Muhammad's treatment of the Uraynians revisited

Sam Shamoun

This a response to Bassam Zawadi (*; *) regarding Muhammad’s brutal treatment of the Uraynians.

Zawadi begins his rebuttal by showing that he doesn’t know what a red herring is:

Sam Shamoun wrote a 16 page response to me in which 9 pages are red herrings. They have absolutely nothing to do with the topic in discussion. He talks about how its not fair that Muslims don't get executed for murders against non Muslims and how Islam teaches that you should fight against those even if they did not physically wage war against you etc. 

This has nothing to do with the topic. Lets look at the title of discussion again, "Was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) Unfair In The Way He Punished The Armed Robbers From The Tribe Of Ukl?"

Zawadi must have forgotten that it was he who brought up Q. 16:126 to prove that Islam believes in equality, entailing that I document at length how this very text backfires against him since it proves that Muhammad was anything but just in his brutality against the Uraynians. I proceeded to show how other verses of the Quran contradict Q. 16:126 and Zawadi’s assertion of equality since Islam prescribes varying types of punishments depending upon a person’s gender, social status and religious beliefs, i.e. a Muslim is not to be punished for killing a non-Muslim, a free man is not to be put to death for the murder of a slave or a woman etc.

Thus, if my rebuttal was nothing more than a red herring it is precisely because of Zawadi’s rabbit trails which needed to be addressed. Yet if Zawadi feels that his discussion on Islamic equality was related to the topic at hand then so were my answers to it.

Basically Sam Shamoun has not given any new arguments. He keeps insisting that God sent down Surah 5:33 was given after Muhammad's punishments the people from Ukl. He insists that this was a rebuke from God for his cruelty. 

However, I already answered this......

And he said he heard Muhammad Ibn Ajlan say: This verse has come down on the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him as a recrimination in that and taught him the punishment of people like them from cutting and killing and refusal (refusing to give the water) and he did not pierce the eyes of anyone after them. He said this statement has been mentioned to Ibn Umar, he renounced the fact this verse came down as a recrimination and said that indeed the punishment of those men was by their eyes (meaning they deserved to have their eyes pierced) then this verse came down as a punishment for anyone besides them for who fought after them and the piercing of the eyes as a punishment was over. 


It is clear that Surah 5:33 was to be a punishment for those that came after the people of Ukl, however those people of Ukl did deserve what they got. 

Sam quotes hadith (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 261) and (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, Number 797) to try and prove that Muhammad did not allow them to have their water. However, the Hadith does not say that. The Hadith simply says that they were brought to the Prophet and then the Prophet order for their hands and feet to be cut off. Isn't it possible that the people were brought to the Prophet and then the Prophet issued the order and then the Prophet left but the companions of the Prophet did not give them the water? Do we see a direct order from the Prophet stating that they should die of thirst?

This entire response ignores virtually everything I said. I noted that the hadiths state that the men were brought to Muhammad to decide their fate, with the implication being that the Muslims were acting in perfect accord with Muhammad’s desires. This is brought out clearly in the following reports:

Narrated Abu Qilaba:

Once 'Umar bin 'Abdul 'Aziz sat on his throne in the courtyard of his house so that the people might gather before him. Then he admitted them and (when they came in), he said, "What do you think of Al-Qasama?" They said, "We say that it is lawful to depend on Al-Qasama in Qisas, as the previous Muslim Caliphs carried out Qisas depending on it." Then he said to me, "O Abu Qilaba! What do you say about it?" He let me appear before the people and I said, "O Chief of the Believers! You have the chiefs of the army staff and the nobles of the Arabs. If fifty of them testified that a married man had committed illegal sexual intercourse in Damascus but they had not seen him (doing so), would you stone him?" He said, "No." I said, "If fifty of them testified that a man had committed theft in Hums, would you cut off his hand though they did not see him?" He replied, "No." I said, "By Allah, Allah's Apostle never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: (1) A person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas,) (2) a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse and (3) a man who fought against Allah and His Apostle and deserted Islam and became an apostate." Then the people said, "Didn't Anas bin Malik narrate that Allah's Apostle cut off the hands of the thieves, branded their eyes and then, THREW THEM IN THE SUN?" I said, "I shall tell you the narration of Anas. Anas said: "Eight persons from the tribe of 'Ukl came to Allah's Apostle and gave the Pledge of allegiance for Islam (became Muslim). The climate of the place (Medina) did not suit them, so they became sick and complained about that to Allah's Apostle. He said (to them), ‘Won't you go out with the shepherd of our camels and drink of the camels' milk and urine (as medicine)?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ So they went out and drank the camels' milk and urine, and after they became healthy, they killed the shepherd of Allah's Apostle and took away all the camels. This news reached Allah's Apostle, so he sent (men) to follow their traces and they were captured and brought (to the Prophet). He then ordered to cut their hands and feet, and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron, AND THEN HE THREW THEM IN THE SUN TILL THEY DIED." I said, "What can be worse than what those people did? They deserted Islam, committed murder and theft."… (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 83, Number 37)

2578. Humaid on the authority of Anas b. Malik that people belonging to (the tribe of) Uraina came during the life-time of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). They disliked to stay at Madina due to unsuitable climate. He (the Holy Prophet) said, "If you were to go our camels (of Zakat), then drink their milk and urine." They did that (and they recovered from their ailment). Then they deserted Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and drove away his camels. Upon this, Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) despatched[sic] (some men) to chase them. They were brought (to the Holy Prophet) and HE cut off their hands and feet (of opposite sides) and drew out their eyes with a heated nail and deserted them in (the scorching sand of) Harra till they died. (Sunan Ibn-I-Majah, Imam Abdullah Muhammad B. Yazid Ibn-I-Maja Al-Qazwini, English version by Muhammad Tufail Ansari [Kazi Publications, 121-Zulqarnain Chambers, Gampat Road, Lahore Pakistan, first edition, 1995], Volume IV, pp. 26-27; capital emphasis ours)

The foregoing narrations attribute the actions of the Muslims to Muhammad since it is obvious that they were carrying out Muhammad’s wishes. The narrators in these reports clearly saw that Muhammad wanted the Uraynians to be taken to the Harra desert to expose them to the intense heat of the sun and thereby suffer dehydration.

This leads me to a point which I raised in an earlier rebuttal. If Muhammad didn’t approve of the Muslims refusing to give them water to drink then why is there no mention of him rebuking them? After all, the hadiths provide examples of Muhammad correcting or scolding Muslims when they did something wrong, and we would therefore expect that the reports would mention Muhammad’s displeasure at the actions of the Muslims if he didn’t order them not to give the culprits any water.

Thus far, Zawadi has yet to provide any evidence to show that the Muslims were acting contrary to Muhammad’s orders when they refused to give the Uraynians any water.

Sam also says that I quoted Ibn Umar in order to undermine the other narrations. I wasn't trying to undermine the other narrations. I never said the other narrations were weak or false. What I said was that I would rather take Ibn Umar's opinion over the opinion of the other companion who thought that the verse was sent down as recrimination.

We are glad that Zawadi admits that he prefers Ibn Umar’s narration to the rest, but personal preferences do not establish evidence. It merely demonstrates that Zawadi is troubled by these other sources that admit that Muhammad was rebuked for his coldhearted brutality and so has adopted a view where he doesn’t have to address this point. Zawadi is going to have to do better than simply overlook such narrations and has to explain why Muslims would make up the story of Muhammad being reprimanded for his excessive cruelty, thereby presenting their prophet very negatively. The general tendency of Muslim writers and scholars is to make Muhammad look better and to omit material that seriously damages his reputation.

Zawadi asserts that the Uraynians got exactly what they deserved:

I already quoted Ibn Umar showing why. That the people from Ukl did deserve what they got but Allah made the punishment for future criminals. But God willed that the people from Ukl get what they got. Nothing has happend to the Muhammad's prophethood. It is still standing.

Zawadi is confused since he had claimed that the other narrations that mention Allah rebuking Muhammad for his excessive cruelty weren’t weak or false, yet here he says that the Uraynians deserved their punishment. But if they deserved their punishment then this means that either the other reports are weak or forged or that Allah was wrong for chastising Muhammad for meeting out justice. Note Zawadi’s glaring inconsistencies as he tries to find justification for Muhammad’s cruelty:

Here is how he addresses Muhammad’s failure to apply Q. 16:126:

Why didn’t Muhammad follow the better way and remit the punishment, taking Allah’s advice to be patient with those who committed these crimes? After all, didn’t Muhammad himself have his men attack and plunder caravans as well?

This verse is applied to the victims only. Meaning if some one cut my hand off then I have a right for retribution and have his hand cut off as well. But if I choose to forgive him then that is better. However, if someone killed me, the state does not have a right to go and say that forgiveness is better and then let the murderer go free. That is only the choice of the victim or heir to the victim if he was murdered.

They murdered the shephered and there was no relatives of his around so the Prophet had to execute judgment.

It is obvious from Zawadi’s comments that he is clearly troubled by Muhammad’s failure to do the better thing prescribed by Q. 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. Y. Ali

As a result he has to distort the text by reading into it what is not at all stated or even implied. After all, where does the verse say that this refers only to the victim or his/her heir choosing to remit any punishment incurred by the person(s) responsible for injuring or murdering the victim?

Where does this passage mention that this is limited to individual injuries as opposed to collective suffering, especially when specific Islamic sources tie this passage with the battle of Uhud and to the mutilation of dead Muslims?

(If ye punish) mutilate, (then punish) mutilate (with the like of that wherewith ye were afflicted) with the like of that which your dead were mutilated. (But if ye endure patiently) and abstain from mutilation, (verily it is better for the patient) in the Hereafter. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source)

How does Zawadi know for certain that Q. 16:126 is not referring to verbal assaults, referring to those who through their speech injure a person, especially when the previous verse mentions dialogue and debate, i.e. to verbal exchanges?

Invite (mankind, O Muhammad SAW) to the Way of your Lord (i.e. Islam) with wisdom (i.e. with the Divine Inspiration and the Qur'an) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided. S. 16:125 Hilali-Khan

Furthermore, in our initial rebuttal we referred to certain Muslim scholars who taught that Q. 16:126 was abrogated by the command to engage in Jihad. How can verses of Jihad abrogate a text that Zawadi believes refers to the rights of a victim in either remitting or demanding just punishment?

We also quoted specific Islamic texts which forbid killing a Muslim for a non-Muslim, a free man for a slave or woman etc. Again, how can Q. 16:126 be reconciled with the right of the victim or his/her family to either punish or forgive the criminal if the victim happens to be a non-Muslim and the perpetrator a Muslim? Where is the justice?

Moreover, which tradition asserts that the shepherd didn’t have any relatives present who could have decided to punish or forgive the Uraynians?

Finally and more importantly, Zawadi forgot that the ahadith clearly state that the Uraynians’ actions were considered crimes committed against Muhammad, not just against the shepherd:

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 whey 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)

They further state that the shepherd belonged to Muhammad, that he was his herdsman:

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)

The following was revealed WHEN the 'Arniyyun 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… (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold and italic emphasis ours)

This implies that Muhammad was the heir (to use Zawadi’s language) and could have therefore done what was better by forgiving them. Not only did he fail to do what was better, he actually went beyond what Q. 5:33 considers to be just punishment by branding out their eyes and refusing them water!

It is rather curious and intriguing that Ibn Kathir mentions a narration which says that, after the brutal treatment of the Uraynians, Muhammad spoke of showing compassion:

Qatada stated, "We have heard that thereafter, whenever the Messenger of God (SAAS) made an address he would speak in favour of compassion and against exemplary punishment." (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad (Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya), translated by professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Muneer Fareed [Garnet Publishing Limited, 8 Southern Court, South Street Reading RG1 4QS, UK; The Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization, 2000], Volume III, p. 243; bold and underline emphasis ours)

The foregoing provides additional attestation that Muhammad’s acts against the people of Ukl were barbaric and cruel and that he could have chosen to show compassion if he wanted to, but chose not to.

We now move to Zawadi’s answers to my questions regarding Israelis and Serbs torturing Muslims:

If the Muslims tortured the Israelies or Serbs in a horrible and unjust way then the Serbs and Israelis have a right to do the same. It is retribution. But that does not apply today. Because it is the Serbs murdering and raping the Bosnian Muslims and Israel occupying land that is not theirs and making the lives of the Palestinians a living hell.

Note what he says, Israel occupies land that is not theirs, much like Muslims have taken over lands which did not originally belong to them and have made life a living hell for millions of people. Thus, employing Zawadi’s logic, all the people whose lands Muslims stole have a right to fight and kill the Muslims living in their midst much like the Palestinians are doing against the Jews in Israel.


How can you even try to compare? Did the Muslims start invading and fighting against the Serbs FIRST? Your analogies are flawed.

Again, note carefully Zawadi’s logic: Serbs were wrong since they started the fight by invading Bosnian territory. This means that Muhammad and his bloodthirsty hordes were wrong, in fact outright evil, for invading and fighting peoples who had done nothing to the Muslims.

Indeed, how can one compare what the Serbs have done with what Muhammad and his barbaric army did to so much of the world, i.e. pillaging, raping, murdering and enslaving people through their military expeditions and political conquests?

When asked about Muhammad’s actions influencing Muslim societies to torture people in the same manner that he did, Zawadi asserts:

If any one does to someone what the tribe of Ukl did to that poor shepherd then of course we will punish them accordingly. This real Islamic society will be a society that protects its citizens and fights crime hard.

Again, if Zawadi is to be consistent then this means that Muhammad and his companions deserved to be punished in the same way, if not worse, since they committed even greater crimes and atrocities than the Uraynians ever did! For more on Muhammad’s brutalities and cold-blooded murders we recommend the following articles:

In conclusion, we must say that Zawadi hasn’t been able to provide sound justification for Muhammad’s atrocious and vicious acts against humanity. He has merely given us further opportunities to highlight just how cruel and vindictive his prophet truly was.

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