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




Myths of Muhammad

The Myth:

Muhammad Would Never Harbor a War Criminal


"Our Prophet (peace be upon him) never tolerated violence against innocent people."

The Truth:

It's fair to say that Muhammad did not want innocent people killed (unless they resisted Islam, in which case they were no longer defined as 'innocent').  Although this hardly qualifies as a lofty standard, his reaction to the murder of true innocents is disappointing to those who would cast him as a great moralist.  He didn't just harbor war criminals: he promoted them.

In 630, Muhammad assumed control of Mecca by marching in a large army and catching the city entirely be surprise.  Heady from this "great victory", he began sending his warriors out to "convert" outlying tribes.  A very aggressive and pious Muslim named Khalid bin Walid was sent to the Banu Jadhima, a small group which undoubtedly wanted to be left in peace.

Although the Jadhima tribe converted to Islam to save their skins, Khalid bin Walid's reputation preceded him and there was some doubt as to what he would do next if they did not defend themselves:
Khalid said, 'Lay down your arms, for everybody has accepted Islam.'

A traditionalist of B. Jadhima who was one of our companions told me: 'When Khalid ordered us to lay down our arms one of our men said, "Woe to you, B. Jadhima! This is Khalid. If you lay down your arms you will be bound, and after you have been bound you will be beheaded. By God, I'll never lay down my arms."

Some of his people laid hold of him saying "Do you want to shed our blood? Everyone else has accepted Islam and laid down their arms; war is over and everybody is safe." They persisted to the point of taking away his arms, and they themselves laid down their arms at Khalid's word. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 834)
The skeptics were thus persuaded to lay down their weapons by those who took Khalid at his word.  Here's what happened next:
As soon as they had laid down their arms, Khalid ordered their hands to be tied behind their backs and put them to the sword, killing a number of them.
The executions were heart-wrenching - particularly the slaughter of two young lovers:
I was with Khalid's cavalry that day when a young man of the B. Jadhlma who was about my own age spoke to me. His hands were tied to his neck by an old rope and the women were standing in a group a short distance away. He asked me to take hold of the rope and lead him to the women so that he might say what he had to say and then bring him back and do what we liked with him. I said that that was a small thing to ask and I led him to them.

As he stood by them he said, 'Fare you well, Hubaysha, though life is at an end.'she said: 'May your life be prolonged seven and ten continuous years and eight thereafter.' Then I took him away and he was beheaded. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 837)

Abu Firiis b. Abu Sunbula al-Aslami from some of their sheikhs from one who was present said: She went to him when he was beheaded and bent over him and kept on kissing him untIl she died at his side.
Thus, innocent people (even by Islamic standards, since they were Muslim) were captured on false pretense and brutally beheaded, including women.  This certainly qualifies as a war crime.  Khalid even said that he did this on Muhammad's order: "fight them because they keep back from Islam,"(which Muhammad denied). 

What happened after this says a lot about why Islam is the world's most violent, least humane religion:
The apostle summoned Ali and told him to go to these people and look into the affair, and abolish the practices of the pagan era.  So Ali went to them with the money the apostle had sent and paid the bloodwit and made good their monetary loss.

Then the apostle arose and faced the Qibla and raIsed his arms so that his armpits could be seen and said: '0 God, I am innocent before Thee of what Khalid has done.' This he said three times. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 835)
There is no record of discipline or punishment.  Ibn Kathir confirms that there was no demotion, and that Khalid was "left in charge" (v.3 p.425).  Muhammad did not even make his right-hand war criminal pay the blood money.  Instead, he "compensated" the traumatized survivors himself and then callously washed his hands of the matter. 

Muhammad immediately sent Khalid bin Walid on a mission to destroy a non-Muslim temple against the wishes of the people (al-Uzza).  While there,Khalid murdered a black woman:
When Khalid reached there he found a naked female with disheveled hair piling dirt over her head and face. He put her to the sword and killed her, then returned and reported to the Prophet (SAAS), who commented, "Yes, that was al-Wza." (Ibn Kathir v.3 p 428)
No hand-wringing from Muhammad this time.

Innocent people were killed yet again in the months that followed, including another defenseless woman.  Again, Muhammad's reaction is remarkably casual:
One of our companions told us that the apostle that day passed by a woman whom Khalid b. al-Walid had killed while men had gathered round her. When he heard what had happened he sent word to Khalid and forbade him to kill child, or woman, or hired slave. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 856)
The following year, Khalid killed an innocent Christian family man after luring him out of his fortress.  Muhammad rewarded him for his ingenuity and enjoyed a portion of the loot (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 903).  A few months later, he sent Khalid to invade a city (Dumat al-Jandal) to destroy its idols and murder anyone who resisted .

It's clear that by this time Muhammad was coming to appreciate Khalid's model for success.  War was ordered against people for not believing in Islam.  Blood was swept under the rug as the loot poured in.  Rather than purging this war criminal, Muhammad actually promoted him to "chief of the army!" (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 865).  

Left in charge of the military after Muhammad's death, Khalid went on to have a productive career terrorizing populations and expanding the Islamic empire.  The so-called 'Sword of Islam' left a trail of misery and death that made the earlier episodes overlooked by his prophet trivial by comparison. 

In one case he even beheaded a rival, raped his wife and then ate the severed head.  Abu Bakr, the caliph, refused to dismiss him, citing Muhammad's example and saying, "I'll not sheathe a sword that God drew against the polytheists" (Ibn Kather v.3 p.426).

None of the caliphs bothered to curb Khalid's excesses as long as he produced battlefield victories and wealth for the empire.  It was not until he stole a sum of money from the caliph Umar that he was finally dismissed from his position.

Further Reading:

 

Myths of Muhammad Index

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