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Ethics

War is an extraordinary situation

Islam calls to peace and considers peace to be normal and war to be extraordinary and exceptional emergency entered into only out of desperation and as a last resort. Allah Almighty says:

{O ye who have faith, enter into peace all of you, and do not follow the footsteps of Satan.} 11 {And if they incline to peace then incline to peace and put yo ur trust in Allah.} 12

{They will not cease fro m fighting you until they cause you to turn away from your religion if they are able.} 13 {There was in them indeed an excellent example for you to follow of one who seeks Allah and the last day. But if any turn away, then know that Allah is Free of all wants, Worthy of all praise.

It may be that Allah will establish friendship between you and those whom ye hold as your enemies. Allah has power, and Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Allah does not forbid you from dealing kindly and justly with those who do not fight you for your religion or drive you from your homes. Allah loveth those who are just. Allah only forbids you from taking as allies tho se who fight you for your religion and turn you out from your homes and aid others in turning you o ut from your homes. Whoever takes them as allies, they are the wrongdoers.} 14

So we can see that Islam orders that those who persist in fighting the Muslims and seek enmity be fought back, and prohibits making friends with these types of people. As for those people who do not fight the believers or expel them from their homes, Allah indicates that they should be treated kindly and with fairness even though they may be infidels.

There are many other Qur'anic verses which if collected would show that jihad and war are secondary and extraordinary and that peace is the primary ruling as we have already indicated.

In a hadith, Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Imam 'Ali (A) spoke to his troops before meeting the enemy at the battle of Siffin:

"Do not fight them until they begin to fight, for you by the grace of Allah have the just cause, and by leaving them until they start on you, you will have another just cause over them."

In a letter, Imam Ali (A) relates what took place in the battle of Siffin: "Initially, it was that we and the group from the people of Syria (the army of Mu'awiyah) faced one oth er on the battlefield. It is obvious (for both sides) that our Lord is One and our Prophet is one and our call to Islam is one and we do not seek to increase their faith in Allah and belief in His Prophet nor do they seek to increase ours.

Everything is common between us except for our difference over the blood of 'Uthman in which we are innocent.

So we said: Come let us solve what may not be achieved today by extinguishing the uprising and calming the general populace so that the rule may become firm and consolidated. Then we will become stronger in putting the truth in its rightful place.

They said: 'No, we will solve it by seeing who will have the upper hand in battle and they refused all but war. When both them and us had been torn by war and it had put its claws in them and us, then they responded to that which we had called them to previously.

We accepted this and hurried to meet their requests so that they might have no complaint or cause against us."

He also said to his son al-Hassan: "Do not call to combat." Look also at this hadith related by Imam al-Saadiq (A) who said:

"The Messenger of Allah when he wanted to send out a troop he called them and bid them sit before him. He then said to them: Go out in the name of Allah and by Allah and in the way of Allah and according to the religion of the Messenger of Allah. Do not handcuff or tie up (the prisoners of war), do not mutilate (even the dead), and do not betray people.

Do not kill the old man, the child or the woman, and do not cut down a single tree except when you are forced to do so. And if any Muslim be he lofty or lowly gives a man of the Polytheists sanctuary, then his safety must be secured so that he hears the word of Allah. If he follows you then he is your brother in religion. If he refuses then give him his sanctuary and seek the help of Allah regarding him."

In an account on the occasion of war, Imam Amir-ul-Mu'mineen (A) advised the Muslims saying:

'Commit yourselves to prayer and guard your prayers and pray much. Seek nearness to Allah through it for it is a duty of the Muslims at prescribed times.' He also used to say: 'Do not fight them until they begin to fight you.'

Notes:

11. The Holy Qur'an: The Heifer (2): 208.

12. The Holy Qur'an: Public Estates (8): 61.

13. The Holy Qur'an: The Heifer (2): 217.

14. The Holy Qur'an: The Woman Tested (60): 6-9.

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