The Messenger of God’s Struggle Against Torture

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Torture

Individuals with no respect for rights and freedoms, and a lack of concern for justice, resort to inhumane methods to achieve their goals. Torture, which is a crime against humanity, involves subjecting a person to physical and psychological pain in degrading and inhumane treatment with purposes such as extracting information, administering unlawful punishment, forcing confessions, compelling a change in religion or beliefs, coercing someone to commit an act, satisfying sadistic emotions, and so on.

This crime and sin, throughout history, has been committed not only through physical techniques such as burning, mutilating, cutting, beating, and administering electric shocks to the body and organs but also through verbal and psychological torture that aims to disturb a person’s mental well-being and undermine their dignity.

This includes uttering severe insults that can damage a person’s emotional state, cursing or inciting others to curse the individual or their loved ones, constantly demeaning their beliefs, forcibly separating a person from their family or taking a family member away from them, causing harm to them, or threatening to harm them.

During the Meccan period, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions faced severe physical and emotional torture due to their faith and mission. The polytheists who sought to turn him away from the path of truth, cease his preaching and guidance activities, and extinguish the light of Islam subjected him to constant ridicule in society.

They addressed him with the most demeaning nicknames, hurled intense insults at him, poured filth on him, attempted to drown him multiple times, scattered thorns on the paths he walked, physically assaulted him, threw stones at him, harmed his loved ones, imposed a harsh three-year boycott, disrupted the marriages of his daughters, and attempted to isolate him from society.

Similarly, the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) were subjected to severe torture as well. They were chained, imprisoned, kept without food and water for days, brutally beaten multiple times, made to wear iron shirts and exposed to extreme heat, laid on hot rocks with heavy stones placed on them, dragged through the streets with ropes around their necks, forced to lie on burning embers, had their children taken away from them, immersed in water to the point of suffocation, and in some cases, martyred under intense torture.

Indeed, due to the relentless pressure to renounce their faith, they were compelled to leave their homes and abandon their peace and security to seek refuge elsewhere.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), sent as a mercy to all worlds, steadfastly opposed all forms of torture throughout his life. He did not tolerate even the slightest mistreatment that could harm a living being, and he consistently conveyed the message, “Never approach torture!” to those around him to block the paths leading to it.

He laid the foundations of his civilization on universal legal and ethical values such as respect for rights, justice, law, and freedom; as well as love, compassion, forgiveness, and benevolent treatment. He was extremely sensitive to human dignity, rights, and freedoms, and he prohibited and took preventive measures against any violation, oppression, injustice, demeaning practices, and torture, regardless of the purpose.

He never compromises on the issue of torture, ranging from the mildest form of verbal torment and harm to the most severe atrocities like mutilation (gouging out eyes, cutting organs). He consistently addresses and warns, striving to create high awareness and develop consciousness within the Islamic community:

The Body and Dignity of a Human Being Are Inviolable!

The Qur’an informs that humans are created in the most beautiful form,1 entrusted with service to everything in the universe,2designated as the vicegerent of the Almighty on Earth,3 and honored beings.4 When looking at existence through the lens of the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), guided by God, describes “humanity” to his audience, aiming to elevate it to a sublime position in their minds.

He shows equal respect to the living 5 and the deceased without distinguishing their identity. Indeed, both the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) share the goal of guiding “humans” towards happiness in this world and the hereafter.

Therefore, any torture inflicted upon such a valuable being, whether in life or death, is deemed forbidden and criminal, deserving the severest penalties.

According to Islam, the greatest truth is that even faith cannot be forcibly imposed on people.6 A confession obtained under torture is deemed invalid. The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) in his teachings, commands, “Do not torture God’s servants!” 7 and prohibits any harm to a person’s life, body, property, dignity, and honor.

He states, “O people! Your blood, lives, right to live, property, honor, and dignity are as sacred and inviolable today, in this month, in this city, as they are respected and protected until the day you meet your Lord. Only the penalties imposed based on justified and legitimate decisions according to Islam are exceptions to this inviolability.’’8

Torture is an Injustice that Leads to the Ruin of Human Beings

Islam safeguards human rights and freedoms by entrusting the authority of forgiveness entirely to the rightful owner through the profound concept of “rights of individuals”. It considers violating these rights as one of the greatest sins, warning of grave consequences in the hereafter and urging Muslims to be extremely cautious.

Those who inflict torture upon others first violate the rights of individuals, and in the afterlife, they may lose everything.

To emphasize this point, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) once asked those around him, “Do you know who the bankrupt person is?” They replied, “O Messenger of Allah! (peace and blessings be upon him) A bankrupt person among us is one who has no money or possessions.” The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) then said, “The bankrupt person from my ummah (community) is one who comes on the Day of Judgment with prayers, fasting, and charity, but has also insulted this person, falsely accused that person, consumed the wealth of another, shed the blood of someone else, and physically harmed another.

So, his good deeds will be given to those whom he wronged. If his good deeds run out before the rights are fulfilled, their sins will be taken and cast upon him, and he will be thrown into the hellfire.”9

Thus, it emphasizes that violating the material and spiritual rights of individuals through torture can lead a Muslim to bankruptcy in the hereafter, despite their servitude. Yes, torture is a great injustice, and like other wrongdoings, it will undoubtedly be brought before individuals on the Day of Judgment.

Those who inflict torture upon the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) will be cursed and subjected to punishment!

In the introduction, it was mentioned that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions endured various forms of torture. The Qur’an states that those who inflict harm and engage in offensive behavior against God and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) are cursed by God in this world and the Hereafter, and a humiliating punishment awaits them.”10 Furthermore, the Qur’an states that some hypocrites used to say hurtful things about the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), insinuating, “He is all ears for everyone!” To this, the response is given: “Yes, he is indeed all ears for what is good for you.

He believes in God and trusts the believers. He is a mercy for those among you who believe.” The Qur’an also mentions the actions of some hypocrites who tortured the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) through their deeds and words, deserving the most painful punishment.11

Then the Qur’an warns the believers till the doomsday not to be like those who tormented Prophet Moses, as a cautionary example.12

The slightest torture inflicted upon a believer is an affront to God and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him)

The Almighty declares that those who inflict torture upon believing men and women and do not repent will face the torment of Hellfire.13

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) also emphasized that God does not approve of causing harm to a believer. He forbids the slightest harm to be inflicted upon the believers and consistently warns against it.14

One day in the Prophet’s Mosque, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) observes someone jumping over people’s backs to come closer and sit near him. After completing his prayer, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) turns to the man and asks, “Why didn’t you sit at the back?” The man responds, “O Messenger of God! (peace and blessings be upon him) I wanted to sit where you could me.” In response, he says, “I saw you jumping over the congregation’s backs and causing them discomfort. Whoever causes harm to a Muslim has harmed me, and whoever harms me has harmed God.”15

When people’s discussions about Abu Jahl turn into torture for his son, the respected Ikrima, he decides to leave Medina. Upon learning of the situation, the Prophet Muhammad (peace blessings be upon him) gathered the people in the Prophet’s Mosque and said, “Do not revile the dead, for you may hurt their living relatives.” In this way, he conveys the message that believers should not be harmed in any way or to any extent.16

Torture based on different identities is forbidden!

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) not only forbids Muslims from inflicting torture on each other but also prohibits them from tormenting and abusing individuals of different identities living among them.

The Companions, in turn, act with great sensitivity in this matter. Upon witnessing even the slightest act of torment, they intervene, reminding those involved of the teachings of the Prophet and preventing any form of abuse. For example, the respected Hisham ibn Hakim once witnessed some farmers being kept under the sun in the region of Damascus.

He immediately inquired about the reason behind this practice. He learns that they are being held under the sun because they have not paid the jizya (a tax imposed on non-Muslims). In response, he mentions the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)”Those who torment people in this world will be tormented by God in the hereafter.” He then goes to Umeyr ibn Sa’d, the governor of Palestine at that time and ensures an end to this practice.17

Torture is not permissible even against the enemy!

After the Hijra, those who turned enemies to Islam and Muslims mobilized armies to march against Medina. To secure the safety of the city, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), upon receiving information about any movement, immediately sends military units to prevent the danger from escalating. While bidding farewell to his soldiers, he provides various advice and warnings, one of which is the command and admonition, “Do not torture anyone!”18

During the military campaigns under his command, he never permitted the infliction of torture on the opposing side, whether on their deceased or the captured prisoners. For instance, Suhayl ibn Amr, who used his tongue as a weapon to oppose the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him), was captured as a prisoner of war after the Battle of Badr.

The respected Umar suggests, “O Messenger of God! (peace and blessings be upon him) Let me pull out his teeth and cut off his tongue so that he can never speak against you anywhere and forever!” In response, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) says, “No! I cannot subject him to this torment. If I do so, despite being a prophet, God might apply retribution on me! Leave him, O Umar! Leave him, and there will come a time when he will do things that please you.”19

He ordered that all prisoners be treated with kindness and benevolence.20

Torturing animals is a condemned brutality!

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) prohibits not only the torture of humans but also the torture of animals,21 stating, “May God curse those who torment (musilla)

animals.” 22

When he arrived in Medina, he witnessed some people cutting off the humps of camels

and the tails of sheep while the animals were still alive. In response, he declares, “Whatever is cut off from an animal while it is still alive is impure; it is not permissible to eat.”23

He puts an end to this barbaric practice from the pre-Islamic era. He sees a donkey with a mutilated face and says, “May God curse those who mutilate animals like this!” 24

He condemns and forbids this cruelty,25 explicitly stating that using anything with a soul as a target is prohibited.26 He even curses those who engage in such practices,27 prohibiting the use of animals as targets and declaring that the meat of animals killed through torture in this way is impure. 28

He also prohibits hitting 29 and fighting animals.30 When he sees someone pulling an animal by

its ear, he advises, “Leave the ear of the poor creature and hold it by the side of its neck!”31 He

guides the person to avoid causing pain while pulling.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), who advocates for kindness in all actions,32 instructs that when milking animals, their nails must be trimmed to avoid hurting them.33 He also insists on sharpening the knife thoroughly when slaughtering animals to ensure a swift and humane process.34

He also forbids starving and depriving animals of water. To illustrate the consequences of such mistreatment, he gives the example: “A woman entered Hell because of a cat. She tied it up and neither fed it herself nor set it free, so that it could find food.”35

On another occasion, he sees someone milking a goat and insists that the person must leave some milk for the goat’s offspring.36

He does not even tolerate insulting animals. During a journey, he hears a camel being cursed by its owner. He immediately orders the removal of the load on the camel and prohibits its owner from riding it as a punishment.37

He sees a bird flying in distress and investigates the cause. Upon

learning that its chick was taken from the nest, he immediately orders it to be returned to its place.38

A person cannot also inflict torture upon oneself!

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) conveys that it is not right for a person to inflict harm upon themselves, regardless of the purpose, emphasizing that the body and organs have their own rights.39

One day, he saw an elderly man struggling to walk with the help of his two sons and asked, “Why is he walking like this?” His sons responded, “He had vowed to walk to the Kaaba!” In response, he said, “God is independent of the worship performed by this elderly man through self-inflicted hardship!” He emphasized that it was not right for a person to harm themselves, even in the name of worship, and ordered the elderly man to ride an animal instead.40

Conclusion

At the core of the life philosophy of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), sent as a mercy, lies compassion and justice. He forbids torture for everyone, whether they are free or enslaved, Muslim or belonging to another identity, guilty or innocent, human or any other living being. In his interactions and relationships, he consistently advocates for mercy and justice, saying, “The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth, and the One above the heavens will have mercy upon you!”41

To prevent Muslims from committing such a grave injustice as torture, he pays attention to the smallest details, issues warnings, and tries to instill a sense of conscience in them.

Moreover, he never remains silent in the face of any torture; he immediately intervenes, shedding light on the attitude Muslims should adopt. Indeed, he considers even removing harmful objects causing distress to people and animals on the road as a requirement of faith 42 and categorizes it as an act of worship: “While removing harmful things from the road is an act of charity.” 43

In such a situation, when torture is considered a crime against humanity, believers should take the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) as an example. They should not allow torture under any circumstances and should actively work to eliminate it.

Autor: Yucel Men

Footnotes

1.Tin, 95/4.

2.Jasiya, 45/13.

3.Baqara, 2/30.

4.Isra, 17/70.

5.Muslim, Janaiz 78.

6.Baqara, 2/256.

7.Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad 37/88 (22402); Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid 8/90.

8.Bukhari, Haj 132; Maghazi 78; Tawhid 24; Adahi 5.

9.Muslim, Bir 15; Tirmidhi, Sıfatu’l-Qiyama 2.

10.Ahzab, 33/57.

11.Tawba, 9/61.

12.Ahzab, 33/69.

13.Buruj, 85/10.

14.Tirmidhi, Edeb 59

15.Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid 2/182; Tabarani, Mujamu’s-Saghir 1/284

16.Tirmidhi, Birr 51; Hannad, Zuhd 2/561; Hakim, Mustadrak 3/269; Ibn Abdilbarr, Istiab 3/1082.

17.Muslim, Birr 33; Abu Dawud, Haraj 32.

18.Muslim, Jihad 2; Abu Dawud, Jihad 82.

19.Waqidi, Maghazi 1/107, 108; Zaylai, Nasbu’r-Raya 3/120; Ibn Kathir, Bidaya 3/311; Hakim, Mustadrak 3/318; Ibn Hisham, Sira 3/200; Tabari, Tarikh 3/42; Ibn Hajar, Isaba 3/213.

20.Ibn Hisham, Sira 1/380; Tabari, Tarikh 3/40; Halabi, Sira 2/257.

21.Bukhari, Mazalim 30; Ibn Majah, Zabaih 10.

22.Bukhari, Zabaih 25; Muslim, Sayd 59; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad 7/235 (3133).

23.Tirmidhi, Sayd 12.

24.Muslim, Libas and Zinat 107.

25.Abu Dawud, Jihad 52

26.Ibn Majah, Zabaih 10

27.Bukhari, Zabaih 25

28.Tirmidhi, At’ima 24

29.Bukhari, Sayd 35.

30.Tirmidhi, Jihad 30.

31.Ibn Majah, Zabaih 3.

32.Muslim, Sayd 57; Ibn Majah, Zabaih 3.

33.Haythami, Majma’ 8/196; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 7/48.

34.Muslim, Sayd 57; Ibn Majah, Zabaih 3.

35.Bukhari, Anbiya 54; Muslim, Sayd 11.

36.Haythami, Majma’ 8/196.

37.Abu Dawud, Jihad 50.

38.Abu Dawud, Jihad 112.

39.Bukhari, Sawm 55, 57.

40.Bukhari, Jazau’s-Sayd 27; Muslim, Nazr 4.

41.Abu Dawud, Adab 58.

42.Muslim, Iman 58.

43.Bukhari, Mazalim 24.

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