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The Islamic View on War

By: Professor Maqsood Jafri

Islam preaches peace and condemns war.  There is a general impression that Islam is a militant religion and it was spread by sword.  Islamic concept of Jihad is always misrepresented.  Eminent British philosopher Bertrand Russell was also of the opinion that Islam is a militant creed.  The question arises why such views cropped in the minds of people?  There is not a shred of doubt in it that some of the Muslim rulers in the greed of expansionist designs exceeded the Islamic limits.  They were aggressors, tyrants and despots.  In the name of Islam they raided the peaceful countries and in the monarchic zeal they trampled the human rights under their feet.  Their acts should not be regarded as Islamic acts.  Islam and Muslims are altogether two different things.  Not only the Muslims are to be blamed.  The human history is drenched and weltered with human blood.  The blood baths in the name of territory or religion are the specks on the brow of history.  The way the Mongols ransacked and persecuted the innocent people it is unprecedented in human history.  In the book “Prisoners of War” in the story of the Mongols the writer depicts the horrible picture of their invasions.  The Mongols were known for brutality, brigandage and bloodshed.  Genghis Khan looted, plundered and pillaged mercilessly.  The Mongols killed seventy thousand persons in Khorasan and thirty thousand people in Bukhara, Samarqand and Nishapur.  The men, women and children were brutally massacred.  Stepping into the foot steps of Genghis Khan, Hulogu also mercilessly killed hundreds of thousands Muslims in Baghdad.  The crusades between the Christians and the Muslims also brought untold miseries to humans.  Those were ancient days.  We condemn savagery and curse war.  But what our modern and cultured people have done with human race?  America dropped atom bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima and killed nearly about three hundred thousands people in the space of few hours.  The World War I and the World War II split the blood of million humans.  The British trampled the human rights under jackboots in India, Iraq, Egypt and Sudan.  Imam Muhammad Shirazi in his book entitled “War, Peace and Non-violence- In Islamic Perspective” writes: “In Sudan, the British soldiers would cut off the heads of those killed and send them to London to be made into ashtrays out of hatred for the Muslims”.  In Libya, the Italians killed half the populace, which in those days reached a million.  Like wise French in Algeria killed a million Muslims out of nine million people.  The Russians killed five million Muslims in various ways in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.  The Pakistani Muslim Army massacred hundreds of thousand Muslims of their own part East Pakistan in 1971.  Instead of solving the differences politically, military was used and blood was spilt.  In retaliation East Pakistan emerged in the shape of present Bangladesh.  Today India is mercilessly killing the Kashmiries in Kashmir.  The Palestine seeks just and peaceful settlement as soon as possible.  Whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims bloodshed is not accepted.  It must be condemned and stopped.  Man is the best creation of God.  Man must be loved, respected, protected and promoted.  Let us see what Islam says about the war and horrors of war.  In Sura “The Heifer” the Quran says: “O ye who have faith, enter in to peace all of you, and do not follow the footsteps of Satan” – (2:208).  Islam calls to peace and abhors war.  Jihad is the last resort in Islam, because the Quran time and again invites to dialogue.  To date we realize the importance of Interfaith dialogue but the Quran fourteen hundred years ago had invited the people of the Book to come to peace full terms through dialogue.  About peace Allah Almighty says: “And if they incline to peace then incline to peace and put your trust in Allah.”(8:61). Islam emphasizes on the need of peace and avoids war.  If war is thrust upon Muslims, then they are asked to defend themselves.  Islam does not permit transgression and aggression in any case.  In Sura Mumtahana (The woman to be Examined) the Quran says: “Allah does not forbid you, with regards to those who do not fight you for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just – Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection).  It is such as turn to them (in those circumstances), that do wrong.” (60:8-9) These verses clearly show that when the Muslims are mistreated and attacked then they must resist and defend themselves.  Against aggressors the Quran is very sensitive and specific.  Not only about the non-Muslim, even about the Muslim aggressor in Sura Al-Hujurat (The inner Apartment) the Quran says: “If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, you make peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other then you (all) fight against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah: but if it complies, then make peace between them with justice, and be fair: for Allah loves those who are fair (and just).” (49:9) The Quran severely condemns injustice, cruelty and bloodshed.  The Quranic warfare values are mentioned in the Suras the Spoils of war; the Repentance; the Inner Apartments; the Gathering; the Spider and the Holding.


A narration in related by Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Jafar Sadiq, Hazrat Jabir bin Yazid, Hazrat Ibn Abbas and Hazrat Abn Said al-Khudri that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) did not permit the people who wanted to join Jihad without the permission of their parents.  The women, the children, the slaves, the handicapped; the diseased and the insane are exempted from participating in Jihad.  Besides the women, the children, the wounded, the monks, the elderly lot and neutral people can neither be imprisoned nor killed during Jihad.  In Sura “The Heifer” it is written that during the sacred months i.e. during the months of Rajab; Dhul-Qaedah: Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram the Muslims are ordained to cease fire.  But if they are attacked in these months then they can defend themselves.  Syed Ali Ibn Tawous in his book “Kash al –Yaqeen” notes the tradition of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that Islamic war can not be initiated with out a just cause and without a just Muslim ruler.  In the book entitled “Daimal-Islam” it is related that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) on the day of the battle of Badr released some prisoners of the clan of Abdal-Muttalib on the plea that they were forced to fight against their wills.  The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: “He who kills a man from the people of the Dhimma (non-Muslims under the protection of Islamic state) will be forbidden paradise the perfume of which can be smelled at a distance of twelve traveling.”  If any Jew or Christian is killed in a Muslim state on religious differences it is a great sin and must be forcibly abandoned.  On different occasions the Prophet said; “the emissary is not to be killed.  Trees are not to be felled.  The animals are not to be slaughtered.  The houses are not to be razed and the supply of water is not to be cut off”.  Islamic views on war teach us that Islam promotes peace and discourages war and bloodshed.


Some religious extremists preach the younger generation to kill the people of other faiths and issue them the tickets to enter the heaven.  No body is permitted to kill anyone on religious differences.  The Quran in Sura “The Woman” declares: “and as far he who kills a believer deliberately, his reward will be Hell.” (4:93). It is related from Jafar ibn Muhammad, from his father, from Hazrat Ali who said: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘There is a valley in Hell named ‘Sair’ which if opened the fires will roar from it.  Allah has prepared it for the murderers’”.  How the bloodshed is cursed the following saying of the Prophet of Islam in a sufficient to prove that: “the first thing that Allah will look at on the Day of Resurrection will be blood.”  At a place the Holy Prophet has said: “He who aids and abets in the killing of a believer has taken himself out of Islam.”  It does not mean that the blood of non-Muslims is not sacred in Islam.  About the non-believers the Prophet of Islam time and again said that their blood, life, property and honor is as sacred as of the Muslims.  The motto; message; mission; and mantra of Islam is universal peace.  In Sura “The Heifer” the Quran says: “Enter in to a state of peace one and all.” (2:208). Jesus Christ says; “you have been told to love thy friends, but this is not what is important, for even the tithe collectors love their friends.  I say to you love thine enemies.”  If today the world acts upon this beautiful message of Jesus there will be no war and no blood letting.  Hazrat Ali in Nehj Al Balagha says: “People are of two types: either your brother in religion or your equal in creation”.  The equal in creation means that the non-believers have equal rights as humans in an Islamic State.  Violence is extremely condemned in Islam.  To resolve the issues through peaceful means and dialogues is the spirit of Islam.  Islam is anti-War and Pro-Peace.  Hence it can be said that Islamic view on war is that there should be no war at all.


(The writer is an eminent speaker and scholar on Islam.  He can be reached at


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