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Islam's View on War

In addressing the issue of universal peace, the author in this discourse begins with tackling the phenomenon of war by discussing aspects such as the causes of war, as well as the management of war and behaviour during war.

The author goes on to present some of the Islamic perspective on war and the measures needed to contain war and its causes. The following is Chapter 4 of Imam Shirazi's book The New Order for a World of Faith, Freedom, Prosperity, and Peace pp349-402. Translated by Ali Adam.

War is the worst thing known to mankind War is the worst thing known to mankind througho ut his long history. It brings about the killing and maiming o f human beings, the loss of their powers and their disfigurement. It also causes the destruction of civilisations, stirs up hatred and resentments amongst people, and passes psychological problems on to future generations.

It also causes the fighters to become prisoners of war. For these reasons, war must be avoided at all costs and if war becomes necessary - because the enemy has forced the situation - it is imp erative that war should be limited to the least degree of necessity. It is also imperative that human ity in general put an end to wars finally so that they do not occur in the future.

War is an illness

War has been a phenomenon from the earliest times. It is said that it is confirmed as a fact in the Holy Qur'an in the verse:

{And had Allah not checked one set of people by means of another, the Earth would indeed be full of corruption.} 1

Some say that war is one manifestation of the struggle for survival which is a natural attribute of all living things and which will never cease, and that it is one o f the traditio ns of human society. However, the prevention of war by finding another solution is what should be sought.

For illness and disease is also a human reality from the very beginning as is the burning of cities, houses and shops or destruction by flooding and other natural events, which can cause harm to humanity. However, all of this does not make war inevitab le, for war is not a prime reality but rather a secondary phenomenon, which happens because of the malice of certain individuals.

Hence, a group of religious scholars have said that war in itself is bad and ugly because it entails the killing of people and destruction. The Holy Qur'an supports this in the following verse:

{Fighting is prescribed upon you though ye dislike it. But it is possible that you dislike a thing that is good for you and that you love a thing that is bad for you. Allah knoweth and you knoweth not.} 2 On the surface, this verse shows that if fighting were a natural thing then Allah would not have said: {thoug h ye dislike it.}. Therefore, war is a social phenomenon brought about by corrupt instincts and not something natural in humanity.

War as the last resort

We find that the Prophet Muhammad (S) 3 did not instigate a single war, but rather made war only in self-defence. Even then he did not resort to defensive wars until after the exhaustion of a number of alternatives: Firstly neutrality, as this was the case between the Prophet (S) and Abyssinia.

Neutrality is the first phase of non-aggression. After neutrality comes the turn of the treaty of non-aggression as practised by the Prophet (S) when he entered into a treaty with the Jews of Madinah or when he entered into a treaty with the non-believers of Makkah at Hudaib ia.


1. The Holy Qur'a n: The Heifer (2): 251.

2. The Holy Qur'an: The Heifer (2): 216.

3. Sall-Allah Alayhi wa Alihi wa Sallam, meaning Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him and his infallible family. This is always stated after the mention of the name of the Prophet out of respect for the Prophet of Islam (S).

Adapted from the book: "War, Peace & Non-Violence" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq Shirazi"

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