Muhammad’s Cruelty Reexamined

Being a Challenge to a Muslim Polemicist

Sam Shamoun

Bassam Zawadi was very troubled at the fact that his prophet tortured a man for some treasure:

My Response:

Many anti Islamics have used this incident of the torture of Kinana to attack the integrity of the Prophet. When I first read about it, I myself was quite shocked that the Prophet would torture some one just because of some treasure.

Indeed Islam teaches us that treatment of the prisoners of war is a must… (Rebuttal to Silas's Article "MUHAMMAD AND THE DEATH OF KINANA"; source)

In his article, which is supposed to be a response to a paper written by Silas (*), Zawadi goes out of his way to disprove the veracity of this story in order to salvage his prophet’s reputation. Zawadi’s response presupposes that if Muhammad’s torture of Kinana is based on reliable sources then this would support Silas’ claims against Muhammad. It would establish that the prophet of Islam was indeed a criminal and acted much like a mafia boss. As Silas noted:

I find Muhammad's orders to torture Kinana to obtain "buried treasure" similar to what criminals do to obtain people's money or possessions. I picture organized crime figures beating someone or torturing them to make them talk. "Talk!, tell us where the money is!, or we'll make your pain even worse!".

Here, Muhammad has a man tortured to force him to "Talk". Finally, when he is near death, Muhammad has his head cut off.

I don't recall Moses ever torturing people during their travels and conquest of Canaan. Certainly Jesus never taught His disciples it was okay to torture people. Yet, even after plundering Khaibar, a well to do city, Muhammad wasn't satisfied he wanted more…

4)         With Muhammad setting this example of pillage, enslavement, torture, and murder, is it little wonder that similar events are occurring in the Muslim world today? We all are familiar with the events occurring in Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Mali, and Mauritania. These brutalities are not carried out by "drug gangs, or organized crime figures, or even political revolutionaries, but by devout Muslims. These Muslims want to establish their brand or Islam, similar to what Muhammad practiced. Therefore they believe they have the right to do what Muhammad did. Remember, Muslims are obligated to follow Muhammad's lifestyle, or "Sunnah". If Muhammad were allowed to torture and execute a man, just to obtain money, then Muslims today can do likewise. Is that what Muslims really want to build a society upon? …

Muhammad's action here was one of the flesh. It was sinful. It was driven by greed and hatred. These actions were not the actions of a true prophet of God, they were the actions of a man determined on doing his own will, and accomplishing his own desires.

Even though we already fully addressed Zawadi’s "response" here, and provided plenty of documentation to prove that this event is based on sources that are deemed reliable by Muslim scholars and exegetes, what we would like to do at this point is to present the specific narration which Muslims claim is based on a sound chain and thereby establish the historicity of this event. The purpose of doing so is to hold Zawadi to his own words and show him why he should continue to be shocked, as well as disgusted, by the actions of his prophet.

Here is the narration in question which Islamic scholars have deemed reliable:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar:

The Prophet fought with the people of Khaybar, and captured their palm-trees and land, and forced them to remain confined to their fortresses. So they concluded a treaty of peace providing that gold, silver and weapons would go to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him), and whatever they took away on their camels would belong to them, on condition that they would not hide and carry away anything. If they did (so), there would be no protection for them and no treaty (with Muslims).

They carried away a purse of Huyayy ibn Akhtab who was killed before (the battle of) Khaybar. He took away the ornaments of Banu an-Nadir when they were expelled.

The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) asked Sa'yah: Where is the purse of Huyayy ibn Akhtab?

He replied: The contents of this purse were spent on battles and other expenses. (Later on) they found the purse. So he killed Ibn AbulHuqayq, captured their women and children, and intended to deport them. They said: Muhammad, leave us to work on this land; we shall have half (of the produce) as you wish, and you will have half. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) used to make a contribution of eighty wasqs of dates and twenty wasqs of wheat to each of his wives. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 19, Number 3000)

It should be noted that Ibn AbulHuqayq is none other than Kinana whose full name is Kinana ibn Ar-Rabi' ibn Abul-Huqayq.

According to one modern Muslim biography on Muhammad’s life, this hadith from Abu Dawud is sound:

As for movable property, it was agreed that gold, silver, arms and shields would be for the Prophet, while they would retain what their mounts could carry; but they would not conceal any wealth. If they did, they would not escape from the punishment by any treaty. Yet they concealed a treasure casket that belonged to Huyaiy bin Akhtab. He had carried it along with him the day he had left Madinah along with the rest of Banu Nadir. When the Prophet inquired his uncle Sa’yah about it, he replied, "It was eaten up by expenditures and consumed by wars." The Prophet said, "The treaty is still fresh and the amount involved is enormous." He entrusted him to Zubayr who tortured him. He admitted seeing Huyaiy foraging around in ruins. When searched, the treasure was found there. So Ibn Abu Huqayq was killed in retaliation and his women and children were taken as slaves. And Muhammad bin Maslamah was allowed to kill Kinanah, the one who led them to the treasure, in retaliation of the man having killed his brother Mahmud bin Maslamah.

49. Reported by Abu Dawud in his Sunan (3/408/H. 3006) THROUGH A RELIABLE CHAIN. (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 15: The Khayber Expedition Events and Expeditions between Badr and Uhud, pp. 628-629; capital and underline emphasis ours)

The author then tries to draw some lessons and legal points from these tortures for the Muslims!

14 It is also allowed to make a peace deal conditional, as did the Prophet, on the condition that the Jews would not conceal anything. The case involving the treasure of Huyaiy bin Akhtab represents such a precedence …

18 The clause and consequences of breaking a covenant is extendable to women and offspring. Someone who remains silent is counted as one who speaks a lie. That is what happened with Kinanah and the two sons of Ibn Huqayq. This is applicable when those who break the covenant are a group. However, if the one who breaks the covenant is a single individual, then the responsibility is not extendable to women and offspring. (Ibid., p. 635; underline emphasis ours)

Thus, the torture and murder of Kinana is based on reports said to be reliable by Muslim scholars.(1) In light of this, will Zawadi accept the conclusion of Silas and admit that his prophet was a criminal? Will he continue to be shocked knowing that his prophet’s greed led him to brutally torture persons? Or will he seek to find justification for his prophet’s bloodlust and love of money?

Another topic which troubled Zawadi was the issue of Muhammad wanting to divorce his wife Sauda bint Zamaah because he had lost all attraction to her due to her old age (*). Zawadi again tried to deny that this event was based on sound reports (*).(2)

This again presupposes that if this event did take place then this would provide additional evidence against Muhammad being an exemplary character and a mercy for others.

We have already responded to Zawadi’s assertions in this article.

Yet here we would like to post the specific Muslim source which admits that those reports that indicate that Muhammad wanted to divorce Sauda due to her old age and that Q. 4:128 was "revealed" in response to this situation are based on sound narrations:

When ‘Aishah taunted her over her age, she feared that she could be divorced by the Prophet. But her desire was to be raised as the Prophet’s wife on the Day of Judgement. So she gifted away her day to ‘Aishah6 It is said that the Verse 128 of An-Nisa’ was revealed in reference to her. It said, …

"And if a woman fears from her husband either cruelty or desertion, then, there is no sin on the two that they should make peace between themselves, and peace is better."7, 8

She was a heavy woman, of slow movements. Once she said to the Prophet, "Last night I prayed behind you, but while bowing down I held my nose from the fear of the blood drops." (That is because the Prophet’s bowing and prostration were severely long). The Prophet smiled at her. And because of her weight and old age, the Prophet allowed her and others of her kind to leave Muzdalifah at Hajj at night before others could do.

6 Al-Bukhari/Al-Fath (19/273/H. 5212), Muslim (2/1085/H. 1463), Abu Dawud (2/602/The Book of Nikah/H. 2135), Ahmad: Al-Fathur-Rabbani (22/108) and (16/239): Sahih Ibn Majah (1/334/H. 1972) WHERE ALBANI SAID IT IS SAHIH.

7 Surat An-Nisa’: 128.

8 See Tabari: Tafsir (9/276-278) through a Sound (Sahih) chain, Abu Dawud (2/602/The Book of Marriage/H. 2135) and Albani: Sahih At-Tirmidhi (3/The Book of Tafsir/H. 2434), where Tirmidhi said that this has A HASAN-SAHIH (GOOD & SOUND) CHAIN WHICH WAS ALSO THE OPINION OF ALBANI. (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 29: The Mothers of the Believers, pp. 866-867; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

In light of the foregoing, what will Zawadi do with his prophet’s cruelty towards his wife? Will he admit that his prophet failed to be the example of mercy to his spouse? Will Zawadi acknowledge that Muhammad acted cruelly, even inhumanely, for wanting to abandon his wife due to her age, especially when he himself wasn’t a young man? Does this, therefore, mean that Muhammad’s wives would have a right to abandon him seeing that many of them were in their teens or early twenties while he was in his fifties? If not, then why not? If Muhammad could abandon his wife because she was old then why couldn’t his spouses do the same to him? After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander!

We will wait to see if Zawadi remains consistent by accepting that his prophet was cruel and, at times, barbaric in his treatment of others. If he doesn’t, but tries to find justification for Muhammad’s cruelty, then this will merely expose Zawadi as a deceiver for falsely pretending to be offended by such heinous acts.


(1) This particular narrative provides more incriminating evidence against Muhammad since he had several people tortured and/or killed over the treasure. For instance, Muhammad commanded Zubayr to torture Sa’yah, Huyaiy’s uncle. Muhammad then has Ibn Abu Huqayq (i.e. Kinana) killed, making it two people that he had tortured and/or murdered. (The report gives the impression that Ibn Abu Huqayq and Kinana are two different persons, yet other sources state that Kinana was also called Ibn Abu Huqayq. This suggests that they are the same individual, unless the narration is referring to some other son of Abu Huqayq, since Ibn simply means "son", i.e. the son of Abu Huqayq, and may be referring to Kinana’s brother. More on this below).

Note the sequence of events. It is Sa’yah who is first asked, and (apparently) then tortured and only then he admits that the treasure may be in those ruins. Then Ibn Abu Huqayq is killed (in retaliation).

That’s not all. The report mentions that Muhammad had "the two sons of Ibn Huqayq" murdered, making it a total of four people that were either tortured or killed. (This supports the possibility that in this particular narrative Ibn Abu Huqayq refers to Kinana’s brother and not to Kinana himself).

Moreover, a question to ask is what is the relationship of Ibn Abu Huqayq with Huyaiy’s treasure? If Huyaiy hid that treasure in those ruins before he died (and before Muhammad came to Khaybar) why is Kinana killed for it?

Hence, this report does clearly say that Muhammad had someone (Sa’yah) tortured in order to get to the treasure. And since Sa’yah and Kinana are two different people this isn’t really helping Zawadi’s case. Killing Kinanah in retaliation because Sa’yah had first been silent only increases the crime and irrationality of Muhammad.

(2) Zawadi has the audacity to claim that it was Sauda who voluntarily gave up her day to Aisha in order to appease Muhammad. Even though he is clearly aware of it Zawadi still wants to overlook the fact that the reason Sauda did so is because she was afraid that Muhammad was going to divorce her, and she turned out to be right. But for argument’s sake let us accept that Sauda was wrong for feeling this way and that she did voluntarily forfeit her time with her husband the least Muhammad could have done if he were truly merciful was to decline her suggestion. Muhammad should have reassured Sauda that she had nothing to fear since he wasn’t planning to divorce her and should have insisted that she keep her assigned day. Muhammad could have continued making the rounds with her, much like he did with the other wives, instead of accepting her offer. This he did not do since it is obvious that he did want to get rid of her, and Sauda was therefore right to fear that her husband was planning to divorce her.

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