Assassinations

 

by

 

 Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Mualla Luwayhiq

 

 

Taken from Religious Extremism in the Lives of Contemporary Muslims, pp. 484-488

 

 

 

One of the clearest forms of violence that the extremists are often accused of is assassinations. Those who say that it is permissible base their argument on the story of the assassination of Kaab ibn aI-Ashraf. [1]

 

Jaabir ibn Abdullah narrated:

 

 

"The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, 'Who will take care of Kaab ibn al-Ashraf? Verily, he has harmed Allah and His Messenger.' Muhammad ibn Maslamah said, 'O Messenger of Allah, would you like him killed?' He replied, 'Yes.' He then said, 'Then allow me to say something [to deceive him.' He replied, 'Yes [you may do so].' So Muhammad ibn Maslamah went to Kaab and said, 'That man [meaning the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)] demands charity from us and he has troubled us. So I have come to borrow something from you.' So then Kaab said, 'By Allah, you will get tired with him.' Muhammad then said, 'Since we have followed him, we do not want to leave him until we see what his end is. Now, we want you to lend us a camel load or two of food.' Kaab said, 'Yes, I will lend it to you but I need some collateral.' Muhammad and his companion said, 'What do you want.' Kaab replied, 'Give me your women as collateral.' They said, 'How can we give you our women when you are the most handsome of the Arabs?' Kaab then said, 'Then give me your sons.' They said, 'How can we give our sons to you? Later they will be abused by the people saying that so and so has been given as - collateral for a camel load of food. That would disgrace us greatly. However, we will give you our arms as collateral.' So Muhammad  ibn Maslamah and his companion promised that they (or he) would return to him. He came to Kaab at night along with Kaab's foster  brother, Abu Naailah. He invited them to his fort and he went down to them. His wife asked him, 'Where are you going at this hour?'  He replied, 'None but Muhammad ibn Maslamah and my foster brother have come.' She said, 'I hear a voice as if blood is dropping ace and from it.' Kaab said, 'They are none but my brother Muhammad ibn Maslamah and my foster brother Abu Naailah. An honorable man should respond to a call even at night, even if they are going to kill him.' Muhammad ibn Maslamah went in with two men and said to them, 'When Kaab comes, I will touch his hair and smell it, and when you see that I have got hold of his head, strike him.' Kaab ibn Ashraf came down to them wrapped in his clothes and smelling of perfume. Muhammad ibn Maslamah said, 'I have never smelled a nicer scent than this.' Kaab replied, 'I have the best Arab women who know how to use the best type of perfume.' Muhammad ibn Maslamah said to Kaab, 'Will you allow me to smell your head?' Kaab said, 'Yes.' Muhammad smelled it and made his companions smell it as well. Then he said again, 'Will you let me smell your head?' Kaab said, 'Yes.' When Muhammad got a strong hold of him, he said, 'Get him.' They then killed him and went to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to inform him of what happened. [2]

 

 

In this hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ordered the assassination of one of the leaders of disbelief. However, using this as proof that it is permissible to assassinate the rulers and others is not valid for the following reasons:

 

(1) The assassination must be by the order of the ruler. In the story of the assassination of Kaab ibn al-Ashraf, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "Who will take care of Kaab ibn al-Ashraf? Verily, he has harmed Allah and His Messenger." The source of the order was from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Similarly, in the story of the killing of ibn Abi al-Huqaiq, which is similar to the story of the killing of Kaab ibn al-Ashraf - the narrator stated, "The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sent..." [3] So the one who sent them was the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Individual opinion was never the source of any order for assassination. It is well-known that if the matter of assassinations were left to personal, individual reasoning, that would lead to a great deal of evil.

 

(2) Assassination must only be of someone whose kufr is certain, like Kaab or ibn Abi al-Huqaiq, as both of them were definitively disbelievers in Allah. While discussing the points derived from the story of ibn Abi al-Huqaiq, Ibn Hajar stated,

 

"An important point from this hadith is the permissibility of killing a polytheist who has received the message [of Islam] but persists [in his disbeliet]." [4]

 

This is the conclusion from the hadith: the permissibility of assassinating the disbeliever and polytheist. But the source of knowing those titles is the Quran and the Sunnah and not the opinions of individuals who declare other individuals disbelievers and then permit their assassination.

 

(3) The one to be killed must be from among those who are fighting against the Muslims. This is why al-Bukhari entitled the two relevant chapters from his chapters on jihad, "Chapter: Assassinating a war combatant," and, "Chapter: Lying in warfare."

 

Ibn Hajar stated,

 

"The author [al-Bukhari] placing this in the chapter on jihad gives the meaning that Kaab was a war enemy." [5]

 

He also said,

 

"He was assassinated only because he violated his treaty and assisted in the war against the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his degradation." [6]

 

Al-Qastalaani noted,

 

"If you say: How could he kill him after deceiving him? The answer is: He violated his pact and supported the war against the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his ridicule. If you say: How did he give him a surety of peace and then he killed him? The response is: He never explicitly gave him a surety of peace. He [Kaab] only thought that and became comfortable until it was possible to kill him." [7]

 

 

(4) One must be certain that there will be no fitnah (evil affliction) as a result of that killing. This is clear from the story itself. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not order to have him killed until the power of the Muslims had become strong. This is indicated by the fact that the Jews did not do anything in response after one of their leaders was killed.

 

One should make a comparison between the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ordering the killing of Kaab and his forbidding the killing of Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salool although both of them had harmed and opposed the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). However, one could not be safe from some evil results in the killing of a hypocrite while one could be safe from such results in the killing of the Jew. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not expose the disbelief of the hypocrite although the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had that knowledge as it was told to him by Allah. However, the disbelief of the Jew was manifest and clear and did not need any further clarification.

 

Furthermore, the hypocrites did not make their warfare against Allah and the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) public while the Jews did. For that reason, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not order the killing of the hypocrites. And none of the companions would go forth to kill any of them if the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not order it.

 

 

 

 

1) He was Kaab ibn al-Ashraf al-Taa'ee, from the tribe of Nabhaan. He was a poet in the Days of Ignorance. His mother was from the tribe of al-Nadheer. He became a Jew and was a noble among his maternal relatives. He lived until the time of Islam and harmed the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He provoked the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and ridiculed him. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sent someone to kill him in 3 A.H. Cf., al-Alaam, vol. 5, p. 225.

2) Recorded by al-Bukhari. For use of this hadith and other similar ones used as evidence to permit assassinations, see Abdul Salaam Faraj, al-Fareedhah al-Ghaaibah, p. 260.

3) That story is also recorded by al-Bukhari.

4) Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Baari, vol. 7, p. 345.

5) Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Baari, vol. 7, p. 340.

6) Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Baari, vol. 6, p. 160.

7) Al-Qastalaani, Sharh al-Bukhari, vol. 5, p. 156.

 

 

 

 

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