Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, also called ibn Salul in reference to his mother, (died 631) was a chief of the Arab tribe Banu Khazraj and one of the leading men of Medina (then known as Yathrib). Upon the arrival of Muhammad, Ibn Ubayy became a Muslim, though the sincerity of that conversion is disputed. Because of repeated conflicts with Muhammad, Islamic tradition has labelled him a Munafiq (hypocrite) and "leader of the Munafiqun".

Position in MedinaEdit

Ibn Ubayy was one of the chiefs of the Khazraj, who at his time were in conflict with the other major Arab tribe of the city, the Banu Aws. During the fidjar, the so-called "sacrilegious war", Ibn Ubayy had led parts of the Khazraj tribe on the first day of fighting, but held aloof on the second day. Neither did he participate in the Battle of Bu'ath, due to a quarrel with another leader over the execution of Jewish hostages. It appears that at one point during this conflict, his life was saved by his Jewish allies from the tribe of Banu Qaynuqa, as he would later exclaim: "300 soldiers armed in mail, and 400 unequipped, -- they defended me on the fields of Hadaick and Boath from every foe."

Ibn Ubayy "used every effort to end the fratricidal strife" He occupied a high status in pre-Islamic Medinan society, and his supporters aimed for him to become "king". This aim was not realized, however, due to the arrival of Muhammad in 622: since the tribal conflict was never completely resolved, some citizens looked towards another arbitrator and called in Muhammad, whose preaching had made him famous beyond his home town of Mecca.


After the entry of Muhammad in Medina, large parts of the Arab population converted to Islam. Ibn Ubayy followed suit, according to Maxime Rodinson, as "he thought it wiser to join than to stand out against it." Islamic tradition, which views Ibn Ubayy's conversion as insincere, labelled him "leader of the hypocrites." (munafiqun)

Being second only to Muhammad, Ibn Ubayy became a "figurehead for those Arabs of Medina who, openly or secretly, sneered at the Prophet's teaching and complained of the confusion and the danger which the coming of the Muslims had brought to Medina"

Banu QaynuqaEdit

In 624, the Muslims moved against the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qaynuqa and, after a siege of 15 days, eventually forced them to surrender. Now, Ibn Ubayy was allied to the Qaynuqa and according to Muslim historians, appealed to Muhammad for leniency to be shown to them. "Let me go," Muhammad said. Ibn Ubayy replied:

"Nay [...] I will not let thee go, until thou hast compassion on my friends; 300 soldiers armed in mail, and 400 unequipped, -- they defended me on the fields of Hadaick and Boath from every foe. Wilt thou cut them down in one day, O Mahomet? As for me, I am one verily that feareth the vicissitudes of fortune."

After this, Muhammad acceded to his request, and gave the Banu Qaynuqa three days to leave the city.However, Ibn Ubayy had not defended the Qaynuqa but merely pleaded for mercy. His plea implies that Muhammad intended to put the Qaynuqa to death, as he later did with the Banu Qurayza, but after Ibn Ubayy's intercession, they were merely expelled from Medina – their property falling to Muhammad and the Muhajirun

Some young Muslims, however, argued that the Meccans should be fought outside of the city. Persuaded by the latter, Muhammad adopted an offensive strategy.

According to al-Waqidi, Ibn Ubayy also marched out with 300 of his own men and his remaining Jewish allies, but Muhammad ordered him to send the Jews back into the town, calling them "idolaters". Muhammad resumed his advance, while Ibn Ubayy led his men back to Medina, retiring to the strongholds.It has also been presumed that Ibn Ubayy turned back to protect the town or his own possessions. According to Watt, Surah interprets Ibn Ubayy's withdrawal as showing "cowardice and lack of belief in God and the Prophet"

Muhammad's 700 men met the 3000 of the Quraish in the Battle of Uhud and were defeated. The Quraish, however, did not succeed in killing Muhammad, nor did they occupy the town of Medina, possibly because they knew it was guarded by Ibn Ubayy

Banu NadirEdit

Ibn Ubay was also involved in Muhammad's conflict with another Jewish tribe, the Banu Nadir. Ibn Ishaq writes that when Muhammad ordered the tribe to leave the city within ten days, "certain persons of Medina who were not Believers sent a message to the Banu al-Nadir, saying, 'Hold out, and defend yourselves; we shall not surrender you to Muhammad. If you are attacked we shall fight with you and if you are sent away we shall go with you.'" However, as the promised help failed to materialize, the Nadir surrendered and Muhammad expelled them from the city.

Watt consider this the first instance, in which Ibn Ubayy went beyond verbally criticizing Muhammad to intriguing against him, a practice he sees as continuing for the next two years..

Later on during the march, Muhammad's wife Aisha was rumoured to have committed adultery and Ibn Ubay was among those spreading the rumour.

Last yearsEdit

According to Watt, after 627 there is no record of Ibn Ubayy "actively opposing Muhammad or intriguing against him". In 628, Ibn Ubayy participated in the march to Hudaybiyya.

In 630, when Muhammad's launching a campaign against the Byzantine Empire during a time of drought and food shortage created serious discontent in Medina, Ibn Ubayy expressed his sympathy for those criticizing the expedition as untimely. As the army assembled, Ibn Ubayy's troops formed a separate camp and turned back to Medina when Muhammad's forces set out.. This possibly happened with Muhammad's consent, because of Ibn Ubayy's ill health.[1][2]After Muhammad's return, those criticizing the campaign and had remained behing were chided in Surah . [1]

Ibn Ubayy died two months after Muhammad's return, in 631. Despite the various conflicts between the two men, Muhammad did not show signs of vindictiveness towards Ibn Ubayy, when he - against the protests of Umar - attended his funeral and prayed above his grave.[3] With Ibn Ubayy died the faction of the Munafiqun, as "there was no one left [...] possessed of power or influence."[1]

Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy left behind several daughters and a son also called Abd-Allah, all of whom became devout Muslims.[2]


The Prophet brought him out of his grave (just before his body was to be covered with earth), placed him on his knee and put his saliva in his mouth (to sanctify him). He had already given his shirt to use it as a shroud for Abdullah bin Ubayy.


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