When the Prophet, peace be on him, returned to Madinah from the Farewell
Pilgrimage in the tenth year after the Hijrah, he fell ill, News of his
illness spread rapidly throughout the Arabian peninsula. Sincere Muslims
everywhere were greatly saddened by the news but for others it was a time
to disclose hidden hopes and ambitions and reveal their real attitudes
to Islam and the noble Prophet.
In al-Yamamah, Musaylamah the Imposter renounced Islam. So too did Tulayhah
al-Asadi in the land of the Asad. And in the Yemen, al-Aswad al-Ansi also
became an apostate. More than that, these three imposters claimed that
they were prophets sent to their respective peoples just as Muhammad the
son of Abdullah was sent to the Quraysh.
Al-Aswad al-Ansi was a soothsayer who practised magic arts. But he was
no minor magician or fortuneteller who dabbled in his evil arts in obscurity.
He was powerful and influential and possessed a strange power of speech
that mesmerized the hearts of his listeners and captivated the minds of
the masses with his false claims. With his wealth and power he managed
to attract not just the masses but people of status as well. When he appeared
before people he normally wore a mask in order to surround himself with
an air of mystery, awe and reverence.
In the Yemen at that time, a section of the people who had much prestige
and influence were the "Abna". They were the scions of Persian fathers
who ruled Yemen as part of the Sasanian Empire. Their mothers were local
Arabs. Fayruz al-Daylami was one of these Yemeni Abna.
At the time of the appearance of Islam, the most powerful of the Abna
was Badhan who ruled Yemen on behalf of the Chosroes of Persia. When Badban
became convinced of the truth of the Prophet Muhammad and the Divine nature
of his mission he renounced his allegiance to the Chosroes and accepted
Islam. His people followed him in tiffs. The Prophet confirmed him in
his dominion and he ruled the Yemen until his death shortly before the
appearance of al-Aswad al-Ansi.
Al-Aswad's tribe, the Banu Mudh-hij, were the first to respond positively
to his claims to prophethood. With this tribal force he mounted a raid
on San'a. He killed the governor, Shahr the son of Badhan and took his
wife to himself. From San'a he raided other regions. Through his swift
and startling strikes, a vast region from Hadramawt to at-Taif and from
al-Ahsa to Aden came under his influence.
What helped al-Aswad in deceiving the people and drawing them to him
was his guile and cunning which knew no bounds. To his followers he alleged
that an angel visited him, disclosed revelations to him and gave him intelligence
of people and their affairs. What allowed him to appear to bear out these
claims were the spies he employed and despatched everywhere, to bring
him news of people and their circumstances, their secrets and their problems,
their hopes and their fears.
Reports were brought back in secrecy to him and when he met anyone, especially
those in need, he could give the impression that he had prior knowledge
of their needs and problems. In this way he astonished people and confounded
their thoughts. He acquired a large following and his mission spread like
When news of al-Aswad's apostasy and his activities throughout the Yemen
reached the Prophet, peace be on him, he despatched about ten of Iris
companions with letters to those of his companions in the Yemen whom he
felt he could trust. He urged them to confront the blind fitnah with faith
and resolve, and he ordered them to get rid of al-Aswad by any means possible.
All who received the Prophet's missives set about to carry out his orders
implicitly. In the forefront of these was Fayruz ad-Daylami and those
of the Abna who were with him. Let us leave Fayruz to relate his extraordinary
"I and those of the Abna who were with me never for one moment had any
doubt about the religion of God. No belief in the enemy of God entered
the heart of any one of us. (In fact) we waited for opportunities to get
hold of al-Aswad and eliminate him by any means.
When we received the letters of the Messenger of God, may God bless him
and grant him peace, we felt strengthened in our mutual resolve and each
one determined to do what he could
Because of his considerable success, pride and vanity took hold of al-Aswad
al-Ansi. He bragged to the commander of his army, Qays ibn Abd Yaghuth,
saying how powerful he was. His attitude and relationship towards his
commander changed so much so that Qays felt that he was not safe from
Iris violence and oppression.
My cousin, Dadhawayh, and I went to Qays and informed him of what the
Prophet, peace and blessings be on him, had told us and we invited him
to "make lunch" out of the man (al-Aswad) before he could "make supper"
out of him. He was receptive to our proposal and regarded us as a Godsend.
He disclosed to us some of the secrets of al-Aswad.
The three of us vowed to confront the apostate from within (his castle)
while our other brothers would confront him from without. We were all
of the view that our cousin Dadha, whom al-Aswad had taken to himself
after the killing of her husband, should join us. We went to al-Aswad's
castle and met her. I said to her:
'O cousin, you know what harm and evil this man has visited upon you
and us. He has killed your husband and dishonored the women of your people.
He has massacred their husbands and wrested political authority from their
'This is a letter from the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant
him peace, to us in particular and to the people of Yemen in general in
which he asks us to put an end to this fitnah. Would you help us in this
matter?' 'On what can I help you? she asked. 'On his expulsion...' I said.
'Rather on his assassination,' she suggested. 'By God, I had nothing else
in mind,' I said, 'but I was afraid to suggest this to you.' 'By Him Who
has sent Muhammad with the Truth as a bringer or' good tidings and as
a warner, I have not doubted in my religion for a moment. God has not
created a man more detestable to me than the devil (al-Aswad). By God,
from the time I saw him, I have only known him to be a corrupt and sinful
person who does not promote any truth and does not stop from committing
any abominable deed.' "How can we go about eliminating him?' I asked.
'He is well-guarded and protected. There is not a place in his castle
which is not surrounded by guards. There is one broken down and abandoned
room though which opens out into open land. In the evening during the
first third of the night, go there. You will find inside weapons and a
light. You will find me waiting for you...' she said.
'But getting through to a room in a castle such as this is no easy task.
Someone might pass and alert the guards and that will be the end of us'
I said. 'You are not far from the truth. But I have a suggestion.' 'What
is it?' I asked.
'Send a man tomorrow whom you trust as one of the workers. I shall tell
him to make an opening in the room from the inside so that it should be
easy to enter.' 'That's a brilliant suggestion you have,' I said.
I then left her and told the two others what we had decided and they
gave their blessings to the plan. We left straightaway to get ourselves
prepared. We informed a select group of believers who were assisting us
to prepare themselves and gave them the password (to signal the time they
could storm the castle). The time was to be dawn of the following day.
When night fell and the appointed time came, I went with my two companions
to the opening in the room and uncovered it. We entered the room and put
on the lamp. We found the weapons and proceeded to the apartment of God's
enemy. There was our cousin standing at his door. She pointed out where
he was and we entered. He was asleep and snoring. I plunged the blade
in his neck and he bellowed like a bull being slaughtered. When the guards
heard this, they ran quickly to his apartment and asked: 'What is this?'
'Don't worry. You can go. The prophet of God is receiving revelation,'
she said, and they left. We stayed in the castle until the break of dawn.
Then I stood on a wall of the castle and shouted:
'Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!' and went on with the adhan until I reached':
'Ashhadu anna Muhammadur Rasulullah ! (Then I added) 'Wa ashhadu anna
al Aswad al-Ansi kadh-dhab ! I testify that al-Aswad is an imposter.'
That was the password, Muslims then converged on
the castle from every direction. The guards took fright
when they heard the adhan and were confronted by the
Muslims shouting Allahu Akbar.
By sunrise, the mission was accomplished. When it was full light, we
sent a letter to the Messenger of God giving him the good news of the
death of God's enemy.
When the messengers reached Madinah they found that the Prophet, may
the blessings of God be on him, had passed away that very night. They
learned however that Revelation had been communicated to the Prophet informing
him of the death of al-Aswad al-Ansi the night it took place."
Years later, the Khalifah Umar ibn al-Khattab wrote to Fayruz ad-Daylami,
may God be pleased with them both, saying:
"I have heard that you are busy eating white bread and honey (meaning
no doubt that he was leading an easy life). When this my letter reaches
you, come to me with the blessings of God so that you may campaign in
the path of God."
Fayruz did as he was commanded. He went to Madinah and sought an audience
with Umar. Umar granted him permission. Evidently there was a crowd waiting
to see Umar and a Quraysh youth pushed Fayruz. Fayruz raised his hand
and hit the Quraysh youth on the nose.
The youth went to Umar who asked: "Who did that to you?"
"Fayruz. He is at the door," said the youth. Fayruz entered and Umar
asked: "What is this, O Fayruz?"
"O Amir al-Muminin," said Fayruz. "You wrote to me. You didn't write
to him. You gave me permission to enter and you didn't give him permission.
He wanted to enter in my turn before me. Then I did what you have been
"Al-Qisas," pronounced Umar in judgment, meaning that Fayruz had to receive
the same blow from the youth in retaliation. "Must it be so?" asked Fayruz.
"It must be so," insisted Umar.
Fayruz then got down on his knees and the youth stood up to exact his
retaliation. Umar said to him then: "Wait a moment, young man, so that
I can tell you something which I heard from the Messenger of God, may
God bless him and grant him peace. I heard the Messenger of God say one
evening: 'This night, al-Aswad al-Ansi the Imposter has been killed. The
righteous servant Fayruz ad-Daylami has killed him' Umar then asked the
"Do you see yourself taking retribution on him after you have heard this
from the Messenger of God?" "I forgive him," said the youth, "after you
have told me this from the Prophet." "Do you think," said Fayruz to Umar,
"that my escape from what I have done is a confession to him and that
his forgiveness is not given under duress?" "Yes," replied Umar and Fayruz
then declared: "I testily to you that my sword, my horse and thirty thousand
of my money is a gift to him."
"Your forgiveness has paid off, O brother Quraysh and you have become
rich," said Umar no doubt impressed by the sense of remorse and the spontaneous
generosity of Fayruz, the righteous.