Islamic military jurisprudence

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Islamic military jurisprudence refers to what has been accepted in Sharia (Islamic law) and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) by Ulama (Islamic scholars) as the correct Islamic manner which is expected to be obeyed by Muslims in times of war. Some scholars and Muslim religious figures claim that armed struggle based on Islamic principles is referred to as the Lesser jihad.

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  • Except those who seek refuge with a people between whom and you there is a covenant, or (those who) come unto you because their hearts forbid them to make war on you or make war on their own folk. Had Allah willed He could have given them power over you so that assuredly they would have fought you. So, if they hold aloof from you and wage not war against you and offer you peace, Allah alloweth you no way against them.
  • The recompense of those who wage war against Allâh and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.
  • Muslims should not attack those civilians of the occupied territories who have announced their opposition to their government's vicious crimes, except for situations in which they are used as human shield and fighting the aggressors depends on attacking those civilians.
  • The early Arabic sources quite plainly and frankly describe the expeditions as military expeditions, and it would never have occurred to anyone at that day to interpret them as anything else.... To the folk of his day there would thus be nothing strange in Muhammad, as the head of the community of those who served Allah, taking the sword to extend the kingdom of Allah, and taking measures to insure the subjection of all who lived within the borders of what he made the kingdom of Allah.
    • Arthur, Jeffery, "The Political Importance of Islam," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 1 (1942): 386.
  • Jihad is a precept of Divine institution. Its performance by certain individuals may dispense others from it. We Malikis maintain that it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them.
    • Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani a 10th-century Maliki jurist: Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam (English translation), Cranston, NJ, 1996, p. 295
  • The mushrikun [infidels] of Dar al-Harb (the arena of battle) are of two types: First, those whom the call of Islam has reached, but they have refused it and have taken up arms. The amir of the army has the option of fighting them…in accordance with what he judges to be in the best interest of the Muslims and most harmful to the mushrikun… Second, those whom the invitation to Islam has not reached, although such persons are few nowadays since Allah has made manifest the call of his Messenger…it is forbidden to…begin an attack before explaining the invitation to Islam to them, informing them of the miracles of the Prophet and making plain the proofs so as to encourage acceptance on their part; if they still refuse to accept after this, war is waged against them and they are treated as those whom the call has reached…
    • Al-Mawardi an 11th Century Shafi`i jurist:Al-Mawardi, The Laws of Islamic Governance [al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah], (London, United Kingdom: Ta-Ha, 1996, p. 60)
  • Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God's entirely and God's word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought. As for those who cannot offer resistance or cannot fight, such as women, children, monks, old people, the blind, handicapped and their likes, they shall not be killed unless they actually fight with words (e.g. by propaganda) and acts (e.g. by spying or otherwise assisting in the warfare).
    • Ibn Taymiya, a 14th Century Hanbali jurist:Ibn Taymiya, in Rudolph Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam, (Princeton, NJ. : Markus Wiener, 1996, p. 49)
  • It is not lawful to make war upon any people who have never before been called to the faith, without previously requiring them to embrace it, because the Prophet so instructed his commanders, directing them to call the infidels to the faith, and also because the people will hence perceive that they are attacked for the sake of religion, and not for the sake of taking their property, or making slaves of their children, and on this consideration it is possible that they may be induced to agree to the call, in order to save themselves from the troubles of war… If the infidels, upon receiving the call, neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax, it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them, because God is the assistant of those who serve Him, and the destroyer of His enemies, the infidels, and it is necessary to implore His aid upon every occasion; the Prophet, moreover, commands us so to do."
    • In the Hidayah, vol. II. p. 140 (Hanafi school):Thomas P. Hughes, “A Dictionary of Islam,” “Jihad” p.243-248. (London, United Kingdom: W.H. Allem, 1895)
  • In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force... The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense... Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.
    • Ibn Khaldun, the 15th century Tunisian historian:Ibn Khaldun, The Muqudimmah. An Introduction to History, Translated by Franz Rosenthal. (New York, NY.: Pantheon, 1958, vol. 1, p. 473)
  • There are certain directives of the Qur’an pertaining to war which were specific only to the Prophet Muhammad against Divinely specified peoples of his times (the polytheists and the Israelites and Nazarites of Arabia and some other Jews, Christians, et al.) as a form of Divine punishment -- for they had persistently denied the truth of the Prophet's mission even after it had been made conclusively evident to them by God through the Prophet, and asked the polytheists of Arabia for submission to Islam as a condition for exoneration and the others for jizya and submission to the political authority of the Muslims for exemption from death punishment and for military protection as the dhimmis of the Muslims. Therefore, after the Prophet and his Companions, there is no concept in Islam obliging Muslims to wage war for propagation or implementation of Islam. The only valid basis for jihad through arms is to end oppression when all other measures have failed. Islam only allows Jihad to be conducted by a Government.[1] with at least half the power of the enemy.[2][3]
  • "Fight those who don't believe in God nor in the Last Day [Unless they believe in the Prophet God bless him and grant him peace] nor hold what is forbidden that which God and His emissary have forbidden [e.g., wine] nor embrace the true faith [which is firm, and abrogates other faiths, i.e., the Islamic religion] from among [for distinguishing] those who were given the Book [i.e., the Jews and Christians] unless they give the head-tax [i.e., the annual taxes imposed on them] (/'an yadin/) humbly submissive, and obedient to Islam's rule.
    • Suyuti Durr al-Manthur (Beirut Edition), vol. 3, p. 228. Imam Al-Suyuti (c. 1445-1505 AD), a famous Egyptian writer, religious scholar, juristic expert, teacher and one of the latter-day authorities of the Sunni Shafi'i School,
  • "Shariat can be fostered through the sword.
    Kufr and Islam are opposed to each other. The progress of one is possible only at the expense of the other and co-existences between these two contradictory faiths in unthinkable.
    The honor of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One who respects kafirs, dishonors the Muslims. To respect them does not merely mean honouring them and assigning them a seat of honor in any assembly, but it also implies keeping company with them or showing considerations to them. They should be kept at an arm's length like dogs. ... If some worldly business cannot be performed without them, in that case only a minimum of contact should be established with them but without taking them into confidence. The highest Islamic sentiment describes that it is better to forego that worldly business and that no relationship should be established with the kafirs.
    The real purpose in levying jizya on them is to humiliate them to such an extent that, on account of fear of jizya, they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling. It is intended to hold them under contempt and to uphold the honor and might of Islam.
    . . .Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam".
  • "Jihad Against the Kuffar is of two Types: Offensive Jihad (where the enemy is attacked in his own territory) ... [and] Defensive Jihad. This is expelling the Kuffar from our land, and it is Fard Ayn [personal religious obligation on Muslim individuals], a compulsory duty upon all ... ...Where the Kuffar [infidels] are not gathering to fight the Muslims, the fighting becomes Fard Kifaya [religious obligation on Muslim society] with the minimum requirement of appointing believers to guard borders, and the sending of an army at least once a year to terrorise the enemies of Allah. It is a duty of the Imam (Caliph) to assemble and send out an army unit into the land of war once or twice every year. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the Muslim population to assist him, and if he does not send an army he is in sin.- And the Ulama have mentioned that this type of jihad is for maintaining the payment of Jizya. The scholars of the principles of religion have also said: " Jihad is Daw'ah [Islamic preaching] with a force, and is obligatory to perform with all available capabilities, until there remains only Muslims or people who submit to Islam."

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  1. Sahih Bukhari, 2957, A Muslim ruler is the shield [of his people]. An armed struggle can only be carried out under him and people should seek his shelter [in war].
  2. Qur'an 8:66, ...if there are a hundred patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a thousand they shall overcome two thousand by Allah's permission, and Allah is with the patient.
  3. Misplaced Directives, Renaissance, Al-Mawrid Institute, Vol. 12, No. 3, March 2002.[2]