Islam Torture





Is torture sanctioned by Islam?

Summary Answer:

Yes, but only when there is a reason for it.

The Qur'an:

Torture in this world

Sura (5:33) - "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger 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..."

Sura (8:12) - "Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): "I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them."

Sura (48:29) - "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves"

Torture in the next

Sura (22:19-22) - "These twain (the believers and the disbelievers) are two opponents who contend concerning their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, garments of fire will be cut out for them; boiling fluid will be poured down on their heads. Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted; And for them are hooked rods of iron. Whenever, in their anguish, they would go forth from thence they are driven back therein and (it is said unto them): Taste the doom of burning." The punishment of those who merely disbelieve in Muhammad's claims about himself is described as being horrifically brutal in many other places as well, such as Sura 4:56, which says that they will face a continuous cycle of torture in which their skin will be burned off only to be replaced by new skin.

How Allah feels about non-Muslims naturally determines the attitude of Muslims. In the Qur'an, Muhammad explicitly uses Allah's hatred of unbelievers to motivate his people to Jihad:

Sura (9:73): "O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them. Their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless journey's end."

From the Hadith:

Muslim (16:4131) - They were caught and brought to him (the Holy Prophet). He commanded about them, and (thus) their hands and feet were cut off and their eyes were gouged and then they were thrown in the sun, until they died. Muhammad had two murderers put to death, not in the way of "an eye-for-an-eye," but in a far more agonizing manner.

Muslim (17:4196) - A married man confesses that he has adultery (four times, as required). Muhammad orders him planted in the ground and pelted with stones. According to the passage, the first several stones caused such pain that he tried to escape and was dragged back.

Ibn Ishaq 436 - When Muhammad wished to attack the Meccan army at Badr, his men captured two slaves who were carrying water for the caravans and brought them into his presence. They were interrogated under torture as Muhammad stood praying: ??they brought them along and questioned them while the apostle was standing praying? The people were dismayed at their report?and so they beat them. When they were beaten soundly?

Ibn Ishaq 734 - When Muhammad?s favorite wife Aisha was accused of adultery, he launched an investigation that included the brutal interrogation of a female slave: So the apostle called Burayra to ask her, and Ali got up and gave her a violent beating, saying ?Tell the Apostle the truth.?

Ibn Ishaq 764 - After amassing a powerful army, Muhammad sent his forces to take the peaceful farming community of Khaybar by surprise. In the aftermath, he was dissatisfied with the amount of plunder and felt that the town?s treasurer, Kinana, might be holding out on him. He had the man brought to him:

When he [Muhammad] asked him about the rest he refused to produce it, so the apostle gave orders to al-Zubayr bin al-Awwam, ?Torture him until you extract what he has.? So he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Muhammad bin Maslama and he struck off his head.?

(As a happy side note to the story ? Kinana's untimely death left a beautiful young widow named Saffiya, whom Muhammad was then able to ?marry?).

Additional Notes:

The life of Muhammad teaches that torture is sanctioned in cases of interrogation. The prophet of Islam did not stop his people from beating and abusing individuals in his presence when information was needed, whether it concerned a matter of sexual impropriety or the location of wealth that could be looted. In at least one case of the latter, he actually ordered the torture himself.

Torture is also allowed when putting people to death. Rather than prescribing quick execution, there were times in which Muhammad ordered his men to make a victim's death as slow and agonizing as possible. In one case, Muhammad's men literally pulled apart the body of an elderly woman named Umm Qirfa by tying her limbs to camels then sent in opposite directions (Ibn Ishaq 980).

Muslim organizations often use general phrases when addressing this issue, such as CAIR's short-lived 2006 "Campaign against Torture." This is designed to project the impression that they oppose torture in and of itself, thus attracting the support of a broader coalition. The scope of their efforts tell a different story, however, since it does not typically extend beyond condemning Western countries in general (and the US in particular). Sympathies are also tellingly limited to the alleged treatment of Muslim terror detainees.

In fact, these organizations have very little to say about ending the less ambiguous and far more brutal human rights violations practiced by Muslim governments, even though the victims there are usually Muslim as well. The goal of these "anti-torture" campaigns is not an end to torture, but the capturing of moral high ground on a controversial issue.

Islam is not fundamentally opposed to torture in certain circumstances, as long as it is the Muslim party that is applying it. This is a good example of the many common double standards within the religion that must be recognized and brought out into the open in order to facilitate our dialogue with Islam.

(Note: There are Muslim individuals who do object to torture on principle, however, so do not make assumptions about anyone based on their nominal religion.)