The issue of Jihad—which without doubt brings the picture of bloodshed to the mind—is one of the most important issues related to Islam. As a result, we must explain correctly to the best of our ability the answer to this utterance in which it is said: For propagation of its ideals Islam holds the sword in hand. For a correct explanation of this it is incumbent upon us to look in brief at the environment in which the Prophet of Islam began his (Divine) invitation to the masses. We shall try our best to mention only those events which are acceptable by all historians irrespective of whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims. In other words, unless we obtain a reputable testimony that is agreed upon by all we will not attribute any credibility to it.
From the day the Prophet of Islam received his first revelation and obtained certainty that he had been chosen by Allah for guidance of the people, he took the first basic steps for declaring his Prophethood. Firstly, he started from a very small gathering and revealed his Prophethood and the first amongst men to accept faith was Ali ibn Abi Talib and first amongst women was Khadijah the respected lady of Hijaz who with all her wealth and status became the first believing women. For a while he declared his Prophethood secretly and in private to only those close to him. Slowly after a period of time he was instructed to gather his uncles who were from the chiefs of Quraysh and inform them of this as well. Here he was met with opposition rather than acceptance but without even the slightest despair he started declaring his Prophethood to other people.
Gradually the number of Muslims started increasing and the Prophet’s opposition to idol-worship and the ignorant and baseless practices and customs of the Arabs became more open. As a result of a large number of events that took place in this small circle and the fact that no one was able to stop the Prophet from the path he had taken, the chiefs of Quraysh, being fed up with the situation, formed groups—large and small—for repulsing the unrest caused by Muhammad (S).
During this period mediators were sent by the chiefs of Quraysh to attempt to silence the Prophet (S) either by alluring him to material benefits or through intimidation. We narrate one such incident here as an example.
‘Utbah ibn Rabi’ah, one of the influential persons amongst the Arabs, was once sitting in a gathering of the Quraysh at a time when the Prophet was sitting alone in the mosque. ‘Utbah said to the chiefs of Quraysh, ‘I am going to Muhammad. I will have a conversation with him and make suggestions to him regarding certain matters. Maybe he will accept some of them and we will also give him whatever he demands so that he stops his activities.’ (This event took place when Hamzah had become Muslim and followers of the Prophet were increasing). The chiefs of Quraysh affirmed him and said, ‘Go and talk with him.’
Utbah went and sat next to the Prophet in the mosque and said, ‘O my cousin! Your station in eminence— as you are aware yourself—in regard to our family and lineage is very high. However, you have laid hands upon a momentous task for your people. You have divided the society and presented our ideals to be foolishness and you have criticized our Gods and religion and you have called our forefathers unbelievers. I am advising you regarding certain things. Listen attentively maybe you will accept a part or all of my advice.’ The Holy Prophet said: ‘O Abu Walid! Speak so that I may listen.’
He said: ‘O my cousin! If you desire wealth and property as a result of these activities, we will give you so much wealth that you would become wealthier than all of us. If you want power and eminence, we will make you the chief and the headman over us. If you are after kingdom we will make you the Sultan over us. If you cannot rid yourself of this state that you are in, we will arrange a doctor for you so that you recover from this because sometimes a person enters such a state and is in need of treatment for it.’ ‘Utbah completed his words; the Holy Prophet was listening to all of it carefully. After ‘Utbah finished his parley the Holy Prophet asked: ‘Have you said whatever you wanted to say?’ He said: ‘Yes’
The Holy Prophet (S) then said, ‘So now listen to me.’ ‘Utbah said, ‘Yes I am listening.’ The Holy Prophet continued:
‘In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, and the Merciful.
Ha Mim. (Surah Fussilat, 41:1).
تَنْزِيلٌ مِنَ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
A revelation from the Beneficent, the Merciful Allah. (Surah Fussilat, 41:2).
كِتَابٌ فُصِّلَتْ آيَاتُهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ
A Book of which the verses are made plain, an Arabic Qur’an for a people who know. (Surah Fussilat, 41:3).
بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا فَأَعْرَضَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ فَهُمْ لَا يَسْمَعُونَ
A herald of good news and a Warner, but most of them turn aside so they hear not. (Surah Fussilat, 41:4).
وَقَالُوا قُلُوبُنَا فِي أَكِنَّةٍ مِمَّا تَدْعُونَا إِلَيْهِ
And they say: Our hearts are under coverings from that to which you call us.’ (Surah Fussilat, 41:5).
The Holy Prophet recited the subsequent verses for ‘Utbah. He was listening to the verses carefully with his hands folded on his back. Then the Prophet (S) reached a verse of mandatory prostration. The Prophet (S) performed prostration and said: ‘O Abul Walid! Did you hear it? Now you know yourself better.’ ‘Utbah returned and as soon as the chiefs of Quraysh saw him, they said to each other that ‘Utbah had returned in a different state.
He sat close to them. They asked, ‘What did you see?’ He said, ‘I swear by God I have heard a speech similar to which nothing has ever reached my ears. By God, neither are these words from any type of poetry nor from magic and sorcery.’
‘O Chiefs of Quraysh! Obey me in regard to this man and leave this matter to me. I am of the belief that: Leave the work of this man to himself and stay out of his way. I swear by God the words that I heard from this man entail important events in the future. If the Arabs try to harm his movement he will be eliminated without you being required to take any steps; however, if he triumphs over the Arabs then his kingdom and honor is your kingdom and honor and through him you will become the most honorable of all the people.’ They said, ‘By God, he has enchanted you as well.’ ‘Utbah said: ‘I have given you my opinion. You are free to decide for yourselves.’1
After becoming disappointed by a number of such exchanges and attempts at allurement and intimidation, these people did not see any other way except to openly express their enmity with Muslims. Consequently, all the tribes of Arabs tried to capture a person or a few of those who had become Muslims from their tribes and jail and torture them. They beat them and used hunger and thirst to make them miserable and at the time of day when the burning sun of Mecca would make the rocks and the sand burning hot, they would torment them on these rocks and sand.
With the increase in the number of Muslims, such enmity and individual and collective torture was increasing. The Prophet was compelled to send a group of Muslims to Habasha (located near today’s Ethiopia) so that they could perhaps remain safe from the torture of Quraysh. At the time of dispatching this group he said: Habasha has a just King; you will not be oppressed there.2
Quraysh did not remain silent regarding this and they sent two of their representatives to Habasha in order to force the Muslims to return so that they could attempt to turn these people away from Islam. When these two representatives reached the King of Habasha they asked for the Muslims to be handed over to them.
Najashi (the King of Habasha) said, ‘We must know why these people have come to our land?’ He summoned a few persons from the Muslims. They narrated for him the account of the Prophet and his religion that had guaranteed them salvation. Najashi said, ‘I will not send these people back to their homeland and I leave the decision (to stay or go) to them.3
The Prophet began preaching the religion of Islam to different tribes in Mecca. Especially during the season of Hajj, he would impart his teachings to the Arab tribes, preach monotheism to them and warn them about polytheism. Amongst the tribes that the Prophet Muhammad (S) himself introduced the religion to and invited to Islam were Bani Kalb, Bani Hanifah, Bani ‘Aamir, Bani Khizraj.
Without any doubt according to the historical accounts of the Prophet’s life it is clear that until the pact of allegiance of ‘Aqabah the Muslims did not show any resistance. (This was around two or three years before the migration to Madina.)
With the passage of time the increasing power of Islam made Quraysh concerned and they increased their persecution and desired a full-fledged war. This situation has been presented in history in these words: Before the pact of allegiance of ‘Aqabah the Prophet did not give permission to fight. Only endurance, patience and prayer were allowed to the people by him whereas the Quraysh showed no softness in destroying and vanquishing the Muslims and they succeeded in turning back a few Muslims from their religion. They expelled some groups from their homes and tortured others. The first verse about war and measures for it was revealed at the following occasion.
أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَاتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُوا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ نَصْرِهِمْ لَقَدِيرٌ
‘Those who are fought against are permitted [to fight] because they have been wronged, and Allah is indeed able to help them. (Surah Al Hajj, 22:39).
الَّذِينَ أُخْرِجُوا مِنْ دِيَارِهِمْ بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ
Those who were expelled from their homes unjustly…(Surah Al Hajj, 22:40).
After the above verse the following verse was revealed:
وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّىٰ لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ
Keeping these things in mind it becomes clear that the leader of Islam did not take recourse to sword for propagation of its ideals. On the contrary, the polytheists and the power-seeking people laid the foundations of enmity and war and in this situation the Prophet of Islam was forced to defend himself and his followers. The first time the Prophet of Islam showed resistance was not in offence but rather the resistance was defensive in nature.
If we carefully examine the accounts of the wars that took place in that period we will see that all of them were defensive in nature. Even at the time when the Jews and the Christians broke their oath, the Prophet attacked them pre-emptively only because there was a fear that they would rise against Islam. For a broad study of other wars we take recourse to significant verses related to jihad. We mention here in brief some verses relevant to jihad at the time of the Prophet as an illustration.
أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَاتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُوا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ نَصْرِهِمْ لَقَدِيرٌ
‘Those who are fought against are permitted [to fight] because they have been wronged, and Allah is indeed able to help them. (Surah Al Hajj, 22:39).
الَّذِينَ أُخْرِجُوا مِنْ دِيَارِهِمْ بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ
Those who were expelled from their homes unjustly…(Surah Al Hajj, 22:40).
وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّىٰ لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ
إِنَّمَا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ قَاتَلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَأَخْرَجُوكُمْ مِنْ دِيَارِكُمْ وَظَاهَرُوا عَلَىٰ إِخْرَاجِكُمْ أَنْ تَوَلَّوْهُمْ ۚ وَمَنْ يَتَوَلَّهُمْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
Allah forbids you only in regard to those who made war against you on account of religion and expelled you from your homes and supported [others] in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever makes friends with them—it is they who are the wrongdoers. (Surah al-Mumtahina, 60:9).
كَيْفَ وَإِنْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَيْكُمْ لَا يَرْقُبُوا فِيكُمْ إِلًّا وَلَا ذِمَّةً ۚ يُرْضُونَكُمْ بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَتَأْبَىٰ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَأَكْثَرُهُمْ فَاسِقُونَ
How (can it be)! While if they prevail against you, they would not pay regard in your case to ties of relationship, nor those of covenant; they please you with their mouths while their hearts do not consent; and most of them are transgressors. (Surah at-Tawba 9:8).
اشْتَرَوْا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا فَصَدُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ سَاءَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
They have taken a small price for the way; surely evil is it that they do. (Surah at-Tawba 9:9).
لَا يَرْقُبُونَ فِي مُؤْمِنٍ إِلًّا وَلَا ذِمَّةً ۚ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُعْتَدُونَ
They do not pay regard to ties of relationship nor those of covenant in the case of a believer; and these are they who go beyond the limits. (Surah at-Tawba 9:10).
فَإِنْ تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ فَإِخْوَانُكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ ۗ وَنُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ
But if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor- rate, they are your brethren in faith; and We make the communications clear for a people who know. (Surah at-Tawba 9:11).
وَإِنْ نَكَثُوا أَيْمَانَهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ عَهْدِهِمْ وَطَعَنُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ فَقَاتِلُوا أَئِمَّةَ الْكُفْرِ ۙ إِنَّهُمْ لَا أَيْمَانَ لَهُمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَنْتَهُونَ
And if they break their oaths after their agreement and (openly) revile your religion, then fight the leaders of unbelief—surely their oaths are nothing—so that they may desist. (Surah at-Tawba 9:12).
أَلَا تُقَاتِلُونَ قَوْمًا نَكَثُوا أَيْمَانَهُمْ وَهَمُّوا بِإِخْرَاجِ الرَّسُولِ وَهُمْ بَدَءُوكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ ۚ أَتَخْشَوْنَهُمْ ۚ فَاللَّهُ أَحَقُّ أَنْ تَخْشَوْهُ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ
What! Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed at the expulsion of the Messenger, and they attacked you first; do you fear them? But Allah is most deserving that you should fear Him, if you are believers (Surah al-Tawbah 9:13).
وَأَذَانٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ إِلَى النَّاسِ يَوْمَ الْحَجِّ الْأَكْبَرِ أَنَّ اللَّهَ بَرِيءٌ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ۙ وَرَسُولُهُ ۚ فَإِنْ تُبْتُمْ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ فَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُمْ غَيْرُ مُعْجِزِي اللَّهِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ
And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger to the people on the day of the greater pilgrimage that Allah and His Messenger are free from liability to the idolaters; therefore if you repent, it will be better for you, and if you turn back, then know that you will not weaken Allah; and announce a painful punishment to those who disbelieve. (Surah al-Tawbah 9:3)
إِلَّا الَّذِينَ عَاهَدْتُمْ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَنْقُصُوكُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَمْ يُظَاهِرُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَحَدًا فَأَتِمُّوا إِلَيْهِمْ عَهْدَهُمْ إِلَىٰ مُدَّتِهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَّقِينَ
Except those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, and then they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up any one against you, so fulfil their agreement to the end of their term; surely Allah loves those who are careful (of their duty). (Surah al-Tawbah 9:4)
فَإِذَا انْسَلَخَ الْأَشْهُرُ الْحُرُمُ فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدْتُمُوهُمْ وَخُذُوهُمْ وَاحْصُرُوهُمْ وَاقْعُدُوا لَهُمْ كُلَّ مَرْصَدٍ ۚ فَإِنْ تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ فَخَلُّوا سَبِيلَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor- rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah al-Tawbah, 9:5)
وَقَاتِلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ كَافَّةً كَمَا يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ كَافَّةً ۚ
And fight the polytheists all together as they fight you all together. ((Surah al-Tawbah, 9:36)
وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ
And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits. (Surah al-Baqara, 2:190)
وَاقْتُلُوهُمْ حَيْثُ ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَخْرِجُوهُمْ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَخْرَجُوكُمْ ۚ وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُقَاتِلُوهُمْ عِنْدَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ حَتَّىٰ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِيهِ ۖ فَإِنْ قَاتَلُوكُمْ فَاقْتُلُوهُمْ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ جَزَاءُ الْكَافِرِينَ
And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers. (Surah al-Baqara, 2:191)
فَإِنِ انْتَهَوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (Surah al-Baqara, 2:192)
وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّىٰ لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ لِلَّهِ ۖ فَإِنِ انْتَهَوْا فَلَا عُدْوَانَ إِلَّا عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ
And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors. (Surah al-Baqara 2:193)
وَدَّ كَثِيرٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ لَوْ يَرُدُّونَكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ إِيمَانِكُمْ كُفَّارًا
Many of the followers of the Book wish that they could turn you back into unbelievers after your faith. (Surah al-Baqara, 2:109)
These were some examples of verses about the issue of Jihad. Without doubt it is clear that most of these verses have a defensive tone and inform the Prophet and the Muslims about the instructions to defend. The last verse also explains the attitude of the People of the Book towards the Muslims by which they would both obstruct the development of Islam and even try to turn back Muslims from the path of Islam.
Some of the verses that were quoted from Sura at-Tawbah clearly state that after the expiration of the oath of separation (mut’arake) with the polytheists it was allowed to fight with them.
Verses of this kind and other verses imply that Islam has offered only two courses of action to the polytheists. One is Islam and the other is war. However, a third option is open for the followers of the revealed religions which is to pay (a special) tax and live under the protection of Islamic government.
Regarding this subject of the (spread of Islam by) sword and the topic of Jihad in Islam, a few issues should be examined.
1. Islam did not accept any other means than the two above mentioned options for polytheists and the idol- worshippers.
2. The followers of other religions having a Book and those who attributed themselves to the spiritual leaders of the past were obliged only to accept the governance of the Muslims but were completely free in regard to their religious beliefs.
3. Did Islam fight a war against anyone other than disbelievers? If yes, against which group?
4. Why did Islam impose its governance over other societies?
5. What is the manner of war in Islam?
6. What was the issue of Jaziyah (a tax paid by non- Muslims living in Islamic lands to the state)?
7. Was Islam spread using the sword and war?
8. Did Islamic rule spread through war?
This matter has been proven from the viewpoint of Islamic jurisprudence and authentic history. Islam has given only two choices to the polytheists: Either they must accept Islam or they must get ready for war.
If we study the depths of human conscience we will see that the issue of existence of an Intelligent Designer and his Oneness is the most profound of all phenomena which can be observed in the average human psyche (thoughts). Even those who deny existence of God admit implicitly (subconsciously) that if such a being exists it would be the most glorious of all the beings and the concept of such a being would be the most important of all concepts. On the other hand, considering the glorious station of Lordship so low as to attempt to make it equal to a piece of stone made by human hands is not only an insult to the exalted station of God but the biggest insult to the whole of humanity, for even after the knowledge that a stone or a piece of lifeless metal submissive itself to the laws of nature does not have any intelligence or sentiments, they take it as an object of worship assigning it a partner to God. If a human being is ready to lower the most sacred and exalted of his concepts and ideas—the exalted station of Lordship—to such an extent then for such a person no useful concept or idea can have any importance
For this reason Islam rose against the polytheists in war, for otherwise had these polytheists claimed that they were from among the People of the Book and, like them, admitted the exalted station of God, Muslims would have dealt with them in the same way that they dealt with the People of the Book. In other words, they could have lived equitably under Islamic governance by paying tax like others of the People of the Book who lived in Muslim territories.
The matter is also well established from the view of Islamic jurisprudence and history that the Prophet never forced his beliefs on the chiefs of other religions but on the contrary would look at their beliefs with respect. He only used to object to deviations as he is quoted in the verse of the Qur’an to have said:
قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَىٰ كَلِمَةٍ سَوَاءٍ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلَّا نَعْبُدَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ وَلَا نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا أَرْبَابًا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ ۚ فَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَقُولُوا اشْهَدُوا بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ
‘Say: O followers of the Book! Come to an equitable proposition between us and you that we shall not serve any but Allah and (that) we shall not associate aught with Him, and (that) some of us shall not take others for lords besides Allah; but if they turn back, then say: Bear witness that we are Muslims.’(Surah aali-‘Imran, 3:64)
The chiefs of the other recognized religions had three choices with regard to Islam:
1. Accepting Islam
2. Submitting to the Islamic rule (government) and paying tax for protection of their individual and social life (and lifestyle)
As we will explain later the wars were not fought for imposing beliefs but rather, they were fought to enforce the rule of a just Islamic government.
Yes, it fought against any rebellion inside Islamic territories and against defrauders of Zakat even in the case that they were not rebellious. (Because the rationale for these two matters is logically clear, we refrain from giving details).
This perhaps is the most important issue of our discussion.
It must be said that we have recourse to decisive arguments which certify in clear terms the strong and just principles of Islamic government. Our arguments in this regard will be based on the Islamic laws themselves and the style applied by its main leaders.
Firstly, Islam recognizes human nature and has evaluated humans according to reality (the truth). It is clear, therefore, that the focus of government, which is the leadership of humanity to the farthest point of felicity, is one of the most sensitive and important issues in Islam.
We should not take the issue of governance lightly and comfort ourselves with flowery expressions and words. It must be said without any concealment that the value of a statesman or a form of governance—and even a school of sociology or religious thought—depends upon the manner of its assessment of humankind which is the axis of all efforts and activities. The fact that the Prophet of Islam understood the nature of humanity in its best possible form and assessed it logically can be verified in two ways: The first way being the principle that has been mentioned in the Qur’an (the fundamental law of Islam) about humans, which was explained in brief at the beginning of this discourse and which will be explained again generally here. The second way encompasses testimony of those who are well acquainted with Islam in addition to the method that the Prophet himself and his close associates used in relation to training people.
As said earlier, the principle that Qur’an has mentioned about humankind is not a single-faceted principle but explains different aspects of humanity:
1. With regard to felicity and iniquity humankind is not a static being but rather has the capacity of change and alteration.
2. These two qualities can grow infinitely in a human being. In felicity one can reach the station of divine proximity like Ibrahim, Musa son of Imran, Isa son of Marium, Muhammad son of Abdullah and Ali ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon them all); similarly, a person can plunge infinitely into iniquity like the Pharaohs, the oppressors amongst the Children of Israel, Ibn Muljim and likes of them.
3. Neither of these two qualities can be actualized without taking into account the potentials and the limits of human free will (choice).
4. The original nature of humankind is like a valuable gem that has the capacity of bearing both this ascent and fall.
5. Humankind with regard to its material form and innate inclinations is a profit-motivated being and, if an external force of faith does not restrain him, he is a self-centered profit seeker more than which is not seen in other beings.
6. Keeping in mind the foundational structure of humankind, the true value of a human being before God, the Exalted, is related to cutting off from these incidental characteristics that pull one towards corruption. Humankind’s real worth is over and above all other values and one such individual is equivalent to the whole of humanity.
If one takes into consideration any other social, philosophical or political school of thought they will see that it does not view human beings according to their real nature and does not assess humans corresponding to reality. In the writings of different schools about humankind, the person has not been looked at from all the different perspectives mentioned here and, even if we suppose that there is a school of thought that has introduced humankind in a way similar to Islam then this school is compatible with Islam and guarantees its own existence throughout eternity. Apart from this, Islam has also examined humanity by focusing just on the non- human aspect (that is, his animal aspect). Islam has examined in detail animals under the category of beings that have a soul and life in the following manner:
The life of no living being can be taken without a valid reason even in the case that such a being may not be beneficial to humankind.
We mention some of the rights of animals in brief here:5
1. A person who has a certain animal under his protection must provide for all the basic necessities of its life. If he cannot or does not want to take this responsibility and if the meat of the animal is edible, then he can perform the ritual slaughter of the animal and use its meat, etc. If this is not possible or the meat of the animal is not halal for food, then the owner should sell it or rent it and in one way or another provide for its living and otherwise he should release the animal so that it is able to fend for itself.
2. If a person who owns a certain animal does not act upon one of the above-mentioned ways, then the Islamic ruler (judge) can force him to act upon one of the above-mentioned strategies keeping in mind the interests of both the owner and the animal.
3. If the owner refuses to act on any of the alternatives, the authority of the animal then lies with the Islamic ruler (judge). A judge can sell the liquid assets of the owner so as to provide for the animal’s livelihood. Rather it is even possible that the only option for providing for the living of the animal might be to sell the fixed assets of the owner and a judge can take these steps if necessary.
4. Extra milk that is left after the animal provides for its young ones can be used by the owner. However, if excess milking causes harm to the young then the owner is blameworthy.
For example, if we have access to water that is sufficient for only one of two animals under our protection—an animal whose meat is permissible to eat and an animal whose meat is not permissible, such as a dog—according to the verdict of some fuqaha (jurists), the water should be given to the animal whose is meat is not permissible (a dog for example) because, on the one hand, use of the meat of animals like cow is permissible, and on the other, allowing the death of any animal, including dogs, from thirst is not permissible.
Islamic jurists that explain the basis of this right say that animals are living beings and we must not be indifferent to them.
The just nature of laws in an Islamic government can be discovered from the worth that it maintains for all living beings, especially humankind, even without further investigation. The fact that no school of thought has recognized humanity like Islam can be verified from a large number of non-Muslim historians. Will Durant6 the American historian and the author of The Story of Civilization says the following in this regard:
“They gave him [the Prophet] affection and care, but no one seems to have bothered to teach him how to read or write; this feeble accomplishment was held in low repute by the Arabs of the time; only seventeen men of the Quraish tribe condescended to it. Mohammed was never known to write anything himself; he used an amanuensis. His apparent illiteracy did not prevent him from composing the most famous and eloquent book in the Arabic tongue, and from acquiring such understanding of the management of men as seldom comes to highly educated persons.”7
In the last sentence Durant clearly states that Prophet’s recognition of humanity was without any parallels. We also quote another sentence from the same author. In this same book he says:
“If we judge greatness by influence, he was one of the giants of history. He undertook to raise the spiritual and moral-level of a people harassed into barbarism by heat and foodless wastes, and he succeeded more completely realized his dream.”8
The same author at another place in the same book says, “...he built a religion simple and clear and strong...”9
He again says that the Islamic government “promoted for three to six centuries the prosperity of areas never so prosperous again, and stimulated and supported such a flourishing of education, literature, science, philosophy, and art as made western Asia, for five centuries, the most civilized region in the world.”10
Also, “It can be said that the Islamic civilization had reached the peak of its development.”11
In addition, “Spain in its entire history has not seen a more sympathetic and just period of rule than the Islamic rule.”12
In short, in view its just rules and regulations the Islamic government was able to dominate over all societies.
In an Islamic government privileges like status, race, etc. have no worth when it comes to statesmanship and it is possible that a person of lower social status having the necessary qualifications can take administration of a society in his hands because Islam has considered purity of soul and piety to be the only factors for judging a person’s character.
The mode of Islamic government whose form and effects can be seen in different societies can be better comprehended from a historic event that has been accepted by both Muslim and non-Muslim historians. It is as follows:
During the Caliphate of Umar ibn Khattab, Rome prepared a big army for war with the Muslims. The Muslims were informed of this at a time when the Muslim army had just conquered the city of Hamas, one of the cities in Syria, and they were collecting Jaziyah (Capitation Tax) from them. After hearing that Rome had prepared an army to attack the city of Hamas, the Muslims returned all the tax money they had collected from the people of Hamas and said to them, ‘We are unable to help you and defend you against the attack of the Romans and you will have to manage these affairs yourself.’ The people of Hamas replied: Your rule and justice is dearer to us than our condition in the past and certainly we were oppressed and helpless in the past. The Jews were foremost of them who said: We swear by Torah that we will fight against the Romans shoulder to shoulder with your commanders and we will not allow Roman commanders to enter Hamas but that we lose all our strength and we are overpowered. They closed the gates of the city and took charge of guarding the gates and also the Jews and Christians of other cities who had signed a peace treaty with the Muslims and were living under Muslim rule took similar steps. They said that if the Romans were to defeat the Muslims then they would be forced to return to their previous condition and if the Romans were not victorious then until the last Muslim alive they would fight along with them. When Allah made the disbelievers (the Romans) taste defeat and made the Muslims victorious, the people opened their cities to the Muslims and welcomed them, dancing in joy and playing music and even paid the Jaziyah (Capitation tax) to them yet again.13
It is from here—in that ancient society which lacked knowledge and understanding about human and natural principles and creation of true unity was impossible—that Islam with its mode of governance and the freedom it granted to all people within the limits of reason progressed with an impressive pace, as is acknowledged by Muslim and non-Muslim historians alike.
At this point we need to ask for an opinion from a renowned sociologist whose expertise in this field is testified by both Westerners and Easterners. Doctor Gustave Le Bon16 was a sociologist whose works are recognized to this day to be amongst the most insightful of writings in sociology.
This scholar while expressing his opinion about the Islamic government and the pace of its progress says the following: The conduct of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs in running the affairs of the state was more than mere knowledge of warfare and military techniques which they had learned in a short period of time. They from the beginning would involve themselves with the local people who for years had been subjected to the pressure and oppression of tyrant rulers who had inflicted on them all sorts of oppressions and tyrannies.
These oppressed masses submitted to the rule of the new rulers with complete liking because compared to the past they had complete peace and freedom. It was known in clear terms what should be done with these oppressed people. Especially the Caliphs because of their wise policies would never make an effort to spread their religion by force. Rather instead of using their influence to spread their religion (as it is claimed today) they used to declare explicitly that the customs, traditions and the religion of the defeated nations will be respected and in exchange for this freedom they would have to pay a small amount of tax called Jaziyah to them and this amount was far less compared to what was taken from these people by the rulers of the past.
Before the Muslim army would set out for a place, it would present the conditions of peace through a special representative and these conditions, as quoted here by Abul Mahasin, were fundamentally the same as those presented by ‘Amr bin ‘As to the people of Gaza in 17 A.H., after they were surrounded by the Muslim army. A similar treaty was also signed with Iran and Rome. The text of the peace treaty was as follows:
“Our leader has ordered us that if you fail to accept the rule/laws of Islam we must fight you. So incline towards us and become our brothers and share with us in all the benefits and know that after this no harm or injury will reach you from us; however, if you do not accept these conditions, then every year as long as you are alive you must pay us an amount as tax (Jaziyah) and, in return, we pledge to fight anyone who wants to harm you or harbors enmity with you. We shall never breach this agreement that we are signing with you and, if you reject this as well, nothing other than swords can pass judgment between us and we will fight you until the command of God is executed.”
The agreement that ‘Amr bin ‘As signed with the people of Egypt was very similar to the above agreement. He made an agreement with them that they would be free with respect to their religion and religious practices and that the law of justice would apply equally to all. Land and property, especially, would be managed according to principles of ownership. In the place of the exorbitant amounts that had been taken forcibly by the rulers of Constantine, it was agreed that a yearly amount that equalled fifteen Franks would be taken as tax (Jaziyah) from each individual. The people of the region and around appreciated this agreement so much that they promptly accepted it and while collecting a sum of money to be offered for peace they agreed to surrender.
The Islamic government was so firm on its oath and its behavior was so good with the people, who had not been reprieved for even a moment from the impositions and oppression of the previous rulers, that the people willingly and with enthusiasm accepted Islam as their religion and Arabic as a language and I repeat again that results like this can never be achieved through force and the sword and the conquerors who went to Egypt before the Arabs never managed to achieve this kind of success.
There is a distinction in the Arab conquests that is not to be found in other conquests. Considering that other nations, like the Barbarians (who had conquered Rome), the Turks and others, had also risen for world-conquest and also achieved outstanding victories, they failed to create a civilization but rather their main concern was to benefit from the wealth and possessions of the defeated nations. This was in contrast to the Muslim conquerors that in a short period of time laid the foundations of a new civilization and prepared a large section of the people of the defeated nations to accept all the components of this new civilization including its religion and language.17
This same social thinker explains the cause of the progress of Islamic rule as follows:
When we carefully take into account the conquests of the Muslims and consider the causes behind these successes we will see that they did not use their swords to spread Islam as they always left the individuals of the defeated nations free to choose their own religion.
If the Christian nations accepted the religion of the Arab conquerors and even adopted their language the real cause was that they saw the new rulers more just and fair as compared to the rulers under whose oppression they were living. In addition to this they found the religion of these new rulers simpler and closer to reality than their own religion.
History proves the fact that spread of any religion is impossible through force. When the Christians removed the Muslims from Spain, this nation was ready to accept death but did not accept to change its religion.
Without doubt not only was Islam not spread by the force of the sword but rather progressed through encouragement, power of propagation and speech. It was for the same reason that the Turks and the Mongols, even though they had defeated the Muslims, accepted the religion of Islam and in the Indian subcontinent, which was just a transit passage for Arabs, Islam progressed to an extent that today more than 200 million Muslims live there and this number is always in a state of increase. Today thousands of Christian missionary organizations with up-to-date facilities are busy propagating Christianity; in spite of this, the Muslim population is experiencing a faster growth rate.
Islam’s progress in China is also worthy of attention and study of other sections of this book will make it clear how much Islam has progressed there. More than twenty million Muslims are present in China despite the fact that Arabs never attacked it nor occupied even a meter of their land.18
While listing the causes of successes of Islamic rule Jurji Zaydan wrote:
“Justice of the Muslims and their tolerance and piety had a great impact on those who came under Islamic rule from the Roman and Iranian empires. The Muslims were commanded to adhere to these principles when they were undertaking conquests. Abu Bakr ordered Osama as follows when he was departing towards Syria:
“Do not betray, do not cheat, do not bind people with chains, do not mutilate their bodies, do not kill children or old people, do not root out and burn palms, do not cut useful trees and do not kill goats, cows and camels except for the sake of God. You will pass by a group who has drawn itself aside and has crept in the monasteries. Leave them be.”19
Also, the event of a chicken that built a nest on the tent of ‘Amr bin ‘As indicates the compassion and kindness shown by the Muslim army. This event is as follows: The Muslim army under the commandership of ‘Amr bin ‘As had camped and pitched tents in Egypt at a place called Yamam. When they wanted to depart, they gathered all the tents, but when they reached the tent of ‘Amr bin ‘As they saw that a chicken had built a nest to lay eggs on the tent out of grass and sticks. ‘Amr bin ‘As was informed about this. He said: Do not gather the tent until the young ones come out of the eggs and are able to fly.
Another cause of the success of Islam is that it considers all people equal to each other and shows no preferential treatment due to race, social level or wealth. The clearest proof of this is the story of Jabalah ibn al-Ayham the King of Ghassan who became a Muslim during the Caliphate of ‘Umar ibn Khattab. Ibn al-Ayham came to Medina with his army and ‘Umar welcomed his conversion to Islam. The people of Medina came out to the streets to watch the royal pomp of Jabalah and his horses whose necks were covered with golden chains. Upon his own head was a crown studded with jewels and diamonds. However, this did not prevent ‘Umar from punishing him when he wronged another person. The story goes as follows:
When a commoner from the tribe of Fazarah stepped on Jabalah’s garb during circumambulation of the Ka’ba causing it to fall off, Jabalah—due to arrogance and ostentation—slapped the man and injured his nose. This man from the tribe of Fazarah complained to ‘Umar. ‘Umar sent for Jabalah and asked him, “What is this that you have done?” He said, “O Amir al-Mu’minin! He intended to unfasten my garments and had it not been for the sanctity of Mecca, I would have certainly split open his forehead with my sword.”
‘Umar said, “You have confessed to your offense. So you must compensate that man or you will receive retaliation (qisas) for your offense. I will issue an order that he can injure your nose in the same way that you injured his.” He said, “How can you issue such an order?! That man is an ordinary man and I am a King.” ‘Umar said, “Islam considers you and him to be equal and you do not enjoy any preference over him except through piety and virtue.” Jabalah did not have any option against the command of ‘Umar other than carrying it out or escaping from Islam. So he fled to Constantine and did not return to the Arab lands.
One of the other reasons for the success of Islam was the issue of freedom—the freedom that the Islamic government granted to newly conquered societies. When Arabs would conquer a certain land, they would leave the people free in regard to beliefs, religion, financial dealings, civil and judicial law and they would not in any way impose their religious laws and beliefs on them. This was their mode of action with Egypt and other countries.20
Evidence to prove the just nature of Islamic government is ample; however, this short treatise about jihad in Islam cannot encompass all the details.
Based on the decisive interpretation and view that Islam has about human beings and about life in general the subject of war takes an interesting form. In order that this subject becomes clear we must always keep in mind the view that Islam holds about a human being or rather life in general. We know that Islam considers killing of a human being without a justifiable reason equivalent to the killing of the whole human race21. In addition to this, there are some other points that we mention here:
1. Without doubt Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a)—irrespective of all the spiritual and human distinctions that made him the most worthy of all people after the Prophet of Islam—was a soldier and a fighter of the highest caliber. All historians that have written about this issue say that it was never seen that he fled from the battlefield, from an enemy soldier or an entire army on account of fear. In all the military victories except in the battle of Tabuk he was the stander-bearer of the Muslim army.
This warrior of foremost rank says, “I swear by Allah, even if I am given all the domains of the seven (stars) with all that exists under the skies in order that I may disobey Allah to the extent of snatching one grain of barley from an ant, I would not do it.”.22
So we see that Islam has trained Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a) in such a manner that he juxtaposes disobeying God in a very insignificant matter of stealing a husk of a grain from the mouth of a weak ant with the utmost benefit that can be imagined for a human being (that of owning the whole world) and considers this seemingly insignificant disobedience more destructive and terrifying than infinite benefit. These are the fighters of Islam; these are the people fighting against criminal natured people. They fight while knowing that it is incorrect to snatch even a husk of a grain from mouth of a living being like ant.
2. Compassionate conduct of Imam Ali (‘a) with his killer ibn Muljim al-Muradi clearly shows that swords were not used by Muslims to show their strength but rather for character building and self-purification. He said to his sons, “If you forgive ibn Muljim it is closer to piety.”23
3. The general order of the Prophet of Islam in all expeditions was the following:
“March in the name of God, with the help of God, in the path of God and for the nation of the Prophet of God (S). Do not commit treachery in war, do not bind people with chains, do not mutilate their bodies, do not cut trees except when needed, do not kill quadrupeds whose meat is usable except when there is no other option.”24
These are the explicit orders of Islam during war. If you carefully see it says: In the name of God, with the help of God and in the path of God. It does not say: In the name of swords and for the sake of victory. It does not say: In the name of Arabs, with the help of Arabs, in the path of victory for Arabs. It does not say: In the name of our race, with the help of our race, in the path of victory for our race.
It states that treachery, binding people with chains and mutilating their bodies is prohibited. These are the undeniable human principles and rights in war in the eyes of all the people. In addition, not only was it ordered that humane fighters must not take the sword lightly regarding the lives of the people in war but it was ordered not to harm animals as well, and above all this it was even ordered not to cut down trees except in emergency and when needed.
Yet another of the jurisprudential rulings about jihad is that it is forbidden to poison enemy positions and facilities [such as with chemical weapons].
4. If the disbelieving enemy were to use women, children, insane people or the elderly during a war as a shield - for example, they place this group of people in front of their ranks to shield themselves from the Muslim army - in this situation fighting becomes prohibited until the this situation changes except in the case of head to head combat where if Muslims were to observe this rule in respect to this group of people they would suffer a defeat.25 In such a situation, with complete care, they are to continue fighting ensuring that the least possible number of such people is killed.
If in this situation a soldier of the Muslim army kills a person from this group while it was prohibited for him to kill or attack such people, he must compensate for the murder and also pay atonement (kaffarah) if the killing was deliberate; however, if the killing was not deliberate the blood money of the killed person will be taken from the relatives (Aaqeleh) of the soldier and will be paid to the heirs of the killed.26
5. It is disapproved (makruh) to start battle before the noontime.
6. A necessary condition before starting the battle is to explain the Islamic principles and beliefs. Masma’ ibn Abdul Malik narrated from Imam Sadiq (‘a) that Imam Ali said: The prophet sent me to Yemen and gave me instructions that without explaining the Islamic principles and beliefs I should not fight anyone and said, ‘O Ali, if Allah guides one person through you it is better for you than becoming the owner of all upon which the sun rises and sets.’27
Also it is necessary to explain to the disbelievers that our aim is not money and worldly power. If a Muslim soldier kills a disbeliever before invitation to Islam, he would be considered guilty of a crime and some jurisprudents (fuqaha) have said that he will be accountable for the blood that was shed. When we keep in mind the above conditions, it is easy to accept this fact that at the time of his last breaths the Prophet of Islam (S) was ruling over a region larger than the whole of today’s Europe (excluding Russia) and more than a million people were living in these lands and these lands were conquered with loss of only 150 people from the side of the enemy (from amongst these were the Jews of the tribe of Banu Qarizah who were killed because of their own contravention) and the number of casualties amongst the Muslims in this ten year period, if counted monthly, was one casualty per month. These 120 people along with the 150 casualties of the enemy equal only 270 causalities and a region larger than the whole of Europe became inclined to Islam and accepted Islamic rule.28
7. Muslims are not allowed to breach a pact made during war. In addition, in the case that two groups of disbelievers who were at war with each other and later a peace treaty was concluded between them and one of these two groups were to decide to conclude an agreement with the Muslims against its enemy, such a pact would be forbidden for Muslims. A tradition has been quoted in the book Jawahir page 625 in the section of Jihad as follows:
Talha ibn Zayd narrates from Imam Sadiq (‘a): Two groups of disbelievers each having independent rule fought with each other and thereafter concluded a peace treaty. After this one of the two kings, acting deceitfully against his enemy, wants to enter a pact with the Muslims to fight against the other king. Is it allowed to conclude such an agreement? The Imam said, “Muslims are not allowed to commit deceit, order others to be deceitful or assist those who act deceitfully. Muslims can fight against polytheists, but Muslims cannot aid a party of disbelievers that has signed a peace treaty with another and fight against the other party.”29
- 1. Sirah ibn Hisham, vol. 1, page 293-294.
- 2. Sirah ibn Hisham, vol. 1, page 321
- 3. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa Al-Nihayah, vol. 3, page 94.
- 4. Narrated from Sirah ibn Hisham, vol. 1, page 467.
- 5. The writer has not mentioned the sources of these jurisprudential rulings.
- 6. William James Durant (1885 AD – 1981 AD) was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for his book The Story of Civilization published in 11 volumes.
- 7. The Story of Civilization, Will Durant, Arabic translation, vol. 13, page 22; (see Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, vol. 4: The Age of Faith, section II Mohammed in Mecca).
- 8. The Story of Civilization, Will Durant, Arabic translation, vol. 13, page 47; (see Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, vol. 4: The Age of Faith, sec IV Mohammed Victorious).
- 9. The Story of Civilization, Will Durant, Arabic translation, vol. 13, page 116; (see Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, vol. 4: The Age of Faith, sec IV Mohammed Victorious).
- 10. The Story of Civilization, Will Durant, Arabic translation, vol. 13, page 151; (see Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, vol. 4: The Age of Faith, Chapter XI: The Islamic Scene: 628- 1058, IV: The Government).
- 11. The Story of Civilization, Will Durant, Arabic translation, vol. 13, page 165.
- 12. The writer has quoted this from Will Durant. But this line belongs to the Christian Orientalist Stanley Lane-Poole and Will Durant has quoted this sentence from him in his book The Story of Civilization, Arabic translation, vol. 13, page 292. Stanley Lane-Poole is the author of the book named The Moors in Spain about the Muslim rule in Spain.
- 13. Futuhul Baldan, Abul Hussain Baladhari, page 187.
- 14. Jurji Zaydan (ﺯﻳﺪﺍﻥ ﺟﺮﺟﯽ) (1861 AD – 1914 AD) was an Arab Lebanese Christian writer and historian.
- 15. Tarikh at-Tamaddun al-Islami (History of Islamic civilization), Jurji Zaydan, vol. 1, page 57, 58
- 16. Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931) was a French sociologist.
- 17. The Civilization of Arabs, Gustave Le Bon, Arabic translation, page 169-172.
- 18. The Civilization of Arabs, Gustave Le Bon, Arabic translation, page 162-163.
- 19. Tarikh at-Tamaddun al-Islami (History of Islamic Civilization), Jurji Zaydan, vol. 1, page 55-56.
- 20. Tarikh at-Tamaddun al-Islami (History of Islamic Civilization), Jurji Zaydan, vol. 1, page 56.
- 21. Refers to the Verse:
مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
Whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men (Surah al-Ma’ida, 5:32)
- 22. Nahj Al-Balagha, Sermon 224, vol. 1, page 210.
- 23. Shi’a fil Qur’an, Muhammad Jawad Mughni, page 39.
- 24. Jawahirul Kalam, Sheikh Jawahiri, vol. 21, page 67.
- 25. Jawahirul Kalam, Sheikh Jawahiri, vol. 21, page 72.
- 26. Jawahirul Kalam, Sheikh Jawahiri, vol. 21, page 72.
- 27. Jawahirul Kalam, Sheikh Jawahiri, vol. 21, page 81.
- 28. Rasul e Akram dar Maidan e Jang, page 21.
- 29. Jawahir al-Kalam, Sheikh Jawahiri, vol. 21, page 79.