Commentary on the Hadith of Ka’b Ibn Malik

Praise be to Allah,


Abdullah bin Ka`b, who served as the guide of Ka`b bin Malik (May Allah be pleased with him) when he became blind, narrated: I heard Ka`b bin Malik (May Allah be pleased with him) narrating the story of his remaining behind instead of joining Messenger of Allah (PBUH) when he left for the battle of Tabuk. Ka`b said: “I accompanied Messenger of Allah (PBUH) in every expedition which he undertook excepting the battle of Tabuk and the battle of Badr. As for the battle of Badr, nobody was blamed for remaining behind as Messenger of Allah (PBUH), and the Muslims, when they set out, had in mind only to intercept the caravan of the Quraish. Allah made them confront their enemies unexpectedly. I had the honor of being with Messenger of Allah (PBUH) on the night of `Aqabah when we pledged our allegiance to Islam and it was dearer to me than participating in the battle of Badr, although Badr was more well-known among the people than that. And this is the account of my staying behind from the battle of Tabuk. I never had better means and more favorable circumstances than at the time of this expedition. And by Allah, I had never before possessed two riding camels as I did during the time of this expedition. Whenever Messenger of Allah (PBUH) decided to go on a campaign, he would not disclose his real destination till the last moment (of departure). But on this expedition, he set out in extremely hot weather; the journey was long and the terrain was a waterless desert, and he had to face a strong army, so he informed the Muslims about the actual position so that they should make full preparation for the campaign. And the Muslims who accompanied Messenger of Allah (PBUH) at that time were in large number but no proper record of them was maintained.” Ka`b (further) said: “Few were the persons who chose to remain absent believing that they could easily hide (and thus remain undetected) unless Revelation from Allah, the Exalted, and Glorious (revealed relating to them). And Messenger of Allah (PBUH) set out on this expedition when the fruit was ripe and their shade was sought. I had a weakness for them and it was during this season that Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and the Muslims made preparations. I also would set out in the morning to make preparations along with them but would come back having done nothing and said to myself: ‘I have means enough (to make preparations) as soon as I like’. And I went on doing this (postponing my preparations) till the time of departure came and it was in the morning that Messenger of Allah (PBUH) set out along with the Muslims, but I had made no preparations. I would go early in the morning and come back, but with no-decision. I went on doing so until they (the Muslims) hastened and covered a good deal of distance. Then I wished to march on and join them. Would that I had done that! But perhaps it was not destined for me. After the departure of Messenger of Allah (PBUH) whenever I went out, I was grieved to find no good example to follow but confirmed hypocrites or weak people whom Allah had exempted (from marching forth for Jihad). Messenger of Allah (PBUH) made no mention of me until he reached Tabuk. While he was sitting with the people in Tabuk, he said, `What happened to Ka`b bin Malik?’ A person from Banu Salimah said: “O Messenger of Allah, the (beauty) of his cloak and an appreciation of his finery have detained him.’ Upon this Mu`adh bin Jabal (MatAllah be pleased with him) admonished him and said to Messenger of Allah (PBUH): “By Allah, we know nothing about him but good.’ Messenger of Allah (PBUH), however, kept quiet. At that time he (the Prophet (PBUH)) saw a person dressed in white and said, `Be Abu Khaithamah.’ And was Abu Khaithamah Al-Ansari was the person who had contributed a Sa` of dates and was ridiculed by the hypocrites.” Ka`b bin Malik further said: “When the news reached me that Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was on his way back from Tabuk, I was greatly distressed. I thought of fabricating an excuse and asked myself how I would save myself from his anger the next day. In this connection, I sought the counsels of every prudent member of my family. When I was told that Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was about to arrive, all the wicked ideas vanished (from my mind) and I came to the conclusion that nothing but the truth could save me. So I decided to tell him the truth. It was in the morning that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) arrived in Al- Madinah. It was his habit that whenever he came back from a journey, he would first go to the mosque and perform two Rak`ah (of optional prayer) and would then sit with the people. When he sat, those who had remained behind him began to put forward their excuses and take an oath before him. They were more than eighty in number. Messenger of Allah (PBUH) accepted their excuses on the very face of them and accepted their allegiance and sought forgiveness for them and left their insights to Allah until I appeared before him. I greeted him and he smiled and there was a tinge of anger in that. He then said to me, ‘Come forward’. I went forward and I sat in front of him. He said to me, `What kept you back? Could you not afford to go in for a ride?’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, by Allah, if I were to sit before anybody else, a man of the world, I would have definitely saved myself from his anger on one pretext or the other and I have a gifted skill in argumentation, but, by Allah, I am fully aware that if I were to put forward before you a lame excuse to please you, Allah would definitely provoke your wrath upon me. In case, I speak the truth, you may be angry with me, but I hope that Allah would be pleased with me (and accept my repentance). By Allah, there is no valid excuse for me. By Allah, I never possessed so good means, and I never had such favorable conditions for me as I had when I stayed behind.’ Thereupon, Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, ‘This man spoke the truth, so get up (and wait) until Allah gives a decision about you.’ I left and some people of Banu Salimah followed me. They said to me, `By Allah, we do not know that you committed a sin before. You, however, showed an inability to put forward an excuse before Messenger of Allah (PBUH) like those who stayed behind him. It would have been enough for the forgiveness of your sin that Messenger of Allah (PBUH) would have sought forgiveness for you.’ By Allah, they kept on reproaching me until I thought of going back to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and retract my confession. Then I said to them, ‘Has anyone else met the same fate?’ They said, ‘Yes, two persons have met the same fate. They made the same statement as you did and the same verdict was delivered in their case.’ I asked, `Who are they?’ They said, ‘Murarah bin Ar-Rabi` Al-`Amri and Hilal bin Umaiyyah Al-Waqifi.’ They mentioned these two pious men who had taken part in the battle of Badr and there was an example for me in them. I was confirmed in my original resolve. Messenger of Allah (PBUH) prohibited the Muslims to talk to the three of us from amongst those who had stayed behind. The people began to avoid us and their attitude towards us changed and it seemed as if the whole atmosphere had turned against us, and it was in fact the same atmosphere of which I was fully aware and in which I had lived (for a fairly long time). We spent fifty nights in this very state and my two friends confined themselves within their houses and spent (most of their) time weeping. As I was the youngest and the strongest, I would leave my house, attend the congregational Salat, move about in the bazaars, but none would speak to me. I would come to Messenger of Allah (PBUH) as he sat amongst (people) after the Salat, greet him, and would ask myself whether or not his lips moved in response to my greetings. Then I would perform Salat near him and look at him stealthily. When I finish my Salat, he would look at me and when I would cast a glance at him he would turn away his eyes from me. When the harsh treatment of the Muslims to me continued for a (considerable) length of time, I walked and climbed up on the wall of the garden of Abu Qatadah, who was my cousin, and I had a great love for him. I greeted him but, by Allah, he did not answer my greeting. I said to him, `O Abu Qatadah, I adjure you in the Name of Allah, are you not aware that I love Allah and His Messenger (PBUH)?’ I asked him the same question again but he remained silent. I again adjured him, whereupon he said, `Allah and His Messenger (PBUH) know better.’ My eyes were filled with tears, and I came back climbing down the wall.

As I was walking in the bazaars of Al-Madinah, a man from the Syrian peasants, who had come to sell food grains in Al-Madinah, asked people to direct him to Ka`b bin Malik. People pointed towards me. He came to me and delivered a letter from the King of Ghassan, and as I was a scribe, I read that letter whose purport was: `It has been conveyed to us that your friend (the Prophet (PBUH)) was treating you harshly. Allah has not created you for a place where you are to be degraded and where you cannot find your right place; so come to us and we shall receive you graciously.’ As I read that letter I said: ‘This is too a trial,’ so I put it to fire in an oven. When forty days had elapsed and Messenger of Allah (PBUH) received no Revelation, there came to me a messenger of the Messenger of Allah and said, `Verily, Messenger of Allah (PBUH) has commanded you to keep away from your wife.’ I said, `Should I divorce her or what else should I do?’ He said, `No, but only keep away from her and don’t have sexual contact with her.’ The same message was sent to my companions. So, I said to my wife: ‘You better go to your parents and stay there with them until Allah gives the decision in my case.’ The wife of Hilal bin Umaiyyah came to Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, Hilal bin Umaiyyah is a senile person and has no servant. Do you disapprove if I serve him?’ He said, `No, but don’t let him have any sexual contact with you.’ She said, ‘By Allah, he has no such desire left in him. By Allah, he has been in tears since (this calamity) struck him.’ Members of my family said to me, `You should have sought permission from Messenger of Allah (PBUH) in regard to your wife. He has allowed the wife of Hilal bin Umaiyyah to serve him.’ I said, ‘I would not seek permission from Messenger of Allah (PBUH) for I do not know what Messenger of Allah might say in response to that, as I am a young man. It was in this state that I spent ten more nights and thus fifty days had passed since people boycotted us and gave up talking to us. After I had offered my Fajr prayer on the early morning of the fiftieth day of this boycott on the roof of one of our houses and had sat in the very state which Allah described as: `The earth seemed constrained for me despite its vastness’, I heard the voice of a proclaimer from the peak of the hill Sal` shouting at the top of his voice: ‘O Ka`b bin Malik, rejoice.’ I fell down in prostration and came to know that there was (a message of) relief for me. Messenger of Allah (PBUH) had informed the people about the acceptance of our repentance by Allah after he had offered the Fajr prayer. So the people went on to give us glad tidings and some of them went to my companions in order to give them the glad tidings. A man spurred his horse towards me (to give the good news), and another one from the tribe of Aslam came running for the same purpose and, as he approached the mount, I received the good news which reached me before the rider did. When the one whose voice I had heard came to me to congratulate me, I took off my garments and gave them to him for the good news he brought to me. By Allah, I possessed nothing else (in the form of clothes) except these garments, at that time. Then I borrowed two garments, dressed, and came to Messenger of Allah (PBUH) On my way, I met groups of people who greeted me for (the acceptance of) repentance and they said: ‘Congratulations for acceptance of your repentance.’ I reached the mosque where the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was sitting amidst people. Talhah bin `Ubaidullah got up and rushed towards me, shook hands with me, and greeted me. By Allah, no person stood up (to greet me) from amongst the Muhajirun besides him.” Ka`b said that he never forgot (this good gesture of) Talhah. Ka`b further said: “I greeted Messenger of Allah (PBUH) with `As-salamu `Alaykum and his face was beaming with pleasure. He (PBUH) said, `Rejoice with the best day you have ever seen since your mother gave you birth. ‘I said: `O Messenger of Allah! Is this (good news) from you or from Allah?’ He said, `No, it is from Allah.’ And it was common with Messenger of Allah (PBUH) that whenever he was happy, his face would glow as if it were a part of the moon and it was from this that we recognized it (his delight). As I sat before him, I said, I have placed a condition upon myself that if Allah accepts my Taubah, I would give up all of my property in charity for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (PBUH)!’ Thereupon Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, `Keep some property with you, as it is better for you.’ I said, ‘I shall keep with me that portion which is in Khaibar’. I added: ‘O Messenger of Allah! Verily, Allah has granted me salvation because of my truthfulness, and therefore, repentance obliges me to speak nothing but the truth as long as I am alive.” Ka`b added: “By Allah, I do not know anyone among the Muslims who has been granted truthfulness better than me since I said this to the Prophet (PBUH). By Allah! Since the time I made a pledge of this to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), I have never intended to tell a lie, and I hope that Allah would protect me (against telling lies) for the rest of my life. Allah, the Exalted, the Glorious, revealed these Verses:

‘Allah has forgiven the Prophet (PBUH), the Muhajirun (Muslim Emigrants who left their homes and came to Al- Madinah) and the Ansar (Muslims of Al-Madinah) who followed him (Muhammad (PBUH)) in the time of distress (Tabuk expedition), after the hearts of a party of them had nearly deviated (from the Right Path), but He accepted their repentance. Certainly, He is unto them full of kindness, Most Merciful. And (He did forgive also) the three who did not join [the Tabuk expedition and whose case was deferred (by the Prophet (PBUH)) for Allah’s Decision] till for them the earth, vast as it is, was straitened and their own selves were straitened to them, and they perceived that there is no fleeing from Allah and no refuge but with Him. Then, He forgave them (accepted their repentance), that they might beg for His Pardon [repent (unto Him)]. Verily, Allah is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful. O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in word and deeds).” (9:117,118).

Ka`b said: “By Allah, since Allah guided me to Islam, there has been no blessing more significant for me than this truth of mine which I spoke to Messenger of Allah (PBUH), and if I were to tell a lie I would have been ruined as were ruined those who had told lies, for Allah described those who told lies with the worst description He ever attributed to anybody else, as He sent down the Revelation:

‘They will swear by Allah to you (Muslims) when you return to them, that you may turn away from them. So turn away from them. Surely, they are Rijsun [i.e., Najasun (impure) because of their evil deeds], and Hell is their dwelling place – a recompense for that which they used to earn. They (the hypocrites) swear to you (Muslims) that you may be pleased with them, but if you are pleased with them, certainly Allah is not pleased with the people who are Al-Fa’siqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah)”. (9:95,96)

Ka`b further added: “The matter of the three of us remained pending for decision apart from the case of those who had made excuses on oath before Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and he accepted those, took fresh oaths of allegiance from them and supplicated for their forgiveness. The Prophet (PBUH) kept our matter pending till Allah decided it. The three whose matter was deferred have been shown mercy. The reference here is not to our staying back from the expedition but to his delaying our matter and keeping it pending beyond the matter of those who made their excuses on oath which he accepted”.

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Another version adds: “Messenger of Allah (PBUH) set out for Tabuk on Thursday. He used to prefer to set out on a journey on Thursday.” Another version says: “Messenger of Allah (PBUH) used to come back from a journey in the early forenoon and went straight to the mosque where he would perform two Rak`ah prayer. Afterward, he would seat himself there”.


This Hadith contains many aspects of warnings and advice, some of which are given below:

1. A Muslim should always speak the truth even if he has to face troubles and turmoil for it because the Pleasure of Allah lies in truth.
2. One must avoid at all costs the attitude of hypocrites because eventually one is ruined by it.
3. In spite of hardship and stringency, one must take part in the battle.
4. For the admonition and exhortation of others, gives justification for the economic boycott of even sincere Muslims who adopt wrong methods.
5. One must face with forbearance the difficulties which come in the way of Deen.
6. It is not praiseworthy that one gives in charity all the property he has. One must keep what is needed for the lawful needs.
7. It is lawful to give something by way of gift and reward to a person who congratulates in the events of happiness.

8. The ability to seek pardon is a gift from Allah for which one must express gratitude to Him.
9.Any promise that one makes must be kept, etc., etc.

Shaykh Uthaymeen ( may Allah have mercy on his soul) says,

There are many lessons in this part of the hadeeth:

Firstly: The Prophets boycott the threesome so much that he ordered them to keep away from their wives, and estranging a man from his wife is very serious.

Secondly: A man’s saying to his wife, “Go to your family” does not necessarily imply divorce. Ka’b – may Allah be pleased with him – distinguished between “go to your family” and a divorce. So, if a man says to his wife “go to your family” without intending a divorce, then it is not a divorce. On the other hand, if he intends divorce; then the Prophet (PBUH)  had said, “Verily actions are considered by their intentions and there is for every human being what he intends.” If an individual intends divorce with such an expression then it holds.

Thirdly: The Companions’ strict compliance with the order of the Prophet (M)- Ka’b never hesitated neither did he say, “Perhaps I should seek clarification from the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) ” or ask the person sent by the Prophet (PBUH) to “go back to him; perhaps he would allow me.” He just accepted everything.

Fourthly: The Prophet (PBUH) is compassionate with his Ummah. After he had directed them to keep away from their wives, he later permitted Hilaal bin Umayyah who direly needed the service of his wife.

Fifthly: The permissibility of explaining the circumstance while seeking a verdict, bearing witness, or the like even if the party concerned may not be comfortable that the people become aware of such things. Hilaal bin Umayyah’s wife mentioned his condition: he does not have any desire for women.

Sixthly: If a similar thing happens to an individual such that the people boycott him becoming deeply and unbearably hurt by their presence, it is allowed for him not to attend the congregational Prayers on that account. That is owing to the fact that if he comes to the mosque in this state, he will be full of confusion during the Prayer, unsettled. For this reason, Ka’b bin Maalik (may Allah be pleased with him) performed the Fajr Prayer on one of the rooftops of his houses. This point had been mentioned under the narration about Hilaal bin Ummaiyyah and Muraarah bin Rubaa’yy.

Seventhly: The Companions’ eagerness to compete in giving the congratulation because that constitutes bringing delight to the Muslim and that in turn, is one of the means of nearing Allah – the Mighty and Sublime – which is from the aspects of righteousness. And Allah – free is He from imperfections – loves the righteous and will never waste their deeds. Therefore, it is essential that you congratulate your brother when you see something that delights him, such as good news, a heartening dream, or the like since that brings him great enjoyment and pleasure.

Eighthly: It is necessary to give a gift to the individual who brings you good news in a way appropriate for the situation. Ka’b bin Maalik – may Allah be pleased with him – gave his two clothes to the person who conveyed the glad tidings to him. This is similar to what was authentically reported from Abdullah bin Abbass – may Allah pleased with him and his father – that: He would instruct the people when they go for the Hajj to exit consecration after the Lesser Hajj (during the months of Hajj) and then resume it for the Hajj proper on Yawm at-Tarwiyyah (the eighth day of Dhul-Hijjah).
On the other hand, ‘Umar bin al-Khattab – may Allah be pleased with him – used to prevent the people from exiting consecration after the Lesser Hajj (during the months of Hajj) because he desired that the people make the Lesser Hajj at a time and the Hajj at another time so that the Sacred Precincts would always be filled with visitors performing the Lesser Hajj or the Hajj. ‘Umar – may Allah be pleased with him – simply did that based on the jurisprudential interpretation which is excusable. Otherwise, the Sunnah of the Messenger (PBUH)  is undoubtedly superior.

The important point here is that a man asked Abdullah bin Abbass about this issue and he instructed him to perform the Lesser Hajj (during one of the months of Hajj) and exit consecration (waiting for the commencement of the Hajj proper).
Later, this man dreamt that a person was congratulating him: “A sound Hajj and an accepted Lesser Hajj!” He informed Ibn Abbass who gave the verdict and Ibn Abbass was very delighted. As a result, he told him to wait so that he could give him a gift. That is to say; he wanted to hand out a gift for the good news he gave him from the dream regarding the rightness of the verdict he issued – may Allah be pleased with him.

Ninth- That it is not wrong to stand up towards an individual in order to shake hands with him and give him compliments on a major achievement. It is not wrong to stand up towards a person; the Sunnah establishes it. Similarly, standing up for an individual while you remain in your place without moving towards him; is not forbidden if people are accustomed to that. And that is for the reason that it has not been prohibited. What is rather forbidden and warned against is the individual for whom the people stand up and not those who stand. Regarding the individual for whose sake the people stand, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever loves that the people stand up for him, let him prepare his place in the Hell.”

The People of Knowledge explain that standing up is of three forms:

One: standing up towards a person.
Two: standing up for a person.
Three: standing up by the side of a person.

As for standing up towards a person, there is no blame in that; the Sunnah establishes it in a directive, endorsement and action.
Regarding the directive: When Sad bin Mu’aadh – may Allah be pleased with him – arrived to pass his judgment on the Quraydha tribe, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Stand up to your leader.”(
The point of reference in the Hadeeth is his saying: “Stand up to (receive) your leader.” That is an imperative. When Kab bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) entered the mosque, Talha bin Ubaydullah stood up to him in the presence of the Prophet (PBUH) and he did not blame him for doing that.

The second: Standing up for a person. There is no blame in this too, especially if the people have become accustomed to it such that if the standing is not done, the individual coming in considers it deriding. There is no blame in that; although it is better to avoid it as contained in the Sunnah. But for a people have become accustomed to it, there is no harm in it.

The third: Standing up by a person such as when an individual is sitting and another is standing over him out of respect; this is prohibited. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Do not stand as the non-Arabs do out of respect for one another.” ( Abu Dawood, Ibn majah, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanmbal)

Even during the Prayer; if it becomes impossible for the Imam to stand up and he observes his Prayer while sitting, the followers too must pray while sitting even if they are capable of standing up in order not to resemble the non-Arabs who used to stand up behind their kings .

Therefore, standing behind a person is prohibited except out of necessity such as if it is feared that someone may transgress against a person him, then there is no blame if a man stands behind such a person. Likewise when it is done to show respect for a person by way of dispraise for the enemy; such is allowed. Mugeerah bin Shu’bah – may Allah be pleased with him – did a similar thing during the Treaty of Hudaibiyyah when the Quraysh sent an emissary to the Messenger (PBUH) for negotiations. Mugeerah bin Shu’bah – may Allah be pleased with him – was standing behind Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) , holding a sword in his hand by way of showing esteem for the Messenger  and dispraise for the emissaries of the disbelievers.

The point here is that Mugeerah bin Shu’bah stood up behind the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) with a sword in his hand by way of showing esteem for him. In fact during the negotiations, the Companions did things they would not do ordinarily. Whenever the Prophet (PBUH) expectorated, they collected the phlegm with their palms and rub it over their faces and chests even though they did not use to do that. However, they did that in order for the emissary to return to their people and explain the Companions’ relationship with their Prophet (PBUH).

Consequently, when the envoy returned to Quraysh, he said, “By Allah! I have met kings including the Khosrau, Ceasar, and the Negus; I have never seen a person more greatly esteemed by his people as the companions of Muhammad (PBUH) respect him.” May Allah be pleased with them and make them be pleased, and reward them with good on our behalf. The lesson here is that there is no blame in standing near an individual with the intention of protecting him or infuriating the enemies. Otherwise, it is prohibited.


1.RYADUSSALIHEEN, Compiled by Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya Bin Sharaf An-Nawawi with commentary on Ahadith Sheikh Safiur Rahman Mubarpuri. Chapter 2,  Repentance.

2.An Explanation of Riyadh al-Saliheen. from the words of the Master of the Messengers ‘Vol 1
Explanation and Completion of His Eminence Shaykh Muhammad bn Salih Uthaymeen.


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