Did Mohammed Attack the Banu Mustaliq?
July 2010 version

Was the attack on the Banu Mustaliq a defensive action or not? Let's look at the documentation and then decide. We will look at the circumstances, the location, and the results.

The Circumstances

"Ibn 'Aun reported : I wrote to Nafi' inquiring from him whether it was necessary to extend (to the disbelievers) an invitation to accept (Islam) before engaging them in fight. He wrote (in reply) to me that it was necessary in the early days of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) made a raid upon Banu Mustaliq while they were unaware and their cattle were having a drink at the water. He killed those who fought and imprisoned others."Sahih Muslim vol.3 book 17 no.4292 p.942.

Mohammed led a surprise attack on the Banu al-Mustaliq tribe while they were inattentive and their cattle were drinking water. That was when Juwairiyyah bint al-Harith was obtained. [as Mohammed's wife]" Abu Dawud vol.2 no.227 p.727-728

Bukhari vol.3 book 46 no.717 p.431-432. "the Prophet had suddenly attacked Bani Mustaliq without warning while they were heedless and their cattle were being watered at the places of water. Their fighting men were killed and their women and children were taken as captives; the Prophet got Juwairiya on that day.

It was claimed the Muslims heard that the Banu Mustaliq were organizing to fight Mohammed. al-Tabari vol.8 p.51 "[Ibn Ishaq] said, 'Each transmitted to me part of the report on the Banu al-Mustaliq.'They said: Word reached the Messenger of God that the Banu Mustaliq were gathering against him under the leadership of al-Harith b. Abi Birar. (Al-Harith was the father of Juwayriyah bt. Al-Harith, [who subsequently became] the wife of the Messenger of God.) When the Messenger of God heard about them, he set out toward them and met them at one of their watering places called al-Muraysi', near Qudayd toward the coast. The people advanced toward each other and fought fiercely. God put the Banu al-Mustaliq to flight and killed some of them. He gave their children, women, and property to the Messenger of God as booty - God gave them to him as spoil."

On one hand, I have not seen anything showing the banu Mustaliq were even allied with the Quraish. On the other hand, when the Medinans were out robbing caravans, the banu Mustaliq, on the trade route would probably take a dim view of that.

Conclusion on Circumstances: The banu Mustaliq were not expecting to fight Mohammed. Otherwise, why were they grazing their cattle? A Muslim could argue that though this attack was not defensive in a literal sense, it was a "preemptive action", However, the banu Mustaliq were so small, that their oasis is barely on the map, unlike Ta'if, Mecca, or Medina. One battle did them in, with many of their men killed. If this preemptive strike is justified as a defensive action, then any preemptive strike can be justified as a defensive action. It is interesting to see which attacks in history have been justified (by at least some people) as defensive actions.

Hitler invading Czechoslovakia

Communist Aggression

Arab Muslims conquering Iran



Mohammed himself led the raid on the Banu Mustaliq tribe. al-Tabari vol.39 p.57

The Banu Mustaliq were along the coastal trade route to Syria. al-Tabari vol.8 p.xv

The expedition against Banu Mustaliq in A.H. 6 was also called al-Murasi. al-Tabari vol.8 p.41

Abu Sa'd al-Khudri was 15 years old when he went on a raid of the Banu Mustaliq with Mohammed. al-Tabari vol.39 p.57

Conclusion on Location: Perhaps one might wish to justify this attack as of "strategic importance". This would be similar to Hitler justifying attacking and conquering neutral Belgium and the Netherlands because they were strategic for him to attack France. In fairness, I have not heard a Muslim use the "strategic importance" argument though.

The Results

A defensive action, or even a truly defensive preemptory strike, would have as its sole objective to remove a threat. The Muslims accomplished much more than just neutralizing a perceived military threat, however.

The B'il-Mustaliq were said to have had "excellent Arab women". The Muslim soldiers had sex with them afterwards. Sahih Muslim vol.2 book 8 no.3371 p.733-734

"Narrated Ibn Muhairiz: I entered the Mosque and saw Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri and sat beside him and asked him about Al-'Azl (i.e. coitus interruptus). Abu Sa'id said, 'We went out with Allah's Apostle for the Ghazwa [battle] of Banu Al-Mustaliq and we received captives from among the Arab captives and we desired women and celibacy became hard on us and we loved to do coitus interruptus. So when we intended to do coitus interruptus, we said, 'How can we do coitus interrupts before asking Allah's Apostle who is present among us?' We asked (him) about it and he said, 'It is better for you not to do so, for if any soul till the Day of Resurrection is predestined to exist, it will exist." Bukhari vol.5 book 59 no.459 p.317. This says the same as Bukhari vol.8 book 77 no.600 p.391. In other words, what will be will be, so do not stop unnaturally part way. Mohammad never criticized sexually molesting captives or slaves that a man owns.

Muslims asked Mohammed about Coitus Interruptus (a sexual practice) after the attack on the Banu Mustaliq. Bukhari vol.3 book 46 no.717 p.431-432

Sex with captives among the Bani Al-Mustaliq. Bukhari vol.9 book 93 no.506 p.372

Conclusion on Results: If this truly were a defensive action, how was having sex with female captives acceptable as a defensive action?

Very Interesting Results

Juwayriyyah bint al-Harith bin Abi Birar bin Habib, great grandson of Jadhimah al-Mustaliq of the Khuza'ah group, was taken as booty when Muslims raided the al-Mustaliq tribe. Her husband, Musafi' bin Safwan Dhu al-Shuir bin Abi Asrb bin Malik bin Jadhimah was killed in the battle. She was a prisoner of war who agreed to marry Mohammed. al-Tabari vol.39 p.182-183

When Mohammed married Jawayriyah, a hundred Banu Mustaliq families were freed from slavery. al-Tabari vol.8 p.57

So when Mohammed married Juwayriyah/Jawayriyah, either at her request or his initiative, Mohammed freed 100 families. Now perhaps enslaving these 100 families was somehow of military strategic importance, and Mohammed erred in freeing them. However, it is more likely that the enslavement of these 100 families was not of strategic importance, and MOHAMMED UNNECESSARILY ENSLAVED THOSE HE ATTACKED BY SURPRISE.

Do any Muslims today feel they have justification for surprise attacks on unsuspecting people? Based on the hadiths, I can see clearly why some Muslims feel they do.

Overall Conclusion

The New Testament never said to fight anybody, except that it says the state has the right to bear the sword. However, the Qur'an has a number of verses on fighting and attacking that do not have a defensive context.

"Fight those who believe not... even if they be People of the book [Christians and Jews] until they have willingly agreed to pay the Jizya tribute in recognition of their submissive state." (Sura 9:29)

"Kill them, and Allah will torment them by your hands. He will humiliate them and give you victory over them..." (Sura 9:14)

"O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them, their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless journey's end" (Sura 9:73)

"It is not fitting For a Prophet That he should have Prisoners of war until He has thoroughly subdued The Land...." Sura 8:68

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