The Murder of Abu Afak

INTRODUCTION

After Muhammad arrived in Medina in 622 AD, a number of local people began to dislike him. Many of them were Jews, some were Pagan Arabs. One by one, Muhammad's critics were silenced; some became Muslims, some were murdered, others were driven out of Medina. This paper deals with Muhammad's request to have his men murder a Jewish man named Abu Afak. Abu Afak was a 120 year old man. Afak's crime: he urged his fellow Medinans to leave Muhammad.

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PRESENTATION OF ISLAMIC SOURCES

NOTE: My comments will be enclosed by [ ] type brackets. Other brackets like ( ) are in the translations.

FROM THE SIRAT RASUL ALLAH (THE LIFE OF THE PROPHET OF GOD), BY IBN ISHAQ (1), page 675:
 

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 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.
[NOTE: the Tubba was a ruler from Yemen who invaded that part of what is present Saudi Arabia: the Qaylites resisted him]

The apostle 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! [Muhammad]
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).
 

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FROM THE KITAB AL TABAQAT AL KABIR (BOOK OF THE MAJOR CLASSES), Volume 2, BY IBN SA'D, (2), page 32:
 

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 hijrah [immigration from Mecca to Medina in AD 622], 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.
 
 

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FROM A CONTEMPORARY MUSLIM SCHOLAR ON ISLAM

FROM ALI DASHTI'S "23 YEARS: A STUDY OF THE PROPHETIC CAREER OF MOHAMMAD", (3) page 100:
 

Abu Afak, a man of great age (reputedly 120 years) was killed because he had lampooned Mohammad. The deed was done by Salem b. Omayr at the behest of the Prophet, who had asked, "Who will deal with this rascal for me?" The killing of such an old man moved a poetess, Asma b. Marwan, to compose disrespectful verses about the Prophet, and she too was assassinated."
And prior to listing all of the assassinations Muhammad had ordered, Ali Dashti writes on page 97:
 

"Thus Islam was gradually transformed from a purely spiritual mission into a militant and punitive organization whose progress depended on booty from raids and revenue from the Zakat tax."
 

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DISCUSSION

Afak urged the people who lived in Medina to doubt and leave Muhammad. Afak found that Muhammad's sayings were strange and dictatorial. He chided the Arabs that put their faith in Muhammad. Muhammad heard of this and viewed the 120 year old man as a threat to his credibility, not to his life. Nowhere does it say that Afak urged his fellow Arabs to attack or harm Muhammad. Certainly a 120 year old man was not a physical threat to Muhammad or his followers.

What I find interesting is the last statement in Umama b. Muzayriya's verse:
 

"Though I knew whether it was man or jinn
Who slew you in the dead of night (I would say naught)."
This statement displays that the Muslims knew exactly what they were doing. They knew it was cold-blooded murder that they were doing at Muhammad's request. They wanted to keep it secret, they wanted to hide their evil deeds from the populace at large. That's why Umama said he wouldn't reveal who murdered Afak. The line "Take that Abu Afak in spite of your age!" also indicates a certain bad conscience about this deed even though it is overlaid with triumphalism trying to silencing this inner voice indicating that this was wrong.

Does anyone ever wonder why the news from the Islamic world are as they are? Amnesty International just reported that over 1500 political prisoners were executed in Iraq last year.

In Algeria the extremist groups are killing by the thousands those who do not support them.

Ayatollah Khomeni. A reformer and reviver of Islam. His fundamentalist Islamic regime had dissident Iranians murdered all over the world.

Can we really accuse them to be unIslamic in their behavior? Are they not following their role model, Muhammad himself in his methodology of killing those who are a threat to your credibility?
 
 

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QUESTIONS
 

1)
What does it say about Muhammad that he would have a 120 year old man murdered because he urged his fellow citizens to doubt his message and not to follow him?

2)
Yes, Abu Afak was a threat to Muhammad's credibility. But did he deserve to be murdered, in cold blood, in the night, secretly, while he was sleeping? Was his opinion that much of a threat to Muhammad? Didn't the angels help Muhammad at the Battle of Badr? If so, why was Muhammad afraid of a 120 year old man?

3)
Are these "Islamic" values compatible with our values in America? Should Americans who criticize Muhammad expect to have their freedom of speech threatened, or should they live in fear of being killed for speaking their mind? Remember, Muslims in America have already begun to murder Americans for the sake of their religion, both abroad and in the USA itself.

4)
If Muhammad put this system in place, i.e., the murdering of people who disagree with him, how does it affect Islamic society? How does it relate to what we have seen done in Islamic societies such as Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Sudan?

5)
If Muhammad were alive today, and we knew of the people he had murdered, what would America say? What would you say? Wouldn't we want to see this type of man pay for his crimes, put in jail for life, or even executed?

6)
Don't we have the right to judge Muhammad according to the best moral standards we know of? He claimed to be the last prophet of God. He claimed his system was God's final system for all mankind. So by our standards, don't you think that what Muhammad did was terribly wrong? If our standards are better than his, then how does his self asserted "prophethood" really rate? Why should our standards eclipse those of God's final prophet?
In the end, everyone has to draw his own conclusions. But we should draw conclusions only on the basis of being presented all the information. And then everyone is responsible before God what he does with it. May the Lord help us all.
 
 

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REFERENCES
 

(1)
"The Life of Muhammad", a translation of Ibn Ishaq's "Sirat Rasul Allah" (The Life of the Prophet of God) by A. Guillaume. This book is the best biography of Muhammad available. Note that Guillaume added in other references from Tabari, and other early Islamic writings.

(2)
"Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir", (Book of the Major Classes), by Ibn Sa'd. Translated by Moinul Haq, published by the Pakistan Historical Society

(3)
"23 YEARS: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad", by Ali Dashti. Translated by F.R.C. Bagley.
 

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