Ihaab Abduh talks a lot in his book استحالة وجود النسخ بالقرآن, and rightly so, about the subject of killing or enslaving prisoners of war. He cites, on pages 187-190, many opinions of scholars allowing it and giving the authority to do that to the imaam and many of these opinions are based on hadeeths attributed to the Prophet, peace be upon him. Hence, the subject of this topic: Did the Sunna abrogate
Which limits the options regarding prisoners of war to two only: letting them go, or ransoming them.
Aside from the fact that neither the Sunna
can abrogate the Quran, many scholars apparently stated that the practice of the Prophet (PBUH) of killing prisoners of war (he never did), proves to them that 47:4 was abrogated.
Here are the points Ihaab raised,
- God praised those who feed prisoners of war,
A verse which some scholars said was abrogated by the Sunna!
- God ordered consoling prisoners of war,
- Al-Bukhaari has a chapter in his compilation book entitled, "Killing the prisoner of war and killing a tied-up person." True, but there is no hadeeth in that chapter that says these two can be killed! So, is Ihaab's point that the chapter title is inappropriate? I'd agree about that, but that's a far cry from implying that Al-Bukhaari endorsed the killing, which he accused him and Muslim of doing on page 157.
Hadeeth number 3081 narrates the end of the story of Ibn Khatal whom the Prophet (PBUH) ordered killed even though the man was hanging on to the curtains of the Ka`ba. The hadeeth does not tell the full story, nor does it say that Ibn Khatal was a prisoner of war.
In fact, the very next section in the chapter has hadeeth number 3083, where the Prophet (PBUH) orders three things: Release the prisoner of war, feed the hungry and visit the sick.
The next section has hadeeth number 3088 where the Prophet (PBUH) orders the killing of an enemy spy who snuck into the city.
- Ibn Hajar concluded that a POW can be killed, ransomed, freed, or enslaved. He quoted a Mursal hadeeth (The Sahaabi is unnamed), reported by Abu-Daawood saying that the Prophet (PBUH) ordered the killing of three prisoners of war the day of Badr while they were tied up. I could not find such hadeeth. Instead, I found a hadeeth number 9862 which states that the one who did that was Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Khaalid ibn Al-Waleed. He killed four prisoners of war tied up. When Abu-Ayyoob Al-Ansaari heard, he narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) forbade killing a tied-up person. Abu-Ayyoob said, "I wouldn't even kill a chicken tied up!" When Abdur-Rahmaan heard that hadeeth, he freed four slaves.
- Abu-Haneefa said that ransoming is not allowed (!) and only killing or enslaving are. Maalik allowed ransoming in addition to killing and enslaving. I'd say if they really said that, what was their evidence? Why didn't Ihaab include their evidence?
His two fellows (Muhammad and Abu-Yoosuf?) said that ransoming is allowed as well as killing and enslavement.
- Al-Jassaas said in his book أحكام القرآن that all four options are allowed and it is up to the imaam which one to use as the community interest requires. He said that all jurists unanimously agree that a prisoner of war may be killed. He claimed that the evidence to that from the hadeeth is ubiquitous (متواتر)! He even said that Abu-Moosa (Al-Ash`arai?) killed a prisoner of war after he promised he will not!! That's an outrageous lie.
He then says that Ash-Shaafi`i saw nothing wrong in killing a POW and his evidence was that the Prophet (PBUH) killed `Uqba ibn Abi-Mu`eett and An-Nadhr ibn Al-Haarith after they were prisoners of war. Where is that written? It's a lie.
Finally, Al-Jassaas says that Ibn Umar, Al-Hasan, `Ataa' and Sa`eed ibn Jabeer all forbade killing prisoners of war and they cited 47:4 for evidence. Finally, sane people.
- Ibn Al`Arabi said in his book أحكام القرآن that killing a prisoner of war while he is tied up is something the Prophet (PBUH) did and ordered. That's an outrageous lie.
- Ibn Qadaama said in his book المغني that it was Ibn Hanbal's opinion that a soldier may kill his own prisoner of war but not others'. Ibn Hanbal said that if the POW is hurt or sick, he may not be killed. Ibn Qadaama disagreed! He said that leaving a POW alive harms Muslims and strengthens the disbelievers, and therefore killing is indicated.
- The juristic encyclopedia of the Kuwaiti ministry of endowments says that it is permissible to torture a POW to get enemy secrets. They use for evidence a hadeeth claiming that the Prophet (PBUH) ordered the torture of a man who hid the whereabouts of "the treasure of Huyayy ibn Akhtab."
The encyclopedia also says that when the enemy tortures Muslim prisoners of war, then Muslims are allowed to torture enemy prisoners of war likewise, citing these verses for evidence,
- At-Tabari said in his exegesis that 47:4 was abrogated by
He explains the imperative فشرد بهم من خلفهم to mean "make an example out of them"! He reported a narration from Abdul-Kareem Al-Jazri who said that Abu-Bakr preferred killing a prisoner of war to ransoming him. Did anybody bother to authenticate that narrative? It's a lie.
- Ibn Rushd, in his book بداية المجتهد ونهاية المقتصد says that enslaving the enemy prisoners of war is unanimously agreed on and that the Prophet (PBUH) killed male prisoners of war and enslaved or let go female prisoners of war. That's a lie.
Clearly, 47:4 was not abrogated by the Sunna, since the evidence citing such is bogus. Consensus of course means nothing if it is in violation of the Quran, which it is in this case. So, what is left is to refute that 8:57 abrogated 47:4. That's easy because,
- Chapter 47 was revealed after Chapter 8, so if any abrogation happened, it was the other way around.
- There is no mention in 8:57 of prisoners of war. The verse is speaking about killing enemy personnel في الحرب (in the war). 47:4, on the other hand clearly talks about prisoners of war because of the phrase فشدوا الوثاق (then stiffen the tie).
- No mention of killing is there in 8:57! The sentence فشرد بهم من خلفهم means "then disperse by them those who are behind them." That includes a variety of tactics that will cause the enemy to give up and disperse. That may be done by killing but it can also be done by many other tactics. If it is killing, it's killing of an enemy combatant in a state of war and not a prisoner of war as pointed out above.
- The two verses preceding 8:57 explain what 8:57 is talking about. Didn't anybody care to read them?
Which explains why those people are to be killed when they are spotted in the enemy during a war. Treason is punishable by death.