'Asma' bint Marwan

ʻAṣmāʼ bint Marwān (Arabic: عصماء بنت مروان "Asma, daughter of Marwan") a female Arab poet said to have lived in Medina in 7th-century Arabia. Early writers of Muhammad's biography claimed that she was murdered for her agitating against Muhammad.

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 these accounts, her family viewed Muhammad and his followers as unwelcome interlopers in Medina. After the Muslim victory over the Quraysh in Mecca in 624 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.[3]

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.

He narrates that in response to the killing of Abu Afak, Asma recited the following poem (originally Arabic, here using the translation by Alfred Guillaume):

:"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."[1]

On hearing these verses, Muhammad is reported to have said: "Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?" Umayr bin Adiy al-Khatmi, who in turn overheard this, went to her house the same night and killed her.[1]

The sources appear to be conflicted on whether this was done on Muhammad's orders or not, but the version as recorded by Ibn Ishaq goes on to say that the following morning, Umayr came told Muhammad what he had done and the prophet responded: "You have helped God and His apostle, O Umayr!" And when asked what consequences he might have to bear, Muhammad said, "Two goats won't butt their heads about her."[1]

When Umayr returned to the Banu Khatma, the tribe of which both Asma and Umayr were members, he then openly declared: "I have killed bint Marwan, O sons of Khatma. Withstand me if you can; don't keep me waiting." This was apparently the first open statement of allegiance to the Muslim cause by a member of that tribe, and more of its members became Muslims shortly after.[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.[4][5][6]

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).[7]

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).[9]

Ibn Ishaq's narrative[]

Ibn Ishaq's Sīratu Rasūlu l-Lāh, an important early work of sīra, was composed over 100 years after Muhammad's death, using oral traditions passed down from his early followers, with a number of isnads (chains of transmission) going back to Ibn 'Abbas, a companion of Muhammad.[10] However, the accuracy of this story for use as hadith is not completely accepted. Later scholars including Ibn ʻAdī,[8] Ibn al-Jawzi, [6] Muhammad al-Bukhari, Yahya ibn Ma'een and Al-Daraqutni,[5] have called into question the reliability of the hadith on the basis the negative academic reputation of certain individuals in the chain, including Muhammad ibn al-Hajjaj al-Lakhmi and Mujalid ibn Sa’ed, both whom were regarded by the authoritative Al-Bukhari as weak transmitters.[11]

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:[4]

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.[5] Yahya ibn Ma'een said: "Al-Waqidi narrated 20,000 false hadith about the prophet". Al-Shafi'i, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Al-Albani[4] 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.[5]

Modern assessments[]

Jane Smith, in her 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 Abu Afak and Asma after Muhammad's final victory were the result of fears of "their continuing influence", and that this episode "constitutes interesting testimony of the power of their position, as well as of the recited words".[12]

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.[13]

Some later assessments tie the episode involving Asma directly to the killing of Abu Afak. Richard Gottheil and Hartwig Hirschfeld state in the Jewish Encyclopedia that some traditionalist sources asserted that Asma was a Jewess, just as Abu Afak was a Jew, and put this fact forward "an excuse" for the killing – a fact which they in turn cast doubt on, though they also point the conflicting scholarly perspectives on the matter.[14]

See also[]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad (1955). The Life of Muhammad. A translation of Ishaq's "Sirat Rasul Allah". Translated by Guillaume, Alfred. Oxford University Press. pp. 675–676. ISBN 9780196360348.
  2. ^ Ruthven, Malise (2006). Islam in the world. Oxford University. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-19-530503-6.
  3. ^ a b Marsden Jones, The Kitāb al-Mag̲h̲āzī of al-Wāqidī. Oxford University Press, 1966. Bd. 1, pp. 170-172 ff.
  4. ^ 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). Vol. 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)
  5. ^ a b c d e Ibn Hisham, 'Abd al-Malik (1995). Al-Sayyid, Majdi Fathi (ed.). Ṣaḥīḥ Sīrah al-Nabawīyah صحيح السيرة النبوية (in Arabic). Vol. 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،
  6. ^ a b c Al-Jawzi, Abu'l-Faraj. Al-'ilal العلل (in Arabic). Vol. 1. p. 175. (هذا مما يتهم بوضعه محمد بن الحجاج)
  7. ^ Ibn Sa'd. Haq, S. Moinul (ed.). Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir كتاب الطبقات الكبير (in Arabic). Vol. 2. pp. 30–31.
  8. ^ a b Ibn ʻAdī. Al-Kāmil fī al-ḍuʻafāʼ wa-ʻilal al-ḥadīth الكامل في الضعفاء وعلل الحديث (in Arabic). Vol. 7. p. 326. (ولم يرو عن مجالد غير محمد بن الحجاج وجميعاً مما يُتهم محمد بن الحجاج بوضعها)
  9. ^ [4][5][6][8]
  10. ^ Saron, Mose (1986). Studies in Islamic History and Civilization: In Honour of Professor David Ayalon. BRILL. p. 279. ISBN 9789652640147. This line of transmission established the reputation of the Mudawwana and of it commentaries for the Maghrib." ... "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.
  11. ^ Al-Milani, Ali (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[self-published source?]
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ V. J. Ridgeon, Lloyd (2001). Crescents on the cross: Islamic visions of Christianity. Oxford University Press. pp. 107. ISBN 978-0-19-579548-6.
  14. ^ Gottheil, Richard; Hirschfeld, Hartwig. "Asma". Jewish Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2011.