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HomeCritical QuestionsLaw Of War In Islam

Law Of War In Islam

War is the name given to the armed actions that states take with their armies against each other by cutting off their political relations for reasons such as economic and political disagreements between them.

According to Muslim scholars, war is the last stage of fighting against forces that threaten the security of the countries where Muslims live or prevent Islam from reaching people. For this reason, the word “jihad” is used to distinguish the understanding of war in Islam from wars waged for the purpose of exploitation and evil. In addition, wars fought to gain booty, honour or fame in Islam have been criticized and vilified.[1]

There are rules for fighting according to Islamic law. These rules were shaped based on the Quran and sunnah of the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him). The rules of war in Islamic law can be summarized as follows: In case the enemies attack the Islamic country, general mobilization is declared. It is obligatory for all Muslims (sane, free, male) to participate in the war. It is important to determine the beginning of the war as the rules of war law will be applied. This is possible by declaring the war and making it known to the parties. Therefore, before a war to be waged, it is clearly ordered in the Quran to inform that the agreements made with the other side, if any are broken.[3]

It should also be added that Islamic jurists.” When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.”[4]

Except for some exceptions required by the state of war, the things that are considered halal (permitted) and haram (forbidden) for Muslims in the Islamic country generally have the same rule in the enemy country where the war is fought.

War tricks can be used for military purposes or to deceive the enemy. The determination of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as “War is a deception” shows that it is necessary to be vigilant in war and not to give up on precautions, and that games that will surprise the other side can be benefited from.[5] However, the war tricks in question do not mean that the promises made against the enemy are not kept, even in war conditions, ‘correctness’ is essential.

The killing of women, children, the mentally ill, the disabled, the sick, the elderly, clerics who are secluded in temples and farmers, workers and businessmen who do not contribute to the war personally or indirectly is prohibited according to Islamic war law. The prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) advice to reduce deaths in wars as much as possible, and his saying, “Muslims are the most forgiving of people when it comes to killing,” indicates this.[6]

In Islamic law it is forbidden to burn or destroy the corpses of enemy soldiers during or after the war.[7] It is forbidden to rape the women of the enemy and to have illegitimate relations with them. Even if the other party kills the Muslim hostages, it is forbidden to kill enemy hostages [8] according to the principle of individuality of crime [9].

Plundering is prohibited in accordance with the warnings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) such as “The one who plunders is not from us”[10] and “Looting is haram, just like eating unclean animal meat”[11]. It is not right to destroy plant tissue and other living things, unless it is done to meet the need for nutrition or to break the enemy’s combat power, or when there is a necessity for an operation.[12]

Destroying, setting fire to, flooding places like strategic locations, castle, etc.  is allowed within the framework of war requirements. Likewise, cutting the enemy’s water channels or making them unusable is among the permissible ones.[13]

Regardless of gender and age, any non-Muslim can be taken prisoner during the war or at the end of the war if no debit agreement has been signed.[14] However, it was forbidden to mistreat the captives and was demanded to pay attention to their shelter and nutrition, not to separate family members from each other, and to show meticulousness about the honour of women captives.

War ends in one of the ways that the other party accepts Islam or surrenders, the conquest is realized, a temporary or indefinite peace treaty is signed, a ceasefire agreement is signed, the Muslims are defeated, or the Muslims quit the war. No matter which side wins the war, there is loss of life and property. According to Islam, Muslims who participate in the war and die in the above-mentioned ways to gain Allah’s pleasure are considered martyrs.

Being a martyr is the best cause of death for a Muslim. Allah states the following about martyrs in the Quran: ” And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision, Rejoicing in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty, and they receive good tidings about those [to be martyred] after them who have not yet joined them – that there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.” [15]


[1] Al-Bukhari, Fighting for the cause of Allah,15; Muslim, The book of the government,149.
[2] Sunnah, The prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) state and behavior.
[3] Al-Anfal,58.
[4] Muslim, fighting for the cause of Allah,3; Abu Dawud, Fighting for the cause of Allah,82.
[5] Al-Bukhari, fighting for the cause of Allah, 157; Muslim, fighting for the cause of Allah,18; At-Tirmidhi, Fighting for the cause of Allah, 5.
[6] Al-Sarakhsi, Sherhu’s- siyeril Kebir, I, 78-79; Al- Shewkani, VIII, 71.
[7] Al-Bukhari, Fighting for the cause of Allah,149; Muslim, Fighting for the cause of Allah,3.
[8] Al-Sarakhsi, Al-Mebsut, X, 169.
[9] Principle of individuality of crime: Pursuant to this rule, a person can only be held responsible for the acts committed by himself and cannot be held responsible unless he is a partner in the acts committed by someone else.  if someone from the other side kills the hostage, they are responsible for it in accordance with the principle of individuality. There is no retaliation here and the hostage is not killed in return.
[10] Abu-Dawud, Prescribed punishments, 14; At-Tirmidhi, The book on military expendition,40.
[11] Abu- Dawud, Fighting for the cause of Allah, 128.
[12] Al-Hashr,5; Al-Sarakhsi, Sherhu’s- siyeril Kebir, I, 52-55.
[13] Al-Hashr,2
[14] Al-Anfal, 67-69; Muhammed, 4.
[15] Ali-Imran, 169- 170.