Muhammad's Excessive Cruelty

Sam Shamoun

One of the most vile and cruel acts ever performed by Muhammad was his bloody torture and murder of the men of Ukl or Uraynah. According to Muslims sources, some men converted to Islam and traveled to Medina. Because of the climate in Medina, these men got sick and Muhammad recommended that they drink camel urine and milk for their ailment. The Muslim sources claim that the men then apostatized, killed the herdsman and took off with the flock. Muhammad sent an expedition to catch them, and once they were caught Muhammad had them brutally tortured. Here is the version as narrated by al-Bukhari:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
A group of eight men from the tribe of 'Ukil came to the Prophet and then they found the climate of Medina unsuitable for them. So, they said, "O Allah's Apostle! Provide us with some milk." Allah's Apostle said, "I recommend that you should join the herd of camels." So they went and drank the urine and the milk of the camels (as a medicine) till they became healthy and fat. Then they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels, and they became unbelievers after they were Muslims. When the Prophet was informed by a shouter for help, he sent some men in their pursuit, and before the sun rose high, they were brought, and he had their hands and feet cut off. Then he ordered for nails which were heated and passed over their eyes, and they were left in the Harra (i.e. rocky land in Medina). They asked for water, and nobody provided them with water till they died (Abu Qilaba, a sub-narrator said, "They committed murder and theft and fought against Allah and His Apostle, and spread evil in the land.") (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 261)

Muslims have devised ways to justify Muhammad’s brutality and cold-heartedness. One Muslim defends this wicked, murderous torture on the grounds that these men were getting what they deserved, a sort of eye for an eye (pun intended):

Muslims believe in equality, which is a universal principle. 

Surah 16:126

And if ye do catch them out, catch them out no worse than they catch you out: But if ye show patience, that is indeed the best (course) for those who are patient.

The reason why the Prophet applied such a brutal punishment to those Bedouins was because the Prophet found out that those Bedouins did the same exact thing to the shepherd. 

You can read the Tafsir for that hadith here

Therefore, the punishment that was ordered upon them was fair and just because they deserved to feel and endure what they made that poor shepherd feel. (Bassam Zawadi, Was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) Unfair In The Way He Punished The Armed Robbers From The Tribe Of Ukl?; source)

Another Muslim provides a similar defense:

… However, in one of the narratives reported in Ibn Al-Jarood's Al-Muntaqaa, Anas (ra) is reported to have explained the reason for this punishment as well. The companion of the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said:

The Prophet (pbuh) branded their eyes because they had branded the eyes of the herdsmen. (volume 1, Pg. 216)

This explanation adequately clarifies the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) ordered the branding the eyes of the culprits, in compliance with the Qur'anic directive of Qisaas (Al-Baqarah 2: 178, Al-Maaidah 5: 45) for the punishment of murder and inflicting physical injury on someone.

In view of the foregoing explanation, I find no reason to consider the incident narrated in the referred narrative to be unauthentic. (A Case of a Severe Punishment Delivered by the Prophet (pbuh); source)

What both of these Muslims conveniently fail to tell their readers is that Allah himself supposedly rebuked Muhammad for his excessive brutality and allegedly sent down Sura 5:33-34 as a future corrective, prescribing the precise punishments that were to be meted out for such crimes. The text prescribes the following:

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land IS ONLY THIS, that they should be murdered OR crucified OR their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides OR they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement, Except those who repent before you have them in your power; so know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Shakir

Another version translates the text in a slightly different manner:

This is the recompense of those who fight against God and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth, to do corruption there: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off; or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement, except for such as repent, before you have power over them. So know you that God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. Arberry

Hence, this reference tells Muslims that they can only choose one of the following punishments:

  1. Kill the person.
  2. Crucify the person.
  3. Cut off the hands and feet of the opposite side, which means that only one of the hands and one of the feet can be amputated. It makes no sense to say to cut off the limbs of the opposite sides if this refers to amputating all of the limbs.
  4. Imprison the person or, depending on how one understands the last part, banishment from the land.

Notice that branding out the eyes or causing a person to die of thirst or dehydration is not part of Allah’s prescribed punishments for those that wage war against Allah and his messenger.

Renowned Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir indicates that this verse was initially given in reference to the men of Ukl or Uraynah:

<Allah is Of-Forgiving, Most Merciful,) "Were revealed about the idolators. Therefore, the Ayah decrees that, whoever among them repents before you apprehend them, then you have no right to punish them. This Ayah does not save a Muslim from punishment if he kills, causes mischief in the land or wages war against Allah and His Messenger and then joins rank with the disbelievers, before the Muslims are able to catch him. He will still be liable for punishment for the crimes he committed." Abu Dawud and An-Nasa'i recorded that `Ikrimah said that Ibn `Abbas said that the Ayah…

<The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land…> "Was revealed concerning the idolators, those among them who repent before being apprehended, they will still be liable for punishment for the crimes they committed." The correct opinion is that this Ayah is general in meaning and includes the idolators and all others who commit the types of crimes the Ayah mentioned. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that Abu Qilabah `Abdullah bin Zayd Al-Jarmi, said that Anas bin Malik said, "Eight people of the `Ukl tribe came to the Messenger of Allah and gave him their pledge to follow Islam. Al-Madinah's climate did not suit them and they became sick and complained to Allah's Messenger. So he said…

<Go with our shepherd to be treated by the milk and urine of his camels.> So they went as directed, and after they drank from the camels' milk and urine, they became healthy, and they killed the shepherd and drove away all the camels. The news reached the Prophet and he sent (men) in their pursuit and they were captured. He then ordered that their hands and feet be cut off (and it was done), and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron. Next, they were put in the sun until they died." This is the wording of Muslim. In another narration for this Hadith, it was mentioned that these people were from the tribes of `Ukl or `Uraynah. Another narration reported that these people were put in the Harrah area (of Al-Madinah), and when they asked for water, no water was given to them. Allah said…

<they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land.> (Source; underline emphasis ours)

As do the two Jalals:

The following was revealed WHEN the 'Arniyyūn came to Medina suffering from some illness, and the Prophet (s) gave them permission to go and drink from the camels' urine and milk. Once they felt well they slew the Prophet's shepherd and stole the herd of camels: Truly the only requital of those who fight against God and His Messenger, by fighting against Muslims, and hasten about the earth to do corruption there, by waylaying, is that they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, that is, their right hands and left feet, or be banished from the land (the aw, 'or', is [used] to indicate the [separate] application of [each of] the cases [listed]; thus, death is for those that have only killed; crucifixion is for those that have killed and stolen property; the cutting off [of limbs on opposite sides] is for those that have stolen property but have not killed; while banishment is for those that pose a threat - this was stated by Ibn 'Abbās and is the opinion of al-Shāfi'ī; the more sound of his [al-Shāfi'ī's] two opinions is that crucifixion should be for three days after [the] death [of the killer], or, it is also said, shortly before [he is killed]; with banishment are included similar punishments, such as imprisonment and the like. That, mentioned requital, is a degradation, a humiliation, for them in this world; and in the Hereafter theirs will be a great chastisement, namely, the chastisement of the Fire. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

In fact, this is the position held by the majority of Muslim scholars:

Kurz bin Jabir Fihri's Expedition to 'Uraynah

A group of people from 'Ukl and 'Uraynah presented themselves to the Prophet in Shawwal, 6 AH, and entered into Islam. They said, "O Prophet of Allah. We are shepherds and not farmers," and said they fell ill in Madinah. So the Prophet gave them some camels along with a shepherd to look after them and ordered them to camp outside the town, drink their milk and rub themselves with the cattle's urine. They left. But when they were at Harrah, they apostatized, killed the shepherd and fled with the camels. The Prophet sent his men behind them who managed to capture them. He ordered that they be blinded with needles, their hands and feet be severed and left in the sun until they die. Qatadah, the narrator says, "We received reports that thereafter the Prophet used to invoke people to charity and prohibit them from disfiguring." According to another report, "This was before Allah sent the commandments pertaining to capital punishments." Abu Qilabah said in his version of report, "These people had committed theft, murder, disbelieved after having believed, and waged war against Allah and His Messenger."

The MAJORITY OF SCHOLARS say that the following Verse, ...

"Surely, the retribution of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and who strive to spread corruption in the land is that they should be crucified, or their hands, and feet cut from the opposite sides, or expelled from the land."

was revealed in connection with the 'Uraynah affair. (A Biography of the Prophet of Islam In the Light of Original Sources: An Analytical Study, by Dr. Mahdi Rizqullah Ahmad, translated by Syed Iqbal Zaheer [Darussalam Publishers and Distributors, Riyadh, Jeddah, Sharjah, Lahore, London, Houston, New York; First Edition: November 2005], Volume 2, Chapter: Events between Banu Qurayzah and Hudaybiyah Expeditions, pp. 589-590; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Here is what hadith compiler Abu Dawud narrated:

The tradition mentioned above has also been transmitted by Anas b. Malik through a different chain of narrators. This version says: The Apostle of Allah sent some people who were experts in tracking in pursuit of them and they were brought (to him). Allah, the Exalted, THEN revealed the verse ABOUT IT: "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Apostle and strive for mischief through the land."

A similar tradition has also been transmitted by Anas b. Malik through a different chain of narrators. This version adds: He THEN forbade disfiguring. This version does not mention the words "from opposite sides". This tradition has been narrated by Shu‘bah from Qatadah and Sallam b. Miskin from Thabit on the authority of Anas. They did not mention the words "from opposite sides". I did not find these words "their hands and fee were cut off from opposite sides" in any version except in the version of Hammad b. Salamah. (Sunan Abu Dawud, English translation with explanatory notes by Professor Ahmad Hasan [Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters; Lahore, Pakistan, 1984], Numbers 4353, 4355, Volume III, pp. 1216-1217; bold, underline, capital and italic emphasis ours)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar:
Some people raided the camels of the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him), drove them off, and apostatised. They killed the herdsman of the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) who was a believer. He (the Prophet) sent (people) in pursuit of them and they were caught. He had their hands and feet cut off, and their eyes put out. The verse regarding fighting against Allah and His Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) was then revealed. These were the people about whom Anas ibn Malik informed al-Hajjaj when he asked him. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4356)

Narrated Abu al-Zinad:
When the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) cut off (the hands and feet of) those who had stolen his camels and he had their eyes put out by fire (heated nails), ALLAH REPRIMANDED HIM ON THAT (ACTION), and Allah, the Exalted, revealed: "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Apostle and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is execution or crucifixion." (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4357)

The following hadith compiler narrates that the number of the men from Ukl was actually eighty!

Chapter 7. The Meaning Of The Saying Of Allah, The Mighty And Sublime: “The recompense Of Those Who Wage War Against Allah And His Messenger, And Do Mischief In the Land, Is Only That They Shall Be Killed, Or Crucified, Or Their Hands And Feet Be Cut Off From Opposite Sides, Or Be Exiled From The Land.” And Concerning Whom It Was Revealed, And Mentioning The Different Wordings Reported From Anas Bin Malik About That

4029. Anas bin Malik narrated that a group of eighty people from Ukl came to the Prophet, but the climate of Al-Madinah did not suit them and they fell sick. They complained about that to the Messenger of Allah and he said: “Why don't you go out with our herdsmen and drink the milk and urine of the camels?” They said: “Yes (we will do that).” They went out and drank some of the (camels’) milk and urine, and they recovered. Then they killed the herdsmen of the Messenger of Allah, so he sent (men after them) and they caught them and brought them back. He had their hands and feet cut off and branded their eyes, and left them in the sun to die. (Sahih) (English Translation of Sunan An-Nasa’i – Compiled by Imam Hafiz Abu Abdur Rahman Ahmad bin Shu‘aib bin ‘Ali An-Nasa’i [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, First Edition: January 2008], Ahadith edited & referenced by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair ‘Ali Za’i, translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Canada), final review by Abu Khaliyl (USA), Volume 5, from hadith no. 3971 to 4987, 37. The Book of Fighting [The Prohibition of Bloodshed], pp. 44-45; underline emphasis ours)

This same compiler further notes that Allah rebuked Muhammad for his excessive brutality and that these men weren’t killed for their sin, i.e. for killing the shepherd or robbing the milch camels, but for reverting back to disbelief (kufr):

Chapter 9. Mentioning The Differences Reported By Talhah Bin Musarrif And Mu‘awiyah Bin Salih From Yahya Bin Sa‘eed In This Hadith

4040. It was narrated that Anas bin Malik said: “Some Bedouin from Uraynah came to the Prophet of Allah and accepted Islam, but the climate of Al-Madinah did not suit them; their skin turned yellow and their bellies became swollen. The Prophet of Allah sent them to some milk camels of his and told them to drink their milk and urine until they recovered. Then they killed their herdsmen and drove off the camels. The Prophet of Allah sent (men) after them and they were brought back, then he had their hands and feet cut off, and their eyes were branded.” The Commander of the Believers, Abdul-Malik, said to Anas, when he was narrating this Hadith: “Was that (punishment) for Kufr or for sin?” He said: “For Kufr.” (Sahih) (Ibid., pp. 50-51)


4047. It was narrated from Abu Az-Zinad that the Messenger of Allah had the (hands and feet) of those who drove off his camels cut off, and their eyes gouged out with fire. Allah rebuked him for that, and Allah, Most High, revealed the entire verse: “The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger.” (Da‘if) (Ibid., p. 54; underline emphasis ours)

Thus, the punishment was not for attacking the herdsman and stealing, but for abandoning the false religion of the false prophet Muhammad!

Interestingly, in another English version of Sahih al-Bukhari this story of Muhammad's excessive brutality is placed right under a chapter heading which cites this very Quranic text!

CXII: "The reprisal against those who wage war on Allah and His Messenger, and go about the earth corrupting it, is that they should be killed or crucified, or have their alternate hands and feet cut off, or be banished from the land." (5:33)

Waging war against Allah is rejecting Him.

4334. It is related from Abu Qilaba that he was sitting behind 'Umar ibn 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, and they mentioned this and they mentioned that [about Qasama] and they said various things, saying that the khalifs had taken retaliation on account of it. He turned to Abu Qilaba who was behind him and asked, "What do you say, 'Abdullah ibn Zayd?" or he asked, "What do you say, Abu Qilaba?" I said, "I do not know that it is lawful to kill a soul in Islam except for a man who has committed fornication after having been married, or someone who has murdered someone without right, or someone who makes war against Allah and His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace." 'Anbasa said, "And Anas related such-and-such and such-and-such." I said, "Anas related to me and said, 'Some people came to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and spoke to him, saying, "This land makes us ill." He said, "These are some of our camels which are being taken out. So go out with them and drink some of their milk and urine." So they went out with them and drank some of their milk and urine and recovered their health. Then they turned on the herdsman and killed him and drove off the camels. Why should there be any delay with those men? They killed a person and made war against Allah and His Messenger and alarmed the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.'" He said, "Glory be to Allah!" I said, "Do you suspect me?" He said, "Anas related that." He said, "Then he said, 'O people of such-and-such! You will remain in good as long as this man and his like remain among you.'" (Aisha Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 68. Book of Tafsir, CVIII: Tafsir of Surat al-Ma'ida; online source; underline emphasis ours)

Unfortunately, Allah intervened too late and supposedly sent down the texts only after the brutal and excessive murders had already taken place. Be that as it may, the fact that some of these narrations say that Muhammad was rebuked for his cruelty shows just how excessively brutal and unjust these murders were even by Allah’s standards!

In light of the prescribed punishments of Sura 5:33, Muhammad was guilty for committing excessive brutality in these vicious murders. His violations and cruelty included the following:

  1. Cutting off both hands and legs, when he was supposed to cut off only one hand and one leg from the opposite sides.
  2. Having their eyes pierced through with nails.
  3. Refusing to give them water thereby causing them to die of thirst.

In light of the foregoing, it is quite obvious that the Muslim responses are pretty weak and fail to take into consideration what even their own sources say about Muhammad’s brutality and how even his own god was displeased with his barbarous acts.

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