How did Ka'b bin Zuhayr, the poet, become a Muslim?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Ka’b b. Zuhayr was a great poet. His father, Zuhayr, was among the most famous Arab poets and men of letters. He educated his two sons, Ka’b and Bujayr, as poets and men of letters like himself.

When Zuhayr b. Abi Sulma attended the talks of the People of the Book, he heard that a prophet would emerge at the end of time.

One night, he saw in his dream that a rope was hanging down from the sky; he reached out to hold it but he could not hold it. He interpreted his dream as follows: he would not be able to live long enough to see that prophet.

Therefore, before his death, he said to his sons, “Believe in the prophet to come.1

Many men of letters, poets and orators had been affected by the fluency and eloquence of the Quran and embraced Islam. However, there were still some people who insisted on polytheism and who continued expressing their hatred and enmity against the Prophet and Muslims through their poems and speeches.

Ka’b b. Zuhayr was one of them. When his father died, he inherited the fame of his father. His brother, Bujayr, became a Muslim but Ka’b did not give up polytheism. He sometimes satirized the Prophet and Muslims and distressed them through the poems he wrote.

Once, he wrote a poem expressing his hatred, anger and denial satirizing his brother, Bujayr, because he embraced Islam and sent him to Bujayr. When Bujayr read the poem to the Prophet (pbuh), he became very sad. The poems of Ka’b transgressed the limits of tolerance because of his insults at Muslims. Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah said to his Companions,

“Kill Ka’b b. Zuhayr wherever you meet him. From this point onwards, it is permissible to shed his blood.”2

After this permission, the end of Ka’b was definitely going to be terrible. Thinking about this, Bujayr wrote a letter to him in order to warn him and to give some advice to him. In the letter, he also wrote about the decision of the Prophet about Ka’b. He added that the only way of getting rid of this end was to go to the Messenger of Allah and ask for forgiveness.3

When Ka’b received the letter, he felt restless. The vast earth became a very narrow place for him. He felt as if he would die any minute. He knew that he was not going to get rid of the decision against him. He had to choose between two alternatives: To continue to be a polytheist and hide so that he will not be caught or to go to the presence of the Messenger of Allah and ask for forgiveness, stating that he repented and regretting what he had done.

Ka’b acted cleverly and chose the second alternative. Besides, when he received the letter from his brother, he started to feel repentant. 

Ka’b covered the long distance in a very short time and came to Madinah, to the presence of the Messenger of Allah. The Prophet did not know him in person. Ka’b used this very cleverly. He kneeled down before the Prophet and said,

“Ka’b b. Zuhayr repented and wants to come to your presence as a  Muslim. If I bring him to you, will you accept his repentance and forgive him?”

If Ka’b stops distressing Muslims and feels repentant and embraces Islam, there will be no problem between him and the Messenger of Allah. As a matter of fact, the Messenger of Allah expressed his thought by saying, “Yes”.

Upon this reply, Ka’b became very happy and uttered kalima ash-shahada without letting the hands of the Messenger of Allah:

“I witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

The Messenger of Allah and the Companions around him were astonished; the Prophet asked him, “Who are you?”.

He said, “I am Ka’b b. Zuhayr, O Messenger of Allah!”.

Just then, one of the Companions said, “O Messenger of Allah! Let me kill this enemy of Islam."

The Prophet said, “Leave him. He repented what he had done and embraced Islam.”4

Ka’b, whose heart was conquered through the spiritual sword of Islam, recited a poem called “Banat Suadu”, which is among the masterpieces of Arab literature.

“As if the departure of Suad was not enough, people who reported others’ words said to me, ‘O son of Abu Sulma! Know that you are dead.’
Every one of the friends that I depended on and applied to said to me, ‘I cannot entertain and console you; paddle your own canoe.’
I said, ‘Get out of my way!’ What ar-Rahman preordained will take place.
No matter how long the lifespan of man is, he will definitely be carried in a coffin one day.
I heard that the Messenger of Allah would kill me.
What is most desired is being forgiven in the presence of the Messenger of Allah.
I came to the presence of the Messenger of Allah by expressing my apologies.
Apologies are always accepted by the Messenger of Allah.
Treat me with mercy and tolerance.
May Allah, who granted you the gift of the Quran containing a lot of advice and decrees.
Do not hold me responsible for what my rivals say.
Though they talk against me a lot, I am not so guilty.
I am in such a station now that if an elephant saw and heard what I saw and heard, it would definitely shiver.
Only the pardoning of the Prophet with the permission of Allah may save me here now.
I am extending my right hand to the just hand of the Prophet without objecting to anything.
Now, his words count.
There is no doubt that the Messenger of Allah is a light that shows the right path and is one of the sharp swords of Allah that has been unsheathed in order to eliminate the evil...”

Ka’b continued his poem by mentioning the heroism and bravery of the Messenger of Allah and Muslims.

There was a couplet in the poet; the Messenger of Allah liked it very much. This was the couplet

“There is no doubt that the Messenger of Allah is a light that shows the right path and is one of the sharp swords of Allah that has been unsheathed in order to eliminate the evil.”

When the Messenger of Allah heard that couplet, he took off his mantle, which he was wearing, gave it to this great poet and expressed his gratification and appreciation.

After that, the poet “Banat Suadu” was known as “Qasida al-Bur­da” (poem of the mantle).

Ka’b. b. Zuhayr always took pride in this gift of the Messenger of Allah everywhere. He kept it with him until his death.

Once, Muawiya wanted to buy it by paying him ten thousand dirhams. Ka’b said, “I would not want anyone to wear the mantle of the Messenger of Allah that I own.”6

However, Muawiya obtained what he wished after the death of Ka’b. He sent twenty thousand dirhams to his inheritors and obtained the holy mantle of the Messenger of Allah.7

Then, this holy mantle was transferred to Umayyads, then to Abbasids and then to the Ottomans through the hand of Sultan Selim I.8

Today, this mantle is kept in the room of the Holy Mantle in Topkapı Palace, where some other relics of the Messenger of Allah are kept.9

“The Holy Mantle is 1,24 m long; it is made of black woolen fabric and has loose sleeves. The inside is lined with a cream woolen fabric. At the front, one part with the dimensions of 0,23 x 0,30 is missing. The right arm is not complete. It is partly worn out."

“The Holy Mantle is kept in a golden box with two lids that can be opened upwards; its dimensions are (0,57 x 0, 45 x 0,21), and it is wrapped in bundles. There is a long inscription made by Sultan Abdulaziz, including a request for intercession."

"This box is wrapped in bundles and put in a big golden chest. It was made by Sultan Abdulaziz; the following is inscribed on it:  ‘La ilaha illallah. Wa ma arsal­naka illa rahmatan lilalamin. La ilaha illallah al-Ma­li­ku’l-Haqqu’l-Mubin-Muhammadun Ra­su­lul­lah Sadiqu’­l-Wa’­di’­l-A­min’ (There is no god but Allah. We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures. There is no god but Allah,the King, the Right, the Manifest; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, Truthful to his Promise, the Trustworthy). Its pedestal on four feet is plated with gold.”10

Tahsin Öz, a former director of the Topkapı Palace Museum, also writes the following in his book:

“During the Ottoman period, the Sultan used to go to the Topkapı Palace on the 15th day of the month of Ramadan. The Holy Mantle used to be opened through a special ceremony; it used to be visited by the statesmen and government officials in the presence of the Sultan; handkerchiefs were given as gifts to them. Then, the women of the palace used to visit it.1

The head guard of the Holy Mantle was the Sultan; when he was absent, it was the duty of an official to keep it. The servants of the Holy mantle worked in the same way until the Topkapı Palace was transformed into a museum (April 3, 1924).”11


1.Halabi, Insanu’l-Uyun, Vol. 3, p. 238.
2.Ibn Kathir, Sirah, Vol. 3, p. 705; Qastalani, Mawahibu’l-Ladunniya, Vol. 1, p. 221.
3.Ibn Hisham, Sirah, Vol. 4, p. 144; Ibn Kathir, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 699.
4.Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 146-147; Ibn Kathir, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 700-705; Ibn Sayyid, Uyunu’l-Athar, Vol. 2, p. 209-212.
5.Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 147-156; Ibn Kathir, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 701-705; Ibn Sayyid, ibid, Vol. 2, p. 209-212.
6.Qastalani, ibid, Vol. 1, p. 222; Halabi, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 240.
7.Qastalani, ibid, Vol. 1, p. 222; Halabi, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 240.
8.İ. Hamî Danişmend, İzahlı Osmanlı Tarihi Kronolojisi, Vol. 2, p. 43.
9. Tahsin Öz, Hırka-i Saadet Dairesi ve Emanat-ı Mukaddese, p. 23.

* There is one more golden box of the same dimensions made by Sultan Murad for the Holy Mantle. It is artistically wonderful and decorated with emeralds. However, when Sul­tan Aziz had the new box made, the first one was not used; now it is displayed in the third hall of the treasury.  (Tahsin Öz, ibid, p. 23. Footnote: 10).

10. Tahsin Öz, ibid, Vol. 23-24.
11. Tahsin Öz, ibid, p. 24.

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