Rules for Jihad

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Has Islam established any rules for Jihad?

As believers cannot transgress the limits established by God, they must observe the Divine rules prescribed fighting. Among those deduced from the Qur’an and the Prophet’s practice are as follows:

Believers are those from whom God has bought their life and wealth in exchange for Paradise (9:111). They are dedicated to His cause and have the sole aim of gaining His pleasure. So, those who fight for fame or material gain, racial or similar ideologies, or anything else are not considered as fighters with whom God is pleased.

Believers are forbidden to resort to unscrupulous methods, indiscriminate killing and pillage

God decrees: Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. God does not love transgressors (2:190). Believers are to fight only those who do block the way to the true faith, and are forbidden to resort to unscrupulous methods, indiscriminate killing and pillage that characterizes all wars waged by non-Muslims regardless of time or place. The excesses alluded to in the verse above are such things as taking up arms against women and children, the old and the injured, mutilating enemy corpses, and destroying fields and livestock.

Force can be used only when it is unavoidable, and only to the extent necessary

Force can be used only when it is unavoidable, and only to the extent necessary. When this point is reached, the Qur’an orders believers not to shirk their duty. They must make all necessary preparations, take the required precautions, prepare themselves morally, and attain the spiritual state in which 20 of them can defeat 200 of the enemy:

O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you 20 steadfast men they shall overcome 200, and if there be of you 100 steadfast they shall overcome 1,000 of those who do not believe, because they [the unbelievers] are a folk without understanding and sound judgment. (8:65)

Those who knew that they would meet their Lord exclaimed: “How many a little company has overcome a mighty host by God’s leave! God is with the steadfast.” (2:249)

To attain such a rank, believers should have the strongest possible belief and trust in God and avoid all sins. Belief and God-consciousness are two unbreakable “weapons” and sources of inexhaustible power: Do not faint or grieve, for you shall gain the upper hand if you are true people of faith (3:139) and The end is (best) for the righteous (7:128).

In addition, believers should be powerful against the forces of oppression, for force cannot be ruled out if it is necessary to obtain the desired result. Believers must have scientific and technological superiority to unbelievers so that the latter cannot exploit what force they have for their own selfish benefit. Islam believes that “right is might”, and must ensure that “might is right” does not become the prevalent attitude:

Muslims must equip themselves with strong belief and righteousness, and with scientific knowledge and the most sophisticated technology. Combining all of these, they then must use them to serve humanity, for belief in God calls for serving people. The deeper one’s belief in God, the deeper one’s concern for the created. When Muslims attain this rank, God will not allow unbelievers to beat them (4:141).

A community is like a body in structure and functioning, and so requires a head with intellect. Thus obeying the community’s head is a must if that community wants to prosper. For example, God’s Messenger was raised amidst people who resembled the scattered beads of a rosary, who were unaware of the benefits to be derived from obedience and collective life. God’s Messenger inculcated in them the feeling of obedience to God, His Messenger, and their superiors, and used Islam as an unbreakable rope to unite them:

O believers! Obey God, the Messenger, and those in authority. If you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to God and the Messenger if you believe in God and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end. (4:59)

O believers! When you meet an army, hold firm and remember and mention God much, that you may be successful. Obey God and His Messenger, and do not dispute among yourselves lest you falter and your strength depart. Rather, be steadfast! God is with the steadfast. (8:45-46)

The Companions’ resulting consciousness of obedience was seen when he appointed the 18-year-old son of his ex-slave as the commander of an army that contained such elders as Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman. None of them thought of challenging this order.

One important point related to jihad is that believers cannot desert the battlefield. They must continue to fight and not retreat flee from the enemy. Concerning this, the Qur’an decrees:

O you who believe! When you encounter in battle those who unbelieve as opposing forces, do not turn your backs to them in fight. For whoever turns his back on them on such an occasion – except that it be for tactical reasons such as withdrawing to fight again or joining another troop of believers or taking up a position against another enemy host – has indeed incurred God’s severe punishment, and his final refuge is the Fire; how evil a homecoming and a destination to arrive in. (8:15-16)

 

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