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Islam Invite to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided." Holy Qur'an 16:125

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Old Monday, July 21, 2014
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Default Comparative ReligiousTeachings onWAR AND PEACE

Comparative Religious
Teachings on

... The question ... arises - Can it ever be right to
fight for a faith? Let us, therefore, turn to this
The teaching of religion on the subject of war
takes different forms... Moses is commanded to
enter the land of Canaan by force, to defeat its
population and to settle his own people in it
(Deut. 20:10-18). In spite of this teaching in the
Book of Moses, and in spite of its reinforcement
by practical example of the Prophets Joshua,
David and others, Jews and Christians continue
to hold their Prophets in reverence and to
regard their books as the Books of God.
At the end of the Mosaic tradition, we had Jesus
who taught;
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but
whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek,
turn to him the other also (Matthew 5-39).
Christians have often cited this teaching of Jesus
and argued that Jesus preached against war. But
in the New Testament, we have passages which
purport to teach quite the opposite. One
passage, for instance, says:
Think not that I am come to send peace on
earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword
(Matthew 10:34).
And another passage says:
Then said he unto them. But now, he that hath a
purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and
he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment,
and buy one (Luke 22:36).
Of the three verses the last two contradict the
first. If Jesus came for war, why did he teach
about turning the other cheek? It seems we
have either to admit a contradiction in the New
Testament, or we have to explain one of the
contradictory teachings in a suitable manner.
We are not concerned here with the question
whether turning the other cheek can ever be
practicable. We are concerned only to point out
that, throughout their long history, no Christian
people have ever hesitated to make war. When
Christians first attained to power in Rome, they
took part in wars both defensive and
aggressive. They are dominant powers in the
world today, and they continue to take part in
wars both defensive and aggressive. Only now
the side which wins is canonized by the rest of
the Christian world. Their victory is said to be
the victory of Christian civilization. Christian
civilization has come to mean whatever tends to
be dominant and successful. When two Christian
powers go to war, each claims to be the
protector of Christian ideals. The power which
wins is canonized as the true Christian power. It
is true, however, that from the time of Jesus to
our time, Christendom has been involved-and
indications are that it will continue to remain
involved-in war. The practical verdict of the
Christian peoples, therefore, is that war is the
real teaching of the New Testament, and that
turning the other cheek was either an
opportunist teaching dictated by the
helplessness of early Christians, or it is meant to
apply only to individuals, not to States and
Secondly, even if we assume that Jesus taught
peace and not war, it does not follow that those
who do not act upon this teaching are not holy
and honored. For Christendom has ever revered
exponents of war such as Moses, Joshua and
David. Not only this, the Church itself has
canonized national heroes who suffered in
wars. They were made saints by the Popes.
The teaching of Islam is different from both
these teachings. It strikes a mean between the
two. Islam does not teach aggression as did
Moses. Nor does it, like present-day (and
presumably corrupt) Christianity, preach a
contradiction. It does not ask us to turn the
other cheek and at the same time to sell our
clothes to buy a sword. The teaching of Islam
fits into the natural instincts of man, and
promotes peace in the only possible way.
Islam forbids aggression, but it urges us to fight
if failure to fight jeopardizes peace and
promotes war. If failure to fight means the
extirpation of free belief and of the search of
truth, it is our duty to fight. This is the teaching
on which peace can ultimately be built, and this
is the teaching on which the Prophet based his
own policies and his practice. The Prophet
suffered continuously and consistently at Mecca
but did not fight the aggression of which he was
an innocent victim. When he escaped to Medina,
the enemy was out to extirpate Islam; it was,
therefore, necessary to fight the enemy in
defense of truth and freedom of belief.
We quote below the passages in the Quran
which bear on the subject of war.
(1) In 22:40-42 we have:
Permission to fight is given to those against
whom war is made, because they have been
wronged-and Allah indeed has power to help
them-Those who have been driven out from
their homes unjustly only because they said,
"Our Lord is Allah"-And if Allah did not repel
some men by means of others, there would
surely have been pulled down cloisters and
churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein
the name of Allah is oft commemorated. And
Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah
is indeed Powerful, Mighty.-Those who, if We
establish them in the earth, will observe Prayer
and pay the Zakat and enjoin good and forbid
evil. And with Allah rests the final issue of all
The verse purports to say that permission to
fight is given to the victims of aggression. God is
well able to help the victims-those who have
been driven out of their homes because of their
beliefs. The permission is wise because, if God
were not to repel the cruel with the help of the
righteous, there would be no freedom of faith
and worship in the world. God must help those
who help to establish freedom of worship. It
follows that fighting is permitted when a people
have suffered long from wanton aggression-
when the aggressor has had no cause for
aggression and he seeks to interfere with the
religion of his victim. The duty of the victim, if
and when he attains to power, is to establish
religious freedom and to protect all religions
and all religious places. His power is to be used
not for his own glorification, but for the care of
the poor, the progress of the country and the
general promotion of peace. This teaching is as
unexceptionable as it is clear and precise. It
proclaims the fact that early Muslims took to
war because they were constrained to do so.
Aggressive wars were forbidden by Islam.
Muslims are promised political power, but are
warned that this power must be used not for
self-aggrandizement, but for the amelioration of
the poor and the promotion of peace and
(2) In (2:191-194) we have:
And fight in the cause of Allah against those who
fight against you, but do not transgress. Surely,
Allah loves not transgressors. And kill them
wherever you meet them and drive them out
from where they have driven you out; for
persecution is worse than killing. And fight
them not in, and near, the Sacred Mosque until
they fight you, then fight them: such is the
requital for the disbelievers. But if they desist,
then surely Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.
And fight them until there is no persecution,
and religion is professed for Allah. But if they
desist, then remember that no hostility is
allowed except against the aggressors.
Fighting is to be for the sake of God, not for our
own sake or out of anger or aggrandizement,
and even fighting is to be free from excesses,
for excesses are displeasing to God. Fighting is
between parties of combatants. Assaults on
individuals are forbidden. Aggression against a
religion is to be met by active resistance, for
such aggression is worse than bloodshed.
Muslims are not to fight near the Sacred
Mosque, unless an attack is first made by the
enemy. Fighting near the Sacred Mosque
interferes with the public right of pilgrimage.
But if the enemy attacks, Muslims are free to
reply, this being the just reward of aggression.
But if the enemy desists, Muslims must desist
also, and forgive and forget the past. Fighting is
to continue so long as religious persecution lasts
and religious freedom is not established.
Religion is for God. The use of force or pressure
in religion is wrong. If the Kafirs desist from it
and make religion free, Muslims are to desist
from fighting the Kafirs. Arms are to be taken
up against those who commit excesses. When
excesses cease, fighting must cease also.
Categorically, we may say, the verses teach the
following rules:
i. War is to be resorted to only for the sake of
God and not for the sake of any selfish motives,
not for aggrandizement or for the advancement
of any other interests.
ii. We can go to war only against one who attacks
us first.
iii. We can fight only those who fight against us.
We cannot fight against those who take no part
in warfare.
iv. Even after the enemy has initiated the attack, it
is our duty to keep warfare within limits. To
extend the war, either territorially or in respect
of weapons used, is wrong.
v. We are to fight only a regular army charged by
the enemy to fight on his side. We are not to
fight others on the enemy side.
vi. In warfare immunity is to be afforded to all
religious rites and observances. If the enemy
spares the places where religious ceremonies
are held, then Muslims also must desist from
fighting in such places.
vii. If the enemy uses a place of worship as a base
for attack, then Muslims may return the attack.
No blame will attach to them if they do so. No
fighting is allowed even in the neighborhood of
religious places. To attack religious places and
to destroy them or to do any kind of harm to
them is absolutely forbidden. A religious place
used as a base of operations may invite a
counter-attack. The responsibility for any harm
done to the place will then rest with the enemy,
not with Muslims.
viii. If the enemy realizes the danger and the
mistake of using a religious place as a base, and
changes the battle-front, then Muslims must
conform to the change. The fact that the enemy
started the attack from a religious place is not
to be used as an excuse for attacking that place.
Out of reverence Muslims must change their
battle-front as soon as the enemy does so.
ix. Fighting is to continue only so long as
interference with religion and religious freedom
lasts. When religion becomes free and
interference with it is no longer permitted and
the enemy declares and begins to act
accordingly, then there is to be no war, even if it
is the enemy who starts it.
(3) In 8:39-41 we have:
Say to those who disbelieve, if they desist, that
which is past will be forgiven them; and if they
return thereto, then verily the example of the
former people has already gone before them.
And fight them until there is no persecution and
religion is wholly for Allah. But if they desist,
then surely Allah is Watchful of what they do.
And if they turn their backs, then know that
Allah is your Protector. What an excellent
Protector and what an excellent Helper.
That is to say, wars have been forced upon
Muslims. But if the enemy desists, it is the duty
of Muslims to desist also, and forgive the past.
But if the enemy does not desist and attacks
Muslims again and again, then he should
remember the fate of the enemies of earlier
Prophets. Muslims are to fight, while religious
persecution lasts, and so long as religion is not
for God and interference in religious matters is
not abandoned. When the aggressor desists,
Muslims are to desist also. They are not to
continue the war because the enemy believes in
a false religion. The value of beliefs and actions
is well known to God and He will reward them
as He pleases. Muslims have no right to meddle
with another people's religion even if that
religion seems to them to be false. If after an
offer of peace the enemy continues to make
war, then Muslims may be sure of victory even
though their numbers are small. For God will
help them and who can help better than God?
These verses were revealed in connection with
the Battle of Badr. This battle was the first
regular fight between Muslims and disbelievers.
In it Muslims were the victims of unprovoked
aggression. The enemy had chosen to disturb
the peace of Medina and of the territory around.
In spite of this, victory went to the Muslims and
important leaders of the enemy were killed. To
retaliate against such unprovoked aggression
seems natural, just and necessary. Yet Muslims
are taught to stop fighting as soon as the enemy
ceases it. All that the enemy is required to
concede is freedom of belief and worship.
(4) In 8:62-63 we have:
And if they incline towards peace, incline thou
also towards it, and put thy trust in Allah.
Surely, it is He Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
And if they intend to deceive thee, then surely
Allah is sufficient for thee. He it is Who has
strengthened thee with His help and with the
That is to say, if in the course of a battle the
disbelievers at any time incline towards peace,
Muslims are to accept the offer at once and to
make peace. Muslims are to do so even at the
risk of being deceived. They are to put their
trust in God. Cheating will not avail against
Muslims, who rely on the help of God. Their
victories are due not to themselves but to God.
In the darkest and most difficult times, God has
stood by the Prophet and his followers. So will
He stand by them against cheats. An offer of
peace is to be accepted. It is not to be rejected
on the plea that it may only be a ruse with
which the enemy seeks to gain time for a fresh
The stress on peace in the verses is not without
significance. It anticipates the peace which the
Prophet signed at Hudaibiya. The Prophet is
warned that a time will come when the enemy
will sue for peace. The offer is not to be turned
down on the ground that the enemy was the
aggressor and had committed excesses, or that
he cannot be trusted. The straight path
inculcated by Islam requires a Muslim to accept
an offer of peace. Both piety and policy make
the acceptance desirable.
(5) In 4:95 we have:
O ye who believe! when you go forth in the
cause of Allah, make proper investigation and
say not to anyone who greets you with the
greeting of peace, "Thou art not a believer." You
seek the goods of this life, but with Allah are
good things in plenty. Such were you before
this, but Allah conferred His favor on you; so do
make proper investigation. Surely, Allah is well
aware of what you do.
That is to say, when Muslims go out for war,
they are to make sure that the unreasonableness
of war has been explained to the enemy and
that he still wants war. Even so, if a proposal of
peace is received from an individual or a group,
Muslims are not to turn it down on the plea that
it is not honest. If Muslims turn down
proposals of peace, they will not be fighting for
God, but for self-aggrandizement and worldly
gain. Just as religion comes from God, worldly
gain and glory also come from Him. Killing is
not to be the aim. One whom we wish to kill
today may be guided tomorrow. Could Muslims
have become Muslims if they had not been
spared? Muslims are to abstain from killing
because lives spared may turn out to be lives
guided. God is well aware of what men do and
to what ends and with what motives they do it.
The verse teaches that even after war has
begun, it is the duty of Muslims to satisfy
themselves that the enemy is bent upon
aggression. It often happens that no aggression
is intended but that out of excitement and fear
the enemy has started preparations for war.
Unless Muslims are satisfied that an aggressive
attack has been planned by the enemy, they are
not to go to war. If it turns out, or if the enemy
claims, that his preparations are for self-
defense, Muslims are to accept the claim and
desist from war. They are not to argue that the
enemy preparations point to nothing but
aggression; maybe he intended aggression, but
his intention has changed. Are not intentions
and motives continually changing? Did not
enemies of Islam become friends?
(6) On the inviolability of treaties the Quran
says clearly:
Excepting those of the idolaters with whom you
have entered into a treaty and who have not
subsequently failed you in anything nor aided
anyone against you. So fulfill to these the treaty
you have made with them till their term. Surely,
Allah loves those who are righteous (9:4).
Pagans, who enter into a pact with Muslims,
keep the pact and do not help the enemy against
Muslims, are to have reciprocal treatment from
Muslims. Piety requires that Muslims should
fulfill their part of a pact in the letter as well as
the spirit.
(7) Of an enemy at war with Muslims who
wishes to study the Message of Islam, the Quran
And if anyone of the idolaters ask protection of
thee, grant him protection, so that he may hear
the word of Allah: then convey him to his place
of security. That is because they are a people
who have no knowledge (9:6).
That is to say, if any of those at war with
Muslims seek refuge with Muslims in order to
study Islam and ponder over its Message, they
are to have refuge with Muslims for such time
as may be reasonably necessary for such a
(8) Of prisoners of war, the Quran teaches:
It does not behoove a Prophet that he should
have captives until he engages in a regular
fighting in the land. You desire the goods of the
world, while Allah desires for you the Hereafter.
And Allah is Mighty, Wise (8:68).
That is to say, it does not become a Prophet to
make prisoners of his enemy save as a result of
regular war involving much bloodshed. The
system of making prisoners of enemy tribes
without war and bloodshed practiced until-and
even after-the advent of Islam, is here made
unlawful. Prisoners can be taken only from
combatants and after a battle.
(9) Rules for the release of prisoners are also
laid down. Thus we have:
Then afterwards either release them as a favor
or by taking ransom-until the war lays down its
burdens (47:5).
The best thing, according to Islam, is to let off
prisoners without asking for ransom. As this is
not always possible, release by ransom is also
provided for.
(10) There is provision for prisoners of war who
are unable themselves to pay, and who have
none who can or will pay, for their release.
Often, relations are able to pay, but do not,
because they prefer to let their relations remain
prisoners-possibly with the intention of
misappropriating their property in their
absence. This provision is contained in the
And such as desire a deed of manumission from
among those whom your right hands possess,
write it for them, if you know any good in them;
and give them out of the wealth of Allah which
He has bestowed upon You (24:34).
That is, those who do not deserve to be released
without ransom but who have no one to pay
ransom for them-if they still ask for their
freedom-can obtain it by signing an undertaking
that, if allowed to work and earn, they will pay
their ransom. They are to be allowed to do so,
however, only if their competence to work and
earn is reasonably certain. If their competence
is proved, they should even have financial help
from Muslims in their effort to work and earn.
Individual Muslims who can afford to do so
should pay; or, public subscription should be
raised to put these unfortunates on their feet.
The passages from the Quran which we have
quoted above contain the teaching of Islam on
the subject of war and peace. They tell us in
what circumstances, according to Islam, is it
right to go to war and what limits have to be
observed by Muslims when they make war.
Muslim teaching, however, does not consist only
of precepts laid down in the Quran. It also
includes the precepts and example of the
Prophet. What he did or what he taught in
concrete situations is also an essential part of
the Islamic teaching. We append here some
sayings of the Prophet on the subject of war and
i. Muslims are forbidden altogether to mutilate
the dead (Muslim).
ii. Muslims are forbidden to resort to cheating
iii. Children are not to be killed, nor women
iv. Priests and religious functionaries and religious
leaders are not to be interfered with (�a�avi).
v. The old and decrepit and women and children
are not to be killed. The possibility of peace
should always be kept in view (Abu Dawud).
vi. When Muslims enter enemy territory, they
should not strike terror into the general
population. They should permit no ill-treatment
of common folk (Muslim).
vii. A Muslim army should not camp in a place
where it causes inconvenience to the general
public. When it marches it should take care not
to block the road nor cause discomfort to other
viii. No disfigurement of face is to be permitted
(Bukhari and Muslim).
ix. The least possible losses should be inflicted
upon the enemy (Abu Dawud).
x. When prisoners of war are put under guard,
those closely related should be placed together
(Abu Dawud).
xi. Prisoners should live in comfort. Muslims
should care more for the comfort of their
prisoners than for their own (Tirmidhi).
xii. Emissaries and delegates from other countries
should be held in great respect. Any mistakes or
discourtesies they commit should be ignored
(Abu Dawud, Kitab al-Jihad).
xiii. If a Muslim commits the sin of ill-treating a
prisoner of war, atonement is to be made by
releasing the prisoner without ransom.
xiv. When a Muslim takes charge of a prisoner of
war, the latter is to be fed and clothed in the
same way as the Muslim himself (Bukhari).
The Holy Prophet was so insistent on these rules
for a fighting army that he declared that
whoever did not observe these rules, would
fight not for God but for his own mean self
(Abu Dawud).
Abu Bakr, the First Khalifa of Islam,
supplemented these commands of the Prophet
by some of his own. One of these commands
appended here also constitutes part of the
Muslim teaching:
xv. Public buildings and fruit-bearing trees (and
food crops) are not to be damaged (Mu'a��a).
From the sayings of the Prophet and the
commands of the First Khalifa of Islam it is
evident that Islam has instituted steps which
have the effect of preventing or stopping a war
or reducing its evil. As we have said before, the
principles which Islam teaches are not pious
precepts only; they have their practical
illustration in the example of the Prophet and
the early Khalifas of Islam. As all the world
knows, the Prophet not only taught these
principles; he practiced them and insisted on
their observance.
Turning to our own time we must say that no
other teaching seems able to solve the problem
of war and peace. The teaching of Moses is far
from our conceptions of justice and fair play.
Nor is it possible to act upon that teaching
today. The teaching of Jesus is impracticable and
has ever been so. Never in their history have
Christians tried to put this teaching into
practice. Only the teaching of Islam is
practicable; one which has been both preached
and practiced by its exponents, and the practice
of which can create and maintain peace in the
In our time, Mr. Gandhi apparently taught that
even when war is forced on us we should not go
to war. We should not fight. But this teaching
has not been put into practice at any time in the
history of the world. It has never been put in
the crucible and tested. It is impossible;
therefore, to say what value this teaching may
have in terms of war and peace. Mr. Gandhi
lived long enough to see the Indian Congress
attain to political independence. Yet the
Congress Government has not disbanded either
the army or the other armed forces of India. It
is only making plans for their Indianization. It
also has plans for the reinstatement of those
Indian officers who constituted themselves into
the Indian National Army (and who were
dismissed by the British authorities) during the
Japanese attack on Burma and India in the last
stages of the recent World War. Mr. Gandhi has
himself, on many occasions, raised his voice in
extenuation of crimes of violence, and urged the
release of those who committed such crimes.
This shows at least that Mr. Gandhi's teaching
cannot be put into practice and that Mr. Gandhi
knows it as well as all his followers. No
practical example at least has been offered to
show the world how non-violence can be
applied when armed disputes arise between
nation and nation and State and State, or how
non-violence can prevent or stop a war. To
preach a method of stopping wars, but never to
be able to afford a practical illustration of that
method indicates that the method is
impracticable. It would, therefore, seem that
human experience and human wisdom point to
only one method of preventing or stopping wa
and that method was taught and practiced by
the Prophet of Islam.

Islam International Publications, U.K., 1990.
Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?
Al Rahmaan
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