيم الشامي ؛ كذاب أيضاً) 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Ibn Hisham, 'Abd al-Malik (1995). Al-Sayyid, Majdi Fathi, ed. Ṣaḥīḥ Sīrah al-Nabawīyah 4. Dār al-Ṣaḥābah lil-Turāth. pp. 335–336.
    حديث ضعيف وإسناده معضل
    1 – أخرجه ابن سعد، (2/27–28) في طبقاته من رواية الواقدي المتروك، وعنه أخرجه ابن السكن، والعسكري في الأمثال كما في الإصابة (5/34) .
    في سنده الواقدي من المتروكين.
    2 – أخرجه الخطيب (13/199) في تاريخه، و ابن الجوزي في العلل (1/175)، و ابن عساكر في تاريخه كما في الكنز (35491) من طريق محمد بن الحجاج اللخمي عن مجالد عن الشعبي عن إبن عباس.
    و سنده موضوع. فيه اللخمي، قال البخاري عنه: منكر الحديث. و قال ابن معين: كذاب خبيث، وقال مرة: ليس بثقة، وكذبه الدارقطني، وإتهمه ابن عدي بوضع حديث الهريسة،
  5. ^ a b c Al-Jawzi, Abu'l-Faraj. Al-'ilal 1. p. 175. (هذا مما يتهم بوضعه محمد بن الحجاج) 
  6. ^ Ibn Sa`d. Haq, S. Moinul, ed. Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir 2. pp. 30–31. 
  7. ^ The Authenticity Of The Assassination Story Of Asma Bint Marwan : http://www.quran-errors.com/the-authenticity-of-the-assassination-story-of-asma-bint-marwan.html
  8. ^ a b Ibn ʻAdī. Al-Kāmil fī al-ḍuʻafāʼ wa-ʻilal al-ḥadīth 7. p. 326. (ولم يرو عن مجالد غير محمد بن الحجاج وجميعاً مما يُتهم محمد بن الحجاج بوضعها) 
  9. ^ a b Moulana Qamruz Zaman, "Asma bint Marwan," 24 July 2006, MuftiSays.com.
  10. ^ Gottheil, Richard; Hirschfeld, Hartwig. "Asma". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19 June 2011. Arab poetess, contemporary with Mohammed; daughter of Marwan; was married to an Arab of the tribe of the Banu Ḥatmah. After the murder of the Jewish poet Abu 'Afak, who, in spite of his great age, had instigated the members of his tribe against Mohammed, Asma composed some verses condemning the deed. Mohammed despatched 'Umair, the only member of her tribe who had embraced Islam, to punish her; and he assassinated her while asleep, surrounded by her children. Some Moslem traditionists, in order to excuse the murder, make Asma a Jewess. It is, however, very doubtful that she was one, although Grätz ("Gesch. der Juden," v. 144) accepts this assertion as a fact. 
  11. ^ Gabriel, Richard (2007). Muammad:Islam's first great general. University of Oklahama. p. 104. His hatred of poets was well well known and he immediately ordered the assassination of two Median poets:Asma bint Marwan, a married.... Here we see assassination for political ends. These killings were political murders carried out for ideological reasons or personal revenge. Muhammad believed he was doing God's work, and all those opposed him or his faith had to be eliminated. 
  12. ^ V. J. Ridgeon, Lloyd (2001). Crescents on the cross: Islamic visions of Christianity. Oxford University Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-19-579548-6. Khomeini's declaration of the fatwa against Rushdie has certain parallels with the example of Muhammad who ordered the execution of a female poet named Asma bint Marwan who composed verses which criticized him 
  13. ^ Jane Smith, in Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Ellison Banks Findly Editors (1985). Women, religion, and social change. NewYork: SUNY Press. p. 24. ISBN 0-88706-069-2. 
  14. ^ ELORZA, Antonio. Terrorismo y religión. Letras Libres. Mayo 2005.
  15. ^ The Killing of Abu 'Afak and Asma' bint Marwan? at Bismika Allahuma (Muslim responses to anti-Islam polemics), 19 September 2005.
  16. ^ Sami Zaatari, The Killing of Abu Afak and Asma Bint Marwan: Were the killings really unjust? at Muslim-Responses.com
  17. ^ Why Did Prophet Muhammad Go To War? at Muslims for a Safe America. 1 October 2011.
  18. ^ 23 Years, A Study of the Prophetic Career of Muhammad, available for reading on http://ali-dashti-23-years.tripod.com/