Tolerance In Islam Regarding Warfare
- Islam is not a religion of terrorism, transgression or oppression. We are forbidden by God to be oppressive. Allah says: “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.” [2:190]
- Allah orders us to revert to peaceful talks when the enemy requests that option. Allah says: “And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.” [8:61]
We are forbidden to fight those who do not fight us. God, the Exalted, says: “Except for those who take refuge with a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty or those who come to you, their hearts strained at [the prospect of] fighting you or fighting their own people. And if Allah had willed, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them.” [4:90]
- There are many conditions that go hand-in-hand with warfare, to prevent any inhumane action. No person that has not taken part in the warfare is to be killed. As for the elderly, children, women, sickly, those who have dedicated their lives to worship, and those who did not play a role in the warfare; they are to be left unharmed and spared. These are the commands of the Prophet s .The Prophet s upon the conquest of Mecca, instructed that those who entered their homes or the home of Abu Sufyan, or tossed aside their weapons would be guaranteed safety. Abu Bakr later said to the heads of his troops: “Do not become treacherous, do not imprison the innocent, do not mutilate, do not kill any children, do not kill any elderly or women, do not destroy date-palms, do not cut down trees that bear fruit, do not kill sheep, cows or camels, except if you intend to eat them.”
- Human rights are protected in times of war. It is unlawful in Islam for one to torture prisoners
of war. They must be treated well. Allah says:
“And they give food, in spite of love for it, to the needy, the orphan, and the captive.
[Saying], “We feed you only for the countenance of Allah. We wish not from you reward
Muslims were quick to uphold these commands. Abu Aziz bin Umair said: “I was among the captives during the battle of Badr, and the Messenger of Allah y said: “Treat the prisoners well.” When it was lunch or dinner time, they would give the prisoners bread and good food, while they themselves would simply eat dates. (Mu’jam as-Sagheer)
It is also reflective of Islam’s tolerance that prisoners of warfare can be freed without ransom. Allah says: “But thereafter [set them free,] either by an act of grace or against ransom, so that the burden of war may be lifted: thus [shall it be]. And [know that] had God so willed, He could indeed punish them [Himself]; but [He wills you to struggle] so as to test you [all] by means of one another. And as for those who are slain in God’s cause, never will He let their deeds go to waste.” (47:4)
Muslim governments are instructed to treat their nonMuslim subjects in the best manner. The Prophet
s instructed his companions, when they went to Egypt, “when you conquer Egypt, be kind
to the Coptic Christians.”
If we are to look at the letter that was drafted by Umar to the people of Jerusalem when it was conquered by the Muslims, we will find that it said: “I give the people of Jerusalem my word that their churches and crosses will be protected and not harmed. None of them shall be forced into Islam.”
Umar could have put any condition he desired upon the people of Jerusalem, but instead of oppressing them, he acted in a way that was representative of the teachings of tolerance in Islam, and was kind and considerate of their basic human rights.