Tolerance in the treatment of the enemy
Related from Hafs ibn Ghayyath, who said: 'I asked Imam Saadiq (A) about the case of two groups of Believers, one of them unjust and the other just. What if the unjust were to defeat the just in battle?'
He (A) replied: 'It is not the way of those who are just to pursue one retreating or to kill prisoners, or to finish off the wounded . . .' Related in a hadith from Abu Hamzah al-Thumali, from Imam 'Ali ibn al-Hussein (A) who said:
'Imam Ali (A) wrote to Malik, who was in the avant-guard on the da y of al-Basrah (the Battle of Jamal), that he was only to lan ce those who were charging and he was not to kill men who were retreating or to kill the wounded and whoever bolts his door will be safe.
Related from 'Abdullah ibn Sharik, from his father who said: 'When the people were defeated on the day of the battle of the Camel (Jamal), Amir-ul-Mu'mineen (A) said: 'Do not pursue one retreating and do not kill the wounded and whoever bolts his door will be spared.'
Related from Imam Ridha (A) that "Imam 'Ali (A) on the day of the battle of the Jamal did not pursue anyone retreating, nor did he finish off the wounded, and anyone who threw down his weapons would be spared as would anyone who entered his own house."
In one account it is said:
"If the unjust were defeated and they had a troop and a base which they could resort to, they would be sought and their wounded finished off, and they would be pursued and killed as far as possible 29. Amir-ul-Mu'mineen (A) did the same with the people of Siffin because Mu'awiya was behind them. If they had not had a troop to return to, they would not be sought and their wounded would not be finished off, because if they retreated they would split up and scatter."
We have also related that "During the battle of the Jamal when Talhah and al-Zubeir were killed and 'Aishah was arrested and the People of the Jamal were defeated, the order was proclaimed by the herald of Amir-ul- Mu'mineen (A): 'Do not kill the wounded, do not pursue anyone retreating and whoever throws down his weapon will be spared."
Then Amir-ul-Mu'mineen (A) called for the mule of the Prophet (S), which he mounted. Then he said 'Come you, and Come you until he had gathered around him almost sixty elders all of them from the Hamdan (tribe) who had taken up sword, shield and helm. Then he went with them still around him until they reached a magnificent house where he asked to be admitted and he was admitted.
He then found himself amongst a group of women all bewailing in the courtyard of the house, and when they saw him they began to shriek and say: 'He is the killer of our beloveds.' However he did not say anything to them. He asked the whereabouts of the chamber of 'Aishah. The door was opened and he was admitted. Then it was heard that in their conversation 'Aishah was apologetic - "No by Allah", "Yes by Allah". Then he exited and looked towards a woman and said: 'Come here O Saffiyah.' She hurried towards him and he said to her: 'Do you not dismiss those who say that I am the killer of beloveds.
For if I was the killer of beloveds I would h ave killed those who are in th at chamber, and in this one, and in this one.' He indicated three rooms. The woman went to the other women and those in the house who were wailing fell silent and those standing sat down.'
Al-Asbagh (The narrator of the hadith) said: 'In one of the rooms was 'Aishah 30 and her confidantes. In another room were Marwan ibn al Hakam and some young men of the Qureish. In another were 'Abdullah ibn al-Zubeir and his folk.
' Al-Asbagh was asked: 'So why did you not raise your hands against those people. Were they not the cause of the sore? Why did you let them live?' He said: 'We took hold of our swords and narrowed our eyes towards Imam 'Ali (A) waiting for his command to kill them but he did not do so and instead chose to grant a general amnesty."
Sheikh al-Mufid has said in the book "al-Kafi'a fi Ibtal taubat al- Khati'a", from Abu Mukhnaf Lut ibn Yahya, from 'Abdullah ibn 'Asim, from Muhammad ibn Bashir al-Hamdani who said: 'The letter of Amir- ul-Mu'mineen (A) came with 'Umar ibn Salma al-Awha to the People of Kufa. He saluted the people so that all the people could hear it and gathered in the Mosque. The call to congregational prayer was announced and not one person tarried. Then the letter was read:
'In the Name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful. From 'Abdullah Amir-ul-Mu'mineen (A) to Qarzah ibn Ka'b and the Muslims; Peace be upon you, I praise Allah there is no deity but He. Now, we h ave met with the treachero us people . . . (until he said) and when Allah had defeated them, I ordered that no-one retreating should be pursued, nor should the wounded be killed, nor should the nakedness of anyone be exposed nor clothing torn. No house should be entered without permission and the people ha ve safety."
Related from Habba al-'Arani in a hadith saying: 'On the day of the Jamal, the people came out to face each other . . . (until he relates) the (rebellious) peo ple retreated defeated then the herald of Amir-ul-Mu'mineen (A) called that "the wounded were not to be killed, those retreating were not to be pursued, that whoever locks his door will be spared and whoever throws down his weapon will be spared."
Related from Muhammad al-Hanafiyyah son of Imam 'Ali (A) who said:
'I had the standard (flag) on the day of the Jamal . . . (until he said) then he ordered his herald to proclaim that: 'No wounded person should be attacked, nor should any retreating person be pursued. Whoever locks his door will be safe.'
It is related that amongst the people of al-Sham (The army of Mu'awiya from Damascus) was a man named al-Asbagh ibn Darar and that he formed an armed vanguard. Imam 'Ali charged al-Ashtar with him and he took him prisoner without a fight. Imam 'Ali (A) used to forbid the killing of prisoners. Al-Ashtar came with him at night and made fast his bonds and put him with his guests to await the morning.
This man al- Asbagh was an eloquent poet and he felt sure that he would be killed while his companions slept. So he raised his voice and let al-Ashtar hear some verses of poetry describing his condition and seeking to evoke his emotions.
In the mo rning al-Ashtar came to Imam 'Ali (A) and said: 'O Commander o f The Faithful! This is a man from the army who I met yesterday. By Allah if I knew it was right to kill him I would kill him. He spent the night with us last night and moved us.
If it is to be that we kill him then I will kill him. If we are angry at him or we have a choice then give him to me. Imam 'Ali (A) said: 'He is yours O Malik. For if you take a prisoner from the people-of-the-Kiblah (i.e. Muslims) you should not kill him. The prisoners from the people of the Kiblah are neither ransomed nor killed.' So al-Ashtar returned with him to his house and said: 'Yours is what we took from you and nothing more than that.'
Related from Salam who said: 'I witnessed the battle of the Jamal . . . (until he said) When the people of Basrah were defeated, the herald of Imam 'Ali (A) proclaimed:
'Do not pursue those retreating, nor one who throws down his weapon, and do not kill the wounded. For these people are retreating and they have no troop to resort to. This is what the Sunnah commended when fighting the trespassers."
In the book Da'aim al-Islam, relating that Imam 'Ali (A) was asked by 'Ammar when he entered Basrah: 'O Commander of the Believers! How shall we treat these people? He (A) answered: 'With open-handedness and kindness just as the Prophet (S) did with the people of Makkah." Related from Musa ibn Talha ibn 'Ubeidullah (who was amongst those taken prisoner on the day of the Jamal) who said: 'I was in the prison of 'Ali (A) in Basrah when I heard a herald calling: 'Where is Musa son of Talha son of 'Ubeidullah?
'I invoked the words: 'Verily we belong to Allah and verily we shall to him return.' This also did the people of the prison saying: 'He will kill you.' They brought me out and when I was in front of him he said to me: 'O Musa!'
I said: 'At your service O Commander of the Faithful.' He said: 'Say 'I seek the forgiveness of Allah'. I said: 'I seek the forgiveness of Allah and I turn towards Him in repentance' three times.' He said to his messengers: 'Release him.' Then he said to me: 'Go wherever you wish and whatever you find among our soldiers in the way of arms then take them and fear Allah in the future and sit in your house.'
So I expressed my gratitud e and left. The companions of Imam 'Ali (A) had taken as spoils what the opposing army had brought to the battle to fight him with (i.e. weapons), but nothing other than that.'
Related from 'Abdullah ibn Ja'far al-Humeiri, with a chain of narration from Ja'far al-Saadiq (A), from his father (A) that Imam 'Ali (A) did not attribute the crime of shirk 31 to anyone he made war with nor that of hypocrisy, but he used to say: 'They are our brothers who have trespassed against us.'
29. This is because they could regroup and reinforce and come back again.
30. 'Aishah instigated and led the Battle (of Jamal) against Imam 'Ali (A).
31. ... in general polytheism or ascribing partners to Allah. saying: 'Do you find any injustice from me in my ruling?' They said: 'No.'
Adapted from the book: "War, Peace & Non-Violence" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq Shirazi"
Share this article
- Prev: Prisoners of war are not to be killed
- Next: Justification to the enemy, and not initiating attack