The Myths of Muhammad

The Myth:

Muhammad Never Killed Children

The Truth:

It is probably fair to say that Muhammad did not approve of killing children intentionally.  A verse from the Qur’an laments the pre-Islamic Arab practice of infanticide against baby girls, for example.  Other evidence from the Hadith suggests that he instructed his men not to kill children in battle if it could be avoided, but to capture them for slavery. 

While Muhammad told his people to "kill those who disbelieve in Allah," children were often given a reprieve:

[Muhammad said] “Fight everyone in the way of Allah and kill those who disbelieve in Allah.  Do not be deceitful with the spoils; do not be treacherous, nor mutilate nor kill children.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 992)

But Muhammad’s definition of a child was not the same as contemporary understanding.  Following the surrender of the Qurayza stronghold, he ordered the execution of every male child who had reached puberty.  His men had the boys drop their pants so that they could chop the head off of anyone with pubic hair (Abu Dawud 4390).

Keep in mind that many Muslims also insist that Aisha reached puberty at age nine, since that is the age that Muhammad began having sex with her.  If so, then the age for “manhood” among boys might have been considered around twelve.

Muhammad played a bit loose with the lives of women and children during wartime.  As recorded in both Bukhari and Sahih Muslim:

It is reported on the authority of Sa'b b. Jaththama that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), when asked about the women and children of the polytheists being killed during the night raid, said: “They are from them. (Sahih Muslim 4322, see also Bukhari 52:256)

This does not justify the targeted killing of women and children per se, but it does prove that collateral damage is entirely acceptable if it accomplishes the military goal of spreading Islamic rule. 

Muhammad used a catapult against the city of Taif - a catuplut kills indiscriminately.  The only crime those citizens were guilty of was rejecting his claims of being a prophet and evicting him.

Muhammad drew a distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim children and implied that it would be permissible to kill a child who has no prospect of accepting Islam:

The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) used not to kill the children, so thou shouldst not kill them unless you could know what Khadir had known about the child he killed, or you could distinguish between a child who would grow up to he a believer (and a child who would grow up to be a non-believer), so that you killed the (prospective) non-believer and left the (prospective) believer aside. (Sahih Muslim 4457)

After capturing Mecca, the prophet of Islam also ordered the execution of two “singing girls” who had mocked him in verse:

“…two singing-girls Fartana and her friend who used to sing satirical songs about the apostle, so he ordered that they should be killed…” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 819)

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