5 Lessons From Prophet Muhammad to Stop Torture

Some of the 200 Iraqi prisoners wait inside the Abu Ghraib prison compound, shortly before they are released from Abu Ghraib
Some of the 200 Iraqi prisoners wait inside the Abu Ghraib prison compound, shortly before they are released from Abu Ghraib prison Thursday June 15, 2006, under a national reconciliation plan announced by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last week, in Baghdad, Iraq. Under the plan, 2,500 inmates will be released. (AP Photo/Ali Jasim, Pool)

This week, America and the world were let in on the secret that everyone knew but no one would admit. The Senate Intelligence Torture Report unveiled 600 pages of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation tactics" on at least 119 suspects after 9/11. Above all, this report demonstrates the moral bankruptcy of our political leadership who approved, engaged or even encouraged these atrocities.

Both American and International law forbid torture. Sadly, organizations the world over like the CIA and ISIS both engage in this barbaric act. Nearly 1400 years prior, however, Prophet Muhammad categorically forbade torture for any reason. While pre-Islam Arabia was known for its ongoing wars devoid of any ethics, Muhammad enacted practical methods to successfully and peacefully unite Arabia -- without torture.

Were the world to adopt Muhammad's example of compassion, tolerance, and civility, such a torture report would not exist, because torture itself would not exist.

Here are five lessons the CIA, ISIS and humanity at large can learn from Prophet Muhammad on how to stop torture.

1. Stop engaging in pre-emptive war

Prophet Muhammad forbade pre-emptive war, all forms of terrorism, violently revolting against a government no matter how unjust, and even went to the extent of forbidding civil disobedience lest it lead to violence. When Muslims faced incessant and brutal persecution in Mecca from 610-620, Muhammad forbade any violent or incendiary response to the governing authorities. He offered his companions three options -- remain and bear the persecution, try to change laws through peaceful argumentation, or leave.

Many Muslims left -- some to Abyssinia where they sought and received refuge under the righteous Christian King Neghus. Others left to Medina, where they forged a peaceful alliance with the Jews and soon established a unified secular state governed by the Charter of Medina. Fighting was then only permitted in self-defense once Muslims were pursued and attacked, just as the Qur'an 22:40 allows: "Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged -- and Allah indeed has power to help them." Once in defensive war, the Qur'an only permits killing active combatants, as elaborated next.

2. Stop justifying collateral damage

Drone strikes, indiscriminate bombing, and collateral damage have each sadly become part of the American military experience. Prophet Muhammad categorically condemned any act of violence in which civilians, property, or places of worship were harmed.

Following Muhammad's guidance, Abu Bakr the first Khalifa commanded to the Muslim army about to embark on battle,

"O people! I charge you with ten rules; learn them well... for your guidance in the battlefield! Do not commit treachery, or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy's flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone."

As history's first major figure to condemn collateral damage in word and in deed, Prophet Muhammad demonstrated a high precedent that even the most advanced nations today cannot match. Today's leaders can end the war atrocities engulfing our world by following Muhammad's example of justice and compassion.

3. Stop indefinite detention for POWs

The Afghan and Iraq wars are long over. Yet, America continues to maintain numerous POWs in Guantanamo Bay, and likely in other undisclosed locations. Prophet Muhammad categorically condemned this practice. After permitting Muslims to only fight in self-defense, the Qur'an 47:5 next commands Muslims to release POWs immediately as war comes to an end.

Maintaining POWs well after the war has ended creates distrust and animosity among allies and enemies alike, and is beneath the standard of a civilized country. Rather than usurp human rights with indefinite detention, rather than provide propaganda material to extremists, rather than violate its own Constitution and international law, we should all learn from Prophet Muhammad's example, and justly release POWs.

4. Stop mistreating POWs

POWs, during and after the war must be treated with the dignity all human beings deserve. Historian Sir William Muir well records how Prophet Muhammad commanded his companions to treat POWs:

The Refugees had houses of their own, received the prisoners with kindness and consideration. "Blessings on the men of Medina!" said one of these in later days: "they made us ride, while they themselves walked afoot; they gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was little of it, contenting themselves with dates." It is not surprising, therefore, that some of the captives, yielding to these influences, declared themselves Believers, and to such their liberty was at once granted. The rest were kept for ransom. Such as had nothing to give were liberated without payment; but a service was required... To each were allotted ten boys, to be taught the art of writing; and the teaching was accepted as a ransom.

Mind you, this was at a time in Arabia when Muslims captured during battle suffered the fate of torture and death. Yet, in response, Muslims demanded the ransom of education, fed POWs with their own food and sheltered them with their own shelter. Once war ended, Muhammad immediately released all POWs. This is how he brought lasting peace to a former Arabian wasteland engulfed in constant war.

5. Stop justifying torture

Nothing justifies the torture the CIA meted out to those 119 human beings. Indeed, in response to those arguing safety, the report concludes that America was not made any safer as a result of these barbaric practices. This was just one among many reasons Prophet Muhammad categorically forbade torture.

For example, as recorded in Sahih Muslim, "Hisham ibn Hakim passed by some people in Syria who had been made to stand in the sun and had oil poured over their heads. He asked, "What is this?" It was said,
"They are being punished for not paying taxes." Hisham said: I heard Prophet Muhammad say: "Verily, Allah will torture those who torture people in this world." Likewise, Jabir ibn Abdullah reported that Prophet Muhammad commanded: "Do not torture the creation of Allah the Exalted."

Indeed, Prophet Muhammad's compassion extended beyond humans as he also specifically forbade torturing animals, declaring, "A woman was punished because of a cat she had imprisoned until it died; thus, she entered Hellfire because of it. She did not give it food or water while it was imprisoned, neither did she set it free to eat from the vermin of the earth."


It is not a lack of intelligence, but a lack of morality that permitted this barbaric act of torture to occur at all. The CIA, ISIS, and indeed the world at large can learn volumes about compassion, justice, mercy, and morality from Prophet Muhammad, the man who successfully brought peace to a warring world.


Qasim Rashid is an attorney, best-selling author of EXTREMIST, and national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. Follow him @MuslimIQ.