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Muhammad Ibn Maslamah sahaba stories biography, sahabah, sahaabah, companion of prophet muhammad saw, sahabi, sahabi's
|Muhammad Ibn Maslamah R.A Sahaba
Black, tall and sturdy, Muhammad ibn Maslamah towered above his contemporaries. He was a giant
among the companions of the Prophet, a giant in body and a giant in deeds.
Significantly he was called Muhammad even before he became a Muslim. It would seem that his name
was itself a pointer to the fact that he was among the first of the Yathribites to become a Muslim and to
follow the teachings of the great Prophet. (The name Muhammad was practically unknown at the time
but since the Prophet encouraged Muslims to name themselves after him, it has become one of the most
widely used names in the world.)
Muhammad ibn Maslamah was a halif or an ally of the Aws tribe in Madinah indicating that he himself
was not an Arab. He became a Muslim at the hands of Musab ibn Umayr, the first missionary sent out
by the Prophet from Makkah to Madinah. He accepted Islam even before men like Usayd ibn Hudayr
and Sad ibn Muadh who were influential men in the city.
When the Prophet, peace be on him, came to Madinah, he adopted the unique method of strengthening
the bonds of brotherhood between the Muhajirin and the Ansar. He paired off each Muhajir with one of
the Ansar. This arrangement also helped to relieve the i mmediate needs of the Muhajirin for shelter and
food and created an integrated community of believers.
The Prophet was a keen observer of character and temperament and was concerned to join in
brotherhood persons of similar attitudes and tastes. He joined in brotherhood Muhammad ibn Maslamah
and Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah. Like Abu Ubaydah, Muhammad ib n Maslamah was quiet and pensive
and had a strong sense of trust and devotion. He was also brave and resolute in action. He was a
distinguished horseman who performed feats of heroism and sacrifice in the service of Islam.
Muhammad ibn Maslamah took part in all the military engagements of the Prophet except the expedition
to Tabuk. On that occasion, he and Ali were put in charge of an army which was left behind to protect
Madinah. Later in life, he would often relate scenes of these battles to his ten children.
There are many instances in the life of Muhammad ibn Maslamah which showed what a dependable and
trustworthy person he was. Before the start of hostilities at the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet and the
Muslim force numbering some seven hundred persons spent a night in an open camp. He put fifty men
under the command of Muhammad ibn Maslamah and entrusted him with the task of patrolling the camp
the whole night. During the battle itself, after the disastrous rout of the Muslims by the Quraysh during
which abo ut seventy Muslims lost their lives and many fled in every possible direction, a small band of
the faithful bravely defended the Prophet till the tide of battle turned. Muhammad ibn Maslamah was
Muhammad ibn Maslamah was quick to respond to the call of action. He once stood listening to the
Prophet as he spoke to the Muslims about the designs of some of the Jewish leaders in the region.
At the beginning of his stay in Madinah, the Prophet had concluded an agreement with the Jews of the
city which said in part:
"The Jews who attach themselves to our commonwealth shall be protected from all insults and
harassment. They shall have equal rights as our own people to our assistance...They shall join the
Muslims in defending Madinah against all enemies...They shall no t declare war nor enter in treaty or
agreement against the Muslims."
Jewish leaders had violated this agreement by encouraging the Quraysh and tribes around Madinah in
their designs against the state. They were also bent on creating. discord among the people of Madinah in
order to weaken the influence of Islam.
After the resounding victory of the Muslims over the Quraysh at the Battle of Badr, one of the three
main Jewish groups in Madinah, the Banu Qaynuqa was especially furious and issued a petulant
challenge to the Prophet. They said:
"O Muhammad! You really think that we are like your people (the Quraysh)? Don't be deceived. You
confronted a people who have no knowledge of war and you took the chance to rout them. If you were
to fight against us you would indeed know that we arc men."
They thus spurned their agreement with the Prophet and issued an open challenge to fight. The Qaynuqa
however were goldsmiths who dominated the market in Madinah. They were depending on their allies,
the Khazraj, to help them in their declared war. The Kh azraj refused. The Prophet placed the Banu
Qaynuqa's quarters under a siege which lasted for fifteen nights. The fainthearted Qaynuqa finally
decided to surrender and ask the Prophet for a free passage out of Madinah.
The Prophet allowed them to leave and the tribe - men, women and children - left unharmed. They had
to leave behind them their arms and their goldsmith's equipment. They settled down at Adhraat in Syria.
The departure of the Qaynuqa did not end Jewish feelings of animosity towards the Prophet although the
nonaggression agreement was still in force. One of those who was consumed with hatred against the
Prophet and the Muslims and who openly gave vent to hi s rage was Kab ibn al-Ashraf.
Kab's father was in fact an Arab who had fled to Madinah after committing a crime. He became an ally
of the Banu Nadir, another important Jewish group, and married a Jewish lady name Aqilah bint Abu-l
Haqiq. She was Kab's mother.
Kab was a tall and impressive looking person. He was a well-known poet and was one of the richest men
among the Jews. He lived in a castle on the outskirts of Madinah where he had extensive palm groves.
He was regarded as a Jewish leader of importance thr oughout the Hijaz. He provided means of support
and sponsorship to many Jewish rabbis.
Kab was openly hostile to Islam. He lampooned the Prophet, besmirched in verse the reputation of
Muslim women, and incited the tribes in and around Madinah against the Prophet and Islam. He was
particularly distressed when he heard the news of the Muslim victory at Badr. When he saw the
returning army with the Quraysh prisoners of war, he was bitter and furious. He took it upon himself
then to make the long journey to Makkah to express his grief and to incite the Quraysh to take further
revenge. He also w ent to other areas, from tribe to tribe, urging people to take up arms against the
Prophet. News of his activities reached the Prophet, peace be on him, who prayed: "O Lord, rid me of
the son of Ashfar, however You wish."
Kab had become a real danger to the state of peace and mutual trust which the Prophet was struggling to
achieve in Madinah.
Kab returned to Madinah and continued his verbal attacks on the Prophet and his abuse of Muslim
women. He refused, after warnings from the Prophet, to stop his dirty campaign and sinister intrigues.
He was bent on fomenting a revolt against the Prophet an d the Muslims in Madinah. By all these
actions, Kab had openly declared war against the Prophet. He was dangerous and a public enemy to the
nascent Muslim state. The Prophet was quite exasperated with him and said to the Muslims: "Who will
deal with Kab i bn al-Ashraf? He has offended God and His Apostle."
"I shall deal with him for you, O Messenger of God," volunteered Muhammad ibn Maslamah.
This, however, was no easy undertaking. Muhammad ibn Maslamah, according to one report, went
home and stayed for three days without either eating or drinking, just thinking about what he had to do.
The Prophet heard of this, called him and asked him why h e had not been eating or drinking. He
replied: "O Messenger of God, I gave an undertaking to you but I do not know whether I can accomplish
it or not." "Your duty is only to try your utmost," replied the Prophet.
Muhammad ibn Maslamah then went to some other companions of the Prophet and told them what he
had undertaken to do. They included Abu Nailah, a foster brother of Kab ibn al-Ahsraf. They agreed to
help him and he devised a plan to accomplish the mission. T hey went back to the Prophet to seek his
approval since the plan involved enticing Kab from his fortress residence through some deception. The
Prophet gave his consent on the principle that war involved deceit.
Both Muhammad ibn Maslamah who was in fact a nephew of Kab by fosterage and Abu Nailah then
went to Kab's residence. Muhammad ibn Maslamah was the first to speak: "This man (meaning the
Prophet, peace be on him) has asked us for sadaqah (charitable tax) a nd we cannot even find food to eat.
He is oppressing us with his laws and prohibitions and I thought I could come to you to ask for a loan."
"By God, I am much more dissatisfied with him," confessed Kab. "We have followed him but we do not
want to leave him until we see how this whole business will end. We would like you to lend us a wasaq
or two of gold," continued Muhammad ibn Maslamah.
"Isn't it about time that you realize what falsehood you are tolerating from him? asked Kab as he
promised to give them the loan. "However," he said, "you must provide security (for the loan)."
"What security do you want?" they asked. "Give me your wives as security," he suggested. "How can we
give you our wives as security ," they protested, "when you are the most handsome of Arabs?"
"Then give me your children as security," Kab suggested. "How can we give you our children as
security when any one of them would thereafter be ridiculed by being called a hostage for one or two
wasaqs of gold. This would be a disgrace to us. But we could give you our (means of) protection
(meaning weapons) since you know that we need them."
Kab agreed to this suggestion which they had made to disabuse his mind of any notion that they had
come armed. They promised to come back to him again to bring the weapons.
Meanwhile, Abu Nailah also came up to Kab and said: "Woe to you, Ibn Ashraf. I have come to you
intending to mention something to you and you do not encourage me." Kab asked him to go on and Abu
Nailah said: "The coming of this man to us has been a source of affliction to our Arab customs. With
one shot he has severed our ways and left families hungry and in difficulties. We and our families are
struggling." Kab replied: "I, Ibn al-Ashraf, by God, I had told you, son of Salamah, that the matter
would end up as I predicted." Abu Nailah replied: "I wish you could sell us some food and we would
give you whatever form of security and trust required. Be good to us. I have friends who share my views
on this and I want to bring them to you so that you could sell them some food and deal well towards
them. We will come to you and pledge our shields and weapons to you as security." "There is loyalty
and good faith in weapons," agreed Kab.
With this they left promising to return and bring the required security for the loan. They went back to
the Prophet and reported to him what had happened. That night, Muhammad ibn Maslamah, Abu Nailah,
Abbad ibn Bisnr, Al-Harith ibn Aws and Abu Abasah ibn Jabr all set off for Kabs house. The Prophet
went with them for a short distance and parted with the words:
"Go forth in the name of God." And he prayed: "O Lord, help them." The Prophet returned home. It was
a moonlit night in the month of Rabi al-Awwal in the third year of the hijrah.
Muhammad ibn Maslamah and the four with him reached Kab's house. They called out to him. As he
got out of bed, his wife held him and warned: "You are a man at war. People at war do not go down at
such an hour." "It is only my nephew Muhammad ibn Maslamah and my foster brother, Abu Nailah..."
Kab came down with his sword drawn. He was heavily scented with the perfume of musk.
"I have not smelt such a pleasant scent as today," greeted Muhammad ibn Maslamah. "Let me smell
your head." Kab agreed and as Muhammad bent over, he grasped Kab's head firmly and called on the
others to strike down the enemy of God.
(Details of this incident vary somewhat. Some reports state that it was Abu Nailah who gave the
command to strike down Kab and this was done after Kab had emerged from his house and walked with
them for some time. )
The elimination of Kab ibn al-Ashraf struck terror into the hearts of those, and there were many of them
in Madinah, who plotted and intrigued against the Prophet. Such open hostility as Kab's diminished for a
time but certainly did not cease.
At the beginning of the fourth year of the hijrah, the Prophet went to the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir on
the outskirts of Madinah to seek their help on a certain matter. While among them, he found out that
they were planning to kill him then and there. He had to take decisive action. The Banu Nadir had gone
too far. Straight away, the Prophet went back to the center of the city. He summoned Muhammad ibn
Maslamah and sent him to inform the Banu Nadir that they had to leave Madinah within ten days
because o f their treacherous behavior and that any one of them seen after that in the city would forfeit
One can just imagine Muhammad ibn Maslamah addressing the Banu Nadir. His towering stature and
his loud and clear voice combined to let the Banu Nadir know that the Prophet meant every word he said
and that they had to stand the consequences of their trea cherous acts. The fact that the Prophet chose
Muhammad ibn Maslamah for the task is a tribute to his loyalty, courage and firmness.
Further details of the expulsion of the Banu Nadir from Madinah do not concern us here: their plan to
resist the Prophet with outside help; the Prophet's siege of their district and their eventual surrender and
evacuation mainly to Khaybar in the north. T wo of the Banu Nadir though became MusIims - Yamin
ibn Umayr and Abu Sad ibn Wahb. Ali this happened exactly one year after the elimination of Kab ibn
Both during the time of the Prophet and after, Muhammad ibn Maslamah was known for carrying out
any assignment he accepted exactly as he was ordered, neither doing more nor less than he was asked to
do. It was these qualities which made Umar choose him as one of his ministers and as a trusted friend
When Amr ibn al-Aas requested reinforcements during his expedition to Egypt, Umar sent him four
detachments of one thousand men each. Leading these detachments were Muhammad ibn Maslamah, az-
Zubayr ibn aI-Awwam, Ubadah ibn as-Samit and al-Miqdad ibn al-As wad. To Amr, Umar sent a
message saying, "Let me remind you that I am sending Muhammad ibn Maslamah to you to help you
distribute your wealth. Accommodate him and forgive any harshness of his towards you."
Ibn Maslamah went to Amr in Fustat (near present-day Cairo).. He sat at his table but did not touch the
food. Amr asked him: "Did Umar prevent you from tasting my food?" "No," replied ibn Maslamah, "he
did not prevent me from having your food but neither did he command me to eat of it." He then placed a
flat loaf of bread on the table and ate it with salt. Amr became upset and said: "May God bring to an end
the time in which we work for Umar ibn al-Khattab! I have witnessed a time when al-Khattab and his
son Umar were wandering around wearing clothes which could not even cover them properly while Al-
Aas ibn Wail (Amr's father) sported brocade lined with gold..."
"As for your father and the father of Umar, they are in hell," retorted Muhammad ibn Maslamah,
because they did not accept Islam. "As for you, if Umar did not give you an appointment, you would
have been pleased with what you got from their udders," conti nued Ibn Maslamah obviously disabusing
Amr's mind of any ideas he might have of appearing superior because he was the governor of Egypt.
"Assemblies must be conducted as a form of trust," said Amr in an attempt to diffuse the situation and
Muhammad ibn Maslamah replied: "Oh yes, so long as Umar is alive." He wanted to impress upon
people the justice of Umar and the egalitarian teachings of Islam. Muhammad ibn Maslamah was a
veritable scourge against all arrogant and haughty behavior.
On another occasion and at another end of the Muslim state under his caliphate, Umar heard that the
famous Sad ibn Abi Waqqas was building a palace at Kufa. Umar sent Muhammad ibn Maslamah to
deal with the situation. On reaching Kufa, Muhammad promptly bu rnt the palace down. One does not
know whether people were more surprised by the instructions of Umar or by the humiliation of Sad ibn
Abi Waqqas, the famed fighter, conqueror at Qadisiyyah, and the one praised by the Prophet himself for
his sacrifices at Uhud.
Sad did not say a word. This was all part of the great process of self-criticism and rectification which
helped to make Islam spread and establish it on foundations of justice and piety.
Muhammad ibn Maslamah served Umar's successor, Uthman ibn Affan, faithfully. When, however, the
latter was killed and civil war broke out among the Muslims, Muhammad ibn Maslamah did not
participate. The sword which he always used and which was given to h im by the Prophet himself he
deliberately broke. During the time of the Prophet, he was known as the "Knight of the Prophet". By
refusing to use the sword against Muslims he preserved this reputation undiminished.
Subsequently, he made a sword from wood and fashioned it well. He placed it in a scabbard and hung it
inside his house. When he was asked about it he said: "I simply hang it there to terrify people."
Muhammad ibn Maslamah died in Madinah in the month of S afar in the year 46 AH. He was seventy
seven years old.
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