Thumamah ibn Uthal
In the sixth year after the hijrah, the Prophet, may the blessings of
God be on him, decided to expand the scope of his mission. He sent eight
letters to rulers in the Arabian peninsula and surrounding areas inviting
them to Islam. One of these rulers was Thumamah ibn Uthal.
Thumamah was one of the most powerful Arab rulers in pre-Quranic times.
This is not surprising since he was a chieftain of the Banu Hanifah and
one of the rulers of al-Yamamah whose word no one dared to challenge or
When Thumamah received the Prophet's letter, he was consumed by anger
and rejected it. He refused to listen to the invitation of Truth and goodness.
More than that, he felt a strong desire to go and kill the Prophet and
bury his mission with him.
Thumamah waited and waited for a convenient time to carry out his design
against the Prophet until eventually forgetfulness caused him to lose
interest. One of his uncles, however, reminded him of his plan, praising
what he intended to do.
In the pursuit of his evil design against the Prophet, Thumamah met and
killed a group of the Prophet's companions. The Prophet thereupon declared
him a wanted man who could lawfully be killed on sight. Not long afterwards,
Thumamah decided to perform umrah. He wanted to perform tawaf around the
Kabah and sacrifice to the idols there. So he left al-Yamamah for Makkah.
As he was passing near Madinah, an incident took place which he had not
Groups of Muslims were patrolling the districts of Madinah and outlying
areas on the lookout for any strangers or anyone intent on causing trouble.
One of these groups came upon Thumamah and apprehended him but they did
not know who he was. They took him to Madinah and tied him to one of the
columns in the mosque. They waited for the Prophet himself to question
the man and decide what should be done with him.
When the Prophet was about to enter the mosque, he saw Thumamah and asked
his companions, 'Do you know whom you have taken?"
"No, messenger of God," they replied.
"This is Thumamah ibn Uthal al-Hanafi," he said. "You have done well
in capturing him."
The Prophet then returned home to his family and said, "Get what food
you can and send it to Thumamah ibn Uthal." He then ordered his camel
to be milked for him. All this was done before he met Thumamah or had
spoken to him.
The Prophet then approached Thumamah hoping to encourage him to become
a Muslim. "What do you have to say for yourself?" he asked.
"If you want to kill in reprisal," Thumamah replied, "you can have someone
of noble blood to kill. If, out of your bounty, you want to forgive, I
shall be grateful. If you want money in compensation, I shall give you
whatever amount you ask."
The Prophet then left him for two days, but still personally sent him
food and drink and milk from his camel. The Prophet went back to him and
asked, "What do you have to say for yourself?" Thumamah repeated what
he had said the day before. The Prophet then left and came back to him
the following day. "What do you have to say for yourself?" he asked again
and Thumamah repeated what he had said once more. Then the Prophet turned
to his companions and said, "Set him free."
Thumamah left the mosque of the Prophet and rode until he came to a palm
grove on the outskirts of Madinah near al-Baqi' (a place of luxuriant
vegetation which later became a cemetery for many of the Prophet's companions).
He watered his camel and washed himself well. Then he turned back and
made his way to the Prophet's mosque. There, he stood before a congregation
of Muslims and said: "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and
I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger." He then
went to the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and said: "O Muhammad, by God,
there was never on this earth a face more detestable than yours. Now,
yours is the dearest face of all to me." "I have killed some of your men,"
he continued, "I am at your mercy. What will you have done to me?"
"There is now no blame on you, Thumamah," replied the Prophet. "Becoming
a Muslim obliterates past actions and marks a new beginning."
Thumamah was greatly relieved. His face showed his surprise and joy and
he vowed, "By God, I shall place my whole self, my sword, and whoever
is with me at your service and at the service of your religion."
"O Rasulullah," he went on, "when your horsemen captured me I was on
my way to perform umrah. What do you think I should do now?"
"Go ahead and perform your umrah," replied the Prophet, "but perform
it according to the laws of God and His messenger." The Prophet then taught
him how to perform umrah according to Islamic rules.
Thumamah left to fulfill his intention. When he reached the valley of
Makkah, he began shouting in a loud, resonant voice:
"Labbayk Allahumma labbayk. Labbayka Laa shareeka Laka labbayk. Innal
hamda wan ni'mata Laka wall mulk. Laa shareeka Lak. (Here I am at Your
command O Lord, Here I am. Here I am. No partner have You. Here I am.
Praise, bounty and Dominion belong to You. No partner have You.")
He was thus the first Muslim on the face of the earth to enter Makkah
reciting the talbiyah.
The Quraysh heard the sound of the talbiyah and felt both anger and alarm.
With drawn swords, they set out towards the voice to punish the one who
had thus assaulted their preserve. As they came closer to him, Thumamah
raised his voice even higher while reciting the talbiyah and looked upon
them with pride and defiance. One of the Quraysh young men was particularly
incensed and was about to shoot Thumamah with an arrow when the others
grabbed his hand and shouted:
"Woe to you! Do you know who this is? He is Thumamah ibn Uthal, ruler
of al-Yamamah. By God, if you should harm him, his people would cut our
supplies, with dire consequences for us."
Swords were replaced in their scabbards as the Quraysh went up to Thumamah
"What's wrong with you, Thumamah? Have you given in and abandoned your
religion and the religion of your forefathers?"
"I have not given in," he replied, "but I have decided to follow the
best religion. I follow the religion of Muhammad. "
He then went on: "I swear to you by the Lord of this House that after
my return to al-Yamamah, no grain of wheat or any of its produce shall
reach you until you follow Muhammad."
Under the watchful eyes of the Quraysh, Thumamah performed umrah as the
Prophet, peace be upon him, had instructed him. He dedicated his sacrifice
to God alone.
Thumamah returned to his land and ordered his people to withhold supplies
from the Quraysh. The boycott gradually began to have effect and became
more and more stringent. Prices began to rise. Hunger began to bite and
there was even fear of death among the Quraysh. Thereupon, they wrote
to the Prophet, saying:
"Our agreement with you (the treaty of Hudaybiyyah) is that you should
maintain the bonds of kinship but you have gone against that. You have
cut the bonds of kinship. You have killed and caused death through hunger.
Thumamah ibn Uthal has cut our supplies and inflicted harm on us. Perhaps
you would see fit to instruct him to resume sending us what we need."
The Prophet immediately sent a messenger instructing Thumamah to lift
the boycott and resume supplies to the Quraysh. This Thumamah did.
Thumamah spent the rest of his life in the service of his religion, abiding
by the undertaking he had given to the Prophet. When the Prophet died,
many Arabs began leaving the religion of God in great numbers. Musaylamah,
the impostor, began calling the Banu Hanifah to believe in him as a Prophet.
Thumamah confronted him and said to his people:
"O Banu Hanifah, beware of this grievous matter. There is no light or
guidance in it. By God, it will only bring distress and suffering to whoever
joins this movement and misfortune even to those who do not join.
"O Banu Hanifah, two prophets do not come at the same time and there
shall be no Prophet after Muhammad and no Prophet to share in his mission."
He then read out to them the following verses of the Quran: "Ha Mim.
The revelation of this Book is from God the Almighty, the Knowing. He
forgives sins and accepts repentance. He is severe in punishment and has
a long reach. There is no god except Him. To Him is the journey's end."
(Surah Ghafir; verses 1-3).
"Can you compare these words of God with the uttering of Musaylamah?"
He then gathered together all those who had remained in Islam and began
to wage a jihad against the apostates and to make the words of God supreme.
The loyal Muslims of Banu Hanifah needed additional help to stand against
the armies of Musaylamah. Their arduous task was completed by the forces
dispatched by Abu Bakr but at the cost of many a Muslim life.