At Muslims and Muhammad: the Impossible Task, I posted, "It is impossible that a man could be so fearful of criticism that he would send a man at night to kill the mother of a nursing child because of the poems she had written against him, and be a prophet of God."
I have written about Asma bint Marwan in three different contexts here, here, and here. For those unfamiliar with the story, she was a Jewish poetess whom Muhammad had killed because he felt threatened by her poetry.
What I find interesting, beyond the story herself, is how Muslims today react to it. An essential element of propaganda is to tell only certain sides of a story, leaving out information the propagandist does not consider conducive to the point he or she is trying to get across. A good example of this can be found at this Islamic website, where the author writes, "Any student of Islam knows that the life of Prophet Muhammad(saw) has been described in detail in what we call the “Ahadith”. Ahadith in whole are basically collected stories, events, actions of the Prophet(saw). However not all the stories transmitted down by a chain of narrators are 100 percent true. There are many sahih, hasan, da’eef (weak) ahadith. For Muslims it was very important to develop a science of hadith to separate truth from falsehood."
Author Ibrahim Saifuddin goes on to say that the account of Asma bint Marwan is only found in a few "weak" hadiths, and can therefore be discarded as a forgery.
There are four important things to keep in mind here. First is that the starting point for a Muslim in any discussion is the conviction that Muhammad is the perfect man. Any story that detracts from that image, such as that of Asma bint Marwan, must be either defended or denied.
The second point is that the "propagandist", in this case Ibrahim, deliberately presents only some factual information and leaves out other material that would weaken his case. The full account of Muhammad's raid against Asma bint Marwan is found neither in the Quran nor in the Hadith but in his Sirah or biography, which along with them forms the third authoritative source for information about him. An entire chapter of Ibn Ishaq's biography is entitled, "Ghazwat Umayr bin Uday al-Khatmi ala Asma bint Marwan", or the Raid of Umayr against Asma bint Marwan. The entire story is clearly told, from Muhammad's ordering Asma's death and then congratulating Umayr after he drove a spear through the poetess as she was sleeping with her nursing child, to Muhammad's caustic comment that she was not worth "two goats butting their heads together". My Arabic account adds the footnote, in case there was any doubt, "the Prophet was saying she was without significance".
The third thing is that Asma bint Marwan was not the only poet or critic killed by Muhammad. She was not an exception, but part of a pattern.
The final point is that nothing has changed in 1400 years. Just as Muhammad was unable to tolerate the criticism of a Jewish poetess during his lifetime, Muslims are incapable of handling criticism of their Prophet today. Whether it is the Danish cartoons, short movies such as Fitna or Submission, or anything related, the response is always the same. Muslims cannot see their Prophet as anything less than perfect, and criticize anyone who looks at him differently than they do.
I'm not limited by those restraints. As I carefully read the story of Asma bint Marwan, I cannot believe that the man who ordered her murder could be a Prophet of God.