Muhammad ibn Maslamah

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Muhammad ibn Maslamah (Arabic: محمد بن مسلمة الأنصاري‎‎) (c.591-c.666) was a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He was known as "the knight of Allah's Prophet".[1]:349

Early life[edit]

He was born in Medina c.588[2]:32 or c.591[1]:349 as a member of the Khazraj tribe. His father was Maslama ibn Khalid from the al-Harith clan; his mother was Umm Sahm Khulayda bint Abi Ubayda from the Sa'ida clan.[3][1]:347 He is described as a large, tall, black man, stout and bald.[1]:348

For some reason he lost the support of the Khazraj tribe. He went to the Nadir tribe, who offered to feed him at their expense and to convert him to Judaism. He told them that he wanted food but that he would never become a Jew; and they provided for him.[4]:179 Later he became an ally (halif) of the Za'ura ibn Abdalashhal clan of the Aws tribe.[3]:330

Conversion to Islam[edit]

Ibn Maslamah was one of the first people in Medina to become a Muslim. This was in the period 621-622, before Muhammad's arrival, under the influence of Mus‘ab ibn 'Umair.[1]:347 After Muhammad arrived, he made Ibn Maslama brother in Islam to Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah.[1]:347

Thereafter he was constantly involved in Muhammad's military affairs.

Military career under Muhammad[edit]

Early events[edit]

He fought at the Battle of Badr in March 624.[3]:330[1]:347

When the Muslims defeated the Qaynuqa tribe in April 624, Ibn Maslamah supervised their expulsion from Medina and the seizure of their possessions. Muhammad awarded him a coat of mail.[4]:89

When Muhammad called for the assassination of Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf in September 624, Ibn Maslamah volunteered for the task. Ibn Maslamah pretended to Ibn al-Ashraf that he needed a loan and offered to leave his weapons with him as security. Ibn al-Ashraf therefore came out to meet him and four others by night when they were fully armed. They caught him off-guard and killed him.[3]:367[4]:93[1]:347-348[5][6][7][8][9][10]:95-97[11]

At the Battle of Uhud in April 625, Ibn Maslamah was put in charge of fifty men who were tasked with patrolling the camp at night.[12] Ibn Maslamah was one of the few who stood by Muhammad when the majority retreated.[1]:347

In August 625 it was Ibn Maslamah who brought the message to the Nadir tribe that Muhammad wanted them to leave their land within ten days or he would cut off their heads. They replied: "We did not think that an Aws man would bring such a message!" Ibn Maslamah said, "Hearts have changed."[4]:179-180[10]:158 Later, when the Nadir tribe surrendered to Muhammad and were expelled from Medina, it was Ibn Maslamah who supervised their exit and collected all their confiscated property and weapons.[4]:183, 185

He was involved with the cattle-raid on Dumat al-Jandal in August/September 626. Ibn Maslamah was the only Muslim who captured a human prisoner; the other raiders only stole cattle and camels.[4]:198

Trench and Qurayza[edit]

At the Battle of the Trench in the spring of 627, he guarded Muhammad's tent by night.[4]:228-229[1]:347

The following month, he was among the besiegers of the Qurayza tribe.[4]:246 When the Qurayza were captured, Ibn Maslamah was the one who tied the prisoners' wrists.[4]:250

He was commanding the guard during the night when the Jewish warriors were awaiting execution. A Jew named 'Amr ibn Suda passed the guard during the night, slipped out of Medina and was never seen again. Ibn Maslamah told Muhammad that he had deliberately allowed 'Amr to escape because he had not participated in the treachery of the Qurayza. Muhammad accepted this story and said that God had delivered 'Amr because of his faithfulness.[3]:463[4]:247-248[13]:32

When the Qurayza prisoners were being sold, Ibn Maslamah bought a woman and her two sons for 45 dinars. He was awarded three portions in the battle-plunder because he had brought a horse to the battle.[4]:257 His horse's name was Dhu'l-Limma.[4]:266

Minor engagements 627-628[edit]

Ibn Maslamah led thirty cavalry on the raid to al-Qurata in June 627. They marched by night and hid by day. At al-Sharaba they attacked the Bakr clan of the Kilab tribe and killed ten of them. Then they drove the cattle, 150 camels and 3000 sheep back to Medina.[3]:660[4]:262-263[1]:348

The following month Muhammad sent him with ten men to Ghatafan territory in Dhu’l-Qassa. They arrived by night but could not see any people. As they slept, a hundred men surrounded them. When the ambushers started shooting arrows, Ibn Maslamah was the first to awaken, shouting, "The weapons!" The Muslims jumped up and fired in the dark for an hour. The Bedouins threw spears and killed three of them; the Muslims killed one; then the ambushers killed seven more. Ibn Maslamah fell with a wounded ankle but was the only survivor. The Bedouins stripped the corpses and departed. Later, a Muslim happened to pass the site, and on finding Ibn Maslamah alive, he gave him food and water and transported him back to Medina.[4]:270[1]:348[13]:93

He was present at al-Muraysi in January 628.[4]:203 When Abdullah ibn Ubayy was heard making remarks about the Muslim immigrants, Umar suggested that Ibn Maslamah should cut off Ibn Ubayy's head. But Muhammad would not allow this.[4]:204

He was among the twenty horsemen sent as an advance guard to Hudaybiyyah[4]:286 and he was on the night-watch roster. One night the Quraysh sent fifty men to the Muslim camp. Ibn Maslamah managed to capture them and bring them to Muhammad.[4]:296 According to one tradition, he was later a witness to the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah;[4]:301 but an alternative tradition asserts that the witness was his brother Mahmud.[3]:505


At the Battle of Khaybar in May/July 628, it was Ibn Maslamah who located the best site for the Muslim camp.[4]:317

On the first day of the fighting, his brother Mahmud was killed while he was sitting in the shade of Fort Na'im. Inside the fortress, the Jewish warrior Marhab threw down a millstone, which landed on Mahmud's head.[3]:511[4]:317 Mahmud took three days to die, in which time Ibn Maslamah promised to provide for his brother's daughters.[4]:324

On the same day he avenged his brother. Marhab came out of the fortress, challenging the Muslims to single combat. Ibn Maslamah volunteered because, "I am a wronged and angry person. Permit me to fight Marhab, for he is the killer of my brother." A tree stood between them, and each slashed at the branches until they were all cut away and the two warriors were face to face. Marhab struck Ibn Maslamah, who caught the blow on his shield. Then Ibn Maslamah slashed at Marhab's thighs and felled him. He shouted, "Taste death, just as my brother Mahmud tasted it!" but before he could strike the death-blow, Ali passed by and cut off Marhab's head. This entitled Ali to take the booty; but Ibn Maslamah challenged him, and after they referred their dispute to Muhammad, he granted Marhab's sword, shield, cap and helmet to Ibn Maslamah.[3]:513[4]:323[13]:118

Ibn Maslamah then killed a warrior named Yusayr.[4]:323 He was among those who shielded Muhammad when they besieged the fortress of al-Saab ibn Muadh.[4]:324

After the battle, Kinana ibn al-Rabi was tortured by al-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam in the hope that he would reveal where he had hidden the treasure of the Abu'l-Huqayq clan. When Kinana was no longer able to speak, Muhammad ordered al-Zubayr to hand him over to Ibn Maslama. Ibn Maslama was allowed to cut off Kinana's head in revenge for his brother Mahmud.[3]:515[4]:331[13]:123[14]:135

When Khaybar was divided among the Muslims, Ibn Maslamah was awarded one share in Wadi'l-Qura.[3]:526[4]:354-355

Later events[edit]

On the Minor Pilgrimage of 629 Muhammad sent ahead of him a hundred horsemen, led by Ibn Maslamah. The Quraysh were frightened by their approach, and Muhammad had to reassure them that he had no military intentions.[1]:348[13]:138

Ibn Maslamah was among those who fought in the Conquest of Mecca in January 630. When Muhammad circumambulated the Kaaba on his camel al-Qaswa, just before destroying its idols, Ibn Maslamah was holding the camel's reins.[4]:409

The only battle in which he did not fight was Tabuk, for on that occasion Muhammad appointed him governor over Medina.[1]:347[4]:488


Ibn Maslamah had ten sons and six daughters by seven different women.[1]:347

  1. Umm Amr bint Salama of the Abdul-Ashhal clan of the Aws. Her brother was present at the Second pledge at al-Aqabah, and she was one of the women who gave allegiance to Muhammad.[15]:222
    1. Abdulrahman
    2. Umm Isa
    3. Umm al-Harith
  2. Amra bint Masud of the Zafar clan of the Aws. She and her daughter, together with her mother, sister and niece, were among the first women in Medina who gave allegiance to Muhammad.[15]:231, 232
    1. Abdullah
    2. Umm Ahmad
  3. Qutayla bint al-Husayn of the Murra branch of the Qays ibn Aylan tribe.
    1. Saad
    2. Jaafar
    3. Umm Zayd
  4. Zahra bint Ammar of the Murra branch of the Qays ibn Aylan tribe.
    1. Umar
  5. A woman from the Atba clan of the Kalb tribe.
    1. Anas
    2. Amra
  6. A concubine.
    1. Qays
    2. Zayd
    3. Muhammad
  7. Another concubine.
    1. Mahmud
    2. Hafsa

He encouraged his children to ask him about Muhammad's military expeditions. He said he knew about all of them first-hand, except for Tabuk, which he had heard about directly from its participants.[1]:348

He carved a sword out of wood and put it on a bowl hung up in his house "in order to alarm the anxious".[1]:349

The Caliphate of Abu Bakr[edit]

During the Caliphate Ibn Maslamah worked as a tax-collector, bringing in the zaqat that was due from the Ashja tribe.[16]

When Abu Bakr raised the legal question of the inheritance due to a grandmother, Ibn Maslamah testified that Muhammad had allocated her one-sixth of the estate.[17]

The Caliphate of Umar[edit]

Umar once asked about the blood-money required for the killing of an unborn child by assaulting its mother. Ibn Maslamah testified that Muhammad had set the price at "a high-quality slave" of either sex.[18][19][20]

When Amr ibn al-Aas requested reinforcements during his expedition to Egypt, Ibn Maslamah was one of those sent by Umar at the head of a detachment of a thousand men.[21]

In 638 Umar sent Ibn Maslamah to the newly founded settlement of Kufa. Saad ibn Abi Waqqas had built a public citadel next door to his own house. The noise from the nearby market was so deafening that Saad had built a locked gate into the citadel to prevent people from entering the public area. Ibn Maslamah was tasked with destroying the gate, which he did by setting fire to it. He refused all Saad's offers of hospitality, but handed him a missive from Umar reminding him that the citadel should be available to the public and suggesting that he move his house. Saad denied to Ibn Maslamah that he had made the alleged remarks ("Stop that terrible noise"). Ibn Maslamah did not take enough supplies for his homeward journey. By the time he reached Medina he was so hungry that he ate tree-bark, and he presented himself to Umar suffering from indigestion. Umar asked if he had brought "anything" from Saad, and Ibn Maslamah replied that he had not received any orders about this. Umar then rebuked him for his lack of initiative.[22]:73-74

By 642 Ibn Maslamah was acting as the overseer of Umar's governors: his job was to investigate whether correct action had been taken over any complaints.[22]:190 There were more complaints against Saad ibn Abi Waqqas on the eve of the Persian war, and Ibn Maslamah was sent to back Kufa to investigate. He visited all the local mosques and heard all the complaints in public. Nearly everyone expressed satisfaction with Saad's conduct as governor; but eventually there was an accusation that he did not divide up the battle-plunder equally, did not fight enough wars, did not say the prayers correctly and spent too much time hunting. Ibn Maslamah took Saad and his accusers back to Umar. Umar found that Saad was indeed guilty of deviating from the prescribed ritual for prayer, which meant that the accusations, while exaggerated, had some foundation. Saad was replaced with his deputy.[22]:191-192

Ibn Maslamah was involved in a civil dispute with a neighbour, al-Dahhak ibn Khalifa, who wanted to divert a stream through Ibn Maslama's property. Ibn Maslama refused permission even when Ibn Khalifa reminded him that it could not harm him and he would have unlimited rights to take the water. Ibn Khalifa referred the case to Umar, and Ibn Maslama repeated to the Caliph that he would not allow it. But Umar overruled him, and the stream was diverted as Ibn Khalifa had wished.[23]

The Caliphate of Uthman[edit]

Ibn Maslama continued to act as inspector under Uthman. In 655 Uthman sent him to Kufa to investigate certain complaints; but Ibn Maslamah reported back that he had found nothing amiss.[24]:147

He remained a supporter of Uthman. When Uthman warned from the pulpit that the Egyptian rebels had been cursed by Muhammad, Ibn Maslamah stood up and declared, "I bear witness to that." He was immediately seized and forced to sit down.[24]:165 Uthman later sent Ibn Maslamah along with Ali to lead a delegation to order the Egyptian dissidents out of Medina.[24]:174-175

When unrest continued, Ibn Maslamah set out with fifty cavalry to negotiate with the Egyptians. He entered their leaders' tent and stressed Uthman's rights and how they had bound themselves to his leadership in their oath of allegiance. He warned them of the dangers of civil war and of what might happen if Uthman were killed. Then he offered himself as a guarantor that Uthman would meet the Egptians' demands. One of them asked, "What if Uthman doesn't change?" and Ibn Maslama replied, "Then it will be up to you."[24]:191, 194

Immediately afterwards Ibn Maslamah requested a private audience with the Caliph and warned him, "Fear Allah, Uthman, and fear for your life! These people are only here to kill you, and you see how your friends have not only abandoned you but are also going over to your enemy." Uthman spoke acquiescing words but made no changes.[24]:191

The Egyptians then returned to Medina. Uthman asked Ibn Maslamah's advice, but all he could say was, "They have bad intentions." Uthman told him to send the Egyptians away again, but Ibn Maslamah replied, "I will not. I promised them that you would stop doing certain things, but you have not stopped a single one." Uthman appealed for God's help. Soon afterwards the Egyptians besieged his house.[24]:191-192, 197

The Egyptians approached Ibn Maslamah directly to advise him of the discovery of a letter in which Uthman had ordered various officials to be flogged.[24]:192 Ibn Maslamah accompanied Ali to an audience with Uthman, where Ali voiced this allegation. Uthman denied all knowledge of the letter; Ibn Maslamah and Ali believed him and decided that it must have been forged by Marwan. Ali told Uthman that he must repeat his denial in the hearing of the Egyptians.[24]:192-193 The Egyptians entered and repeated all their complaints, and Uthman repeated his denial of the letter. The Egyptians countered that if he was so incompetent that it was possible for someone to forge letters by appropriating his personal scribe, seal, slave and camel, then he ought to abdicate anyway. Uthman refused to abdicate the office to which God had appointed him, and the interview became loud. Ibn Maslama and Ali managed to usher them out of Uthman's presence before there was any physical violence, but the siege of Uthman's house continued.[24]:193-196

The Caliphate of Ali[edit]

After Uthman was assassinated, Ibn Maslamah was one of the few who did not give allegiance to Ali.[25]:6, 9 Later, when a messenger from Basra asked if the Muslims had sworn allegiance to Ali freely or under coercion, Usama ibn Zayd replied, "They were definitely coerced!" Some of Ali's supporters leapt to attack Usama, and Ibn Maslamah was among those who jumped up to protect him. Suhayb ibn Sinan managed to calm down the immediate situation, but the reports of half-hearted support for Ali returned both to him and to his opponents.[25]:65-66

Muhammad had given Ibn Maslamah a sword, saying, "Fight the idolators with it when they fight. When you see the Muslims facing one another, take it to Uhud and strike it until it breaks. Then sit in your house until it ends."[1]:348, 349 When the civil war broke out, Ibn Maslamah took the sword that Muhammad had given him and broke it.[1]:349

During the period of strife, Subayaa ibn Husayn al-Thaalabi saw a tent set up by a well in the desert. He was told that it belonged to Muhammad ibn Maslamah, who was by then an old man. Subayaa asked Ibn Maslamah why he was living there. Ibn Maslamah replied that he had left Medina because he hated evil.[1]:348-349


Muhammad ibn Maslamah died in Medina in May/June 663[2]:32 or April/May 666 aged about 75.[1]:349 Marwan led his funeral prayers.[1]:349[2]:32

See also[edit]


Hadrat 'Umar Farooq, Prof. Masudul Hasan. Islamic Publications, Lahore.


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