Abu Sufyan

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Abu Sufyan
Head of polytheists of Mecca
Full NameSakhr b. Harb b. Umayya b. 'Abd al-Shams b. 'Abd Manaf
TeknonymAbu Sufyan, Abu Handhala
LineageBanu Umayya
Well-known RelativesMu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan, Ramla bt. Abi Sufyan
Birthten years before the 'Am al-Fil/560
Place of BirthMecca
Places of ResidenceMecca, Medina
Death30/650-1 or 31/651-2 t0 33/653-4
EraEarly Islam
ActivitiesWaging the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq against Muslims

Ṣakhr b. Ḥarb b. Umayya b. ʿAbd al-Shams b. ʿAbd Manāf (Arabic: صَخر بن حَرب بن اُمَی‍ـَّة بن عبد الشمس بن عبد مَناف), famous as Abu Sufyan (Arabic: اَبوسُفیان), is one of the famous Arab men in the history of early Islam. When the Prophet (s) started his invitation to Islam, Abu Sufyan turned into one of his most obstinate enemies. He had an active role against the Prophet (s) in the Battles of Badr, Uhud, and Khandaq but embraced Islam in 8/629, and was appointed as the governor of Najran by the Holy Prophet (s).

He treated the first and second caliph with compromise and supported the caliphate of 'Uthman.

Birth and Lineage

Sakhr b. Harb b. 'Umayya b. 'Abd al-Shams b. 'Abd Manaf, also known as Abu Sufyan, he was sometimes called with his other teknonym, Abu Handhala.[1] His exact date of birth is not clear, but according to some, he was born ten years before the 'Am al-Fil (the Year of the Elephant)/560.[2]

His mother was Safiyya, daughter of Hazn b. Bujayr b. Huzam. His father, Harb, was the leader of Banu Umayya and their commander in the Battles of Fijar.[3]

Social and Political Personality

Although Abu Sufyan is a famous figure in the early history of Islam, his life, specifically before Islam, is not clear. Some indications from historians show that he was probably one of the nobles of the Quraysh before Islam and was a merchant. Ibn Habib says he was one of the rulers of Quraysh.[4] He was one of the authorities of Quraysh and one of the four people whose command was influential.[5]

With the beginning of the Prophet's (s) invitation to Islam, Abu Sufyan turned into one of his obstinate enemies; nevertheless, it is believed that his enmity with the Prophet (s) was less than the rest of the leaders of Quraysh, such as Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab[6].

Although he embraced Islam after the Conquest of Mecca, the speeches which have been attributed to him in the Battles of Ridda shows his desire and attraction to the previous religion[7]. Ibn Habib states that he was one of the pagans of Quraysh.[8]

Abu Sufyan has reported some hadiths from the Holy Prophet (s) as well.[9]

Encountering the Prophet (s)

Battle of Badr

In the second year after the Prophet's (s) migration from Mecca to Medina, Abu Sufyan was leading a trade caravan coming back from Syria. The Prophet (s) decided to raid the caravan. Abu Sufyan sent a letter asking for the help of the Qurayshi Meccans on one hand, and at the same time, changed his path and delivered the caravan to Mecca safely. Although the caravan avoided the raid, Abu Jahl became angry of the Prophet's (s) threat and decided to stay and fight the people of Yathrib. So, with the help of new force that came from Mecca, Abu Jahl fought against the army of Muslims.[10]

The Quraysh was defeated in the Battle of Badr; Handhala, the son of Abu Sufyan was killed and his other son, 'Amr was captured. He was set free later.[11]

Torching the Palm Tress of Medina

The defeat in Badr was too much for the Quraysh to bear, therefore, they decided to battle the Prophet (s) and the Muslims of Medina once again. Abu Sufyan, accompanied by two hundred cavalry, marched to Medina. Upon negotiating with Sallam b. Meshkam, the head of Banu Nadhir, a couple of men were sent to Medina who torched the palm trees of 'Uraydh and fled. Abu Sufyan was under pursuit by the Prophet (s) but managed to escape.[12]

Battle of Uhud

In 3/625, Abu Sufyan led an enormous army to Medina with the hope of revenge from the Muslims.[13] Near Medina, near Mount Uhud, a heavy war broke out and the Muslims were defeated. Some of the Muslim elites such as Hamza, the Prophet's (s) uncle, were martyred. After the war Abu Sufyan went up the hill, and after praising the idols, promised the Prophet (s) another war in Badr[14].

The Prophet (s) went to Badr the following year, but Abu Sufyan convinced the Qurayshis to return to Mecca before they reached Badr[15].

Battle of Khandaq

Abu Sufyan organized the Battle of Khandaq with the help of the Jews in Medina in 5/627[16], but with the Prophet's (s) management, Abu Sufyan's army and their allies were defeated and Medina remained safe.[17]

Hudaybiyya Peace Treaty

Although Abu Sufyan had no apparent role in the Hudaybiyya Peace Treaty, but prior to the Conquest of Mecca, Abu Sufyan was sent by the polytheists to Mecca to negotiate for the extension of the treaty; he was ignored and went back to Mecca with no results[18].

Converting to Islam

Finally, after much enmity and numerous wars against the prophet (s), Abu Sufyan embraced Islam in 8/630 after the Conquest of Mecca with the mediation of al-'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib[19]. Abu Sufyan went to the Prophet (s) and accepted Islam and the Prophet (s) announced his house a safe refuge[20]. From that time on, Abu Sufyan and his family were of the Muslims. The Prophet (s) sent him to Najran province[21]. In the same year, Abu Sufyan commanded a group of warriors in the Battle of Hunayn. At the end of the war, the Prophet (s) gave Abu Sufyan and his children a bigger share of the spoils of war[22].

It is said that Abu Sufyan lost one of his eyes in the Battle of Ta'if[23]. After that event, the Prophet (s) sent Abu Sufyan to Ta'if to gather the charity[24].

Relation with the Three Caliphs

According to some narrations when the Prophet (s) passed away, Abu Sufyan was the governor of Najran, and went to Mecca and stayed there for a while, then he went to Medina and remained there.[25]

Caliphate of Abu Bakr

After Abu Bakr reached caliphate, Abu Sufyan was probably plotting against him since he seemed unhappy that a man from the lowest tribe had become the caliph.[26]

Nevertheless, he took part in the Battle of Yarmuk, which was commanded by his son Yazid, and encouraged the Muslims army to fight and show stability.[27] It is said that he lost his other eye in this battle.[28]

Caliphate of 'Umar

The narrations suggest that Abu Sufyan warned his son Mu'awiya from opposing 'Umar and recommended to abide him[29]. It seems Abu Sufyan had committed some mistakes during the caliphate of 'Umar and was therefore warned by him.[citation needed]

Caliphate of 'Uthman

When Uthman was chosen as the caliph, Abu Sufyan went to him and said in a gathering of Umayyads, "Now that the sphere of caliphate has fallen in your hands, move it amongst yourselves, and do not lose it"[30].


The exact date of his death is not clear. According to al-Waqidi, he died five years before 'Uthman was murdered which makes it 30/650-1, but the years 31/651-2 to 33/653-4 have also been reported[31].


Abu Sufyan had many children, the most famous of which was Mu'awiya whom had an important role in the first/seventh century and founded the Umayyad Caliphate. The lineage of the Umayyad caliphs reaches Abu Sufyan.

Another one of his children was Yazid who was appointed as an army commander and was later appointed as a governor by 'Umar. 'Utba was another one of his children who took part in the Battle of Jamal along with Aisha, and was later appointed as the governor of Egypt by Mu'awiya[32].

One of his daughters was named Umm Habiba and had migrated to Habasha. When she went back to Medina, the Prophet (s) married her[33].

See Also


  1. Al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, vol. 2, p. 817
  2. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 13
  3. Al-Isfahani, al-Aghani, vol. 6, p. 341
  4. Ibn Habib, al-Munammaq, p. 368
  5. Ibn 'Abd al-Barr, al-Isti'ab, vol. 2, p. 715
  6. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.1, p. 124
  7. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 13
  8. Ibn Habib, al-Munammaq, p. 388
  9. For example, see: al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, vol.1, p. 91; Vol.2, p. 108
  10. 'Urwa b. al-Zubayr, Maghazi Rasul Allah (s), pp. 131-137
  11. Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol. 2, pp. 305-306
  12. Ibn Ishaq, al-Siyar, pp. 310-312
  13. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol. 1, p. 312
  14. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.1, p. 327; Ibn Ishaq, al-Siyar, pp. 333-4; Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol.3, pp. 99-100
  15. Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol.3, pp. 220-1
  16. Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol.3, pp. 225-6
  17. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol. 1, pp. 343-345
  18. Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol.4, pp. 37-9
  19. Al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, vol.2, pp. 817-8
  20. Al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, vol.2, pp. 817-8; Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol.4, p. 46
  21. Al-Kalbi, Jamharat al-nasab, p. 49
  22. Al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, vol.2, pp. 944-5; Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol.1, p. 1679
  23. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 8
  24. Ibn Qutayba, al-Ma'arif, p. 344
  25. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, pp. 7,12; Al-Kalbi, Jamharat al-nasab, p. 49
  26. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.1, pp. 529,588; Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol.1, p. 1827
  27. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 11; Ibn Athir, Usd al-ghaba, vol.3, p. 13
  28. Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol.1, p. 2101
  29. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 9
  30. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 12
  31. See: Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 13; Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol.1, p. 2871
  32. Ibn Qutayba, al-Ma'arif, pp. 344-5
  33. Ibn Sa'd, al-Tabaqat, vol.8, p. 96


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