'Asma' bint Marwan

'Asma' bint Marwan

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.

The story of her death by command of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, after she bitterly opposed him with poetry and provoked other pagans to commit violence against him, can be found in the sīra material collected by Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Sa'd.[1] Bint Marwan also ridiculed the people of Medina for obeying a chief not of their kin. Ibn Ishaq mentions that she displayed disaffection after the Medinian Abu Afak was killed for inciting rebellion against Muhammad.

Some classical and post-classical hadith scholars such as Al-Albani, Majdi, and Al-Jawzi have rejected the story, with some declaring it as fabrication, pointing out in their arguments that the chains of transmission by which the story was transmitted are all weak.[2][3][4][5]

Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and Ellison Banks Findly point out the importance of poets at the time and suggest that Muhammad ordered the execution of poets such as bint Marwan and Abu Afak because he was concerned about their influence.[1]


Islamic sources

Family and death

The story of bint Marwan and her death appears in the works of Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Sa'd. According to the reports, her family viewed Muhammad and his followers as unwelcome interlopers in Medina. After the Muslim victory over the Quraish in Mecca in 624 in the Battle of Badr a number of Muhammad's opponents were killed after surrendering. She composed poems that publicly defamed the local tribesmen that converted to Islam and allied Muhammad and called for his death. [6] In her poems, she also ridiculed Mediniens for obeying a chief not of their kin.[7] Ibn Ishaq mentions that bint Marwan also displayed disaffection after the Medinan 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 allegedly 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.[6]

Ibn Ishaq's account

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.


"She was of B. Umayyya b. Zayd. When Abu Afak had been killed she displayed disaffection. Abdullah b. al-Harith b. Al-Fudayl from his father said that she was married to a man of B. Khatma called Yazid b. Zayd. Blaming Islam and its followers she said:

"I despise B. Malik and al-Nabit
and Auf and B. al-Khazraj.
You obey a stranger who is none of yours,
One not of Murad or Madhhij.
Do you expect good from him after the killing of your chiefs
Like a hungry man waiting for a cook's broth?
Is there no man of pride who would attack him by surprise
And cut off the hopes of those who expect aught from him?"

Hassan b. Thabit answered her:

"Banu Wa'il and B. Waqif and Khatma
Are inferior to B. al-Khazrahj.
When she called for folly woe to her in her weeping,
For death is coming.
She stirred up a man of glorious origin,
Noble in his going out and in his coming in.
Before midnight he dyed her in her blood
And incurred no guilt thereby."

When the apostle heard what she had said he said, "Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?" Umayr b. Adiy al-Khatmi who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he [Muhammad] said, "You have helped God and His apostle, O Umayr!" When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, "Two goats won't butt their heads about her", so Umayr went back to his people.

Now there was a great commotion among B. Khatma that day about the affair of bint [girl] Marwan. She had five sons, and when Umayr went to them from the apostle he said, "I have killed bint Marwan, O sons of Khatma. Withstand me if you can; don't keep me waiting." That was the first day Islam became powerful among B. Khatma; before that those who were Muslims concealed the fact. The first of them to accept Islam was Umayr b. Adiy who was called the "Reader", and Abdullah b. Aus and Khuzayma b. Thabit. The day after Bint Marwan was killed the men of B. Khatma became Muslims because they saw the power of Islam.[6]

Ibn Sa'd's account

This account is found in Ibn Sa'd's Kitāb al-ṭabaqāt al-Kubrā.


Then (occurred) the sariyyah of `Umayr ibn `Adi Ibn Kharashah al-Khatmi against `Asma' Bint Marwan, of Banu Umayyah Ibn Zayd, when five nights had remained from the month of Ramadan, in the beginning of the nineteenth month from the hijrah of the apostle of Allah. `Asma' was the wife of Yazid Ibn Zayd Ibn Hisn al-Khatmi. She used to revile Islam, offend the prophet and instigate the (people) against him. She composed verses. Umayr Ibn Adi came to her in the night and entered her house. Her children were sleeping around her. There was one whom she was suckling. He searched her with his hand because he was blind, and separated the child from her. He thrust his sword in her chest till it pierced up to her back. Then he offered the morning prayers with the prophet at al-Medina. The apostle of Allah said to him: "Have you slain the daughter of Marwan?" He said: "Yes. Is there something more for me to do?" He [Muhammad] said: "No. Two goats will butt together about her. This was the word that was first heard from the apostle of Allah. The apostle of Allah called him `Umayr, "basir" (the seeing).[8]

Hadith Scholar views on authenticity of the story

Some classical and post-classical hadith scholars have rejected the story, with some 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).[2][3][4][5]

Ibn Ishaq's narrative

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 (that is, they deem it difficult to determine if the oral traditions can be traced precisely back to a witness of the events described during Muhammad's life).[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:[2][3]

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 (d. 976 CE) 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".[5][9] Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 1201 CE) said something similar in his Al-'ilal.[4]

Regarding Al-Lakhmi, Al-Bukhari said: "his hadith is abandoned"[3], Yahya ibn Ma'een said: "compulsive liar" and once said: "not trustworthy".[3] Al-Daraqutni denounced him as a liar.[3]

Ibn Sa'd's narrative

Al-Albani declared Ibn Sa'd's chain of transmission to be weak as well, as it includes Al-Waqidi:[2]

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.[3] Yahya ibn Ma'een said: "Al-Waqidi narrated 20,000 false hadith about the prophet". Al-Shafi'i, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Al-Albani[2] 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.[3]

Contemporary Assessments

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 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]

Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and Ellison Banks Findly point at the high influence of poets at the time Muhammad in Arabia. They state that exucations 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".[1]

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. [13]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Ellison Banks Findly (1985). Women, religion, and social change. NewYork: SUNY Press. pp. 24. ISBN 0-88706-069-2. 
  2. ^ 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)" 
  3. ^ 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،"
  4. ^ a b c Al-Jawzi, Abu'l-Faraj. Al-'ilal. 1. p. 175. "(هذا مما يتهم بوضعه محمد بن الحجاج)" 
  5. ^ a b c 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)" 
  6. ^ a b c The Life of Muhammad. A translation of Ishaq's "Sirat Rasul Allah", pgs. 675-676, A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, 1955
  7. ^ Ruthven, Malise (2006). Islam in the world. Oxford University. pp. 52. ISBN 0195305035, 9780195305036. 
  8. ^ Ibn Sa`d. Haq, S. Moinul. ed. Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir. 2. pp. 30–31. 
  9. ^ a b Moulana Qamruz Zaman, "Asma bint Marwan," 24 July 2006, MuftiSays.com.
  10. ^ Richard Gottheil, Hartwig Hirschfeld; Hartwig Hirschfeld. "Asma" (in English). Jewish Encyclopedia. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=2017&letter=A&search=Marwan. Retrieved Jun 19, 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. pp. 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 ideolgical 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. pp. 107. ISBN 0195795482, 9780195795486. "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. ^ ELORZA, Antonio. Terrorismo y religión. Letras Libres. Mayo 2005.

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