Islamic Human Rights (53)
A number of ayahs of Holy Quran have discussed war. The general conclusion that the reader maintains in relation to these ayahs is that Islamic teachings have set a number of conditions in regard to battles and terms of combat; one of which is the consideration and application of the chivalrous principles in confrontations and battles.
Today; the topics of war, peace, captivity, and terms of performance of governments in relation to these topics have generated concerns within the human community, while every day reports are released under the heading of compliance with human rights amid battles. Meanwhile, some radical media are intent to baselessly attribute violence and terrorism to the divine religion of Islam.
This is while Islamic teachings have always invited mankind to establishment and maintenance of global peace, and peaceful coexistence based on monotheism, justice, and piety. Holy Quran calls on the People of the Book to comply with the joint principles that shape peaceful coexistence.
Holy Quran puts emphasis on defensive preparedness and instructs the Prophet of Islam to welcome peace and reconciliation if the enemies are inclined toward peace. The Word of God considers peace and amity as the source of goodness for mankind. Thus, Holy Quran has on several occasions instructed the establishment of peace, security, amity, and peaceful coexistence.
The Prophet of Islam, Mohammad (Blessings of God upon him and his progeny) was always kind and patient toward his enemies. The Prophet of Islam and his followers never waged battles, and all of the battles in which the Prophet took part in, were defensive in nature, and in response to the incursions and aggressions of the enemies of Islam.
In contrast to the propaganda campaigns of the enemies; the growth and development of Islam has been tied to the ethical virtues and the humane behavior of the Prophet of Islam, such that it has been said those who converted to Islam after the conclusion of Hodaibiah peace accord outnumbered those, who had converted to Islam in the twenty years prior to conclusion of this peace accord.
Muslims have always honored the principle of peaceful coexistence, complied with humane principles, and respected others, while non-Muslims mistreated Muslims.
According to the researcher Robertson, when Muslims liberated Bait Ul-Moqaddas; they did not harm the Christians. However, when Christians seized this city they ruthlessly massacred Muslims. Moreover, when Jews arrived in that city, they blatantly burnt everyone.
The Prophet of Islam always prioritized peace, which is evident from the agreements such as Hodaibiah peace accord.
Several ayahs of Holy Quran discuss battles, and Islamic teachings have set a number of conditions on battles and terms of combat, including application of chivalrous principles amid battles, pointing out that the combat forces should not enter war by deceiving the enemies, and should also not wage any battle. The Prophet of Islam, upon sending the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (Peace be upon him) and his troops toward the warfront, called on Imam Ali to initially invite the enemies to convert to Islam, and to declare war against the enemy forces, so that they would not be caught off guard.
190th ayah of Surat Baqarah notes: “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.”
Upon reading this ayah, one concludes that in the view of Islam, battle should be for the sake of God; and should not be for seizure and/or occupation of a land, and/or attainment of spoils of war. This ayah also says that one should fight those who have fought with you. This ayah also notes that the faithful should not exceed the limits. This means that the battle and warfare should be in proportion to enemy and the civilian regions should not be attacked. These important principles have also been emphasized in the tradition of the Infallible Imams of the Prophet of Islam’s Household, and within many hadiths and Islamic narrations.
The 6th Infallible Imam of the Prophet of Islam’s Household, Imam Jafar Sadeq (Peace be upon him), noted that when Prophet Mohammad decided to send a group of Muslims to an oasis he told this group of Muslims to move in the name of God, for the sake of God and the divine path. The Prophet also instructed them not to kill the elderly men, children and women, and not to cut trees. The Prophet also urged that if a Muslim spared a polytheist; that polytheist should be sheltered by Muslims until he hears the Word of God, and if the polytheist would swear allegiance with Muslims after hearing the Word of God, he should be considered a Muslim brethren, while if he refused to do so, he should be taken to a safe location.
The Infallible Imams attached significant importance to prevention of violation of the rights of women and children, such that within the theological books, one chapter has been allocated for this topic of importance. The Infallible Imams also took into consideration the rights of the disabled, the blind, the mentally deranged, and even those who were forced to attend the battlefront within the ranks of the enemies.
One of the aspects of human rights, highly emphasized amid global armed confrontations is in regard to terms of treatment of prisoners of war. In the divine religion of Islam, prisoners of war maintain a number of rights which Muslims should fulfill; such as feeding the prisoners of war; keeping them safe; and allowing children to remain in the company of their mothers.
The study of the terms of war in the view of Islam proves what has currently been emphasized in the global rights system was taken into consideration by Islamic teachings, fourteen centuries ago.
The Islamic rules and regulations on prisoners of war are completely logical and humane. Upon the termination of war, Muslims take all of the prisoners of war to the leader of Muslims. Meanwhile, the leader of Muslims has three options. These captives are either freed unconditionally; or released upon payment of compensation and/or remain in captivity.
Meanwhile, if necessary, the leader of Muslims can swap prisoners of war, with the Muslims held captive by enemy troops.
The sacred religion of Islam has strictly forbidden the killing of prisoners of war.
The 4th ayah of Surat Muhammad notes: “So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make them prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom themselves until the war terminates. That shall be so…”