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Mohammed, Assassinations, and Beheadings

Randall A. Terry

These are excerpts of a larger work that compares the lives, teachings, and early disciples of Christ and Mohammed. This section deals primarily with Mohammed.

...the vast majority of Americans have little or no knowledge of the Mohammed. The central themes of his teachings are a mystery to us, and his life is even more alien to our experience. If a clever trendsetter tried to create a bracelet that said, "What would Mohammed do?” it would at best be seen as a prank—perhaps a kind of political comic relief. In reality, most Americans wouldn't have a clue what Mohamed would do.

Mohammed's vision of the Almighty and His specific directives are central to our entire discussion. As Christ is the central figure, hero, and example of the Christian faith, Mohammed is the central figure, hero, and example of the Islamic faith. Doing the will of Allah as revealed to Mohammed is the duty of all Muslims; exploring that will is the duty of all those who want to understand Islam; finding Mohammed’s life and voice will give clarity to the events of the Islamic world.

In that light, it must be asked and answered in deadly earnest: What would Mohammed do? To know what he would do, we must study what he did…Let us now view some of those emissaries who took Mohammed's mission to new depths of violence….

Ibn Ishaq recounts the killing of "the enemy of God" named Ka'b son of al-Ashraf. (See page 365 ff) After Badr, Ka'b "began to inveigh against the apostle…" He wrote and declared verses of poetry that were insulting to Mohammed and Islamic women. Mohammed said, "Who will rid me of the son of Ashraf?" Muhammad son of Maslama said, 'I will deal with them for you, O apostle of God, I will kill him.' He said, 'Do so if you can.'" Mohammed then gave the assassin permission to lie and deceive the target of his wrath. Amazingly, the killer recruited the victim's foster brother, who had become a Muslim. Together, with the foster brother having the victim's confidence, they led him on a midnight stroll pretending to visit and conduct business with him. On signal, they lunged on him. The assassin reported: "I thrust [my dagger] into the lower part of his body, then I bore down upon it until I reached his genitals, and the enemy of God fell to the ground... Our attack upon God's enemy cast terror among the Jews, and there was no Jew in Medina who did not fear for his life" (368, Ibn Ishaq)

It appears that in addition to Mohammed’s violence against the polytheists of Mecca, a sudden anti-Semitic rage emerged from his heart. For example, Ibn Ishaq records the following: "The apostle said, 'Kill any Jew that falls into your power.' Thereupon Muhayyisa son of Mas'ud leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom he had social and business relations, and killed him."

The assassin's older brother's name was Huwayyisa; he was outraged that his younger brother had murdered his business and social associate. Ishaq says, "When Muhayyisa killed him Huwayyisa [the older brother] began to beat him, saying, 'You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?'" His brother answered, ‘Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off...’” The older brother replied, "'By God, if Mohammed had ordered you to kill me would you have killed me?' He said, 'Yes, by God, had he ordered me to cut off your head I would have done so.' He exclaimed, 'By God, a religion which can bring you to this is marvelous!' and he became a Muslim."

This chilling account shows a direct connection between the assassination of an innocent man and the "conversion" of an unbeliever. It was not the content of Mohammed's message that convinced this man, but it was the passionate obedience of his younger brother that shocked him into the Islamic faith. He knew that if this faith could cause his younger brother to murder him, then Islam was something to be dreaded and obeyed. We see the direct connection between the emissary, his sword, someone’s death, and someone else’s conversion.

This pattern is again displayed in the following two assassinations. A man named Abu 'Afak was upset when Mohammed killed a man ‘Afak respected, so he (Abu 'Afak) spoke out against Mohammed with verses of poetry. Mohammed said the oft repeated words, "Who will deal with this rascal for me?" whereupon one of his associates went and murdered the man. (Ibn Ishaq, 675)

Tragically, we shall now see that women are not exempt from this type treatment. When Abu 'Afak was assassinated for publicly speaking against Mohammed's killing of another man, Asma daughter of Marwan spoke out against Abu 'Afak's murder. Ishaq records: "When the apostle heard what she had said he said, 'who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?' Umayr... who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he said, 'You have helped God and his apostle, O Umayr!' When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, 'Two goats won't but their heads about her...'" (Ibn Ishaq, 675)

Her murder caused a great commotion amongst her friends and family and the people of her Tribe, the Khatma. As is the pattern and intent, Ibn Ishaq says that her murder led to the conversion of many unbelievers. He states, "She had five sons, and when Umayr went to them from the apostle he said, 'I have killed the daughter of Marwan, O sons of Khatma. Withstand me if you can; don't keep me waiting.' That was the first day that Islam became powerful among the tribe of Khatma... the day after the daughter of Marwan was killed the men of Khatma became Muslims because they saw the power of Islam." (Ibn Ishaq, 676)

…And lest anyone think that Mohammed did not sully his own hands with the blood of his enemies, Ibn Ishaq lets us know that Mohammed possessed prisoners after the battle of Uhud that he "killed with his own hand." (Ibn Ishaq, 403) The histories I have read give little detail about the event, but they record it, as well as Mohammed’s pride when he told his daughter that his sword “served him well” that day. This is a key incident (as is the one that follows) because it shows Mohammed himself, not merely killing in battle, but then killing prisoners and hostages.

…The last illustration I will relay is the tragic story of the Jewish tribe of the Qurayza. These Jewish families lived in the Medina area, and had coexisted with Mohammed for a few short years in relative peace. Their leader secretly joined a Confederacy against Mohammed which ended up amounting to nothing. None of the Jews in question bore arms against Mohammed in battle.

The Jews surrendered, and agreed to allow Mohammed to appointment of a referee to negotiate a settlement between them and the Muslims. (Mohammed had offered them the chance to them to become Muslims and thereby avoid all ramifications, but they refused the offer.) The Jews anticipated that they would lose their property, and be allowed to emigrate from Medina into Syria or perhaps another neighboring country. This was the fate that other Jews had suffered--they lost their lands, but kept their lives.

The Muslim referee specifically obtained a promise from Mohammed that Mohammed himself would honor his decision concerning the Jews of Qurayza. Once Mohammed agreed, the referee pronounced his verdict: "Then I give judgment that the men should be killed, the property divided, and the women and children taken as captives." Ibn Ishaq, 464) Mohammed's response was again pivotal in the theology, history, and the spread of Islam for centuries to come. He stated in the presence of all who had gathered: "You have given the judgment of Allah above the seven heavens." (Ibn Ishaq, 464)

The narration continues: “Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought up to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah Huyayy son of Akhtab and Ka'b son of Asad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. As they were being taken out in batches to the apostle they asked Ka'b what he thought would be done with them. He replied, 'Will you never understand? Don't you see that the summoner never stops and those who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!' This went on until the apostle made an end of them." (Ibn Ishaq, 464)

Such an event must either be heralded or hidden, respected or rejected. But it cannot be ignored or glossed over. Every ancient Islamic historian embraces this atrocity as a great victory for Islam. The Quran itself-- the book which Mohammed declared and Muslims believe possesses the very words of God--heralds this massacre as a glorious testament to the expansion of Islam. The Quran states: "And he caused those people of the book (the Jews), who aided the Confederates, to come down out of their fortresses, and cast dismay into their hearts: some ye slew, others ye took prisoners. And he gave you their land, and their dwellings, and their wealth, for an heritage--even a land on which ye had never set foot: for the might of God is equal to all things." (Sura 33: 26,27)

The sight and the stench of their blood would have been overwhelming; the picture of hundreds of lifeless old men, handsome young teenagers, strong fathers and husbands—decapitated—with their lifeless bodies being pushed into a ditch—this is reminiscent of scenes from the WWII holocaust.

Forgive the gruesome nature of this picture, but in order to accurately assess the horrific nature of the slaughter just repeated to you, (and extolled in the Quran,) one must picture the magnitude of what took place. Mohammed is squarely at the center of the event. The passage quoted from Ibn Ishaq says the apostle dug the ditch and struck off their heads; the apostle made an end of them. Mohammed was not a bystander, helplessly watching an angry mob gone out of control; he was an active participant in this massacre—for the glory of Allah.

Children became orphans and they were sold as slaves. Women became widows, and were robbed of their husbands, their children, and their homes in a single moment of time. They too became slaves and chattel property. And in keeping with his pattern, Mohammed took one of the widows as his sex slave.

Whereas the respected Islamic historians and theologians of centuries past (al-Tabiri, Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Kathir) warmly embrace and extol this event as a great victory for Islam, many current writers ignore it. One current Islamic historian called it an “unfortunate event;” another said Mohammed “…taught them a lesson.”

It is doubtful this is because they believe that this slaughter was an atrocious act worthy of condemnation—otherwise they would forsake or denounce Islam; more likely it is because they know that the average human mind in today's world--whether Islamic or not--simply cannot accept that this was a righteous act, “The Judgment of Allah from the seventh heaven…” as Mohammed called it as he proceeded to carry out the executions. It would not make a very good evangelistic tract, nor would it make a great “Bible Story.” “Allah loves you, and has a really great plan for your demise if you do not follow the prophet…” In truth, the horrifyingly brutal manner in which Mohammed dealt with these noncombatants is something that could cause nominal Muslims to reconsider or reject their faith.

And for the sake of clarity and emphasis, we must understand that the Quran glorifies this event as something that Allah did for the Muslim community. Read the passage again: "And he [Allah] caused those people of the book (the Jews), who aided the Confederates, to come down out of their fortresses, and cast dismay into their hearts: some ye slew, others ye took prisoners. And he gave you their land, and their dwellings, and their wealth, for an heritage--even a land on which ye had never set foot: for the might of God is equal to all things." (Sura 33: 26,27)

This event is central to Muslim doctrine, and hence the theocentric [God-centered]—Mohammed textured—Muslim mind. This “unfortunate event;” this “lesson” that Mohammed “taught the Jews” could have been ignored by the Quran. Indeed, not every slaughter and battle and assassination in which Mohammed took part or authorized has a Quranic revelation associated with it. But the fact is clear; the Holy Book of Islam—the word of Allah—flawless in its’ revelation according to the Islamic faith, glorifies this event as the fruit of the might of Allah. And the slaughter of Jewish men, the spoiling of their goods, the enslaving of their children and wives by the Muslims was a righteous act before God.

The implications of this for us are nearly endless. If one wants to truly believe in Islam, one must accept this slaughter as a part of the very fiber of Islam. This is a building block, part of the Quranic and historic foundation of how the faith was established; how it conquered the other faiths in Arabia in the lifetime of Mohammed.

This event serves as a lesson and a warning. We see an offer to believe in and accept Mohammed as the messenger of God, (which the Jews rejected), followed by the slaughter of innocent non-combatants (which we have recently seen is completely acceptable to the devout Muslim mind), the theft of their property and the enslavement of their families (which is happening today in Sudan and the Pacific rim where Christians are attacked by Muslims.)

On my recent trip to the Middle East I was dumbfounded to find out that not a single Muslim I spoke with knew about this event; neither did they know about the large number of assassinations Mohammed's authorized. It is important at this point to point out that the vast majority of Muslims probably do not know of this behavior of Mohammed. It is perhaps more critical to assert that most Muslims would likely reject this type of behavior, and would not participate in it under any circumstance.

That being said, there are others in the Islamic world--undoubtedly a minority, but a very powerful and influential minority--that are immersed in Islamic history, Quranic law, and the life and sayings of Mohammed. They know of the assassinations he authorized; they know he ordered hostages to be taken and killed; they know he killed some of them with his own hand; and they believe all of these deeds and words are a righteous display of service to Allah.

In that light, and with their Allah based theocentric mind, they are prepared to wage war and commit assassinations like the founder of their religion. They are well equipped with Quranic passages and detailed stories from the life of Mohammed to invite and incite other young men to follow his teachings and his leadership to the path of martyrdom.

We need to remember that just before the young American Nicholas Berg was decapitated by his Islamic captor, his murderer stated: "Allah has left us an example in the blessed Prophet with the slow cutting of the prisoners’ necks, and the cutting off of their heads." He was a man who knew his Islamic heritage as he answered the question: “What would Mohammed do?”


The Life of the Prophet Muhammad. Ibn Kathir. Volume II, Translated by Professor Trevor LeGassick. Garnet publishing.

The Koran. Translated from the Aribic by J.M. Rodwell

The Life of Muhammad. A translation of Ishaq’s Sirat Rasol Allah. Oxford University Press.

Al-Tabari, Volume VIII, New York University Press

A Short History of Islam, S.F. Mahmud, Oxford University Press



Copyright © 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved