Misconceptions and The Rules of War and Jihad According to Islam
“If you raise your hand to kill me, I will not raise mine to kill you; surely I fear God, the Lord of the worlds.” Quran, Surah Al Ma'idah, verse 27 - 31
“Those of us who study people’s responses to new religious ideas should not labour with the misconception that our world is one in which religion is disappearing. For to the contrary, the evidence is that new religions are arising all the time, that people do not respond to new problems by abandoning religion but by developing a new religion on the ruins of the old.“ -- Richardson 1985:114
There are individuals and groups that consider the Muslim Ummah (community) to be in a state of war. If that is the case then these people should be adhering to the rules of war sent by Allah.
These ideas are detailed and discussed below. Suicide attacks and their origins are discussed at end of this post. The aim here is to highlight the correct conduct of Muslims when a war is being waged within the bounds of the Islamic faith and also to tackle the issue of jihad.
All of this does raise a question, are those who are “at war” in the name of the Ummah following the rules of Islam? The answer is an emphatic “NO!”
Islam and the ethics of war
Islam sets down clear guidelines as to when war is ethically right, and clear guidelines as to how such a war should be conducted. In brief, war is permitted:
- in self defence
- when other nations have attacked an Islamic state
- if another state is oppressing its own Muslims
- in a disciplined way
- so as to avoid injuring non-combatants
- with the minimum necessary force
- without anger
- with humane treatment towards prisoners of war
"Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the Satan." Quran 4:76Islam allows war in self-defence (Quran 22:39), to defend Islam (rather than to spread it), to protect those who have been removed from their homes by force because they are Muslims (Quran 22:40), and to protect the innocent who are being oppressed (Quran 4:75).
But the idea of a total and unrestricted conflict is completely unIslamic.
"Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not like transgressors." Quran 2:1Islam is in favour of peace and against violence. Murdering the innocent leads to punishment in Hell:
"If anyone killed a person - unless it was for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he killed the whole people" Quran 5:32
“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” Quran 5:33
The aims of war
The Quran emphasises that war should be fought only for noble motives without seeking any earthly reward:
"Those who readily fight in the cause of God are those who forsake this world in favour of the Hereafter. Whoever fights in the cause of God, then gets killed, or attains victory, we will surely grant him a great recompense." Quran 4:74The conduct of war
Islam bans the killing of non-combatants (Quran 2:190 above), or of a combatant who has been captured.
Muslims are forbidden from attacking wounded soldiers (unless the wounded person is still fighting).
The Prophet's (pbuh) view of non-combatants is shown by a Hadith in which Muhammad (pbuh) sees a woman killed in the battlefield and condemns the action.
When an enemy is defeated he should be made prisoner rather than be killed:
"So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favour or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates." Quran 47:Abu Bakr (the First Caliph) gave these rules to an army he was sending to battle:
- "Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path.
- "You must not mutilate dead bodies.
- "Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man.
- "Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful.
- "Slay not any of the enemy's flock, save for your food.
- "You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone"
The literal meaning of Jihad is struggle or effort, and it means much more than holy war.Muslims use the word Jihad to describe three different kinds of struggle:
- A believer's internal struggle to live out the Muslim faith as well as possible
- The struggle to build a good Muslim society
- Holy War: The struggle to defend Islam, with force if necessary
However there are so many references to Jihad as a military struggle in Islamic writings that it is incorrect to claim that the interpretation of Jihad as holy war is wrong.
Jihad and the Prophet (pbuh)
The internal "Jihad" is the one that the Prophet (pbuh) is said to have called the "greater Jihad".
But the quotation in which the Prophet (pbuh) says this is regarded as coming from an unreliable source by some scholars. They regard the use of "Jihad" to mean "holy war" as the more important.
When Muslims, or their faith or territory are under attack, Islam permits (some say directs) the believer to wage military war to protect them.
However Islamic (Shariah) law sets very strict rules for the conduct of such a war.
In recent years the most common meaning of Jihad has been Holy War.
And there is a long tradition of Jihad being used to mean a military struggle to benefit Islam.
The historian Bernard Lewis states that "the overwhelming majority of classical theologians, jurists, and traditionalists [i.e. Hadith experts] ... understood the obligation of jihad in a military sense."
What can justify Jihad?
There are a number of reasons, but the Quran is clear that self-defence is always the underlying cause.
Permissible reasons for military Jihad:
- Strengthening Islam
- Protecting the freedom of Muslims to practise their faith
- Protecting Muslims against oppression, which could include overthrowing a tyrannical ruler
- Punishing an enemy who breaks an oath
- Putting right a wrong
A war is not a Jihad if the intention is to:
- Force people to convert to Islam
- Conquer other nations to colonise them
- Take territory for economic gain
- Settle disputes
- Demonstrate a leader's power
The rules of Jihad
A military Jihad has to be obey very strict rules in order to be legitimate.
- It must not be fought to gain territory.
- It must be launched by a religious leader.
- It must be fought to bring about good - something that Allah will approve of.
- Every other way of solving the problem must be tried before resorting to war.
- Innocent people should not be killed.
- Women, children, or old people should not be killed or hurt.
- Women must not be raped.
- Enemies must be treated with justice.
- Wounded enemy soldiers must be treated in exactly the same way as one's own soldiers.
- The war must stop as soon as the enemy asks for peace.
- Property must not be damaged.
- Poisoning wells is forbidden. The modern analogy would be chemical or biological warfare.
The Quran has many passages about fighting. Some of them advocate peace, while some are very warlike. The Bible, the Jewish and Christian scripture, shows a similar variety of attitudes to war.
"Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors." Quran 2: 190
"Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (Guarantees of) peace, then Allah Hath opened no way for you (to war against them)." Quran 4: 90
"But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things)." Quran 8: 61
The Rules of War
Prior to the revelation of the Quran fourteen hundred years ago, there was no concept of civilized behaviour neither in war nor of the rights of enemies. Yet Islam decreed humane rules of war, many centuries before such ideas were put into conventions and agreements in the West
First, Islam draws a clear distinction between combatants and non-combatants. Non-combatants such as women, children, the old and infirm are not to be killed. Also, monks in monasteries and people in places of worship are to be spared.
These are the rights that Islam confers on combatants:
- No one should be burned alive or tortured with fire.
- Wounded soldiers who are neither unfit to fight, nor actually fighting, should not be attacked.
- Prisoners of war should not be killed.
- It is prohibited to kill anyone who is tied up or in captivity.
- Residential areas should not be pillaged, plundered or destroyed, nor should the Muslims touch the property of anyone except those who are fighting against them.
- Muslims must not take anything from the general public of the conquered country without paying for it.
- The corpses of the enemy must not be disgraced or mutilated.
- Corpses of the enemy should be returned.
- Treaties must not be broken.
- Muslims are prohibited from opening hostilities without properly declaring war against the enemy, unless the adversary has already started aggression against them.
Misconceptions of Islam
Jihad means holy war
In Arabic, the word jihad means to strive, struggle and exert effort. It is a central and broad Islamic concept that primarily means to struggle against evil inclinations within oneself.
Islam is not confined to the boundaries of the individual but extends to the welfare of society and humanity in general. An individual cannot keep improving himself/herself in isolation from what happens in their community or in the world at large. Hence it also means struggle to improve the quality of life in society and the struggle against injustice, oppression and tyranny.
The word 'Jihad' is generally misunderstood and consequently evokes strong reactions. It is a word frequently used in the press, directly or subtly, to mean holy war. In fact the term "holy war" was coined in Europe during the period of the Crusades. It is an alien concept to the Islamic framework. War is not 'holy.'
In recent years, a great deal of attention in the media has been given to the threat of "Islamic
Fundamentalism". Unfortunately, due to a twisted mixture of biased reporting in the media and the actions of some misguided Muslims, the word "Islam" has become almost synonymous with "terrorism". However, when one analyses the situation, the question that should come to mind is: Do the teachings of Islam encourage terrorism? The answer: Certainly not! Islam totally forbids the terrorist acts that are carried out by some misguided people.
Islam encourages peace, mercy and forgiveness. Killing innocent people totally contradicts the teachings of Islam.
Islam was spread by the sword
Many non-Muslims, when they think about Islam, picture religious fanatics with a sword in one hand and a Qur'an in the other. This myth, which was made popular in Europe during the Crusades, is totally baseless. First of all, the Holy Qur'an clearly says "Let there be no compulsion in religion". In addition to this, Islam teaches that a person's faith must be pure and sincere, so it is certainly not something that can be forced on someone. Dissociating the myth that Islam was "spread by the sword", the (non-Muslim) historian De Lacy O' Leary wrote: "History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever accepted." (Islam at the Crossroads, London, 1923, p. 8).
Muslims ruled Spain for roughly 800 years. During this time, and up to when they were finally forced out, non-Muslims there were treated with the utmost of respect and had flourishing communities. Additionally, Christian and Jewish minorities have survived in the Muslim lands of the Middle East for centuries. Countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan all have thriving Christian and/or Jewish populations.
Islam is a religion only for Arabs
Less than 20% of the Muslim population is Arab. There are more Indonesian Muslims than Indian or Arab Muslims and it is a myth that all Muslims are Arabs. It should also be clarified that not all Arabs are Muslims. An Arab can be a Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist - or of any other religion or ideology. Also, many countries that some people consider to be ‘Arab’ are not ‘Arab’ at all - such as Turkey and Iran (Persia). The people who live in these countries speak languages other than Arabic as their native tongues and are of a different ethnic heritage than the Arabs.
Islam is meant for all people regardless of race, nationality or linguistic background. Taking a look at the Muslim World, from Nigeria to Bosnia and from Malaysia to Afghanistan is enough to prove that Islam is a universal message for all of mankind.
Islam oppresses women
Numerous verses of the Qur'an make it clear that men and women are equal in the sight of God. According to the teachings of Islam, the only thing that distinguishes people in the sight of God is their level of righteousness. Many people are surprised to find out that Islamic Law guaranteed unprecedented rights to women over 1400 years ago. For example, Islam jurisprudence clearly states that women have the right to vote, seek an education, own property, financial independence, operate a business and receive equal pay for equal work. The very same rights that were only granted to women in Europe and America recently.
The principal difference in the way these rights came about is also important. In the Europe rights became part of the law only after women had been through great political struggles. In Islam, rights were given by God through revelation. They cannot be reversed by anyone's decision.
If women in the Muslim World today don't have their rights and if a particular society oppresses women, it does so in spite of Islam, not because of it.
Muslims do not believe in Jesus
Many people are surprised to find out that according to Muslim belief, Jesus, the son of Mary, is one of the greatest messengers of God. Muslims are taught to love Prophet Jesus (pbuh), and a person cannot be a Muslim without believing in the virgin birth and miracles of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him.
Terrorism is supported in Islam
This misconception is one of the most widely held misconceptions about Islam today.
The Qur'an states;
"...Whoever kills an innocent soul it is as if he killed the whole of Mankind. And whoever saves one, it is as if he saved the whole of Mankind..." (Surah Al Maidah, Chapter 5 Verse 32)
It is clearly Islamically unlawful to murder an innocent person. Hence, if anyone kills an innocent person, they have committed a grave sin, and certainly the action cannot be claimed to have been done "in the name of Islam."
Islam is intolerant of other religions
The Qur'an states;
"Those who believe in the Qur'an, and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians - any who believe in God and the last day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." (Surah Al Baqarah, Chapter 2 Verse 62)God has commanded Muslims in the Qur'an not to insult other faiths. In fact Christians and Jews are given an honourable title in the Qur'an, 'the people of the Book.'
The Prophet of Allah (pbuh) said, "One who kills a non-Muslim person (under the guardianship of an Islamic state) will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise."
He also said, “Whoever hurts a non-Muslim person (under the guardianship of an Islamic state), I am his adversary, and I shall be an adversary to him on the Day of Resurrection.”
Muslims worship Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
Early researchers of Islam called it `Muhammadanism', implying in some way that Muslims worshipped the Messenger of God (pbuh). However, as was described elsewhere, a "Muslim" is "one who submits to God." The essence of Islam is pure, pure, pure monotheism. God says in the Qur'an:
"Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the One on whom all depend; He begets not, nor is He begotten. And there is none comparable to Him" (Surah Al-Ikhlas, Chapter 112)
"Muhammad is no more than a messenger: many were the messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will you then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude." (Surah: Al Imran, Chapter 3 Verse 114)
Is Suicide Bombing OK in Islam?
Firstly let us define our opposition to and abhorrence of the terrorist(s) and the act(s) of terror. It is the political expression of nihilism. Nihilism is its own philosophy, voided of any moral evaluation or indeed political doctrine. It is individual self-mutilation on the theatrical stage of technology itself. By him or her, society cannot be changed, injustice cannot be righted, and new leadership cannot emerge, for the protagonist has left the stage.
The instigators, the trainers, the suppliers of weaponry, they are the intellectuals of nihilism. They can think it, they can instigate it, but they can never inherit from it a later leadership, since they were the cowards who let others die for the cause they themselves did not die for.
From a moral point of view, therefore, those who order the slaughter of others by the act of suicide but do not themselves commit suicide reveal the desperate and tragic flaw in their cause. The leader who sends others forward to die while he remains safely withdrawn from the conflict is surely the most despicable of people.
Attacks, suicide attacks, suicide bombings and killing of the innocent have no place in Islam, and whoever conducts these are not Muslims. They may be Muslims in name only or groomed by un-Islamic forces such as the Ismaili-Shia sect, the Order of the Assassins, from which all forms of Illuminati/Templars/Freemasonic terror have their roots.
It was in a no man's land between Israel and Lebanon that the first batch of Palestinian suicide bombers were formed by the Ismailis. Abd Al Bari Atwan traces the Ismaili origin of Al-qaeda in his book "The Secret History of Al Qaeda"
So what do you say to suicide bombers, who claim Islam tells them it is O.K.?
First of all let's take the word “suicide.” Is it permitted in Islam to commit suicide, Ever?
- Never! So that word automatically cancels out the whole statement. Somebody commits suicide, that's it. He is no Muslim, period. It is also forbidden for Muslims on any subject to take the law into their own hands. No Muslim has the right to take the law into his own hands and just suddenly declare a war against this, a war against that. The Quran does not give us this kind of permission to do these things, it doesn't, and I know that there are wannabe('s) Muftis making a name for themselves in Oil-soaked rich countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, going around telling the youth this and that...