Muhammad and the Murder of Kinana

Sam Shamoun

Bassam Zawadi seeks to refute (*) the story of Muhammad torturing and killing Kinana, the Jew, for refusing to inform Muhammad about the whereabouts of the treasures of al-Nadir (*).

He says that:

Many anti Islamics have used this incident of the torture of Kinana to attack the integrity of the Prophet… Indeed Islam teaches us that treatment of the prisoners of war is a must. For the evidence you can read

Zawadi thinks that Muhammad applied his instructions and commands consistently whereas the data from the Islamic source material shows that he often failed to practice what he preached:

Zawadi wants to cast doubt on the story of Muhammad ordering the murder of Kinana for refusing to disclose the location of the tribe’s treasures on the grounds that Ibn Ishaq, the chronicler who narrated this event, didn’t provide a source for his report:

Now back to the Kinana issue. Actually the source of this story is invalid. Not because the source is weak, but because there is no source!

Having left Medina and settled at Khaibar, the Banu Nadir started hatching a wide-spread conspiracy against Islam. Their leaders, Sallam Ibn Abi-al Huqauaiq, Huyayy Ibn Akhtab, Kinana al-Rabi and others came to Mecca, met the Quraish and told them that Islam could be destroyed."

(Allama Shibli Nu'Mani, Sirat-Un-Nabi, volume II, p 106)

We have often noted the fact that Muslims are notorious for employing double standards in their use of Islamic sources, with this being an example. Muslim polemicists will often use Ibn Ishaq when it presents Muhammad in a favorable light but discard him on the basis that his Sira often lacks an isnad or chain of transmission.

The problem with this Muslim criticism of Ibn Ishaq is that it fails to explain why Muslim historians, scholars, expositors etc., would pass on or concoct such stories when these anecdotes portray Muhammad in such a negative light? After all, reports that portray Muhammad in an unpleasant manner have the strongest probability of really having occurred because it is inconceivable that Muslims would make them up on their own or receive them from non-Muslims. These harsh anecdotes and accounts cannot, therefore, be explained away in terms of the (alleged) unreliability of the source documents.

Reputable historians, credible apologists/polemicists, and students of Islam correctly reason that these are reliable traditions precisely because no Muslim scholar would dare create such negative portrayals and depictions of his/her prophet, nor would s/he want to preserve such narrations especially if they originated from non-Muslim circles. In fact, Muslims are known to have omitted anything that they perceived to be weak or negative.

One such Muslim that happened to do this was Ibn Hisham, the editor of Ibn Ishaq’s biography, who candidly admitted to removing certain stories from Ibn Ishaq’s work:

God willing I shall begin this book with Isma'il son of Ibrahim and mention those of his offspring who were the ancestors of God's apostle one by one with what is known about them, taking no account of Isma'il's other children, omitting some of the things which I.I. has recorded in this book in which there is no mention of the apostle and about which the Quran says nothing and which are not relevant to anything in this book or an explanation of it or evidence for it; poems which he quotes that no authority on poetry whom I have met knows of; things which it is disgraceful to discuss; matters which would distress certain people; and such reports as al-Bakka'i told me he could not accept as trustworthy — all these things I have omitted. But God willing I shall give a full account of everything else so far as it is known and trustworthy tradition is available. (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Karachi Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth Impression 1995], p. 691; underline emphasis ours)

Yet Ibn Hisham included this story of Kinana being tortured in his version of Ibn Ishaq’s Sira! Why did he retain this report if he didn’t feel that it was based on sound, historical evidence especially when he did not hesitate to discard anything he felt to be inauthentic or incriminating against Muhammad?

Furthermore, one can easily account for Ibn Ishaq not providing a source for this event on the grounds that he didn’t feel he needed to do so since he was writing not too long after these events (at least as far as he may have been concerned since 750 A.D is still over a hundred years after Muhammad’s death). He may have assumed that the facts of this event were common knowledge by the people he was writing to, and that there was no reason to substantiate the report by providing the name of his source(s).

Moreover, Ibn Ishaq wrote at a time where providing a chain or source isnad may not have been an issue for verification (at least for that generation of Muslims to whom he was writing). It is only some considerable time later where the issue of an authoritative chain became vitally important for demonstrating authenticity.

Besides, Zawadi erroneously assumes that just because a report provides a chain of transmitters (isnad) this means that Muslims are able to accurately trace back the origin of a specific report. The circular nature of this argument should be clear to the readers… most of the documents which provide a source or isnad were all written centuries after Muhammad’s death:

Muhammad Ibn Isma`il al-Bukhari - 194-256 AH/809-869 AD.

Muslim Ibn al-`Hajjaj Ibn Wird Ibn Kushadh al-Qushairi - 204-261 AH/819-874 AD.

Abu Dawud Sulaiman Ibn al-Ash`ath as-Sujustani - 202-275 AH/817-888 AD.

Muhammad Ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi - 210-279 AH/825-892 AD.

Ahmad Ibn Shu`aib an-Nasai - 215-303 AH/830-915 AD.

Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Yazid Ibn Majah - 209-273 AH/824-886 AD.

Malik Ibn Anas - 93-179 AH/711-795 AD.

Ahmad Ibn `Hanbal - 164-241 AH/780-855 AD.

Thus, if Ibn Ishaq who was writing closer in time to Muhammad is questionable then what makes us assume that the documents written hundreds of years after Muhammad’s death are any more reliable?

Despite this huge time gap Muslim propagandists like Zawadi would want people to actually believe that just because these sources provide a chain this makes them more reliable than Ibn Ishaq’s chainless narrations.

The problem with this approach is that one must first assume that these later writings are reliable, or reliable enough to provide an accurate transmission, and yet the only way to know whether any of these later narrations are credible is to analyze whether the chains listed within them are sound! In other words, these dawagandists assume that a report is correct if there is a sound chain of transmitters despite the fact that such chains are only recorded in the very collections that are written down centuries after the events!

Note just how circular this truly is:

The fact is that there is simply no possible way for someone writing two hundred years after an event to be able to completely guarantee that all the names of the chain going back two hundred years prior are entirely correct, or that the men listed within these chains were completely honest.

There is one way, however, to ascertain whether a report or chain is reliable and that is by consulting documents that were compiled closer in time to the events in question and see whether they mention such stories or individual transmitters. One of the earliest sources that Muslims can turn to for verification of the later material is Ibn Ishaq’s work. As one Muslim writer put it:

This book is one of the earliest attempts at presenting a complete biography of Muhammad using a wide variety of sources. The work was completed in the eighth century under the title, Sirat Rasulullah, or History of the Messenger of Allah. (Yahiya Emerick, Critical Lives: Muhammad (Alpha: A Member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2002), Appendix D: Resources and References, p. 311)

Another author hails Ibn Ishaq and his work:

Ibn Hisham. His abridgement of the last pioneering work, Seerah Rasoolullah, by Muhammad bin Ishaq, is invaluable. Portions of Ibn Ishaq have recently been recovered and published. Muhammad bin Ishaq (who died in 150 or 151AH), is unquestionably the principal authority on the Seerah (Prophetic biography) and Maghazi (battles) literature. Every writing after him has depended on his work, which though lost in its entirety, has been immortalised in the wonderful, extant abridgement of it, by Ibn Hisham. Ibn Ishaq was one of the Tabieen (second generation who saw the Sahabah but not the Prophet SAWS himself) of humble beginnings as a former slave. Ibn Ishaq's work is notable for its excellent, rigorous methodology and its literary style is of the highest standard of elegance and beauty. This is hardly surprising when we recall that Ibn Ishaq was an accomplished scholar not only in Arabic language but also in the science of hadith. For this reason, most of the isnad (chains of narration) that he gives in his Seerah are also to be found in the authentic books of hadith. Ibn Ishaq, like Bukhari and Muslim, travelled very widely in the Muslim world in order to authenticate the isnad of his hadith. It is reported that Ibn Ishaq saw and heard Saeed bin Al-Musayyib, Aban bin Uthman bin Affan, Az-Zuhri, Abu Salamah bin Abdur-Rahman bin Awf and Abdur-Rahman bin Hurmuz Al-Araj. It is also reported that Ibn Ishaq was the teacher of the following outstanding authorities among others:

(a) Yahya bin Saeed Al-Ansari
(b) Sufyan Ath-Thawri
(c) Ibn Jurayh
(d) Shu'bah bin Al-Hajjaj
(e) Sufyan bin Uyainah
(f) Hammad bin Zaid (A. I. Akram, The Sword of Allah: Khalid bin Al-Waleed: His Life and Campaigns, Appendix A: Bibliography; source)

But since Zawadi and his authorities are often questioning Ibn Ishaq they cannot, therefore, appeal to him to support their case. Their skepticism towards Ibn Ishaq has basically left them with no credible way of authenticating the later traditions which they often appeal to in support of Islam.

Finally, and more importantly, one particular hadith provides substantiation that the torture of Kinana over the treasure actually happened:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar:

The Prophet fought with the people of Khaybar, and captured their palm-trees and land, and forced them to remain confined to their fortresses. So they concluded a treaty of peace providing that gold, silver and weapons would go to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him), and whatever they took away on their camels would belong to them, on condition that they would not hide and carry away anything. If they did (so), there would be no protection for them and no treaty (with Muslims).

They carried away a purse of Huyayy ibn Akhtab who was killed before (the battle of) Khaybar. He took away the ornaments of Banu an-Nadir when they were expelled.

The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) asked Sa'yah: Where is the purse of Huyayy ibn Akhtab?

He replied: The contents of this purse were spent on battles and other expenses. (Later on) they found the purse. So he killed Ibn AbulHuqayq, captured their women and children, and intended to deport them. They said: Muhammad, leave us to work on this land; we shall have half (of the produce) as you wish, and you will have half. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) used to make a contribution of eighty wasqs of dates and twenty wasqs of wheat to each of his wives. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 19, Number 3000)

The translator says in a footnote that:

2427. It contained a large quantity of gold, silver and ornaments. It valued nearly ten thousand dinars. A woman who was married usually borrowed ornaments from this purse. (Sunan Abu Dawud, English translation and explanatory notes by Prof. Ahmad Hasan [Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters; Lahore, Pakistan, 1984], Volume II, XIII. Kitab al-Kharaj Wal-Fai’ Wal-Imrah, Chapter 1112: On The Law About The Land of Khaibar, p. 853)

It should be noted that Ibn AbulHuqayq is none other than Kinana whose full name is Kinana ibn Ar-Rabi' ibn Abi'l-Huqayq! Thus, we have one of the most trusted collections of hadiths corroborating this story of Muhammad torturing and killing Kinana for withholding information regarding the whereabouts of the money purse.

In fact, there is corroboration that this hadith from Abu Dawud contains a sound chain:

As for movable property, it was agreed that gold, silver, arms and shields would be for the Prophet, while they would retain what their mounts could carry; but they would not conceal any wealth. If they did, they would not escape from the punishment by any treaty. Yet they concealed a treasure casket that belonged to Huyaiy bin Akhtab. He had carried it along with him the day he had left Madinah along with the rest of Banu Nadir. When the Prophet inquired his uncle Sa’yah about it, he replied, "It was eaten up by expenditures and consumed by wars." The Prophet said, "The treaty is still fresh and the amount involved is enormous." He entrusted him to Zubayr who tortured him. He admitted seeing Huyaiy foraging around in ruins. When searched, the treasure was found there. So Ibn Abu Huqyaq was killed in retaliation and his women and children were taken as slaves. And Muhammad bin Maslamah was allowed to kill Kinanah, the one who led them to the treasure, in retaliation of the man having killed his brother Mahmud bin Maslamah.

49. Reported by Abu Dawud in his Sunan (3/408/H. 3006) through a reliable chain. (A Biography of the Prophet of Islam In the Light of Original Sources: An Analytical Study, by Dr. Mahdi Rizqullah Ahmad, translated by Syed Iqbal Zaheer [Darussalam Publishers and Distributors, Riyadh, Jeddah, Sharjah, Lahore, London, Houston, New York; First Edition: November 2005], Volume 2, Chapter 15: The Khayber Expedition Events and Expeditions between Badr and Uhud, pp. 628-629; underline emphasis ours)

The author then tries to draw some lessons and legal points from these tortures for the Muslims!

14 It is also allowed to make a peace deal conditional, as did the Prophet, on the condition that the Jews would not conceal anything. The case involving the treasure of Huyaiy bin Akhtab represents such a precedence …

18 The clause and consequences of breaking a covenant is extendable to women and offspring. Someone who remains silent is counted as one who speaks a lie. That is what happened with Kinanah and the two sons of Ibn Huqayq. This is applicable when those who break the covenant are a group. However, if the one who breaks the covenant is a single individual, then the responsibility is not extendable to women and offspring. (Ibid., p. 635; underline emphasis ours)

The preceding factors give us good grounds for assuming that Muhammad did have Kinana brutally tortured and killed for his unwillingness to disclose the location of the treasure.

This goes to show that Kinana was a war criminal. Lets read on...

" While describing the battle of Khaibar, the history writers have committed a serious blunder in reporting a totally baseless report, which has become a common place. It is said that the Prophet ( Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had granted amnesty to the Jews on condition that they would not hide anything. When Kinana Ibn Rabi' refused to give any clue to the hidden treasures, the Prophet ( peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ordered Zubair to adopt stern measures to force a disclosure. Zubair branded his chest with a hot flint again and again, till he was on the point of death. At last he ordered Kinana to be put to death and all the Jews were made slaves.

The whole truth in the story is that Kinana was put to death. But it was not for his refusal to give a clue to the hidden treasure. He was put to death because he had killed Mahmud Ibn Maslama (also Muslima). Tabari had reported it in unambiguous words: " Then the Holy Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) gave Kinana to Muhammad Ibn Maslama (Muslima), " and he put him to death in retaliation of the murder of his own brother, Mahmud Ibn Maslama (Muslima)."

In the rest of the report, both Tabari and Ibn Hisham have quoted it from Ibn Ishaq, but Ibn Ishaq does not name any narrator. Traditionalists, in books on Rijal, have explicitly stated that Ibn Ishaq used to borrow from the Jews stories concerning the battle of the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). As Ibn Ishaq does not mention the name of any narrator whatsoever in this case, there is every likelihood of the story of having been passed on by the Jews…

As a matter of fact, Kinana Ibn Rabi Ibn al-Huquaiq had been granted his life on the condition that he would never break faith or make false statements. He had also given his word, according to one of the reports, that if he did anything to the contrary, he could be put to death. Kinana played false, and the immunity granted to him was withdrawn. He killed Mahmud Ibn Maslama (Muslima) and had, therefore to suffer for it, as we have already stated on the authority of Tabari."

(Allama Shibli Nu'Mani, Sirat-Un-Nabi, volume II, p 173-174)

First, Muhammad ibn Maslama is the same person who brutally murdered Kab ibn al-Ashraf in cold blood, and even used lies and deception to do it (with Muhammad’s approval of course!):

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:

Allah’s Apostle said, "Who is willing to kill Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?" Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, "O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?" The Prophet said, "Yes," Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab)." The Prophet said, "You may say it." Then Muhammad bin Maslama went to Kab and said, "That man (i.e. Muhammad) demands Sadaqa (i.e. Zakat) from us, and he has troubled us, and I have come to borrow something from you." On that, Kab said, "By Allah, you will get tired of him!" Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Now as we have followed him, we do not want to leave him unless and until we see how his end is going to be. Now we want you to lend us a camel load or two of food." (Some difference between narrators about a camel load or two.) Kab said, "Yes, (I will lend you), but you should mortgage something to me." Muhammad bin Maslama and his companion said, "What do you want?" Ka'b replied, "Mortgage your women to me." They said, "How can we mortgage our women to you and you are the most handsome of the Arabs?" Ka'b said, "Then mortgage your sons to me." They said, "How can we mortgage our sons to you? Later they would be abused by the people’s saying that so-and-so has been mortgaged for a camel load of food. That would cause us great disgrace, but we will mortgage our arms to you." Muhammad bin Maslama and his companion promised Kab that Muhammad would return to him. He came to Kab at night along with Kab’s foster brother, Abu Na'ila. Kab invited them to come into his fort, and then he went down to them. His wife asked him, "Where are you going at this time?" Kab replied, "None but Muhammad bin Maslama and my (foster) brother Abu Na'ila have come." His wife said, "I hear a voice as if dropping blood is from him." Ka'b said. "They are none but my brother Muhammad bin Maslama and my foster brother Abu Naila. A generous man should respond to a call at night even if invited to be killed." Muhammad bin Maslama went with two men. (Some narrators mention the men as ‘Abu bin Jabr Al-Harith bin Aus and Abbad bin Bishr). So Muhammad bin Maslama went in together with two men, and sail to them, "When Kab comes, I will touch his hair and smell it, and when you see that I have got hold of his head, strip him. I will let you smell his head." Kab bin Al-Ashraf came down to them wrapped in his clothes, and diffusing perfume. Muhammad bin Maslama said, "I have never smelt a better scent than this." Kab replied. "I have got the best Arab women who know how to use the high class of perfume." Muhammad bin Maslama requested Kab, "Will you allow me to smell your head?" Kab said, "Yes." Muhammad smelt it and made his companions smell it as well. Then he requested Kab again, "Will you let me (smell your head)?" Kab said, "Yes." When Muhammad got a strong hold of him, he said (to his companions), "Get at him!" So they killed him and went to the Prophet and informed him. (Abu Rafi) was killed after Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, Number 369)

The reason Kab was put to death is because he was upset at Muhammad’s bloodlust and murderous ways. Specifically, he was angry with the Muslims killing some of the noble men of the Quraysh at the battle of Badr; a battle instigated by Muhammad’s men plundering the Meccan caravans. He then decided to write poems exposing Muhammad’s evil ways and vile atrocities, something which the latter did not like:

After the Quraysh defeat at Badr… Ka`b b. al-Ashraf said… said, ‘Is this true? Did Muhammad actually kill these whom these two men mention? (i.e. Zayd and ‘Abdullah b. Rawaha). These are the nobles of the Arabs and kingly men; by God, if Muhammad has slain these people it were better to be dead than alive.’

When the enemy of God became certain that the news was true he left the town and went to Mecca to stay with al-Muttalib b. Abu Wada‘a b. Dubayra al-Sahmi who was married to `Atika d. Abu’l-‘Is b. Umayya b. ‘Abdu Shams b. ‘Abd Manaf. She took him in and entertained him hospitably. He began to inveigh against the apostle and to recite verses in which he bewailed the Quraysh who were thrown into the pit after having been slain at Badr… Then he composed amatory verses of an insulting nature about the Muslim women. The apostle said …’Who will rid me of Ibnu'l-Ashraf?’ Muhammad b. Maslama said, ‘I will deal with him for you, O apostle of God, I will kill him.’ He said, ‘Do so if you can.’ So Muhammad b. Maslama returned and waited for three days without food or drink, apart from what was absolutely necessary. When the apostle was told of this he summoned him and asked him why he had given up eating and drinking. He replied that he had given him an undertaking and he did not know whether he could fulfil it. The apostle said, ‘All that is incumbent upon you is that you should try.’ He said, ‘O apostle of God, we shall have to tell lies.’ He answered, ‘Say what you like, for you are free in the matter.’ … and after a time Abu Na’ila ran his hand through his hair. Then he smelt his hand, and said, ‘I have never smelt a scent finer than this.’ They walked on farther and he did the same so that Ka‘b suspected no evil. Then after a space he did it for the third time and cried, ‘Smite the enemy of God!’ So they smote him, and their swords clashed over him with no effect. Muhammad b. Maslama said, ‘I remembered my dagger when I saw that our swords were useless, and I seized it. Meanwhile the enemy of God had made such a noise that every fort around us was showing a light. I thrust it 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. Al-Harith had been hurt, being wounded either in his head or in his foot, one of our swords having stuck him. We went away, passing by the B. Umayya b. Zayd and then the B. Qurayza and then Bu‘ath until we went up the Harra of al-‘Urayd. Our friend al-Harith had lagged behind, weakened by loss of blood, so we waited for him for some time until he came up, following our tracks. We carried him and brought him to the apostle at the end of the night. We saluted him as he stood praying, and he came out to us and we told him that we had killed God's enemy. He spat upon our comrade's wounds, and both he ad we returned to our families. 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." (Sirat Rasulullah, pp. 364-365, 367-368; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Muhammad then ordered the murder of any Jew that fell in the hands of any Muslim:

The Messenger of God said, "Whoever of the Jews falls into your hands, kill him." So Muhayyisah b. Mas‘ud fell upon Ibn Sunaynah, one of the Jewish merchants who was on close terms with them, and killed him. Huwayyisah b. Mas‘ud (his brother) at that time had not accepted Islam; he was older than Muhayyisah, and when (the latter) killed (the Jew), he began beating him and saying, "O enemy of God, have you killed him? By God, you have much fat in your belly from his wealth." Muhayyisah said, "I said to him, ‘By God, if he who commanded to kill him had commanded me to kill you, I would have cut off your head.’" And by God that was the beginning of Huwayyisah’s acceptance of Islam. He said, "If Muhammad had ordered you to kill me, you would have killed me?" and I replied, "Yes, by God, if he had ordered me to kill you I would have cut off your head." "By God," he said, "a faith which has brought you to this is indeed a marvel." Then Huwayyisah accepted Islam. (The History of al-Tabari: The Foundation of the Community, translated by M.V. McDonald and annotated by W. Montgomery Watt [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1987], Volume VII, pp. 97-98; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Note the irony here. Rather than the love of Muhammad compelling people to embrace Islam, much like the love of Jesus leads people to the truth, it is Muhammad’s power and murder sprees which causes people to convert to his false religion! Thus, if anyone was a war criminal it was Muhammad and his henchmen.

What makes this rather unfortunate is that Muslims like Zawadi want us to believe that it was perfectly all right for Muhammad to murder individuals who disbelieved in him but totally unacceptable for the other side like Kab to demand justice, to fight and kill Muslims in self-defense, especially when the Muslims actually started the antagonism and hostility with the non-Muslims. This blatant inconsistency and double standard is both truly sad and amazing to say the least.

The readers must always keep this point in mind: Muslims, not the unbelievers, threatened the lives and properties of the people around them. For more on this issue, and related issues, please consult the following:

Second, Nu’Mani erroneously assumes that one version of the event automatically means that the other version cannot be true. He thinks that if Kinana was killed for the death of Mahmud then this refutes the assertion that he was put to death for hiding the treasure that Muhammad so desperately craved. It never dawned on him that both could be true, i.e. Kinana was initially tortured for lying about the whereabouts of the treasure and then put to death for the murder of Mahmud. Or, he was murdered both for the death of Mahmud and for lying about the treasure. In other words, Muhammad killed two birds with one stone, having Kinana killed because of the treasure and Mahmud.

Moreover, wasn’t it Ibn Ishaq who said that Kinana was tortured and then killed by Muhammad bin Maslama for the death of Mahmud? And didn’t Ibn Hisham, al-Tabari and another commentator Ibn Kathir (whom we will cite later) quote this very narrative? And at least one hadith compiler, Abu Dawud, cited this in his collection of narrations. Doesn’t this, therefore, indicate that none of these authorities had a problem accepting that Kinana was tortured and killed for lying about the treasure’s whereabouts and also for Mahmud’s death? Then why should Shibli Nu'Mani have a hard time accepting that both elements of the story may be correct?

Third, there is no evidence that Ibn Ishaq took this story over from the Jews. This is merely conjecture on the part of the Muslim writer.

Fourth, even if this report did originate from the Jews, Zawadi’s source erroneously assumes that this automatically calls the event into question. But why should that be the case? Why shouldn’t we assume the exact opposite, that the Jews would be able to more accurately and honestly recount the atrocities committed against them by Muhammad than would the Muslims? It is equivalent to saying that stories from the Jews regarding the atrocities they experienced during the holocaust should not be trusted since this is nothing more than Isra’iliyat propaganda!

In this case, the Muslims were the victors, the Jews the victims. Why would Zawadi believe that the version of the victors is more credible than the version told by the victims? Currently, in Israel the Jews have the upper hand over the Muslims. And to every incident there are two stories. Should we believe the victors or the victims? Why? Or is Zawadi claiming that in any case, the Muslims are stating the truth and the Jews are lying no matter what they say, and no matter who was strong and who was weak in this event?

Hence, not only is there absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this is a story of the Jews, but even if it were why would that imply that it is therefore wrong?

Fifth, what will Zawadi and his source do with the fact that the Quran itself contains Isra’iliyyat or Jewish sources and fables? See the following links for the documentation:

Will they admit on this basis that the Jews corrupted parts of the Quran, or assume that these reports are reliable even though they originate from Jewish source material? It is obvious that they will choose the latter option, which therefore demonstrates that just because something may come from Jewish or even Christian sources doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t reliable.

Sixth, some hadiths quote Muhammad as approving the use and transmission of Jewish traditions:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr:
The Prophet said, "Convey (my teachings) to the people even if it were a single sentence, and tell others the stories of Bani Israel (which have been taught to you), for it is not sinful to do so. And whoever tells a lie on me intentionally, will surely take his place in the (Hell) Fire." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 667)

Narrated AbuHurayrah:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: relate traditions from the children of Isra'il; there is no harm. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 25, Number 3654)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) used to relate to us traditions from the children of Isra'il till morning came; he would not get up except for obligatory prayer. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 25, Number 3655)

Didn’t Muhammad know that Jewish traditions could not be trusted? If so why then did he permit his followers to relate and transmit such stories?

We repeat: The above is dealing with the unfounded assumption that it is a Jewish story. So far there has not been any evidence that it even is a story that has come from a Jewish source. It is a hypothetical discussion. Fact is that the only source where we find this story is in Muslim books, not Jewish books.

Finally, Muslims of the past and present such as Ibn Hisham and al-Tabari have accepted Ibn Ishaq’s story of Kinana, both in their biographies and narrations. The fact that even Ibn Hisham quoted it is an argument in favor of its veracity since, as we saw above, the former often omitted negative material from the Sira. That he retained this particular report shows that he deemed it to be authentic.

Ibn Kathir is another renowned authority that quoted this narrative of Ibn Ishaq in his biography Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya, which is now available in English:

Ibn Ishaq went on, "The Messenger of God had Kinana b. al-Rabi‘ brought to him; he was in charge of the Banu al-Nadir treasury. When asked about it, Kinana denied knowledge of its whereabouts. Then there was brought to the Messenger of God a Jew who said, ‘I saw Kinana circle around the treasure early every morning.’ The Messenger of God then said to Kinana, ‘Do you realize that I’ll kill you if we find it with you?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. Then the Messenger of God ordered that their treasure be dug up and some of it was brought out. And so the Messenger of God ordered al-Zubayr b. al-‘Awam to go to him, saying, ‘Torture him until you root out what he has.’ Al-Zubayr then repeatedly struck fire on his chest until he was close to death. Finally, the Messenger of God pushed him over to Muhammad b. Maslama, who cut off his head in revenge for the loss of his brother, Mahmud b. Maslama." (The Life of the Prophet Muhammad, translated by professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Muneer Fareed [published by Garnet Publishing Limited: First Edition, reprinted 2005], Volume III, p. 268)

Additionally, here are some more recent modern Muslim biographers who accept the veracity of this event of Kinana being killed for withholding information regarding the whereabouts of the treasure:

… The Prophet then added a further clause, namely that his obligation to spare their lives and let them go free should be annulled with regard to anyone who might try to conceal any of his possessions. Kinanah and the others agreed to this; and the Prophet called on Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Ali and Zubayr and ten of the Jews to witness the agreement.

But it soon became clear to both Jews and Muslims that much of the wealth was being hidden. Where was the famed treasure of the Bani Nadir which they had brought with them from Medina, and which they had so lavishly displayed in their procession through the streets? The Prophet questioned Kinanah about this, and he replied that since their arrival in Khaybar the treasure had all been sold to pay for arms and armour and fortifications. The Jews knew that he was lying, and were all the more apprehensive because many of them now believed themselves to be in the presence of a Prophet[sic]. They held that they had no need to follow him, because he had not been sent to them[sic]; but it would be clearly vain to try to deceive him. One of them, who had Kinanah’s welfare at heart, went to him and begged him to hide nothing, for if he did the Prophet would certainly be informed of it. Kinanah angrily rebuked him; but within less than a day the treasure was discovered, and Kinanah was put to death together with a cousin of his who was found to be privy to the concealment. Their families were made captive. (Martin Lings, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources [Inner Traditions International, Ltd., One Park Street, Rochester, Vermont 05767; 1983], p. 267)

Muhammad's Marriage to Safiyyah

This treacherous deed of Zaynab adversely affected the attitudes of the Muslims. It destroyed whatever confidence they still had in the Jews. Indeed, it confirmed their presentiment that there could be no peace with the Jews as long as they were not finally destroyed. Safiyyah, daughter of Huyayy ibn Akhtab of Banu al Nadir, was one of the captives the Muslims had seized inside the fortresses of Khaybar. Her husband, Kinanah ibn al Rabi`, was known by the Muslims to have been the guardian of all the wealth of Banu al Nadir. When the Prophet had asked Kinanah about his treasure, the latter solemnly declared that he did not know where it was hidden. Muhammad threatened him that in case the treasure was found hidden in his place he would be put to death. Kinanah agreed. One day when Kinanah was seen moving about an uninhabited house in the outskirts, his movement was reported to the Prophet. After the Prophet ordered the inside of the house be dug out, part of the treasure was revealed. Kinanah was killed as a result… (Muhammad Husayn Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, tran. Isma'il Raji al-Faruqi [American Trust Publications, USA 1976; Malaysian edition by Islamic Book Trust], The Campaign to Khaybar and Missions to Kings, p. 373; source)

The Second Part of Khaibar conquered

When the Prophet [pbuh], along with his army, moved to this part of Khaibar, Al-Katiba, he laid a heavy siege to it for fourteen days with the Jews barricading themselves inside their forts. When he was about to use the rams, the Jews realized that they would perish, therefore, they asked for a negotiable peace treaty.

There is one controversial point in this context. Was this part of Khaibar (with its three forts) conquered by force? Ibn Ishaq clearly stated that Al-Qamus fort was conquered by force. Al-Waqidi, on the other hand, maintained that the three forts were taken through peace negotiations, and force, if any, was resorted to only to hand the fort over to the Muslims; the two other forts surrendered without fighting. (Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum (THE SEALED NECTAR) Biography of the Noble Prophet, Saif-ur-Rahman al-Mubarakpuri [Maktaba Dar-us-Salam Publishers & Distributors, First Edition 1995], The Conquest of Khaibar (In Moharram, 7A.H.); source)


Ibn Abi Al-Huqaiq was despatched to the Messenger of All‚h [pbuh] to negotiate the surrender treaty. The Prophet [pbuh] agreed to spare their lives on condition they evacuate Khaibar and the adjacent land, leaving whatever gold and silver they had in their possession. However, he stipulated that he would disavow any commitment if they concealed anything. Shortly afterwards, the forts were handed over to the Muslims and all Khaibar was reduced and brought under the sway of Islam.

This treaty notwithstanding, Abi Al-Huqaiq’s two sons concealed a leather bag full of jewels, and money belonging to Huyai bin Al-Akhtab, who carried it with him when Banu Nadir had been banished. Kinanah bin Ar-Rabi‘, who had hidden the musk somewhere, was obdurate in his denial and so he was killed when the musk was discovered and his dishonesty was proven. Abi Al-Huqaiq’s two sons were killed in recompense for breaching the covenant, and Safiyah, Huyai’s daughter was taken as a captive. (source)

We thus have Abu Dawud, Ibn Hisham, al-Tabari, Ibn Kathir, Muhammad Husayn Haykal, Martin Lings and Saif-ur-Rahman al-Mubarakpuri all endorsing this story, all agreeing that Kinana was killed for concealing the whereabouts of the treasure of al-Nadir. How could all these scholars and writers accept as fact a "spurious" report from an author who gave no chain to substantiate the veracity of this narrative?

Zawadi wants his readers to simply ignore all of these sources for the opinion of one Muslim writer who rejects this event, not on the grounds that it lacks any historical veracity even though this is the impression he wants to give, but because it portrays the prophet of Islam in a less than favorable light. Shibli Nu'Mani indirectly admits that this is the real reason why he rejects this episode,

That a man should be tortured with burns on his chest by the sparks of a flint IS TOO HEINOUS A DEED for a Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who had earned for himself the title of Rahma'lil Alamin (Mercy for all the worlds). After all, did he not let the woman who had sought to poison him go scot free? Who would expect such a soul to order human body to be so burnt for the sake of a few coins. (Emphasis ours)

As does Zawadi:

When I first read about it, I MYSELF WAS QUITE SHOCKED that the Prophet would torture some one just because of some treasure… (Emphasis ours)

It is amusing how their reticence in accepting this account on the grounds that it contradicts the Quranic teaching regarding Muhammad being a mercy supports one of the points we made. As we noted, Muslims typically are appalled by any anecdote that portrays Muhammad in an unfavorable light and normally reject such stories. Why then would Ibn Ishaq and subsequent Muslim scholars and historians pass on this report if it weren’t based on actual history? Why weren’t they as shocked as Zawadi and why couldn’t they see that the torture of Kinana was too heinous a deed for the "Mercy for all worlds" to commit?

Now regarding the story of the Jewess poisoning Muhammad, even though it is true that certain reports state that Muhammad didn’t kill her:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

A Jewess brought a poisoned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet who ate from it. She was brought to the Prophet and he was asked, "Shall we kill her?" He said, "No." I continued to see the effect of the poison on the palate of the mouth of Allah's Apostle. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 786)

Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah:

Ibn Shihab said: Jabir ibn Abdullah used to say that a Jewess from the inhabitants of Khaybar poisoned a roasted sheep and presented it to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) who took its foreleg and ate from it. A group of his companions also ate with him.

The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) then said: Take your hands away (from the food). The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) then sent someone to the Jewess and he called her.

He said to her: Have you poisoned this sheep? The Jewess replied: Who has informed you? He said: This foreleg which I have in my hand has informed me. She said: Yes. He said: What did you intend by it? She said: I thought if you were a prophet, it would not harm you; if you were not a prophet, we should rid ourselves of him (i.e. the Prophet). The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) then forgave her, and did not punish her. But some of his companions who ate it, died. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) had himself cupped on his shoulder on account of that which he had eaten from the sheep. AbuHind cupped him with the horn and knife. He was a client of Banu Bayadah from the Ansar. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 39, Number 4495)

Other traditions, however, contradict this and say that she was killed:

… When the Apostle of Allah conquered Khaybar and he had peace of mind, Zaynab Bint al-Harith, the brother of Marhab, who was the spouse of Sallam Ibn Mishkam, inquired: Which part of the goat is liked by Muhammad? They said: The foreleg. Then she slaughtered one from her goats and roasted it (the meat).  Then she wanted a poison which could not fail… The Apostle of Allah took the foreleg, a piece of which he put into his mouth. Bishr Ibn al-Barra took another bone and put it into his mouth. When the Apostle of Allah ate one morsel of it Bishr ate his and other people also ate from it. Then the Apostle of Allah said: Hold back your hands! because this foreleg… informed me that it is poisoned. Thereupon Bishr said: By Him who has made you great! I discovered it from the morsel I took. Nothing prevented me from emitting it out, but the idea that I did not like to make your food unrelishing. When you had eaten what was in your mouth I did not like to save my life after yours, and I also thought you would not have eaten it if there was something wrong… The Apostle of Allah sent for Zaynab and said to her: What induced you to do what you have done? She replied: You have done to my people what you have done. You have killed my father, my uncle and my husband, so I said to myself: If you are a prophet, the foreleg will inform you; and others have said: If you are a king we will get rid of you. The Jewess returned as she had come. He (Ibn Sa‘d) said: The Apostle of Allah handed her over to the heirs of Bishr Ibn al-Bara who put her to death. THIS IS THE APPROVED VERSION WITH US. (Ibn Sa'ad's Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, English translation by S. Moinul Haq, M.A., PH.D assisted by H.K. Ghazanfar M.A. (Kitab Bhavan Exporters & Importers, 1784 Kalan Mahal, Daryaganj, New Delhi - 110 002 India], Volume II, pp. 251-252; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Sidenote: The Jewess’ response provides a glimpse of how the people viewed Muhammad. They didn’t see him as a mercy from God but as a cruel, barbaric, murderous tyrant who sought to impose his rule and religion upon the necks of people.

Narrated AbuSalamah:

A Jewess presented a roasted sheep to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) at Khaybar… The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) then ordered regarding her and she was killed. But he (AbuSalamah) did not mention the matter of cupping. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 39, Number 4496)

Narrated AbuSalamah:

… So he (the Prophet) sent for the Jewess (and said to her): What motivated you to do the work you have done? She said: If you were a prophet, it would not harm you; but if you were a king, I should rid the people of you. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) then ordered regarding her and she was killed. He then said about the pain of which he died: I continued to feel pain from the morsel which I had eaten at Khaybar. This is the time when it has cut off my aorta. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 39, Number 4498)

Thus, it is not at all certain that Muhammad let the Jewess go free.

The translator of Abu Dawud tries to reconcile the obvious discrepancies between these accounts:

3935. Some other traditions indicate that the Prophet ordered to kill her. This seems to be a contradiction between these traditions. The contradiction has been removed by the explanation that the Prophet in the beginning did not order to kill her. But when Bishr b. al-Bara died of the poison of the sheep which he had eaten, he gave her to the heirs of Bishr for taking retaliation. They killed her as a retaliation. But the Prophet did not kill her on account of poisoning him. Further, this tradition of Jabir has a disconnected chain. It is said that al-Zuhri did not meet Jabir b. ‘Abd Allah (‘Awn al-Ma‘bud, IV, 295).

3936. The Prophet did not order to kill her in the first instance. When Bishr b. al-Bara died of this poison, he ordered to kill her in retaliation of the slain. (Prof. Ahmad Hasan, Sunan Abu Dawud, Volume III, XXXIV. Kitab al-Diyat (Book of Types of Blood-Wit), Chapter 1649: If A Man Gives Anyone Poison To Drink Or Eat, Will Retaliation Be Taken On Him Or Not?, pp. 1263-1264)

This next source agrees with the above translator’s proposed harmonization:

After the battles were over, the Jews made an attempt at the Prophet’s life. One of their women sent him a roasted sheep that was poisoned. She had applied poison more generously to its shoulders since she had learnt that he had preferred shoulder meat. When he began to eat, the shoulder told him that it was poisoned. He threw out what was in mouth. He cross-examined the woman and she admitted to poisoning the meat. He let her go without any punishment. However, later Bishr bin Bara’ bin Ma’rur died of the poison. He had taken a bit or two of the meat. So the Prophet ordered the woman to be killed in retaliation.

42 Hakim in Al-Mustadrak (3/220), and ‘Abdur-Razzaq in his Al-Musannaf through his own chain reaching Ubaiy bin Ka’b as Ibn Hajar mentioned in Al-Fath (16/18); Al-Waqidi (2/679); Bayhaqi in his Dala’il (4/256-264), who gathered together all the reports on this subject… (Dr. Mahdi Rizqullah Ahmad, A Biography of the Prophet of Islam In the Light of Original Sources, Volume 2, Chapter 15: The Khayber Expedition Events and Expeditions between Badr and Uhud, p. 627)

This proposed harmonization introduces some major problems. If we accept the fact that she wasn’t killed then this means that Muhammad robbed the heirs of Bishr the right to retaliation. Yet if a Muslim comes back and says that they remitted their right to justice out of respect for Muhammad then this poses a problem for those hadiths that say she was killed since Muhammad could have asked the heirs to let her go and they would have been all too willing to obey his wishes.

After all, doesn’t even the Quran say it is better to remit than to demand one’s rights?

We ordained therein for them: "Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal." But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what God hath revealed, they are (No better than) wrong-doers. S. 5:45 Y. Ali

And if you chastise, chastise even as you have been chastised; and yet assuredly if you are patient, better it is for those patient. S. 16:126 Arberry

But simply forgiving her would open the door wide for injustice to occur since this results in a situation where criminals can simply be pardoned without demanding just retribution. Either scenario leaves Muhammad and his religious system in shambles since the teachings of Islam fail to maintain a perfect balance between justice and mercy.

To summarize the problems raised by Professor Hasan’s proposed harmonization:

Sidenote: This assumes that the Jewess was wrong for what she did to Muhammad and deserved to be punished, when the reality is that she was simply seeking just retribution against a tyrant who harassed and murdered her family and people.

For more on this topic and to see how the above Quranic references regarding relinquishing one’s right to retribution being more preferable contradict other Quranic citations on this matter, leading certain scholars to conclude that some of these texts have been abrogated, we recommend the following response:

More importantly, even though the Quran makes the assertion that Muhammad is a mercy to the worlds it also says that Muslims are by nature harsh and cruel towards unbelievers:

O believers, whosoever of you turns from his religion, God will assuredly bring a people He loves, and who love Him, humble towards the believers, disdainful towards the unbelievers, men who struggle in the path of God, not fearing the reproach of any reproacher. That is God's bounty; He gives it unto whom He will; and God is All-embracing, All-knowing. S. 5:54 Arberry

O Prophet (Muhammad SAW)! Strive hard against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be harsh against them, their abode is Hell, - and worst indeed is that destination. S. 9:73 Hilali-Khan

Ibn Kathir stated that:

The Order for Jihad against the Disbelievers and Hypocrites

Allah commanded His Messenger to strive hard against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and to be harsh against them. Allah also commanded him to be merciful with the believers who followed him, informing him that the destination of the disbelievers and hypocrites is the Fire in the Hereafter. Ibn Mas`ud commented on Allah's statement…

<Strive hard against the disbelievers and the hypocrites> "With the hand, or at least have a stern face with them." Ibn `Abbas said, "Allah commanded the Prophet to fight the disbelievers with the sword, to strive against the hypocrites with the tongue and annulled lenient treatment of them." Ad-Dahhak commented, "Perform Jihad against the disbelievers with the sword and be harsh with the hypocrites with words, and this is the Jihad performed against them." Similar was said by Muqatil and Ar-Rabi`. Al-Hasan and Qatadah said, "Striving against them includes establishing the (Islamic Penal) Law of equality against them." In combining these statements, we could say that Allah causes punishment of the disbelievers and hypocrites with all of these methods in various conditions and situations, and Allah knows best. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; source; underline emphasis ours)

The Quran continues:

O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near to you; and let them find in you a harshness; and know that God is with the godfearing. S. 9:123 Arberry

The two Jalals say:

O you who believe, fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, that is, the nearest, followed by the next nearest of them, and let them find harshness in you, that is, severity, in other words, be harsh with them, and know that God is with the pious, helping and granting [them] victory. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

There is more from the Quran:

Muhammad (SAW) is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves… S. 48:29 Hilali-Khan

Here, again, is Ibn Kathir:

<And those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, merciful among themselves.> just as He, the Exalted and Most Honored, said in another Ayah

<Allah will bring a people whom He will love and they will love Him; humble towards the believers, stern towards the disbelievers.>(5:54) This is the description of the believers; harsh with the disbelievers, merciful and kind to the believers, angry without smiling before the disbelievers, smiling and beaming with pleasure before his believing brother. Allah the Exalted said in another Ayah

<O you who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are close to you, and let them find harshness in you.> (9:123) The Prophet said…

<<The parable of the believers in their kindness and mercy for each other, is that of the body: when one of its organs falls ill, the rest of the body responds with fever and sleeplessness.>> The Prophet also said…

<<A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts enforce each other.>> Then he clasped his hands with his fingers interlaced. Both of these Hadiths were collected in the Sahih… (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; source; underline emphasis ours)

The foregoing shows that Muhammad’s torture and murder of Kinana perfectly comports with the Quranic depiction of Muslims being cruel and harsh.

For more examples of Muhammad’s excessive cruelty and outright brutality we recommend the following articles and rebuttals:

Zawadi claimed that:

As we can see there is no evidence what so ever for this story of Kinana because there is no narration or source given. It was contrary to the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet's character. Therefore, Christians have to stop using this argument against the glorious Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Contrary to Zawadi’s assertion, the preceding data conclusively shows that there is plenty of solid evidence that the torture of Kinana is based on actual history. This means that Zawadi should continue to be shocked at the barbaric and inhumane behavior of one whom he erroneously believes to have been a prophet of the all-Merciful God.

We would like to conclude our discussion by asking the following questions, specifically to those Muslims who do accept the veracity of this event:

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