Islamic Rulings On Warfare
The United States, no doubt, will be involved
in the Middle East for many decades. To be sure, settling the Israeli-Palestinian
dispute or alleviating poverty could help to stem the tides of Islamic
radicalism and anti-American sentiment. But on an ideological level,
we must confront a specific interpretation of Islamic law, history,
and scripture that is a danger to both the United States and its
allies. To win that ideological war, we must understand the sources
of both Islamic radicalism and liberalism. We need to comprehend
more thoroughly the ways in which militants misinterpret and pervert
Islamic scripture. Al-Qaeda has produced its own group of spokespersons
who attempt to provide religious legitimacy to the nihilism they
preach. Many frequently quote from the Quran and hadith (the Prophet
Muhammad's sayings and deeds) in a biased manner to draw justification
for their cause.
Lieutenant Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein and
Dr. Sherifa Zuhur delve into the Quran and hadith to articulate
a means by which Islamic militancy can be countered ideologically,
drawing many of their insights from these and other classical Islamic
texts. In so doing, they expose contradictions and alternative approaches
in the core principles that groups like al-Qaeda espouse. The authors
have found that proper use of Islamic scripture actually discredits
the tactics of al-Qaeda and other jihadist organizations. This monograph
provides a basis for encouraging our Muslim allies to challenge
the theology supported by Islamic militants. Seeds of doubt planted
in the minds of suicide bombers might dissuade them from carrying
out their missions. The Strategic Studies Institute is pleased to
offer this study of Islamic rulings on warfare to the national defense
community as an effort to contribute to the ongoing debate over
how to defeat Islamic militancy.
--Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., director, Strategic
The authors of this monograph share their respective
connections with the topic.
Lieutenant Commander Aboul-Enein: In 2000,
I encountered Dr. Bernard Lewis, a famous Princeton scholar of Islamic
history and author of many books on Islam, delivering a speech on
Capitol Hill. He stressed the importance of classic Arabic and Islamic
texts. Later, when confronting extremist interpretations of Islam,
I saw the importance of these texts, especially the Quran (the Islamic
book of divine revelation), the hadith (Prophet's Muhammad's sayings
and deeds), and the 1,400 plus years of commentary, which essentially
run counter to current jihadist ideology.
Dr. Zuhur: For 20 years, I have interviewed
Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, Palestinian, Saudi, and other Islamists
who cite verses from the Quran to support their worldview of necessary
and continuous conflict between Islam and the West. Yet, throughout
my own education, I was exposed to liberal and humanistic interpretations
of Islamic doctrine and law. Now we ask: Which Islamic vision is
Muslim education in many schools has been reduced
to the memorization of slogans and parroting of particular interpretations,
and lacks deep inquiry and debate. The main perpetrator of the September
11, 2001 (9/11), attacks, Mohammed Atta, left a last will and testament
in which he declared a desire for paradise, virgins, and self-gratification
through martyrdom. It is doubtful that he spent a considerable time
studying Islamic classic texts that reveal the history and methodology
of warfare, or exploring the intricacies of the debate over morality
in war in which early Muslims engaged. His version of Islam is one
of misguided faith and misplaced loyalty to those who hide Islam's
rich 14 centuries of discussion, debate, and intellectual exploration.
To Atta and the others who perpetrated the 9/11 atrocities, intellectual
inquisitiveness is considered troublesome, for it produces a powerful
alternative to the radical vision of the Islamic mission. In fact,
radicals deem liberal Islamic readings of scripture and teachings
Since 9/11, the United States has grappled
with how to counter the abuse of Islam by militants who inspire
indiscriminate mass murder and suicide. Some studies argue that
solving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute or addressing poverty would
offer immediate relief from Islamic militancy. Certainly, programs
addressing the political and economic crises in the area should
be undertaken. But these alone will not solve the expansion of Islamic
radicalism. Islamic radicalism does not stem solely from desperation,
nor from a sense of inferiority, as some theorists maintain. Instead,
in the 3 1/2 decades of this recent period of Islamic revival and
militancy, we have seen that radicals come from a variety of social
and educational backgrounds and political circumstances.
Hence, we also need a long-term strategy that
involves discrediting Islamic militant thought, such as that propagated
by al-Qaeda's strategist Ayman al-Zawahiri in several books that
draw upon a combination of the Quran, the hadith, and radical Islamic
texts written from the 13th to the late 20th century.
The al-Azhar University in Egypt is an intellectual
center of Sunni Islam. The leading scholars of al-Azhar, along with
many other Islamic scholars in other countries, have produced more
liberal interpretations of Islamic rulings. They have issued opinions
that promote rethinking and reform of many social issues, and have
condemned beheadings and suicide attacks. Unfortunately, the liberal
and establishment clerics attract less attention and media coverage
on the world stage than the radical voices. They may not be as popular
with the Muslim public due to their identification with undemocratic
states, or their previous efforts to legitimize the actions of certain
governments. Modern nation-states, such as Egypt, Syria, and Iraq,
incorporated long-standing religious institutions and clerics into
their states and official apparatuses. The muftis (person responsible
for interpreting Muslim law) of cities or entire countries became
subject to governmental policy, as did the control over religious
Some rulers or political leaders expected their
clerical appointees or other sympathetic clerics to issue rulings
that sanctioned unpopular positions or bolstered the power of said
political leaders. Other clerics and many Muslims felt that this
new modern entanglement of state and religion contravened the special
intellectual freedom and political independence that religious scholars
had guarded. Radical Islamists then claimed, with some justification,
that other, often esteemed clerics were tools of corrupt or secular
governments. However, radical interpretations of Islamic scripture
fail to present the full range of opinion on important issues and
mislead their admirers.
This monograph reviews Islamic scripture and
the complexity of Islamic rules of war. It notes that classical
Islamic scholars wrote about truces, types of combat, prisoners
of war, division of spoils, and debated and developed principles
that are very similar to St. Thomas Aquinas' precepts of just war.
A glossary of Islamic terms, personalities, and organizations is
provided at the end of this monograph for readers less familiar
with Islamic terminology.
The monograph encourages moderate Muslims to
mount a major ideological campaign to counter those who have hijacked
Islam with their destructive interpretation of Islamic scripture.
Comprehending this endeavor will be vital to any strategy that seeks
to dissuade young Muslims from the nihilism of Islamic militancy.
Islamic Rulings On Warfare
Islamic rules of warfare are complex, appear
to be contradictory and require careful analysis. The simplistic
visions of paradise for suicide bombers preached by militant jihadist
clerics defy over 1,400 years of Islamic history and wisdom. Yet
those like Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
are not ignorant of Islamic law and use it selectively to pursue
their agenda of mass murder and hatred. This monograph will introduce
readers to Islamic principles of warfare and its conduct.
These principles are contained within a body
of Islamic legal rulings that has grown over the centuries. They
reflect the pre-Islamic war practices of the Arab tribes, early
and more recent periods of Muslim expansion, and confrontations
with Western and Eastern powers, such as the Mongols and the Crusaders.
The two most important sources for Islamic law known as shari`ah
are first, the sacred text, the Quran (the Muslim book of divine
revelation) and second, the prophetic tradition. This tradition
consists of short anecdotal accounts of the Prophet Muhammad's actions
or opinions preceded by a list of transmitters, termed the hadith.
References to this tradition will be limited to seven collections
of hadith, and these will be identified by the names of their authors:
al-Bukhari, al-Tirmidhi, Muslim, Abu Dawud, al-Nisa'i, al-Nawawi,
and Ibn Majah.
Readers will gain an understanding of the complexities
of Islamic rulings on warfare and obtain some insight into the Muslim
vocabulary of war that extends well beyond the words "martyr"
(shahid), and "holy war" (jihad). They will learn that
Islamic rules of war evolved from the 27 battles in which Prophet
Muhammad played a direct or indirect role. The commentaries of the
Prophet's political successors, the first caliph, Abu Bakr, and
second caliph, `Umar, on warfare are also mentioned, as are modern
revisions of these rules of war.
The concept of suicide is missing from earlier
religious commentaries on war. This is, no doubt, because suicide
is not permissible in Islam. Although fighting with apparent suicidal
intent at times has been a historical characteristic as chronicled
in battle epics and popular literature, the recent suicide bombings
are a product of contemporary politics. If a would-be suicide bomber
of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or al-Qaeda were properly introduced to
the richness of Islamic thought on warfare, he or she would realize
that suicide bombings are not part of this heritage. Al-Qaeda, Hamas,
Hizbullah, and other groups purposefully suppress this fact because
it does not fit their agenda. They fear Islamic legacies, turath,
that do not conform to their radical ideology.
Islamic texts on warfare actually focus on
the concepts of just war, typologies of conflicts, treatment of
the vanquished, division of spoils, and the upholding of Islamic
law, given the travel and exchange between Muslim and non-Muslim
territories. One such classic of the 14th century, The Dispelling
of Fears in the Management of Wars (Tafrij al-qurub fi tadbir al-hurub
by `Umar ibn Ibrahim al- Awasi al-Ansari), deals with cavalry tactics,
infantry deployments, espionage and selection of encampments.1
The 1961 edition, edited/ translated by George Scanlon, mentions
over 40 classical Arabic texts on warfare written between the 8th
and 15th century, and addresses such topics as the Persian use of
cavalry, 72 basic uses of the lance, battle formations, and the
Greek, Persian, Mesopotamian, and Maghribi (North African) styles
of cavalry training.2 Another volume
important to scholars which focuses on the Islamic "law of
nations" is The Book of the Law of Nations compiled by Shaybani.
It is a precursor to international law that provides many details
on the legality, typology, and rules of military engagement, truces,
and relations between Muslims and the enemy groups or states that
surrounded them in the earliest period of Muslim expansion. Some
Western readers will probably find the Islamic rulings on war to
be contradictory. It may not be clear whether they promote war or
peace. Muslims believe the Quran to be divinely revealed, and Quran
experts hold that the text must be understood in the spirit of its
entirety, and not simply reduced to selected verses or phrases.
Surah 3, al-Imran, verse 7 reads:
And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge
say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our
Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.3
As the Quran is not always linear in format
nor explicit, it requires interpretation, not least because it is
read as a living text, for its contemporary, as well as historic
significance. Muslims, who have no central authority like the Roman
Catholic Pope, seek the guidance of religious scholars, or clerics.
Similarly, there is no single interpretation
of religious law. Instead, four legal schools survive in Sunni Islam,
the larger of the two branches of Islam, the second being Shi`a
Islam. Shi`a Islam, which represents about 10 percent of the world's
Muslims, has its own legal schools. The fundamental division between
Sunni and Shi`a Islam goes back to the Prophet Muhammad's demise.
Muslims disagreed as to who should be his successor (Caliph, or
khalifa, literally, the one who follows). Some believed that the
Caliph should be of the Prophet's "house," and preferred
his son-in-law and cousin, `Ali.
Believers generally follow the legal school
of their family, and may resort to a cleric of that school in requesting
legal guidance, or a specific opinion, or response (fatwa). While
they usually accept that opinion, they have the freedom to accept
or disregard rulings, or even to request a fatwa from a different
jurist.4 Also, in many Muslim nations
where Islamic law courts are no longer operating or no longer the
single form of justice, civil legislation often involved clerics'
consultations or contestations. Aspects of civil law, for instance,
family law, may be based upon Islamic law. In some cases, scholars
and lawmakers drew on more than one school of law to modernize legal
codes. Unfortunately, this very spirit of intellectual freedom and
flexibility can enhance the power of radical interpretations of
war, since Muslims may also choose to follow the teachings or opinions
Terminology of Islamic Warfare.
1. Harb is the general term for war.
2. Jihad, which literally means struggle, typified
the conflicts of the Muslim community at Medina with the polytheistic
Meccans, and the subsequent wars of expansion. The primary purpose
of jihad was to fight for Islam against unbelievers. Conflict between
Muslims, such as the feuds of the pre-Islamic Arabs, was to be avoided
and was not categorized as jihad, or fighting "in the path
Islamic law, with its official "rulings"
about war, had not yet come into being in the first Islamic century
and slowly evolved, carrying overlapping layers of corrective interpretation.5
A key and continuous theme was that war was to be waged in accordance
with religious principle-bellum pium (literally, pious war, or war
in accordance with God's will) as well as bellum justum (just war).6
A second theme and debate concerned the nature of the injunction
to jihad. Muslims define the requirements of Islam as being binding
and collective duties, or individual duties. Jihad has been defined
as being both a collective and an individual duty. Hence interpreters
write that if Islam, or the Muslim community, is attacked, jihad
is incumbent upon all Muslims and is required even of those who
are normally noncombatants. Then, the nature of an attack, whether
imminent and literal or the drawn out cultural onslaught of the
West in tandem with specific political or military actions such
as the war in Iraq, could alter the understanding of the jihad duty.
However, the requirement to participate in
a jihad could be met in several ways: by waging war a) with the
heart, b) with the tongue, c) with the hands, and d) with the sword.
Jihad also means a personal struggle to live as a true Muslim. When
jihad is considered a collective duty, there is no need to have
a religious or political official proclaim it. However, from the
standpoint of an individual duty and a just pursuit of war, this
The Islamic law of nations (siyar) defines
a "nation" as a group of related individuals. A "nation"
did not, in the pre-modern world, imply all those who lived within
a territory. Many of the Muslim warriors were simultaneously members
of the Arab and Muslim "nations" in contrast with other
ethnic and religious groups who lived within the areas gained by
the caliph. Under this definition of nationhood, the notion of jihad
as an individual duty actually is strengthened, whereas radicals
and conservative Muslims define jihad as an immediate and collective
Further, this law recognized and was organized
into two categories dealing with the abode, or territory of Islam
(dar al-Islam); and the abode of war (dar al-harb, lands not controlled
by Muslims). Those from the abode of war should only enter Muslim
territory under an agreement known as an aman that entitled them
to trade, or to serve as an emissary, or to enter for other peaceful
Islam's rules of war have not always been respected,
however. Rulers or other individuals, on occasion, declared jihad,
even when clerics refused to categorize the conflict a true jihad
whether because the enemy was a Muslim force, or the leader who
had declared war did not hold religious legitimacy.8
For instance, during World War I, the Ottoman sultan declared a
jihad. The Muslim world had not acknowledged nor sworn allegiance
to him as the Caliph of all Muslims.
The Prophet Muhammad's form of leadership was
unique in Muslim history in that he carried out religious, legislative,
and political functions along with his military status as Commander
of the Faithful. After Muslims had divided into different groups
beginning in the 10th century, based primarily on their vision of
appropriate political leadership, those that we now term Sunni Muslims
believed that jihad could be declared by a political leader with
the sanction of religious authorities. Shi`a Islam held that only
a just Imam could declare jihad for he was infallible and could
prevent needless violence and ensure that the jihad is properly
Types of Jihad
Islamic jurists considered different types
of jihad. Certain categories might be waged against Muslims as well
• The most permissible form of jihad
was that pursued against unbelievers or polytheists.
• Jihad against apostasy. Apostasy is
a capital crime in Islam; here it could mean that an individual
renounced his belief in Islam or, as with the tribes who seceded
from their alliance with the Muslims after the Prophet's death,
it could refer to a group of Muslims who denied their faith.
• Jihad against dissension or sedition.
Since Muslims gave an oath of allegiance to their leader, none should
revolt against him.10
• Jihad against brigands and deserters.
• Jihad against the Peoples of the Book
(ahl al-kitab), Jews, Christians, and by some definitions, Magians
• Some jurists considered defense of
the frontiers (ribat) to be a requirement of Muslims comparable
1. Qital (fighting, or killing) is also used
in the Quran. But unlike jihad, it is not followed by the phrase,
"fi sabil Allah" (in the path of God). Three types of
military action were introduced during Prophet Muhammad's time (590-632
A.D.). The terms carry a particular legitimacy due to their derivation
in this early period, and their relationship to the Prophet's practice.
2. Ghazw is a raid that has evolved into the
term for battle, ghazah, or ghazwa. These were battles in which
the Prophet Muhammad personally participated. The term ghazi came
to mean "warrior for the faith," as these battles came
to be associated with the expansion of Muslim territory.
3. Siriya (s.) Saraya (pl.) were battles Prophet
Muhammad commissioned but did not lead. This is also the name for
raiding parties and reconnaissance groups, usually on horseback,
which he authorized.
4. Ba`atha (s.) Ba`athat (pl.) were expeditions
or missions primarily diplomatic in nature (e.g., a courier or political
exchange), but which some consider combative. It differed from saraya
These terms, derived from the early Islamic
texts on warfare, are part of a particular discourse on conflict
that differs in some ways from Western traditions.
Analysis of the Quranic Verses of War
When the Prophet Muhammad finally realized
his role as a Messenger of God, he taught and preached nonviolently
for 14 years in the midst of a hostile Meccan population. He and
his followers were subjected to hatred, persecution, and violence.
Finally, the Prophet and his followers were invited to migrate to
a new community, Yathrib, that would become the city of Medina.
The people of Yathrib extended that invitation as they wanted the
Prophet to adjudicate their disputes. The Muslims were not safe
there, however, and fought their Meccan enemies until they defeated
them, next expanding to threaten and then defeat the Sassanians
and eastern provinces of the Roman empire. During this period, Islam's
first principles of war developed.
The Quran,14 which
is divided into 114 suras or chapters with 6,219 ayat or verses,
may be subdivided into two periods of revelation, the Meccan and
Medinan, marking the time when Muhammad left Mecca and went to Medina
in order to escape persecution. Specific verses that sanction fighting
against persecution are called the Sword Verses. But other verses
speak of fighting in a just manner, and still others could be termed
Verses of Peace and Forgiveness. Certain scholars and radicals taught
that the Sword Verses abrogated, or nullified, the Verses of Peace.
Verses that clarify the Quranic versions of
Invite (mankind, O Muhammad) to the way of
your Lord with wisdom, reason and clear intentions. Truly your
Lord knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the
best aware of those who are guided. (al-Nahl, Verse 125)
This verse-one not mentioned in al-Qaeda manuals-argues
for a rational exchange of ideas, the freedom of choice in worship,
and asks us to leave the judging of others to God. Although many
Westerners have read that the goal of Muslims is to convert the
entire world through jihad, this is far from the truth. Authorities
explain that conversion by the sword is not a reasonable expectation;
instead the acceptance of Islam should be the result of free will.15
Another verse that early Islamic scholars have
explicitly used to dissuade the practice of waging a jihad of forcible
conversion is "There is no compulsion in religion . . ."
(al-Baqarah, Verse 256). This verse also implies that the duties
of a Muslim are not meant to be onerous, and cannot be enforced
by individuals or by a government upon all. Hence, this verse was
quoted by Muslims who decried the excesses of the Islamist-style
regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Clearly leaving ample room
for human rationalization, commentators have discussed the importance
of free will based on this verse. Islamists, steeped in their faith,
quote the Quran in a quest to create their own vision of an Islamic
state. However, they selectively draw on Quranic verses and purposefully
omit injunctions that do not suit their political agenda.
Islam's preeminent historian and Islamic scholar
Ibn Kathir wrote that early Muslims from the Meccan period were
taught patience, forgiveness, and restraint. The concept of jihad
as an Islamic form of warfare did not develop until Muhammad's Medinan
period of revelation.16 When Muhammad
left Mecca for Medina and became the leader of the new Muslim community,
it became clear to Meccan merchants, and that city's leader, Abu
Sufyan, that Muhammad could obstruct their access to trade routes
to Syria and Egypt. The combination of economic pressures on Medina
from the mass migration, animosities between different groupings
of Muslims and their allies, and Meccan hostility would eventually
explode into a series of wars. The revelation of the first verses
sanctioning Islamic warfare appeared at this time: "And fight
in the way of God those who will fight you, but transgress not,
for God does not like the transgressors" (al-Baqarah, Verse
190). Islamists often quote the first phrase of this verse, but
fail to address or explain the issue of transgression that occurs
in the second phrase. Early Islamic scholars, in contrast, derived
the concepts of just war and offensive jihad from the second half
of this verse.
Verses 190 to 195 of the al-Baqarah chapter
are jihadic verses that sanction warfare, always with the caveat
And kill them whenever you find them and
turn them out from where they have turned you out. And fitnah
is worse than killing . . . But if they attack you, then kill
them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers. But if they
cease, then God is Oft-forgiving and most merciful. (al-Baqarah,
Note that the tone of the verse is self-defense
and self-preservation, which reflects what Muslims experienced in
Medina, facing a much more powerful Meccan opponent. Fitnah, a key
word in the Islamic militant vocabulary, is defined as "polytheists"
in the Wahhabi translation of the Quran. However, the term is classically
defined as sedition, insurrection, civil strife, temptation, and
enticement,17 and the first three notions
accord with types of jihad earlier described. So fitnah refers to
an internal conflict, as opposed to a jihad against unbelievers.18
Polytheism in Arabic has a specific word, shirk. Yet, in this misleading
translation and interpretation, rebels become polytheists, whereas
in the classical texts on ahkam al-bughat (the judgment of rebels,
or law of insurgency), the jurists agreed that they should be reconciled
with their ruler, rather than being punished or killed.19
We may conclude that (a) this interpretation supports the rather
insecure modern states against their enemies, or (b) it sanctions
violence against rebels in contradiction to the classical stance,
and (c) it is being misused by various nonstate actors to sanction
their violence against fellow Muslims.
A voluminous literature exists on the development
of Islamic rulings. The authors do not intend to cover every aspect
in this monograph. Nor do we mean to oversimplify Islamic concepts,
but rather to provide clear explanations for those with little background
in topic of war in Islam. One obstacle for newcomers to the topic
is the fact that the Quran was revealed in Arabic, and the texts
that explicate the Quran are not particularly easy to comprehend
without a background in religious or Islamic studies. It is important
for those studying the Quran to understand that the book has multiple
translations and interpreters. Translated English versions range
from the more moderate version of Yusuf `Ali to the above-mentioned
radical Wahhabi translation published by scholars at Saudi Arabia's
Islamic University in Medina.
In madrasahs (Islamic schools) in the Muslim
world, Arabic is taught as an archaic and revered language, with
a focus on pronunciation to aid in rote memorization. As the majority
of Muslims in the world are not Arabs, this process means that students
are attempting to learn an unfamiliar and complex grammar as part
of this process. Hence, in many countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia,
or Afghanistan, little attention is given to exploring the actual
implications and applications of Prophet Muhammad's words or to
the differences in interpretation that can be lent in translation.
Further, even native speakers of Arabic are fluent in dialects that
vary from 7th century "classical" Arabic and do not easily
read or comprehend older texts which possess specialized, often
archaic vocabulary, idioms, and references. While native speakers
may have memorized portions, or even all of the Quran, the works
of interpretation and hadith scholarship require guidance and interpretive
skills. For these, students must rely on their instructors whose
expertise and ideological orientation vary.
To counter those who approve of suicide bombings
as a legitimate tactic, Verse 195 of al-Baqarah clearly instructs:
"And spend in the cause of God, do not throw yourselves into
destruction and do good for, verily, God loves those who do good."
One interpretation is that all who can afford to do so must support
the war, if it is "just and in the cause of Allah."20
But Rudolph Peters points out that this verse also convinced certain
Muslim intellectuals in the colonial period that, due to the military
superiority of the colonizer, jihad was no longer obligatory.21
The Wahhabi interpretation of this verse editorializes
about jihad without referencing the Arabic version. Although "And
spend in the cause of God" could also be translated, "And
give to the cause of God," here the Wahhabi version reads "And
spend in the Cause of Allah (i.e., Jihad of all kinds, etc.) and
do not throw yourself into destruction (by not spending in the your
wealth in the Cause of Allah) and do good." The Cause of Allah
is linked in the interpreters' views to jihad, whether effort or
warfare. An instructor or Islamic cleric can then engineer his students'
understanding of this text by teaching them primarily, or solely,
as it relates to the warfare meaning, and by implying that jihad
is consistently required. If the students then turn to the essay
on "The Call to Jihad in the Qur'an" in the Wahhabi interpretation,22
they will find the strongest exhortation to an "obligatory"
Other verses also forbid suicide.
Oh ye who believe! Eat not up your property
among yourselves in vanities. But let there be amongst you traffic
and trade by mutual good will. Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves;
for, verily, Allah hath been to you Most Merciful. If any do that
in rancour and injustice-Soon shall We cast them into the Fire:
and easy it is for Allah. (al-Nisa', Verses 29-30).
According to various hadith, including those
in al-Bukhari's collection (244-245), a person who commits suicide
will be punished in the Hereafter by a perpetual re-enactment of
his death by whatever method was chosen.23
Some of the more contradictory verses include
Surah al-Tawba: 29, a Sword Verse:
Fight against those who believe not in God
and the Last Day [of Judgment], nor forbid that which has been
forbidden by God and his Messenger, and those who acknowledge
not the religion of truth among the people of the scripture [Jews
and Christians] until they pay the jizyah [a tax levied on Jews
and Christians], and feel themselves subdued.
Verses 29 to 40 in al-Tawba appear to contradict
earlier Meccan verses on tolerance. Peters explains that scholars
see these verses as abrogating, or rendering void the earlier verses
where Muhammad was ordered to preach, but avoid conflict with the
unbelievers. Then, he was to discuss and try to convince them to
believe (as in Verse 16:125).24
Mahmud Shaltut, the Shaykh or Rector of al-Azhar
University from 1958-63, was one of the, if not the, most important
voices of Islamic reform in the 20th century. Noted for his enlightened,
liberal exegesis of the Quran, he wrote at length on the theme of
fighting and jihad, explaining that the Prophet had restrained his
followers who yearned to retaliate against the persecution they
experienced. Finally, the verses in question permitting the Muslims
to fight were revealed. But he states, there are only three reasons
for fighting: "to stop aggression, to protect the Mission of
Islam, and to defend religious freedom."25
Still, this Sword Verse seems to cancel out
the positive role Christians and Jews played in the development
of early Islam, including Christians' extension of asylum to persecuted
Muslims in Abyssinia and the Jewish tribes' conclusion of agreements
with Muhammad in Medina. Jihadists favor this particular verse,
and it condemns those who will not recognize Muslim authority. But
the first phrase, "Fight against those who believe not in God
and the Last Day" actually excludes Jews and Christians. The
jizyah (non-Muslim poll tax) was used to provide social services
(policing, medical, and welfare services) to non-Muslims and Muslims
alike. Those who accepted terms and agreed to pay the jizyah indicated
their acceptance of Muslim political authority and that they would
not rise up against the Muslims. The verse does not require conversion
of the Jews and Christians. The Wahhabis have altered the word jizyah's
meaning to denote "tribute." The challenge for Muslims
is to understand the historical context in which verses like al-Tawba
The Wahhabi translation of the Quran contains
an appendix on jihad mentioned above and which does not appear in
other versions.26 The main purposes
of this appendix are to counteract the liberal view that jihad is
not necessarily incumbent on all Muslims at all times, and to assert
that any who do not share the views of the translators are wrong.
Such a simplistic presentation neither heeds the writings and discussions
of non-Wahhabi Islamic scholars on the legality of warfare, nor
situates the changing Islamic position on war and violence in its
This positioning of jihad further bolsters
Osama bin Laden's and other radicals' assertions that a "Judeo-Christian
crusade" is ongoing, and that it is the duty of all Muslims
to oppose it with jihad. Bin Laden, who is not a cleric or a religious
scholar, cites a hadith of the Prophet in this vein in a letter
addressed to the Muslims of Pakistan: "The Prophet, may peace
and salvation be upon him, said, "Whoever does not participate
in a battle or does not support a fighter for Allah . . . God will
punish before the Day of Judgment."27
According to the Quran, those who are eligible
to become Islamic warriors must meet seven criteria. They must:28
1. be a Muslim, although the hadith and religious
opinions differ on this;
2. have reached puberty or adulthood. Most
scholars agree that legal capacity is reached at age 15. They cite
a hadith about Ibn `Umar, whom the Prophet forbade from fighting
at the Battle of Uhud when he was 14 years old, but who was permitted
to fight once he turned 15.29
3. be of sound mind (al-Nur, Verse 61);
4. possess a free will to choose to participate
in warfare (al-Saf, Verse 11: the key word anfusakum (of yourself)
connotes a free will);
5. be male, though early Islam shows contradictions.
Females played a vital role in early Islamic battles; not only did
they tend to the wounded, but they engaged in combat and plundered
booty as the Islamic army moved forward. In al-Bukhari, Vol. 6,
hadith numbers 344-416, five women fought alongside Muhammad in
the Battle of Uhud, and one, Umm Ahmara, died while engaging a Meccan
with a sword. In the hadith collection of Muslim, Vol. 3, hadith
number 1442: "Muhammad asked a woman where she got this dagger.
She replied at Uhud and used it to kill a Meccan. Muhammad was satisfied
with her answer."30
6. have their parents' permission (in al-Bukhari's
and al-Nisa'i's collections of hadith); and,
7. be debt free, or have a release from his
debt by his creditors. This ruling sought to avoid undue economic
stress by discouraging a mass volunteering of debtors.
In addition to those excluded above, slaves;
those who did not have the means, equipment, or a mount for an expedition
(because they were not economically independent); the ill and handicapped;
and, according to one legal school, the best Islamic jurist of a
town, were all exempt from duty.31
Radical clerics do not educate suicide-bombers
and would-be jihadists on these finer points of Islamic law and
its complexity. For example, Hamas, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade,
and other Islamic militant groups who employ suicide bombers coerce
adolescents to join their cause without their parents' permission,
violating at least one of the above edicts on fighter eligibility.
Iranian children as young as 9 years old were
sent off to fight the "jihad" against Iraq, despite a
draft age of 18. An estimated 50,000 children were killed in the
Iran-Iraq War. The high casualties were explained in one report
by lack of weapons, or that the youngsters were employed in highly
vulnerable positions, and in suicide attacks.32
How could this happen? Khomaini issued a fatwa or Islamic ruling
that permitted children to fight in the Iran-Iraq war without their
parents' permission.33 Competing legal
traditions on the age of adulthood grant it at puberty, which could
occur at age 12 in boys and age 9 in girls. Here, war propaganda
and fervor for martyrdom targeted schoolchildren even younger. Children's
rights in Islam have also been violated by military groups in other
countries, such as the Sudan.
Hizbullah and other groups have encouraged
individuals to make videos of their recruitment as suicide bombers
which serve the purpose of explaining their intent to their families,
and in some cases, a will. In this way, the principles above are
manipulated to legitimate a distorted version of jihadi recruitment.
Most importantly, these videos are used to recruit others as there
is nothing so psychologically powerful as the example of one's peers.
Youths argue that it is because they are young and not yet providing
support to dependents that they may choose martyrdom. They have
established a dangerous trend and linkage in the public mind between
the idealism of youth and that of martyrs for the faith.
Who is a Shahid (Martyr?)
Islamic scholars were very concerned with niyah
(intent). Today, Muslims confront a version of jihad that proclaims
martyrdom as its intent, raison d'etre, and validation. Among Muhammad's
sayings on the issue is, "He who has been killed to uphold
the word of God has been martyred for his sake" (al-Bukhari,
Vol. 1, hadith number 223). Yet, Muhammad also dictates that "a
person whose intent is glory, booty (spoils), or females has no
ties to God, and only God knows who strives for his sake"["strives"
refers here to the process of jihad] (al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, No. 430).
The second caliph and revered companion to Muhammad, `Umar ibn al-Khattab,
once chastised a group who was calling each of their war dead a
martyr. `Umar objected, instructing: "they should utter the
Prophet's words; whoever died in the cause of God has died a martyr."34
Yet, even this exhortation does not belie the
historical significance of martyrdom, nor the fact that jihad is
always described as being "in the cause of God." Numerous
hadith concerning martyrdom, intended to spur the believers to jihad,
are found in Malik ibn Anas' text, al-Muwatta. Malik ibn Anas (d.
796) was the founder of the Maliki school of Islamic law.35
Here we learn that `Umar ibn al-Khattab himself longed for death
as a martyr: "martyrdom in Your way and death in the city of
Your Messenger," and defined the martyr as "the one who
gives himself, expectant of reward from Allah."36
The valuation of martyrdom in the Shi`i tradition
is even more deeply ingrained, reflecting the experience of the
sect. One belief is that certain persons, like the Prophets or martyrs,
have the ability to intercede for the souls of Muslims as they proceed
on the Day of Judgment. Intercession, or shafa`, may be granted
to martyrs for themselves and others, and also through grieving
and shedding tears for the martyrs, `Ali ibn Abi Talib and Hussayn
Moderates or Islamic liberals have been attempting
to deconstruct the relationship of martyrdom and jihad, particularly
since 9/11. The difficult task of building counterarguments relies
on the concept of niyah. It is important that disaffected youth
or older supporters of the radicals should separate the intent of
struggling for Islam from a quest for martyrdom. Martyrdom may be
"embraced" or accepted, as Muslims say "submitted
to," without being sought out as an end in itself.
Suicide and Hostage-Taking
Suicide is also forbidden because God is the
Creator of life. Neither suicide nor voluntary or involuntary homicide
are permitted, and strict penalties are leveled against murderers.
Before Islam, the system of retaliation or payments made to the
clan of the injured party served to limit tribal feuding and vendettas.
This system continued in Islamic law with the modification that
the Muslim state was to exact vengeance, and only the criminal,
not his clan, could be injured in kind, although the clan might
pay blood money (dhiya).37
Those who license suicide-bombing claim that
bombers are a) engaging in jihad, and b) committing "self-martyrdom."
Both statements are questionable, for if there is no lawful jihad,
they are committing premeditated murder.
Hostage-taking, as now practiced, absolutely
is not sanctioned. That is because individuals are being targeted
as if they were responsible for the deeds of their own country,
or even more indiscriminately as non-Muslims. Second, the principles
on taking prisoners and holding them for ransom were iterated differently,
depending on whether or not the war was a legitimate jihad.
1. The taking of hostages. Hostages were seized
during the Lebanese civil war and the holding of American hostages
in Iran in 1979 may have enlarged the crisis of hostage-taking today
in Iraq. Muslim authorities argue against the practice, saying it
is unfair to punish an individual for the deeds of a larger entity.
In the medieval period, hostages were taken to enforce treaties.
They were to be returned to their country of origin if war began.
They were not prisoners of war, though combatants could be held
and even ransomed.
2. The killing of Muslim or non-Muslim hostages.
This is decidedly not sanctioned, for it is simultaneously murder,
a targeting of noncombatants and a misplacement of responsibility.
Some clerics mention Surah 5, al-Maida, which begins with a discussion
of "the two sons of Adam," Habil and Qabil (Abel and Cain),
to teach about the sin of murder, and states:
On that account: We ordained for the Children
of Israel that if anyone killed a person-unless it was for murder
or spreading mischief on earth-it would be as if he killed all
of mankind. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he had
saved the lives of all mankind. (Verse 32)
Yusuf `Ali explains, in fact, that the story
of Cain is a metaphor for the story of Israel's rebellion against
Allah-an interpretation that not all readers accept. But he also
writes "To kill or seek to kill an individual because he represents
an ideal is to kill all who uphold the ideal. On the other hand,
to save an individual life in the same circumstances is to save
a whole community. What could be [a] stronger condemnation of individual
assassination and revenge?"38
Of the 27 battles in which Prophet Muhammad
played a direct or indirect role, the first 18 defended the Muslims
against the Meccans and the other 9 he initiated against the Meccans
and other tribes in Arabia.39 Each
battle introduced new rules on Islamic conduct. The first three
battles (Widan, Bewat, and Wadi Safwan) were skirmishes in and around
the Juhaynah hills commanding the trade route to Syria, and occurred
in the first 2 years of the hijrah (migration of Muslims from Mecca
to Medina). The Prophet Muhammad formulated rules from these battles,
including designating a Muslim battle flag and limiting the reason
for battle to self-preservation.
The Battle of
Badr (Known as Badr the Great)
The Battle of Badr was a battle in early Islam
of such significance that the Egyptians named their 1973 plans to
cross the Suez Canal Operation BADR, and the Supreme Council of
Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) called its military formation
the Badr Corps. In this historic battle, approximately 300 Muslims
met 1,000 Meccans on the plains of Badr in 627 A.D.. The Meccans
were determined to crush Muhammad and his followers once and for
all to ensure access routes to the north. From a legalistic standpoint,
several rules emerged from this battle.
1. Flags and Banners. To dispel the notion
of Muhammad's flag being green like his cloak, many early Islamic
texts (chiefly al-Tabari) cite the battle flag as being white. Muslims
of the 7th century debated the content of the flag at great lengths.
The Muslims' unifying banner differed in the 27 early Islamic battles.40
2. War Spoils. War spoils were also hotly debated
among Muslims after the Battle of Badr. Tribal practice influenced
this debate, which continued throughout Muhammad's life, and finally
reached a consensus that sanctioned confiscating an adversary's
wealth won in battle. This made economic sense as the numbers of
those fleeing Mecca for Medina and requiring economic sustenance
increased. Prospects of booty could help persuade tribesmen to become
warriors for the cause.41 Spoils were
divided depending on whether the person brought a horse to battle
as a cavalryman or if he was an infantryman, an archer, or a javelin
thrower. A share was also allocated to Medina's poor, especially
those who were widowed and orphaned in battle.
3. Decapitated Heads as Trophies. Another debate
was the Arabian tribal practice of cutting off an enemy's head and
displaying the head as a trophy. Two schools of Islamic opinion
contest this issue, but the practice generally was frowned upon
due to the previously mentioned verse about transgressing beyond
the limits of war, and because burial of the dead was instead recommended
by the Prophet, according to Abu Ya`la.42
Given the shocking beheadings of kidnapped
non-Muslim and Muslim hostages in Iraq and the propaganda tool of
the Internet, it is important to say here that this barbaric practice
is not approved of Islamically. It is true that beheadings take
place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for capital crimes and that
various Muslim political movements have slain their enemies in this
manner, but the only possible religious sanction derived from the
killing of polytheistic enemies of the early Muslims. As was suggested
above, to extend the status of the polytheistic Meccans to foreigners,
who supposedly must pay for the sins of their own nations, runs
counter to the definitions of civilians and combatants according
to the medieval law of nations and the modern revisions of law and
Beheadings are not practiced in many other
modern Muslim nations. In Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and
other states that developed civil legal codes, prison sentences
have been substituted for the severe penalties known as the hudud.
Further, there is a system of justice, even in nations that follow
Islamic law, as in Saudi Arabia in which arguments are made, evidence
is brought, and individuals may deny their crimes or introduce reasonable
doubt as to their culpability. A wide debate on the validity of
the hudud penalties exists in the Muslim world because they violate
international standards of human rights, and they have been protested
when they were re-introduced as in the Sudan, Libya, or in Afghanistan
under the Taliban.
4. Dealing with Prisoners of War. The Battle
of Badr also stimulated debate on the disposition of prisoners of
war. Muslim jurists have distinguished such rules for combatants,
slaves, women, children, and old persons. In 7th century combat,
a prisoner of war could expect the worst fate; indeed, a few early
Islamic warriors called for the wholesale slaying of all captives.
However, Islam attempted to break the habits of Arabian tribal ruthlessness
in combat. The Prophet Muhammad's record is mixed, for he had ordered
the killing of those he deemed serious enemies of Medina and Islam
while sparing others. Muhammad decimated the Jewish tribe of Banu
Qurayzah in the Battle of the Ditch. The leaders of this tribe switched
allegiance to the Meccans during the battle, according to Islamic
accounts, and thus were considered serious enemies by Muhammad.
Following Muhammad's practice, the majority of Islamic scholars
support the killing of most warriors following combat, while sparing
some for ransom or enslavement. However, the debate over prisoners
and the morality of killing them would continue beyond Badr and
many other Islamic battles.
Battles against the Jewish Tribes of Medina
The most controversial aspect of Muhammad's
relationship with Judaism was his specific experience with the three
Jewish tribes of Medina. Islam is heavily influenced by Judaic law
(pork prohibition has its roots in Judaic law), yet the Muslims
and Jews of Medina clashed in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th year of
the Hijrah (628-634 A.D.). This fighting led to the expulsion of
the Banu Qaynuqa, Banu Nadir, and Banu Qurayzah tribes and the destruction
of the Jewish section of Medina known as Khaybar. From an Islamic
law of war perspective, interactions with the Jews also led to debates
• The cutting of trees during combat,
generally prohibited as it denies food and shade in the harsh desert
• the death penalty for insulting the
• prohibitions on eating animals killed
in combat; and,
• killing during the sacred months except
in self-defense (i.e., the Muslim months of Ramadan and Muharram,
although this rule is not widely enforced and is debatable).
It is important to grasp the context of the
disagreements of the past since Islamic militants are using them,
taken out of context and in combination with other contemporary
grievances, to justify their anti-Semitism. The question of Palestine
is not the only, but certainly the most, troublesome of these contemporary
grievances for the entire Islamic world. The Islamic, or religious
orientation, to the issue is not always well-understood in the West,
or even in Israel for that matter. Jerusalem is regarded as the
third holy city in Islam. From there, the Prophet Muhammad ascended
to the heavens and was acknowledged by the earlier Prophets. Islamists
and ordinary Muslims alike claim that Palestine is a religious endowment
(waqf) waqf for the Muslim community, and this claim stands in addition
to the nationalist and territorial arguments of the Palestinians,
who are, after all, Christians as well as Muslims. So, a contemporary
issue has been welded to the earlier historic disputes, and recurs
in the rhetoric of Islamic war as declared by the radicals today.
Islam, Christianity, and Judaism share far
more concepts and traditions than most people realize. Most importantly,
each is based on Prophetic tradition; that is, the Prophets of the
Old Testament, particularly Moses, as well as Jesus, the Son of
Mary, are recognized and honored in Islam. All three faiths possess
divine Revelation through their Prophets and share a belief in an
afterlife and a Day of Judgment.
Antipathy toward Christians perhaps is more
deeply connected to injustices experienced in the colonial and modern
era than in the period of early Islam. Many Westerners now believe,
thanks to the Muslim radicals' ahistorical rhetoric, that negative
perceptions stem from the Crusades. It is true that the Crusaders
declared war on Muslim territories, but as their short-lived states
were limited geographically and assimilated to the local culture,
the Mongols were a far more devastating force in the Muslim world
of that time. Still, various mutual misunderstandings and aspects
of cultural conflict date from these battles between Muslim groups
and "the Franks," as they were then known. The first of
the Capitulations, or capitulatory treaties, the most-favored nation
treaties that granted strong advantages to foreign mercantile interests,
dates back to Louis IX's abortive Crusade effort in Egypt. These
treaties caused resentment of the West and were abolished only in
the 20th century. Christian ridicule or oppressive practices against
Muslims in the colonial period, and actions such as the conversion
of mosques to churches and the seizure of religiously endowed lands
as in Algeria, exacerbated existing antipathies.
The chief objections that may be traced further
• misunderstandings or antipathy toward
the concept of the Trinity, which Muslims often regard as shirk,
particularly the notion that God is the "third of three"
(a reference to the Holy Spirit) or that Jesus has a "share
• objections to the story of the crucifixion;
• teachings that Jews and Christians
disregarded their own scripture and exhortations by God, and are
therefore less righteous than Muslims.44
It is understood, however, that Christians
and Jews should follow their own rules and regulations and are not
held accountable to Muslim obligations. Hence, the radicals' assertions
that Muslims should force the Jews to convert or die are absolutely
incompatible with the tolerance that should be extended to the Peoples
of the Book. Militants or educators and teachers who utilize the
word "Crusader" to mean Christians or Westerners (thereby
avoiding any state-ordered penalties) are likewise expressing a
sentiment that is incongruous with Muslim tolerance and desire for
Muslims long have attempted to reconcile their
common heritage with Jews and Christians with the tumultuous period
of early Islamic history. Later, Jews and Christians had reason
to dislike the elements of discrimination applied to them in the
past by Muslim states, such as the wearing of distinctive clothing
and their restriction to ride donkeys instead of horses as well
as other rules, but they did possess the rights to govern their
own communities.45 Muslims likewise
can rationally resent past and current hatred and discrimination
leveled at them in many parts of the Western world. But it is crucial
that Muslims defuse modern radical efforts to categorize Christians
and Jews as enemies who are essentially no different than polytheists.
It is most important to address and revise the presence of such
ideas in educational materials, lectures and sermons, and in fact,
the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's efforts to rein in and reform these
products hopefully will ameliorate these attitudes as a part of
the reformation of jihadist worldviews. Interfaith reconciliation
is not a one-party effort, so it will rely as well on the participation
of non- Muslim as well as Muslim representatives, and crucial to
its success will be a voluntary attitudinal shift and not only that
ordered by governmental authorities.
of Conduct in War
The media presents many images of innocent
women and children who are victims of jihadist suicide bombers.
If jihadists use Islam to justify this violence, then Islamic teachings
can also be used to discredit these abhorrent acts. In one Quranic
verse, Prophet Muhammad comes across a slain woman while riding
in battle, and he frowns with anger.46
His attitude prompted a distinct code of conduct among Islamic warriors
• No killing of women, children, and
innocents-these might include hermits, monks, or other religious
leaders who were deemed noncombatants;
• No wanton killing of livestock and
• No burning or destruction of trees
and orchards; and,
• No destruction of wells.
Abu Bakr, the first caliph after Muhammad's
death, formulated a detailed set of rules for Islamic conduct during
war. He gave the following instructions to a Muslim army setting
out for Syria, which was then governed by the Byzantine Empire:
Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules
for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery
or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies.
Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm
to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which
are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy's flock, save for your
food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their
lives to monastic services; leave them alone.
The Quran clearly forbids indiscriminate killing
as discussed previously in citing from Surah al-Maida, verse 32.
These points are reinforced by other sayings of Prophet Muhammad:
It has been narrated on the authority of
Abu Huraira that the Messenger of God said: "Do not desire
an encounter with the enemy; but when you encounter them, be firm."
(Muslim Book 19, hadith No. 4313)
It is narrated on the authority of Abdullah
that a woman was found killed in one of the battles fought by the
Messenger of God. He disapproved of the killing of women and children.
(Muslim Book 19, hadith No. 4319)
It is narrated by Ibn 'Umar that a woman was
found killed in one of these battles; the Messenger of Allah therefore
forbade the killing of women and children. (Muslim Book 19, hadith
And in a hadith narrated by Abdullah ibn `Amr
ibn al-As, Muhammad said: "You are neither hard-hearted nor
of fierce character, nor one who shouts in the markets. You do not
return evil for evil, but excuse and forgive." (al-Bukhari,
Vol. 6, Book 60, hadith No. 362).
Even books written by modern Islamic militant
ideologues contain a code of conduct for warfare. In the fourth
chapter of Human Rights in Islam, Abu al-'A'la Mawdudi, one of Pakistan's
founding fathers and chief ideologists, states:
Islam has first drawn a clear line of distinction
between the combatants and the noncombatants of the enemy country.
As far as the noncombatant population, such as women, children,
the old and the infirm, etc., is concerned, the instructions of
the Prophet are as follows: "Do not kill any old person,
any child, or any woman." (Abu Dawud) "Do not kill the
monks in monasteries," or "Do not kill the people who
are sitting in places of worship." (Musnad of Ibn Hanbal)
During a war, the Prophet saw the corpse of
a woman lying on the ground and observed: "She was not fighting.
How then came she to be killed?" From this statement of the
prophet, jurists have drawn the principle that those who are noncombatants
should not be killed during or after the war.
Islamic radicals have defended attacks on civilians
with several sorts of twisted logic. Israelis-men and women-serve
for different lengths of time as active military, and up to a certain
age, in the reserve military forces. Therefore, the popular Shaykh
al-Qaradawi and others reason that all Israelis, including women
and children, are potential combatants and enemies of Islam. One
can see that this logic could then be applied to Western invaders
or even travelers who are considered to be enemies or worse, spies.
Nepalese civilian workers in Iraq were taken hostage and brutally
murdered. Their killers noted that they "worshipped Buddha"
(i.e., they were unbelievers) and served the enemies of Islam (the
United States). Clearly, the early texts call instead for a normal
definition and respectful treatment of noncombatants.
Perhaps the most damming indictment of Osama
Bin Laden comes from a text that members or associates of al-Qaeda
frequently refer to in their speeches and writings. This text is
The Polity Governed by Islamic Law (al-Siyasa al-Shari`ah), a book
written by 13th century Islamic jurist Taqi ibn Taymiyyah. Ibn Taymiyyah
provides an anarchistic interpretation of jihad because he disapproved
of Muslim leaders' cooperation with, or lack of condemnation of,
the Mongols, a people who followed their own religio-legal code,
although those who conquered the Middle East later converted to
Islam. The book argues that a Muslim owes allegiance to a ruler
who is considered an upstanding Muslim. From this argument, the
converse is constructed-that a ruler who is not an upstanding Muslim
is not worthy of allegiance, and may be declared an unbeliever in
the process known as takfir. What is anarchistic here is that sedition,
or revolting against the ruler, was a capital crime in Islam. Violence
and upheaval were considered injurious to the Muslim community,
so sanctioning jihad against a ruler was revolutionary, incendiary,
and forbidden, despite the example of various secessionist groups
in Islamic history. Ibn Taymiyyah also discounts the Christians'
role in early Islamic history and views interfaith commonality as
a luxury, giving an ideological justification to declare unrestricted
war on Christians and Jews.
However, if a madrasah student who is taught
from this text simply reads its pages more closely, he would find
a contradiction. On pages 144-145, Ibn Taymiyyah explains that killing
(warfare) is not the goal of Islam, but is a means of protecting
the faith and those who preach it from hostilities. He also writes
that those who do not battle Muslims and do not prevent the (free)
practice of faith and preaching it are not to be killed, and war
is not to be declared upon them.47
Ibn Taymiyyah's arguments are based on Muhammad's early wars against
the Meccans in preserving his society from persecution.
War verses in the Quran, al-Anfal, verses 60-62,
have prompted Islamic commentaries on warfare, its preparedness,
and the concept of deterrence: "Against them make ready your
strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to
strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of God and your enemies."
(Verse 60, al-Anfal) It is easy to simply quote verse 60 and not
the next verse: "But if the enemy incline towards peace, do
thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in God: for He is the
one that heareth and knoweth." (al- Anfal, Verse 61)
Early Islamic Debate on Deception in War
In the 5th year of the Hijrah, the Battle of
the Ahzab (Confederation) occurred, in which an army of 10,000 marched
on Medina from Mecca. The large Meccan army was faced by 3,000 Muslims.
Muhammad took the advice of Salman al-Farissi (the Persian) to dig
a trench around Medina, an uncommon tactic in early Arabian warfare.
The trench surprised the Meccans, and, as they laid siege to Medina,
the confederation began to split apart.
One of the more important concepts of early
Islamic warfare was a debate on deception, or deceptive tactics
in warfare, which included the use of techniques unknown to the
Arab tribes, espionage, and other actions that were not part of
the code of honor at the time. Modern readers who think of intelligence,
espionage, or surprise tactics as integral parts of war should try
to recall the concepts of chivalry that governed the knights of
medieval Europe, in which the rules of dueling and combat were as
important as victory itself. The early Muslim warriors believed
their very manhood rested on chivalrous, generous, hospitable, and
consistently honorable behavior.
The Battle of the Confederacy (also called
the Battle of the Ditch) opened a crucial discussion on reconciling
honesty, truthfulness, and clarity that every Muslim should strive
for with the deceptive strategies employed in warfare. In al-Bukhari,
Chapter 73, hadith No. 1298, Muhammad said: "Verily, war is
deception."48 Muslims would debate
this, and come to the conclusion that deception was sanctioned to
win wars but should not operate in daily social life within Medina.
Among the tactics used in Muhammad's time during the Battle of the
• Newly converted Naim bin Masud returned
to his Meccan tribe and gathered intelligence prior to the Battle
of the Confederates. His espionage provided Muhammad and his leaders
with valuable information on the weakness of the Meccan alliance
with other tribes.
• In the Battle of Bani Lahyan (the first
offensive battle initiated by the Muslims), Muhammad ordered his
armies northward towards Syria to give the Meccans a sense that
they were secure in the south. Muhammad's army then attacked the
Meccans from the rear, threatening the tribe in their very encampments.
Drawing upon the hadith of al-Nawawi, Islamic
scholars agreed that deception in war was sanctioned if practiced
upon non-Muslims who had broken truces but was not permitted between
non-Muslim and Muslim entities coexisting peacefully. Another Prophetic
saying on deception is his statement that a liar is not one whose
lies repair relations among people and whose intent is to bring
goodness.50 Here, fair speech, and
what we might call "white lies" in the interest of peacemaking,
are acceptable and not deceptive.
Tactics of Early
Today many Muslims attribute their success
in conquering a vast expanse of territory in a relatively short
period of time to faith. This typically fuels jihadist rhetoric
as Muslims today fail to understand the mechanics of early Muslims'
tactical achievements. Arab warriors had trained from childhood
in tribal warfare. In pre-teen years, many rode camels and horses,
wielded swords, threw spears, and were proficient in the use of
the lance and archery.51
Many of these Islamic armies did not need to
exceed 20,000 troops due to their versatility. The armies harassed
the flanks with cavalry, while each infantryman emptied his arrows
into the enemy formation, threw his lance, and fought hand-to-hand.
Arab armies of the early Islamic period were broken up into units
of ten. Muslim women accompanied the military expeditions and often
administered aid to wounded Islamic warriors as well as the coup
de grace for those wounded enemies left in the battlefield. Women
would bring up the rear of the Islamic army, collecting weapons,
armor, and anything else of value to the moving Muslim force. Islamic
warfare also borrowed tactics from Persia and Byzantium, such as
Greek fire and siege engines. The Chronicle of al-Tabari, written
in 923 A.D., offers an account of how early Muslim armies were organized
Components of an early Muslim army included
• The Guides (al-Adilla' or al-Ada):
Scouts who studied approaches to the terrain and the battlefield.
• The Eyes (al-Ayun): Specialists in
• The Stuffers (al-Hashir): Brought up
the rear of an army.
• Those of Action (al-Fa`alah) alah :
Fixed bridges and dug trenches.
• The Poets (al-Shu`ara): Motivated fighters
prior to battle.52
Early Islamic armies did not devise any notable
military technological innovations; their success relied on speed;
deception; flexibility; and the use of threats, negotiation, truces,
duplicity, patience, and violence.53
Their weaponry was not advanced. Indigenous to the Arabian heartland
were bows and arrows, lances, and a straight sword made in Yemen
or India which might be worn in a shoulder harness. References are
made to women who fought with tent poles (as lances). Warriors wore
leather or simple chain mail shirts. However, once they advanced
beyond the Arabian peninsula, these armies adopted the use of the
battering rams, catapults, mangonels (a type of large catapult),
towers to push against walls, ballistas (used to launch missiles),
and mining which were employed in the Byzantine art of war.54
Muslim armies gave their adversaries three
choices, delivered in writing or orally through a messenger under
a flag of truce: (1) embrace Islam, (2) enter into a truce (`ahd)
in which jizya, a tax that signaled surrender to Muslim authority
in return for relative selfgovernment, was paid, or (3) continue
to fight. Al-Tabari termed it the "final ultimatum." Islamic
scholars have debated the issuance of this ultimatum; their positions
• Issuing it before the battle (Quran,
al-Fath, verse 16).
• The ultimatum is not required as it
gives away the element of surprise.55
• If the Muslims know the intent of the
adversary, then a formal ultimatum is not necessary, but recommended.
Two hadiths cover the issuance of ultimatums: the first describes
Muhammad as not engaging in battle until dialogue proved unsuccessful.
In the second, Muhammad sends an expedition to warn the leader to
fear God and outlines terms for Muhammad's victory.
The concepts of truces and when they may be
broken-mentioned in the Quran, al-Ma'ida, verse 1, al-Isra', verse
34, and al-Nahl-also preoccupied early Islamic theologians. Certain
legal schools held that a truce or armistice of a jihad could be
maintained for up to but no longer than 10 years.56
Events however demonstrated variations on this principle.
Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun provided a social
theory for the Muslims success in battle and applied this theory
to other ebbs and flows of power. He wrote of the solidarity or
tribal connectedness (`asabiyya) of the Muslim warriors. Unfortunately,
this primordial solidarity tended to break down, as he showed with
a historical and proto-sociological analysis, after tribal warriors
settled down in urban milieus and over several (three) generations.
When Muslims argue that faith was a factor in the military prowess
of the Muslims, they often connect this idea of solidarity-formulated
in modern terms as esprit de corps-and cohesion with the religious
idealism that the fighters had in common.
Islamic rulings are further complicated because
many Muslim scholars held that innovations potentially were corrupting,
leading the community away from the mores of Medina. Yet many new
capabilities, weapons, and situations arose. As one might expect,
opinions vary on alliances between Muslim and non-Muslim powers.
The Ottomans extended the period under which a truce or treaty with
a non-Muslim power for commercial reasons could hold from 10 years
to the lifetime of a Sultan. Some scholars later held that it was
permissable for Muslim states to call for aid from Western allies,
as in the Gulf War of 1991.
Regular and Irregular Jihad
Most scholarship on Islamic warfare has been
written for a limited
academic audience. Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the broader
Islamic revival, and the rise of numerous militant movements that
audience has expanded, and scholars sought to explain the attitudes
of jihadists to a nonspecialist readership. The classic definitions
of Islamic warfare did not, as we have seen, explain the popularity
of the jihadist vision. John Kelsay, like some other scholars, refers
to two forms of warfare in Islam, regular and irregular jihad. The
strict rules of warfare and definitions discussed in this text involve
regular jihad; that is, jihad designed to expand Muslim territory
and which involves two or more nations at war. Irregular jihad,
which includes uprisings, revolutions, or internal rebellions, expands
the definitions of the Islamic rules of war. As mentioned earlier,
each exhibits differing conceptions of leadership, and they are
not considered equally valid. Kelsay writes:
From the perspective of groups like Hamas
and Islamic Jihad, irregular war is a fact of life. The necessity
to struggle against injustice is an obligation that Muslims cannot
ignore . . . assassinations, deception, kidnappings-these acts
which are either justified or excused by the realities of the
struggle that contemporary Muslims are commanded to undertake.
Or so irregulars argue.57
This unorthodox argument,58
along with the previously explained idea of labeling a Muslim as
a non-Muslim (takfir), the perception of the Muslim world as being
in a non-Islamic ( jahili ) condition, and the view of jihad as
the sole solution, is factionalizing the Muslim world. It distorts
the classical definitions of war against apostates, unbelievers,
rebels, and brigands, and misdirects the debate over the nature
of the collective or individual duty to jihad.
This argument ignores Islamic scholarship on
the topic of warfare, arguing that certain tactics, if employed
under the guise of irregular warfare, are legitimate and not subject
to conventions and restrictions. That Islamic militants are attempting
to create new doctrine to circumvent the body of Quranic verses
and prophetic sayings that do not support their goals is significant.
It is not very certain that Muslim youth understand the distinction
between modern and classic, or moderate and radical versions. This
is so despite the fact that extremism, terrorism, and irregular
acts of violence are generally disapproved of in the classical texts.59
Clerics could more clearly explain to their public how Islamic injunctions
discredit the radicals' tactics of suicide operations, assassinations,
kidnappings, hostage-taking, and ransom demands.
Understanding the importance of the classic
Islamic texts and the ultimate goals of Islam itself-peace and social
equity-will enable us to fight terrorism through information operations
combined with other means. It will also permit us to better comprehend
the views and options of our Muslim allies.
Al-Qaeda and like-minded groups seek to employ
Islam and secure Islamic conquest for their own purposes and ignore
the emphases that the sacred texts place on restraint and justice.
Osama Bin Laden and other extremists want Muslims to believe that
Muhammad took up the sword to kill disbelievers, while Islamic texts
show that Muhammad resorted to fighting only in defense of his new
society in Medina. Religious scholars must work more assiduously
to discredit this version of Islamic history.
We are not proclaiming or inventing an Islamic
"reformation," a theme that has been appearing in the
media. An Islamic reform movement began in the 19th century, and
there is a well-established tradition of liberal "readings"
of the texts. Unfortunately, the extremists and other trends of
Muslim thinkers have countered many of these arguments, seeing them
as instruments for Westernization. The emphasis on justice, moderation,
and restraint long predates our era. Hopefully, it will bring Muslims
closer to other faiths and heal the fissures created by the extremists'
brand of Islamic warfare.
Policy Recommendations and Concerns
The United States rightly has identified the
stultification and even subversion of Islamic education in places
like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Madrasas there do
not focus on the complexity of the classical texts of Islam, nor
teach students to analyze the reasons for this complex nature, but
instead indoctrinate martyrdom and bellicosity. However, the dilemma
goes far beyond these problems. As much as we wish to encourage
alternatives to Islamic militancy, we need to recognize that they
cannot be dictated to Muslims on our own terms and according to
our preferred scenarios. Indeed, heated debate and conflicts between
Muslims on the role of religion in their polities and societies
likely will continue for many decades. If democratization is to
proceed, these conflicts may become even more pronounced and the
results may not be to the secular Westerner's taste. At the very
least, as American military and diplomatic personnel engage in the
Middle East, a more complex understanding of Islam is needed to
guide us and help us comprehend our Muslim allies' fight against
Islamic ideological extremism.
In a 1938 speech urging greater U.S. involvement
against the Nazis, Winston Churchill pleaded: "We must arm.
Britain must arm. America must arm . . . but arms . . . are not
sufficient by themselves. We must add to them the power of ideas."60
With this in mind, U.S. policymakers should:
1. Become more cognizant of the complexity
of Islamic law and the debates among Muslims. This does not mean
that policymakers should direct the process or outcome of these
2. Be aware of the danger of simplistic characterizations
of Islam as a "violent religion." Such characterizations
inflame the emotions of Muslims everywhere, heighten perceptions
of Western hostility, and limit our own ability to understand the
future of the war on terrorism.
3. Understand how jihadist groups manipulate,
hide and deemphasize aspects of Islamic history, law, and Quranic
verses. Jihadists and the madrasas and study groups they sponsor
are not creating theologians who will contribute to the spiritual
growth of Islam but suicide bombers and foot-soldiers involved in
4. Recognize that what al-Qaeda and its franchises
fear most are Islamic laws, histories, and principles that do not
conform to their militant ideologies. Therefore, the struggle between
liberal and radical interpretations of Islam is a key aspect of
the global war on terror.
5. Acknowledge that a perfectly defined delineation
between "mainstream" and extremist views is not evident.
Al-Qaeda and other jihadists proselytize with interpretations such
as those of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Ibn Taymiyya, and Sayyid
Qutb. But Wahhabism is at the core of today's Saudi Arabia, and
Saudis must decide how to best counter interpretations that lead
toward extremism. Ibn Taymiyya's and Sayyid Qutb's notions of social
justice, the necessary Islamic character of leadership, and the
importance of the Quran are highly palatable ideas to most Muslims,
in contrast with other key jihadist notions in these theorists'
work. That mixture of palatable and offensive ideas compounds the
difficulties of the Egyptian government in seeking to limit radical
influence. We nonetheless must understand the implications of the
measures our allies choose to adopt.
6. Realize that the majority of Muslims do
not speak Arabic. This means that Islamic teachings can be manipulated,
as evidenced by the varying English translations of the Quran ranging
from the moderate to the radical. To the non-Arabic speaking masses
in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Indonesia, Arabic is a sacred language.
Therefore, a radical cleric preaching and lacing his speech with
Arabic and Quranic words takes on an air of holiness, even though
the sentiments he expresses reflect jihadic opinion.
7. U.S. forces, particularly those involved
in psychological operations, need to be educated in aspects of Islamic
history, law, and culture. As Islamic militants quote and violently
interpret verses from the Quran and hadith, U.S. and allied forces
should not plead ignorance, but achieve a higher level of familiarity
with religious and other aspects of Muslim culture. U.S. and allied
forces may better comprehend the specific dilemmas of our Muslim
allies if they are familiar with the messages of jihadist and moderate
Islam. Alternatively, they should consult experts who are well-versed
in these matters.
8. Recognize the simultaneous impracticality
of armistices and reconciliation with Islamist militants, and the
Islamic rationale for attempting such solutions. Such efforts were
attempted in both Saudi Arabia and Iraq, but, in fact, those already
passionately committed to the jihadist worldview will not be won
over, and only those less committed might waver. We might therefore
conclude more pessimistically.
9. Factor in the possibility of failure in
the battle against jihadist sentiment, while working as assiduously
as possible for a different outcome. That Islamism consists of moderate
as well as radical, extremist groups operating in a politically
unstable environment may rather point to a protracted struggle and
period of reformulation. Knowledge of Islamic discourses will still
be helpful and necessary in determining our responses to such a
NOTE: Lieutenant Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein
wishes to thank the Chicago Public Library and Pentagon librarians
for making the Arabic books and materials available. He thanks the
U.S. Army War College for inviting him to lecture yearly on Islamic
militant ideology, which helped him formulate ideas for this monograph.
Thanks are also due to Mr. Matthew Harsha-Strong, a student of ethics,
politics, and economics at Yale University; and his wife, Cheryl
Anne. Dr. Sherifa Zuhur thanks the librarians of the U.S. Army War
College, Dr. Antulio Echevarria, and Dr. Steve Metz for their comments.
Both authors wish to acknowledge Dr. W. Andrew Terrill of the U.S.
Army War College Strategic Studies Institute for his comments. The
views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect the offcial policy or position of the Department
of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
This report is cleared for public release; distribution is unlimited.
Glossary Of Islamic Terms, Personalities,
Abd al-Wahhab, Muhammad: Founder of Wahhabism.
Cleric who lived in the mid-18th century and sought to purify Arabia
Islamically. His strict brand of Islam and mission to purge Arabia
of pre-Islamic practices was adopted by Muhammad Ibn Saud in the
1740s. The Wahhabis call themselves Muwahidun (Unitarians).
Abu Bakr: The first caliph of Islam after Muhammad's
Abu Dawud: An early Muslim who compiled hadiths
(prophetic sayings and deeds). The name may apply to his compendium.
Abu Huraira: An early Muslim who collected
a large number of hadiths (prophetic sayings and deeds) soon after
the Prophet's death. The name applies to the person and his compendium.
Abu Sufyan: Initially the Prophet Muhammad's
fiercest opponent in Mecca, he was responsible for the initial genocide
of Muslims and their exile from Mecca. After the capture of Mecca
in 630 A.D., he converted to Islam. Abu Sufyan's descendants would
become the Ummayad dynasty of 661-750 A.D.
al-Adilla' or al-Ada' (The Guides): Scouts,
who studied approaches to the terrain and the battlefield.
`Ahd: A truce.
Ahl al-Kitab: (Peoples of the Book): Scriptuaries,
or monotheists who possess a revelatory scripture: Jews, Christians,
Magians (Zoroastrians), and Sabeans.
'Ali bin Abu Talib: Prophet Muhammad's cousin
and son-in-law, who rose to become the fourth caliph of Islam.
Aman: A safe-passage agreement issued to a
person from non-Muslim territory. One carrying an aman, but found
to be a spy, could be executed.
Apostasy: One of the most serious crimes in
Islamic law. Denying one's faith in Islam, or conversion to another
`Asabiyya: Group feeling, or solidarity, esprit
de corps of the early Muslim warriors.
Awqaf: Prohibitory and perpetual endowments;
like a lawful form of Awqaf mortmain. A Muslim may set aside land
or property and the income deriving from it, as awqaf. Neither rulers
nor heirs could seize awqaf. It supported schools, libraries, or
other public works, and the Muslim clerics were in charge of it
prior to the creation of state supervisory bodies or ministries.
`Ayun (Eyes): Specialists in cavalry reconnaissance.
Ba`athat: Noncombat expeditions or missions
that could be diplomatic in nature, a courier, or political exchange.
Certain Islamic texts consider these to be combative in nature.
Badr Corps: The military wing of the Supreme
Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).
Banu Nadir: One of three Jewish tribes living
Banu Qaynuqah: One of three Jewish tribes living
Banu Qurayza: One of three Jewish tribes living
al-Bukhari: Compiler of one of the highly respected,
or "sound," hadith collections.
Caliph (Khalifah): A political office used
to govern urban areas of pre- Islamic Arabia and chosen by the consensus
of tribal elders. The term predates Islam and simply means "successor."
The four Caliphs to succeed Muhammad from 570-632 A.D were, in order,
Abu Bakr, `Umar, 'Uthman, and `Ali.
Dar al-Islam: Literally the abode or house
of Islam. The territory controlled by Muslims where Islamic law
Dar al-harb: Literally the abode or house of
war. Territory that is not controlled by Muslims.
al-Fa`alah: (Those of Action): Fighters designated
to fix bridges, dig trenches, and ditches.
Fatwa: An opinion, or responsum, issued by
an Islamic jurist. A fatwa answers a particular question, and in
Sunni Islam, jurists utilize the Quran, hadith, legal analogy, and
consensus in fatwa construction, while Shi`i jurists may also use
a creative process known as ijtihad. Khomaini, as an Ayatollah,
the Mufti of a Muslim city or country, or a well-educated `alim
or religious scholar is qualified to issue a fatwa, but Osama bin
Laden is not qualified to do so.
Fitnah: The term has many meanings, including
sedition, schism, insurrection, to mislead, and to guide in error.
Ghazw: Originally meant a raid but has evolved
into the term for battle. When one sees this term in the context
of a sentence, it may also denote battles that the Prophet Muhammad
participated in directly.
Hadith: Hadith are sayings and actions of the
Prophet Muhammad, and there are seven collections of compiled hadith
that are considered to be "sound," or reliable by the
majority of Muslims: al-Bukhari, Al-Tirmidhi, Muslim, Abu Dawud,
al-Nisa'i, al-Nawawi, and Ibn Majah. These are the recorded sayings
of Muhammad or his Companions, in both the Shiite and Sunni versions
Harb: War, the general term for warfare not
specifically designated as jihad.
Hashir: (Stuffer): Specialists who brought
up the rear of an army.
Hijrah: Refers to the migration of Muslims
from Mecca to Medina and Prophet Muhammad escaping the genocide
of Muslims in Mecca around 622 A.D.
Hudud: Severe penalties for the capital crimes
in Islamic law which include apostasy, sedition, adultery, and fornication.
At the court's discretion, the penalties may be death by the sword,
lapidation (stoning, usually to death), or lashing.
Ibn Kathir: Islamic scholar who lived in the
13th century and authored 13 major works of Islamic history, thought,
jurisprudence, and explanations of the Quran and hadith. Ibn Kathir
was a student of Ibn Taymiyyah and two other major Islamic scholars
in Damascus of the middle 13th century.
Ibn Taymiyyah: A 13th century Islamic jurist
who redefined jihad and apostasy to address the Crusades and the
Mongols who had invaded the region and influenced local rulers in
his day. He is considered a spiritual source for Islamic militants
Ibn `Umar: A person who knew and fought with
Prophet Muhammad and recorded his sayings and deeds.
Imam: An imam is, in one meaning of the word,
merely a prayer-leader. For the Shi`a Muslims, the Imam is appointed
by God to lead the Muslims. The Ja`fari Shi`a sect are called the
Twelvers because of their belief in a line of twelve Imams who were
the rightful authorities, the last of which is in occultation (absent,
not dead or alive) and will return one day to humanity. In the Muslim
rulings on war, the term imam stands for the legitimate ruler, who
was then called the caliph. For that reason, radical leaders have
sometimes used the title of Imam.
Jahili: From the pre-Islamic period, or "time
of ignorance." Islamists often brand the West, or their own
governments, as being in a state of Jahiliyya, just like the pre-Islamic
Jihad: Struggle or offensive war. Frequently
defined in English as "holy war," Muslims distinguish
between the greater jihad, the daily struggle to fulfill the requirements
and ideals of Islam, and the lesser jihad, fighting for the faith.
Jizyah: A tax levied on the Jews and Christians,
who are not subject, as are Muslims, to payment of zakat. The jizyah
was similar to the Roman poll tax. Land taxes were also charged.
Kaffir: a polytheist.
Khaybar: The Jewish section of Medina when
Prophet Muhammad governed the city.
Khida`: Deception or stratagem.
Madrasah: An Islamic school.
Maghribi: Arabic geographical reference to
North Africa (present day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya).
Malik ibn Anas: An early Islamic scholar who
founded the Maliki school, or madhhab of Islamic law.
Mawdudi, Abu al-`A'la: One of the founders
Mecca: The Prophet's birthplace and where he
began preaching. Mecca is also home to the Kaaba, a cube structure
that is considered by Muslims to be the first house for monotheistic
worship, built by Adam and rebuilt by Abraham and his son, Ishmael.
Mecca is the holiest site in Islam. Medina: Originally called Yathrib,
Muhammad and his followers migrated here to escape religious persecution
by the Meccans and to establish an Islamic society. It was then
named madinat al-nabi (city of the Prophet). Muhammad, Abu Bakr,
and 'Umar are buried here, and Medina is the second holiest site
Mufti: A Muslim official who is entitled to
issue a religious opinion. Often represents a city or entire state.
Muhammad: Prophet of Islam who lived from 570-632
Musnad: A term used to explain a concept and
from where these words are supported (either in the Quran or one
of the four main Sunni schools of Islamic thought [Hanbali, Shaf`i,
Maliki, or Hanafi]).
Niyah: Intention, specifically the pure intention
to commit an act. For instance, scholars argue that the intent for
prayer is more important than the physical completion of that act.
Qital: Fighting or killing, a term for military
activity used in the Quran.
Quran: Islamic book of divine revelation. The
Quran is divided into 114 Suras, or chapters, with 6,219 Ayahs or
Saraya: These are battles that Prophet Muhammad
commissioned but did not lead. Also advanced raiding parties and
reconnaissance groups, usually on horseback.
Sayyid Qutb: Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood
of Egypt who was executed in 1966 and is considered a founding ideologue
of the Islamic militant trend in that country, and regionally. He
wrote that Muslims were living in a state of jahiliyyah, or pre-Islamic
ignorance, and held that only jihad would overcome this condition
and achieve an Islamic state.
Shafa`: Intercession with Allah on the Day
of Judgment when all souls shall come before Him. This intercession
can be carried out by an intermediary, the Prophet Muhammad, or
one of the martyrs, or, for the Shi`a, one of the Imams.
Shahid: One who is martyred for the cause of
Shari`ah: Islamic law. Islamic law is based
upon the Quran, the hadith, qiyas (analogy), and ijma` (consensus).
Jurists of the Shi`i tradition may also utilize ijtihad (a creative
interpretive process) to issue an Islamic legal ruling, or fatwa.
Prior to 19th century Ottoman reforms, Islamic law was not codified.
Shirk: Polytheism, idol worship. Many pre-Islamic
Arabs believed in a pantheon of gods and goddesses.
Shu`ara' (Poets): Orators and poets who encouraged
fighters and motivated them prior to the battle.
Shuhada: Martyrdom. For Shi`a Muslims, the
concept refers to `Ali ibn Abi Talib and Hussayn who were killed
by the Ummayads in battle. For Sunni and Shi`a Muslims, martyrdom
may refer to those who participate in jihad.
Siyar: The Islamic law of nations. An area
of law that is the early equivalent of international law and the
rules governing hostilities, peacemaking, and treatment of foreign
Turath: Islamic or Arab legacy or precedent.
The Arab and Muslim intellectual circles frequently argue over the
definitions of this legacy, always seeing it as a core social, political,
cultural, and religious element under siege in an era of globalization.
`Umar: The second caliph of Islam who succeeded
Waqf: (Awqaf, plural): A religious endowment
that theoretically exists Awqaf, in perpetuity. A Muslim may set
aside land or property and the income deriving from it, as waqf.
Neither rulers nor heirs could seize awqaf. It supported schools,
libraries, or other public works, and Muslim clerics were in charge
of it prior to the creation of state supervisory bodies or ministries.
Zakat: Charity. A voluntary payment of a set
percent of a Muslim's income and assets that is one of the five
duties, or Pillars of Islam.
1. Umar Ibn Ibrahim Al-Awasi
al-Ansari, Tafrij al-qurub fi tadbir al-hurub (A Muslim Manual of
War), George T. Scanlon, ed. and trans., Cairo: American University
at Cairo Press, 1961, pp. 1-4.
2. Ibid., pp. 7-19.
3. See The Islamic Law
of Nations: Shaybani's Siyar ( Kitab al-siyar al-kabir), Majid Khadduri,
trans., Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1966. Also see Majid Khadduri,
War and Peace in the Law of Islam, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press,
4. The finer points
of a fatwa rest upon language, but also, in our times, on politics.
Simply put, fatwas state whether something is approved, disapproved,
or neutral in Islam. Often fairly brief, the jurist may explain
the principles foremost in his mind, or divide the question into
sub-points, each with a particular response. See, for instance,
Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, "Operation Desert Storm and the War
of Fatwas," in Muhammad Khalid Masud, Brinkley Messick, and
David S. Power, eds., Islamic Legal Interpretation and Their Fatwas,
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, pp. 297-309.
5. See, among other
sources, Fred Donner, "The Sources of Islamic Conceptions of
War," in John Kelsay and James Turner Johnson, eds., Just War
and Jihad: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace
in Western and Islamic Traditions, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press,
6. Majid Khadduri, War
and Peace in the Law of Islam, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1955,
7. Numerous details
on the rules of safe-conduct, or aman, are provided in al-Shaybani's
Siyar. See The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani's Siyar ( Kitab
al-siyar alkabir), Majid Khadduri, trans., Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
Press, 1966, pp. 158-194.
8. Bernard Lewis, The
Political Language of Islam, Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1982, pp. 82-83. See also Rudolph Peters, Jihad in Classical and
Modern Islam, Princeton: Markus Wiener, 1996, p. 5.
9. Abdulaziz A. Sachedina,
"The Development of Jihad in Islamic Revelation and History,"
in James T. Johnson and John Kelsay, eds., Cross, Crescent, and
Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic
Tradition, New York: Greenwood, 1990, pp. 41, 45, 46, 47. Also see
A. A. Sachedina, The Just Ruler in Shi'ite Islam: The Comprehensive
Authority of the Jurist in Imamite Jurisprudence, New York: Oxford
University Press, 1988, pp. 105-117.
10. See, for additional
information, Khaled Abou El Fadl, Rebellion and Violence in Islamic
Law, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
11. The Magians were
a priestly caste of a pre-Islamic monotheistic Iranian sect sometimes
confused with the Zoroastrians. The Sabeans were another monotheistic
group, also known as the Mandeans.
12. Khadduri, War
and Peace, p. 81, and the entire chapter, pp. 74-82.
13. Mahmoud Khalaf
Jarad al-Issawi, Fiqh al-ghazw (Islamic Jurisprudence of Battle),
Amman, Jordan: Dar Ammar Printing Press, 2000, pp. 18-21.
14. We often refer
to Abdullah Yusuf `Ali, The Holy Quran: Translation and Commentary,
Brentwood, MD: Amana Corporation, 1983, often called the Washington
translation. It is moderate in tone and provides in depth interpretations
for the translated verses. We also consulted Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din
Al- Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan's Interpretation of the
Holy Quran in the English Language: A Summarized Version of Al-Tabari,
Al-Qurtubi, and Ibn Kathir with Comments from Sahih-Bukhari, Summarized
in One Volume, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Dar-u-Salam, Publishers, 1994.
This edition is more conservative in approach, with an exclusively
Saudi Islamic translation and view of the Quran, here referred to
as the Wahhabi version. Other English translations such as those
by Arberry, Dawood, and Pickthall may be consulted, but even untrained
readers will notice some differences in wording and style in each.
15. Mahmud Shaltut,
"The Koran and Fighting," as translated by Rudolph Peters
from al-Qur'an wa-al-qital, Cairo: Matba`at al-Nasr and Maktab Ittihad
al- Sharq, 1948; and Cairo: Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, 1951, in Rudolph
Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam, Princeton: Markus Weiner,
1996, pp. 69, 70, 79.
16. Al-Issawi, Fiqh
al-ghazw, p, 23.
17. Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din
Al-Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan's Interpretation of the Holy
Quran in the English Language, pp. 845-864; Elias A. Elias, Modern
Arabic-English Dictionary, Beirut: Dar al-Khayl, 1972, p. 493; and
J. M. Cowan, ed., The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Arabic, p.
18. Sohail Hashmi,
"Interpreting the Islamic Ethics of War and Peace," in
Sohail Hashmi, ed., Islamic Political Ethics: Civil Society, Pluralism,
and Conflict, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002, p.
19. Khaled Abou El
Fadl, "Ahkam al-Bughat: Irregular Warfare and the Law of Rebellion
in Islam," in James Turner Johnson and John Kelsay, eds., Cross,
Crescent, and Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in
Western and Islamic Tradition, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1990.
20. Yusuf `Ali, Meaning
of the Holy Qur'an, p. 78, footnote 211.
21. Peters, Jihad,
22. Al-Hilali and
Khan, Interpretation of the Meaning of the Holy Quran, pp. 1043-
23. One may also go
back to Franz Rosenthal, "On Suicide in Islam," Journal
of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 66, 1946, pp. 239-259; Jalaluddin
Umri, "Suicide or Termination of Life," Islamic Comparative
Law Quarterly, Vol. 7, 1987, pp. 136- 44.
24. Rudolph Peters,
Islam and Colonialism: The Doctrine of Jihad in Modern History,
The Hague: Mouton Publishers, 1979, p. 13.
25. Shaltut, "The
Koran and Fighting," in Peters, Jihad, p. 79.
26. Al-Hilali and
Khan's Interpretation of the Holy Quran, pp. 845-864.
27. Document 35, "Letter
to Muslims of Pakistan," in Roland Jacquard, In the Name of
Osama bin Laden: Global Terrorism and the Bin Laden Brotherhood,
Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002, p. 259.
28. Abu Lababah Hussein,
al-Islam wa al-harb (Islam and Warfare), Riyadh: Dar al-Liwa Publishers,
1979, pp. 39-50.
29. A. J. Wensinck,
Concordance et indices de la tradition musulmane, 7 Vols. Leiden:
Brill, 1936-39, Vol IV, p. 180.
30. Hussein, al-Islam
wa-al-harb, p. 48.
31. Peters, Islam
and Colonialism, pp. 16-17.
32. Maryam Elahi,
"Rights of the Child under Islamic Law: Prohibition of the
Child Soldier," in Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, ed., Children
in the Muslim Middle East, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.
33. Ibid., p. 373.
34. Hussein, al-Islam,
35. This text was
recensed by al-Masmudi (d. 848) and al-Shaybani (d. 805), who was
noted for his extensive use of hadith.
36. Passages from
Malik's Muwatta, in Peters, Jihad, p. 23; or see Malik ibn Anas,
Al-Muwatta of Imam Malik ibn Anas: The First Formulation of Islamic
Law. Aisha Aburrahman Bewley, trans., London and New York: Kegan
Paul, 1989, pp. 173-174, 180-182.
37. The penalties
for homicide, bodily harm, and damage to property are described
succinctly in Joseph Schact, An Introduction to Islamic Law, Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1964, pp. 181-187.
38. `Ali, The Meaning
of the Holy Qur'an, p. 257, footnote 737.
39. Hussein, al-Islam,
40. Al-Issawi, Fiqh
al-ghazw, pp. 68-70.
41. Ibid, pp. 108-114.
42. Abu Ya`la, Kitab
al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyya, Al-Fiqqi, ed., Cairo: 1938, p. 34, cited
by Khadduri, War and Peace, p. 108.
43. Al-Issawi, Fiqh
al-ghazw, pp. 116-118.
44. The two essays
that follow the Wahhabi translation of the Qur'an, "The Jews
and the Christians" (no author indicated) and Muhammad Taqi
ud-Din Hilali "Jesus and Muhammad in the Bible and the Qur'an
and Biblical Evidence of Jesus Being a Servant of God and Having
No Share in Divinity," in terms of tone and organization surely
create an impediment to interfaith tolerance, although that may
not be the intent of the translator/interpreters. Al-Hilali and
Khan, Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur'an, pp. 1025-1041.
45. Khadduri, War
and Peace, pp. 196-199.
46. Al-Issawi, Fiqh
al-ghazw, pp. 151-209.
47. Hussein, al-Islam,
48. Sahih al-Bukhari,
Muhammad Muhsin Khan, trans., Medina: Islamic University of Medina,
Saudi Arabia, 1996.
49. Ibid., pp. 324-329.
50. Ibid., p. 328.
51. Christon I. Archer,
et al; World History of Warfare, Lincoln: University of Nebraska
Press, 2002, pp. 152-163.
52. Al-Issawi, Fiqh
al-ghazw, pp. 52-54.
53. Archer, et al.,
World History of Warfare, p. 162.
54. Edmund Bosworth,
"Armies of the Prophet: Strategy, Tactics and Weapons in Islamic
Warfare," in Bernard Lewis, ed., Islam and the Arab World,
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976, p. 202.
55. Al-Issawi, Fiqh
al-ghazw, pp. 39-44.
56. Peters, Islam
and Colonialism, p. 33.
57. John Kelsay, Islam
and War, Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993, pp. 106- War 107.
58. The terms "regular"
and "irregular" are foreign to the conceptualization of
jihad as found in Muslim sources. As we explained earlier, the more
cogent questions are: what type of jihad is intended? Is it jihad
or merely qital? And, who has authorized jihad?
59. Tamara Sonn, "Irregular
Warfare and Terrorism in Islam: Asking the Right Questions,"
in Johnson and Kelsay, eds., Cross, Crescent and Sword.
60. Extract from broadcast
to the United States, October 16, 1938, Churchill Archives Center,
Churchill Papers, CHAR 9/132.
Also available online at: