Elisha, The Youths And The Bears – Part 3/3

In the previous part, I discussed whether or not Elisha was over-reacting by cursing the young men. In fact, he did not.

Before we close, we need to observe that the attempt to portray Elisha as a murderer of young innocent boys is another case of the dawah team misrepresenting the Bible but also of their inconsistency in terms of their ethical criticisms. Whereas Elisha did not kill these young men himself, nor ordered anyone else to do so, Muhammad was certainly guilty of ordering assassination: 

Narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah 

Sahih Al-Bukhari 5.369

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Who is willing to kill Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” 

Thereupon Muhammad ibn Maslamah got up saying, “O Allah’s Messenger! Would you like me to kill him?” 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Yes.” 

Muhammad ibn Maslamah said, “Then allow me to tell a lie (i.e., to deceive Ka’b).” 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “You may do so.” 

Then Muhammad ibn Maslamah went to Ka’b and said, “That man (i.e., Muhammad (peace be upon him) demands Sadaqah (i.e., Zakat) from us, and he has troubled us, and I have come to borrow something from you.” 

On that Ka’b said, “By Allah, you will get tired of him!” Muhammad ibn Maslamah 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.” (There is some difference between narrators about the camel-load or two.) 

Ka’b said, “Yes, (I will lend it to you), but you should pledge something to me.”  

Muhammad ibn Maslamah and his companion said, “What do you want?” Ka’b replied, “pledge your women to me.” 

They said, “How can we pledge our women to you who are the most handsome of the Arabs?” 

Ka’b said, “Then pledge your sons to me.” They said, “How can we pledge our sons to you? Later they would be abused by the people saying that so-and-so has been pledge for a camel-load of food. That would cause us great disgrace, but we will pledge our arms to you.” 

Muhammad ibn Maslamah and his companion promised Ka’b that Muhammad would return to him. He came to Ka’b at night along with Ka’b’s foster brother, AbuNa’ilah. Ka’b 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?” Ka’b replied, “None but Muhammad ibn Maslamah and my (foster) brother, AbuNa’ilah have come.” 

His wife said, “I hear a voice as if blood is flowing from him.” 

Ka’b said, “They are none but my brother Muhammad ibn Maslamah and my foster brother AbuNa’ilah. A generous man should respond to a call at night even if invited to be killed.” Muhammad ibn Maslamah went with two men (some narrators mention the men as AbuAbs ibn Jabr, al-Harith ibn Aws and Abbad ibn Bishr).

So Muhammad ibn Maslamah went in together with two men, and said to them, “When Ka’b comes, I will touch his hair and smell it, and when you see that I have got hold of his head, strike him. I will let you smell his head.”  

Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf came down to them, wrapped in his clothes, and diffusing perfume. 

Muhammad ibn Maslamah said, “I have never smelt a better scent than this.” Ka’b replied, “I have got the best Arab women who know how to use the high class of perfume.” Muhammad ibn Maslamah requested Ka’b, “Will you allow me to smell your head?” Ka’b said, “Yes.” Muhammad smelt it and make his companions smell it as well. Then he requested Ka’b again, “Will you let me (smell your head)?” Ka’b said, “Yes.” 

When Muhammad got a strong hold of him, he said (to his companions), “Get him!” 

So they killed him and went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and informed him.

This clearly was a savage assassination, but was it justified? We hear that Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf ‘has hurt Allah and His Apostle’ – but we are not told how. Did Ka’b hit, stab or poison Muhammad? Montgomery Watt, in Muhammad at Medina (p. 18), tells us the nature of K’ab’s ‘offence’: “Ka’b was the son of an Arab from the distant, tribe of Tayyi’, but was reckoned as belonging to his Jewish mother’s tribe of an-Nadir, in which he was one of the leading men. When he heard the news of Badr, he set out for Mecca, and by his verses helped to rouse the Meccans to grief and anger and the desire for revenge.” Shock! Horror! Gasp! The wicked crime of K’ab against Muhammad was to write poetry against him! Note that K’ab was not an apostate – he simply rejected Muhammad’s claim to be a prophet. The situation was very different from that of Elisha. 

Muslims should also observe that in the case of a true prophet like Elisha, God performed a supernatural act of judgment upon the apostate semi-pagans who rejected His word. Yet God did nothing similar to K’ab – Muhammad had to rely on purely human intervention to arrange for K’ab’s death. Then again, Muhammad never claimed to be a prophet of YHWH. The dawah team will have to find another means to attack the Bible, because the narrative of Elisha and the apostate young men will not fly.

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