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The Islamic Law of Jihād
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

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’ān 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 (٤٠:٢٢)

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 Jihād1, and in the Qur’ān 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 Jihād is an eternal directive of the Sharī‘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’ (shahādah). 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 (٢ :١٤٣)

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 Rasūl be such a witness before you. (2:143)

Once the process of ‘شهادة’ (shahādah) 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’ān allude:

قَاتِلُوهُمْ يُعَذِّبْهُمْ اللَّهُ بِأَيْدِيكُمْ (٩ :١٤)

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 the Sharī‘ah regarding both these categories of Jihād.3


I. The Permission for Jihād

أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَاتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُوا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى نَصْرِهِمْ لَقَدِيرٌ الَّذِينَ أُخْرِجُوا مِنْ دِيَارِهِمْ بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ إِلَّا أَنْ يَقُولُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ (٢٢ :٣٩-٤٠)

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 the Qur’ān in which the Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) who had migrated from Makkah (the Muhājirūn) were given permission to fight back if they were attacked. The Qur’ān 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 zulimū: because they have been oppressed) refer to this very aspect and it is because of this ruthless and unfounded oppression that the Qur’ān allowed Muslims to resort to power against aggression.

The words ‘الذين اخرجوا من ديارهم’ (alladhīna ukhrijū min diyārihim: 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 Madīnah and, as a result of the treaty of Madīnah, 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’ān (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 Jihād is very clearly written in the Torah5. The preaching missions of the Prophets Sālih (sws), Hūd (sws), Shu‘ayb (sws), Lot (sws), Abraham (sws) and Noah (sws) also endorse this premise. For this very reason, the Makkan Sūrahs of the Qur’ān are devoid of any such directive. Had the Prophet Muhammad (sws) not been able to acquire political authority, no verse of Jihād would have been revealed in the Qur’ān as is the case with the Injīl (the New Testament).

Consequently, there is absolutely certainty that, in their individual capacity, Muslims are not the addressees of the verses of Jihād. Like the verses which mention punishments for criminals, the real addressees of these Jihād verses are the Muslim rulers. No one other than them has any authority to wage Jihād. The word ‘اذن’ (udhina: permission is granted) in the above quoted verse of Sūrah 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 ٢٩٥٧)

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]. (Bukhārī: 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 Kafāyah obligations, the third category is that for which the existence of a ruler is necessary e.g., Jihād 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 Jihād

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 (٢: ١٩٠-١٩٤)

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 Jihād was revealed in the verses of Sūrah Hajj stated earlier, a detailed directive regarding Jihād was basically revealed in the above quoted verses of Sūrah Baqarah. All other ones which mention Jihād 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’ān 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 Jihād, the real force from which they should derive their motivation in waging Jihād, the moral and ethical limits of this undertaking and finally the real objective of Jihād. Through these details, the two categories of Jihād 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’ān 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’ān 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 Muhājirūn and the Ansār 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’ān 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 )٨: ٦٥)

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’ (basīrat: understanding), Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, writes:

It is this ‘بصيرت’ (basīrat) 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’ (basīrat) illuminates before him the exalted destination in Paradise reserved for martyrs. It is this very ‘بصيرت’ (basīrat) 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’ (basīrat: 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 )٨: ٦٦)

[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 Tabūk, 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 Jihād, 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 Jihād 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(٤: ٩٥-٩٦)

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’ān 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 (٨: ١٥-١٦)

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, Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, 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 Jihād in these times – oppression and injustice in a country – exists in a particular case, Jihād 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 Jihād when the need arises. The Qur’ān gave a similar directive to 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 (٨ :٦٠)

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 Jihād 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 Jihād. In religious terminology, such an appeal is called ‘نفير عام’ (nafīr ‘ām). In such instances, the sin is as grave as hypocrisy. In the absence of this situation, participating in Jihād, 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 Jihād 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’ (qitāl: 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’ (fī sabīlillāh: in the way of Allah) after the word ‘قاتلوا’ (qātilū: fight). Consequently, in the very beginning, the Qur’ān 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 (٤: ٧٦)

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’ān:

Abū Mūsā Ash‘arī (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

Abū Imāmah Bāhilī (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

Abū 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

‘Ubādah Ibn Sāmit (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‘ādh 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’ (qitāl: 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 (٣ :١٦    ٩-١٧١)

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)

Abū Hurayrah (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): ‘A person who wages Jihād in the way of Allah – and Allah knows full well who wages Jihād 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 Jihād.’ The Prophet (sws) replied: ‘There is no such deed.’ The Prophet (sws) then asked that person: ‘Is it possible for you that once the Mujāhidīn (warriors) depart for Jihād, 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, Abū Hurayrah (rta) narrates from the Prophet: ‘There are hundred levels in Paradise which the Almighty has prepared for those who wage Jihād 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

Abū 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 Jabr narrates 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 Baytullāh 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’ān 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 (٢: ١٩٤)

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 Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, 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 Qisās 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 Sharī‘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 Qisās 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 Qisās for the forbidden months is necessary, the Qisās 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 Qisās 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’ (qitāl: 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. Sūrah Tawbah is the sūrah which announces punishment on people who deliberately rejected the truth. In this sūrah, 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 sūrah (9:4) that all treaties that have been concluded with a time frame must continue till the time period is over. Similarly, in Sūrah Anfāl, 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 (٨ :٧٢)

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:

Abū Sa‘īd (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

Abdullāh Ibn Umar (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) [once] said: ‘A person who kills a Mu‘āhid 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’ān, 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 (٨: ٥٨)

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 Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, writes:

The words ‘على سواء’ (‘alā sawā) 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’ (takhāfanna) in the verse lays credence to this claim. Moreover, the condition of ‘على سواء’ (‘alā sawā) 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 ١٥٨٠)

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. (Tirmadhī: No. 1580)

Other directives which are mentioned in the Qur’ān and the Hadīth 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 Sūrah Anfāl, where the Qur’ān 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 )٨: ٤٧)

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 Sūrah Nisā, 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 (٤:٩٠)

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. ‘Abdullāh 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. Abū 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. ‘Abdullāh Ibn Yazīd (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 Ansār narrates that once while traveling for a Jihād, 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. Barīdah 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. Muā‘adh Ibn Anas narrates that once when he and others in the company of the Prophet (sws) embarked upon a campaign of Jihād 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 Jihād.32

iv. The Ultimate Goal

The fourth thing discussed in the verses (2:190-4) is the ultimate goal of Jihād. It says that Jihād should continue until two objectives are totally achieved:

Firstly, ‘فتنه’ (fitnah) is uprooted.

Secondly, in the Arabian peninsula only Islam reigns supreme.

For the first objective, the words used by the Qur’ān are ‘حتى لا تكون فتنه’ (hattā lā takūna fitnah: until fitnah does not remain). Sūrah Anfāl (8:39) also mentions this objective in similar words. ‘فتنه’ (fitnah) is something which the Qur’ān regards as ‘اشد من القتل’ (ashaddu min’al-qatl: a greater crime than murder). It means ‘persecution’ (to force a person to give up his religion). It is used in this meaning at a number of places in the Qur’ān. No doubt, it is a crime greater than murder. The Almighty has created this world to test man by giving him the right to freely choose his religion and ideology. Consequently, any person who forces someone to give up his religion is in fact rebelling against the scheme of the Almighty. So when an Islamic state was established in Madīnah, Muslims were directed to take up arms against people who were responsible for persecuting Muslims and to continue this aggression until persecution was uprooted from Arabia. The following verses forcefully depict this directive:

وَمَا لَكُمْ لَا تُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ مِنْ الرِّجَالِ وَالنِّسَاءِ وَالْوِلْدَانِ الَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا مِنْ هَذِهِ  الْقَرْيَةِ الظَّالِمِ أَهْلُهَا وَاجْعَل لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ وَلِيًّا وَاجْعَل لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ نَصِيرًا  الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي  سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ الطَّاغُوتِ فَقَاتِلُوا أَوْلِيَاءَ الشَّيْطَانِ إِنَّ كَيْدَ الشَّيْطَانِ كَانَ ضَعِيفًا (٤: ٧٥-٦)

And what has come over you that you fight not in the cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors, and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help. [You should know that] 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. (4:75-6)

The directive of waging war against ‘فتنه’ (fitnah: persecution) is mentioned in certain other verses of the Qur’ān as well. No doubt, the age old tradition of forcing people to renounce their religion has almost been eliminated today; however, as long as human beings remain human beings, they can always revert to it. Consequently, this is an eternal directive of the Qur’ān. If persecution surfaces at any place on this earth of God, it is imperative upon a Muslim state to root it out if it has the strength and power to do so and help the oppressed by waging war against it. This is an everlasting directive of the Qur’ān for the Muslims and no law of this world can repeal it.

A question arises here: Do other forms of injustice and oppression besides persecution also not entail a similar action? The answer to this question in the opinion of this writer is that all forms of oppression against the life and wealth as well as freedom of opinion and expression of Muslims – should be considered under it in various degrees. Consequently, if a group of Muslims commits unwarranted aggression against some of their brothers and does not desist from it even after all attempts of reconciliation, such a group according to the Qur’ān should be fought with:

وَإِنْ طَائِفَتَانِ مِنْ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ اقْتَتَلُوا فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا فَإِنْ بَغَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا عَلَى الْأُخْرَى فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِي تَبْغِي حَتَّى تَفِيءَ إِلَى أَمْرِ اللَّهِ فَإِنْ فَاءَتْ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا بِالْعَدْلِ وَأَقْسِطُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ  إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ (٤٩ :٩-١٠(

And if two parties or groups among the believers start fighting, then make peace between them both. But if one of them outrages against the other, then fight you against the one which outrages till it complies with the command of Allah. Then if it complies, make reconciliation between them justly, and be equitable. Verily! Allah loves those who are the equitable. The believers are brothers to one another. So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah that you may receive mercy. (49:9-10)

The directives mentioned in this verse can be summarized thus:

1. If two groups among the Muslims are engaged in a fight with one another, other Muslims should not remain indifferent to this state of affairs and should not think that this matter does not concern them. Similarly, it is improper to support a group merely on the basis of familial or tribal bias. They must support the group who in their opinion is on the right and in no way let such biases form the basis of their support. They must try to fully comprehend the situation and then try to reconcile the two groups.

2. If one of the groups is not willing to reconcile or after reconciliation again resorts to oppression and injustice, then it is the duty of the Muslims that if they have the power they should fight this group under the authority of some state. This aggression launched should continue until that group surrenders to the decision the arbitrators have put forth before the two groups. The Qur’ān has used the word ‘امر الله’ (amrullāh: the decision of God) for the decision of the arbitrator. This means that if a person evades this decree, he is in fact evading the decree of God.

3. If the two groups show their willingness to reconcile, the Almighty has stressed that neither should any unwarranted lenience be shown to them nor should they be shown injustice in any way. Justice should be the basis of the reconciliation and whatever loss a party has incurred, it should be compensated for it.

This directive obviously pertains to the existence of a Muslim state under which such a war can be waged. If Muslims do not have a state, then in such a situation, the Prophet Muhammad (sws) while answering a question raised by Hudhayfah (rta) directed the Muslims to dissociate themselves from such anarchy and disorder:

قُلْتُ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُمْ  جَمَاعَةٌ وَلَا  إِمَامٌ قَالَ فَاعْتَزِلْ  تِلْكَ الْفِرَقَ كُلَّهَا وَلَوْ أَنْ تَعَضَّ بِأَصْلِ شَجَرَةٍ حَتَّى يُدْرِكَكَ الْمَوْتُ وَأَنْتَ عَلَى ذَلِكَ.(بخاري: ٧٠٨٤)

I asked: If there is no state or ruler of the Muslims? He replied: In this situation, dissociate yourself from all groups, even if you have to chew the roots of a tree at the time of your death. (Bukhārī: No. 7084)

For the second objective, the words used in Sūrah Baqarah and Sūrah Anfāl are يكون الدين لله’’ (yakūna’l-dīn li’llāh: Allah’s religion reigns supreme) and‘يكون الدين كله لله’ (yakūna’l-dīn kulluhu li’llāh: all of Allah’s religions reigns supreme) respectively. Prior to them the word ‘قاتلوهم’ (qātilūhum: fight them) directs the Muslims to wage war. The antecedent of the pronoun ‘هم’ (hum: them) in this word is the Idolaters of Arabia. Consequently, this much is certain that here these expressions mean that in the land of Arabia the religion of Islam reigns supreme. This purpose could only have been achieved in two ways: either the followers of all other religions be put to death or they be subdued and subjugated completely. Consequently, after many phases interspersed with periods of both war and peace, when the disbelievers were totally humiliated, both these ways were adopted. Muslims were directed to kill the Idolaters of Arabia if they did not accept faith and to let the Jews and Christians live on their own religions if they accepted to pay Jizyah and to live a life of total subjugation to the Islamic state established in Arabia. However, the active adversaries among them were put to death or exiled whenever it became possible.

It has been written at the very beginning of this article that the various measures adopted by the Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta) including warfare were all divinely ordained. These measures do not belong to the common Sharī‘ah law of Islam. They rather belong to a specific law which can be termed as the law of ‘اتمام الحجة’ (itmāmu’l-hujjah). This law can be summarized as: when the truth is unveiled to a people in its ultimate form such that no one has any excuse to deny it, then the rejecters of this truth are punished in this very world. The Qur’ān says that the decision for this punishment is made by the Almighty after various phases of the preaching mission. In this way, the court of justice that will be set up one day before the Almighty is set up in this very world and the reward of punishment which will take place on the Day of Judgement is rehearsed in this very world. The history of this worldly Judgement as mentioned in the Qur’ān shows that the nature of the punishment meted out is generally of two forms:

In the first case, a Rasūl has very few companions and also does not have a place to migrate. In the second one, he migrates with a considerable number of companions and before he even does so, the Almighty arranges for them a territory where they can migrate and live there as its sovereigns and with freedom. In both these cases, the established practice of the Almighty regarding His Rusul manifests itself – the practice which the Qur’ān describes in the following words:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحَادُّونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ أُوْلَئِكَ فِي الأَذَلِّينَ كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَأَغْلِبَنَّ أَنَا وَرُسُلِي إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ (٥٨ :٢٠-١)

Indeed those who are opposing Allah and His Messenger are bound to be humiliated. The Almighty has ordained: ‘I and My Messengers shall always prevail’. Indeed Allah is Mighty and Powerful. (58:20-1)

In the first case, this humiliation takes the form of  Divine punishment which descends upon the adversaries of a Rasūl in the form of raging storms, cyclones and other calamities, which completely destroy them. It is evident from the Qur’ān that the nations of Noah (sws), Lot (sws), Sālih (sws) and Su‘ayb (sws) along with some other nations of Rusul met with this dreadful fate. The only exception to this were the People of the Book (the Israelites) who were not destroyed because, being the People of the Book, they were basically adherents to monotheism. Their humiliation took the form of constant subjugation to the followers of Jesus (sws) till the Day of Judgement.

In the second case, a Rasūl and his companions subdue their nation by force, and execute them if they do not accept faith. In this case, his addressees are given some further respite. In this period, the Rasūl does ‘اتمام الحجة’ (Itmāmu’l-Hujjah33) on the inhabitants of the land to which he had migrated. He morally cleanses and trains his followers and prepares them for a final onslaught with evil. He also consolidates his political power in the land so that he is able to root out the disbelievers and establish the supremacy of the believers through this political power.

It was this situation which had arisen in the case of the Rasūl Muhammad (sws). After ‘اتمام الحجة’ (Itmāmu’l-Hujjah), it was the Jews who were subdued first. They had been granted amnesty because of various pacts. Those among them who violated these pacts were given the punishment of denying a Rasūl (Messenger) of God. The Prophet (sws) exiled the tribe of Banū Qaynuqa‘ to Khaybr and that of Banū Nadīr to Syria34. The power they wielded at Khaybr was crushed by an attack at their strongholds.35 Prior to this, Abū Rāfi‘ and Ka‘ab Ibn Ashraf were put to death in their houses.36 The tribe of Banū Qurayzah was guilty of treachery and disloyalty in the battle of the Ahzāb.37 When the clouds of war dispersed and the chances of an external attack no longer remained, the Prophet (sws) laid siege around them. When no hope remained, they asked the Prophet (sws) to appoint Sa‘ad Ibn Mu‘ādh (rta) as an arbitrator to decide their fate. Their request was accepted. Since, at that time, no specific punishment had been revealed in the Qur’ān about the fate of the Jews, Sa‘ad announced his verdict in accordance with the Torah. As per the Torah, the punishment for treason was that all men should be put to death; the women and children should be made slaves and the wealth of the whole nation should be distributed among the conquerors.38 In accordance with this verdict pronounced, all men were executed.39 No other incident of note took place regarding the Jews until in Sūrah Tawbah the final judgement was declared against them:

قَاتِلُوا الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَلَا بِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَلَا يُحَرِّمُونَ مَا حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَلَا يَدِينُونَ دِينَ الْحَقِّ مِنْ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ حَتَّى يُعْطُوا الْجِزْيَةَ عَنْ يَدٍ وَهُمْ صَاغِرُونَ (٩: ٢٩)

Fight those who believe not in Allah or the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission and are subdued. (9:29)

This directive related to both the Jews and the Christians. The punishment mentioned in these verses was in fact a show of great lenience to them because of the fact that they were originally adherents to monotheism. In reality, they had become worthy of death and destruction after deliberately denying Muhammad (sws). However, they did not benefit from this lenience because after the death of the Prophet (sws) they once again resorted to fraud and treachery.40 Consequently, the Jews of Khaybar and the Christians of Najrān were exiled once and for all from the Arabian peninsula by the Caliph ‘Umar (rta). This exile in fact thus fulfilled the following declaration of the Qur’ān about them:

وَلَوْلَا أَنْ كَتَبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ الْجَلَاءَ لَعَذَّبَهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَلَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابُ النَّارِ(٣:٥٩)

And had it not been that Allah had decreed exile for them, He would certainly have punished them in this world; and in the Hereafter theirs shall be the torment of the Fire. (59:3)

When the Idolaters of Arabia had been similarly subdued, it was proclaimed in the Sūrah Tawbah that in future no pact would be made with them. They would be given a final respite of four months and then they would be humiliated in retribution of their deeds and would in no way be able to escape from this punishment (the Qur’ān 9:1-2). Consequently, Makkah was conquered and just as some of the active adversaries among them had been executed when they were caught as prisoners in the battle of Badr and Uhud, similarly at this occasion also such adversaries were put to death. Prior to this, the directive had been revealed about them that it should be proclaimed at the time of the Hajj-i-Akbar (9th Hijra) that once the forbidden months would be over, Muslims should slay the Idolaters wherever they find them except if they accept faith, establish the prayer and pay Zakāh. However, those among them who were bound in time bar pacts with Muslims were an exception to this directive. Muslims were asked to honour these contracts till their stipulated time period if their adversaries abided by them. The implication was clear: once the time period expired, these adversaries would also meet the fate that had been ordained for all the Idolaters of Arabia. They were to be killed in case they did not accept faith. This declaration was made in the Qur’ān in the following words:

وَأَذَانٌ مِنْ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ إِلَى النَّاسِ يَوْمَ الْحَجِّ الْأَكْبَرِ أَنَّ اللَّهَ بَرِيءٌ مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ وَرَسُولُهُ فَإِنْ تُبْتُمْ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَإِنْ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ فَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُمْ غَيْرُ مُعْجِزِي اللَّهِ وَبَشِّرْ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ   إِلَّا الَّذِينَ عَاهَدتُّمْ مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَنقُصُوكُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَمْ يُظَاهِرُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَحَدًا فَأَتِمُّوا إِلَيْهِمْ عَهْدَهُمْ إِلَى مُدَّتِهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَّقِينَ   فَإِذَا انسَلَخَ الْأَشْهُرُ الْحُرُمُ فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدْتُمُوهُمْ فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدْتُمُوهُمْ وَخُذُوهُمْ وَاحْصُرُوهُمْ وَاقْعُدُوا لَهُمْ كُلَّ مَرْصَدٍ فَإِنْ تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوْا الزَّكَاةَ فَخَلُّوا سَبِيلَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (٩:٣-٥)

And a declaration should be made from Allah and His Messenger to these people on the day of the great Hajj that Allah is free from [all] obligations to these Idolaters and so is His Messenger. So if you [O Idolaters!] repent, it is better for you, but if you turn away, then know that you cannot escape from the grasp of Allah. And give tidings [O Muhammad (sws)] of a painful torment to these disbelievers. Except those of these Idolaters with whom you have a treaty, and who have not shown treachery in it nor have supported anyone against you. So fulfill their treaty to the end of their term. Indeed, Allah loves those who abide by the limits. Then when the sacred months [ after the Hajj] have passed, kill these Idolaters wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent and establish the prayer, and give Zakāh, then leave them alone. Indeed, Allah is Ever Forgiving, Most Merciful. (9:3-5)

With these measures, the basic objective of war stated by the words: ‘يكون الدين كله لله’ (yakūna’l-dīn kulluhu li’llāh: all of Allah’s reigns supreme) was achieved in the ultimate sense. However, it is explained above that as per the law of ‘اتمام الحجة’ (itmāmu’l-hujjah), all these measures were an obvious outcome of the fact that the Prophet (sws) was able to establish ‘شهادة’ (shahādah: bearing witness to the truth) on the Idolaters and the People of the Book of Arabia. The Qur’ān tells us that just as this ‘شهادة’ (shahādah) was established by the Prophet (sws) on these afore-mentioned religious groups it was similarly established by his Companions (rta) on certain nations outside the Arabian peninsula in the background of Muhammad’s ‘شهادة’ (shahādah) and because of the fact that they were invested with the status of ‘خير امة’ (the best people).41 The Qur’ān has specified that the Almighty chose the Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) for this ‘شهادة’ (shahādah), just as He chooses Messengers from mankind to fulfill this objective:

هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ مِلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ هُوَ سَمَّاكُمْ الْمُسْلِمينَ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَفِي هَذَا لِيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ (٢٢:٧٨)

He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the religion of your father Abraham. It is He Who has named you Muslims, both before and in this [Qur’ān]: [He chose you so that] the Messenger may be a witness [of this religion] to you, and you be witnesses of this religion to non-Muslims [of your times]. (22:78)

After the truce of Hudaybiyyah, the Prophet (sws) himself singled out these nations by writing letters to them. In all, they were written to the heads of eight countries.42 Consequently, after consolidating their rule in the Arabian peninsula, the Companions (rta) launched attacks against these countries giving them two options if they wanted to remain alive: to accept faith or to accept a life of subjugation by paying Jizyah. None of these nations were adherents to polytheism in the real sense, otherwise they would have been treated in the same way as the Idolaters of Arabia.

It is evident from these details that all these armed campaigns and offensives were not merely ‘قتال’ (qitāl: war), they were in reality a punishment of the Almighty. This punishment which is meted out to those who deliberately deny the truth is an established practice of Allah. As a divine scheme, it descended first upon the Idolaters and the People of the Book of Arabia and then to certain other nations outside it. Only the Companions (rta) were authorized to carry them out because they were called ‘شهداء الله فى الارض’ (shuhadā allāh fi’l-ard: witnesses of Allah on the earth) by the Almighty Himself and His Prophet (sws), and it was, as a result, through their collectivity that the truth became manifest for other nations of the world. Consequently, this is absolutely certain that fighting those who have deliberately rejected the truth and forcing the vanquished to lead a life of subjugation by imposing Jizyah on them is no longer allowed. No one after the Prophet (sws) and his worthy Companions (rta) has the authority to wage war on these grounds or to subjugate the conquered by imposing Jizyah on them. After them, the sole ground of war for Muslims is injustice and oppression. They cannot wage war on any other ground.


III. Divine Help

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 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 )٨: ٦٥-٦)

O Prophet! Rouse the believers to the fight. 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. Now, God has lightened your [task] for He knows that there is now weakness among 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. (8:65-6)

Just as these verses of Sūrah Anfāl indicate the extent of the obligation of Jihād, they also highlight the principle on which Divine Help descends on believers in an armed struggle. They unequivocally state that Divine Help in this matter is governed by a specific law and is not subject to the whims and desires of people. The Almighty has fixed a principle according to which He helps people who set out for Jihād and always abides by this principle. A reflection on these verses shows that Divine Help in a war is based on the following three statutes:

Firstly, the basic thing that entitles people to Divine Help is perseverance and resolution. No group of Muslims becomes entitled to it unless it has this quality in it. A battalion of Muslims devoid of this quality should not expect Divine Help when it faces the enemy. The words ‘صابرون’ (Sābirūn) and ‘صابرة’ (Sābirah) of the above quoted verses allude to this reality. Moreover, the words ‘و الله مع الصابرين’ (wallāhu ma‘a al-sābirīn: God is with those who persevere) at the end of the verse also bear reference to this fact.

Secondly, an army must be equipped with proper military strength if it is to wage war. No doubt, whatever happens, happens because of God’s will and one must fully repose one’s trust in Him, but this is also a reality that the Almighty has created this world on certain laws. The scheme behind these laws dictates that whatever measures are adopted for doing good and virtuous deeds, they must have the backing of necessary resources. What are these means and resources? A ratio between Muslim and enemy forces has been put forth in these verses by the Almighty. If this has not been achieved, then efforts should be made by the Muslims to achieve it. If they wage Jihād by ignoring this ratio by succumbing to emotions, they themselves would be responsible for such a rash step. Such a step would, of course, not be entitled to any Divine Help.

Thirdly, it is the force of faith that compensates for any lack of material force. The words ‘علم ان فيكم ضعفا’ (‘alima anna fīkum da‘fā: He knows that there is now weakness among you) and  ‘بانهم قوم لا يفقهون’ (bi annahum qawmun lā yafqahūn: for these are a people without understanding) bear reference to this inference. The word ‘ضعف’ (da‘f) in Arabic is not only used for material and physical weakness but also for weakness in faith and belief. Similarly, the meaning of the words ‘لا يفقهون’ (lā yafqahūn) used in contrast to the strength of faith implies a weakness in faith and belief. The verse, consequently, says that since the disbelievers are devoid of true faith and belief while, on the other hand, the believers possess them, so if the believers are outnumbered by 1:10 even then they would be the victors.

It is evident from the context of the sūrah that the ratio stated is of the period of the battle of Badr. After this battle, many people entered the folds of Islam – people who were not as strong in faith and resolve as those who had been the ‘سابقون الاولون’ (sābiqūna’l-awwalūn: the pioneer converts). Though Muslims greatly increased in numbers as a result of these conversions, yet the level and extent of faith decreased overall since the converts were nevertheless not as strong in their faith as the ‘سابقون الاولون’ (sābiqūna’l-awwalūn: the pioneer converts). Consequently, the Almighty Himself informed the Muslims that now this ratio had decreased to 1:2 from the original 1:10.

Finally, it needs to be appreciated that the ratios stated in these verses are about the Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) – who were a group of noble souls who waged Jihād along side the Prophet (sws) and as a result of a direct command of the Almighty. In later times, it can be estimated whether this ratio has increased or decreased keeping in view the extent of faith Muslims have.


IV. Captives of War

فَإِذا  لَقِيتُمْ الَّذِينَ  كَفَرُوا فَضَرْبَ الرِّقَابِ حَتَّى إِذَا أَثْخَنتُمُوهُمْ فَشُدُّوا الْوَثَاقَ فَإِمَّا مَنًّا بَعْدُ وَإِمَّا فِدَاءً حَتَّى تَضَعَ الْحَرْبُ أَوْزَارَهَا (٤:٤٧)

So, when you meet [in the battlefield] those who disbelieve, strike off their heads. Then when you have shed their blood fully, bind them [as captives]. Thereafter, free them as a favour or free them with ransom till war lays down its weapons. (47:4)

It is evident from the words of this verse that until its revelation wars with the disbelievers had not begun, though circumstances had reached the extent that they could begin anytime. Muslims are told that if they encounter the disbelievers of Arabia, who had rejected the truth in spite of being convinced about it, in the battle field they must slay them. They deserve no lenience after such a blatant denial of the truth which had been unveiled to them by the Prophet (sws) in its ultimate form. Muslims must rout their power when they meet them in the battlefield and capture those who survive. They should know that the help of the Almighty is with them and the enemy would not be able to harm them. It is now up to them to either set free the captives as a favour to them or set them free after accepting some ransom. This is the attitude they should adopt until warfare with the disbelievers ends in Arabia.43

Although this directive is stated in the sūrah with reference to the Mushrikūn, nothing in it restricts its application to them only. Therefore, it will apply to other combatants – whether of those times or of later – as well.

The words that have been used to state this directive read as: ‘فاما منا بعد واما فداء’ (fa immā mannan ba‘du wa immā fidā’an: thereafter free them as a favour or free with them with ransom). Those who have a flare for the language know that if the word ‘فداء’ (fidā’an) here means to set free a captive after accepting ransom, then since the word ‘منا’ (mannan) is placed in contrast to it, ‘منا’ (mannan) should convey the opposite meaning: that is to set them free without accepting any ransom as a favour. The word ‘منا’ (mannan) here is a verbal noun of a suppressed verb and since it does not occur in contrast to ‘قتل’ (qatl: murder) and in contrast to ‘فداء’ (fidā’an), it can only and only mean the setting free of captives without accepting any ransom money. It is evident from this verse that Muslims had to set them free at all costs whether with ransom or without, and as per the Qur’ān could even benefit from them in their capacity of slaves as long as they remained in captivity. However, they could neither kill them nor keep them as slaves come what may.

Three types of captives, however, were an exception to this rule:

1. Brutal adversaries, as per the dictates of the law of ‘اتمام الحجة’ (itmāmu’l-hujjah)44, were required to be slain wherever found. Examples of people who were killed as a result were ‘Uqbah Ibn Abī Mu‘īt, Nadr Ibn Hārith45 and Abū ‘Azzah46 – the captives of the battles of Badr and Uhud. Similarly, at the conquest of Makkah, certain others were also slain as an exception to the general amnesty granted because of their open enmity.47

2. The captives of the Banū Qurayzah who met a fate decided by an arbitrator appointed by themselves: their men were slain and their women and children were sold as slaves.48

3. Captives who were slaves prior to their capture and, at certain instances, were distributed among people as slaves.49

It is obvious that these three cases were exceptions and the directive stated in the above quoted verse never related to them. Consequently, if all the incidents of the Prophet’s times regarding prisoners of war are studied, it can be safely concluded that barring these three exceptions everything done was in conformity with the above quoted directive of Sūrah Muhammad.

Following are the details:

1. As long as the prisoners remained in captivity of the state authorities, they were treated in a befitting manner. It is known that the prisoners of Badr were distributed among the Companions (rta) and the Prophet (sws) himself directed the Companions (rta) in the words: ‘استوصوا بالاسارى خيرا’ (istawsū bi ‘l-usārā khayran: treat these prisoners well).50 One of the prisoners Abū’ Azīz says that he was kept in a house of the Ansār tribe. He goes on to say that his hosts fed him with chapātī while they themselves just ate dates.51 When Thumāmah Ibn Uthāl, a chief of Yamāmah, was taken into custody, he, at the behest of the Prophet (sws), was fed with good food and milk as long as he remained in captivity.52

2. Most prisoners of the battle of Badr were set free after accepting ransom from them. Those among them who could pay in cash were exacted a ransom that ranged from one thousand to four thousand dinārs per prisoner, while those among them who were not in a position to pay this amount were set free if they taught ten children each from among the Ansār to read and write. Abū Sufyan’s son, ‘Amr, was set free in exchange for Sa‘ad Ibn Nu‘mān whom he had imprisoned.53

Among the captives of the battle of Banī Mustaliq, Juwayriyyah was freed after her father, Hārith Ibn Abī Darār paid the ransom money.54 Once Abū Bakr (rta) was sent on a military campaign. Among the captives there was a beautiful lady. The Prophet (sws) sent her to Makkah and was able to win the freedom of many prisoners in lieu of her.55 Similarly, a prisoner of the Banī ‘Aqīl was sent to Tā’if and in lieu of him, two prisoners in the custody of the Banū Thaqīf were released.56

3. Some captives were set free without any ransom. Among the captives of Badr, Abu’l- ‘Ās, Matlab Ibn Hantab, Sayfī Ibn Abī Rafā‘ah and Abū ‘Azzah and among those of the battle against the Banū Qurayzah, Zubayr Ibn Bātās were set free like this.57 At the time of the truce of Hudaybiyyah, about 80 people from Makkah suddenly attacked the Muslims at night from the direction of Tan‘īm. All of them were caught and the Prophet (sws) set them free without any ransom money as well.58 Thumāmah Ibn Uthāl, referred to earlier, was also set free on similar grounds.59

4. On some occasions, the prisoners were distributed among people so that they could directly deal with them or their relatives on the principle of ‘فاما منا بعد واما فداء’ (fa immā mannan ba‘du wa immā fidā’an: thereafter free them as a favour or free them with ransom), the prisoners of the battle against the Banī Mustaliq, were distributed thus. However, once the Prophet (sws) married Jawayriyyah after she had been set free, all the Muslims set free the prisoners in their custody without any ransom saying that these prisoners had now become the relatives of the Prophet (sws). Prisoners from about one hundred families were released in this way.60 The prisoners of the military campaign (sariyyah) against the Hawāzin tribe were also similarly set free by the Prophet (sws) without taking any ransom from the people. Similar was the case of the prisoners of the Hunayn tribe.61

When the tribe of Hawāzin came to buy the freedom of their prisoners, it came to their knowledge that all their prisoners had been distributed. At their request, the Prophet (sws) gathered all Muslims among whom these prisoners had been distributed. When all had assembled, the Prophet (sws) expressed his opinion that everyone should release the prisoners they had in custody. He further said that whoever wanted to set them free without any ransom, should do so and others who wanted ransom would be granted the ransom by the state treasury. As a result of this request, 6000 prisoners were set free, and those among the Muslims who demanded ransom were paid by the state treasury.62

5. Widows and other helpless women among these prisoners who had been similarly distributed were generally set free by the respective owners and married to them through their free consent. On these very grounds, the marital knot was tied between Safiyyah (rta) and the Prophet (sws).63


V. Spoils of War

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنْ الْأَنْفَالِ قُلْ الْأَنْفَالُ لِلَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَصْلِحُوا ذَاتَ بَيْنِكُمْ وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ إِنْ كُنتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ(١:٨)

They ask you about the spoils of war. Say: The spoils belong to Allah and the Prophet. Therefore, if you are true believers, fear Allah and reform your personal relationships, and obey Allah and His Prophet. (8:1)

A look at the context of this verse and at the issues discussed in the sūrah of which it is a part shows that after the very first battle which the Muslims fought against the Idolaters of Makkah, the issue of the distribution of the spoils of war came to surface. There existed a difference of opinion about it among the Muslims. The Qur’ān admonished the Muslims on this attitude and gave its verdict in this matter. Muslims were told that they had no claim in the spoils because of the peculiar nature of these wars. They were informed that all these spoils belonged to Allah and His Prophet (sws) and as such they had discretionary powers as far as their disbursement was concerned. This writer has already delineated the reason for this: these wars were fought under a specific law of the Almighty, according to which He, through His Messengers, punishes people who deliberately deny the truth. These Messengers and their companions in this matter are no more than agents of the implementation of this Divine scheme. It is with the special help of the Almighty through His angels that these battles were actually won. It was for this very reason that Muslims did not have any share in the booty obtained from these wars. However, in spite of this, they are told later in the sūrah that only one-fifth of it will be used by the Almighty and His Prophet (sws) for the collective. The rest of it will be distributed among the soldiers:

وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا غَنِمْتُمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ فَأَنَّ لِلَّهِ خُمُسَهُ وَلِلرَّسُولِ وَلِذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ (٤١:٨)

And you should know that a fifth of the spoils you get hold of are for Allah and the Prophet and the near relatives and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer. (8:41)

It is evident from this distribution that since the believers had also assisted in acquiring them by using their personal weapons, camels and horses as well as food, camps and various other items needed during these wars, it was necessary to give them their due from these spoils. Consequently, in military campaigns, where the services of  Muslim soldiers and combatants were not used, they were told that all the booty obtained would be used for the collective purposes of the state and religion and for the poor and needy: none of it would be given to the soldiers:

مَا أَفَاءَ اللَّهُ عَلَى رَسُولِهِ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْقُرَى فَلِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ وَلِذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ (٧:٥٩)

Whatever the Almighty has bestowed on His Prophet from the people of the cities, it is reserved for Allah and His Prophet and the relatives of the Prophet64 and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarers. (59:7)

The above quoted verse as well as the verses of Sūrah Anfāl quoted earlier explain the heads of the collective needs for which the war booty was reserved.

First and foremost, the share of the Almighty is stated. God Almighty is above all needs and does not need anything. His share is actually reserved for the requirements of His religion. Consequently, under this head, wealth will be expended to fulfill such needs as helping the cause of Islam at the state level as an obligation. This includes measures that protect and promote it.

The second share stated is that of the Prophet (sws). Besides fulfilling his duties as a Messenger, he was also the head of the Islamic state and as such spent every moment of his life in fulfilling them. To earn a livelihood while discharging these duties was not possible for him. In these circumstances, it was necessary that he be granted a share in the spoils of war. Of course, the nature of this share was such that it was not given to him in his personal capacity so that it may be distributed among his heirs after him. Consequently, after his death, this share was expended by the state on his behalf and in his prophetic capacity to fulfill the collective needs of the Muslims.

The third share stated is that of the near relatives. Obviously, by these are meant those relatives who were dependent on the Prophet (sws) for their livelihood and about the fulfillment of whose needs the Prophet (sws) considered himself to be morally responsible. He was a father to all Muslims. Consequently, this responsibility too, in accordance with the dictates of both the Sharī‘ah and social conventions, was transferred to the state after the Prophet (sws) and his kin remained the recipients of this share as long as they lived.

The fourth share is that of the poor, the orphans and the wayfarers. While stating this share, the particle ‘ل’ (lām) is not repeated in this verse. This particle is appended to all the three shares stated before. This fourth category of shares is actually mentioned under the third stated share of the near relatives. The reason is to honour the recipients of this category as if they are also the near relatives of the Prophet (sws). This head needs no explanation. A society which is not sensitive to the requirements of these sections, and a society in which the orphans are subjected to misery and there is no one to take care of the wayfarers cannot in any way be given the noble name of an Islamic society.

It is evident from this discussion regarding the spoils of war that they are essentially reserved for the collective requirements of the Muslims. The combatants of the Muslim army have not been granted any fixed share in the spoils of war by the Almighty. In this regard, a state holds discretionary powers which it can exercise keeping in view the circumstances.

(Translated from Ghamidi’s Mīzān by Shehzad Saleem)





1. The literal meaning of Jihād is to strive for a cause with full force. In the Qur’ān, it is used in this general sense as well as to denote an armed offensive in the way of Allah. Here this second meaning is implied.

2. This means that the Companions (rta) stood between the Muhammad (sws) and the rest of the world of their times who were able to observe the whole process of shahādah.

3.The verses on which these directives are primarily based are stated in bold.

4. Matthew, 5:17-18

5. Deuteronomy, 20:1-20

6. In recent times, some people have refuted the requisite of state authority by citing the armed offensives launched by Abū Basīr against the Quraysh after the truce of Hudaybiyyah. This can only be termed as ignorance to the Qur’ān and established history. According to the Qur’ān (8:72), the Prophet (sws) and the Muslims of the state of Madīnah were not responsible for the actions and deeds of people who had not migrated to Madīnah. Morever,  we even find the following harsh remarks of the Prophet (sws) about Abū Basīr when he returned to Madinah after killing one of  his two custodians:

وَيْلُ أُمِّهِ مِسْعَرَ حَرْبٍ لَوْ كَانَ لَهُ اَحَدٌ (بخارى: رقم ٢٧٣٤)

His mother be cursed, if he is able to find some supporters he is bound to ignite the flames of war. (Bukhārī: No. 2734)

7. Sayyid Sābiq, Fiqhu’l-Sunnah, 2nd ed., vol. 3, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Fikr, 1980), p. 30

8. One such example can be seen 2:244

9. Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 3, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), pp. 506-7

10. 9:24

11. Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 3, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), pp. 450-1

12. Bukhārī: No. 2810

13. Nasā’ī: No. 3140

14. Nasā’ī: No. 3137

15. Nasā’ī: No. 3139

16. Nasā’ī: No. 3188

17. Bukhārī: No. 2787

18. Bukhārī: No. 2785

19. Bukhārī: No. 2790

20. Bukhārī: No. 2803

21. Bukhārī: No. 2811

22. Bukhārī: No. 2892

23. Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 3, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), pp. 479-80

24. Muslim: No. 1738

25. Bukhārī: No. 3166

26. Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 3, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 499

27. Bukhārī: No. 3015

28. Bukhārī: No. 3016

29. Bukhārī: No. 2474

30. Bukhārī: No. 2705

31. Bukhārī: No. 2613

32. Bukhārī: No. 2629

33.The unveiling of truth by a Rasūl to his addresses to the extent that they have no excuse but stubbornness and enmity to deny it.

34. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 2nd ed., vol. 3, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Khayr, 1995), pp. 40-2 / Ibid. vol. 3, pp. 151-160

35. Ibid., pp. 40-2 / Ibid., pp. 151-160

36. Ibid., pp. 43-8 / Ibn Sa‘ad, al-Tabaqātu’l-Kubrā, vol. 2, (Beirut: Dār Sādir, 1960), p. 28

37. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 2nd ed., vol. 3, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Khayr, 1995), pp. 180-2

38. Deuteronomy, 20:10-14

39. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 2nd ed., vol. 3, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Khayr, 1995), pp. 188-9

40. Bukhārī: No. 2730, Abū Yūsuf, Kitābu’l-Khirāj, Fasl fi’l-Fay wa al-Khirāj, (1302 AH), p. 42 / Bilādhurī, Futūhu’l-Buldān, (Qumm: Manshūrāt al-Arummiyyah, 1404 AH), p. 73 / Ibn Athīr, Al-Kāmil fi’l-Tārīkh, 1st ed., vol. 2, (Beirut: Dar Beirut, 1965), p. 112

41. 3:110

42. The names of these heads of state are: 1. Negus of Abyssinia, 2. Maqawqas of Egypt, 3. Khusro Parvez of Persia, 4. Qaysar of Rome, 5. Mundhar Ibn Sāwī of Bahrain, 6. Hūdhah Ibn ‘Alī of Yamāmah, 7. Hārith Ibn Abī Shamr of Damascus, 8. Jayfar of Amman.

43. This has been stated because once warfare ends with them, the only option for them would be to either accept faith or face death.

44. Unveiling truth to the extent that no one is left with any excuse to deny it.

45. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 2nd ed., vol. 2, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Khayr, 1995), p. 215

46. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 83

47. Ibid., vol. 4, p. 41

48. Ibid., vol.3, pp. 188-9

49. Ibid., vol. 4, p. 105

50. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 217

51. Ibid.

52. Ibid., vol. 4,  p. 215

53. Ibn Sa‘ad, Al-Tabaqātu’l-Kubrā, vol. 2, (Beirut: Dār Sādir, 1960), p. 21 / Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 2nd ed., vol. 2, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Khayr, 1995), pp. 221

54. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 2nd ed., vol. 3, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Khayr, 1995), pp. 232

55. Ibn Mājah: No. 2846

56. Musnad Ahmad: No. 19326

57. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 2nd ed., vol. 2, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Khayr, 1995), pp. 228 / Ibid., vol. 3, p. 190

58. Abū Dā’ūd: No. 2688

59. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 2nd ed., vol. 4, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Khayr, 1995), pp. 215-6

60. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 231

61. Ibn Kathīr, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 1st ed., vol. 3, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Ma‘rifah, 1971), p. 453

62. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 2nd ed., vol. 4, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Khayr, 1995), pp. 104-6

63. Bukhārī: No. 4200

64. Since the Prophet (sws) had stopped his relatives from taking a share from the sadaqāt, a portion of this collective wealth was also reserved for them.

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