Ethical & Moral Principles of War in Islamic Perspective


Islam as a complete system encompasses all aspects of life and places principles and methodologies which help people to face the challenges which they encounter on a daily basis. Islam managed to connect between worldly affairs and human behavior without turning a blind eye on the hereafter and the next world.
This comprehensive understanding of world issues applies on the concept of war in Islam which is governed with restricted rules that makes it one of the noblest forms of war fares and was legislated for defending human rights, preventing injustice and oppression and preserving human rights. Some of the results and consequences which are sought out of war from the Islamic perspective are as follow: Disciplining the self to get accustomed to chivalry, knighthood and nobility. Setting freedom and justice for all people regardless of their religious affiliation or creedal beliefs. Spreading the merciful message of Islam which encompasses beauty, goodness and righteousness.
Giving priorities to public issues over personal interests. Achieving deterrence force to secure people in their lands.
If we reviewed back Prophet Muhammad’s noble biography, we would figure out that he did not resort to the military option unless he exhausted all other peaceful means. The Prophet’s tribe of Quraysh had an aggressive assaulting stance against Islam. Quraysh chased Muslims out of their homeland and persecuted them for the mere fact of embracing Islam and believing in the Oneness of God; a fact which forced the Prophet to fight them back.
God commanded us to avoid going into wars as much as we can and seeking peace in every way possible. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Don’t wish to meet the enemy but if you meet them, be patient” (Muslim). This indicates the necessity of not being hastened in resorting to military options and favoring peace and peaceful solutions to conflicts as much as possible.
The reasons behind which Muslims resort to war are pertinent to preserving human rights and dignity. This meaning was clearly emphasized in the Quran when God described the type of war that He approves of by attaching the attribute of (fi Sabil Allah) which means for the sake of God. This means that going into wars is not performed out of personal interests or private gains but rather are conducted for human value and general interest.
Defending for one’s life and responding to aggression. This is a human right that applies on Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Islamic Shari’ah couldn’t have prevented Muslims from responding back to aggression and harm as the Islamic Shari’ah with all its rulings in entirety revolves around the human being and its higher objectives are all about preserving his life, religion, dignity, mind and possessions. God says in the Quran, “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors”. 2:190 and says, “Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – [forbids] that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” 60:9
protecting the right of civilians and those which Muslims vowed to protect:
When a war fare is waged between Muslims and another country, the citizens of our adversaries who reside in our lands should be protected and their rights should be intact. This means that Muslims are not allowed to transgress against them once the war starts or confiscate their money or subject them to any kind of harm. They should be rather guaranteed safe arrival to their homelands. God says, “And if anyone of the Mushrikun (polytheists, idolaters, pagans, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) seeks your protection then grant him protection, so that he may hear the Word of Allah (the Qur’an), and then escort him to where he can be secure, that is because they are men who know not.”(9:6)
Moral ethics after the cessation of fighting and Prevention of plundering or brutal and barbaric acts:
It was narrated that the Prophet was once travelling with his companions and they suffered from extreme exhaustion and hardship so they found a herd of goats so they took it and their pots were boiling when the Prophet came leaning against his bow and extinguished the fire of the pots with his bow and threw dust on meat saying “plundering is not less prohibited than eating the meat of dead animals” (Abu Dawood).

Fulfilling vows:

God says in the Quran, “And fulfill the Covenant of Allah (Bai’a: pledge for Islam) when you have covenanted, and break not the oaths after you have confirmed them, and indeed you have appointed Allah your surety. Verily! Allah knows what you do. (16:91) and also says, “…And fulfil (every) covenant. Verily! The covenant, will be questioned about.” (17:34)

The Prophet said, “Whoever has a covenant with a group of people should not pull the knot or untie it unless the due date of the covenant comes up…” (Abu Dawood)

Mercy in treating war captives and forbidding any assaults on them:
Muslims should treat war captives with mercy and respect. God says, “And they give food, in spite of their love for it (or for the love of Him), to Miskin (poor), the orphan, and the captive, (Saying): “We feed you seeking Allah’s Countenance only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you.” (76:8-9)
It was reported through Abu ‘Aziz ibn ‘Umayr, the brother of Mus’ab ibn ‘Umayr, that he said, “I was among the war captives in the day of the battle of Badr so the Prophet said, “Be good to the captives” and then Abu ‘Aziz continue narrating that he was held captive and remained with a group of the Ansar and whenever the time of lunch or dinner comes, they would serve him dates while they ate wheat in compliance with the Prophet’s advice of treating the captives with goodness.
Jihad does not cease once the battle is over or the Muslim army is given latitude to return back to relaxation and sitting back because the truth of the matter is that fighting in battles is merely the lesser jihad and once they are done with it, they return back to the bigger jihad which is jihad against one’s lower self to prevent it from going back to laziness and indolence. It is rather incumbent upon Muslims to preserve human life whether in war or peace. Therefore it is necessary for the Islamic army during the time of peace to perform its effective social duty through which it can contribute in developing the society and enriching its resources.

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