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Ridda wars

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Battles of Apostasy
Date 11-632 and 12-633
Result Triumph of the Muslim army
Cause Groups who recognized apostates, People who refused to pay zakat
Khalid b. Walid Khalid b. Sa'id b. 'As, Akrama b. Abi Jahl

Ridda wars, or Battles of Apostasy, were battles fought at the command of the first caliph Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa in 11 and 12 against groups he recognized as apostates (murtadd). The battles were waged against false prophets and people or tribes who refused to pay their zakat to the government.

When Khalid b. Walid, the first caliph's commander, killed people such as Malik b. Nuwayra, the Prophet's companion because of his refusal to pay his zakat, a number of Companions, such as Abu Qutada al-Ansari and 'Umar b. Khattab, expressed objections. The battles of apostasy are used as evidence against the theory of the righteousness of Companions, since both parties to these battles were the Prophet's Companions, and the fact that some of the Companions were killed by others is not compatible with their righteousness or justice.

Appellation and Significance

Ridda wars (literally: apostasy) are battles waged at the command of the first caliph against groups he considered as apostates. “Ridda” literally means to return from the religion and to become a disbeliever.

The Ridda wars began in 11/632 after Abu Bakr's succession of the Prophet, and continued until 12/633. These battles continued in different quarters of Islamic territories from Medina to Yemen, Bahrain, and al-Yamama. According to Rasul Ja'fariyan, after the Prophet's demise and the Event of Saqifa, the main problem faced by Muslims was a movement that came to be known as apostasy.

The Grounds for the Formation and the Parties Involved

False claims of prophethood by people such as Musaylama al-Kadhdhab and Tulayha b. Khuwaylid al-Asadi, refusal from pledging the allegiance to Abu Bakr, and refusal from paying zakat to the government by a number of Muslim tribes led to the Ridda wars.

According to al-Waqidi, a historian in the second/eighth and third/nineth centuries, when Abu Bakr was selected as the Prophet's successor, a number of tribes became apostate, including Banu Asad whose head, Tulayha b. Khuwaylid al-Asadi, claimed prophethood. Banu Hanifa also left Islam in support of the prophethood of Musaylama al-Kadhdhab, and the Kinda tribe, headed by Ash'ath b. Qays, also became apostates.

Those who refused to pay their zakat were motivated in different ways: some were new Muslim converts and it was difficult for them to pay the zakat; others always pay their zakat but they refused to pay it to Abu Bakr, since they did not recognize him as a caliph, advocating the caliphate of the Prophet's household. According to Rasul Ja'fariyan, Malik b. Nuwayra and his tribe were of the latter. It is also reported that Harith b. Mu'awiya expelled the deputy of the first caliph from his caliph because he believed the position of caliphate belonged to the Prophet's household.

Khalid b. Walid, 'Akrama b. Abi Jahl, and Khalid b. Sa'id b. 'As were among the commanders sent by Abu Bakr to the battles. Khalid b. Walid killed Malik b. Nuwayra, a Prophet's companion because of his refusal to pay his zakat.


Different reactions to Ridda wars are reported. According to historians, a number of Companions believed that it is against the Prophet's commands to fight those who believed in monotheism and the Prophet's prophethood. They proposed to the first caliph to leave them alone until faith is solidified in their hearts and then receive zakat from them, but Abu Bakr saw no difference between those who performed their prayers and refused to pay their zakat, and those who denied the prayers, seeing all as apostates who should be fought.

According to Wilferd Madelung, a German scholar of Islamic studies, Abu Bakr rejected any negotiations and comprise over zakat, announcing that its payment was the criterion of the tribes' faithfulness to Islam. He believed that those who did not pay their zakat counted as apostates and they had to be treated just like those who abandoned the religion or never adopted it.

Khalid b. Walid's killing of Malik b. Nuwayra and his tribe led to objections by Abu Qatada al-Ansari and some other companions of the Prophet (s). Umar b. Khattab believed that Khalid b. Walid should be subject to qisas because of killing Malik and should be stoned because of his intercourse with Malik's wife. However, Abu Bakr continued to defend Khalid's performance.


The events of Ridda had a political and a military consequence for Abu Bakr: its political consequence was the crisis faced by his government and the military consequence was the war experience that had not taken place on such a large scale in Hijaz until that day.

Theological Repercussions

In theological debates, recourse is sometimes made to the events of Ridda to reject the theory of the righteousness of Companions, since both parties to these battles were Companions. Apostasy of some Companions, the killing of Malik b. Nuwayra, and Khalid's intercourse with Malik's wife are said to be incompatible with the theory of righteousness of Companions.


Ridda wars are discussed in historical sources. Moreover, there independent works in this field, including:

  • Kitab al-Ridda by Abu Mikhnaf (d. 157- 773)
  • Al-Mab'ath wa l-maghazi wa l-wafat wa al-saqifa wa al-radda by Aban b. Uthman
  • Kitab al-Ridda by Sayf b. Umar al-Asadi (d. after 170 -786)
  • Kitab al-Ridda by Abd Allah b. Wahab Fahri Qurashi (d. 197 - 813)
  • Kitab al-Ridda by Hisham b. Muhammad Kalbi (d. 204 - 819)
  • Kitab al-Ridda by Ishaq b. Bushr Bukhari (d. 206 - 821)
  • Kitab al-Ridda by Muhammad b. Umar al-Waqdi (d. 207 - 822)
  • Kitab al-Ridda by Abu l-Hasan Ali b. Muhammad Mada'ini (d. 215 - 830)
  • Kitab al-Ridda by Isma'il b. Isa Attar (d. 232 - 847)
  • Kitab al-Ridda by Wathima b. Musa Farsi (d. 237 - 851)

Further Reading

The book Jang-hayi irtidad wa buhran-i janishini-yi payambar (Battles of apostasy and the crisis of the Prophet's succession) by 'Ali Ghulami Dihaqi examines Shiite and Sunni sources, concluding that a group of rebels against Abu Bakr's caliphate in Medina had become apostates, but there were other groups with political and economic motivations while accepting Islam and its rulings. However, Abu Bakr suppressed all of them with the accusation of apostasy. The book was published by Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute.