[Excerpts, with occasional modest edits, from The Real Muḥammad: In the Eyes of Ibn Isḥāq, copyright 2013, TEI Publishing House. All quotations from the Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (“Life of the Messenger of Allāh”) are from the translation by Alfred Guillaume (Oxford University Press), copyright 1955. These stories are faithfully passed along from the most ancient, extant and authoritative biography of Muḥammad. All Muslims are called to imitate Muḥammad in their daily lives, and Muslim scholars know that Ibn Isḥāq is the best source for the historical Muḥammad, despite concern for various hon-historical material. The question is this: Can Muḥammad satisfy the Muslim thirst for freedom? How many people, of their own volition, would follow Muḥammad if they were free to choose otherwise? The same question is freely received by Muslims who would question Christians who follow Jesus as the Son of God]

Jibrīl Kills Those Whom Muḥammad Curses

John C. Rankin

In the face of the continued conflict, Muḥammad resorts to cursing an enemy, al-Aswad b. al-Muṭṭalib b. Asad Abū Zama’a: “I have heard that the apostle had cursed him for his insults and mockery, saying, ‘O God [Allāh], blind him and bereave him of his son!’ … [Jibrīl] stood up and the apostle stood at his side; and as al-Aswad b. al-Muṭṭalib passed, Gabriel [Jibrīl] threw a green leaf in his face and he became blind.” Then follows four other enemies of the B. Asad that Jibrīl kills. “Then al-Aswad b. ‘Abdu Yaghūth passed and he [Jibrīl] pointed at his belly which swelled so that he died of dropsy. Next al-Walīd [b. al-Mughīra] passed by. He [Jibrīl] pointed at an old scar on the bottom of his ankle (the result of a wound he received some years earlier as he was trailing his gown when he passed by a man of Khuzā‘a[,] who was feathering an arrow, and the arrowhead caught in his wrapper and scratched his foot – a mere nothing. But the wound opened again and he died of it. Al-‘Āṣ [b. Wā’il b. Hishām] passed. He [Jibrīl] pointed to his instep, and he went off on his ass making for al-Ṭā’if. He tied the animal to a thorny tree and a thorn entered his foot and he died of it. Lastly al-Ḥārith [b. ‘Abd b. ‘Amr b. Lu’ayy b. Malakān] passed. He [Jibrīl] pointed to his head. It immediately filled with pus and killed him.”

Thus, here, Ibn Isḥāq gives us stories where the mighty angel Jibrīl shows up in some visible fashion so that the he can he identified. He condescends to the minutiae where Jibrīl 1) throws a leaf in one man’s face to make him blind, 2) points at another man so that he thus dies of dropsy, 3) points at the next man so that an old scar opens up and he dies, 4) points at yet another man so that a thorn in his foot kills him, and 5) points to a final man whose head immediately fills with pus, killing him. All this happens because Allāh orders it at Muḥammad’s request.

There follows an incidental episode of blood-money being demanded for manslaughter, and where a poetic line sums up the culture in this regard: “We are folk who do not leave our blood unavenged.”

In another incident, Khālid b. al-Walīd speaks to Muḥammad “about his father’s interest which Thaqīf owed him, and a traditionalist told me that those verses which prohibit the carrying over of usury from the Jāhilīya arose out of Khālid’s demanding interest: ‘O ye who believe, fear God [Allāh] and gave up what usury remains to you if you are (really) believers’, to the end of the passage.”

As the Sīrat unfolds, Muḥammad brings forth the Qur’ān, and while he is understood to be only a vessel of Allāh‘s words, the text also curses many of Muḥammad enemies.

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