Pardoning a Spy of the Enemy at the Acceptance of Islam
روي عن فرات بن حيان أن رسول الله أمر بقتله وكان عينا لأبي سفيان وكان حليفا لرجل من الأنصار فمر بحلقة من الأنصار فقال: إني مسلم. فقال رجل من الأنصار: يا رسول الله إنه يقول إني مسلم. فتركه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وقال: إن منكم رجالا نكلهم إلى إيمانهم منهم فرات بن حيان
It is narrated by Furat ibn Hayyan that the Prophet (pbuh) ordered his execution, while he was [apprehended] spying for Abu Sufiyan. He was an ally of a man from the Ansaar1. While passing by a group of the Ansaar, he said: I have become a Muslim2. Thus, a man from the Ansaar said [to the Prophet]: O Prophet of God, he says that he is a Muslim. The Prophet (pbuh) freed him3 and said: There are men among you whom we surrender to their [claim of] faith4. Furat ibn Hayyan is one such man.
Literally meaning the 'helpers', Ansaar was a title given to the locals of Medinah.
It seems that after being apprehended, Furat ibn Hayyan not only sought forgiveness for his crime but also accepted Islam with a sincere heart.
It is clear that even if a Muslim is spying for the enemy, he would be subjected to the same punishment as any other person. Thus, it is clear that after being apprehended the man made a declaration of his acceptance of Islam, which inherently implies that, he also expressed restraint from damaging activities against the Muslim state in future and, therefore, deserved a chance of forgiveness.
i.e., whom we let go relying on the truthfulness of their claim of faith. There is no way one person can be certain of the truthfulness of another person's proclamation of faith. Nevertheless, if a person is pardoned by the Prophet (pbuh) for any worldly crime on the basis of a false declaration of faith, he shall be put in charge of this declaration on the Day of Judgment, where he shall not be able to deceive God or to escape punishment on the basis of a false witness or declaration.
Notes on the Text of the Narrative
This narrative has been reported with some variations in Abu Dawood (narrative no.2652), Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (narrative no.18985), Bayhaqiy (narrative no. 16608, 16609 and 18218,) and Abd al-Razzaq (narrative no. 9396). The preferred text, except where otherwise specified, is reported in Abu Dawood's narrative no. 2652.
In Bayhaqiy's narrative no. 18218. The words "وكان حليفا لرجل من الأنصار" (i.e., 'he was an ally of a man from the Ansaar') have been reported as "وحليفا أظنه قال لرجل من الأنصار" (i.e., 'and an ally, I think, of a man from the Ansaar') while In Ahmad Ibn Hanbal's narrative no.18985, only the word "حليفا" (i.e., 'an ally') has been reported instead of the phrase "وكان حليفا لرجل من الأنصار" (i.e., 'he was an ally of a man from the Ansaar').
In Ahmad Ibn Hanbal's narrative no.18985, the words "فقال رجل من الأنصار يا رسول الله إنه يقول إني مسلم" (i.e., 'Thus, a man from the Ansaar said [to the Prophet]: O Prophet of God, he says that he has is a Muslim') have been replaced with "قالوا يا رسول الله إنه يزعم أنه مسلم". (i.e., 'They said: O Prophet of God, he considers himself a Muslim') While in Bayhaqiy 's narrative no. 16608, this phrase has been replaced with "فمر بمجلس من الأنصار فقال أني مسلم فبلغ ذلك النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم" (i.e., 'He passed by a gathering of the Ansaar and said: I have become a Muslim. Subsequently, this reached the Prophet (pbuh)').
The words "فتركه" have been reported in Abd al-Razzaq's narrative no. 9396.
In some narratives, as in Bayhaqiy's narrative no. 16609, it is narrated that Furat Ibn Hayyan was sentenced to death by the Prophet (pbuh) for his apostasy. The said narrative is reported as under:
روي أن فرات بن حيان ارتد على عهد رسول الله فأتى به رسول الله فأراد قتله فشهد شهادة الحق فخلى عنه وحسن إسلامه
It is narrated that Furat Ibn Hayyan became an apostate during the times of the Prophet (pbuh). Subsequently, he was brought to the Prophet, who decided to execute him. However, he proclaimed the declaration of Islam, after which the Prophet pardoned him. And [after that] he lived a life of excellent submission to God.
(This write-up is prepared by the Hadith Cell of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi)