The Root of Terrorism a la
20 Nov, 2005
- 'Defined in Psychological terms, a fanatic is a man who consciously overcompensates a secret doubt'---Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
The Murder of Asma bt. Marwan at Medina by Umayr b. Adiy al-Khatmi - March, 624CE
Immediately after his return from the victory at Badr, Muhammad felt strong enough to put a halt to his critics who were displeased that his arrival at Medina, along with his horde of marauding Jihadists had caused fear and serious divisions among the Medinites. Many Jews were greatly disturbed at the prospect of a militarily strong army of the Muslims and feared that they might be Muhammad's next victims, because they (the Jews) possessed great wealth. During those days, the most successful method of hurling epithets and criticisms to opponents was through poems. Therefore, poets in those days were what journalists are today. One such poetess was Asma bint Marwan. She belonged to the B. Aws and did not hide her dislike for Islam. She was married to Yazid b. Zayd, a man of Banu Khatma and had five sons and a suckling infant. Some authors suggest that her father was a Jew. After the Badr war, she composed some satirical poems. The verses spread from mouth to mouth and finally reached the ears of the Muslims and they were greatly offended. Muhammad could not at all endure satire or vituperation. Therefore, an incensed Muhammad decided that it was time to get rid of her.
In his mosque, at night, Muhammad sought a volunteer to assassinate Asma bt. Marwan. A blind man, Umayr b. Adiy al-Khatmi, belonging to the same tribe as Asma's husband (i.e., Banu Khatma) stood up to complete the job. In the dead of night he crept into her apartment. Her little children then surrounded Asma while she slept. Hugging her bosom was her infant, suckling her breast. The blind man, feeling stealthily with his hand, removed the infant from her breast and plunged his sword in her belly with such a force that it passed through her back. This severe blow killed Asma on the spot. It was just five days before the end of the month of the sacred month of fasting, Ramadan when Muslims are not supposed to shed blood.
After murdering Asma, next morning, the killer Umayr went to pray in the mosque while Muhammad was there. Muhammad was quite anxious to learn if the mission of Umayr was a success or not. He said to Umayr, the killer "Have you slain the daughter of Marwan?' Commenting on this Ibn S'ad writes, "This was the word that was first heard from the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him." When Umayr replied that the job had been carried out with success, Muhammad said, "You have helped God and His apostle, O 'Umayr!' When Umayr asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences, the apostle said, "Two goats won't butt their heads about her." Muhammad then praised Umayr in front of all gathered for prayer for his act of murder, and Umayr went back to his people. (Note: Some biographers suggest that Omayr was Asma's former husband). Five days later, the Muslims celebrated the first Eid (the end of fasting)!
When Omayr, the killer returned to Upper Medina, he passed the sons of Asma who were burying theirs slain mother. They accused Umayr of murder of their mother. Without hesitation, Umayr admitted the accusation boastfully and threatened to kill the whole family if they dared to repeat the lampoons that their mother had composed deriding the Prophet of mercy. This threat of terror worked wonderfully. The entire tribe of Asma's husband (i.e., Banu Khatma) who secretly hated Islam, now openly professed their adherence, just to save their lives. Ibn Ishak writes, "That was the first day that Islam became powerful among B. Khatma. The day after Bint Marwan was killed the men of B. Khatma became Muslims because they saw the power of Islam".
Muhammad and his followers were now convinced that terror, plunder, political murder do, indeed, work for Islam.
The Murder of Abu Afak at Medina by Salim b. 'Umayr - April, 624CE
Abu Afak, a Jew of Medina was a very old man, about 120 years old. He was active in the opposition of Muhammad's religion. He too composed some satirical verses that annoyed the Muslims. One month after his victory at Badr, Muhammad showed his limit of tolerance to his intellectual opposition by expressing his wish to eliminate this old man. At his mosque, the apostle of Allah sought the service of a volunteer killer, saying, 'Who will deal with this rascal for me?'
A convert by the name of Salim b.'Umayr, brother of B. 'Amr b.'Auf from the B. Amr tribe came forward to do the job. He killed Abu Afak with one blow of his sword when the latter slept outside his house. (Some say that Abu Afak was murdered first then Asma). Ibn S'ad describes this gruesome murder in this way:
"He waited for an opportunity until a hot night came, and Abu 'Afak slept in an open place. Salim b. 'Umayr knew it, so he placed the sword on his liver and pressed it till it reached his bed. The enemy of Allah screamed and the people, who were his followers rushed him, took him to his house and interred him."
This perfidious murder alarmed all those in Medina who did not like Muhammad and his religion. The Jews were utterly terrified.
The Affair of al-Sawiq at Qarkarat al-Qudr by Muhammad - April, 624CE
This operation was a small reconnaissance by the Quraysh to gauge the strength and preparedness of Muhammad to launch further attacks on the Meccans. After suffering the ignominious defeat at Badr II at the hands of the emerging force of the Islamic Jihadists, Abu Sufyan b Harb, the Quraysh leader vowed not to touch women until he had destroyed the tribes of al-Aws and al-Khazraj. He gathered two hundred mounted followers, took the eastern road through the Nejd and secretly arrived by night, at the settlement of B. Nadir, a Jewish tribe. However, the Jewish chief, Huwey refused him admission to the Jewish quarters. So, Abu Sufyan took refuge with Sallam b. Mishkan (also known as Abu Rafi), another leading man of B. Nadir Jews. Sallam offered Abu Sufyan's party a hospitable welcome at night, furnishing Abu Sufyan with the intelligence regarding Medina. At dawn, Abu Sufyan moved forward stealthily and arrived at the corn fields and palm gardens of Urayd, a place about two or three miles to the north-east of Medina. He burnt these farms and killed two farmers there. Then he returned to Mecca. Meanwhile, the news spread in Medina and the Muslims were alarmed. Muhammad followed in hot pursuit the Abu Sufyan's army and went as far as Qarkarat al-Qudr. However, it was a fruitless pursuit. The Muslims collected some of the provisions thrown away by the Quraysh men on their return journey to Mecca to lighten the burden on their horses. The Muslims brought back the provision that was mostly barley and as such, it is called the affair of Sawiq.
Raid at Qarkarat al-Qudr Against the Ghatafan and Banu Sulaym led by Muhammad - May, 624CE
This expedition was taken against the nomad tribes of Sulaym and Ghatafan who inhabited the plains of Nejd, to the east of Medina. These tribes belonged to the same stock of the Quraysh and were probably incited by Abu Sufyan to commit a plunder upon Medina. Muhammad came to learn about this impending attack through intelligence. So, he hastened to surprise them. He took two hundred men and reached at Qarkarat al-Qudr but found the place deserted, except for a herd of five hundred camels under the charge of a single boy. Muhammad took the five hundred camels as booty and divided them amongst his men, taking one-fifth for himself as per Islamic rule on plunder (How much one camel is worth? My guess is about US$ 300 each. So this plunder was about US$ 150,000). That meant, from this raid, he took one hundred camels (i.e., equivalent US$ 30,000) for himself. Other Jihadists received two camels each. The camel boy was taken as a captive but was released after he accepted Islam. Muhammad, after leading this raid, stayed at Qarkarat al-Qudr for three nights and returned to Medina without any fight. After returning to Medina he accepted all ransoms for the Quraysh prisoners from Badr II war.
This handsome ransom from the Quraysh captives and the camels from the Qarkarat al-Qudr plunder made him quite rich indeed in a very short time; thus alleviating, at least temporarily, his and his followers immediate pecuniary hardship. There was now a convincing reason to stick to Islam, if one wanted to benefit materially!
Nonetheless, this booty was not ample to satisfy the enormous appetite for wealth by the newly recruited Jihadists. Muhammad was now looking forward to a far more pelf that he knew very well that only the Jews in Medina could supply. Feeling a sense of physical strength from his fanatical followers, he was eagerly waiting for an opportunity to lay a siege on the Jews and grab their land and property. Very soon, such an opportunity came up.
The Ethnic Cleansing of Banu Quaynuqa Jews from Medina by Muhammad - July, 624CE
As written previously, with the decisive victory at Badr II and after the assassination of most of his intellectual critics at Medina, Muhammad quickly realized that it was time to prove 'might is right.' He knew rather well, that the only people who stood, as a stumbling block on his dream of establishing his and his Allah's authority in Medina were the Jews. These Jews were mostly successful owners of orchards on the outskirts of Medina. Many of them were artisans, craftsmen, jewelers and merchants. They were a wealthy, prosperous community, living in their fortified quarters on the suburbs of Medina in harmony with the populace of Medina city. The most prominent among these Jews were the Banu Quaynuqa, Banu Nadir and Banu Qurayza. When Muhammad migrated to Medina these Jewish clans made a covenant with him to live in tranquility and harmony and to aid him, should any attack fell on him. Nonetheless, his victory at Badr II and his brutal killing of many Meccan polytheists unnerved the Jews and they feared an attack on them any time soon. They were absolutely correct. Muhammad was now in a mood to renounce all his treaties with the Jews and conduct plunder on them, to siege their fertile, productive land and their exquisite wealth. In fact, Gabriel brought the decree (8:58) from Allah that he (Muhammad) was free to break treaty with the Jews. With Allah on his side, Muhammad started to threaten the B. Qaynuqa Jews with the consequence of Badr II unless they accepted Islam. B. Qaynuqa Jews were the weakest of all the Jewish tribes in Medina. This is what the prophet of 'religious tolerance' told the B. Qaynuqa Jews in their market:
"O Jews, beware lest God bring on you the like of the retribution which he brought on Quraysh. Accept Islam, for you know that I am a prophet sent by God. You will find this in your scriptures and in God's covenant with you."
Hearing Muhammad's harangue, the B. Qaynuqa Jews retaliated by ignoring his plea for Islam and challenged Muhammad to face them militarily. This is what they replied to Muhammad:
"Muhammad, do you think that we are like your people? Do not be deluded by the fact that you met a people with no knowledge of war and that you made good use of your opportunity. By God, if you fight us you will know that we are real men!"
Then Muhammad demanded Jizya tax from the Jews but the Jews disparaged Muhammad by saying that His Allah was poor. An angry Allah, in verse 3:181, immediately promised His retribution to the Jews.
The show of defiance was a fatal error on the part of B. Qaynuqa; for, this display of insolence by the Jews was good enough reason for Muhammad and his over-eager, booty-hungry Jihadists to wait to conduct an attack on them. Allah also revealed verse 3:12, 13, assuring Muhammad of his victory against the Jews. In addition, the Muslims also complained of sowing discord between the B. Aws and B. Khazraj by the Jews by narrating the battle of Buath, in which these two tribes fought fiercely. It was during this time that Allah forbade, in verse 5:57, to engage in friendship by the Muslims with the Jews and the Christians. While this hostility between the Muslims and the Jews was simmering, an incident took place that gave Muhammad the opportunity he was patiently waiting to lay an attack on the Jews. The incident was as follows:
An Arab girl, married to a Muslim convert of Medina went to the Jewish shop of a goldsmith in the market place of Qaynuqa. While waiting for some ornaments, she sat down. A silly neighbor secretly pinned the lower hem of her skirt. When she arose, the awkward expose made everyone laugh. She screamed with shame. A passing Muslim witnessed the incident and killed the offending Jew. The brother of the Jew then killed the Muslim. The family of the murdered Muslim then appealed to the converts of Medina to take revenge.
The skirmish now became general and Muhammad made no attempt to mitigate the situation, nor did he try to bring the offending parties to justice. He immediately gathered his followers under the white banner in the hand of Hamzah and marched forward to attack the Jewish tribe. The Jews took shelter in their fortified apartments. So, Muhammad laid a siege and a full blockade was imposed. The siege lasted for fifteen days. The Jews were expecting help from their Khazraj allies. But the help did not come. So, the desperate B. Qaynuqa Jews had no choice but to surrender to Muhammad. Their hands were tied behind their backs and preparations were made for their execution. At this time, Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, the Khazarite and a new convert to Islam (he was the nemesis of Muhammad at Medina, Muhammad calling him a hypocrite) intervened. He could not stand that his old faithful allies would be massacred in cold blood. He begged Muhammad for mercy, but Muhammad turned his face away. Abd Allah persisted. Finally, Muhammad yielded and let the prisoners escape execution. He then cursed the Jews and Abd Allah ibn Ubay with Allah's punishment. Then Muhammad ordered the Jews of B. Qaynuqa to leave Medina within three days. They were led to exile by Ubadah b. al-Samit ibn Samit, one of the Khazarite leaders to as far as Dhubab. Then the Jews proceeded to Wadi al-Qura. There they got assistance from the Jewish inhabitants with carriage until they reached Adriat, a territory in Syria where they settled permanently.
Thus, the B. Qaynuqa Jews surrendered their arms and jewel-making machinery and were exiled from Medina. In this connection, Tabari writes: "Allah gave their property as booty to his Messenger and the Muslims. The Banu Qaynuqa did not have any land, as they were goldsmiths. The messenger of God took many weapons belonging to them and the tools of their trade"
Thanks to Allah's permission for booty and plunder, Muhammad and the formerly indigent Muslims were really on their way to become wealthy residents of Medina.
Abul Kasem is an Bengali ex-Muslim and academic. He has contributed in Leaving Islam - Apostates Speak Out and Beyond Jihad - Critical Voices from Inside and Why We Left Islam.. He has also written extensively on Islam in various websites and is the author of five e-Books: A Complete Guide to Allah, Root of Terrorism ala Islamic Style, Sex and Sexuality in Islam, Who Authored the Quran? and Women in Islam. Mr. Kasem leaves in Sydney, Australia. He can be contacted at [email protected].