Islam being religion of peace and of humanity does not lose its cool even in war. Its law of war is very humane, chivalrous and tolerant. Before highlighting the Islamic law, however, let us bring into focus some of the relevant verses of the Holy Qur’an, Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and instructions given by the Prophet and his right-guided caliphs to their commanders on various occasions.
Verses of al-Qur’an :
1. Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.
2. O ye who believe! When ye go forth (to fight) in the way of Allah, be careful to discriminate, and say not unto one who offerth you peace : “Thou art not a believer”, seeking the chance profits of this life (so that ye may despoil him)……
3. And if thou fearest treachery from any folk, then throw back to them (their treaty) fairly. Lo! Allah loveth not the treacherous.
4. And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters and (so is) His messenger. So if ye repent it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah……
And if anyone of the idolaters seeketh thy protection
6. O ye who believe ! If an evil-liver bring you tidings, verify it, lest ye smite some folk in ignorance and afterward repent of what ye did.
Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): 1. Abdullah-b-Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah forbade to kill women and children.
–—(Bukhari and Muslim)
2. Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: March in the name of Allah, and with the succour of Allah and over the religion of the Messenger of Allah, kill not the emaciated old, nor the young children, nor the women and deceive not; collect your booty, do good and show kindness, because Allah loves those who do good to others.
3. Solaiman-b-Baraidah reported from his father that whenever the Messenger of Allah appointed a commander over an army or infantry, he used to give him directions regarding his powers: To fear Allah, and to treat the Muslims well under him. Then he used to say: Fight in the name of Allah in the way of Allah. Fight with those who disbelieve in Allah. Fight, Plunder not, nor be treacherous, nor cut off ears and noses nor kill children.
4. Omme Hani daughter of Abu Talib reported : I went to the Prophet in the Year of Victory and found him taking bath, while his daughter Fatimah was screening him with a cloth. I saluted him. He asked : Who is she? I said: I am Omme Hani, daughter of Abu Talib. He said: Welcome to Omme Hani! When he finished his bath, he got up and prayed eight rak’ats being covered with a single cloth. When he finished, I asked : O Messenger of Allah! The son of my mother (Ali) thinks that he would kill a man, son of Hubairah whom I gave protection. The Holy prophet said: We also give protection whom you have given. O Omme Hani. Omme Hani narrated that it was in the forenoon. Agreed upon it. In a narration of Tirmizi, she said: I gave protection to two of my husband’s male relatives. The Holy Prophet said: We have given protection to those whom you have given.
5. Jabir reported that the Messenger of Allah said: War is a deception.
6. Salmah bin Ahwa’a reported : We fought alongwith Abu Bakr in the time of the Prophet and attacked them at night by killing them and our signal for that night was ‘Ante’.
7. Qais bin Obad reported that the companion of the Prophet of Allah used to dislike uproar at the time of fighting.
8. Saoban bin Yazib reported that the Messenger of Allah set up ballista (menjaniq) against the people of Tayef.
9. Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said: A woman certainly acts for the people, that is she gives protection on behalf of the Muslims.
10. Amr bin Hameq reported : I heard the messenger of Allah say: He who extends security of life to a man and then kills him will be given the banner of treachery on the Resurrection Day.
11. Nu’aim bin Masu’d reported that the Messenger of Allah said to two persons who came from Musailamah : Behold, by Allah, but for the fact that the ambassadors are not to be killed, I would have smitten your necks.
–––(Ahmad, Abu Daud)
Instructions to Commanders :
1. “Whenever the Prophet appointed a commander over an army or detachment, he enjoined upon him to fear God regarding himself and regarding the treatment of the Muslims who accompanied him. Then he used to say :
2. The Prophet gave the following instructions to Abdur Rahman Ibn Auf at one occasion :
3. Hadrat Abu Bakr, the first right-guided caliph of Islam, used to issue the following instructions to his troops whenever he dispatched them for an expedition : “Be just; break not your plighted faith; multilate none; slay neither children, old men, nor women; injure not the date-palm nor burn it with fire, nor cut down any fruit-bearing tree; slay neither flocks nor herds nor camels, except for food; perchance you may come across men who have retired into monasteries, leave them and their works in peace”.
4. Abu Bakr is reported to have given the following instructions to Usama:
5. To commander Yazid bin Abu Sufyan, Abu Bakr issued following instructions:
6. Whenever, Umar dispatched armies, he enjoined upon their commanders to fear God, and then used to say, at the time of handing over the colours:
Having reproduced the verses of al-Qur’an, the Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the instructions issued by the Prophet and his successors, we will now discuss the laws of Jihad which have been laid down by the jurists in the lights of these sources.
When the Muslims encounter unbelievers to whom Islam is an unknown thing, they must not attack such people before inviting them to accept Islam or to agree to pay Jizyah (protection-tax). If the unbelievers fail to accept any of the two options, they can be attacked. However, option of Jizyah will not be available to the apostates and idolaters of the Arabian peninsula about whom the Qur’an says: “Fight them unless they embrace Islam.” They are to choose between Islam and sword, and if they do not accept Islam, they will be attacked. If the non-believers understand fully what Islam means, warning and excuse may again be made, though this is not compulsory. For they know why they are attacked, and an ultimatum may hinder the achieving of the aim.
In case of the following types of war, however, no previous notice or declaration is necessary:
1. Defensive war when the enemy starts aggression and attacks Islamic state. In case of Battle of Uhad and Battle of the Trench no previous notice was issued by the Prophet as it was his people who were attacked.
2. Fresh encounters with an enemy with whom no peace was made and there was only temporary cease-fire.
3. Preventive war against the threatened aggression of a people with whom no treaty relations exist. Examples are the wars of Khaiber and Hunain waged by the Prophet. However, if treaty exists with such a people, then the treaty must be thrown and ultimatum must be given. The Qur’an says: And if thou fearest treachery from any folk then throw back to them (their treaty) fairly. Lo! Allah loveth not the treacherous. –––(8:58)
4. Punitive war to punish a state for breach of treaty. Prophet’s attacks on Banu Quraiza and Makkah were without ultimatum as the Jews and Makkans had broken treaties.
Even during the
outbreak of war if an adversary who is actively engaged in hostilities
against Muslims, seeks for protection he should not be denied that.
Rather, he should be granted full protection and may be, later on,
escorted to a place of safety. The Qur’an says: “And if anyone of the
idolaters seeketh thy protection
Even the lowest of the Muslims can grant shelter and his action shall be binding on the Islamic state as well as on all the Muslims. Any of the believers, even the women, slaves and sick persons who are incapable to fight, can grant shelter. The Prophet honoured the protection given by the women more than once and his companions honoured the protection given by slaves. But the minors, the insane and those under enemy control such as prisoners cannot grant protection. The non-Muslim subjects of the Muslim state also cannot grant protection unless they are specifically authorized to do so. In exceptional circumstances, however, the Islamic state can put restrictions on the individual Muslims to grant protection in respect of certain enemies. If a person whom protection has been given is killed or harmed, right to damages accrues.
In war, the following acts are forbidden to a Muslim army in respect of property and persons of the enemy:
1. Killing of non-combatants such as women, minors, sick, servants and slaves, monks, hermits, insane, very old person, etc.
2. The prisoners of war cannot be put to death except in very exceptional circumstances.
3. The cruel and torturous ways of killing are not allowed even if some enemy has to be killed.
4. Mutilation of men and animals.
5. Destruction of crops, cutting of trees unnecessarily, slaughtering of animals more than what is necessary for food and burning of houses.
6. Killing of enemy hostages is disallowed even in retaliation.
7. Severing the head of some fallen enemy and presenting it to higher authority is highly disliked.
8. General massacre is prohibited when the enemy is vanquished and his land is occupied.
9. Killing peasants, traders, merchants, artisans, contractors and the like when they do not take part in actual fighting.
10. Burning a captured man or animal to death is strictly forbidden.
11. Taking shelter behind enemy prisoners or forcing the prisoners to fight against their nation is a cowardly act to which the Muslims never resort.
12. Adultery and fornication with captive women before their formal distribution among the soldiers by the commander of the Islamic forces is punishable offence. The defaulter is to receive discretionary punishment and is to pay fine equal to Mahr Missal (what his nearest female relative would have received as bride-money) which would be added to the spoils.
13. Treachery, perfidy, wickedness, even excess in killing is forbidden.
14. According to some jurists, poisonous arrows are unlawful.
Acts which have been permitted by Islamic law in actual conduct of war are as follows:
1. In actual encounter, enemy combatants may be killed, wounded, pursued and made prisoners; non-combatants such as women and children are to be spared. Killing of combatants falling victim in the darkness or even in the daylight when they are brought to the forefront by the enemy deliberately as a shelter, is excused.
2. If the enemy is absent, ambush may be laid for him. If he is present, yet out of reach, he may be besieged, be that in a camp, in a fortress or even a subterranean stronghold.
3. War is deception or ruse. Tactics to deceive the enemy are allowed in war. Such moves and actions that mislead the enemy or keep the enemy guessing were sometimes taken by the Prophet himself for achieving the objective easily.
4. Use of Psychological warfare and propaganda as weapon of war is also allowed. There are cases in the time of the Prophet when secret agents were sent who sowed discord or misunderstanding between the different sections of the enemy and his allies, and who disseminated misleading information to demoralise the enemy. The Qur’an in its verse 60 of chapter 9, which deals with the expenditure of Zakat and Sadaqat funds of the Islamic state, allocates a portion of income for propaganda i-e. winning over the hearts. Once a famine hit Makkah and the Prophet sent a handsome contribution of five hundred gold coins towards the relief work. The Makkan chiefs, though they could not refuse the contribution, at once discerned in it a powerful weapon to win the affection of the youngsters of Makkah.”
5. Assassination as an instrument for easy success might be used as it is justified on the ground that often it avoids greater bloodshed and discord. Instances of it in the life of the Prophet are assassination of Abul Huqaiq, Ka’b bin Ashraf, Abu Raff and Sufyan bin Anas while attempt at Abu Sufyan failed.
6. Night attacks are also allowed and instances of such attacks in the reign of the Prophet are not lacking. In the Hadith literature, the very watchwords used on these occasions have been recorded which was a practical mean of distinguishing friend from foe in the darkness.
7. All kinds of weapons can be used against the enemy. Of course unnecessary bloodshed should be avoided. Ballista or Catapults (Manjniq) was used by the Prophet in the siege of Tayf. Ditch warfare, which was hitherto unknown in Arabia, was used by the Prophet in 5 A.H. when Madinah was attacked by the Quresh and their allies. The Muslims of Spain used in the seventh century of Hijrah what might be considered a crude form of cannon. During the crusades the Muslims used a kind of marine mine. Air warfare could have also been introduced had the Muslim scientists pursued experiments of Abbas ibn Firnas (d.888) who had perfected a man-propelled airplane but met his death on the descent after its successful flight. Material is not lacking on naval warfare in the early history of Islam. In the year 8 A.H. the Prophet had used sea communications to transport men, and perhaps also material, to Ailah in connection with the punitive expedition of Mu’tah, where a Muslim ambassador had been assassinated. In the year 9 A.H., he sent a detachment against an island in the Red Sea, where Negro pirates had come to haras inhabitants of the Muslim territory. The Muslim commander was ‘Alqamah ibn Mujazziz.
8. Adoption of innovation technique, superior strategy, element of surprise, new methods of defence, better war tactics, etc. are not only allowed but are rather encouraged because they diminish bloodshed and procure easy surrender. Water supply of the enemy can be cut off.
Property captured from enemy is called spoils or booty. Enemy soldiers captured in war are called war prisoners or war captives. Those prisoners of war who are not released or exchanged are made slaves. If the enemy is totally conquered and its land is occupied or annexed to Islamic country, the enemy nation is made subjects of the Islamic state as Zimmis or protected people and is made to pay Jizyah or protection tax.
We will, by the grace of God, deal with the subjects like spoils of war, prisoners of war, treatment of slaves, treatment of the conquered people, Jizyah, etc. in detail in the subsequent chapters separately.
 As reproduced by Dr. Hamidullah in his book ‘The Muslim Conduct of State’!
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 As reproduced by Dr. Hamidullah in his book ‘The Muslim Conduct of State.’
 &5 As reproduced by Dr. Hamidullah in his book ‘The Muslim Conduct of State.’
6 Dr. Hamidullah: ‘The Muslim Conduct of State’
7 Dr. Hamidullah: ‘The Muslim Conduct of State’
8 Lists of Acts Forbidden prepared in the light of Dr. Hamidullah’s book ‘The Muslim Conduct of State’
9 List of Acts Permitted prepared in the light of Dr. Hamidullah’s book ‘The Muslim Conduct of State’