Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf

Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf

Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf ( _ar. كعب بن الاشرف)(d. 624) was a chief of the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir and a poet, who was assassinated by an order of Muhammad. Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf was born to a Jewish mother from the Banu Nadir tribe and an Arab father, and he followed his mother's religion.cite encyclopedia | author = Montgomery Watt, W. | editor = P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs | encyclopedia =Encyclopaedia of Islam Online| title = Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf| publisher = Brill Academic Publishers | id = ISSN 1573-3912] cite book | first=Norman | last=Stillman | title=The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book | publisher=Jewish Publication Society of America | location=Philadelphia | year=1979 | id=ISBN 0827601166 |pages=p. 13]

According to Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad called upon his followers to kill Ka'b because the latter "had gone to Mecca after Badr and provoked Quraysh to fight the prophet. He also composed verses in which he bewailed the victims of Quraysh who had been killed at Badr. Shortly afterwards he returned to Medina and composed amatory verses of an insulting nature about the Muslim women." Other historiographical sources state that the reason for killing of Ka'b was that he had plotted with a group of Jews to kill Muhammad. The writings of the later commentators such as al-Zamakhshari, al-Tabarsi, al-Razi and al-Baydawi provide another distinct report according to which Ka'b was killed because Gabriel had informed Muhammad about a treaty signed by himself and Aba Sufyan creating an alliance between the Quraysh and forty Jews against Muhammad during Ka'b's visit to Mecca (According to Professor Uri Rubin, some allusions to the existence of an anti-Muhammadan treaty between Quraysh and Ibn al-Ashraf may be found in the earlier sources). Uri Rubin, The Assassination of Kaʿb b. al-Ashraf, Oriens, Vol. 32. (1990), pp. 65-71. ]

Interactions with Muhammad

Ka'b was infuriated at Muhammad's execution of a number of Meccan notables of the Quraysh tribe who had been captured after the Muslim victory in the Battle of Badr in March 624. The traditional Muslim biography of Muhammad reports Ka'b as saying "...if Muhammad has indeed struck down those people, then it were better to be buried in the earth than to walk upon it!"Ibn Hisham. "Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya" ("The Life of The Prophet"). English translation in Stillman (1979), p. 124]

Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf rode to the Quraish at Mecca, in order to lament the loss at Badr and to incite them to take up arms to regain lost honour, noting the statement of Muhammad: "He (Ka'b) has openly assumed enmity to us and speaks evil of us and he has gone over to the polytheists (who were at war with Muslims) and has made them gather against us for fighting". This too was thought to be in contravention of the Constitution of Medina, of which the tribe led by Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf was a signatory, which prohibited them from "extending any support" to the tribes of Mecca, namely the Quraish. Some sources suggest that during his visit to Mecca, Ka'b concluded a treaty with Abu Sufyan, stipulating cooperation between the Quraysh and Jews against Muhammad. Rubin, Uri. "The Assassination of Kaʿb b. al-Ashraf." Oriens, Vol. 32. (1990), pp. 65-71. ]

Upon returning to Medina, Ka'b also wrote erotic poetry about Muslim women, which Muhammad and his followers found offensive.

Muhammad called upon his followers to kill Ka'b, and Muhammad ibn Maslama offered his services, collecting four others, including a foster-brother of Ka'b. By pretending to have turned against Muhammad, they enticed Ka'b out of his fortress on a moonlight night for what was supposed to be negotiations of Ka'b's sale of food to them. After Ka'b walked out of his fortress to meet Muhammad ibn Maslama and his companions, they attacked Ka'b and killed him in spite of his vigorous resistance. [Ibn Hisham. "Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya" ("The Life of The Prophet"). English translation in Stillman (1979), pp. 125–126] [Sahih Bukhari [http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/bukhari/045.sbt.html#003.045.687] ]

A number of reasons are given for the assassination. One reason is that al-Ashraf had tried to provoke the Quraysh against Muhammad, and later composed verses insulting Muslim women. Another reason is his attempt to assassinate Muhammad. Finally, Muhammad was acting in accordance with the norms of the Arab society of that period which demanded retaliation for a slight to a group's honor.

The Jews were terrified at the assassination of Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf, and as a Muslim biographer of Muhammad put it "...there was not a Jew who did not fear for his life". [Ibn Hisham. "Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya" ("The Life of The Prophet"). English translation in Stillman (1979), p. 127] Shortly after the killing of Ka'b, Muhammad attacked Banu Nadir and expelled them from Medina. [Stillman (1979), p. 14]

ee also

*Non-Muslim interactants with Muslims during Muhammad's era
* Asma bint Marwan
* Abu 'Afak
* Huyayy ibn Akhtab
* Ka'b ibn Asad


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