Modern Islamic Warfare Ethics

Modern Islamic Warfare Ethics

[Bismillah.  Part of the conclusion to Usama Hasan & Salah al-Ansari’s Tackling Terror: A Rebuttal of ISIS’ Fiqh al-Dima’  or Jurisprudence of Blood (Quilliam, 2018), consisting of 13 aspects of modern, Islamic warfare ethics as discussed by 20th-21st century Muslim jurists.]

During the course of this study, we have been able to demonstrate that ISIS’ warfare ethics are often medieval. We have also countered their positions by pointing out the balanced positions of mainstream scholars that effectively constitute modern Islamic warfare ethics. We summarise those here, as a positive alternative to ISIS’ medieval barbarism.

1.  Warfare can only be waged legitimately by modern nation-states.

2.  Peace is the default, basic norm governing international relations.

3.  War is only permitted for self-defence or to remove persecution in accordance with international law, not to coerce others into Islam.

4.  Suicide is prohibited, according to Islamic ethics. Suicide attacks are unethical, inhuman and un-Islamic.

5.  Islamic warfare ethics have always distinguished between combatants and non-combatants. Modern interpretations agree with the Geneva Conventions on legitimate targets in warfare.

6.  Weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and “scorched earth” operations including the killing of animals, are prohibited by Islamic warfare ethics.

7.  The kidnapping of civilians is not permitted in Islam and contravenes basic human rights and the Geneva Conventions, to which Muslim-majority states have generally signed up.

8.  Mutilation and decapitations (beheading) are prohibited; this prohibition of mutilation also includes the harvesting of organs for sale or trafficking.

9.  In a nation-state where the citizens are equal before the law, the army is composed of personnel whose loyalty to one another lies not in their religious affiliation but in their shared sense of obligation and citizenship.

10.  There is no harm in any state recruiting anyone who is eligible to work in the army; and, moreover, that no impediments should be made because of a citizen’s religious beliefs. Equally, there is no harm in a state going into an alliance with foreign forces if it is believed that this will achieve the best interests of their nation.

11.  There is great similarity between modern Islamic morality and humanitarian international law. The two moral frameworks agree that espionage is a punishable crime but that the punishment varies from one country to another. International law gives a special status to combatant spies. According to The Hague Regulations (1899), Article 31 provides that: a spy who, after re-joining the army to which he belongs, is subsequently captured by the enemy, is treated as a prisoner of war. Moreover, they are to incur no further punishment for their previous acts of espionage. This is consistent with the modern adapted principles of the sharia.

12.  The Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war (POWs) are in harmony with the Islamic tradition of warfare ethics.

13.  Military retreat, surrender and other strategies are acceptable, depending on pragmatism; there is no religious requirement to “fight to the death.”


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2 Responses to “Modern Islamic Warfare Ethics”

  1. Ramsha Faheem Says:

    Aoa brother I am a Muslim woman and I live in US. When I was 21 I was in Pakistan and was married to Muslim guy who was in US and after marriage I came to US. My parents and siblings are in Pakistan and I don’t have any aunts and uncles in US. The marriage was nothing but physical and verbal abuse by my ex husband and in laws and they knew that I had a mental condition before marriage for which they wouldn’t even let me take my antidepressants. After two years of marriage I got pregnant and even during pregnancy I was getting beaten. One day I had called the cops on my ex husband due to which he falsely accused that the child I was pregnant with is not his. My daughter was delivered in Pakistan and as my parents are old and financially not strong at all I had to come back to US to work and send money back home. For 3 years I have been alone I have face a lot of hardships but always tried to stay on the right path and make money through halaal ways. I fear of the time when my daughter would come to US as the day care in US is so expensive. I started dating a guy who is a Protestant but only believe that Jesus Christ was the messenger of God. He is willing to convert to Islam and marry me but is reluctant to pray. I have been reading the Quran to him and he also understands the concepts of oneness of Allah. He just don’t want to pray regularly because he says that he is not a religious person. I am scared that Allah might not question me why I married such a man but I tried my best to find a Muslim man, I even went to the Saudia Arabia where one of my sisters live but my sister wanted me to make money through wrong means and all the people around me in Saudia Arabaia were very corrupt that why I came back to US. My daughter is 4 years old with my mother in Pakistan and has seen my mother and father practicing Islam. Me and my boyfriend we both have agreed on not having anymore kids as I have anxiety disorder and I just think that I can’t handle children very easily and boyfriend already has two daughters and don’t want anymore kids. The only reason I want to marry him is because I want to stay away from fitna and pray 5 times a day.

    • Usama Hasan Says:

      As-salamu ‘alaykum. Sorry for the delay in replying.

      From what you say, it will be fine for you to marry him. If a person doesn’t pray 5 times a day, Allah may forgive that, especially if they do other good works, eg nafil prayers, charity & have good character.

      Imam Shawkani wrote centuries ago that “most Muslims don’t pray out of laziness” – but they still remain Muslims. This may be true for many or most Muslims today also.

      Your mental health is very important, and if that is improved via a nikah with a person with good character, it will be a good thing insha’Allah.

      Trust in Allah, pray hard & follow your heart, as the Prophet (pbuh) advised. May Allah bless you & your family, was-salam.

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