Besides the polytheists’ plan to assassinate the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) in Mecca, the event of attempted assassination of him on his return from the battle of Tabuk has been recorded in narrative and historical sources.
Based on the general definition of companion that includes every claimed Muslim who have lived during the life of the Prophet (PBUH), it can be said that those who decided to assassinate the Prophet (PBUH) were his companions.
The summary of the event based on what is narrated in Sunni sources is as follows:
In Dala’il an-Nubuwwah (Proofs of the Prophethood), Bayhaqi narrates from Urwah that when the Prophet (PBUH) and Muslims were coming back from the battle of Tabuk to Madina, some of his companions gathered and planned to secretly kill the Prophet (PBUH) on a defile, and when they reached at al-‘Aqaba, they wanted to accompany him through the way. As the Prophet (PBUH) became aware of this plot said: “anyone who wants, can go through the desert as that path is wider.” The Prophet (PBUH) went through the mountainous area called al-‘Aqaba and people went through the desert except for those who have decided to kill the Prophet (PBUH). They prepared themselves, covered their faces, and decided to do something huge. The Prophet (PBUH) ordered Huzayfah ibn Yaman and Ammar ibn Yasir (may God be pleased with them) to stay with him and ordered Ammar to harness the camel and ordered Huzayfah to steer it. In the meantime, they heard the steps of people coming from behind them, and they seized the Prophet (PBUH) [to execute their plan]. The Prophet (PBUH) got angry and ordered Huzayfah to distance the hypocrites from him. Huzayfah saw that the Prophet (PBUH) is angry, holding a stick went towards them and hit their horses with his stick and saw them, they had covered their faces and didn’t realize that’s what people do on travel; God intimidated them as they saw Huzayfah and they thought that he has recognized their faces and their plan is revealed to him now; therefore, they ran away quickly to hide among other Muslims. Huzayfah came back to the Prophet (PBUH) and the Prophet (PBUH) said: “O Huzayfah, gee the camel up and you Ammar, walk along” and they moved fast and exited from al-‘Aqaba waiting for other Muslims to arrive. The Prophet (PBUH) asked Huzayfah: “did you recognize them”, he answered: “I recognized the horse of that one and that one but I couldn’t recognize them as it was dark and they have covered their faces”. The Prophet (PBUH) asked: “did you understand what they wanted to do”, Huzayfah and Ammar replied: “swear to God, we did not”. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “they planned to follow me till I get to al-‘Aqaba, then fall me down”. They said: “O Messanger of God, don’t you order to behead them”, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “I don’t like people to say that Muhammad accuses his own companions and kills them.” Then, the Prophet (PBUH) revealed their names to Huzayfah and Ammar and ordered them to conceal their names.
Dala’il an-Nubuwwah, Bayhaqi, v. 5, p. 256; Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, v. 5, p. 19, Published by Dar al-Fikr; Subul al-Huda, v. 10, p. 262.
It has been stated in some souces that Huzayfah told the Prophet (PBUH): “O Messanger of God! Won’t you order to kill them?”, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “I don’t like people to say that Muhammad killed his own companions.”
Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Published by Dar al-Fikr, v. 5, p. 19.
It has been reported that the Prophet (PBUH) told to Huzayfah: “God has informed me their names and their fathers’ names and if God wishes, I will reveal their names to you in the morning.”
Dala’il an-Nubuwwah, v. 5, p. 257.
Based on some narratives, the Prophet (PBUH) told Huzayfah their names and ordered him not to reveal them.
Subul al-Huda, v. 10, p. 262-263.
However, it is not clear who those people were. Some of Sunni scholars like Ibn Hazm Andalusi who is one of the great Sunni academics has mentioned their names. He states in his book, Al-Mahli:
“Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman, Talhah and Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas (may God be pleased with them) decided to assassinate the Prophet (PBUH) and planned to fall him down from a mountain passage (al-‘Aqaba) in Tabuk.”
Al-Mahli, Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi, v. 12, p. 160, Published by Dar al-Fikr.
But Ibn Hazm stated that there is one problem with the narrative: Waleed bin Abdullah bin Jumay’a is mentioned in the chain of narrators. Thus, he believed the narrative was fabricated (mawzoo’a).
The words and comments of Sunni scholars of Rijal (academic evaluation of narrators) on Waleed bin Abdullah is presented now to see whether the opinion of Ibn Hazm is acceptable and worth considering or not.
Referring to Sunni sources of Rijal, Waleed bin Abdullah bin Jumay’a has been accredited by many Sunni scholars. For instance, Ibn Hajar Asqalani, who is another one of the great Sunni academics and known as Hafiz al-Asr, commented about Waleed in Taqrib al-Tahdhib: “Waleed bin Abdullah bin Jumay’a al-Zahri al-Makki who lived in Kufa is trustworthy (sadooq).”
Taqrib al-Tahdhib, Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalani, v. 1, p. 582, d. 852 AH, Published by Dar ar-Rashid, Syria.
And Ibn Sa’ad stated in Tabaqat Al-Kubra: “Al-Waleed bin Abdullah bin Jumay’a al-Khazaei is one of themselves and he is reliable (thiqah) and some narratives are narrated from him.”
Tabaqat Al-Kubra, Muhammad bin Sa’ad, v. 6, p. 354, Published by Dar Sadir, Beirut.
And Razi stated in Tabaqat Al-Kubra about him: “Abdurrahman wrote to me, Abdullah bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal wrote in a letter to me that my father said: there’s nothing wrong about Waleed bin Jumay’a. Abdurrahman wrote to me that my father said about him [Waleed] from Ishaq bin Mansur from Yahya bin Moein that said: Waleed bin Jumay’a is reliable. Abdurrahman wrote to me that my father was asked about Waleed bin Jumay’a, he answered: his narratives are accepted. Abdurrahman wrote to me that I asked Abu Zur’ah about Waleed bin Jumay’a, he said: there’s nothing wrong about him.”
Al-Jarah wa’t-Ta’dil, Al-Razi, v. 9, p. 8, d. 327 AH, 1st ed., Published by Matba’ah Majlis Dairatul Ma’arif al-Uthmaniyyah, Hyderabad Deccan, India – Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut
And Mizzi stated in Tahdhib al-Kamal about him: “Abdullah bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal quotes from his father and Abu Dawud: there’s nothing wrong about him. And Ishaq bin Mansur quotes from Yahya bin Moein: he is reliable. And Al-Ijli and Abu Zur’ah said: there’s nothing wrong about him; and Abu Hatam said: his narratives are accepted.”
Tahdhib al-Kamal, Al-Mizzi, v. 31, p. 36-37, Published by Mu’assasah al-Risalah, Beirut, Lebanon.
One of the greatest Sunni scholars of Rijal, Dhahabi, states about Waleed bin Jumay’a in Mizan al-‘Itidal: “Ibn Moein and al-Ijli trusted him. And Ahmad and Abu Zur’ah said: there’s nothing wrong about him. And Abu Hatam said: his narratives are accepted.”
Mizan al-‘Itidal, al-Dhahabi, v. 4, p. 337, Published by Dar Al-Marifah, Beirut, Lebanon.
More importantly, Muslim Neishabouri in his book, Sahih Muslim, narrated from Waleed bin Abdullah bin Jumay’a twice which means that he has been accredited by Muslim. Therefore, disapproving Waleed bin Abdullah is actually questioning the authenticity of Sahih Muslim.
As a result, Waleed bin Abdullah bin Jumay’a is reliable, so this narrative is authentic (sahīh).
Of course, our aim is not to prove whether some of the companions participated in the assassination or not; however, the point was to scientifically examine the narrative which was narrated by Ibn Hazm Andalusi. In fact, it’s Sunni scholars who should explain why Ibn Hazm Andalusi has narrated this narrative and then rejected it injudiciously.