What are Islamic Laws and Rules of War?
Although Islam permits Jihad on the battlefield under the conditions mentioned in previous posts, the rules of engagement reflect Islam’s inherent inclination towards peace.
Righteous intention is an essential condition. When fighting takes place, it should be ‘in the way of God’ as is often repeated in the Qur’an. His way is prescribed in the Qur’an as the way of truth and justice, including all the teaching it gives on the justifications and the conditions for the conduct of war and peace.
The Prophet was asked about those who fight for the booty, and those who fight out of self-aggrandizement or to be seen as a hero. He said that none of these was in the way of God. The one who fights in the way of God is he who fights so that the word of God is uppermost (Bukhari).
No Aggression Towards Civilians:
Military conflict is to be directed only against fighting troops and not against civilians, as the Glorious Qur’an says: “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors” [Qur’an 2:190]
As far as the non-combatant population is concerned such as women, children, the old and the infirm, etc., the instructions of the Prophet are as follows: “Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman”, “Do not kill the monks in monasteries” or “Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship.” During a war, the Prophet saw the corpse of a woman lying on the ground and observed: “She was not fighting. How then she came to be killed?” Thus, non-combatants are guaranteed security of life even if their state is at war with an Islamic state.
The ravages of war are not an excuse for Muslims to engage in any form of cruelty or violation of human rights. As the Qur’an says: “O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just; that is next to piety; and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” [Qur’an 5:8]
It is forbidden under Islamic law, to ill-treat prisoners of war or to deny them the essentials of life, including medical treatment.
Respect for Religious Freedom:
Physical Jihad cannot be waged with the objective of compelling people to embrace Islam. The Glorious Qur’an says: “Let there be no compulsion in religion” [Qur’an 2:256]
“If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed – all who are on earth! wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!” [Qur’an 10:99]
If the enemy offers peace, it should be accepted even at the risk of possible deception. The Glorious Qur’an says: “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)” [Qur’an 8:61]
Cessation of Hostilities:
Once the hostility of the enemy ceases, the Muslims must stop fighting (Quran 2:193; 8:39): “And if they incline to peace, do so and put your trust in God. Even if they intend to deceive you, remember that God is sufficient for you.” (Quran 8:61-2)
When the war is over, the Qur’an and hadith give instructions as to the treatment of prisoners of war and the new relationship with the non-Muslims.
The Qur’an and hadith talk about the different situations that exist between a Muslim state and a neighboring warring enemy. They mention a state of defensive war, within the prescriptions specified above, the state of peace treaty for a limited or unlimited period, the state of truce, and the state where a member of a hostile camp can come into a Muslim land for special purposes under safe conduct.
For those who would like to know more about Islam: