Muhammad himself approved of torture as both an interrogation technique and as a way of putting an offender to death. There are several examples of this from the Sira, Hadith and the Qur’an.
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/Hisham 734
“…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/Hisham 436)
Muhammad ordered and ordered the flogging and beating of a man who had been drinking, even throwing dust in his face afterwards:
Narrated Abdur Rahman ibn Azhar: “I saw the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) …a man who had drunk wine was brought (before him) and he ordered them (to beat him). So they beat him with what they had in their hands. Some struck him with whips, some with sticks and some with sandals. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) threw some dust on his face.” (Abu Dawud 38:4474)
An egregious example of gruesome torture is Muhammad’s order of execution for several murderers. Rather than simply carry out an eye-for-an-eye killing, the prophet of Islam ordered that the men be executed slowly in the most physically agonizing manner:
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. (Sahih Muslim 4131 -this account is also confirmed by at least three other narrations).
The Qur’an also prescribes a similar form of execution:
The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides. (Quran5:33)
What constitutes “mischief in the land” is left to the interpretation of the powers that be.
When Muhammad sent his army to overrun the peaceful farming community of Khaybar, he was not satisfied with the plunder and felt that the town’s treasurer 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.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 764)
(As a happy side note to the story – the man’s brutal murder left a beautiful young widow named Saffiya, whom Muhammad was then able to “marry”. As his biographer tells it, on the day he had her husband killed, the prophet of Islam “passed the night with her in a tent of his.”(Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 517)
By Hiwa Khorsed