We have a Christian man claiming that the Prophet (pbuh) killed a woman by the name of Umm Qirfah (also spelled Umm Kirfa) by tying each one of her legs to two horses. Then driving out the two horses, thereby, splitting her in two parts. Is this incident correct? Was the killing really done in this manner?
All praises are due to Allah and may Peace and Blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah and upon his family and companions. To proceed:
Firstly, you must know that it is obligatory on the person to keep away from doubts, especially when he does not have enough knowledge to refute and falsify them. Otherwise, this could lead him to having doubts and being suspicious of his religion because he cannot refute them. He should stop this from happening to himself. And it is stupidity and degrading to present information without referring it back to the people of knowledge and authority as Allah Said in the Qur’an: “And when there comes to them information about [public] security or fear, they spread it around. But if they had referred it back to the Messenger or to those of authority among them, then the ones who [can] draw correct conclusions from it would have known about it. And if not for the favor of Allah upon you and His mercy, you would have followed Satan, except for a few (4:83).”
Those people only follow reports and narrations of a weak and baseless nature. They do not consider the principles, established rules, and the clear authentic reports. Umm Qirfah, whose full name was Fatimah bint Rabi’a bin Zayd, was not killed by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Rather, she was killed by Zayd bin Harithah and he did not kill her in the manner described in the question.
Her story as mentioned in Kanz-ul-‘Amaal by ‘Alaa-ud-Deen is as follows:
Aishah (the Prophet’s wife) said: “Zayd bin Harithah came to us (from the expedition of Umm Qirfah (and her followers)). Messenger of Allah (pbuh) stood up towards him, pulled Zayd’s garment, and then kissed his face. Umm Qirfah had prepared forty riders from among her children and grandchildren in order to kill the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). So, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sent towards them Zayd bin Harithah in response. Zayd killed the riders and Umm Qirfah and sent her armor to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in order for it to be erected in the city between two spears.”
And in the Ad-Dalaail of Abu Na’eem, it is mentioned that:
Zayd bin Harithah killed Umm Qirfah in his night travels (a war strategy where the army moves by night and rests during the day) towards Banu Fazarah (tribe of Umm Qirfah).
And Ibn Hajar mentioned in Al-Diraayah fi Takhreej Ahaadeeth al-Hidaayah another report and declared it weak saying:
From ‘Aishah: One day a woman apostatized, so, the Prophet (pbuh) commanded that she repent or else be killed. Reported by Ad-Daraqutni and in its chain is Muhammad bin Abdil Malik Al-Ansari and he is a liar.
And Ibn Hajar also said in Fath ul Baari:
The seventh military expedition – The expedition of Zayd bin Harithah to a people from Banu Fazarah. Before this campaign, he had gone out for a trading journey but the people of Banu Fazarah rose against him. They took all that was with him (of merchandise) and beat him. So, the Prophet (pbuh) prepared him to go towards them. He attacked them and killed Umm Qirfah. She was held in high esteem amongst them.
Al-Sarkhasi said in Al-Mabsoot:
The apostate that was killed was an enemy combatant. Umm Marwaan was fighting, provoking fighting, and obeyed amongst them. And Umm Qirfah had thirty sons and was prompting to fight the Muslims but her being killed broke their might.
And in other weak reports, it is stated that Zayd bin Harithah killed her in the manner described in the question. Thus, it was said, “He tied her to the tails of two horses and charged them, thereby, splitting her.” And that was mentioned by Abu Bakr and Khalid. And it shows the disarrangement of the story and its weakness due to the lack of evidence. The correct report is that he killed her on the basis of the fact that she was an enemy combatant. And when the woman fights (among the enemy as a combatant), she is killed.
Al-Sarkhasi said in Al-Mabsoot:
When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) saw a woman killed on the day of the conquest of Mecca, he said, “This one was not fighting.”
In this is clarification that fighting (with enemy combatants) entitles one to be killed. Therefore, when a woman fights, prompts, or designates the fighters, then she is killed.
Ibn Abdil Birr said in Al-Astadhkaar:
Verily, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) ruled in his military campaigns to fight the enemy combatants and to capture the children and family members (without harm). And the reports about that are Mutawaatir and this is an issue on which there is a consensus except in the case of the woman who fights along with the enemy combatants which obligates her being fought and killed. And if the narrated report on Abu Bakr was authentic that he mutilated a female apostate, then it was a (form of) policy from him for the purpose of discipline.
It may be that it was done by Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, for the purpose of community benefit and policy as when he commanded to cut the hands of women who were beating the duff due to the death of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in order to show Schadenfreude.
But the reports regarding the Islamic prohibition on mutilation have gone very far as mentioned in Bukhari and others, for example, the hadith of Abdullah bin Yazeed from the Prophet (pbuh) that: “He forbade from robbery and mutilation.” And Ahmad reported from the hadiths of Sumrah bin Jundub and ‘Imraan bin Hussayn that they both said, “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not address us during the Friday sermon except that he commanded us to give charity and prohibited us from mutilation.”
Therefore, mutilation is prohibited. Such allegations should be kept away from Abu Bakr or the other companions of the Prophet (pbuh) except when there is a clear authentic evidence to support it. Therefore, the response to him is what Al-Sarkhasi mentioned earlier above. We could not find an authentic report requiring that (type of action) in what we know of on this subject. And as for what is mentioned in the books of biography of the Prophet (pbuh) and stories in the books of history,1 then they do not establish rulings especially if they go against the principles of Shariah (Islamic law) and its rules. And from those principles and rules is what is mentioned in the authentic hadith of Shadaad bin Aws, “Two are the things which I remember Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) having said: ‘Verily Allah has enjoined goodness to everything; so when you kill, kill in a good way and when you slaughter, slaughter in a good way. So every one of you should sharpen his knife, and let the slaughtered animal die comfortably.’” (Muslim)
So if goodness is enjoined when it comes to slaughtering an animal, then how about a human being?
1In Islamic literature, the books of history and biography are well-known to have a mix of authentic and inauthentic reports. In fact, Islamic scholars are usually more lenient when it comes to reports mentioned in such books due to the lack of sufficient number of authentic and strong reports available to write historical books. However, when it comes to reports which establish Islamic theology or Islamic jurisprudence, the scholars are much more strict and do not accept it unless they are authentic.