The Myths of Muhammad

The Myth:

Muhammad Would Never Approve of Murder

The Truth:

“Kill any Jew that falls into your power!”

This was the command that Muhammad gave to his people following the murder of another Jew named Ka’b al-Ashraf.  From the nighttime assassination of Asma bint Marwan (a poet and mother of five) to the Christians killed at Tabuk, this is but one of many examples from the Sira that refute the silly idea that the prophet of Islam never approved of murder.

Following the gory assassination of al-Ashraf, Muhammad wished to assert his dominance in Medina by instilling terror into the hearts of the local Jewish population.  Many of the locals were having second thoughts about  allowing the Muslim immigrants into their community, which seemed particularly unwise in retrospect given that Muhammad had already begun killing and evicting the original residents only eighteen months after arriving.

Muhammad’s solution was to intimidate the local populace, particularly the two surviving Jewish tribes (the Nadir and Qurayza).  Gleeful over the successful assassination of the Nadir leader, al-Ashraf, the prophet of Islam immediately exhorted his men to a random murder spree that would further narrow down the opposition through terror and conversion.

Following Muhammad’s mandate to kill "any Jew that falls into your power," a Muslim follower stabbed his Jewish business partner to death.  The Muslim's brother was initially horrified by the crime, since they were not only on friendly terms with the victim, but the merchant was integral to their own livelihood:

The apostle said, “Kill any Jew that falls into your power.”  Thereupon Muhayyisa leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him.  Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time, though he was the elder brother.  When Muhayyisa killed [the Jew] Huwayyisa began to beat him, saying, “You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?”  Muhayyisa answered, “Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off.”  This was the beginning of Huwayyisa’s acceptance of Islam… [Huwayyisa] replied exclaimed, “By God, a religion which can bring you to this is marvelous!” and he became a Muslim. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 554)

The unbelieving brother is quite impressed with Islam’s ability to influence a man even to kill his own family on Muhammad's order.  As such, he accepts the “Religion of Peace” on the spot (assuming his conversion was not out of self-preservation).

Another example of Muhammad clearly approving of murder occurred following a botched attempt to assassinate an arch rival in Mecca.  Muhammad's hand-picked assassins were discovered before they could carry out their mission and had to hide in a cave.  An innocent man grazing his horse soon came their way:

While we were in the cave, up came Thuman bin Malik bin Ubaydullah al-Taymi cutting grass for a horse of his.  He kept coming nearer until he was at the very entrance of the cave... I went out and stabbed him under the breast with the dagger.  He shrieked so loud that the Meccans heard him.  (al-Tabari 1439)

After this, the killers later found themselves in another cave, into which a one-eyed shepherd haplessly entered while taking a break:

When he asked who I was I told him that I was one of the [Muslims].  Then he laid down beside me and lifting up his voice began to sing: "I won't be a Muslim as long as I live, nor heed to their religion give."

I said (to myself) 'you will soon know' and as soon as the badu was asleep and snoring I got up and killed him in a more horrible way than any man has been killed.  I put the end of my bow in his sound eye, then I bore down on it until I it out at the back of his neck. (al-Tabari 1440)

Amazingly, the murder spree was not yet finished.  The Muslims killed a third Meccan on the way back and took another prisoner.  Muhammad was told about the various murders, including that of the sleeping shepherd whose only "crime" was to say that he would never be Muslim.  He reaction:

{Muhammad] laughed so that one could see his back teeth.  He asked me the news and when I told him what had happened, he blessed me.  (Tabari 1441)

There are many other examples in which Muhammad ordered or approved of the killing of non-Muslims who simply weren't guilty of capital crimes, even according to the devout Muslim historians who recorded the events.  Since murder is defined in Islam as a person killing another member of their own class (see the Law of Equality, Qur’an 2:178), becoming a Muslim was the only way to ensure that one wasn’t murdered by Muhammad’s men at the time. 

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