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Marḥab Al–Yahūdī ibn Al–Ḥārith


MARḤAB AL–YAHŪDĪ IBN AL–ḤĀRITH (d. 629), warrior of Arabia, renowned for his courage. His family is said to have been of Ḥimyarite origin and several other members gained fame as warriors. They were mentioned by many Muslim historians, and were noted for their outstanding courage. Marḥab's two brothers, al-Ḥārith and Yāsir, distinguished themselves in the *Khaybar war against *Muhammad. Zaynab, a woman famous in Islam, who attempted to poison Muhammad to avenge the death of her husband, father and uncle in that war, was also a member of the family. Arab sources refer to him as Marḥab al-Yahūdī (Marḥab the Jew), omitting mention of his father's name. The references to the woman Zaynab are somewhat confused. One source states that al-Ḥārith was "Zaynab's father and Marḥab's brother" (al-Maqrīzī, 1:314). The same source, however, refers to Zaynab as "Zaynab the Jewess, al-Ḥārith's daughter, and Marḥab's sister." Marḥab and his brother, Yāsir, both composed poetry in the rajaz meter. Arab historians and biographers of Muhammad state that Marḥab died in a duel during one of the battles at Khaybar. The story, as preserved by the ninth-century historians al-Wāqidī and Ibn Hishām, states that, during the siege by Muslim forces of one of the Khaybar fortresses, Marḥab threw a heavy millstone over the walls of the fort, killing Mahmūd ibn Maslama. His cousin Ali ibn Abu Ṭālib promptly challenged Marḥab's brother to a duel and killed him. Marḥab, singing an urjūza (poem in rajaz meter), then came to avenge his brother's blood and met Maḥmūd ibn Maslama's brother, Muhammad ibn Maslama. In the duel Marḥab's sword stuck in his adversary's shield and Mūhammad then struck Marḥab a mortal blow. Marḥab's second brother, Yāsir, was also killed in a duel, while Zaynab's husband fell in battle. The distraught Zaynab, having lost her husband and her brothers, attempted to poison Muhammad in revenge, but he was saved by his foresight. There are conflicting traditions as to whether Muhammad had Zaynab killed, or released her after her conversion to Islam.


A.P. Coussin de Perceval, Essai sur l'histoire des Arabes…, 3 (Paris, 1847), 195–8; Graetz, Hist, 3 (1894), 82–84; Ibn Hishām, Abd el-Malik, Kitāb Sīrat Rasūl Allah, Das Leben Muhammeds, ed. by F. Wuestenfeld (1859), 670–1; Ibn Saad, Kitāb al-Ṭabaqāt al-Kabīr… Biographien Muhammed's…, ed. by J. Horovitz, 2 pt. 1 (1909), 80–81; al-Wāqidī, The Kitāb al-Maghāzī, ed. Marsden Jones, 2 (London, 1966), 645, 653–4; al-Maqrīzī, Ahmad ibn Ali, Imtāʿal-Asmāʿ, ed. Mahmud M. Shākir, 1 (Cairo, 1941), 187, 311–16, 321–2; al-Diyārbakrī, Hussein ibn Muhammad, Taʾrīkh al-Khamīs…, (Cairo, 1283 H. (1866 c.e.)), ii, 50–3; al-Ḥalabī Ali ibn Burhān al-Dīn, Insānal-ʿUyūn, 3 (1320 ah, 1902 c.e.), 43–46; H.Z. Hirschberg, Yisrael ba-ʿArav (1946), 55, 148, 251.

[Shmuel Moreh]

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