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Ethics

War Conducts: Islam vs. Others

As an insight into the "Islamic wars", with a view to study the violence or the non-violence of them, a quote is made from the book "The Phenomenon of the Spread of Islam".

The author of this book states: "History books which study the battles and wars over the course of history reveal that violence is an inherent phenomenon in wars. When the armies invade a country, atrocities are their normal practice. They know no mercy or compassion, they do not respect women, they do not distinguish the young from the old, and even animals and trees are not spared. This is because their aim is vengeance and revenge, and to quell any voice which opposes them. And these are not only the characteristics of invading armies, who act for economical and political objectives, but that kind of violence has even prevailed in some pre-Islamic religions.

In Deuteronomy 13:15-16 we read:

"15 Thou shall surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword. 16 And thou shall gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shall burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be a heap for ever; it shall not be built again."

And in Deuteronomy 20:11-16 we also find:

"11 And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. 12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shall besiege it:

13 And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shall smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:

14 But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shall thou take unto thyself; and thou shall eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.

15 Thus shall thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations. 16 But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy Go d doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shall save alive nothing that breathe:"

In chapter 58 of his momentous book "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", Edward Gibbon states:

"The First Crusade recorded, in the history of mankind, the most brutal prejudice not only against the Muslims, but also against the Eastern Christians and Jews. Once they took control of the holy city of Jerusalem, the Crusaders, who saw themselves as the servants of the Lord, decided to honour their Lord by offering a bloody sacrifice to the God of the Christians . . . they slaughtered more than 70,000 Muslims! In the process

neither age nor sex could mollify their implacable rage: the savage heroes of the cross indulged themselves three days in a promiscuous massacre; and the infection of the dead bodies produced an epidemical disease.

They smashed the heads of the children against the walls, threw the infants from the top of the city walls, grilled the men o n fire and the Jews had been burnt in their synagogue. They ripped the bellies of pregnant women to check if they had swallowed their gold. They did not stop until they were totally exhausted.

The papal envoy witnessed this genocide as he too took part in this victory." 70 The famous historian, Ibn Atheer, 1160-1234, reports: "Th e Europeans slaughtered more than 70,000 in the al-Aqsa mosque. Many of those murdered were women and children, as well as many Muslim imams and scholars, worshipers and pilgrims who had come from far a field to this holy site. In the rampage, the Crusaders then plundered the mosque of its countless precious jewellery."

This kind of barbarity in war continues to this day. The wars of this (twentieth) century are gruesome examples of death and destruction. What happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are evidence to that, and the Zionists' atrocities in Palestine and the Lebanon are other proofs that in the mind of non-Muslims war means annihilation and destruction, which knows no mercy and kills the combatant and the civilian population alike.

As for the Muslims, the meaning of war and their understanding of it is based upon the teachings of their religion; the religion of brotherhood, equality, truth, justice and respect for the humanity of mankind.

Therefore, in their wars they - the Muslims - were furthest of all people from violence and destruction. This is because a true religion does not instruct its followers to practice vengeance and revenge, but it teaches them to defend themselves and their values within the limits of humanity. The Islamic history is full of examp les of Islamic ethics in war.

In these scenes one can see the manifestation of humanity in the full meaning of the word, and can see mercy in various forms. In fact those scenes were, amongst many others, the reasons that attracted the people to accept Islam in their masses. See how the people of Jordan addressed the Muslim army when it arrived and camped in Jordan. They wrote:

"O Muslim folk! We prefer you to the Romans and like you more than them, despite the fact that they have the same religion as we do. You are more faithful to us and kinder to us than them. You are least oppressive and better guardian over us. But they (the Romans) invaded us and deprived us of our rights and of our houses."

The objective of the Muslims was not to force others to accept Islam, and if the Messenger of Allah (S) wanted to adopt such a policy, he would not have sanctioned treaties and signed agreements with the Jews in Medina. What would have prevented him (S) from forcing the Jews to accept Islam or from exterminating every one of them? He (S) was the head of state, and the Muslims were the strongest force in the Arabian Peninsula. There was nothing to prevent him from doing so except the divine instruction:

"There is no coercion in religion." 71

When the Messenger of Allah (S) arrived in Medina he sanctioned a treaty with the Jews there which states: " . . . The Jews of 'Bani Awf' tribe are (part of) one community (together) with the (Muslim) faithful. The Jews practice their religion a nd the Muslims practice their own. For them shall be their own wealth, property and their persons. Except for he who has committed oppression or transgression . . ."

This is the freedom of belief in Islam, which is manifested in the conduct of the Messenger o f Allah (S). Another example is the pact that the Messenger of Allah (S) gave to the Christians of the Najraan district of Yemen.

According to this pact, the Messenger of Allah (S) promised them that they may live in the care of Allah and the protection of His messenger with their wealth, land, religion and selves fully safeguarded. Furthermore there will be no interference with the positions and appointments of bishops, monks, and ministers. In any dispute amongst themselves, if raised to the prophet, they will be dealt with according to fairness and justice without any injustice being incurred on any side.

One of the best proofs and strongest evidences that Islam spread through persuasion, conviction and through reason, and that the sword had no role to play in the spread of Islam, is the events of the seventh century Hijri (13 th century AD). These events destroyed the Islamic entity and existence and demolished the Islamic government. These were the consequences of the invasions of the Muslim state by the Moguls and the Ta tars.

They killed and mutilated whomever they came across, and plundered everything they could get their hands on. They destroyed every city, town, and village that they entered and annihilated every sign and symbol o f civilisation that the Islamic state had instituted. These colo ssal events were the greatest catastrophe ever seen by the Muslims if not b y humanity at large.

The famous historian Ibn Atheer, 1160-1234, states: "Several years passed by and I could not find the strength to write about the colossal catastrophe for it is not within the power of any writer to write about these atrocities. There are simply not enough words to describe these horrendous events.

It is not possible to give graphic details of these most horrific sufferings of Islam and Muslims. Is there anyone who can write about this? I wish I was not born or I wish I had died before this catastrophe.

However, many friends insisted that I write at least a few words about this greatest tribulation. I was hesitant at first, but I thought that ignoring their advice would be of no use, this attempt (to write) constitutes writing about a momentous event and an almighty catastrophe the like of which the days and nights would never see again.

It affected humanity in general and the Muslims in particular. If someone said that from the time that Allah created Adam until now the world had not suffered such genocide, he would be right. History books do not show any event which come anywhere near this mass murder and destruction."

Despite the fact that the Moguls slaughtered many millions of Muslim people and razed several hundred cities, towns and villages, they did not manage to quench the flame of Islam in the hearts of the remaining Muslims.

In fact, and this is the point of this article, these very Muslims, who had been severely defeated, managed to beat the Buddhist and Christian missionaries to win over the hearts and minds of those nomads who practiced Shamanism. 72

It only took a few years filled with debates and discussion which took place between the supporters of each religions until those few whose power and might, and very existence had been b roken by the Moguls were able to attract to Islam those ferocious conquerors. In doing so they (the Muslims) destroyed all the myths and accusations propagated b y the adversaries of Islam that it is a religion th at spread and survived by the sword."

Notes:

70. Edward Gibbon, 1737-1794, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", Chapter 58.

71. The holy Qur'an: The Heifer (2): 256.

72. Shamanism is a primitive religion practiced in northern Siberia. It believes in a hidden world belonging to the gods, devils and the spirits of the ancestors and that their priests, Shaman, practice magic to cure illness amongst others. Some sects of the red Indians in the Americas also practiced shamanism.

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