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Musaylimah’s claim to Prophethood

The capacity of man for brutality against his fellow being has been well documented. The two World Wars of the last century bore testimony to this and in recent times the atrocities committed in Eastern Europe, Central Africa and Palestine, remind us of the evil that humankind is capable of. Most of us deplore that darker side of human nature. We try to distance ourselves from this seeming aberration in human behaviour and sometimes attempt to explain it by reaching out to models of psychopathology. Those of a religious disposition would argue that these abhorrent acts reflect a lack of fear of any judgment of one’s actions by a Supreme Power. Indeed they would say this was one of the purposes of the coming of prophets, to guide us away from the evil within and to direct us towards the path of Godliness and compassion for our own kind.

Muslims argue that the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) was compassion personified. His love for humanity was demonstrated each day of his life. That love and kindness was extended beyond his followers and Companions to even his enemies. His life is replete with incidents of forgiveness towards those who hated him and denied his prophethood.

When the Prophet(saw) entered Makkah with 10,000 followers, some expected that he would avenge the suffering and persecution that had been meted out to the Muslims by the people of Makkah. A Companion of the Holy Prophet(saw) Sa’d ibn Ubada, saw Abu Sufyan, a staunch opponent of the Holy Prophet(saw) and leading member of the Quraish, the chief tribe of Makkah, and said:

“‘O Abu Sufyan, this is the day of slaughter; when the inviolable shall be violated: the day of God’s abasement of the Quraish.” Abu Sufyan repeated this to the Holy Prophet(saw) who replied: ‘This is the day of mercy, the day on which God has exalted the Quraish.’ A general amnesty was proclaimed. Using the words of Joseph(as) as reported in the Qur’an, Muhammad(saw) said: ‘Verily I say as my brother Joseph(as) said, this day there shall be no reproach on you. May Allah forgive you. He is the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy (Ch.12.V.93).’ (Murder in the name of Allah).

Thus the standard of human conduct laid down by the Holy Qur’an and demonstrated in the life of the Holy Prophet(saw) is a very lofty one for Muslims to aspire to, designed to eliminate hatred and enmity between people of all backgrounds and faiths.

Tragically a small number of the followers of this paragon of peace have been unable to rise above the mere act of calling themselves Muslims. Their deeds do not convey the  noble message that the advent of the Holy Prophet(saw) brought. It is truly horrifying when one hears of Muslims committing atrocities, especially when atrocities are committed in the name of Allah and His Prophet(saw).

Ahmadi Muslims have long been a target of Muslim persecution and violence due to their belief in Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) as a Prophet and the Promised Messiah(as).

Some Muslims have lamely argued that the violence is the result of the Ahmadi refusal to accept the Holy Prophet(saw) as the Seal of the Prophets, and their claim that Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), the Promised Messiah, is a Prophet of God. For this to have any credibility, one would expect to find that at the time of the Holy Prophet(saw) all false claimants to prophethood would be subject to punishment if not death. The evidence suggests otherwise.


One such claimant was Musaylimah ibn Thumaamah ibn Kabir ibn Habib of the Banu Hanifa tribe. He came to Madinah with a delegation of this tribe and proposed to the Holy Prophet(saw) that he would submit to him providing that he was nominated as the successor of the Holy Prophet(saw). The Holy Prophet(saw), who was holding a staff in his hand, retorted that he would not yield him even a twig of a date palm tree.

Musaylimah later claimed to be a prophet and announced that half the country belonged to him and half belonged to the Quraish. In 10 Hijri, when the Holy Prophet(saw) became very ill, Musaylimah claimed that he was a partner to the Holy Prophet(saw) in his prophethood and wrote a letter to him thus:

‘From Musaylimah, messenger of Allah, to Muhammad, Messenger of Allah – peace be on you. I have been appointed your partner in authority. Half the country belongs to us and half belongs to the Quraish, but the Quraish are a people who transgress (Tabari, V 01. IV, p.1849).

The Holy Prophet(saw) replied:

The earth belongs to Allah; He bestows it as heritage on whomsoever He pleases of His servants, and the pleasing end is that of the righteous’ (the Holy Qur’an, Ch.7:V.129)

It is noteworthy that the reply contains no mention whatsoever to any punishment to be meted out Musaylimah at the hands of the Holy Prophet(saw).

‘Thereafter, Musaylimah established his authority in Hajar and Yamamah and expelled therefrom the functionaries who had been appointed by the Holy Prophet(saw) (Khamees, Vol.2, p.177). He made a junction with Sajah, the female rebel, who had intended to fight the Muslims and assured her: I shall establish my authority over the whole of Arabia with the help of my people and thy people.’ (Punishment of Apostasy in Islam).

There is no record anywhere that the Holy Prophet(saw)ordered that Musaylimah should be put to death. Indeed, Musaylimah was not the only false claimant to prophethood; Tulaiha bin Khawailad Asadi was another, as was Aswad bin Ansi. None were ordered to be killed by the Holy Prophet(saw) .

(The Truth about the Alleged Punishment for Apostasy in Islam; an address by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad Khalifatul Masih IV(rh))

Advocates for death to apostates pose the question that if there was no punishment for apostasy or falsely claiming Prophethood, why did Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra), the first Khalifa after the Holy Prophet(saw) later go to war with Musaylimah?

The reason was that Musaylimah aspired to political power. Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra) did not wage war against Musaylimah until he himself had taken the offensive and openly rebelled against the Muslim state and refused to pay zakat (a levy paid by Muslims at 2.5% on one’s unutilised disposable assets).

According to Tarikh Tabari : ‘Musaylimah had also prepared an army of 40,000 and planned to take over the whole of Arabia.’ (Vol.1 part 4 Urdu version, p.71).

‘As Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra) was the Successor of the Holy Prophet(saw) it was his obligation to collect the zakat in the same manner the Holy Prophet(saw) himself would collect it. That is why he affirmed that if any Muslim who paid zakat to the Holy Prophet(saw), would withhold from him as little as the nose-string of a camel that he used to render to the Holy Prophet(saw), he would require it from him by the sword. Thus the recovery of the zakat would be enforced in the same manner in which governments recover their dues from their subjects. If anyone should refuse to pay such dues, the state is entitled to recover them by force….It was the duty of Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra) to recover the zakat by force from those who refused to render it. Those people were rebels against the state like those who might refuse to pay government taxes today. Thus, if Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra) fought those Muslims who were not guilty of any offence other than refusal to pay the zakat, those who differ with us on the question of the punishment of apostasy can derive no support or comfort from his action, as he had fought those who had rebelled against the authority of the state.’ (Punishment of Apostasy in Islam)

Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra) sent letters to many other tribes that had rebelled against the Islamic state with the same instructions; if they did not desist, their men would be put to death for treason and their wives and children would be imprisoned. If the attack against Musaylimah was purely because he had claimed to be a prophet, why would the same action be taken against the other rebellious tribes? The reason is that this punishment was a result of one common factor; their rebellious behaviour against the state.

Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra) then sent an army under the leadership of Hadhrat Ikrama(ra) to Yamammah to fight the Banu Hanifa, Musaylimah’s tribe. He sent another army to strengthen the attack under the leadership of Hadhrat Khalid bin Waleed(ra). It is reported that approximately 10,000 of the enemy were killed in this battle and about 600 companions were martyred.

(The Biography of Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq’ by Dr Ali Muhammad As-Sallabee)

Musaylimah was also killed in this battle. So those who look to the example of the Holy Prophet(saw) to bolster their argument that false Prophets and their followers should be killed, will find no justification for their acts from the blessed example of the Holy Prophet(saw) or his righty guided Khulafa.

Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV(rh) writes:

‘The cobbles of Ta’if, where the blood of the Holy Prophet(saw) was spilled, bear witness to the fact that our great Master mercifully did not teach that religious belief was compulsory, that he did not order the burning of houses of worship in the name of worship…… Muslims hang their heads in shame and their souls cry out over today’s religious leaders who preach violence in the name of the Prophet(saw).’ (Murder in the name of Allah).



The Truth about the Alleged Punishment for Apostasy in Islam; address by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV(rh)

Murder in the name of Allah; Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(rh), Khalifatul Masih IV

Punishment of Apostasy in Islam; Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan(ra)

The Biography of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq by Dr Ali Muhammad As-Sallabee

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