Ashab al-'Aqaba (Arabic: اصحاب العقبة) were a group of the companions of the Prophet (s) who decided to kill the Prophet (s) in their return to Medina from the battle of Tabuk. Historians have different opinions about their number, names and also the information of companions about their names. Some exegetes consider the revelation of verse 74 of Sura al-Tawba about them.
Literally, 'Aqaba means a mountain pass which is difficult to pass. On the way the Prophet (s) was returning from the battle of Tabuk, there was a mountain pass where some of his companions decided to kill him. In some sources, these people are referred to as Ashab 'Aqaba.
- See also: Pledge of al-'Aqaba
Unsuccessful Assassination of the Prophet (s)
In Ramadan 9/December 630-January 631, when the Prophet (s) was returning from the battle of Tabuk, a group of companions ambushed on his way in a mountain pass and decided to assassinate the Prophet (s). They wanted to fright the Prophet's (s) camel, so that he (s) falls from the mountain and be killed. God informed the Prophet (s) about their will and he (s) prepared himself for it. He (s) ordered one of Hudhayfa b. al-Yaman and 'Ammar to go ahead of the Prophet (s) and the other goes after him and protects him. He (s) also ordered the rest of the army to go from below the pass. The army went from below the pass, but the hypocrites went to the slope of the mountain. The Prophet (s) heard them and became angry. He (s) ordered Hudhayfa to scatter them and thus. They were scattered and then secretly joined the army.
Usayd b. Hudayr asked the Prophet (s) for permission to kill them, but the Prophet (s) denied it and mentioned his reason by saying that, "I do not want Arabs to talk about me saying, ‘after he (s) gained victories by the helps of his companions, he (s) began killing them."
Names and Number
Historians and biographers mentioned the number of Ashab 'Aqaba between 12 to 15. There are different views regarding their identity. Some sources mentioned that a group of them were from Quraysh and Banu Umayya. According to a hadith from Imam al-Baqir (a), they were 12, 8 of whom were from Quraysh. al-Shaykh al-Saduq referred to a hadith which mentioned 12 of them from Banu Umayya and 5 of them from other tribes.
Also, historical sources have different views on whether the Prophet's (s) companions knew about their names. Some believe that the Prophet (s) told the names of them only to Hudhayfa, but prohibited him about disclosing them. According to al-Waqidi's report, the Prophet (s) told their names to 'Ammar b. Yasir as well.
Some considered it possible that political events after the noble Prophet (s) made some of these names be omitted and some others replace them; for example, in some sources, 'Abd Allah b. Ubay and Abu 'Amir Rahib were mentioned among Ashab 'Aqaba, while it is said that 'Abd Allah Ubay was not present in the battle of Tabuk and Abu 'Amir Rahib had gone to Rome before that.
In some sources, Sa'd b. Abi Sarh, Abu Hadir A'rabi, Julas b. Suwayd, Majma' b. Jariya, Mulayh Taymi, Husayn b. Numayr, Ta'ayma b. Ubayriq and Murra b. Rabi' are mentioned among Ashab 'Aqaba.
Some exegetes related the revelation of verse 74 of Sura al-Tawba saying, "They contemplated what they could not achieve," with Ashab 'Aqaba. However, some hadiths consider this verse related to the story of the assassination of the Prophet (s) in 10 AH, after Hajjat al-wida' in Harsha mountain pass, where 14 of the companions decided to assassinate the Prophet (s).
Al-Tabrisi mentioned the story of Ashab 'Aqaba under the commentary of the verses 64-65 of Sura al-Tawba. In a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), the phrase "only Satan had made them stumble because of some of their deeds." (Qur'an 3:155) is related with Ashab 'Aqaba.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from اصحاب عقبه in Farsi WikiShia.