Special Article

Peace and freedom are two essential requirements of a society. Just as various penal measures help in protecting a society from the evils and excesses committed by an individual, resorting to armed offensives sometimes becomes essential to curb the evils perpetrated by countries and nations. As long as diplomatic relations and negotiations can be used to resolve matters, no one would endorse the use of force for settling affairs. However, if a nation threatens to disrupt the peace and freedom of the world and its arrogance and haughtiness exceed all bounds, a stage may come when the use of force and power may become essential to keep it in check. In such cases, it is the inalienable right of humankind to forcibly stop its subversive activities until peace and freedom of the world are restored. The Qur'an asserts that if the use of force would not have been allowed in such cases, the disruption and disorder caused by insurgent nations could have reached the extent that the places of worship – where the Almighty is kept in constant remembrance – would have become deserted and forsaken, not to mention the disruption of the society itself:

وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُمْ بِبَعْضٍ لَهُدِّمَتْ صَوَامِعُ وَبِيَعٌ وَصَلَوَاتٌ وَمَسَاجِدُ يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا اسْمُ اللَّهِ كَثِيرًا (40:22)

And had it not been that Allah checks one set of people with another, the monasteries and churches, the synagogues and the mosques, in which His praise is abundantly celebrated would have been utterly destroyed. (22:40)

In religious parlance, this use of force is called Jihad1, and in the Qur'an it can be classified in two distinct categories:

Firstly, against injustice and oppression.

Secondly, against the rejecters of truth after it has become evident to them.

The first type of Jihad is an eternal directive of the Shari'ah. As stated, it is launched to curb oppression and injustice. The second type, however, is specific to people whom the Almighty selects for delivering the truth as an obligation. They are called witnesses to the truth; the implication being that they bear witness to the truth before other people in such a complete and ultimate manner that no one is left with an excuse to deny the truth. Bearing witness to the truth in such a manner is called 'شهادة' (shahadah). In the history of mankind, for the very last time this status was conferred on the Prophet Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta):

وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا (2 :143)

And similarly, O Companions of the Prophet! We have made you an intermediate group2 so that you be witnesses [to this religion] before the nations, and the Rasul be such a witness before you. (2:143)

Once the process of 'شهادة' (shahadah) is complete, the truth is unveiled to a people in its ultimate form, and if they now deny it in spite of being convinced about it, they are punished in this very world. At times, this punishment is through earthquakes, cyclones and other calamities and disasters, while, at others, it emanates from the swords of the believers. As a result, those who have denied the truth are totally vanquished in their land and the truth reigns supreme in it. In the case of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta), the divine scourge took this very form. Consequently, just as they were asked to wage war against oppression and injustice, they were also asked to wage war to punish the rejecters of the truth once it had become totally manifest to them. This was actually a divine plan that was executed through human beings. They themselves were not authorized to even think of such an undertaking. It is to this very fact which the following words of the Qur'an allude:

قَاتِلُوهُمْ يُعَذِّبْهُمْ اللَّهُ بِأَيْدِيكُمْ (9 :14)

Fight them and God will punish them with your hands. (9:14)

In the following pages, this writer will attempt to explain the directives of theShari'ah regarding both these categories of Jihad.3

I. The Permission for Jihad

أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَاتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُوا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى نَصْرِهِمْ لَقَدِيرٌ الَّذِينَ أُخْرِجُوا مِنْ دِيَارِهِمْ بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ إِلَّا أَنْ يَقُولُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ (22 :39-40)

Permission to take up arms is hereby given to those who are attacked because they have been oppressed – Allah indeed has power to grant them victory – those who have been unjustly driven from their homes, only because they said: 'Our Lord is Allah'. (22:39-40)

This is the first verse of theQur'an in which the Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) who had migrated from Makkah (the Muhajirun) were given permission to fight back if they were attacked. TheQur'an says that these Companions (rta) were driven out of their homes because they believed that Allah was their Lord and as such were totally innocent. A little deliberation shows that this one sentence depicts the whole charge-sheet against the Quraysh. The reason for this is that no one is willing to leave his home unless he is oppressed for living there and thereby utterly compelled to migrate. The words 'بانهم ظلموا' (bi annahum zulimu: because they have been oppressed) refer to this very aspect and it is because of this ruthless and unfounded oppression that the Qur'an allowed Muslims to resort to power against aggression.

The words 'الذين اخرجوا من ديارهم' (alladhina ukhriju min diyarihim: those who have been driven out of their homes) clearly show that Muslims were not allowed to wage war before migration. The reason for this is that without political authority armed offensives become tantamount to spreading disorder and anarchy in the society. Therefore, no group or gang of people is authorized to wage war unless it wields political authority in an independent piece of land. In Makkah, Muslims were never able to attain this position but once they migrated to Madinah and, as a result of the treaty of Madinah, were invested with political authority, they were given permission to wage war. There is no doubt that the Almighty had the full authority to help the Muslims in Makkah when they were subjected to grave oppression and torture, but, in spite of this, engaging in warfare was prohibited. So much so that after many years of persecution and oppression, they were forced to leave their homes. At that time, had they waged war against the enemy and even been outnumbered by 1:10, they would have been victorious according to the principle of Divine Help stated in the Qur'an (8:65-6). But the question arises: Why were they not allowed to wage war before migration? From whatever aspect this question is analyzed, the answer to it most surely is what is pointed out above: they had no political authority. The whole history of the Prophets of Allah bears witness to the fact that they never took up arms unless they had political authority. It is known about the Prophet Moses (sws) that he never launched an armed offensive until he was able to bring forth the Israelites from Egypt and organize them in an independent piece of land. The Prophet Jesus (sws) was never able to acquire political authority, so he never undertook any armed struggle. This was in spite of the fact that he himself claimed that he had not come to repeal the directives of the Torah but to fulfill them,4 and it is known that the directive of Jihad is very clearly written in the Torah5. The preaching missions of the Prophets Salih (sws), Hud (sws), Shu'ayb (sws), Lot (sws), Abraham (sws) and Noah (sws) also endorse this premise. For this very reason, the Makkan Surahs of the Qur'an are devoid of any such directive. Had the Prophet Muhammad (sws) not been able to acquire political authority, no verse of Jihad would have been revealed in the Qur'an as is the case with theInjil (the New Testament).

Consequently, there is absolutely certainty that, in their individualcapacity, Muslims are not the addressees of the verses of Jihad. Like the verses which mention punishments for criminals, the real addressees of these Jihad verses are the Muslim rulers. No one other than them has any authority to wage Jihad. The word 'اذن' (udhina: permission is granted) in the above quoted verse of Surah Hajj also points to the fact that the very first question in an armed offensive is that of permission. The Almighty permitted the Muslims of those times to fight back the Quryash only when Muslims had political authority in spite of the tremendous oppression let lose upon them. Consequently, in these times also, this is an essential pre-requisite of war6. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

وَإِنَّمَا الْإِمَامُ جُنَّةٌ يُقَاتَلُ مِنْ وَرَائِهِ وَيُتَّقَى بِهِ (بخارى: رقم 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]. (Bukhari:No. 2957)

The jurists also hold this view:

النوع الثالث من الفروض الكفائية ما يشترط فيه الحاكم مثل : الجهاد وإقامة الحدود. فان هذه من حق الحاكم وحده و ليس لاى فرد ان يقيم الحد على غيره.

Among Kafayah obligations, the third category is that for which the existence of a ruler is necessary e.g., Jihad and execution of punishments. Therefore, only a ruler has this prerogative. Because, indeed, no one else has the right to punish another person.7

II. The Directive of Jihad

وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ وَاقْتُلُوهُمْ حَيْثُ ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَخْرِجُوهُمْ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَخْرَجُوكُمْ وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنْ الْقَتْلِ وَلَا تُقَاتِلُوهُمْ عِنْدَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ حَتَّى يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِيهِ فَإِنْ قَاتَلُوكُمْ فَاقْتُلُوهُمْ كَذَلِكَ جَزَاءُ الْكَافِرِينَ فَإِنْ انتَهَوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّى لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ لِلَّهِ فَإِنْ انتَهَوْا فَلَا عُدْوَانَ إِلَّا عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ الشَّهْرُ الْحَرَامُ بِالشَّهْرِ الْحَرَامِ وَالْحُرُمَاتُ قِصَاصٌ فَمَنْ اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ فَاعْتَدُوا عَلَيْهِ بِمِثْلِ مَا اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الْمُتَّقِينَ (2: 190-194)

And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight against you and do not transgress bounds [in this fighting]. God does not love the transgressors. Kill them wherever you find them and drive them out [of the place] from which they drove you out and [remember] persecution is worse than carnage. But do not initiate war with them near the Holy Ka'bah unless they attack you there. But if they attack you, put them to the sword [without any hesitation]. Thus shall such disbelievers be rewarded. However, if they desist [from this disbelief], Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Keep fighting against them, until persecution does not remain and [in the land of Arabia] Allah's religions reigns supreme. But if they mend their ways, then [you should know that] an offensive is only allowed against the evil-doers. A sacred month for a sacred month; [similarly] other sacred things too are subject to retaliation. So if any one transgresses against you, you should also pay back in equal coins. Have fear of Allah and [keep in mind that] Allah is with those who remain within the bounds [stipulated by religion]. (2:190-4)

Once the permission to wage Jihad was revealed in the verses of Surah Hajj stated earlier, a detailed directive regarding Jihad was basically revealed in the above quoted verses of Surah Baqarah. All other ones which mention Jihad actually elucidate and emphasize what is stated here as well as elaborate upon the right course in certain issues8 which arose once the Muslims set about following this directive.

The context of the verses cited above is that when Muslims were told that it was their obligation to offer Hajj and since they were the true heirs of Abraham's religion it was only their right to journey to the House of God to worship Him, the correct line of action was also spelled out to them in case they encountered resistance from the Quraysh regarding the fulfillment of this obligation. They were told that they should fight them to crush their resistance. This is what the context says; however, the directive does not end here and the Qur'an goes on to extend it by adding certain other details to it. It clarifies the nature of responsibility the Muslims have been entrusted with viz a viz Jihad, the real force from which they should derive their motivation in waging Jihad, the moral and ethical limits of this undertaking and finally the real objective of Jihad. Through these details, the two categories of Jihad referred to earlier in this article are clearly set forth.

These details will now be explained:

i. Nature of the Obligation

The first thing that is evident from these verses is that Muslims should not merely fight the Quraysh if they resist them in offering Hajj, but the Qur'an goes on to say that they should continue to fight the Quraysh until the persecution perpetrated by them is uprooted and Islam prevails in the whole of Arabia. This, obviously, was a very big responsibility and could not have been imposed on an Islamic state without giving due consideration to its moral as well as military might. Consequently, the Qur'an explained that this aspect had been taken into account, and as a result the extent of responsibility would vary in different phases of the Prophet's struggle.

In the initial phase, when the Muslim ranks basically consisted of the pioneers among the Muhajirun and the Ansar and their faith and moral character were of an exemplary degree, they were required to fulfill this responsibility even if the enemy was ten times their might. The Qur'an says:

يَاأَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ حَرِّضْ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ عَلَى الْقِتَالِ إِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ عِشْرُونَ صَابِرُونَ يَغْلِبُوا مِائَتَيْنِ وَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ مِائَةٌ يَغْلِبُوا أَلْفًا مِنْ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَا يَفْقَهُونَ )8: 65)

Prophet! Rouse the believers to wage war. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will subdue two hundred: if a hundred, they will subdue a thousand of the disbelievers: for these are a people without understanding.

While explaining the word 'بصيرت' (basirat: understanding), Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, writes:

It is this 'بصيرت' (basirat) which is man's real quality. When a believer who is equipped with it sets foot in the battle field he finds within his solitary soul the power of a whole army. He experiences Divine help around him and death becomes dearer to him than life. The reason is that his 'بصيرت' (basirat) illuminates before him the exalted destination in Paradise reserved for martyrs. It is this very 'بصيرت' (basirat) which produces in him the perseverance and strength that make him equal in might to ten people who are devoid of it.9

This was the first phase. After it, many people entered the folds of Islam. Though the number of Muslims increased significantly as a result, yet the converts did not have the same 'بصيرت' (basirat: understanding) as their forerunners before them. Consequently, the Almighty reduced the burden of this responsibility also:

الْآنَ خَفَّفَ اللَّهُ عَنكُمْ وَعَلِمَ أَنَّ فِيكُمْ ضَعْفًا فَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ مِائَةٌ صَابِرَةٌ يَغْلِبُوا مِائَتَيْنِ وَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ أَلْفٌ يَغْلِبُوا أَلْفَيْنِ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ (8: 66)

[From] now, God has lightened your [task] for He knows that there is now weakness amongst you: But [ever so], if there are a hundred of you, patient and persevering, they will subdue two hundred, and if a thousand, they will subdue two thousand, with the leave of God: for God is with those who patiently persevere. (8:66)

A similar policy was adopted by the Almighty regarding the extent of requirement that arose in wars that the Muslims had to fight. In the battles of Badr, Uhud and Tabuk, the responsibility was much more and each Muslim was required to present his services as a combatant. Those who tried to shirk this responsibility were severely reprimanded by the Almighty. They were told that if they hold their life, wealth and kin dearer than Jihad, then they should wait for the Almighty's decision against them Who would punish them in the same manner as He has decided to punish those who have deliberately rejected Muhammad (sws)10. However, in military campaigns in which it was not necessary that each Muslim offer his services, the Almighty informed the Muslims that now presenting one's self for Jihad though carried great reward – which by no means is ordinary –, it was not compulsory for each Muslim to participate in them:

لَا يَسْتَوِي الْقَاعِدُونَ مِنْ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ غَيْرُ أُوْلِي الضَّرَرِ وَالْمُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ دَرَجَةً وَكُلًّا وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْحُسْنَى وَفَضَّلَ اللَّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا دَرَجَاتٍ مِنْهُ وَمَغْفِرَةً وَرَحْمَةً وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا(4: 95-96)

Not equal are those of the believers who sit [at home] without any [genuine] excuse and those who strive hard and fight in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has given preference by a degree to those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit [at home]. [In reality], for each, Allah has made a good promise and [in reality] Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight above those who sit [at home] by a huge reward. Degrees of [higher] grades from Him and forgiveness and mercy. And Allah is Ever Forgiving, Most Merciful. (4:95-96)

At another place, the Qur'an has unequivocally stated that showing cowardice and running away from the battlefield once a person has stepped into it is not befitting for a believer. So great is this sin, that the Almighty has promised the fateful doom of Hell fire on such an act of cowardliness:

يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا لَقِيتُمْ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا زَحْفًا فَلَا تُوَلُّوهُمْ الْأَدْبَارَ وَمَنْ يُوَلِّهِمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ دُبُرَهُ إِلَّا مُتَحَرِّفًا لِقِتَالٍ أَوْ مُتَحَيِّزًا إِلَى فِئَةٍ فَقَدْ بَاءَ بِغَضَبٍ مِنْ اللَّهِ وَمَأْوَاهُ جَهَنَّمُ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ (8: 15-16)

O you who believe! When you meet those who disbelieve in a battlefield, never turn your backs to them. And [you should know that] whoever turns his back to them on such a day – unless it be a stratagem of war, or to retreat to a part of his army, – he indeed has drawn upon himself wrath from Allah. And his abode is Hell, and worst indeed is that destination! (8:15-6)

While explaining these verses, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, writes:

Now the Muslims are being given directives regarding imminent wars. They are told that when they encounter the enemy army in formal warfare, they must never turn their backs. This directive has been given in the light of the background delineated earlier in which the Almighty had promised divine help. It is an anathema for people who have the support of Allah and His angels to run away from the battlefield.

'و من يولهم يومئذ دبره': in such a situation, those who desert the battlefield would invite the wrath of God and Hell shall be their abode. This shows that the crime is no less than the crime of apostasy and disbelief. Obviously, the severity of this crime hinges on the fact that, at times, a person who runs away from the battle field poses a great threat for the whole army and sometimes for the whole Muslim collectivity.

'الا متحرفا لقتال او متحيزا الى فئة': ie only those measures are an exception which a soldier adopts as military tactics or, as in some cases, the need arises that he must vacate his front and join some other one. In other words, what is forbidden is to show one's back in order to flee from the battlefield. Showing one's back as a war strategy is an exception [and is not forbidden].11

Three things are very obvious from the stipulations that all these verses mention:

Firstly, even if the sole ground to wage Jihad in these times – oppression and injustice in a country – exists in a particular case, Jihad never becomes obligatory unless the military might of the Muslims is up to a certain level. In the times of the Prophet (sws), when large scale conversions took place in the later phase, the Almighty reduced the Muslim to enemy ratio to 1:2. It cannot be imagined that in later periods it can be more than this. Consequently, Muslims should not only consolidate their moral character, but it is also imperative for them to build their military might if they want to wage Jihad when the need arises. The Qur'an gave a similar directiveto Muslims of the Prophet's times in the following words:

وَأَعِدُّوا لَهُمْ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ مِنْ قُوَّةٍ وَمِنْ رِبَاطِ الْخَيْلِ تُرْهِبُونَ بِهِ عَدُوَّ اللَّهِ وَعَدُوَّكُمْ وَآخَرِينَ مِنْ دُونِهِمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَهُمْ اللَّهُ يَعْلَمُهُمْ وَمَا تُنفِقُوا مِنْ شَيْءٍ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ يُوَفَّ إِلَيْكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تُظْلَمُونَ (8 :60)

Muster against them all the men and cavalry at your disposal so that you can strike terror into the enemies of Allah and of the believers and others beside them who may be unknown to you, though Allah knows them. And remember whatever you spend for the cause of Allah shall be repaid to you. You shall not be wronged. (8:60)

Secondly, abstaining from participating in Jihad becomes a sin only when a Muslim sits at home in spite of the fact that an Islamic State has given a call to each and every Muslim to participate in Jihad. In religious terminology, such an appeal is called 'نفير عام' (nafir 'am). In such instances, the sin is as grave as hypocrisy. In the absence of this situation, participating in Jihad, no doubt, is a very desirable deed if the need arises; however, it is not obligatory and a person who does not undertake it cannot be called a sinner.

Thirdly, deserting the battlefield of Jihad is totally forbidden. No believer should show such feebleness. It is tantamount to showing distrust in Allah, giving priority to this world over the next and trying to make life and death dependent upon one's own strategy – all of which cannot exist with true faith.

ii. The Driving Force

The second thing which is evident from the above quoted verses (2:190-4) is that the 'قـتال' (qital: armed warfare) mentioned therein must neither be undertaken to gratify one's whims nor to obtain wealth and riches. It must also not be undertaken to conquer territories and rule them or to acquire fame or to appease the emotions of communal support, partisanship and animosity. On the contrary, it should be undertaken only and only for the cause of Allah as is evident from the words 'فى سبيل الله' (fi sabilillah: in the way of Allah) after the word 'قاتلوا' (qatilu: fight). Consequently, in the very beginning, the Qur'an has clarified that such a sacred undertaking has no relation with personal and selfish motives. This is the war of the Almighty which His servants undertake at His behest and according to the guidelines provided by Him for His cause. They themselves act as mere agents and implementers of the will of God. They have no objective of their own before them in this undertaking; rather they have to fulfill the objectives of the Almighty. Consequently, they cannot deviate in the least from this capacity:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ الطَّاغُوتِ فَقَاتِلُوا أَوْلِيَاءَ الشَّيْطَانِ إِنَّ كَيْدَ الشَّيْطَانِ كَانَ ضَعِيفًا (4: 76)

Those who believe, fight in the cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Satan. So fight you against the friends of Satan. Ever feeble indeed is the plot of Satan. (4:76)

The Prophet (sws), at various instances, also explained very forcefully this purport of the Qur'an:

Abu Musa Ash'ari(rta) narrates that once a person came to the Prophet (sws) and said that some people fight for the spoils of war, some for fame and some to show off their valour; he then asked the Prophet (sws): 'Which one of them fights in the way of Allah'. The Prophet (sws) replied: 'Only that person fights in the way of Allah who sets foot in the battlefield to raise high the name of Allah'.12

Abu Imamah Bahili(rta) narrates that a person came to the Prophet (sws) and asked: 'What is your opinion about a person who fights for monetary benefits and fame'. The Prophet (sws) replied: 'He will gain nothing'. The person repeated his question three times and each time the Prophet (sws) gave the same answer and then said: 'The Almighty never accepts a deed until it is pure and done merely to please Him'.13

Abu Hurayrah(rta) narrates that once the Prophet (sws) said: 'The fate of three types of people shall be decided first on the Day of Judgement: A person who was martyred while fighting. The Almighty will remind him of His favours. Once the person remembers them, the Almighty will ask: "What did you do for me?" He will reply: "I fought for you until I embraced martyrdom". The Almighty will say: "You have told a lie; you fought so that people would acknowledge your bravery and this has [already] taken place". The Almighty would then order for his punishment and he would be dragged by his face and thrown into Hell'.14

'Ubadah Ibn Samit(rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): 'A person who fought in the way of Allah with the intention that he would gain a rope [from the war booty] to tie a camel in the battle will only get that rope and nothing else'.15

Mu'adh Ibn Jabal(rta) narrates that once the Prophet (sws) said: 'Wars are of two types: a person who fought merely to please Allah, obeyed his ruler in the war, spent the best of his wealth, was affectionate with his fellow fighters and abstained from spreading disorder and evil, then all the time he spent in the war whether he was awake or was asleep – all would earn reward for him. And a person who fought for fame and to earn the praises of the world and disobeyed his ruler during the war and thereby created disorder, he would not be spared'.16

It is this special status of the 'قتال' (qital: armed warfare) that makes it an act of great reward for the believers. The Almighty says:

وَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أَمْوَاتًا بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ فَرِحِينَ بِمَا آتَاهُمْ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ وَيَسْتَبْشِرُونَ بِالَّذِينَ لَمْ يَلْحَقُوا بِهِمْ مِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ أَلَّا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ يَسْتَبْشِرُونَ بِنِعْمَةٍ مِنْ اللَّهِ وَفَضْلٍ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (3 :169-171)

Consider not those who are killed in the way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive with their Lord, and they will be provided for. They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty and rejoice for the sake of those who have not yet joined them, but are left behind [not yet martyred] that on them too no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve. They rejoice in a grace and a bounty from Allah, and that Allah will not waste the reward of the believers. (3:169-171)

Abu Hurayrah(rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): 'A person who wages Jihad in the way of Allah – and Allah knows full well who wages Jihad in His way – is like a person who fasts during the daytime and stands in prayer during the night, and for such a person [who fights in His way], Allah has taken upon Himself to take him to Paradise in case He ordains death for him, [and if this is not the case], He will reward him and send him back home safely with the spoils of war'.17

He also narrates that once a person came to the Prophet (sws) and asked: 'Tell me of a deed whose reward is equivalent to that of Jihad.' The Prophet (sws) replied: 'There is no such deed.' The Prophet (sws) then asked that person: 'Is it possible for you that once the Mujahidin (warriors) depart for Jihad, you go to the mosque and keep standing in prayer without pausing and also keep fasting [simultaneously] without breaking the fast?' The person replied: 'How can anyone do this?'18

At another instance, Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates from the Prophet: 'There are hundred levels in Paradise which the Almighty has prepared for those who wage Jihad in His way. Each of these levels is separated from one another with a distance equivalent to that between the earth and the sky'.19

Abu Hurayrah(rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): 'I swear by the Almighty that a person who is wounded in the way of Allah – and Allah knows full well who is actually wounded in His way – he would be raised on the Day of Judgement such that his colour be the colour of blood with the fragrance of musk around him'.20

Ibn Jabrnarrates from the Prophet (sws): 'A person whose feet become dust ridden because of [striving] in the way of Allah will never be touched by the flames of Hell'.21

Sahal Ibn Sa'ad says that the Prophet (sws) once said: 'To reside in a border area for a day to protect [people] against an enemy [invasion] is better than this world and everything it has'.22

iii. Ethical Limits

The third thing that becomes evident from these verses is that war cannot be waged in the way of Allah by disregarding ethical limits. Moral values have to be given priority on every thing in all circumstances, and even in circumstances of war the Almighty has not given any person the permission to breach ethical principles. The verses assert that Muslims can fight the enemy and can displace them from the city from which they themselves were displaced from and that they should be killed wherever found. They are allowed to take this step because of the reign of oppression and injustice let lose by the enemy and because the truth has been made manifest to them and they have deliberately denied it. However, two things must still remain in their consideration:

Firstly, Muslims should not initiate proceedings to violate any thing which is sacred. Consequently, war is permitted near the Baytullah and in sacred months only if the enemy takes the initiative. Muslims can in no case commence such proceedings.

Secondly, any excess committed by the enemy can be answered by the Muslims by inflicting equal damage only. They have no right to go beyond this. They can wage war but in no case are they allowed to exceed the limits and commit any excesses – for the Almighty is greatly displeased by such an attitude. He only helps those who never cross the limits set by Him in any circumstances.

In the verse under discussion, both these stipulations are discussed by the Qur'an in its sublime style:

الشَّهْرُ الْحَرَامُ بِالشَّهْرِ الْحَرَامِ وَالْحُرُمَاتُ قِصَاصٌ فَمَنْ اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ فَاعْتَدُوا عَلَيْهِ بِمِثْلِ مَا اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الْمُتَّقِينَ (2: 194)

A sacred month for a sacred month; [similarly] other sacred things too are subject to retaliation. So if any one transgresses against you, you should also pay back in equal coins. Have fear of Allah and [keep in mind that] Allah is with those who remain within the bounds [stipulated by religion]. (2:194)

While explaining this verse, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, writes:

This verse implies that fighting in the forbidden months or fighting within the boundaries of Haram is a big sin. However, if the disbelievers disregard their sanctity, Muslims on account of Qisas also have the right to strip them off the protection that these sacred entities afford them. The life of every person carries great sanctity in the eyes of the Shari'ah. However, when a person violates this sanctity and kills someone, then he himself will be deprived of the right of sanctity for his own life to avenge his own deed. Similarly, the sanctity of the forbidden months and of the Haram itself shall be upheld in all circumstances on the condition that the disbelievers also uphold it and do not oppress and tyrannize people in them. However, if they unsheathe their swords in the forbidden months and in the sacred land of Makkah, then on account of Qisas they themselves deserve to be divested of the protection these months and this land hold for them. The verse goes on to say that just as that taking of Qisas for the forbidden months is necessary, the Qisas of other sacred entities must also be taken. In other words, if the disbelievers deprive Muslims of the right of protection that certain sacred things hold for them, Muslims too have the right as a result of Qisas to pay them back in equal coins or measure. Consequently, whatever measures the disbelievers adopt in violation of the sanctity of the Haram and the forbidden months, Muslim too can retaliate – but they must fear God and retaliate on equal footings: neither should they initiate such violations nor exceed the limits while retaliating against any aggression in this regard. Only those people become worthy of Divine Help who are fearful of the Almighty in all circumstances.23

The most important directive that has been spelled out in the sphere of ethical limits is the fulfillment of promises. Breaking a promise is a great sin in the eyes of the Almighty. He has made it amply clear to the Muslims that in both forms of 'قتال' (qital: armed warfare) – ie against injustice and oppression and against the rejecters of truth after the truth has become evident to them – Muslims must not break any treaty made with a nation. Surah Tawbah is the surah which announces punishment on people who deliberately rejected the truth. In this surah, the Prophet (sws) has been directed to declare null and void all pacts and treaties and embark upon a final assault against the disbelievers; however, it is explicitly stated in the surah (9:4)that all treaties that have been concluded with a time frame must continue till the time period is over. Similarly, in Surah Anfal, Muslims are emphatically told that even if a nation, with which Muslims are under obligation of a contract, is guilty of oppressing the Muslims in matters of their religion, the Islamic state does not have the right to help these Muslims if this amounts to a breach of contract made with that nation:

وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يُهَاجَرُوا مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ وَلَايَتِهِمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ حَتَّى يُهَاجِرُوا وَإِنْ اسْتَنصَرُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ فَعَلَيْكُمْ النَّصْرُ إِلَّا عَلَى قَوْمٍ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَهُمْ مِيثَاقٌ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ (8 :72)

And to those who accepted faith but did not migrate [to Madinah], you owe no duty of protection to them until they migrate; but if they seek your help in religion, it is your duty to help them except against a people with whom you have a treaty of mutual alliance; and Allah is the All-Seer of what you do. (8:72)

At a number of occasions the Prophet (sws) has stressed how dreadful a sin breaking one's promise is:

Abu Sa'id(rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): 'On the Day of Judgement, to proclaim the traitorship of a traitor and the betrayal of a person who betrayed his words, a flag shall be hoisted which would be as high as [the extent of his] traitorship', and [the Prophet (sws) also said]: 'Remember that no traitor and betrayer of promises is greater than the one who is the leader and ruler of people'.24

Abdullah Ibn Umar(rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) [once] said: 'A person who kills a Mu'ahid will not be able to smell [the fragrance] of Paradise, even though its fragrance can be smelt from a place as far off as forty years from it in distance'.25

However, if Muslims fear any foul play and breach of contract from the opposite side, they, in the words of the Qur'an, can also terminate the treaty and throw the promise on their faces on equal footings:

وَإِمَّا تَخَافَنَّ مِنْ قَوْمٍ خِيَانَةً فَانْبِذْ إِلَيْهِمْ عَلَى سَوَاءٍ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْخَائِنِينَ (8: 58)

And if you fear any treachery from a people throw back [their covenant] to them on equal terms. Certainly Allah likes not the treacherous. (8:58)

While commenting on this verse, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, writes:

The words 'على سواء' ('ala sawa) mean that Muslims are authorized to pay back their enemy in equal coins. This means that the retaliation from their side must not exceed the harm inflicted upon them. Some people have deduced from these words that the nullification of a treaty should necessarily be openly declared before the other party. I do not find this deduction to be very sound as these words do not support it; however, this much can be inferred that mere speculation should not impel a party to revoke it. This should only be done after some manifest proof of its violation from the other side. The use of the intensive verb 'تخافن' (takhafanna) in the verse lays credence to this claim. Moreover, the condition of 'على سواء' ('ala sawa) also highlights this aspect.26

The Prophet (sws) is reported to have explained this aspect in the following words:

مَنْ كَانَ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ قَوْمٍ عَهْدٌ فَلَا يَحُلَّنَّ عَهْدًا وَلَا يَشُدَّنَّهُ حَتَّى يَمْضِيَ أَمَدُهُ أَوْ يَنْبِذَ إِلَيْهِمْ عَلَى سَوَاءٍ (ترمذى: رقم 1580)

If a nation concludes a treaty with some other, then it should not change it in any sense until the time period of the treaty expires or if it fears some treachery from it. In these cases, it should throw the treaty before it by an open declaration on equal footings. (Tirmadhi: No. 1580)

Other directives which are mentioned in the Qur'an and the Hadith in this regard are the following:

1. A display of pomp and pride should be avoided when an army sets out for a battle. In Surah Anfal, where the Qur'an has asked the Muslims to spend more time in the remembrance of God when a war is at hand, it has also asked them to abstain from show and pomposity – something which is the way of people who are inebriated with the pride of their number and the resources and the ammunition they have. Such vanity and conceit are not befitting for believers. Whether in the battlefield or outside it, the humility of servitude to the Almighty should always be their hallmark. The reason for this is that their war is not mere war – it is serving and worshipping the Almighty and at all instances this fundamental aspect should be taken into account by them:

وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ خَرَجُوا مِنْ دِيَارِهِمْ بَطَرًا وَرِئَاءَ النَّاسِ وَيَصُدُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ مُحِيطٌ (8: 47)

And be not like those who came out of their homes boastfully and to display their grandeur and who stop [people] from the way of Allah even though Allah fully encompasses what they do. (8:47)

2. People who want to remain neutral in war should not be left alone and not be troubled in any way. In Surah Nisa, the behavior of certain Muslims is referred to who because of their timidity and frailty were neither willing to fight the Muslims by joining hands with their own nation nor were ready to join the Muslims and fight their own nation. The Almighty bade the Muslims to abstain from any action against them:

أَوْ جَاءُوكُمْ حَصِرَتْ صُدُورُهُمْ أَنْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ أَوْ يُقَاتِلُوا قَوْمَهُمْ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَسَلَّطَهُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ فَلَقَاتَلُوكُمْ فَإِنْ اعْتَزَلُوكُمْ فَلَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ وَأَلْقَوْا إِلَيْكُمْ السَّلَمَ فَمَا جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ عَلَيْهِمْ سَبِيلًا (4:90)

Or those who approach you such that they neither have the courage to fight you nor their own people [and are such that] had Allah willed, indeed He would have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they withdraw from you, and fight not against you, and offer you peace, then Allah does not give you permission to take any action against them. (4:90)

3. People who neither take part in a battle nor are able to take part in it – as per the dictates of custom as well as sense and reason – should not be killed. 'Abdullah Ibn 'Umar (rta) reports from the Prophet (sws) that once in a battle when it became known that a woman had been killed, the Prophet (sws) emphatically forbade the killing of the women and children.27

4. People among the enemy should not be killed by setting them ablaze. Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates that once when the Prophet (sws) bade the Muslims to set out for a battle he named two persons and directed the Muslims to burn them if they encountered them. However, when the Muslim army was about to set out, he said: 'I had asked you to set two people ablaze; the truth of the matter is that it is only Allah Who can punish someone in this manner; so if you find these two, just kill them'.28

5. Plundering and looting should be abstained from. 'Abdullah Ibn Yazid (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) stopped the Muslims from snatching anything from the common people while the Muslim army is marching into the enemy territory.29 A person from the Ansar narrates that once while traveling for a Jihad, because of great compulsion, some people of the Muslim army snatched some goats to quench their hunger. When the Prophet (sws) came to know about this, he overturned all the utensils and remarked: 'plundered [food] is not better than dead meat'.30

6. Dead bodies should not be mutilated. Baridah narrates that among the directives the Prophet (sws) would give while sending a Muslim army would be an emphatic assertion to abstain from mutilating dead bodies and from disfiguring them.31

7. Setting up obstructions and robing travellers is forbidden. Mua'adh Ibn Anas narrates that once when he and others in the company of the Prophet (sws) embarked upon a campaign of Jihad it was observed that people had been obstructing the place where the army was to disembark and were busy robbing the passersby. When this complaint reached the Prophet (sws), he publicly announced at once that any person who obstructs the place of disembarkment and loots the passersby is in fact not doing Jihad.32