Why was Sara the singer killed?

The Details of the Question

- We know that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) always forgave people. My question is about Sara the singer and why she was killed.
- I do not think she was killed just because she insulted the Prophet; if it had been just for that, the Prophet would have forgiven her.
- Was Sarah killed because she incited the enemies to fight against the Muslims in the victory of Makkah?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Sara made a living by lamenting the dead and reciting satirical poems about the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions. Although her full name was Umm Sara, she was known as Sara. (1)

Therefore, the more she pleased the enemies of Islam, the better her earnings would be. At the same time, she was one of the women who harassed the Prophet in Makkah. Since she was a singer and a lamenting woman, she harassed him verbally. (2)

According to the information given by Waqidi, Sara came to Madinah before the conquest of Makkah and complained to the Messenger of Allah about her economic situation, namely her poverty. She asked the Prophet for help. Knowing her source of livelihood, the Messenger of Allah said to her: “You used to sing and lament; what happened? Did they not meet your needs?”

Thereupon, Sara said: “O Muhammad! The Quraysh have stopped listening to songs since their losses in the Battle of Badr.” She said that her situation was not good. After listening to this woman who harassed him and his Companions with her songs, the Prophet prepared a camel load of food to meet her urgent needs. (3)

According to another narration, the Messenger of Allah told Sons of Abdulmuttalib to help Sara. They met Sara’s necessary needs and saw her off to go to Makkah. (4)

Meanwhile, the Muslims were preparing for the conquest of Makkah.

According to the information given by Ibnul-Athir, Sara came to Madinah, to the Messenger of Allah, as a Muslim. The Prophet helped her by giving her what she needed. However, despite all his good deeds, Sare apostatized and exited Islam. (5)

Sara not only exited Islam but also got engaged in some activities against Muslims.

The most important of these activities was that she undertook the duty of taking Hatib b. Abi Baltaa’s secret letter to the Qurayshi polytheists to inform them about the preparations of the Muslim to conquer Makkah, which the Messenger of Allah kept as a secret even from his closest relatives, by hiding the letter in her hair. (6)

According to the information given by Ibn Hisham through reporting from Ibn Ishaq, Hatib had made a great promise to Sara in return for delivering this secret letter to the Quraysh. (7)

However, this treacherous plan was unsuccessful upon the notification of Allah. If this letter had reached the hands of the Qurayshi polytheists, the conquest of Makkah might not have been so easy.

Therefore, a lot of blood would have been shed and Sara’s effect would have been great in it. Therefore, we can say that Sara was a harmful courier working on behalf of the enemy.

We could not find any information in the sources about whether Sara took the letter before or after her apostasy.

Sara was ordered to be killed and deserved to die because of these harmful actions and words mentioned above.

There are two opinions about the fate of this singer in the sources of Siyar, Maghazi and Tabaqat:

According to a narration reported by Ibn Hisham, some people came to the Prophet on the Day of Conquest and asked him to forgive her. The Messenger of Allah forgave her. Sara, whose life was saved, lived until the caliphate of Umar (ra). (8)

During this period, she died by being trampled under the feet of an unknown cavalryman’s horse as a result of an accident. (9)

According to another narration, Sara, was killed by Ali on the day of the Conquest because of the crimes she committed in the past. (10)

According to one view, she was killed by someone else. (11)

Waqidi also reported that she was killed on the day of the conquest. However, he did not mention by whom she was killed. (12)

Although there are differences in the narrations, it is a fact that Sara was wanted to be punished because of the bad songs she sang about the Prophet just to entertain the polytheists, and for carrying the letter against the Islamic army.

In conclusion, instead of thanking the Messenger of Allah and the Muslims who helped her when she was in financial trouble, Sara acted ungratefully by attempting to convey military information to the polytheists of Makkah at a critical time. The Prophet sent Ali and Zubayr b. Awwam asking them to take the letter from her.

The woman first denied the letter. However, in the face of Ali’s determination, Sara delivered the letter to them. Thus, Sara was caught red-handed. (13)

The fact that she was released after he was caught by Ali and Zubayr raised some questions.

- Was this woman illiterate? If she had been literate, could she have read the letter on the way?
- If she had been illiterate, could she not have sensed the purpose for which the letter was sent?
- Why was the woman who did bad things in the past was released though she was caught red-handed?
- Does it cast a shadow over the meticulousness of the Prophet, who took all measures?
- Or was this woman somebody other than Sarah?

Because of the ones above and similar questions, we think this narration is problematic. (14)

To sum up, the following were effective in causing her to be killed where she was seen according to the sources:

She was ordered to be killed by the Prophet on the day of the conquest because she harassed the Prophet in the Makkan period, recited satirical poems about the Messenger of Allah, acted as a courier for some secret military information, and not only did she apostatize but also acted ungratefully despite the favors done to her. The majority of historical sources agree unanimously that her blood was shed. (15)

According to the information given by Ibnul-Athir, Sara was ordered to be killed by the Prophet because she acted ungratefully despite the favors done to her and then apostatized. (16)

In our opinion, it is more likely that Sara was forgiven on the day of the conquest, since Ibn Hisham is more reliable and sounder compared to other sources regarding sirah. (17)

Footnotes:

1) Waqidi, al-Maghazi, II, p, 283; Balazuri, Ansabul-Ashraf, I, pp, 453-457; Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, VI, p, 346. It is not appropriate to regard satire as innocent criticism because it should not be forgotten that sometimes a person’s personality is defamed by being turned into a target. It should not be forgotten that such people are punished in today’s legal system too.
2) Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, IV, p, 41; Tabari, at-Tarikh, III, p, 59.
3) Waqidi, al-Maghazi, II, p, 283.
4) Ekrem Şama, Başlar ve Kılıçlar, p, 273.
5) Balazuri, Ansabul-Ashraf, I, pp, 453-457; Ibnul-Athir, al-Kamil, II, p, 126.
6) Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, IV, p, 30; Ibnul-Athir, al-Kamil, II, p, 126; Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, VIII, p, 10. According to the information that Ibn Hisham reported from Muhammad b. Jafar, the name of this courier (woman) was Muzayna. See: Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, IV, p, 30.
7) Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, IV, p, 30.
8) Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, IV, p, 41; Tabari, at-Tarikh, III, p, 60; Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, VIII, p, 10.
9) Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, IV, p, 41; Tabari, at-Tarikh, III, p, 60.
10) Balazuri, Ansabul-Ashraf, I, pp, 453-457; Ibnul-Athir, al-Kamil, II, p, 126.
11) Balazuri, Ansabul-Ashraf, I, p, 457.
12) Waqidi, al-Maghazi, II, p, 283.
13) Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, IV, p, 30-31; Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, VI, p, 346.
14) Ibn Hisham reports that Muhammad b. Jafar claimed this woman was from Muzayna. In our opinion, the probability of this information being correct is high. See: Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, IV, p, 30-31.
15) Waqidi, al-Maghazi, II, p, 283; Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, IV, p, 41; Ibn Sa’d, at-Tabaqat, II, p, 136; Tabari, at-Tarikh, III, p, 59; Ibnul-Athir, al-Kamil, II, p, 126; Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, VIII, p, 10.
16) Ibnul-Athir, al-Kamil, II, p, 126.
17) See Veysel Aktürk, Hz. Peygamber Döneminde Öldürülmeleri Emredilenler ve Öldürülme Nedenleri. Konya: Selçuk Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü, Master Thesis, 2009, pp. 249-252.

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