Islamic Rules of War


Islam is the religion of peace so the ruling of war is issued in an inevitable conditions. One should keep in mind that the war is the last option to save the life of the people and preventing the oppressor from oppressing. There was very prominent saying among Arabs – “Help your brother whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one.” It is reported by Anas (R.A) that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) repeated the same. So the companions questioned, “O Allah’s Messenger! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.”

Prophet pbuh and His companion migrated to Madina, after facing the thirteen years of persecution in Makkah then Allah gave the permission to fight as the city of Madina was going to become an Islamic State and Society. At that time there were very few Muslims in Madina so obviously it was the responsibility of the state to protect their lives and rights otherwise they would fall victim to the enemy.

First verse of the war was declared in Surah Hajj then in Surah baqra :“Permission (to fight) has been granted to those against whom war has been waged because they have been treated unjustly, and Allah is certainly able to help them.” (Quran 22:39)

This (22 : 39) is the first verse of the Qur’an in which permission to fight was given in the Chapter Hajj in the first year after Hijrah according to research. Then the command to fight was given in verse 190, 191, 193, 216 and 244 of Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah) in Rajab or Shaaban of A.H. 2.

“Fight in the way of God those who fight against you, but do not transgress. God does not love the transgressor” (Quran 2:190).

Justice and injustice are the two sides of the same coin – that injustice is simply the lack of justice. Sadly, injustice is very dominant today. “Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct ” —(Quran 16 : 90) The sole purpose of sending the prophets was to establish Justice in the world and end injustice. Broadly speaking, doing justice means giving everyone his due. The Qur’an says: “We sent aforetime our messengers with clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, that men may stand forth in Justice.” [Quran 57:25]. Prophet Muhammad pbuh has set an example that always fight for truth and justice with firm believe in Allah and followed the charter given by Him. Islam strictly commands us to be just and fair to all people regardless of religion, color, race ..etc.. Islam permits fight for self defence, establishing justice, for oppressed people, to save children and women .

“God does not prohibit you from showing kindness and being just with those who do not fight you nor have driven you out of your homes. Indeed God loves those who are just”. [Qur’an 60 : 8 ]

The first verse forms the basis of all Islamic laws related to fighting, i.e. you are allowed to fight those that fight you, but not to tyrannize those who have done you no harm. The second one goes further and explains that, not only is fighting of innocent civilians forbidden, but Muslims are ordered to be kind and just with those who did no harm to them. Just as when police breaks into a hideout and does violence with criminals, do you consider that wrong? When military of one country fights with others’ is this violence wrong? (it is very pathetic in most cases) The point is, such justified (so called) violence is a necessity sometimes to maintain justice. Similarly, in Islam also, war is justified when justice and truth is needed to be upheld. However, God is more Merciful and Wise than these human governments and systems, and war according to Islam is less violent than because there are very moral and humane rules. See the rules of war in Islam which are as follows:

Before engaging in battle, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) instructed his soldiers:

1. “Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)

2. “Do not practice treachery or mutilation.(Al-Muwatta)

3. Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees.(Al-Muwatta)

4. Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food.” (Al-Muwatta)

5. “If one fights his brother, [he must] avoid striking the face, for God created him in the image of Adam.” (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)

6. “Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)

7. “Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle.” (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)

8. “Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to God to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience.” (Sahih Muslim)

9. “No one may punish with fire except the Lord of Fire.” (Sunan Abu Dawud).

10. “Accustom yourselves to do good if people do good, and to not do wrong even if they commit evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi).

Brief Summarizing the background of some famous military operations of the prophet (Peace Be upon Him), so that his (Peace Be upon Him) real strategy becomes clear. All of that war was in self-defense.

1. Badr: The Tribe of Makkah – an active enemy of the mission of the prophet (Peace Be upon Him) and the state of Madinah – prevented Muslims from traveling into Makkah or to Madinah (via Makkah). The prophet pbuh countered their moves by threatening an economic blockade. When the people of Makkah learned about the threat to economic life line (from Syria), they sent an army to counter the forces of Madinah. However, the battle of Badar was won by Muslims who were 313 in number only, against the mighty army of above 1000 Makkan Army.

2. Uhad: Madinah was attacked to revenge the defeat of Badr. That was a totally a defensive war. Muslim were 700 and Quraish were 3,000 in number.

3. Ahzab or Khandaq: once again a massive attack on Madinah by the grand alliance of Arab tribes. A total defensive war followed where the prophet (Peace Be upon Him) and his followers remained under siege for some time.

4. Khyber: Hostilities of the tribes in Khyber prompted this war. The people of Khyber were taken by surprise when the prophet (Peace Be upon Him) army came into their sight at sunrise. That was an offense in retaliation.

5. Conquest of Makkah: Makkah and its allies violated the Hudybya peace treaty and announced the cancellation of it. That resulted in the invasion of Makkah. Although the head of Makkah later tried to renew the deal, the prophet (Peace Be upon Him) did not accept their offer. It was an offense about which people of Makkah learned only a night before the Muslims entered Makkah.

6. Hunain: after the conquest of Makkah, the tribes of Hawazan and Thaqif planned and advanced to attack Muslims. Learning about them, the prophet (Peace Be upon Him) advanced on to their area.

7. Tabuk: It had become famous that army of Rum/Byzantine was about to attack Arabian Peninsula. The prophet (Peace Be upon Him) led his forces to Tabuk in order to counter any such threat. Although no war took place, the Tabuk operation underlines the prophet (Peace Be upon Him) strategy of the active defense.

Strategy : The prophet (Peace Be upon Him) real strategy was addressing the need of the time and countering the threat in the most effective manner importantly to protect people. He (Peace Be upon Him) mostly applied active defense. The prophet (Peace Be upon Him) did aim to keep the number of his enemies as low as possible. Unless someone created a problem, the prophet (Peace Be upon Him) did not seek him to engage in confrontation for any issue like territory or money. War aim to establish Justice and Peace.

Islam is the religion of peace as well as the religion of Justice too. That’s the reason that Quran gives permission to fight for self defence, against violence, to save innocent people. Islam allows the use of force to stop evil and gives protection to security to human which is the basic human rights therefore a set of laws pertaining to war has been laid out by Islam. Hence the objective of Islam is to save humanity from oppression and injustice and to establish a reign of Peace system.

Here again Qur’an commands: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” [Quran 5 : 8 ]






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