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Revisiting "Was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) Unfair In The Way He Punished The Armed Robbers From The Tribe Of Ukl?"

Bassam Zawadi




I originally wrote an article about the Prophet Muhammad and his punishment of the robbers of Ukl here https://www.answering-christianity.com/bassam_zawadi/was_prophet_muhammad_unfair.htm and Sam Shamoun wrote a response to it here http://www..org/Shamoun/cruelty.htm.


Sam Shamoun said:

One of the most vile and cruel acts ever performed by Muhammad was his bloody torture and murder of the men of Ukl or Uraynah. According to Muslims sources, some men converted to Islam and traveled to Medina. Because of the climate in Medina, these men got sick and Muhammad recommended that they drink camel urine and milk for their ailment. The Muslim sources claim that the men then apostatized, killed the herdsman and took off with the flock. Muhammad sent an expedition to catch them, and once they were caught Muhammad had them brutally tortured. Here is the version as narrated by al-Bukhari:

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)

Muslims have devised ways to justify Muhammad’s brutality and cold-heartedness. One Muslim defends this wicked, murderous torture on the grounds that these men were getting what they deserved, a sort of eye for an eye (pun intended):

Muslims believe in equality, which is a universal principle. 

Surah 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.

The reason why the Prophet applied such a brutal punishment to those Bedouins was because the Prophet found out that those Bedouins did the same exact thing to the shepherd. 

You can read the Tafsir for that hadith here


Therefore, the punishment that was ordered upon them was fair and just because they deserved to feel and endure what they made that poor shepherd feel. (Bassam Zawadi, Was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) Unfair In The Way He Punished The Armed Robbers From The Tribe Of Ukl?; source)

Another Muslim provides a similar defense:

… However, in one of the narratives reported in Ibn Al-Jarood's Al-Muntaqaa, Anas (ra) is reported to have explained the reason for this punishment as well. The companion of the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said:

The Prophet (pbuh) branded their eyes because they had branded the eyes of the herdsmen. (volume 1, Pg. 216)

This explanation adequately clarifies the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) ordered the branding the eyes of the culprits, in compliance with the Qur'anic directive of Qisaas (Al-Baqarah 2: 178, Al-Maaidah 5: 45) for the punishment of murder and inflicting physical injury on someone.

In view of the foregoing explanation, I find no reason to consider the incident narrated in the referred narrative to be unauthentic. (A Case of a Severe Punishment Delivered by the Prophet (pbuh); source)

What both of these Muslims conveniently fail to tell their readers is that Allah himself supposedly rebuked Muhammad for his excessive brutality and allegedly sent down Sura 5:33-34 as a future corrective, prescribing the precise punishments that were to be meted out for such crimes. The text prescribes the following:

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land IS ONLY THIS, that they should be murdered OR crucified OR their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides OR they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement, Except those who repent before you have them in your power; so know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Shakir

Another version translates the text in a slightly different manner:

This is the recompense of those who fight against God and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth, to do corruption there: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off; or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement, except for such as repent, before you have power over them. So know you that God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. Arberry

Hence, this reference tells Muslims that they can only choose one of the following punishments:

  1. Kill the persons.
  2. Crucify the person.
  3. Cut off the hands and feet of the opposite side, which means that only one of the hands and one of the feet can be amputated. It makes no sense to say to cut off the limbs of the opposite sides if this refers to amputating all of the limbs.
  4. Imprison the person or, depending on how one understands the last part, banishment from the land.

Notice that branding out the eyes or causing a person to die of thirst or dehydration is not part of Allah’s prescribed punishments for those that wage war against Allah and his messenger.

Renowned Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir indicates that this verse was initially given in reference to the men of Ukl or Uraynah:

<Allah is Of-Forgiving, Most Merciful,) "Were revealed about the idolators. Therefore, the Ayah decrees that, whoever among them repents before you apprehend them, then you have no right to punish them. This Ayah does not save a Muslim from punishment if he kills, causes mischief in the land or wages war against Allah and His Messenger and then joins rank with the disbelievers, before the Muslims are able to catch him. He will still be liable for punishment for the crimes he committed." Abu Dawud and An-Nasa'i recorded that `Ikrimah said that Ibn `Abbas said that the Ayah…

<The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land…> "Was revealed concerning the idolators, those among them who repent before being apprehended, they will still be liable for punishment for the crimes they committed." The correct opinion is that this Ayah is general in meaning and includes the idolators and all others who commit the types of crimes the Ayah mentioned. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that Abu Qilabah `Abdullah bin Zayd Al-Jarmi, said that Anas bin Malik said, "Eight people of the `Ukl tribe came to the Messenger of Allah and gave him their pledge to follow Islam. Al-Madinah's climate did not suit them and they became sick and complained to Allah's Messenger. So he said…

<Go with our shepherd to be treated by the milk and urine of his camels.> So they went as directed, and after they drank from the camels' milk and urine, they became healthy, and they killed the shepherd and drove away all the camels. The news reached the Prophet and he sent (men) in their pursuit and they were captured. He then ordered that their hands and feet be cut off (and it was done), and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron. Next, they were put in the sun until they died." This is the wording of Muslim. In another narration for this Hadith, it was mentioned that these people were from the tribes of `Ukl or `Uraynah. Another narration reported that these people were put in the Harrah area (of Al-Madinah), and when they asked for water, no water was given to them. Allah said…

<they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land.> (Source; underline emphasis ours)

Here is what hadith compiler Abu Dawud narrated:

The tradition mentioned above has also been transmitted by Anas b. Malik through a different chain of narrators. This version says: The Apostle of Allah sent some people who were experts in tracking in pursuit of them and they were brought (to him). Allah, the Exalted, THEN revealed the verse ABOUT IT: "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Apostle and strive for mischief through the land."

A similar tradition has also been transmitted by Anas b. Malik through a different chain of narrators. This version adds: He THEN forbade disfiguring. This version does not mention the words "from opposite sides". This tradition has been narrated by Shu‘bah from Qatadah and Sallam b. Miskin from Thabit on the authority of Anas. They did not mention the words "from opposite sides". I did not find these words "their hands and fee were cut off from opposite sides" in any version except in the version of Hammad b. Salamah. (Sunan Abu Dawud, English translation with explanatory notes by Professor Ahmad Hasan [Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters; Lahore, Pakistan, 1984], Numbers 4353, 4355, Volume III, pp. 1216-1217; bold, underline, capital and italic emphasis ours)

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)

Narrated Abu al-Zinad:
When the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) cut off (the hands and feet of) those who had stolen his camels and he had their eyes put out by fire (heated nails), ALLAH REPRIMANDED HIM ON THAT (ACTION), and Allah, the Exalted, revealed: "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Apostle and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is execution or crucifixion." (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4357)

Unfortunately, Allah intervened too late and supposedly sent down the texts only after the brutal and excessive murders had already taken place. Be that as it may, the fact that one of these narrations say that Muhammad was rebuked for his cruelty shows just how excessively brutal and unjust these murders were even by Allah’s standards!

In light of the prescribed punishments of Sura 5:33, Muhammad was guilty for committing excessive brutality in these vicious murders. His violations and cruelty included the following:

  1. Cutting off both hands and legs, when he was supposed to cut off only one hand and one leg from the opposite sides.
  2. Having their eyes pierced through with nails.
  3. Refusing to give them water thereby causing them to die of thirst.

In light of the foregoing, it is quite obvious that the Muslim responses are pretty weak and fail to take into consideration what even their own sources say about Muhammad’s brutality and how even his own god was displeased with his barbarous acts.


My Response:

Lets look at each claim first. Shamoun says that the Prophet should have cut the hands and feet from opposite sides. However, the incident took place before the verse was even revealed and the Prophet was not obliged to obey it because it was not even revealed yet. 

However, there are narrations that state that the Prophet did order the cutting of their hands and feet from opposite sides. 


ukl_1.jpg (2658 bytes)

Source: http://hadith.al-islam.com/Display/Display.asp?Doc=4&Rec=5478

Al Hafiz said: there is a narration by Al Tirmidhi which says on opposite sides. 

So its possible that the Prophet did order the cutting of the hands and feet from opposite sides. Therefore, if it is POSSIBLE then you can't use it as sufficient evidence to accuse the Prophet. However, either way this verse was sent down after the incident and the Prophet did not technically disobey the Quran.


As for the Prophet's refusal to give them water. Well there are different opinions.....


ukl_2.JPG (27004 bytes)

Source: http://hadith.al-islam.com/Display/Display.asp?Doc=4&Rec=5478

And Qadi Iyad said regarding the refusal to their request of water that on who so ever there is a duty to kill, providing that person with water is not forbidden, and he answered that this was not the order of the Prophet peace be upon him and he never refused to provide them with water. Al Hafiz said and it is a very weak narration that the Prophet peace be upon him indirectly ordered it because his silence was enough for the ruling of his judgment.

And Al Khattabi said: The Prophet peace be upon him wanted them to die that way (of thirst) and said: The wisdom behind letting them get thirsty is because they disbelieved in the blessing of the milk of the camel that was a cure for them; and because the Prophet peace be upon him also called for the thirst of those who made his Ahlul Bayt thirsty in a story narrated by Al Tirmidhi.


Al Nawawi was also of the opinion that if Muslims don't have enough water for ablution, they shouldn't be obliged to make Tayamum and therefore could let the apostate warrior die of thirst. (Source: http://hadith.al-islam.com/Display/Display.asp?Doc=4&Rec=5478)

It is also said in Fathul Wadud that the Prophet let them die of thirst as Qisas because they did so to the shepherd. (Source: http://hadith.al-islam.com/Display/Display.asp?Doc=4&Rec=5478)


I absolutely see nothing wrong with what the Prophet did. The Prophet either never ordered it, or did it because indeed those warriors deserved it. 


As for God supposedly sending this verse in order to reprimand the glorious Prophet........


ukl_3.JPG (16175 bytes)

Source:  http://hadith.al-islam.com/Display/Display.asp?Doc=4&Rec=5480


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. 

Of course, I would take the opinion of Ibn Umar as he was one of the greatest scholars of Islam. This just goes to show that some companions of the Prophet misunderstood the reason for this revelation. 

God did not reprimand the glorious Prophet. 

Even for sake of argument, lets say that God did indeed reprimand the Prophet. He would have reprimanded him for doing something wrong. Because we know that the Prophet made mistakes and that God would correct the Prophet at times. 

Unlike the God of the Bible who reprimanded Saul for not killing animals as He ordered him to.

God ordered Saul to attack the Amalekites for the following reason 

1 Samuel 15:2

This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt

God says in 

1 Samuel 15:3

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy [a] everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'

What harm did the animals do? How did they affect the Israelites?

Anyways, Saul did not kill all the animals as he was supposed to, so God reprimanded him

1 Samuel 15:7-11

7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. 8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves [b] and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

    10 Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.

So even if Sam wants to insist that Allah reprimanded the Prophet for doing something wrong (which he didn't as I proved) then what does he think of his God being displeased with those that did not kill innocent animals, which is something wrong?


In conclusion, Sam Shamoun has proved nothing against the glorious Prophet Muhammad. 

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Sam Shamoun responded back to this article and I replied back here 



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Islam and the Noble Quran - Questions and Answers.

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Did Isaiah 53 really prophesies about the crucifixion of Jesus? It supports Islam's claims about Jesus peace be upon him never died on the cross.  I also addressed John 19:36-37 from the Bible and proved that Jesus never got crucified, since GOD Almighty promised that he will protect Jesus' body and not let even a single bone be broken.   My question to all Christians is: How in the world is it possible for the feet to get nailed on the cross without any penetration to the bones by the nails, hence breaking part of the feet's bones?! I also added refutations to Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12, Zechariah 12:10 and Psalm 34:20, which supposedly prove the Christians' belief about Jesus crucifixion.  I proved that this dogma has no truth what so ever and exposed the wrong Trinitarian English translation of Zechariah 12:10.

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