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Military Jurisprudence in Islam

Tayyab has been intrigued by philosophical topics. He likes to compare all the different aspects before giving a conclusion.



After the Hijrat of the holy prophet from Makkah to Madinah, the holy prophet set up the first Muslim state in Madinah. It became the foundation and the center of Muslim activities. Shortly after the migration, the enemies of Islam marched to Madinah in hopes to end the small community of Muslims who had slipped away from them in Makkah. The Muslims posed a massive threat to the influential tribe Quraysh; the simple concept of monotheism threatened their religion in idols. Therefore, in the second year after hijrat, the first battle of Islam took place. Many other battles and skirmishes took place in the years to come; therefore, it was essential to lay down rules and regulations regarding military tactics and behaviors in battles, to ensure that the Muslims were not doing anything that went against the commands of the Almighty. The holy prophet laid down the foundation that was just and humanitarian towards all things affected from the battle. The physical jihad in Islam is also sometimes known as the lesser jihad.


In the modern day world, Muslims around are the world are not very aware of this particular topic regarding their faith. It is imperative to know the reasoning behind every law in the religion; it is part of our faith to understand each and every aspect of the religion, in order to know about the greatness of our Creator. Islam is known to be the religion of peace; however, some people are not aware of the tolerance and justness in the Islamic rulings and teachings. In the western side of the world, there has been a sudden rise in Islamophobia which has been fueled by misinformed and out of context teachings. Hence, it is of paramount importance to clear the misconceptions that have been developed due to the negligence and mismanagement of mass media.


Secondary sources have been used to collect information in this research. Due to the small number of research papers that specifically address this particular topic. The majority of the information has been gathered from the ultimate sources that are the Quran and Sunnah. As the Quran and Sunnah are the only sources that are used to make up the Shariah law, they are the truly authentic sources which can be used to prove rulings and laws of Islam. The Quran is the divine word of Allah and it provides a complete guide for life and lays the structure of Islam as a religion. In addition, the Sunnah is the way of life of the holy prophet, from his manners to his sermons; everything the holy prophet did construct Sunnah. Online research papers and articles have been retrieved from online scholar website like Google Scholar and Jstor.


“Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But God knoweth, and ye know not” (2:216).

This verse is very popular among people for it is used to prove unwarranted war on non-Muslims. It is publicized explicitly by media and Islamophobes alike to promote hatred against Muslims. However, people have resorted to the habit of making judgments without the knowing the context of the verse. This verse is used by extremist jihadists to prove their deranged beliefs and actions. The actual context of the verse suggests that the verse was revealed when the Muslims were having problems with the Romans. The situation escalated quickly because the Romans had slain one of the messengers that the holy prophet had sent to convey his message. Therefore, it is highly important to know the historical context and the time when a verse was revealed because taking one particular verse out of a whole surah without the context is bound to lead to misconceptions and misinformed opinions.

Islam is known to be a religion of peace because the teachings in the Quran and the Sunnah always preach a message of justness and tolerance. The holy prophet always instructed his army to only engage with the enemies if they have been attacked upon first. This means that Islam supports the message of self-defense. During the conquest of Makkah, the holy prophet specifically instructed his army to not attack until the Quraysh attacked; this led to a bloodless conquest for the most part. Islam preaches the message of forgiveness on the enemies even after you have defeated them in battle. During the conquest of Makkah, the holy prophet gave safe passage to even the people residing in the house of Abu Sufyan, who was one of the biggest enemies of Islam. The holy prophet said: “Even he Who enters the house of Abu Sufyan will be safe, He who lays down arms will be safe, He who locks his door will be safe”. Therefore, the intentions and teachings of Islam are very clear in all of this.

“O people! I charge you with ten rules; learn them well! Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy's flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone”

The above quotation was said by Hazrat Abu Bakr when the Muslim army was going on a military expedition. This saying proves the stance that the Muslims had when going into battle. They were given special instructions to not interfere with civilians who are not involved in the battle like children, women and old people. This quotation perfectly portrays the image of Islam, coupled with the command to only attack in self-defense, it shows that Muslims are not aggressors. In fact, Muslims do not kill in spite, rather, they only respond to attacks when needed. Unnecessary killing is strictly prohibited in Islam because Allah says in the Quran that if a person kills another person, it is as if he has killed the whole of mankind. The exception in this is only given during jihad or when in self-defense. Islam encourages forgiveness and compassion among the Muslims. The battle with evil within a person is called the greater jihad, which summarizes the ideology of Islam. Allah wants us to focus on ourselves instead of going around harmingothers, allegedly, in the name of Allah Almighty.

“What has happened to you that you do not fight in the way of Allah and for the oppressed among men, women and children.” (4:75)

Another one of the reasons to physically rise up against someone is when they are oppressing others. It is specified in the Quran that we are allowed to fight against the oppressors whosoever they may be. It is our duty as Muslims to protect those who are unable to do that themselves like women and children. An important point raised in a research paper (Shah, N.A, 2013) Is that this particular verse does not specify the religion of the victims. This means that this concept can be extended to even non-Muslims if they are being oppressed. All of this is supposed to promote acceptance and coexistence with those who may not agree on something with us.

In another research paper (Naqvi, 1974), it is said that if the Muslims are to attack in self-defense, it is highly important that the reply is given in equal measure. This means that Muslims are not allowed to go over the line when they are attacking in defense; they need to be just and fair in their actions.

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“And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.” (8:61)

Continuing the concept of peace forward, it is clearly mentioned in the Holy Quran that if the enemies are willing to negotiate, Muslims are obligated to start talks in order to find peace. This verse nullifies the claims that have been made by uninformed people that Islam fuels the Muslims to fight without reason. The prime example of this teaching is when the holy prophet signed the treaty of Hudaibbiyah with the Quraysh. Due to this treaty, tensions between the two cities of Makkah and Madinah were eased. Muslims were allowed to visit the holy sites in Makkah to perform pilgrimage. This treat symbolizes the stance that Allah has instructed Muslims to follow; if something can be resolved through means that prevent bloodshed, Islam encourages us to take that path. If the holy prophet had not gone through with the treaty, it would have led to bloodshed which could have been avoided so very easily by negotiating with the enemy.

“The ones with whom you made a treaty but then they break their pledge every time, and they do not fear Allah.” (8:56)

Islam has also given Muslims the option to have a proactive approach, meaning that an anticipatory attack can be organized if the enemies are known to be breaking their treaties and ceasefires. As seen in the verse above, Allah has mentioned that some of the enemies break the treaties. In a later verse, Allah clearly instructs the Muslims to reply in equal measure to those who have broken the treaty with the Muslims. It should be noted that it has never been mentioned to reply more aggressively in the attacks; it has always been instructed to reply in equal meIslam was never meant to be a religion that endorsed or fueled itself solely on the base of violence; however, these views are still common in the west where people are not aware of the necessary information. They are opinions are formed from word of mouth or through mass media news networks.

Sharia law is a strict law that sets down administering standards for spiritual, mental, and actual conduct that should be followed by Muslims. This law represents will of divine will of God that guides Muslims toward a practical manifestation of religious principles in this world. Islam is a lifestyle that individual follows according to the divine instruction. The main source of Islamic law are the holy book, the Quran ; the lessons and practices of Prophet Muhammad, the Sunnah; and the military direct of the Caliphs and military officers of the time.

Islam does not permit taking up arms besides inside jihad. Literal meaning of jihad are of Struggle and effort. It is however extremely broad that incorporates each exertion applied for God. There are two main dimensions of Jihad; jihād al-nafs which is referred to internal struggle against evil and jihād al-sayf which is referred to physical combat. Basic concept is to supporting what is right and stopping what is wrong and its purpose is to strive in the path of God. According to Quran (2:190): “Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you but do not transgress, for Allah does not love transgressors”. In this ayah Muslims are asked to fight those who hinder their path and act with aggression against them just because they want to live their life according to guidance of God. The believers are also informed that material interests should not be the inspiration for their battling, that they should not wage war against the individuals who were not against Islam, that they should not resort to aimless slaughtering and plunder which portrayed the conflicts of the pre-Islamic period, the Age of Ignorance. Main purpose of this verse is to stress that power should to be utilized just when its utilization is unavoidable, and just to the degree that is necessary.

Prophets instructions regarding humanitarian laws

The Prophet summarized this role of humanitarian international law in Islam when he said “I am Muhammad; I am Ahmad; I am the Prophet of Mercy and the Prophet of Repentance; I am the Follower [of the earlier Prophets]; I am the Gatherer and the Prophet of the Fierce Battles.” He consolidated empathy and fight, placing empathy before battle and showed the world that he is hand of justice not the sword of evil. Despite the fact that Fierce Battle means bloody war it also connotes as repairing, reforming and changing in Arabic. Bloodshed is terrible, however when one gathering of individuals forces its philosophy and coercively keeps others from accepting the truth, at that point it gets responsible of a much more greater wrongdoing. In such conditions, it is entirely authentic to eliminate that abusive gathering by the power of arms. Before the battle of Makkah,Muslims had been instructed by the Prophet (S.A.W.) not to cause any damage except if anybody attempted to stop them from entering in Makkah. The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) had taught his Commanders that they entered Makkah, just to battle the individuals who opposed them. This represents Islamic way of Jihad, in which weak ones are not harmed; dignity and life of innocents are not slaughtered. Following the footsteps of Prophet, in a famous announcement, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first Caliph, told his military commanding officer: “Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for guidance on the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies; do not kill a woman, a child, or an aged man; do not cut down fruitful trees; do not destroy inhabited areas; do not slaughter any of the enemies’ sheep, cow or camel except for food; do not burn date palms, nor inundate them; do not embezzle (e.g. no misappropriation of booty or spoils of war) nor be guilty of cowardliness…You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone”. This shows that Islam is a religion of compassion even during the battle one must refrain himself from doing injustice to anyone. Hazrat Abu Bakr al-Siddiq ordered his army to not to harm the innocents such as children, woman and elderly people. Life of anyone accepts defeat should be speared. A believer should not even harm a fruit bearing tree as they are provisions of Allah. Even the environment should not be harmed or destroyed due Muslims battle.

Quran and War Prisoners

The Quran gives broad instructions concerning the treatment of war captives. A portion of the edicts leave some fundamental spaces for juristic understanding dependent on the individual states of prisoners.

In Quran Allah says that “It is not fit for a prophet that he should take captives until he has thoroughly subdued the land. You ˹believers˺ settled with the fleeting gains of this world, while Allah’s aim ˹for you˺ is the Hereafter. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise” (The Quran, 8:67). In this ayah Allah say that it is not right for Prophet to take his enemy as prisoner until or unless he has defeated many of them in battle.

The Quran also says that: “So when you meet the disbelievers’ ˹in battle˺, strike ˹their˺ necks until you have thoroughly subdued them, then bind them firmly. Later ˹free them either as˺ an act of grace or by ransom until the war comes to an end. So will it be. Had Allah willed, He ˹Himself˺ could have inflicted punishment on them. But He does ˹this only to˺ test some of you by means of others. And those who are martyred in the cause of Allah, He will never render their deeds void” (The Quran, 47:4). This ayah again explains condition of taking prisoners which is that prisoner should not be taken until those who wage war against Islam are defeated. The ayah contains a reasonable assurance concerning the destiny of captives. It orders Muslims to deliver detainees in any case after the suspension of threats. The ayah additionally teaches Muslims how to deliver the captives. This ayah also explains two conditions on which war captives are released; first one is to free them out of mercy with no ransom and second is to demand ransom to free them. This verse prioritizes the release of prisoners out of pity by mentioning it first. It doesn't make reference to oppression neither eludes to execution

The Quran also instructs Muslims that how they should treat their war prisoners. In Quran Allah says that: ““They righteous shall...offer food, for the love of Him (Allah), to the needy, the orphan and the captive, (saying): We feed you for the countenance of Allah alone. We desire from you neither reward nor gratitude” (The Quran, 76:5-9). Islam does not allow us to be harsh with war prisoners instead Allah says in this ayah that those who share their food with needy, orphans and captives, even when they are hungry are the ones who are righteous. All three of them are helpless so Allah asked Muslims to share their food as prisoner are also humans and Islam has given them rights and purpose of sharing food is not to get any reward or gratitude but consent of Allah. This verse advises Muslims to show mercy and kindness to detainees through taking care of them so they would accomplish God's award. This ayah later made numerous honorable compassionate traditions with regards to the treatment of war detainees throughout the entire existence of Islam.

The Quran never embraced slavery as a social framework neither urged Muslims to rehearse it. Islam set up solid philosophical inspirations to nullify it. The Quran incorporates numerous verses which urge Muslims to treat slaves as humans and free them.

Alms-tax is only for the poor and the needy, for those employed to administer it, for those whose hearts are attracted ˹to the faith˺, for ˹freeing˺ slaves, for those in debt, for Allah’s cause, and for ˹needy˺ travelers. ˹This is˺ an obligation from Allah. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Quran, 9:60).

“And those who declare zihar from (to) their wives (equating their wives to their mothers) and go back on what they said, (they shall) free a neck (slave) before they touch each other...” (The Quran, 58:3).

Freeing a slave is exceptionally charitable act which prompts expiation of sins and incredible generosity.

The Prophet Muhammad and War Prisoners

In the early times of Islam freeing of slaves was a complex matter because of the absence of precedent norms, principle and rule on one side and some of the prisoners have committed crimes against Muslims on the other side.

Muslims captured 70 prisoners in the Battle of Badr (624 A.D.) from pagan tribe Quraysh of Mecca (al-Bukhārī, 1997:HadithNo. 3039). The prophet later distributed the captives among his partners and requested that they treat the prisoners gently (al-Tabarani, 1994: Hadith No.18444). The prophet further requested Shaba that they offer food to the detainees from what they themselves eat, and dress them from what they, used to wear (al-Bukhārī, 1997:HadithNo.3008). During the time of the prophet, there was no jail and the prisoners were held in private houses and mosques. The prisoner had right to follow their own religion. Prophet also did not allowed, separation of the captives who were from same family and any kind of torture and harsh behavior.

Muslims were accountable for the life of captive until the prophet would take a choice with respect to their destiny. The prophet released prisoners in different ways. He freed some out of pity and some others for payment as the Quran requested. The prophet deciphered the Quranic expression of payment dependent on the individual states of detainees. The payoff of the prophet could be in form of money, service to the Muslim people and prisoners’ trade. The Prophet consulted his close companions after the war of Badr regarding the fate of prisoners. Hazart Abu Bakr al-Saddiq advised to release them for ransom while Hazart Umar Ibn al-Khattab suggested to kill them (Muslim, 2007: Hadith No. 1763; at-Tirmidhi, 362007: Hadith No. 1567). The prophet later ransomed the captives for their liberty. He required the rich captives to pay a measure of cash dependent on their financial condition. He required the poor however educated detainees to show ten Muslim kids how to write and read. He delivered the ones who were neither rich nor educated unconditionally. The prophet never punished detainees since they had partaken in fights against Muslims and precluded their execution on this record. When military leader Khãlid Ibn al-Walid murdered a few prisoners from the clan of Jadhimah Holy Prophet said that “O Allah! I am free from what Khãlid has done” (al-Bukhārī, 1997: Hadith No. 4339).

In the Islamic tradition, slaves were given similar food, fabric and place to live as their owners. Muslims never forced constrained work or any work upon them that they cannot do themselves. The liberating of slaves was must after they would acknowledge Islam or when there was a conviction that their freedom would not imperil the security and tranquility of Muslims. The prophet, alongside the Quranic verses, urged Muslims to treat slaves humanly, feed them satisfactorily, dress them appropriately and set them free if they were not dangerous and hurtful to the Muslim society.


It evident with all this research that Islam is a religion of peace because Allah and the holy prophet have instructed us to always be a humanitarian; we have been taught to always be compassionate to others around us even if they are not following the same religion as us. Hazrat Ali has said that a person is your brother in faith or an equal in humanity. This perfectly sums up the peace loving nature of Muslims. The misconceptions only develop when people choose to stay unaware of things; it develops when they believe anything they hear without checking up the sources. Conclusively, Islam provides humanitarian and forgiving military rulings which stay consistent with the message of Islam that it is a religion of peace.


• Surah Baqarah, Verse 216 (2:216) and Verse 190 (2:190)

• Surah An Nisa, Verse 75. (4:75)

• Surah Al Anfal, Verse 61 (8:61) and Verse 56 (8:56)

• Surah Mujadila, Verse 3 (58:3)

• Surah Al-Insan, Verse 5-9 (76:5-9)

• Shah, N. A. (2013). The use of force under Islamic law. European Journal of International Law, 24(1), 343-365.

• NAQVI, A. (1974). LAWS OF WAR IN ISLAM. Islamic Studies, 13(1), 25-43.• Al-Bukhārī (1997)

• Al-Muslim (2007)• At-Tirizmi (2007)

• Al-Tabarani (1994)

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