Qamar Ahmed Zafar, London
A YouTube content creator has alleged that after the conquest of Khaybar in 6/7 AH, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa was presented with poisoned meat by a lady from Khaybar as a form of revenge. The lady also wanted to see if the Holy Prophetsa would die if he ate the poisoned meat. She was of the idea that if he died, he would be a false Prophet. Alternatively, if he survived, she would have learnt that he is a true Prophet. So, now we must see whether God saved Prophet Muhammadsa against assassination attempts or whether God failed to protect him.
Failed assassination attempts against the Holy Prophetsa
A noteworthy point to make here about the isolated assassination attempt by poisoning at Khaybar is that this is not the only time the opponents tried to assassinate the Prophet Muhammadsa, in fact, there were many more failed attempts, some of which are as follows:
- We find one attempt by the Jews to kill him when he was just an infant staying with Halima Sa’diyya. (Sunan Abi Dawud, 3004)
- Abu Jahl plots to kill him but flees when angels intervene. (Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah – The Life of Muhammad, trans. A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, Seventeenth Impression, 2004, pp. 133ff.)
- The people of Ta’if throw stones at Prophetsa, leaving him drenched in blood. He survives and the people of Ta’if accept Islam instead. (Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khanra, Muhammad: The Seal of Prophets, Islam International Publications, 2012, p. 66)
- Umar plots to kill the Prophetsa but instead accepts Islam and is now buried next to him. (Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, Life of Muhammadsa, Islam International Publications, 2013, p. 38)
- A party of disbelievers puts a cloth around the Prophet’ssa neck and drags him to kill him, however, this was intervened by his companions. (Ibid, p. 17)
- The Meccan tribes try to kill the Prophetsa before he migrates to Medina. They wait outside his house all night, however, he has already left. (Ibid, p. 50)
- A bounty is put on the head of the Prophetsa during the migration of Medina. Suraqahra b. Malik locates the Prophetsa, but rather than killing him, he eventually accepts Islam. (Ibid, p. 52)
- The Prophetsa is confronted by a man with a sword while he is resting under a tree. The man says to the Prophetsa ‘Who will save you now?’. The Prophetsa replies ‘Allah’. Rather than killing him, the man drops his sword and becomes a supporter of Islam. (Rashid Choudhry, Stories from Early Islam, Islam International Publications, 1990, p. 121)
- Banu Nadir appoint ‘Amr b. Jahsh to throw a boulder on the head of the Prophetsa from a cliff. The Prophetsa is informed by Angel Gabrielas about this, and their plan fails. (William Muir, The life of Mahomet and history of Islam to the era of the Hegira, Vol. 4, 1861, Smith, Elder & Co., p. 308)
- A hypocrite plans to kill the Prophetsa: Ibn Hajar states, “Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr mentioned in his Kitab ad-Durar that the Prophetsa passed by him while he was intent on suddenly attacking him, and so the Prophetsa asked, ‘What are you thinking about?’ He said, ‘Nothing. I was engaged in the remembrance of Allah.’ The Prophetsa laughed and said, ‘I seek forgiveness from Allah for you’ then placed his hand on his chest. ‘Fadala said, ‘By Allah, he had not even lifted his hand from my chest until I did not find anyone more beloved to me on the face of the earth than him.’” (Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 93, Hadith 599)
- The botched assassination attempt of ‘Aqaba 9 AH mentioned in Dala’il an-Nubuwwah, al-Bayhaqi, V. 5, p. 256, Dar-ul-Isha‘ah, Karachi, 2009)
- The failed attack on the Prophetsa in the valley of Hunayn. The Prophetsa returned stating: ‘I am the Prophet, there is no untruth about it’. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-maghazi, 4316)
- And finally, the poisoning attempt at Khaybar.
These are just but a few failed attempts at the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. Can anyone, after reading this, stand up and say that God did not indeed protect the Prophetsa?
We will now investigate the main point of discussion, i.e., no. 13, which inevitably has the same outcome as the 12 before it.
The isolated case of the poisoning attempt at Khaybar
Like all the incidents above, this incident also testifies only to the truth that indeed God was with the Holy Prophetsa. Let us now delve into the sources.
Everything hinges on a series of varied narrations found in the books of Hadith regarding the incident of Khaybar in which the Holy Prophetsa was presented with some poisoned meat. This event took place in 6/7 AH. The various narrations are as follows:
- Abu Hurayrahra narrated, “When Khaybar was conquered, a roasted poisoned sheep was presented to the Prophetsa as a gift [by the Jews]. Allah’s Messengersa said, ‘Let all the Jews who have been here, be assembled before me.’ The Jews were gathered and Allah’s Messengersa said, ‘Will you now tell me the truth if I ask you about something?’ They replied, ‘Yes.’ He asked, ‘Have you poisoned this sheep?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ He asked, ‘What made you do that?’ They said, ‘We wanted to know if you were a liar in which case we would have got rid of you, and if you are a Prophet then the poison would not harm you.’” ( Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab att-tibb, 5777)
- Anasra reported, “A Jewess came to Allah’s Messengersa with poisoned mutton and he took of that what had been brought to him. He called for her and asked her about that, whereupon she said, ‘I had determined to kill you.’ Thereupon he said, ‘Allah will never give you the power to do it.’” (Sahih Muslim, 2190a)
- Abu Hurayrahra narrated, “When Khaybar was conquered, a (cooked) sheep containing poison, was given as a present to Allah’s Messengersa.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab att-tibb, 4249)
- When the Prophetsa had rested, Zaynab, the daughter of al-Harith, the wife of Sallam b. Mishkam prepared for him a roast lamb, having first inquired what joint he preferred. When she learned that it was the shoulder she put a lot of poison in it and poisoned the whole lamb. Then she brought it in and placed it before him. He took hold of the shoulder and chewed a morsel of it, but he did not swallow it. Bishrra b al-Bara’ b. Ma‘rur who was with him took some of it as the Prophetsa had done, but he swallowed it, while the Apostlesa spat it out, saying, ‘This bone tells me that it is poisoned.’ Then he called for the woman and she confessed, and when he asked her what had induced her to do this she answered: ‘You know what you have done to my people. I said to myself, ‘If he is a king I shall ease myself of him and if he is a Prophet he will be informed [of what I have done].’ So the Prophetsa let her off. Bishrra died from what he had eaten. (Life of Muhammad, Ibn Ishaq, Translated by A Guillaume, Oxford University Press Karachi, 1998, p. 516)
- The Conquest of Khaybar occurred in 7 A.H. (Life of Muhammad, Ibn Ishaq, Translated by A Guillaume, Oxford University Press Karachi, 1998, p. 510)
What we know about the incident of the poisoning attempt
These are the most authentic narrations which mention this incident, and even in that, there are variations. So it seems that narrators have different opinions and collective memories of how things actually happened. What we do know from the following narrations is this:
- The event happened at the fall of Khaybar.
- Cooked sheep was presented to the Holy Prophetsa as a gift.
- It was either presented by a lady of Khaybar or a group of Jews. The lady may have been Zaynab bint al-Harith.
- The meat was poisoned as a test to see if the Prophetsa would die or survive as a test of his truthfulness.
- The Prophetsa put the meat in his mouth.
- The Prophet Muhammadsa immediately realised that the meat was poisoned.
- He spat the meat out and/or did not continue to eat the meat.
- The lady/Jews witnessed that he did not die and admitted that it was a test which was unsuccessful.
- The Prophet Muhammadsa informed the woman that she would never have been successful in trying to kill him.
- Another companion called Bishrra died from eating the poisoned meat.
It is clear from the narrations that the test itself and the attempt to murder the Prophetsa on the occasion completely failed. Not only this, the Jews were absolutely stunned as to how the Prophetsa could have possibly found out about the poison. This strongly infers that they were convinced of the fact that he had Divine support with him. Hence, this event actually supports the argument that the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa was a true Prophet of God because even the Jews, who tested him, were unable to see the success of their assassination attempt. Rather, they had no choice but to admit to how their plan had gone in vain.
Did the poison kill Prophet Muhammadsa?
If we look further into the narrations, we find that although the poison failed to kill the Prophetsa, it did, however, lead to the martyrdom of his companion, Bishrra b. al-Bara’. This is further testimony that the poison really had the power to kill a person, however, despite that, the Prophetsa still did not die from it. Who other than God was behind such a miracle?
This detailed narration presented by the Musleh-e Maud, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra is also given below:
“A Jewish woman asked the Companionsra what part of an animal the Holy Prophetsa preferred to eat. She was told that he preferred the shoulder of lamb or goat. The woman slaughtered a goat and made cutlets on hot stones. Then she mixed with them a deadly poison, especially in pieces cut from the shoulder, believing the Holy Prophetsa would prefer them. The Holy Prophetsa was returning to his tent, having led the evening prayers in congregation. He saw this woman waiting for him near his tent and asked, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ ‘She said, ‘Yes, Abul-Qasim, you can accept a present from me.’ The Holy Prophetsa asked a Companion to take whatever the woman had brought. When the Holy Prophetsa sat down to eat his meal, this present of roasted meat was also laid before him. The Holy Prophetsa took a morsel. A Companion Bishrra b. al-Bara’ b. Ma‘rur also took a morsel. The other Companions present at the meal stretched their hands to eat the meat. But the Holy Prophetsa stopped them saying, ‘My hand has informed me that the meat has been poisoned.’”
He further writes:
“The Holy Prophetsa then sent for the woman and asked her if she had poisoned the meat. The woman asked the Holy Prophetsa how he ever got to know about it. The Prophetsa was holding a piece of the goat in his hand, and said, ‘My hand told me this,’ The woman then realised that the Holy Prophetsa had discovered the truth. The woman admitted what she had done. The Holy Prophetsa asked, ‘What made you commit such a heinous act?’ She replied, ‘My people were at war with you and my relations were killed in this battle, I decided to poison you, believing that if you were an impostor, you would die and we should be safe, but if you were a Prophet, God would save you.’ Hearing this explanation, the Holy Prophetsa forgave the woman. Otherwise, she would surely have been given the death penalty. This incident shows that the Holy Prophetsa was ever ready to forgive those who attacked him and his followers, and punished only when punishment was necessary when it was feared the guilty one would continue to cause mischief and strife.” (Dibachah-yi Tafsir-ul-Quran, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 20, pp. 327ff.)
The same is also found in al-Tabaqat al-kubra:
During the Battle of Khaybar, Bishrra also ate the poisoned goat meat alongside the Holy Prophetsa, which was given to them as a gift by a Jewish woman. When Bishrra swallowed a piece of the meat, he had not yet moved from his place when all of a sudden, his facial complexion changed and became like a taylasan – a cloth which was predominately black in colour. The pain was so severe, that for an entire year, he was unable to turn over in bed without assistance and eventually, he passed away in this painful state. It is also stated [in other narrations] that the poison was so deadly that he had not yet moved from his place when after a short while of eating the meat, he passed away. (Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat al-kubra, Vol. 3, p. 291, Dar Ihya’ at-Turath al-‘Arabi, Beirut, 1996)
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa critiques the view that the Prophet Muhammadsa died from poison and states:
“Some enemies of Islam allege that the Holy Prophetsa passed away due to this poison. This has also been discussed in certain books of history and biographies of the Holy Prophetsa. Certain historians are willing to accept the narrative that the Holy Prophetsa passed away due to this poison, as they wish to declare the Holy Prophetsa as a martyr. However, this is contrary to the facts. The research cell has also sent a report and I will mention that here. It is written that irrespective of what is said in any book of history or biography of the Holy Prophetsa or any Hadith, the Holy Prophet’ssa demise was not due to poisoning. If someone asserts this, then either they are ignorant of all the narrations, or they are mistaken. It should be remembered that the incident of the poisoning took place during the Battle of Khaybar, which occurred at the end of 6 AH or the beginning of 7 AH and the Holy Prophetsa remained alive for approximately four more years. He lived a healthy life just as he did before the incident and even went to battles. There was not even the slightest change in his routine with respect to his worship or other daily activities. To pass away after approximately four years, owing to a fever and a migraine, no rational individual would assert that his death was due to the effects of poisoning. In actuality, there is a hadith [saying of the Holy Prophetsa] recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari as well as some other books of Hadith and owing to not understanding the translation correctly, people have inferred from it that the Holy Prophet’ssa demise was due to the effects of poisoning, whereas this is incorrect. The hadith mentioned in Sahih al-Bukhari is as follows – I will mention the translation:
“‘A’ishahra narrates that during his last days, the Holy Prophetsa would say, ‘O ‘A’ishah! I have always felt the effects of what I ate at Khaybar. Even today, I feel as if my insides have been greatly affected due to the poison.’ (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-maghazi, Bab marad an-Nabisa wa-wafatihi, Hadith 5073)
“From this hadith, some Muslims – exegetes and scholars of hadith – have inferred that the Holy Prophetsa passed away due to the effects of the poison. Some of them then explain that owing to this, the Holy Prophetsa can be deemed as a martyr, whereas this narration does not support this viewpoint. In this narration, the Holy Prophetsa simply expressed a sense of pain he felt. Everyone is aware that an injury or [specific] pain can revert at times owing to certain factors. If one analyses the details regarding the narrations about the Holy Prophetsa eating poisoned meat at the time of Khaybar, it is also written that the Holy Prophetsa put the poisoned meat in his mouth but did not swallow it. Even if he did swallow it, the fact that he lived a healthy life is proof that his death was not a result of the poison. Indeed, the poison would have had a severe effect on the stomach or intestines and this is a natural consequence of it. Likewise, since the morsel was placed in his mouth, it would have affected the uvula and owing to this he may have occasionally felt pain whilst eating.
“All the details regarding this incident can be found in the ahadith [sayings of the Holy Prophetsa]. It is also written that the Holy Prophetsa knew that the meat had been poisoned and he stopped his Companionsra from eating it. When the Holy Prophetsa called the woman responsible for it and asked her, she said she added poison to see that if the Holy Prophetsa was a true prophet of God, he would be saved. Otherwise, they would be rid of him. The Jews even admit to the fact that the Holy Prophetsa survived. The poison that was used was fatal, yet the Holy Prophetsa survived. In fact, according to some narrations, this woman then accepted Islam. Nevertheless, the Jews themselves admit that the Holy Prophetsa survived and consider this to be a miracle. Therefore, it is utterly false to assert that the Holy Prophetsa passed away due to the effects of the poison.” (Friday Sermon, 29 November 2019, al-Hakam, Issue 93, p. 18)
Is the death or martyrdom of a Prophet objectionable?
Such an event would still have no bearing on his truthfulness as the Quran emphatically states that Muslims should not hold this as an excuse for rejecting a Prophet:
“And Muhammad is only a Messenger. Verily, all Messengers have passed away before him. If then he die or be slain, will you turn back on your heels? And he who turns back on his heels shall not harm Allah at all. And Allah will certainly reward the grateful.” (Surah Al ‘Imran, Ch.3: V.145)
An objectionable translation
Some present the following hadith in an attempt to suggest that the Prophet Muhammadsa felt his aorta being cut towards the end of his life due to the poison.
Ummul-Mu’minin ‘A’ishahra narrated, “The Prophetsa, in his ailment in which he died, used to say, ‘O ‘A’ishah! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaybar, and at this time, I feel as if my aorta is being cut from that poison.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-maghazi, 4428)
They try to infer that this means he was a liar, God forbid, according to the following verses of the Holy Quran:
‘And if he had forged and attributed any sayings to Us, We would surely have seized him by the right hand, And then surely We would have severed his life-artery, And not one of you could have held Us off from him.’ (Surah al-Haqqah, Ch.69: V.45-48)
First of all, the words referring to the veins in the Quran and the Hadith speak of two different veins or arteries. When looking at the Arabic text (the Quran uses “al-watin” while the Hadith uses “al-abhar”). This alone disproves the claim; as the Prophetsa did not feel any pain in his al-watin according to any narration. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that the human body has countless veins and arteries, this verse only speaks of the jugular vein.
If anything or any part was false or forged, it would have been a swift punishment or occurrence of having the aorta cut, which would cause instant death. It would not be delayed until after the message of Islam had been completely delivered, and in this case, perfected as Allah later revealed in the Quran:
“This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.” (Surah al-Ma’idah, Ch.5: V.3)
Ibn Kathir says in his tafsir:
“Allah further says, ‘And not one of you could have held Us off from him.’ [The Holy Quran, Surah al-Haqqah, Ch.69: V.48]”
This means, “None of you could have held Us off from him (Muhammadsa), even if you wanted to.” This means that Allah has the power to protect His Prophet from any harm, and He supports him with clear miracles and evidences.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Ch. 69: V.47, Vol. 5, Hudaibiyah Publications, p. 422)
If the Holy Prophetsa was a liar God-forbid, why did God not seize him and destroy him on the multiple occasions people tried to kill him, why would God wait for his message and mission to be successful? So ponder, O people of understanding!
A note to Muslims
There are some who believe the Prophetsa was a martyr because he died from poison, God forbid. As we have already expounded upon above, this is not the case.
If such Muslims focused on the narration of Sahih Muslim regarding this event they would have realised that the Prophetsa had already condemned any fatal effects of the poison at the very moment he met the woman who cooked the meat:
Anasra reported, “A Jewess came to Allah’s Messengersa with poisoned mutton and he took of that what had been brought to him. He called for her and asked her about that, whereupon she said, ‘I had determined to kill you.’ Thereupon he said, ‘Allah will never give you the power to do it.’” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab-us-salaam, 2190a)
The above narration infers that Allah would never allow the poisoned meat to kill the Prophet Muhammadsa, i.e. “Allah will never give you the power to do it”. Then how can any Muslim adhere to such a belief?
Why did God allow all of this to happen?
Now, we know about the various attempts on the life of the Prophet Muhammadsa which all failed. However, Allah the Almighty has said:
وَاللّٰہُ یَعۡصِمُکَ مِنَ النَّاسِ
“And Allah will protect thee from men” (Surah al-Ma’idah, Ch.5 V.68)
So, why would God allow the Prophetsa to come to so much harm? Why all these assassination attempts?
The answer is clear. God wanted to illustrate to the world that despite every attempt at the life of the Prophetsa, the opponents still failed and returned miserably. An undeniable testament to the truthfulness of Prophet Muhammadsa.
To conclude, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas states:
“Therefore, it is evidently clear that the survival of the Holy Prophetsa from these dangerous events is clear evidence that he was, in reality, truthful, and God was with him.” (Chashma-e Ma’rifat, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 23, pp. 263-264, footnote)
Research has now been presented, highlighting the fact that the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa did not die an accursed death, God forbid. However, it may be considered ironic that the Trinitarian “Christians”, who have raised this allegation, hold the blasphemous and erroneous belief that their “god”, died an accursed death on the cross according to their own scriptures, i.e., “Anyone who is hanged is a curse of God.” (Deuteronomy, 21:23)
Of course, as Muslims, we place Jesus, may peace be upon him, far above dying an accursed death on the cross. He was a pious prophet and a humble servant of Allah the Exalted. The Holy Quran states, “They slew him not, nor crucified him.” (Surah an-Nisa’, Ch.4, V.158)