It is very important to note that whenever danger threatens the whole Ummah, it should be removed. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who is a fountain of mercy for mankind, never tortured his enemies for personal vengeance. In this context, it would be very interesting to mention some examples of how the Prophet dealt with those who opposed him. The Prophet was so badly stoned by the people of Ta’if that he bled. He could have asked Angel Jibreel to punish them. But the merciful Prophet said, “Even if these people do not accept Islam, I do hope from Allah that there will be persons from among their progeny who would worship Allah and serve His cause.”
When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his followers returned to Makkah after a bloodless victory, the people of Makkah, who had relentlessly oppressed the Prophet for 21 years, expected extreme vengeance. But in the hour of their defeat, they were treated with the greatest magnanimity. “Go, you are free!” were the words with which Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) gave them general amnesty.
Islam cares much about individuals’ rights and rights of the society. In order to preserve these rights, Islam has prescribed certain punishments to maintain the world’s security, block all the avenues leading to oppression, and prevent people from spreading mischief in the land. If someone is proven to be guilty of any crime and all the conditions for the punishment are fulfilled, there is no leniency or pardon for the perpetrator. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “By Allah, if Fatimah the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut her hand.”
The Prophet applied the punishment for Hirabah (highway robbery) on those people because they killed the camel herder, stole the camels. He also blinded them in retaliation for what they did to the camel herder. What the Prophet did has nothing to do with killing enemies slowly, but this was done to protect the society from such people.
The eminent Muslim scholar and renowned da`iyah, Sheikh `Abdel Khaliq Hasan Ash-Shareef, states:
“The full version of the hadith referred to is as follows: Narrated Anas ibn Malik: A group of people from the `Ukl (or `Uraina) tribe—but I think he said that they were from `Ukl—came to Madinah and (they became ill, so) the Prophet ordered them to go to the herd of (milch) camels and told them to go out and drink the camels’ urine and milk (as a medicine). So they went and drank it, and when they became healthy, they killed the camel herder and drove away the camels. This news reached the Prophet early in the morning, so he sent (some) men in their pursuit and they were captured and brought to the Prophet before midday. He ordered their hands and legs to be cut off and their eyes to be branded with heated iron pieces and they were thrown at Al-Harra, and when they asked for water to drink, they were not given water. (Abu Qilaba said, “Those were the people who committed theft and murder and reverted to disbelief after being believers (Muslims), and fought against Allah and His Apostle”). (Reported by Al-Bukhari)
It should be made clear that those people who came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were Muslims and they were sick. The Prophet advised them to go to the herd of camels and to drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). When they became healthy, they killed the herder of the Prophet and drove away all the camels that were allocated for sadaqah (charity). When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) came to know about this, he applied the punishment for Hirabah on them.
Hiraba means killing people, robbing their money or raping women by an armed group of people. The punishment for Hirabah is mentioned in the Qur’an. Allah says: “The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His Messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom” (Al-Ma’idah: 33).
As for branding their eyes, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) branded the eyes of the people of `Ukl or `Uraina with iron because they killed the herder and branded his eyes with iron. Imam Ibn Hajar stated the differences of opinions among scholars and he said, “The killing that took place (that is, in reference to the above hadith) was in retaliation and Allah Almighty says, ‘And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you’ (Al-Baqarah: 194).”
All in all, using this story as evidence in favor of the permissibility of torturing people in Islam is refuted by the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) applied the punishment for Hirabah on them and that he did not do so for personal vengeance.”