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Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf

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Title: Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf  
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Subject: Banu Nadir, Banu Qurayza, 624 deaths, Abu 'Afak, Jabal ibn Jawwal
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Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf

Ka'b bin al-Ashraf (Hebrew: כעב אבן אלאשרףKa'b iben al-Ashraf, Arabic: كعب بن الاشرف‎, died 624) was a Jewish leader in Medina. He was assassinated by Muslims on the order of the Islamic prophet Muhammad six months after the battle of Badr.[1] Ka'b was born to a father from the Arab Tayy tribe and a mother from the Jewish Banu Nadir tribe; he was recognised as belonging to his mother's tribe, in which he was one of the leading men.[2]

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 against Muhammad. 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."[1] 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-Muslim treaty between Quraysh and Ibn al-Ashraf may be found in the earlier sources).[1]It needs to be mentioned that Kaab's tribe Banu Alnadeer were in a peace treaty with the Muslims and Kaab inciting the tribes of Mecca to fight the Muslims was in violation with the rules of the treaty which he was bound by .

The order to kill Ka'b is mentioned in numerous hadith in the Sahih al-Bukhari and in one Sahih Muslim.[3]


  • Interactions with Muhammad 1
  • Commentary 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4

Interactions with Muhammad

Following the victory of the Muslims over the Quraysh in the Battle of Badr, in March 624, Ka'b was angry at the execution of a number of Meccan notables who had been captured after that battle.[4] Ibn Hisham's biography of Muhammad reports Ka'b as saying "By Allah, if Muhammad has indeed struck down those people, then it were better to be buried in the earth than to walk upon it!"[5]

Ka'b went to Mecca, where he wrote poems praising the Quraysh and trying to incite them to again take up arms again against Muhammad.[2] Some sources suggest that during a visit to Mecca, Ka'b concluded a treaty with Abu Sufyan, stipulating cooperation between the Quraysh and Jews against Muhammad.[6]

Upon returning to Medina, Ka'b started a fresh campaign that took the form of obscene songs and erotic poems with a view to defaming the Muslim women.[5]

Muhammad made it clear to his companions that he wished Ka'b killed, saying, "Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?"[7] Muhammad bin Maslama volunteered and was aided by several others, including Abu Na'ila (Silkan bin Salama, Ka‘b’s foster brother). Ibn Maslamah was troubled that this assassination would involve lying to Ka'b, but Muhammad gave him a dispensation to do so.[5]

They took Ka'b out for a walk late at night and killed him.[4]

When the Jews learned about the death of Ka'b, "there was not a Jew who did not fear for his life", as a Muslim biographer of Muhammad put it.[5] After defeat by the Quraysh at the Mount Uhud in March, 625, Muhammad needed a victory to regain lost prestige and decided to attack the Banu Nadir.[8] Earlier, Huyayy bin Akhtab of Banu Nadir tribe had refused to pay blood money for the murder of two Muslims and Abd-Allah bin Ubayy had planned along with allied nomads to attack Muhammad.[9] Muhammad besieged the Banu Nadir and ordered the tribe to leave Medina within 10 days. The tribe at first decided to comply, but certain people from Medina who were not believers offered to help Banu al-Nadir fight the Muslims.[10] Huyayy ibn Akhtab, despite opposition from within the tribe, decided to fight, a fight which ended with their surrender although they were allowed to leave and take what possessions they could carry on their camels, with the exception of their weapons which they had to leave behind.[11]


According to Stillman, 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.[8]

The French enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire wrote a play with Muhammad's killing of some of his enemies as a main theme. The name of the play was "Le fanatisme, ou Mahomet le Prophete", meaning "Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet".

Ka'b is mentioned, along with Abd-Allah bin Ubayy, in the Kitáb-i-Íqán - the primary theological work of the Baha'i religion. There they are described as being among some of the "divines (ʿulamāʾ) of that age" who mocked and denounced Muhammad as "a lunatic and a calumniator."[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Uri Rubin, The Assassination of Kaʿb b. al-Ashraf, Oriens, Vol. 32. (1990), pp. 65-71.
  2. ^ a b  
  3. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:270 Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:369, Sahih Muslim, 19:4436 Sahih al-Bukhari, 3:45:687 Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:271
  4. ^ a b Montgomery Watt, W. "Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf".  
  5. ^ a b c d  
  6. ^ Rubin, Uri (1990). The Assassination of Kaʿb b. al-Ashraf. Oriens 32. p. 66. 
  7. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:270
  8. ^ a b Stillman, Norman (1979). The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book. Jewish Publication Society. p. 13-14.  
  9. ^ Montgomery Watt, W. (1956). Muhammad at Medina. pp. 211–2. 
  10. ^ The earliest biography of Muhammad, by Ibn Ishaq Some sources identify these persons with Abd-Allah bin Ubayy, who however was a Muslim, of the Banu Qurayza.
  11. ^ Montgomery Watt, W. "Nadir, Banu 'l".  
  12. ^ "The Kitáb-i-Íqán, Part Two". BAHA'I REFERENCE LIBRARY. pp. 93–120. 
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