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The Principles of War from the Quran

January 26, 2018

The Quran is a universal religion with a message for all the people:
(21:107) We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all the people.(12:104, 38:87, 68:52, 81:27) “This is no less than a Message to (all) the Worlds.
While the revelation has a context and the Book can be best described as experiential learning, the general principles that can be easily derived are applicable to all people irrespective of their faith. The Quran provides comprehensive guidance on waging war in the cause of Allah.
The Principles of war that are derived by considering all the verses on fighting are clear and free from ambiguity. None of the verses make an exception based on the times and circumstances of the Prophetic mission of Muhammad (pbuh). The principles are therefore eternal and based as these are on Divine guidance and inspiration, are common to all the scriptures and may be taken as guidance by all the people whether they follow the religion of Islam or not. The clear, unambiguous principles are:
1. There is no compulsion in religion. Any form of coercion in religion or prevention from following one’s religion peacefully, constitutes persecution.
2. War is mandated to end any kind of oppression against any people. The oppression may be religious persecution or any other form of oppression. The faith of the oppressor and the oppressed is immaterial.
3. Only a ruler with a territory and people under his political authority can wage war. Civil war is not permissible. And only people in the territory ruled by such a ruler can participate in the war effort. People residing in territory under the control of the oppressor, must migrate from that territory first, if they wish to join the war effort against the oppressor.
4. The only justifiable cause for making war is to fight against the oppressors to end oppression. There is no other justifiable cause.
The major battles fought by the Prophet against the people of Mecca were against their persecution of the Prophet and followers of the new faith of Islam. After his people suffered torture, persecution and even killing for 13 years, the Prophet (pbuh) was forced to migrate to Medina. Even then, the Meccans pursued them as is evident by the three major battles fought near Medina with the last battle being the siege of Medina itself. The Muslims eventually prevailed over their enemy. Surah Taubah describes the judgment on the vanquished enemy. The General Principles underlying the judgment on the vanquished religious persecutors are as follows:
1. Let those vanquished persecutors who fought but never violated their treaties, the freedom to practice their faith and live peacefully, if they agree to become your willing subjects.
2. To those who were treacherous and fought in violation of their treaties, provide protection if they seek protection. Make them hear the word of God and if they still refuse to accept your religion, escort them to a safe place outside your territory.
3. Those who were treacherous and fought in violation of their treaty, are allowed 4 months of time in which they are free to migrate to a neighbouring country or accept the victor’s faith. Those who remain defiant at the end of the amnesty period may be killed.
As may be seen, the rules are extremely generous. If it was a fair war without violation of treaty, the vanquished simply must accept the new political authority and become willing subjects and can live peacefully practicing his faith. The treacherous violators of treaties can also save their lives by accepting exile or the victor’s faith. These rules are in no way unfair for a people who had fought to annihilate the religion of their victors.
In any other war where religion is not the issue, it is only treachery of the combatants alone that is punishable by death or exile. The remaining people simply must become willing subjects of the victors or may choose to migrate.
The Quran is unequivocal in advocating peace treaties and treaties of mutual cooperation with other people irrespective of the faith professed by them even if they are your enemy:
(8:61) But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things).
The Prophet had treaties with several of the pagan tribes. The Quran attaches the utmost importance to strict observance of treaties so much so, that even if someone from amongst your own people, commit a crime punishable by death, and then goes over to the people with whom you have a treaty, you cannot touch him. Treaties covering extradition of such people were perhaps not common in those days.
This is a hypothetical situation but if a tribe from among the Mushrikin had said to the Prophet “we do not understand your religion and do not accept it, but we defend your right to practice and preach it, and would like to align ourselves with you in your fight against your persecutors”, the Prophet would have readily entered into a treaty of mutual alliance and cooperation with such people. On being successful against the persecutors, he would have given such an ally a place of honour in the new polity irrespective of whether they accepted Islam. Going by the message of the Quran, such people would have been blessed by Allah with faith in Him, eventually. We can therefore assert the following:
In Islam, the other is the Kafir, but they are not the non-Muslims but the unjust and the oppressors who could be professing any faith including Islam. The cause of Allah, identified from the Quran, is to end all injustice and oppression, and all those who stand up for justice and fight against oppression are from “the community of God” and the Muslims must form an “Ummat-e-Wahida” or a united front with all such people to end injustice and oppression in the world.
The God of Islam is the God of all the people and is not the parochial God of only the Muslims in our theology for Allah says:
“Nay,-whoever submits His whole self to Allah (by whatever name) and is a doer of good,- He will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” (2:112).
The Muslim of the Quran, is therefore simply anyone who submits to God (by whatever name), and is a doer of good deeds. There are therefore only two kinds of people – those who stand for justice and against oppression are the friends and helpers of God and the oppressors are the enemies of humanity and of God. This is the Universal Message of the Quran.

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