Men of Excellence
After reciting the Tashahhud, Ta‘awwuz, and Surah Al-Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba) stated:
The companion who I will mention today is Muhammad bin Maslamah Ansari (ra). Hazrat Muhammad bin Maslamah’s (ra) fathers name was Maslamah bin Salamah. He belonged to the Aus tribe of the Ansar and was the confederate of the Abd-Ash’al tribe. Hazrat Muhammad bin Maslamah was known by the titles of Abu Abdullah, Abdur Rahman and Abu Saeed. The Jews of Medina were anticipating the advent of a prophet, who according to the prophecy of Moses (as), would be named Muhammad. When the Arabs came to know of this, some of them named their children Muhammad.
Hazrat Muhammad (ra) bin Maslamah was among the early converts of Islam. He accepted Islam through Hazrat Musab (ra) bin Umair before Hazrat Sa’d (ra) Muadh accepted Islam. When Hazrat Ubaidah (ra) bin Al-Jarrah migrated to Medina, the Holy Prophet (sa) established a bond of brotherhood between him and Hazrat Muhammad (ra) bin Maslamah. During various battles, Hazrat Muhammad (ra) bin Maslamah was appointed by the Holy Prophet (sa) to oversee Medina in his absence. Hazrat Muhammad (ra) bin Maslamah took part in the Battle of Badr and Uhad. During the Battle of Tabuk, Hazrat Muhammad (ra) bin Maslamah took permission from the Holy Prophet (sa) to remain behind in Medina.
Hazrat Muhammad (ra) bin Maslamah was among those companions who killed Ka’b bin Ashraf and Abu Rafi Salam bin Abu Huqaiq. Both of these individuals were extremely mischievous and relentless in their efforts to cause harm to Muslims and even sought to launch an attack against the Muslims and the Holy Prophet (sa). Consequently, the Holy Prophet (sa) assigned these companions with the task of killing them. Although Ka‘b was a Jew by religion, he was not actually Jewish by descent; rather, he was an Arab. He was accepted by all the Jews of Arabia as their chief. When the Holy Prophet (sa) migrated to Medina, along with the other Jews, Ka‘b bin Ashraf also participated in the treaty which the Holy Prophet (sa) drafted between the Jews with regards to mutual friendship, peace and security, and collective defence. However, deep within, the fire of malice and enmity began to burn in the heart of Ka‘b. After the victory of Muslims in the Battle of Badr, Ka’b estimated that this new religion will not die of its own accord, so he travelled through the length and breadth of Arabia and incited many tribes against Islam. He used negative propaganda to turn Arab tribes against Islam and returned to Medina. There he incited Muslim anger by narrating lewd and obscene couplets about Muslim women. Finally, he hatched a conspiracy to assassinate the Holy Prophet (sa). Under the ploy of a feast, he invited the Holy Prophet (sa) to his residence, and with a few Jewish young men he schemed to have the Holy Prophet (sa) assassinated. However, by the Grace of God, information was received in advance and this plan of his was unsuccessful.
In light of the treaty which had been settled between the inhabitants of Medina upon his arrival, the Holy Prophet (sa) was the chief executive and commander in chief of the democratic State of Medina. With proven charges against the Ka’b of infraction of treaty, rebellion, inciting war, sedition, use of foul language and conspiracy to assassinate the Holy Prophet (sa), as the leader of the coalition state sentenced Ka‘b bin Ashraf to death for his crimes. In order to avoid civil war as a result of this death penalty, and to avoid bloodshed and carnage, the Holy Prophet (sa) instructed that Ka‘b should not be executed publicly; rather, a few people should quietly find an opportunity and put an end to him. The Holy Prophet (sa) assigned this duty to a faithful Companion of the Aus tribe named Muḥammad bin Maslamah (ra), and emphasized that whatever strategy was devised, should be executed with the counsel of Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh (ra), who was the chief of the Aus tribe. As such, with the counsel of Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh (ra), Muḥammad bin Maslamah (ra) took Abu Na’ilah (ra) and two or three other Companions along and reached the residence of Ka‘b. They called Ka‘b out from his living quarters and said, “Our faith demands charity of us, while we are of straitened circumstances. Would you be so kind as to give us a loan?”. “Of course!” said Ka‘b, “But you will be required to deposit some collateral.” Muḥammad (ra) inquired, “What do you require?” This wretched person responded, “Leave your women as collateral.” Suppressing his anger, Muḥammad (ra) declined, so Ka’b said, “Alright, then your sons shall do.” Muḥammad (ra) declined again and said, “if you are generous enough, we are willing to leave our arms with you as collateral.” Ka‘b agreed, and Muḥammad bin Maslamah (ra) and his companions left with the promise to return at night. At nightfall, this party arrived at the residence of Ka‘b with their weapons (as now they were able to openly take their arms along). When they had led Ka‘b out of his home, they brought him to one side during the course of discussions and finally Ka‘b was executed and fell to the ground. Muḥammad bin Maslamah (ra) and his companions departed from there and quickly presented themselves to the Holy Prophet (sa) and conveyed to him the news of his execution.
When news of the execution of Ka‘b became known, an enraged Jewish delegation presented themselves before the Holy Prophet (sa) and complained. The Holy Prophet (sa) listened to their comments and said, “Are you also aware of the crimes which Ka‘b is guilty of?” Then, the Holy Prophet (sa) confronted them about all the evil schemes which Ka‘b was guilty of, i.e., infraction of treaty, inciting war, sedition, use of foul language and conspiracy of assassination, etc and the Holy Prophet (sa) said, “At least from here onwards, you would do well to live in peace and harmony, and do not sow the seed of enmity, violence and disorder.” As such, with the agreement of the Jews, a new treaty was drafted, and the Jews promised once again to live with the Muslims in peace and harmony, and to abstain from a course of violence and disorder. Jews in their hearts knew that Ka‘b received the rightful punishment due to him.
Some western historians have greatly worn out their pens on the issue of the execution of Ka‘b bin Ashraf, and presenting this incident as being an unpleasant blemish upon the mantle of the Holy Prophet (sa), they have levelled allegations. However, it should also be remembered that in light of the treaty which took place between the Muslims and Jews after the migration, the Holy Prophet (sa) become the chief executive of the democratic state which had been established in Medina. The Holy Prophet (sa) was given the authority to issue whatever verdict he deemed appropriate with respect to all disputes and political affairs. Hence, in the interest of domestic peace, the Holy Prophet (sa) declared Ka‘b as being worthy of death due to his mischievous behaviour. A further allegation that on this occasion, the Holy Prophet (sa) gave his Companions permission to lie and cheat, is absolutely incorrect and authentic narrations reject this notion. Muḥammad bin Maslamah (ra), and in his dialogue with K’ab, there is actually nothing about it which can be deemed immoral or false. Albeit, taking into consideration the fundamental purpose of their mission, they did use certain words, which could be construed in more than one way, but there was no other option. In a state of war, for a good and righteous cause, such a mild diversion from simple and straightforward words, cannot be objectionable at all in the eyes of a sensible and honest individual. In various narrations, it has been related that the Holy Prophet (sa) would say: [arabic] Meaning, ‘War is but deception.’ Here, the Holy Prophet (sa) did not condone the use of deception in war, rather, he meant that war is in itself a thing which deceives a person. Meaning that it is not prohibited to catch the enemy off-guard and apprehend or subdue them by means of some strategy or tactic; and there can be different forms of this manoeuvring. (There can be various forms of strategies and tactics) For example, it is established by authentic narrations that when the Holy Prophet (sa) would set out on a campaign, he would generally not disclose his final destination. At times, even if he intended to travel south, at the start of his journey, he would head towards the north, and would then divert towards the south. Then, if someone would inquire of him as to where he had come from, instead of mentioning Medina, he would name a close or far off location where he had previously setup camp, or he would employ some other lawful strategy of war. To the same affect, as the Holy Qur’an has indicated, at times, in order to throw off their enemy, the Companions would begin to retreat from the field of battle; and when the enemy would least expect it, and when its ranks would become disarranged, they would launch a sudden attack. All of these are examples of lawful war tactics. However, to deal with falsehood and treachery is something which Islam has very strictly forbidden. As such, the Holy Prophet (sa) would say, “In Islam, after associating partners with God and usurping the rights of parents, the third greatest sin is speaking a lie.” “Ummi Kalthum bint ‘Aqabah (ra) relates, ‘There are only three instances where I have found the Holy Prophet (sa) to permit the use of such statements, which do not actually constitute falsehood, but ordinary people may construe them as such. Firstly, war; secondly, when reconciling between two people who are at conflict with one another; thirdly, when a husband or wife say something, which is intended to please or gratify the other.’ This Ḥadith leaves no room for doubt in the fact that the kind of tactics which is permitted in war, does not imply falsehood and deception.
Nonetheless, there are some accounts that remain, which I shall narrate in the future sermons.