Rules of war in Islam: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


(Redirected to Islamic military jurisprudence article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Islamic military jurisprudence refers to what has been accepted in Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) by ulema (Islamic scholars) as the correct Islamic manner which is expected to be obeyed by Muslims, though it may differ with what has been done in Muslim history.


Development of rulings

The first military rulings were formulated during the first century after Muhammad established an Islamic state in Medina. These rulings evolved in accordance with the interpretations of the Quran (the Muslim Holy scriptures) and Hadith (the recorded traditions of Muhammad). The key themes in these rulings were the justness of war, and the injunction to jihad. The rulings do not cover feuds and armed conflicts in general.[1]

Jihad (Arabic for "struggle") was given a military dimension after the oppressive practices of the Meccan Quraish against Muslims. It was interpreted as the struggle in God's cause to be conducted by the Muslim community. Injunctions relating to jihad have been characterized as individual as well as collective duties of the Muslim community. Hence, the nature of attack is important in the interpretation — if the Muslim community as a whole is attacked jihad becomes incumbent on all Muslims. Jihad is differentiated further in respect to the requirements within Muslim-governed lands (Dar al-Islam) and non-Muslim lands (Dar al-Harb).[1]

According to Shaheen Sardar Ali and Javaid Rehman, both professors of law, the Islamic military jurisprudence are in line with rules of modern international law. They point to the dual commitment of Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) member states (representing most of the Muslim world) to Islamic law and the United Nations Charter, as evidence of compatibility of both legal systems.[2]

Ethics of warfare

The basic principle in fighting in the Quran is that other communities should be treated as one's own. Fighting is justified for legitimate self-defense, to aid other Muslims and after a violation in the terms of a treaty, but should be stopped if these circumstances cease to exist.[3][4][5][6] The principle of forgiveness is reiterated in between the assertions of the right to self-defence.[3]

During his life, Muhammad gave various injunctions to his forces and adopted practices toward the conduct of war. The most important of these were summarized by Muhammad's companion, Abu Bakr, in the form of ten rules for the Muslim army:[7]

O people! I charge you with ten rules; learn them well!

Do no betray or misappropriate any part of the booty; do not practice treachery or mutilation. Do not kill a young child, an old man, or a woman. Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees. Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food. You will meet people who have set themselves apart in hermitages; leave them to accomplish the purpose for which they have done this. You will come upon people who will bring you dishes with various kinds of foods. If you partake of them, pronounce God's name over what you eat. You will meet people who have shaved the crown of their heads, leaving a band of hair around it (monks). Go in Gods name, and may God protect you from sword and pestilence.

These injunctions were honored by the second Caliph, Umar, during whose reign (634–644) important Muslim conquests took place.[8] These principles were also honoured during the Crusades, as exemplified by sultans such as Saladin and al-Kamil. For example, after al-Kamil defeated the Franks during the Crusades, Oliverus Scholasticus praised the Islamic laws of war, commenting on how al-Kamil supplied the defeated Frankish army with food:[9]

"Who could doubt that such goodness, friendship and charity come from God? Men whose parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, had died in agony at our hands, whose lands we took, whom we drove naked from their homes, revived us with their own food when we were dying of hunger and showered us with kindness even when we were in their power."[10]

During the Battle of Siffin, the Caliph Ali stated that Islam does not permit Muslims to stop the supply of water to their enemy.[11] In addition to the Rashidun Caliphs, hadiths attributed to Muhammad himself suggest that he stated the following regarding the Muslim conquest of Egypt:[12]

"You are going to enter Egypt a land where qirat (money unit) is used. Be extremely good to them as they have with us close ties and marriage relationships. When you enter Egypt after my death, recruit many soldiers from among the Egyptians because they are the best soldiers on earth, as they and their wives are permanently on duty until the Day of Resurrection. Be good to the Copts of Egypt; you shall take them over, but they shall be your instrument and help. Be Righteous to God about the Copts."

The early Islamic treatises on international law from the 9th century onwards covered the application of Islamic ethics, Islamic economic jurisprudence and Islamic military jurisprudence to international law,[13] and were concerned with a number of modern international law topics, including the law of treaties; the treatment of diplomats, hostages, refugees and prisoners of war; the right of asylum; conduct on the battlefield; protection of women, children and non-combatant civilians; contracts across the lines of battle; the use of poisonous weapons; and devastation of enemy territory.[9]

Criteria for soldiering

Muslim jurists agree that Muslim armed forces must consist of debt-free adults who possess a sound mind and body. In addition, the combatants must not be conscripted, but rather enlist of their free will, and with the permission of their family.[14]

Traditionally, "adults" have been defined as post-pubescent individuals above the age of 15.

Legitimacy of war

Muslims have struggled to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate wars. Fighting in self-defense is not only legitimate but considered obligatory upon Muslims, according to the Qur'an. The Qur'an, however, says that should enemy hostile behavior cease, then the reason for engaging such enemy also lapses.[15]

Some scholars argue that war may only be legitimate if Muslims have at least half the power of the enemy (and thus capable of winning it). Other Islamic scholars consider this command only for a particular time.[16]


Defensive conflict

The Hanafi school of thought holds that war can only be launched against a state that had resorted to armed conflict against the Muslims. War, according to the Hanafis, can't simply be made on the account of nation's religion.[15] Sheikh Abdullah Azzam considers the defense by Muslims of their territory as one of the foremost obligations after faith.[17] Abdulaziz Sachedina argues that the original jihad according to his version of Shi'ism was permission to fight back against those who broke their pledges. Thus the Qur'an justified defensive jihad by allowing Muslims to fight back against hostile and dangerous forces.[18]

Offensive conflict

Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`i (d. 820), founder of the Shafi'i school of thought, was the first to permit offensive jihad. He limited this warfare against pagan Arabs only, not permitting it against non-Arab non-Muslims.[15]

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi believes that after Muhammad and his companions, there is no concept in Islam obliging Muslims to wage war for propagation or implementation of Islam. The only valid basis for military jihad is to end oppression when all other measures have failed. Islam only allows jihad to be conducted by a government.[19][20][21]

According to Abdulaziz Sachedina, offensive jihad raises questions about whether jihad is justifiable on moral grounds. He states that the Qur'an requires Muslims to establish just public order, increasing the influence of Islam, allowing public Islamic worship, through offensive measures. To this end, the Quranic verses revealed in the latter part of Muhammad's career require Muslims to wage jihad against unbelievers. This has been complicated by the early Muslim wars of expansion, which he argues were although considered jihad by Sunni scholars, but under close scrutiny can be determined to be political. Moreover, the offensive jihad points more to the complex relationship with the "People of the book".[18]

International conflict

International conflicts are armed strifes conducted by one state against another, and are distinguished from civil wars or armed strife within a state.[22] Some classical Islamic scholars, like Shafi'i classified territories into broad categories: dar al-islam ("abode of Islam"), dar al-harb ("abode of war), dar al-ahd ("abode of treaty"), and dar al-sulh ("abode of reconciliation"). Such categorizations of states, according to Asma Afsaruddin, are not mentioned in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition.[15]

Declaration of war

The Quran commands Muslims to make a proper declaration of war prior to the commencement of military operations. Thus, surprise attacks are illegal under the Islamic jurisprudence. The Quran had similarly commanded Muhammad to give his enemies, who had violated the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, a time period of four months to reconsider their position and negotiate.[23] This rule, however, is not binding if the adversary has already started the war.[24] Forcible prevention of religious practice is considered an act of war.[25]

Conduct of armed forces

During battle the Quran commands Muslims to fight against the enemy. However, there are exceptions to such combat. Torturing the enemy, and burning the combatants alive is strictly prohibited.[26] The mutilation of dead bodies is also prohibited.[27] The Quran also discourages Muslim combatants from displaying pomp and unnecessary boasting when setting out for battle.[28]

According to professor Sayyid Dāmād, no explicit injunctions against use of chemical or biological warfare were developed by medieval Islamic jurists as these threats were not recognized. However, Khalil al-Maliki's Book on jihad states that combatants are forbidden to employ weapons that cause unnecessary injury to the enemy, except under dire circumstances. The book, as an example, forbids the use of poisonous spears, since it inflicts unnecessary pain.[29]

Civilian areas

Islam expressly prohibits the killing of non-combatants.[30][31] Javed Ghamidi argues that this principle is not just based on the Islamic faith but also founded in customs and reason.[32] Shia scholar Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi holds a similar position regarding non-combatants.[33]

Harming civilian areas and pillaging residential areas is also forbidden,[34] as is the destruction of trees, crops, livestock and farmlands.[26][35] The Muslim forces may not loot travellers, as doing so is contrary to the spirit of jihad.[36] Nor do they have the right to use the local facilities of the native people without their consent. If such a consent is obtained, the Muslim army is still under the obligation to compensate the people financially for the use of such facilities. However, Islamic law allows the confiscation of military equipment and supplies captured from the camps and military headquarters of the combatant armies.[34][37]


Commentators of the Quran agree that Muslims should always be willing and ready to negotiate peace with the other party without any hesitation. According to Maududi, Islam does not permit Muslims to reject peace and continue bloodshed.[38]

Islamic jurisprudence calls for third party interventions as another means of ending conflicts. Such interventions are to establish mediation between the two parties to achieve a just resolution of the dispute.[39]


In the context of seventh century Arabia, the Quran ordained Muslims must restrain themselves from fighting in the months when fighting was prohibited by Arab pagans. The Qur'an also required the respect of this cease-fire, prohibiting its violation.[24]

If, however, non-Muslims commit acts of aggression, Muslims are free to retaliate, though in a manner that is equal to the original transgression.[40] The "sword verse", which has attracted attention, is directed against a particular group who violate the terms of peace and commit aggression (but excepts those who observe the treaty). Crone states that this verse seems to be based on the same above-mentioned rules. Here also it is stressed that one must stop when they do.[3][5] Ibn Kathir states that the verse implies a hasty mission of besieging and gathering intelligence about the enemy, resulting in either death or repentance by the enemy.[41] It is read as a continuation of previous verses, it would be concerned with the same oath-breaking of "polytheists".[3]

Prisoners of War

Men, women, and children may all be taken as prisoners of war under traditional interpretations of Islamic law. Generally, a prisoner of war could be, at the discretion of the military leader, freed, ransomed, exchanged for Muslim prisoners,[42] or kept as slaves.[43] In earlier times, the ransom sometimes took an educational dimension, where a literate prisoner of war could secure his or her freedom by teaching ten Muslims to read and write.[44] Some Muslim scholars hold that a prisoner may not be ransomed for gold or silver, but may be exchanged for Muslim prisoners.[45]

Women and children prisoners of war cannot be killed under any circumstances, regardless of their religious convictions,[46] but they may be freed or ransomed. Women who are neither freed nor ransomed by their people were to be kept in bondage and referred to as ma malakat aymanukum. Islamic law does not put an exact limit on the number that can be kept in bondage. It strictly forbids keeping female slaves as a means of sexual enjoyment and luxury according to the Islamic scholar Maududi.[47]

Internal conflict

Internal conflicts include "civil wars", launched against rebels, and "wars for welfare" launched against bandits.[22]

During their first civil war, Muslims fought at the Battle of Bassorah. In this engagement, Ali (the caliph), set the precedent for war against other Muslims, which most later Muslims have accepted. According to Ali's rules, wounded or captured enemies should not be killed, those throwing away their arms should not be fought, and those fleeing from the battleground should not be pursued. Only captured weapons and animals (horses and camels which have been used in the war) are to be considered war booty. No war prisoners, women or children are to be enslaved and the property of the slain enemies are to go their legal Muslim heirs.[48]

Different views regarding armed rebellion have prevailed in the Muslim world at different times. During the first three centuries of Muslim history, jurists held that a political rebel may not be executed nor his/her property confiscated.[49]

Classical jurists, however, laid down severe penalties for rebels who use "stealth attacks" and "spread terror". In this category, Muslim jurists included abductions, poisoning of water wells, arson, attacks against wayfarers and travellers, assaults under the cover of night and rape. The punishment for such crimes were severe, including death, regardless of the political convictions and religion of the perpetrator. Further, rebels who committed acts of terrorism were granted no quarter.[49]

See also


  1. ^ a b Aboul-Enein and Zuhur (2004), p. 3-4
  2. ^ Ali, Shaheen Sardar; Rehman, Javaid. (Winter, 2005) "The Concept of Jihad in Islamic International Law." Journal of Conflict & Security Law. 10 (3) pp. 321-43.
  3. ^ a b c d Patricia Crone, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, War article, p.456. Brill Publishers
  4. ^ Micheline R. Ishay, The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era, University of California Press, p.45
  5. ^ a b Sohail H. Hashmi, David Miller, Boundaries and Justice: diverse ethical perspectives, Princeton University Press, p.197
  6. ^ Douglas M. Johnston, Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik, Oxford University Press, p.48
  7. ^ Al-Tabari The History of the Prophets and Kings I.1850, in Bernard Lewis, ed., Islam from the Prophet Muhammad to the Capture of Constantinople, v. 1: Politics and War (New York: Walker and Company, 1974), p. 213
  8. ^ Nadvi(2000), pg. 519
  9. ^ a b Judge Weeramantry, Christopher G. (1997), Justice Without Frontiers, Brill Publishers, p. 136, ISBN 9041102418  
  10. ^ Judge Weeramantry, Christopher G. (1997), Justice Without Frontiers, Brill Publishers, pp. 136–7, ISBN 9041102418  
  11. ^ Encyclopaedia of Islam (2005), p.204
  12. ^ El Daly, Okasha (2004), Egyptology: The Missing Millennium : Ancient Egypt in Medieval Arabic Writings, Routledge, p. 18, ISBN 1844720632  
  13. ^ Kelsay, J. (March 2003), "Al-Shaybani and the Islamic Law of War", Journal of Military Ethics (Routledge) 2 (1): 63–75, doi:10.1080/15027570310000027  
  14. ^ Aboul-Enein and Zuhur, p. 12-13
  15. ^ a b c d Afsaruddin, Asma (2007). Views of Jihad Throughout History. Religion Compass 1 (1), 165–169.
  16. ^ Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur'an.[1]
  17. ^ Azzam, Abdullah. "DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS".
  18. ^ a b Sachedina, Abdulaziz (1988). The Just Ruler In Shi'ite Islam. Oxford University Press US. p. 106. ISBN 0195119150.  
  19. ^ Sahih Bukhari, 2957, A Muslim ruler is the shield [of his people]. An armed struggle can only be carried out under him and people should seek his shelter [in war].
  20. ^ Ghamidi, Mizan.
  21. ^ Misplaced Directives, Renaissance, Al-Mawrid Institute, Vol. 12, No. 3, March 2002.[2]
  22. ^ a b Dāmād (2003), p.261
  23. ^ Maududi (1967), p. 177, vol. 2
  24. ^ a b Maududi (1998), p. 36
  25. ^ Mohammad, Noor (1985). "The Doctrine of Jihad: An Introduction". Journal of Law and Religion (St. Paul: Journal of Law and Religion, Inc.) 3 (2): 387.  
  26. ^ a b Ali ibn al-Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, Vol.3, p.227
  27. ^ Ghamid (2001), referring to Sahih Bukhari 3016, and Sahih Bukhari 2613
  28. ^ Ghamidi (2001), referring to Qur'an 8:47
  29. ^ Dāmād(2003), p. 266
  30. ^ USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts
  31. ^ Ghamidi (2001), quoting Qur'an 4:90||}}
  32. ^ Ghamidi (2001), refers to Sahih Bukhari 3015
  33. ^ "Martyrdom Operations".عمليات%20شهادت%20طلبانه. Retrieved 2008-11-22.  
  34. ^ a b Maududi (1998), p. 35
  35. ^ Ali (1991), p. 79, quoting Qur'an 2:190
  36. ^ Ghamidi (2006), refers to Sahih Bukhari 2629
  37. ^ Ghamidi (2001), refers to a hadith "plundered [food] is not better than dead meat [forbidden in Islam]" Sahih Bukhari 2705
  38. ^ Maududi (1967), p. 151-4, vol.2
  39. ^ Abu-Nimer(2000-2001), p. 246.
  40. ^ Ali (1991), p. 81
  41. ^ This is the Ayah of the Sword by Ibn Kathir
  42. ^ Tafsir of the Qur'an by Ibn Kathir [3]
  43. ^ Brunschvig. 'Abd; Encyclopedia of Islam
  44. ^ Ibrahim Syed, Education of Muslims in Kentucky Prisons. Louisville: Islamic Research Foundation International
  45. ^ 'Abu Yusuf Ya'qub Le Livre de l'impot foncier,' translated from Arabic and annotated by Edmond Fagnan, Paris, Paul Geuthner, 1991, pages 301-302) Abu Yusuf (d. 798 CE)
  46. ^ Patricia Crone (2004), pp. 371-72
  47. ^ Tafsir of the Qur'an by Maulana Maududi, Vol. IV, exegesis of verse 33:52
  48. ^ Madelung (1997), p.179
  49. ^ a b Abou El Fadl, Khaled. [Commentary: Terrorism Is at Odds With Islamic Tradition]. Muslim Lawyers


  • Aboul-Enein, H. Yousuf; Zuhur, Sherifa, "Islamic Rulings on Warfare", Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, Diane Publishing Co., Darby PA, ISBN 1428910395
  • Abu-Nimer, Mohammed (2000-2001). "A Framework for Nonviolence and Peacebuilding in Islam". Journal of Law and Religion 15 (1/2). Retrieved on 2007-08-05.
  • Ali, Abdullah Yusuf (1991). The Holy Quran. Medina: King Fahd Holy Qur-an Printing Complex.  
  • Dāmād, Sayyid Mustafa Muhaqqiq et al. (2003). Islamic views on Human Rights. Tehran: Center for Cultural-International Studies.
  • Crone, Patricia (2004). God’s Rule: Government and Islam. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Mizan (2001). The Islamic Law of Jihad, Dar ul-Ishraq. OCLC 52901690
  • Nicola Melis, Trattato sulla guerra. Il Kitāb al-ğihād di Molla Hüsrev, Aipsa, Cagliari 2002.
  • Madelung, Wilferd (1997). The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521646960.  
  • Maududi, Sayyid Abul Ala (1967). The Meaning of the Quran. Lahore: Islamic publications.  
  • Maududi, Sayyid Abul Ala (1998). Human Rights in Islam. Islamabad: Da'wah Academy.  
  • M. Mukarram Ahmed, Muzaffar Husain Syed, ed (2005). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.. ISBN 8126123397.  

Further reading

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Islamic military jurisprudence article)

From Wikiquote

Islamic military jurisprudence is based on Islamic laws.


  • Except those who seek refuge with a people between whom and you there is a covenant, or (those who) come unto you because their hearts forbid them to make war on you or make war on their own folk. Had Allah willed He could have given them power over you so that assuredly they would have fought you. So, if they hold aloof from you and wage not war against you and offer you peace, Allah alloweth you no way against them.
  • The recompense of those who wage war against Allâh and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.
  • Muslims should not attack those civilians of the occupied territories who have announced their opposition to their government's vicious crimes, except for situations in which they are used as human shield and fighting the aggressors depends on attacking those civilians.

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address