Islam

Islamic Law on Rules of War

Islam, Law, Rules of War, Peace

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Sarmad Naveed, Canada

The loss of an innocent life is like the loss of all humanity.

To take an innocent life is to be devoid of humanity.

But in the madness of war, where do you draw the line between innocent blood and ‘collateral damage.’

As the world watches in horror the prevailing carnage between Hamas and Israel, people are becoming increasingly polarised.

Some call it Israel vs. Palestine. Others call it Zionism vs. Hamas. Still others are passionately convinced that this is a war between Judaism and Islam.

No matter the commentary, what’s clear is that Hamas’ actions have been barbaric and cruel, as has been Israel’s disproportionate response both rendering more loss to innocent lives than anything else.

Hamas’ attack on Israel has played into the misconception many have of Islam being a militant religion. Sentiments such as ‘Islam is evil’ have been spotted graffitied in London and are on the minds of many in the world. 

It’s sad because rather than achieving whatever noble mission Hamas thought it was on, they’ve actually done a disservice to both their religion, and their people.

Simply put, Islam is not a religion of violence, warfare, or bloodshed; it does not teach the use of force to conquer lands, nor does it condone compelling others to accept its teachings.  

It’s a religion that says no amount of enmity should contravene acting with justice. It’s a religion which says that if God hasn’t compelled people to act a certain way, then how can we

Forget the use of force, Islam teaches to protect even the religious sentiments of others. The Holy Prophet (sa) upheld the rights of trees, ordering them not to be cut down, so you can imagine then the importance Islam lays upon upholding the sanctity of life. 

None of what is happening in the Middle East is reflective of these basic Islamic principles. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) was sent to this world as a mercy for all of mankind, and so, if we truly wish to see the establishment of peace in the world, then Islam’s principles of justice, religious freedom, tolerance and protecting the rights of all shouldn’t just be limited to the Middle East, they should be be implemented throughout the world.

Yet there were battles in Islamic history, the examples of which are erroneously used by Muslims to justify violent actions, and opponents of Islam to promulgate the rhetoric of Islam being rooted in extremism. 

Perhaps their views would change by simply reading the very Qur’anic injunction which granted permission to take up arms, in large part to protect synagogues, churches, temples and other places of worship. God granted permission to those who were driven out of their homes, whose freedom of religion was being usurped, to go out and protect the very concept of religion and all such places where God is worshipped. 

Again, none of the actions taking place today can find justification under these terms.

In the event that war does break out, there are always rules of war which set reasonable parameters for warfare. 

The United Nations has stipulated guidelines to be observed by all UN contingents in the event of armed conflict. Some examples of those guidelines are:

  • The United Nations force shall make a clear distinction at all times between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives. Military operations shall be directed only against combatants and military objectives. Attacks on civilians or civilian objects are prohibited.
  • The United Nations force is prohibited from using weapons or methods of combat of a nature to cause unnecessary suffering.
  • The United Nations force shall not engage in reprisals against civilians or civilian objects.
  • The United Nations force is prohibited from attacking, destroying, removing or rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuff, crops, livestock and drinking-water installations and supplies.
  • Women shall be especially protected against any attack, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution or any other form of indecent assault.
  • Children shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected against any form of indecent assault.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that such guidelines have been stipulated for war. In fact, 1400 years prior, Islam established the most comprehensive rules of war, rooted in justice, humanity and safeguarding the sanctity of life.

Before deploying a company, the Holy Prophet (sa) would admonish them to go forth, ‘with the intention of protecting religion’ and would then advise:

  • Do not embezzle the wealth of spoils and do not deceive a people
  • Do not mutilate the enemy dead
  • ‘Do not kill women and children, nor religious recluses. Do not kill the elderly
  • Create peace in the land and treat the people with benevolence
  • Do not harm that which they consider to be sacred
  • ‘Do not cut down a fruitful tree[1]

These rules probably seem familiar. Not only do they predate the Geneva Convention and any other framework laid out by the UN by centuries, but they are also exactly what the world is calling for today. 

Horrific images of a doctor doing his rounds in a hospital overflowing with the wounded only to come to a bed and find his deceased son laying there encapsulate the horrid atrocities that innocent people on both sides are having to face. 

The Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) succinctly but powerfully underscored Islam’s principles of war when he said:

‘Even in times of war, Islam does not permit the killing of women, children, or anyone that is not engaged in the fighting. This is something which the Holy Prophet (sa) has given very strict guidance on.’ 

Much is being made these days of which of the two flags people are choosing as their display pictures, or whether to use a hashtag supporting Israel or Palestine. The only flag that needs to be displayed and the only hashtags required are those of humanity. Humanity must prevail. Innocent lives must be saved, so that humanity may be saved. 


About the Author: Sarmad Naveed is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who graduated from the Ahmadiyya Institute for Languages and Theology in Canada. He serves as Online Editor and is on the Editorial Board for The Review of Religions, and also coordinates the Facts from Fiction section. He has also appeared as a panelist and host of programmes on Muslim Television Ahmadiyya (MTA) such as ‘Ahmadiyyat: Roots to Branches.’


ENDNOTES

[1] The Life and Character of the Seal of Prophets (sa), Vol. 2, pp. 80-81