On Hind bt. ‘Utbah Chewing Hamza’s Liver


Waqar Akbar Cheema


It is well known that Hind bt. ‘Utbah (d. 14/635), the wife of Abu Sufyan b. Harb (d. 31/652), chewed the liver of Hamza b. ‘Abdul Mutalib after he was killed by a slave named Wahshi (d. ca 25/645) during the Battle of Uhud (Shawal 3/December 624), the second major encounter between the Muslims of Madina lead by the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and the pagans of Quraish of Makkah.

It is also well known that later Abu Sufyan, Hind, and Wahshi all accepted Islam at the eve of Conquest of Makkah in the year Ramadan 8/January 630. Just over three decades later and following the killing of ‘Uthman (d. 35/656) – the third Caliph – Mu‘awiya (d. 60/680) who had been governor of Islamic Levant (al-Sham) involved in a political dispute with ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (d. 40/661). Subsequently, however, the Umayyads came to power and ruled for about ninety years before being violently uprooted and replaced by the Abbasids. Since a strong sentiment had developed against the Umayyads in certain circles especially during their final years a lot of misinformation and false propaganda was done, which was duly noted and thus highlighted as falsehood by scholars over the centuries.

In the recent times, however, we have seen a trend that seeks to deny and refute almost anything negative even remotely related to Umayyads suggesting that all of it had originated by the way of disparaging them. Just like the love and respect for the Prophet’s (ﷺ) very dear companion, his cousin and son-in-law ‘Ali b. Abi Talib does not warrant or require falsifying reports about him taking some intoxicant before it was made unlawful,[1] there is absolutely no justification to run after flimsiest of issues with chains of narrators and extrapolating the virtues of individuals from Banu Umayyah to the point of using them to see a conspiracy in every mention of something negative about any of them especially when it relates to time they had not yet embraced Islam.

Hind bt. ‘Utbah’s chewing of Hamza’s liver is one such case. The story is widespread and has been so continuously since the time of earliest compilations on campaigns and history of early Islam. In what follows we shall have a look at the reports in this regard.

Ahmad b. Hanbal and Ibn Abi Shaiba recorded it with another chain.

حدثنا عفان، حدثنا حماد، حدثنا عطاء بن السائب، عن الشعبي، عن ابن مسعود، … فنظروا فإذا حمزة قد بقر بطنه، وأخذت هند كبده فلاكتها، فلم تستطع أن تأكلها، فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «أأكلت منه شيئا» قالوا: لا. قال: «ما كان الله ليدخل شيئا من حمزة النار»

‘Affan related to us: Hammad [b. Salama] related to us: ‘Ata b. al-Sa’ib related to us, on the authority of al-Sha‘bi, on the authority of Ibn Ibn Mas‘ud: …. When they searched, they found Hamza. His liver had been cut out and chewed by Hind, but she had been unable to swallow it. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), asked, ‘Did she eat any of it?’ ‘No,’ they told him. He commented, ‘Allah would never have allowed any part of Hamza to enter hell-fire!’[2]

Grading the report as sahih, Ahmad Shakir stated in his research on Musnad Ahmad:

إسناده صحيح، وهو في مجمع الزوائد وقال: “رواه أحمد، وفيه عطاء بن السائب، وقد اختلط”. ونقله ابن كثير في التفسير  والتاريخ، وقال في التاريخ: “تفرد به أحمد، وهذا إسناده فيه ضعف أيضاً من جهة عطاء بن السائب”. وذكره السيوطي في الدر المنثور ونسبه أيضاً لابن أبي شيبة وابن المنذر. وتعليل الإسناد بعطاء غير جيد، فإن حماد بن سلمة سمع منه قبل اختلاطه.

Its isnad is sahih. It is mentioned in Majm‘ al-Zawa’id and al-Haithami said, ‘Ahmad narrated it and it involves ‘Ata’ b. al-Sa’ib and he had become confounded. Ibn Kathir quoted it in his works on tafsir and history and in the latter he noted, ‘Ahmad alone related it, and its isnad has weakness due to ‘Ata’ b. al-Sa’ib. al-Suyuti mentioned it in al-Durr al-Manthur attributing it to Ibn Abi Shaiba and Ibn al-Mundhar as well. Weakening of the report due to ‘Ata’ is uncommendable because Hammad b. Salama heard from him before his becoming confounded.[3]

Shu‘aib al-Arna’ut in his edition commented to the report highlighting that the Hammad had indeed heard from ‘Ata before his becoming confounded.[4] Instead he pointed out the weakness of the chain on account of apparent break in the link between al-Sha‘bi and Ibn Mas‘ud, though the report, he said was reliable due to supporting links (hasan li-ghairihi).[5]

Likewise, a contemporary scholar Muhammad ‘Awwama after mentioning the same point about Hammad-‘Ata’ link further noted:

والإنقطاع بين الشعبي وابن مسعود لا يضر, فإنه ملحق بمراسيله التي حكموا بصحتها.

The break between al-Sha‘bi and Ibn Mas‘ud is harmless for it was like the mursal reports of al-Sha‘bi which have been deemed authentic.[6]

It is likewise reported on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas,[7] Muhammad b. Sirin,[8] ‘Urwah b. Zubair,[9] Salih b. Kaisan.[10] Musa b. ‘Uqbah[11] and al-Waqidi[12] also quoted it in their respective works on campaigns of the Prophet (ﷺ).

Similarly, there are reports that mention contemporaries of Hind bt. ‘Utbah’s son Mu‘awiya b. Abi Sufyan referring to him as ‘Son of the Liver Eater’ (Ibn Akilah al-Akbad).[13]

In view of these reports it is evident that rejecting the reports on Hind bt. ‘Utbah’s chewing of Hamza b. Abi Talib’s liver is unwarranted. That Hind actually embraced Islam, and died as a believer is enough for her vindication as the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Are you not aware of the fact that Islam wipes out all the previous (misdeeds)?”[14]


References and Notes:

[1] Al-Sijistani, Abu Dawud, al-Sunan, Translated by Yaser Qadhi and Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Riyadh: Maktabat Dar-us-Salam, 2008) Hadith 3671; classified as sahih by al-Albani and Shu‘aib al-Arna’ut

[2] Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, ((Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 2001)) Hadith 4414; Ibn Abi Shaiba, al-Musannaf, Edited by Muhammad ‘Awwama (Beirut: Dar Qurtaba, 2006) Hadith 37938

[3] Shakir, Ahmad (editor), Musnad Ahmad b. Hanbal, (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 1995) Vol.4, 250 Hadith 4414

[4] For more on this point see, ‘Awwamah, Muhammad (editor), Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaibah, Vol.2, 31 (Hadith 1073), also see, ‘Uthmani, Zafar Ahmad, Qawa’id fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith, Edited by Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah, (Karachi: Idarah al-Qur’an wa ‘Ulum al-Islamiyyah, n.d.) 420-421 [*]

[5] al-Arna’ut, Shu‘aib et al. (editors), Musnad Ahmad b. Hanbal, Vol.7, 418-420 Hadith 4414

[6] ‘Awwamah, Muhammad (editor), Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaibah, Vol.20, 360-361; on the reliability of mursal reports of al-Sha‘bi see, ibid., Vol.2, 322 (Hadith 2157) see also, ‘Uthmani, Zafar Ahmad, Qawa’id fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith, 141

[7] Al-Tabari, Ibn Jarir, Jami’ al-Bayan fi Ta’wil al-Qur’an, (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 2000) Vol.23, 341 Mawsu‘a Tafsir al-Ma’thur, Vol.21, 560-561 No. 76510; it is reported through isnad involving ‘Atiyah al-‘Awfi and his descendants. Though criticized otherwise, the tafsir reports through this isnad are accepted since they are known to have been transmitted in writing. See, al-Turifi, ‘Abdul ‘Aziz, al-Taqrir fi Asanid al-Tafsir, (Riyadh: Dar al-Minhaj, 2011 ) 67-68;

al-Tabari refers to it in his work on history as well, see al-Tabari, Ibn Jarir, Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Maluk, (Beirut: Dar al-Turath, 1387 AH) Vol.3, 61; translated in Fishbein, Michael, The History of al-Tabari – Volume VIII – The Victory of Islam, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997) 182

[8] Ibn Sa’d, al-Tabaqat a-Kabir, (Beirut: DKI, 1990) Vol.3, 9; Ibn Sa‘d brings the report with the chain of narrators that goes as, “Hawdha b. Khalifa [al-Thaqafi] related to us: ‘Awf [b. Abi Jamila] informed us: on the authority of Muhammad [b. Sirin], …”

[9] Al-Baihaqi, Abu Bakr, Dala’il al-Nubuwwa, (Beirut: DKI, 1988) Vol.3, 282-283; Al-Baihaqi brings it with the chain of narrators involving Muhammad b. ‘Amr b. Khalid, his father, and Ibn Lihi‘a. Whereas Muhammad b. ‘Amr b. Khalid like his father was trustworthy – see, al-Fasi, Ibn al-Qattan, Bayan al-Wahm wa Iham fi Kitab al-Ahkam, (Riyadh: Dar al-Tayba, 1997) Vol.3, 535 – Ibn Lihi‘a is well known to have been criticized for his weak memory.

[10] Ibn Ishaq, Kitab al-Siyar wa al-Maghazi, (Beirut: Dar al-Fekr, 1978) 333; Ibn Hisham, as-Sirat al-Nabawiyyah, (Egypt: Mustafa al-Babi, 1955) Vol.2, 91 translated in Guillaume, Alfred, The Life of Muhammad – Translation of [Ibn] Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) 385; Salih b. Kaisan died around 140 at age of nearly ninety (90) if not more. See, Al-‘Asqalani, Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, (Hyderabad: Da’ira Ma’arif Nizamiya, 1326 AH) Vol.4, 399-400

[11] Al-Baihaqi, Abu Bakr, Dala’il al-Nubuwwa, Vol.3, 206-207; Musa b. ‘Uqbah brings it on the authority of Muhammad b. Shihab al-Zuhri.

[12] Al-Waqidi, Muhammad b. ‘Umar, al-Maghazi, (Beirut: Dar al-A‘lami, 1989) Vol.1, 286 translated in Faizer, Rizwi, et al, The Life of Muhammad: Al-Waqidi’s Kitab al-Maghazi, (New York: Routledge, 2011) 139

[13] Ibn Sa’d, al-Tabaqat a-Kabir, (Beirut: DKI, 1990) Vol.8, 32-33, 186 (Mughira b. Nofal: In context of Mu‘awiya’s marriage proposal to Umamah bt. Abi al-‘As); Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, (Beirut: Dar Hijr, 1997) Vol.11, 117 (‘Ali b. Abi Talib: In response to Mu‘awiya’s mention of his merits), etc.

[14] Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Riyadh: Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 2007) Hadith 321 (121-192)

The critics of Hind bt. ‘Utbah and likewise the critics of the hadith on the issue may like to point out that according to the report of Ibn Mas‘ud the Prophet (ﷺ) on learning that Hind had not swallowed any part of Hamza’s liver said, “Allah would never have allowed any part of Hamza to enter hell-fire!” implying Hind’s abode in the hereafter. This, however, was only in accordance with her position as a disbeliever at the time of Uhud that the Prophet (ﷺ) said it, therefore, it neither discredits her subsequent coming to Islam, nor makes the hadith doubtful. It was like the case of children of ‘Uqbah b. Abi Mu‘it for when he was about to be killed he said, “Who will look after my children?” and the Prophet (ﷺ) replied, “Fire.” See, Al-Sijistani, Abu Dawud, al-Sunan, Hadith 2686; classified as hasan sahih by al-Albani and sahih by Shu‘aib al-Arna’ut. Naturally this too did not apply to his children who eventually accepted Islam and died as believers. [*,*,*]

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