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"I’d rather die standing up
than live on my knees."
Stephane Charbonnier
(1967-2015)


Myths of Muhammad

The Myth:

Muhammad Never
Killed a Woman


"Our Prophet (peace be upon him) always forbade the mistreatment of women."

The Truth:

Muhammad ordered the murder of several women in his time.  After he captured Mecca in 630, for example, he demanded that two female slaves be put to death along with their master, merely because they had mocked Muhammad in song (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 819, Abu Dawud 2684).

The brutal death of Umm Qirfa also refutes this myth.  So do the women who were killed in battle (Bukhari 52:257), when Muhammad’s men attacked a town or tribe – although his preference was that women be captured for sexual servitude rather than killed.

One account not only speaks of the killing of a defenseless woman, but also refutes the broader misconception that Islam is against attacking others for reasons other than self-defense:
We went with the apostle on the raid of Dhatu’l-Riqa of Nakhl and a man killed the wife of one of the polytheists.  When the apostle was on his way back, her husband, who had been away, returned and heard the news of her death.  He swore that he would not rest until he had taken vengeance. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 665)
Muhammad ordered a Jewish woman put to death for literally losing her mind while the male members of her family were being beheaded (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 691).  There were also several women that the prophet of Islam ordered killed for adultery.  One example:
He went to her in the morning and she made a confession. And Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) made pronouncement about her and she was stoned to death. (Sahih Muslim 4209)
There are other examples as well, but perhaps the story from Muhammad’s biography that best lays to rest the silly idea that he never approved of harming women is the assassination of Asma bint Marwan, a poet and mother of five.  For the crime of "displaying disaffection" at the Muslim murder of an elderly man (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 995), the "apostle" ordered her executed in the dead of night.

The brutal murder of this woman by an assassin - who had to remove a suckling infant before plunging the knife into her breast - is recounted here, as is Muhammad’s glee on hearing that his order had been successfully carried out.

Muslims who don’t deny the story outright (as some are prone to do) usually claim that Asma posed a threat to Muhammad, since she urged the Medinan community to put and end to the Muslim reign of terror before it was too late.  Such fervent believers never appear to question why a man claiming to be Allah’s mouthpiece would find it necessary to respond to a woman’s dissention with violence rather than logical argument, particularly if he had done nothing wrong to begin with.

It is also interesting to note that even when Muhammad forbade the killing of non-combatants in war, he took no action against the most brutal abusers from among his ranks.  In addition to the account of Umm Qirfa (noted above) there is the fate of an unknown woman "whom Khalid bin Walid had killed" in front of the other Muslims (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 856).  Although not approving of the woman's murder, Muhammad took no punitive measures against Khalid, who was left in charge and went on to lead the military conquest of Christian and Persian lands.  (This was not even the first time that Khalid bin Walid had slaughtered innocent people, including women - see Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 834-838 for a more graphic event).

Finally, it is worth mentioning that sparing the lives of captured women (and children) had less to do with compassion and more to do with the fact that they were considered property.

Further Reading:

 

Myths of Muhammad Index

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