Volume V, 2006
Dr. Paul Halsall
Traditional Muslim narratives maintain that in 632 C.E., while the Prophet Muhammad (c. 570-632) was on his deathbed, several Arabian tribes apostatized from Islam only to be “recaptured” by Muslim armies during a series of wars fought under the first Caliph Abu Bakr. Muslim traditions attributed leadership of those “apostate” movements to a number of “false prophets.” The most notorious of these “enemies of God” was Musaylima B. Habib, otherwise known as the “archliar” and the “false prophet” of Yamamah. Several scholars have attempted a historical reconstruction of Musaylima’s career, but the problematic nature of the primary source material renders such an undertaking as an exercise in futility. While early Muslim scholars claimed that they only repeated the traditions concerning Musaylima’s “apostasy,” in practice they relied on a redacted oral tradition, and included or excluded certain stories and details about Musaylima – depending on the purpose, sponsor and intended audience of the author’s work. Although Ibn Ishaq and al-Waqidi’s accounts of the legend of Musaylima provide certain limited insights into Musaylima’s movement, the growth and evolution of the Musaylima legend in early Islamic historiography is a better indication of the changing construct of heresy and the evolving construct of communal authority in the first three centuries of Islam.
Holeman, James, "Looking Behind the Veil of an Idealized Past: The Useful Legacy of a False Prophet" (2006). All Volumes (2001-2008). Paper 62.