Muhammad Never Tortured Prisoners of War

Epigraph:

Now, when you meet in war those who are bent on denying the truth, smite their necks until you overcome them fully, and then tighten their bonds; but thereafter set them free, either by an act of grace or against ransom, so that the burden of war may be lifted. That is the ordinance. (Al Quran 47:5)

And if any of those whom you rightfully possess seek a writing of emancipation, write it for them if ye are aware of aught of good in them, and bestow upon them of the wealth of Allah which He hath bestowed upon you. (Al Quran 24:34)

Mosque of Medina, first built by the Prophet Muhammad himself

Mosque of Medina, first built by the Prophet Muhammad himself

Source: The Huffington Post

By , Muslim, professor, doctor and philanthropist

Thanks to my friend, Farid, for sending this joke: Wikileaks released the following taped conversation between President Obama and Pakistan’s President Zardari, who is well known for taking kickbacks.

President Obama: Mr. President, I am going to make the announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death to the world. Would you like to take any credit for this operation?

President Zardari: No, sir. No credit. I take cash only.

Jokes aside, bin Laden’s death has ignited the “who gets the credit” debate. Who gets the credit for his death, who gets the credit for extracting actionable intelligence and who gets the credit (or blame) for sanctioning torture?

While some ascribe the critical discovery of bin Laden’s courier to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, many reject this notion. Senator John McCain, someone belonging to the latter group, recently remarked in an Op-Ed, “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear — true or false — if he believes it will relieve his suffering.”

Yes, I admire the Senator for publically rejecting the use of torture. But his statement also leaves me perplexed. Why have politicians and talking heads refrained from giving credit to one specific person? Someone whose denunciation of torture is unprecedented and predates the Geneva Convention by centuries: Prophet Muhammad.

Not only did Muhammad categorically reject torture, but he espoused equal treatment — both physically and emotionally — for prisoners of war in an era plagued with enslavement, limb severance and mutilation of corpses.

Take the Battle of Badr for example. The Prophet encountered an attack three times the number of all his adult male followers. Early in the battle, Muslims captured a water carrier from the enemy side. They enquired from him about the whereabouts of Abu Sufyan, a lead enemy general. The water carrier confessed to knowing the location of four other generals but maintained that he did not know about Abu Sufyan’s location. The Muslims started beating him. In turn, the water carrier would fake cooperation to avoid beating. But as the beating stopped, he would reiterate his ignorance about Abu-Sufyan’s location, and a new round of beating would commence. The Prophet, praying nearby, concluded his prayers due to the commotion and said, “You beat him when he is telling you the truth, and you let him go when he tells you a lie.”

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Categories: Asia, Highlight, Muhammad, Prophet Muhammad, Torture

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19 replies

  1. An act need not be carried out by an individual before it is credited to him. Acting through another as his agent, the principal is held responsible for what is done on his behalf. The maxim is, ‘HE WHO ACTS THROUGH ANOTHER DOES SO HIMSELF’.
    When it comes to Muhammad, there is no end to the fantasy that can be spun around him.
    It is interesting to be told about Muhammad’s humane treatment of war prisoners when the facts in the quran and hadiths contradict it.

    According to Bukhari 052:261, a group of men from Ukil who had abused their hospitality were captured and returned to Muhammad “AND WHEN THE PROPHET WAS INFORMED BY A SHOUTER—HE HAD THEIR HANDS AND FEET CUT OFF. THEN HE ORDERED FOR NAILS WHICH WERE HEATED AND PASSED OVER THEIR EYES AND WERE LEFT IN THE HARRA–. THEY ASKED FOR WATER AND NOBODY PROVIDED THEM WITH WATER TILL THEY DIED-“.
    Were these not prisoners? Where was this compassion?
    On triumphantly entering Mecca, Muhammad had at least ten(10) people killed. …

  2. @ Namelee
    The life of Prophet Muhammad was guided by the Quran. And Quran teaches fairness and humanity in the matter of prisoners of war. The fair, equal and extremely humane treatment of prisoners of war by the Prophet Muhammad is well documented. Prisoners could be executed or tortured but he would normally distribute them to his followers with instructions of fair treatment. While in detention, prisoners were treated well with no torture, and upon paying ransom they were released.
    There is a difference in a prisoner of war and a criminal. The criminals are dealt according to the principles of justice. The few people who were killed at the time of fall of Mecca were proven criminals and that is why they were punished according to the prevailing practices.
    The effect of this model of the Holy Prophet was that among his followers for centuries, prisoners of war were treated much better than prevailing practices.
    As for the hadith, you can find one on any subject from any point of view. One odd hadith does not negate the preponderance of evidence.

  3. Zia,
    It is rather ungallantly of you to excise the relevant portions of the quran and hadiths I referred to in justification of my position that Muhammad killed even those who had surrendered.
    The quran says he could not take prisoners until after a wide slaughter. This means he had to refuse to accept the surrender of the enemy until the lust for blood had been satisfied.

    Time and again history has shown that his generals, following in his footsteps, refused to accept the instruments of surrender.
    If there is to be a meaningful debate, no party should be disadvantaged. When the time comes for you to reply,as you say, I should not be denied the opportunity of answering.
    I saw the link to the article questioning the thousands Muhammad killed in Mecca when you first published it. I did not think it necessary to comment because in a free world people are free to hold their opinions no matter how absurd and sometimes not out of conviction but for pecuniary benefits.
    Whenever you are ready, I will be found ready.

  4. The verse you quote was against slavery and not against surrender. It meant that people cannot take slaves after any small armed conflict.

    The total numbers killed on both sides during the life time of the Prophet were no more than a thousand, in all the battles put together, despite the fact that fighting armies were more than 10,000 on both sides.

    At the fall of Jerusalem, Umar Farooq signed a treaty, which gave not only the Christians their religious freedom, but, restored freedom to Jews, after several centuries of them having no rights. Please do not forget that his contemporary Emperor Heraclius was forcibly baptizing them.

  5. Lutf,
    It is not a question of having to quote a few hadiths or the hadiths containing anything someone wants. It is the importance attached to the hadiths by the adherents of Muhammad’s faith.
    Your religion is three legged and each leg is almost as important as the other. Any void in the quran is made up for by Muhammad’s sunna which are the hadiths and sira. The hadiths are said to have been divinely inspired. It is in the other two legs that an insight into the life of Muhammad can be gleaned.
    The treatment of prisoners of war as practiced by Muhammad or as he would have wanted it practiced are in the hadiths and sira. So the hadiths say that the day shall not come until the Jews are wiped out such that the tree will call on the muslim to come and kill the Jew who had taken refuge behind it. Is there any room for taking prisoners here let alone treating them humanely?
    In sura 9:26 the people of the book who have rejected the call to conversion are to be taxed and given the most humiliating treatment. That is in the quran. How does that align with the concept of humane treatment?
    The ‘few people who were killed in Mecca’ were guilty of the crime of speaking against Muhammad. If speaking ones mind in disagreement amounted to a crime, where then was the much talked about ‘freedom of expression which the prophet allowed’? Even if those people committed a crime, that was in the past. The amnesty which followed the conquest should have been extended to all.
    I have not yet come across any document which says that the ‘few people killed’ had been tried according to any prevailing law. Muhammad gave the order and that became the law.(I may be wrong).
    As earlier mentioned in my reply to Zia, the after battle field examples set by Muhammad were what his generals followed in their conquest of territories which stretched from Arabia to North Africa, Iberia, Southern Europe, the Levant, Persia, India, Central Asia etc. The historians will be of help on this if need be.
    There is still no connection between Muhammad’s examples and the international laws on the treatment of war prisoners.

  6. Zia,
    You must be quoting from the version of the quran which is exclusive to you because all the versions I have mention prisoners, not slaves.
    In further proof of my position, sura 48:29 ‘MUHAMMAD IS ALLAH’S APOSTLE. THOSE WHO ARE WITH HIM ARE HARD ON THE UNBELIEVERS BUT MERCIFUL TO ONE ANOTHER”. Note that this does not mention any offensive situation. The hardness has to be at all times and extended to all the affected people including prisoners of war.
    As a measure of Umar’s ‘generosity’, you may also wish to examine his 16 point treaty with the Christians. His ‘benevolence’ to the Jews included his actions on the Temple Mount which has made that location a flash point.
    Conversion was Muhammad’s instrument to spare lives. … If Umar did what you said to the Jews of Jerusalem, it was completely out of character. The people of Egypt, Nubia and other places were not so fortunate.

  7. Namelee
    1) You said that Islam is based upon three pillars, Quran, Sunna and Hadith. According to the Prophet himself the Hadith is not one of those pillars. It is only quran and sunna. Then you have accepted that all the material is coming from hadith and sunna, based upon hadith. Exactly my point. Quran only teaches good treatment of prisoners of war. In fact it prohibits taking prisoners unless there is a real bloody war. (misrepresented by you)
    2) The few people who were punished committed crimes not blasphemies. The universal forgiveness granted by the Prophet at the fall of Mecca has been accepted by all historians. I have read many adversarial historians and even they had nothing but praise for this action. You are the first person who is prejudiced enough to be able to criticize this magnanimous act.
    3) Then you have criticized jizya. In those days the practice was that the conqueror would either imprison (enslave) or kill the fallen people. Islam ordered against it and included them in the normal order of the state. The jizya was a tax which ensured the well being of the defeated people and also provided them exemption from military services. Once again the historians have praised this practice when you compare it with the prevailing practices of very harsh treatments.
    4) I also draw your attention to the conduct of Christian armies of today. They kill with impunity and do not care for any human rights. In the Vietnam war, Christian armies killed 3 million people, 90% of them were civilians, children, women and older men. Christian armies have been constantly attacking other nations in the world for the last 100 years and killing and destroying others without any regard to human rights.
    5) The teachings of Islam in the area of warfare have been looked at closely and praised by most. Your commenting is one sided and dare I say, negative and prejudiced to the extreme. You do not seem to have the ability to see any good in the other. I invite you to say one good thing about the Prophet of Islam or religion of Islam and make a bold statement. Be a man!!

  8. namelee, please read that verse as follows because it is describing the fanatic disbelievers which yohave mentioned as mere unbelievers. See your Version and my version please:
    Your version: 48:29 ‘MUHAMMAD IS ALLAH’S APOSTLE. THOSE WHO ARE WITH HIM ARE HARD ON THE UNBELIEVERS BUT MERCIFUL TO ONE ANOTHER”.
    ——————
    My version of the verse:
    48:29 ‘MUHAMMAD IS ALLAH’S APOSTLE. THOSE WHO ARE WITH HIM ARE HARD ON THE hostile dis-BELIEVERS BUT MERCIFUL TO ONE ANOTHER”.
    ———————————-
    In that verse the Muslims are not dealing with any peaceful non-believers. It is the word Kafir used there and please take the right meaning of that word. Thank you.

  9. Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable.

    Allah only forbids you, respecting those who have fought against you on account of your religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and have helped others in driving you out, that you make friends of them, and whosoever makes friends of them — it is these that are the transgressors. (Al Quran 60:9-10)

  10. This is a clear message from The Holy Quran and The Prophit Mohammad (peace be uopn Him) to the entire human race weather they are Jews, Chistians or Muslims.

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