Al-Yusayr Ibn Rizam – Another Warmonger

Al-Yusayr Ibn Rizam – Another Warmonger

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


Al-Yusayr ibn Rizam was another warmonger who met his fate in the end.


It is reported about Yusayr b. Rizam, the Jew, that he was gathering Ghatafan in Khaybar to attack the Messenger of God, so the latter sent Abdullah b. Rawahah with a number of his companions, among whom were ‘Abdullah b. Unays, an ally of the Banu Salamah. When they came to him they spoke to him, made promises, treated him nicely, and said,

‘If you come to the Messenger of God he will give you an assignment and honor you.’ They continued [urging him] until he went with them, accompanied by a number of Jews. Abdullah b. Unays mounted him on his camel and rode behind him.

When he was in al-Qarqarah, about six miles from Khaybar, Yusayr b. Rizam regretted going to the Messenger of God. ‘Abdullah b. Unays perceived his intention as he was getting ready to draw his word, so he he leapt at him with a stick (with a crooked head) of shawhat wood which was in his hand, aiming at his head.

God killed Yusayr, and each one of the Messenger of God’s companions fell upon their Jewish travelling companions fell upon their Jewish travelling companions and killed them, except for one person who escaped on his mount. When Abdullah b. Unays came to the Messenger of God the Prophet spat on his head wound, and it did not fester or hurt him. [1]

Ibn Ishaq:

… Now al-Yusayr was in Khaybar collecting Ghatafan to attack the apostle. The latter sent Abdullah b. Rawaha with a number of his companions, among whom were Abdullah b. Unays, an ally of b. Salima. When they came to him they spoke to him (T. and made him promises) and treated him well, saying that he would come to the apostle he would give him an appointment and honour him.

They kept on at him until he went with them with a number of Jews. Abdullah b. Unays mounted him on his beast (T. and he rode behind him) until when he was in al-Qarqara, about six miles from Khaybar, al-Yusayr changed his mind about going to the apostle. Abdullah perceived his intention as he was preparing to draw his sword, so he rushed at him and struck him with his sword cutting off his leg.

Al-Yusayr hit him with a stick of shauhat wood which he had in his hand and wounded his head (T. and God killed Yusayr). All the Apostle’s companions fell upon their Jewish companions and killed them except one man who escaped on his feet (T. his beast). When Abdullah b. Unays came to the apostle he spat on his wound and it did not suppurate or cause him pain. [2]


… Abdullah b. Rawaha marched to Khaybar twice. The first time, the Prophet sent him to Khaybar in Ramadan with three men to observe Khaybar, the condition of its people, what they desired and what they spoke about. He went forward until he came to the region of Khaybar and tried to enter its fortifications.

He dispersed his companions to al-Nata, al-Shaqq and al-Katiba. They learned what they heard of Usayr and others. Then they set out after a stay of three days and returned to the Messenger of God during the last nights of Ramadan. Abdullah informed the Prophet of all that he saw and heard; then he set out for Usayr in Shawwal.

… Usayr was a brave man. When Abu Rafi was killed Usayr b. Zarim took command of the Jews. He stood up before the Jews and said, ‘By God, Muhammad did not attack any one of the Jews, but he sent one of his companions to get whatever he desired from them. I will do what my companions did not do.’ They said, ‘What do you seek to do that your companions did not do?’

He replied, ‘I will march to the Ghatafan and I will gather them.’ And he marched to the Ghatafan and collected them. Then he said, ‘O community of Jews, we will march to Muhammad in the heart of his home, for surely one is not attacked in his home except his enemies will take some of what they desire.’

They said, ‘ ,’ and that reached the Messenger of God. He said: Kharija b. Husayl al-Ashja’I arrived before the Prophet and informed him of what was behind him. Then Kharija said, ‘I left Usayr b. Zarim marching to you with a contingent of Jews.’ Ibn Abbas said: The Messenger of God summoned the people, and appointed thirty men. Abdullah b. Unays said: I was with them. The Messenger of God appointed Abdullah Rawaha over us. … [3]

Cheragh Ali

Oseir-ibn Zarim, the chief of Bani Nazeer, had maintained a hostile animosity against the Moslems of Medina, to war with whom he had enrolled himself in the adverse tribe of Ghatafan. Preparations were briskly made by this tribe to make a havoc of Medina, and Oseir had been made the hero of the enterprise.

Hereupon Mohammad delegated the mission of bringing the insurgent to Medina to Abdullah-bin Rawaha and some others, with a promise of making him Governor of Khyber, and treating him with marked distinction, if he yielded to the wisher of the Prophet. Oseir complied, and set out with his followers to Medina.

On a camel were mounted Abdullah-bil, Oneis, and Oseir. Hardly they had travelled six miles when Oseir repented of his determination to go to Medina, and stretched forth his hand towards the sword of Abdullah, who leaped from the camel and cut off his leg, Oseir in the meantime wounding Abdullah’s head with his came stuff.

Now, whether Oseir was assassinated or murdered perfidiously; whether he meditated treachery, and Abdullah struck him in his self-defence,-whatever might be the case, certainly there is nothing in the narrative of Oseir’s death to how that Mohammad has sent him ‘on a secret errand with a view of getting rid of the Jewish chief’ as Sir W. Muir explains.

The story is not imparted by earliest writers like Ibn Ishak, and the traditions of a later date are incoherent, one-sided, and imperfect. Notwithstanding these inaccuracies, no account tells us that mandates were issued for fighting with or killing Oseir, much less for his assassination. [4]


[1] The History of al-Tabari: The Last Years of the Prophet: The Formation of the State A.D. 630-632/A.H [Translator: Ismail K. Poonawala], volume 9, page 120
[2] Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah – The Life of Muhammad Translated by A. Guillaume, Page 665 – 666
[3] The Life of Muhammad: Al-Waqidi’s Kitab al-Maghazi edited by Rizwi Faizer, page 566 – 567
[4] A Critical Exposition of the Popular Jihad (Original 1885) – Cheragh Ali Page 72 – 73