Islamic Human Rights (54)
In Islam, prisoners of war maintain a number of rights, which should be complied with by all. These rights include respectful and kind behavior towards captives; preparation of the necessary transportation means for transference of captives away from the warfronts; and the medical treatment of the wounded.
In this episode, we intend to study the rights granted to the prisoners of war. The divine religion of Islam has put emphasis on the appropriate treatment of prisoners of war. The captive, who a while ago was the staunch foe of Muslims, drawing his sword against Islamic troops, has now been left helpless. However, he is still a human being, which should be treated fairly. Islam is the religion of kindness and forgiveness, and has always fully supported those, who have suffered woes and hardships.
The 8th ayah of Surat Insan in Holy Quran has emphasized feeding of captives.
Prophet of Islam, Mohammad (Blessings of God upon him and his progeny) always called on Muslims to fairly treat captives and prisoners of war.
The Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (Peace be upon him) also noted that Muslims are duty-bound to kindly treat and feed the captives.
The Islamic teachings underlined the rights of prisoners of war, which everyone shall obey. The Prophet of Islam encouraged Muslims to fairly treat captives. Meanwhile, the Islamic combatants fully obeyed this instruction of Prophet Mohammad, feeding and clothing captives.
Preparation of the essential transportation means for transference of captives away from the warfront is one of the other rights of prisoners of war in the view of divine religion of Islam. Now, if there is no transportation means for transference of captive away from the battlefield and the captive cannot walk, he should be set free, given that the instruction of the Imam in this case is unknown.
The 4th Infallible Successor to Prophet Mohammad, Imam Sajjad (Peace be upon him) has noted: “If you hold an enemy trooper captive, who is unable to walk, while you also do not have a horse to carry the captive, you have no right to kill your captive and you should set him free, because you are uninformed about the instruction of the Imam.”
The prominent Islamic scholar, Allameh Majlesi, noted that Imam Ali said never mutilate the body of a dead person; and upon victory over warriors do not enter any house without permission. Never seize the enemy’s belongings as spoils of war other than those belongings which are present in the battlefield, and never persecute women, even if they insult your womenfolk, Imams, and sacred values.
The ayahs of Surat Insan put emphasis on moral and appropriate treatment of captives, and have pointed out the kindness of Imam Ali, and the infallible and venerable daughter of Prophet Mohammad, Hazrat Fatimeh (SA), toward captives.
Throughout the ten years after the Prophet’s migration to Medina, he took part in many battles against the enemies of Islam, while never treating the prisoners of war in a violent manner. In fact, Prophet Mohammad was always kind and forgiving toward captives.
For instance, in the Battle of Hunain, the Prophet confronted the powerful Hawazen Tribe, while holding 6,000 of the members of this tribe captive. The members of this tribe, after their crushing defeat, approached the Prophet, expressing their regrets, while calling for the freedom of the tribal members who were held captive by Muslims, and the release of their belongings. The Prophet of Islam told them that they can make one of these two demands. Upon the remarks of the Prophet, the members of Hunain Tribe called for the release of the tribal members who were held captive by Muslims.
The Prophet noted that he and the children of Abdul-Mottaleb would release their captives. However, in regard to the prisoners of war held captive by other Islamic combatants, the Hunain tribal members should present their request in the presence of Muslims after the observance of the congregational prayers. The Prophet added that he would set an example before Muslims by releasing his captives, hoping that other Muslim combatants would follow suit.
Meanwhile, this was certainly the case. When the Prophet said that he forgives the enemy troops that he and the children of Abdul-Mottaleb have held captive; the overwhelming majority of Muslims approved the Prophet’s measure and followed suit; with only a small minority of Muslims refusing to do so. Then, the Prophet addressed this minority and pledged to double their share of spoils of war in the coming battles. Thereafter, they accepted the Prophet’s pledge, while releasing all of the Hunain Battle prisoners of war.
The Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (Peace be upon him) has made highly delicate and precise remarks about the prohibition of utterance of profanities. Although these are general remarks and have not solely pointed out captives; they are highly helpful statements.
He noted: Utterance of profanities hurts the enemy’s emotions and mounts the inner complexes of the enemies, who have waged an aggression out of ignorance; ultimately souring relations and obstructing the possible guidance of the enemy.
Imam Ali added that instead of utterance of profanities; one should plead to God to guide the enemy so that the bloodshed would end.
Islam encourages Muslims to combat chivalrously, while negating the mental and physical persecution of the enemy, especially after the termination of war.