Histories & Culture

al-Hanifa are an important sub-group of the Bakr qabilah. Originally, they dwelled in the northern Arabian Peninsula; most of them were pagans, though a small number were Christians. They later moved to al-Yamama (today's Riyadh), where they founded the city of Hajar, making it their capital.

Like the Taghlib, the Hanifa clan accepted the primacy of the Lakhmiyyin in Hira, Iraq, who in turn were followers of the Sassanid Persians. Their leader, Hanifa, accompanied the Persian caravans and protected them from raids on the route between Iraq and Yemen.

In the year 6 A.H. (628 A.D.) the Hanifa chieftain, Thamamah ibn Athal, fell into the hands of a group of Muslim men, who introduced him to their faith. He converted to Islam and thus and in turn they gave him back his freedom.

Famous among the Hanifa is Harun ibn Habib, known as “Musaylima al-Kadhab”, or Musaylima the Liar. Musaylima claimed that the Prophet had appointed him his partner, and went about claiming miracles and permitting extramarital sex and drinking alcohol. He then built a garden in al-Yamama called “Hadiqat al-Rahman”, or garden of the Merciful (one of the names of God). The title “Musaylima the Liar” was given to him by the Prophet, who knew that Musaylima would denounce Islam and return to his pagan faith some day.

That day came in 11 A.H (633 A.D.). When the armies of Musaylima were routed, his defenders entered the garden and barricaded themselves in it. The Companions of the Prophet and their allies stormed the garden, starting a battle later known as “The Garden of Death”, in which Musaylima and his defenders were killed.

Source: حنيفة
Translated from the Arabic by Andrew Leber, Brown University, Class of 2012.