Uqba ibn Abu Mu'ayt ( عقبة بن أبو معيط‎) (d. 624 AD) belonged to the Quraish tribe. He was a blood relative of the prophet of Islam. He had two children: a boy named Walid ibn Uqba and a girl named Umm Kulthum bint Uqba.

When Muhammad’s mission was not making any headway in Mecca, he started insulting the local polytheistic gods and beliefs. In return, some members of the Quraysh clan started treating Muhammad badly. He was insulting their religions, and when their cup was full, they returned the favor in his own coin.

A point to ponder

One wonders why Muhammad and Muslims in general think that attacking religious beliefs of others, including polytheism, is a good thing. When Muhammad was mean-spirited and attacked other people’s conviction, didn’t he expect similar reactions in return from the Meccans? Plus, why he had to insult the polytheists? Couldn’t he just preach his faith without insulting the beliefs of others?

In any case, Uqba did something to Muhammad that he should have not done. The following hadith narrates the event (Bukhari: Book #9, Hadith #499):

Narrated 'Amr bin Maimuin: 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud said, "While Allah's Apostle was praying beside the Ka'ba, there were some Quraish people sitting in a gathering. One of them said, 'Don't you see this (who does deeds just to show off)? Who amongst you can go and bring the dung, blood and the abdominal contents (intestines, etc.) of the slaughtered camels of the family of so and so, and then wait till he prostrates and put that in between his shoulders?' The most unfortunate amongst them ('uqba bin Abi mu'ait) went (and brought them) and when Allah's Apostle prostrated, he put them between his shoulders. The Prophet remained in prostration and they laughed so much so that they fell on each other. A passerby went to Fatima, who was a young girl in those days. She came running and the Prophet was still in prostration. She removed them and cursed upon the Quraish on their faces. When Allah's Apostle completed his prayer, he said, 'O Allah! Take revenge on Quraish.' He said so thrice and added, 'O Allah! take revenge on 'Amr bin Hisham, 'Utba bin Rabia, Shaiba bin Rabi'a, Al-Walid bin 'Utba, Umaiya bin Khalaf, 'uqba bin Abi mu'ait and 'Umar bin Al-Walid." Abdullah added, "By Allah! I saw all of them dead in the battle field on the day of Badr and they were dragged and thrown in the Qalib (a well) at Badr: Allah's Apostle then said, 'Allah's curse has descended upon the people of the Qalib (well).

What Uqba did was uncalled for. But when Muhammad and his Muslims killed anyone for insulting Islam, this act of mockery was not quite as harsh on part of Uqba in the face of Muhammad’s persistent insult of their Gods. In any case, had Muhammad been a good man, he could get upset for a while, but then he would have forgiven and forgotten it. “Forgive and Forget” is a good moral code that makes life better for everyone. However, we are talking about Muhammad, a prophet to Muslims. So, one would expect that Muhammad would have forgiven and forgotten the incident without making much of a fuss.

History tells us otherwise

Muhammad was a most vindictive and mean-spirited person. After he had attained power, those who criticized, mocked or betrayed him even in the slightest of incidents, he used to get hold of them and exact revenge in the most cruel manner.

In the present case, Muhammad didn’t rest the case by just cursing Uqba and his extended family in the crudest manner possible. He never forgot what Uqba did to him. Even though he was a blood relation to Muhammad, the “holy” prophet of Islam exacted revenge against Uqba in the most evil and disproportionate manner. The event happened right after the so-called Badr battle. Uqba was unlucky to be taken prisoner of war at Badr by Muhammad. And what Muhammad did to surrendered Uqba was pure evil. An average victor of war would honor the life of war prisoners, but not Muhammad. Here is what happened as narrated in “The Sealed Nectar” (Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum) by Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri (p. 143-4), quoted also in the Islamic site:

On their way back to Madinah, at a large sand hill, the Prophet [pbuh] divided the spoils equally among the fighters after he had taken Al-Khums (one-fifth). When they reached As-Safra’, he ordered that two of the prisoners should be killed. They were An-Nadr bin Al-Harith and ‘Uqbah bin Abi Muait, because they had persecuted the Muslims in Makkah, and harboured deep hatred towards Allâh and His Messenger [pbuh]. In a nutshell, they were criminals of war in modern terminology, and their execution was an awesome lesson to oppressors. ‘Uqbah forgot his pride and cried out, "Who will look after my children O Messenger of Allâh?" The Prophet [pbuh] answered, "The fire (of Hell).[Sunan Abu Da'ud with 'Aun- ul-Ma'bood 3/12]" Did ‘Uqbah not remember the day when he had thrown the entrails of a sheep onto the head of the Prophet [pbuh] while he was prostrating himself in prayer, and Fatimah had come and washed it off him? He had also strangled the Prophet [pbuh] with his cloak if it had not been for Abu Bakr to intervene and release the Prophet [pbuh]. The heads of both criminals were struck off by ‘Ali bin Abi Talib.

Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri goes out of his way attempting to justify Muhammad’s murder of the two men, one of which was Uqba. First of all, this is a crime committed by Muhammad. In fact, it is two crimes. There are no excuses for Muhammad’s actions. The life of a prisoner of war has to be honored, period.

But let us do some analysis to what Mubarakpuri said. His basic claim is that because Uqba treated Muhammad badly, Muhammad is justified in killing him. Now, from an ethical point of view, Muhammad is not justified in such an action. If individuals are justified in killing others who treat them badly, then murderers will be declared innocent many a time. The fact of the matter is, Muhammad wanted to exact revenge against Uqba. In Mecca, he was not powerful, but when he became a powerful warlord, his vindictive nature expressed itself in many of his actions. Killing Uqba was just one of them.

Reflections on Uqba’s situation

True, Uqba was less than kind to Muhammad in Mecca. But Muhammad’s killing him in return can not be defended from an ethical point of view. What makes this story so sad is that Uqba had two kids to take care of back in Mecca. He begged Muhammad to spare his life for the sake of the children. Muhammad’s vindictive nature had no appeal for other people’s helplessness and misery. This “prophet” of Islam was incapable of feeling the pains of others. Uqba faced an untimely end because of this evil prophet.

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