'Asma' bint Marwan

ʻAṣmāʼ bint Marwān (Arabic: عصماء بنت مروان‎ "Asma, daughter of Marwan") was a female Arab poet who lived in Medina in 7th-century Arabia. Based on hadith, she was murdered for her opposition to Mohammed on his order. However, the majority of hadith scholars, both classical and modern, have declared the hadith that this story is based on to be fabricated or false.

Islamic sources[]

Family and death[]

The story of Asma bint Marwan and her death appears in the works of both Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Sa'd. According to the accounts, her family viewed Muhammad and his followers as unwelcome interlopers in Medina. After the Muslim victory over the Quraysh in Mecca in 623 in the Battle of Badr, (17 Ramadan AH 2 in the ancient (intercalated) Arabic calendar (16 December) - see Expion of Dhat al-Riqa#Discrepancy in dates - a number of Muhammad's opponents were killed. In response, she composed poems that publicly criticized the local tribesmen who converted to Islam and allied with Muhammad, calling for his death.[1] In her poems, she also ridiculed Medinians for obeying a chief not of their kin.[2]

Ibn Ishaq mentions that bint Marwan also displayed disgust after the Medinian 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 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 bint Marwan's husband, Banu Khatma, responded that he would. He crept into her room in the dark of night where she was sleeping with her five children, with her infant child close to her bosom. Umayr removed the child from Asma's breast and killed her.[1]

On the other hand Al-Waqidi's and Ibn Sa'd's accounts differ substantially from that of Ibn Ishaq.[3] In these the killing of Asma bint Marwan does not stem from a statement by Muhammad as he is described as being in Badr during this time and not in Medina. Instead, according to al-Waqidi, a man named ʿUmayr bin ʿAdī, decided individually to kill Asma bint Marwan.[4]

Ibn Ishaq's account[]

Ibn Ishaq collected oral traditions about the life of Muhammad, some of which 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 [daughter of] 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.[1]

Ibn Sa'd's account[]

This account is found in Ibn Sa'd's Kitāb al-ṭabaqāt al-Kubrā and is given the rank of Mawḍūʻ, fabricated, by hadith scholars including Al-Albani, Majdi, and Al-Jawzi.[5][6][7]

SARIYYAH OF 'UMAYR IBN 'ADI 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 until 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 the authenticity of the story[]

Classical and post-classical hadith scholars have rejected the story, declaring it as fabrication (mawdu'). They point 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) of the lowest degree (mawḍūʻ).[10]

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 transmitter, Muhammad Ibn Al-Hajjaj and Mujalid ibn Sa’ed both who have been reputed by Al-Bukhari as weak transmitters[11] in Tareekh Sagheer: Imam Bukhari (The Short book of History).

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. As all these isnads belong to kayrawani sanads[12] which make up Mudawana whose significance had since diminished after Cordoba and Kawrayan were not learning centers anymore[13] lost its popularity and had their authenticity questioned by scholars of other fiqhs.

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 hadiths. Ibn ʻAdī (died 976) 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".[9] Ibn al-Jawzi (died 1201) said something similar in his Al-'ilal.[7]

Regarding Al-Lakhmi, Al-Bukhari said: "his hadith is abandoned",[6] Yahya ibn Ma'een said: "compulsive liar" and once said: "not trustworthy".[6] Al-Daraqutni denounced him as a liar.[6]

Ibn Sa'd's & Al-Waqidi's narrative[]

Al-Albani declared Ibn Sa'd's chain of transmission to be weak as well, as it includes Al-Waqidi:[5]

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.[6] Yahya ibn Ma'een said: "Al-Waqidi narrated 20,000 false hadith about the prophet". Al-Shafi'i, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Al-Albani[5] 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.[6]

Modern Assessments[]

Richard Gottheil and Hartwig Hirschfeld state in Jewish Encyclopedia that "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".[14]

V. J. Ridgeon sees certain parallels between Khomeini's declaration of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the incident of Asma bint Marwan's assassination.[15]

Jane Smith, in her detailed study "Women, Religion and Social Change in Early Islam" points at the high influence of poets and poetry at the time of Muhammad in Arabia. She states that assassinations of poets such as Asma, Abu Afak, and those 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".[16]

Antonio Elorza, historian and professor at Complutense University of Madrid, reviews Asma's assassination and similar cases. He believes that eliminating political opponents by any and all means possible was a 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.[17]

Contemporary Muslim writers respond to these charges by stating that on top of the stories of both Asma bint Marwan and Abu Afak being graded as weak and fabricated by the majority of Islamic scholars in history,[18] even in the hypothetical stories these two individuals were not simply mocking but also instigating violence against the Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad. "They were inciting their people to rise up to fight and kill the Muslim population, and this made them direct enemy combatants."[19] This falls in the general understanding of the conflict between the non-Muslim Meccans of Quraysh (who are recorded in Muslim tradition as the "Pagan Quraysh") and the Muslims who would migrate to the city of Medina for safety in order to escape from the oppression of the non-Muslim Meccans.[20]

In our times uttering a death threat against people holding public office is investigated and the instigator is monitored. Situation has not changed very much[citation needed]. Asma Bint Marwan, Abu Afak, and Kab Asharf instigated people for massacre of Muslims and Muhammad[citation needed].

See also[]


  1. ^ a b c The Life of Muhammad. A translation of Ishaq's "Sirat Rasul Allah", pgs. 675–676, A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, 1955
  2. ^ Ruthven, Malise (2006). Islam in the world. Oxford University. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-19-530503-6.
  3. ^ Marsden Jones, The Kitāb al-Mag̲h̲āzī of al-Wāqidī. Oxford University Press, 1966. Bd. 1, pp. 170-172 ff.
  4. ^ Ibid. Marsden Jones, The Kitāb al-Mag̲h̲āzī of al-Wāqidī. Oxford University Press, 1966 , p. 172 ff.
  5. ^ a b c d Al-Albani, Nasir al-Din. "Hadith#6013". Silsilat al-aḥādīth al-ḍaʻīfah wa-al-mawḍūʻah سلسلة الأحاديث الضعيفة والموضوعة (in Arabic). 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)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Ibn Hisham, 'Abd al-Malik (1995). Al-Sayyid, Majdi Fathi (ed.). Ṣaḥīḥ Sīrah al-Nabawīyah صحيح السيرة النبوية (in Arabic). 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،
  7. ^ a b c Al-Jawzi, Abu'l-Faraj. Al-'ilal العلل (in Arabic). 1. p. 175. (هذا مما يتهم بوضعه محمد بن الحجاج)
  8. ^ Ibn Sa'd. Haq, S. Moinul (ed.). Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir كتاب الطبقات الكبير (in Arabic). 2. pp. 30–31.
  9. ^ a b Ibn ʻAdī. Al-Kāmil fī al-ḍuʻafāʼ wa-ʻilal al-ḥadīth الكامل في الضعفاء وعلل الحديث (in Arabic). 7. p. 326. (ولم يرو عن مجالد غير محمد بن الحجاج وجميعاً مما يُتهم محمد بن الحجاج بوضعها)
  10. ^ [5][6][7][9]
  11. ^ Ayatollah Sayyid, Ali Milani (2015). A Critical Assessment of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. p. 28. ISBN 9781507714836. Bukhari says: Yahya bin Sa’eed has always criticized Mujalid whereas Ibn Mahdi has refrained from narrating his traditions
  12. ^ Ayalon, David (1986). Studies in Islamic History and Civilization: In Honour of Professor David Ayalon. BRILL. p. 279. ISBN 9789652640147. Kayrawani sanad: Ibn al-Kasim (d. 191/806), Sahnun (d. 240/854), who also inherited from Asad b. al-Furat (d. 213/828) and. by his indirect means, from the disciples of Abu Hanifa. After Sahnun, there are the commentaries of Abu Zayd nl-Kayrawami (d. 386/996). of al-Bardha‘i (d. 400/1009). of Ibn Yunus (d. 451/1059), of Ibn Mubriz (d. 450/1058). of a1-Tunisi (d. 443/1051) and of al'Lakhmi (d. 478/1085). This line of transmission established the reputation of the Mudawwana and of it commentaries for the Maghrib.
  13. ^ Šārôn, Moše (1986). Studies in Islamic History and Civilization: In Honour of Professor David Ayalon. p. 279. ISBN 9789652640147. These two basic works of Miliki doctrine, which had led to the production of a significant corpus of judicial writing, continued to be influential for some time after the disappearance of Cordovan and Kayrawan as centres of learning. but lost their effective role at the end of the 8th/14th century.
  14. ^ Gottheil, Richard; Hirschfeld, Hartwig. "Asma". Jewish Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  15. ^ V. J. Ridgeon, Lloyd (2001). Crescents on the cross: Islamic visions of Christianity. Oxford University Press. pp. 107. ISBN 978-0-19-579548-6.
  16. ^ Jane Smith (1985). Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad; Ellison Banks Findly (eds.). Women, religion, and social change. New York: SUNY Press. p. 24. ISBN 0-88706-069-2.
  17. ^ ELORZA, Antonio. Terrorismo y religión. Letras Libres. Mayo 2005.
  18. ^ Hesham Azmy, "The Killing of Abu 'Afak and Asma' bint Marwan?". Bismika Allahuma. 19 September 2005. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  19. ^ Sami Zaatari, The Killing of Abu Afak and Asma Bint Marwan: Were the killings really unjust? Archived 8 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine at Muslim-Responses.com
  20. ^ Why Did Prophet Muhammad Go To War? Archived 8 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine at Muslims for a Safe America. 1 October 2011.