Is the incident of the naked woman true?

The Details of the Question

- Khalid b. Walid broke the idol; is the incident of the naked woman in Nakhla true?
- According to a narration in the book of siyar ‘the Sealed Nectar’, the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent Khalid b. Walid in the month of Ramadan in the year 8 H to a place called Nakhla, where there was an idol of the goddess al-Uzza, which was worshipped by the Quraysh and Kinana tribes and guarded by guards from Sons of Shiban. Khalid arrived there with thirty horsemen and destroyed the idol. On his return, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asked him if he had seen anything else there; Khalid replied, “No”. He told Khalid that the idol had not been destroyed and that he should go back and fulfill his mission. Khalid went back to Nakhla and he saw a black, Abyssinian (Ethiopian) woman, naked and with unkempt hair there. He struck her with his sword and broke her into “two pieces” and then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that it was the real Uzza.
- My question is this: Is that incident true?
- If yes, how can we reconcile it with the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prohibition of killing women even in war and the fact that even apostate women are not executed in Islamic law?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Information about Uzza is mentioned in historical sources. (see as-Siratul-Halabiyya, 3/275)

That black woman was not a real human being. She was the idol of Uzza herself. As a matter of fact, according to this narration, the Prophet (pbuh) also stated that she was an idol.

The content of the following poem uttered by Khalid b. Walid in Arabic also shows it:

“O Uzza! May thou be blasphemed, not exalted! Verily I see that God hath abased thee.” (as-Siratul-Halabiyya, 3/275)

Waqidi also briefly mentions the issue in different parts of his book.

Both of those sources agree that the woman in question is Uzza herself. (see Waqidi, al-Maghazi, 3/873-874)

It is written in other sources that the Prophet (pbuh) “stated that the woman in question was Uzza.” (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, 4/314-315)

There were also other women next to other idols. Sometimes they called out to their servants from jinn/demons and encourage them to worship idols. That must be one of the underlying reasons for the continuation of idolatry.

To sum up, the woman in the question has no relation to a human being. And her being split into two can never be interpreted as the killing of a woman (human being).

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