What Does the Qur’an Say About War?

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What Does the Qur’an Say About War?

Islam has been much maligned today as religion of war, not peace and compassion. The acts of terrorism on the part of some international terrorist groups who indulge in needless and wanton killing has further aggravated this image in the contemporary world. During medieval ages also crusades threw up an image of Islam which pictured Muslims as sword in one hand and Qur’an in the other.

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The Islamic relationship between individuals and nations is one of peace. War is a contingency that becomes necessary at certain times and under certain conditions. Muslims learn from the Qur’an that God’s objective in creating the human race in different communities was that they should relate to each other peacefully (Quran 49:13).

War in Islam as regulated by the Qur’an and hadith has been subject to many distortions by Western scholars and even by some Muslim writers. These are due either to misconceptions about terminology or – above all – using quotations taken out of context. Nowhere in the Quran is changing people’s religion given as a cause for waging war.

In short, the Quran’s attitude toward war and peace may be described as an idealistic realism. Human existence is characterized neither by incessant warfare nor by real peace, but by a continuous tension between the two; Societies exist forever in a precarious balance between them.

Quran Adopted Three Viewpoints Towards War Depending on Situations:

1. When War is Forbidden

2. When War is Permissible

3. When War Becomes Obligatory on Believers

Patience is projected as great virtue and Qur’an says: “Surely Allah is with those who are patient”. And also, Qur’an says, “By the time, surely man is in loss, except those who believe and do good and exhort one another to Truth and exhort one another to patience.” (Chapter 110)

Now coming to the Qur’anic theory of war, it is important to say that war is sanctioned only in exceptional circumstances and peace is the norm. The permission for war in Qur’an is given reluctantly and extreme conditions of persecution and oppression. War is not permissible if people of other persuasions, religious faith and nationality are part of any treaty or causing no kind of harm to Muslims. Also, to begin with Muslims should only preach their faith peacefully and even put up with resistance and opposition and bear adverse conditions with patience and endurance of high degree.

In Mecca, the Prophet (ﷺ) and his followers bore with great patience utmost humiliation and persecution without any retaliation. The Prophet himself suffered insults and personal injuries from the hands of his persecutors. He was prevented from offering his prayers, he allowed himself to be spat upon, to have dust thrown upon him, and to be dragged out of Ka’ba by his own turban fastened to his neck.

The Prophet bore all this with utmost patience as he was convinced of truth of his message and did not retaliate even once. Along with the Prophet his followers also bore even more indignities and torture but never gave up their faith.

Islam had given them a new spiritual message and it was spiritual and moral teachings of Islam which had given them inner strength to bear all this. For more than ten years in Mecca, Muslims were persecuted, but before permission was given to fight they were instructed to restrain themselves (Quran 4:77) and endure with patience and fortitude: “Pardon and forgive until God gives his command.” (Quran 2:109). See also 29:59; 16:42

The situations when the war will be allowed in Islam and when it becomes obligatory on the believers will be discussed in detail in upcoming parts

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