"If they say, summarize the Bible, I will say, 'love'. If they say, summarize the Quran, I will say, 'love in Makkan verses, grudge, hatred, enmity, killing, war and sword in Madinan verses'." Will you inform me about the issue?

Details of the Question
"If they say, summarize the Bible, I will say, 'love'. If they say, summarize the Quran, I will say, 'love in Makkan verses, grudge, hatred, enmity, killing, war and sword in Madinan verses'." Will you inform me about the issue?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We can summarize the reason why religions were sent down as "to ensure happiness for man both in the world and in the hereafter." In order to realize this, God Almighty sent divine revelations in every period of the history; He prevented people from living in accordance with their own desires and minds by sending prophets and books; thus, He guided man to the bright atmosphere of the religion. Man can understand life, know himself and his Lord, realize the reason why he was sent to the world only through the lofty truths of belief that Allah taught through His prophets; which is the same for all religions (though there are some differences of being concise or lengthy).  

However, the divine decrees that were sent varied based on the development, rank and improvement of humanity. Humanity developed in every century and reached a certain level just like a child who grows up and reaches a certain level. Therefore, Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) is the sultan of the prophets; similarly, Islam has brought together the fruits of the religions before it; it expanded the basic judgments and sound principles that were introduced by the prophets before it and presented them to humanity by strengthening them. That is, the Quran is a universal book that introduced sound principles that will be valid until Doomsday.

Law of War in the Present Torah

One of the aspects of Islam that especially the Westerners criticize and want to despise is that it spread by force of the sword. When we have a look at the heavenly religions, it will be seen that the religion that put war in a system and introduced certain principles regarding war like other fields of life is Islam. In Christianity and Judaism, there are not detailed decrees regarding the period before war and during war. When we have a look at the New Testament, we cannot find any serious decrees because the New Testament did not abrogate the Old Testament; it accepted that the decrees in the Old Testament were valid for Christians. In the Torah (Old Testament), there exist harsh penalties for the crimes that are committed but there are no principles that will be observed during war. In the verses regarding war, there is generally a tough attitude and an ultimately harsh and severe war understanding has been introduced. Some of the verses that are present in the Torah as follows:  

"When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies."(Deuteronomy 20:10-14)

"You are my war club, my weapon for battle-- with you I shatter nations, with you I destroy kingdoms, with you I shatter horse and rider, with you I shatter chariot and driver, with you I shatter man and woman, with you I shatter old man and youth, with you I shatter young man and maiden, with you I shatter shepherd and flock, with you I shatter farmer and oxen, with you I shatter governors and officials."(Jeremiah 51:20-23)

"Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys."(1. Samuel 15/3)

"You must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. Destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock. Gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt." (Deuteronomy, 13;15-16)

"Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the western sea. No man will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go."(Deuteronomy 11:24-25)

In fact, when we look at the verses that order children and innocent people to be killed at war, we can doubt whether they really exist in the book that was sent down to Moses. As it is known, the Torah did not remain original; it was distorted. There are some Jewish scholars who think that those kinds of verses are historical.

However, we see that the Quran has the last word regarding war, as it is the case with all fields of life. The importance of peace was understood only after the advent of Islam; Muslims were asked not to go beyond limits (al-Baqara, 2/190) in the battle field – due to some reasons we will explain – and the attitudes toward the enemy and the rules to be followed were determined. Besides, it cannot be thought that a religion that is sovereign over every part of life and that brings rules that are valid until Doomsday will not state anything regarding this field and leave it empty. Humanity has observed many times what disasters a war that is isolated from religious rules brings about; that is, children killed mercilessly, women who were raped, treating prisoners of war inhumanely, etc.

We see that some decrees of Judaism are Moderated in Christianity:

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that." (Luke 6: 27-33)

"Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles."(Matthew, 5; 39-41)

There are some verses regarding war in Christianity, which claims to be a religion of peace. The words of Christ in the tenth chapter of Matthew’s Bible are as follows:

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.’"(Matthew 10; 34-36)

The following is stated in the second chapter of Luke’s Bible:

"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division."(Luke,12; 49-51)

In general, Christians regarded war as a state policy and acted accordingly. The Christians, who were exposed to great torture in the Roman period, did not resist; they put tolerance on the foreground by abandoning fighting. With St Augustine, after the 4th century, this view was replaced by the one that war was necessary in order to help the oppressed and to maintain peace. That is, according to him, war is inevitable in order to establish a just system. The thought of peace, which they accepted as the basic principle, continued to exist only in the first three-five centuries.  

Afterwards, Christian clergymen introduced the concept "just war" in the fifth century and stated that it was necessary to fight when certain conditions occurred. However, after the tenth century, along with the Crusades, they wanted to legitimatize their attacks by naming it "holy war" and encourage it; as a result, they caused the death of millions of people and shed a lot of blood in the world.

They assumed a severe bigotry in wars with the desire to rule the Muslims and to make them accept their religion by force. Thus, wars and shedding blood that could be seen rarely in the history of mankind took place; as a result, Europe became the center of wars and disorder. When Christians saw the hatred of Muslims and Westerners, they abandoned this understanding and stated that wars could be fought in order to defend by giving it a laic appearance.  However, some people stated that wars were necessary acting upon the following verses in the Bible and the verses stating that there would be a dozen disasters before Christ was sent down: "Toward  the end of time, violence and disasters will be common in order to prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus.  Christ will rule people with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery." (Revelation, 2; 26-28).

As it is seen, there are no war rules adopted by Christians. After this brief look at the views of those religions regarding war, let us try to present the law of war introduced by Islam. It will be seen that those who criticize Islam’s understanding of jihad will see that the religion that has much better principles than their religions is Islam.  

In Islam, Peace is essential; War is Exceptional

The people of Jahiliyya, who buried their daughters alive, enslaved people, killed people due to insignificant reasons, understood how honorable a person’s life is and its value only after the advent of Islam.

God Almighty states the following in a verse:  

"We have honored the sons of Adam." (al-Isra, 17/70)

Thus, He attracted attention to the exceptional state of man among other living beings without making any discrimination of language, religion and race; and he has protected basic human rights stating that the life, property and honor of a person is haram even if he is an unbeliever. He also states in various verses that killing a person is an evil act and that according to the principle of absolute justice, killing a person unjustly is equal to killing all human beings. Due to this value given to man, He does not approve a state like war in which many rights of man are violated and attracts attention to the importance of peace. The following is stated in the Quran regarding the issue:

"O ye who believe! Enter into Islam whole-heartedly; and follow not the footsteps of the Evil One; for he is to you an avowed enemy."(al-Baqara, 2/208)

The order of Allah about accepting the proposal of peace made by the enemy is as follows:

"if they withdraw from you but fight you, not and (instead) send you (guarantees of) peace, then Allah hath opened no way for you (to war against them)."(an-Nisa, 4/90).

In fact, those meanings are present in the word Islam. That is, this word reminds us peace and welfare.  

When we observe the way the Messenger of Allah followed throughout his life, we will see that he is a supporter of peace. The fact that he conquered Makkah without fighting, that he signed the peace treaty of Hudaybiyah when all of their hopes were destroyed when he and the Muslims were prevented from circumambulating the Kaaba  and when there were articles that seemed against the Muslims in the treaty, that he signed treaties with Jews, Christians and other groups as soon as he migrated to Madinah and that he avoided any physical fighting when he was in Madinah are only some of the examples showing that this person of high ethics was not a supporter of war.

Islam wants tolerance and peace but it takes into consideration that man, who owns good characteristics as well as bad characteristics like egoism, meanness, destruction, cannot always act justly and that he can violate others’ rights causing the other party use his right of self-defense; therefore, it has brought decrees about war. By doing so, Islam aims to place war on a legitimate and just foundation. In short, it can be said that peace, security and welfare are essential in Islam but war is a secondary state resorted to when necessary. As a matter of fact, when the wars that were fought by the Prophet are examined, it will be seen that almost all of them are wars of self-defense. That is, war is an exceptional state resorted to in order to keep evil away. People will be able to practice Islam fully and the barriers between Allah and people can be eliminated only in an environment where people can live peacefully and securely.   

What Aims Make War Legitimate?

One of the unjust criticisms uttered by the Westerners about Muslims is the claim that Islam spread by force of the sword. However, historical events do not prove it and religious decrees do not allow something like that. Basic rules regarding war are present in the Quran and Sunnah but they were explained in detail in fiqh books. There are special parts in those books called "siyar" to explain the issue. As Sarakhsi states in his book al-Mabsut, according to most of the Islamic scholars, "the cause for the occurrence of war is the attack by the other party against our religion and country." It is possible to deduce it from the following verse of the Quran:

"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors." (al-Baqara, 2/190)

Another verse that is related to the issue, stating that those who do not attack Muslims will be treated well:

"Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just. Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection)." (al-Mumtahina, 60/8-9)

Accordingly, forcing unbelievers to accept Islam cannot be a reason for war. This issue is decreed by the following verse in the Quran:

"Let there be no compulsion in religion." (al-Baqara, 2/256)

Belief and unbelief are properties that are related to the heart; it cannot be known who is a Muslim and who is an unbeliever. If it were a reason for war, everybody, children, young people and old people, women and men would be killed without any discrimination. It would be contrary to the general principles of war and it would mean to ignore the following order of the Quran: "do not transgress".

The aim of the expeditions that the Prophet (pbuh) joined was either to scatter the military units that gathered against Muslims; that is, to fight a defense war or to prevent the powers that were formed against the Muslims. Apart from it, Muslims can intervene if the believers are prevented from practicing their religion, if their freedom of religion is removed; this intervention aims to regain the rights they had and to eliminate the oppression and mischief. The following verse shows us this aim: 

"And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?― men, women, and children, whose cry is: ‘Our Lord! rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from Thee one who will protect; and raise for us from Thee one who will help!’" (an-Nisa, 4/75)

History shows that difference of belief was never the only reason for the wars of the Prophet (pbuh). To start a war with the intention of invasion, imperialism, transgression as the Westerners did is definitely not in accordance with the spirit of Islam. Some criticisms are uttered against Islam because some Quranic verses that are related to the actual state of war are misunderstood. However, this act can only be explained as seeking evidence for the view that is adopted because making a judgment based on one or two verses in isolation without taking the precedent and antecedent verses and general verses and hadiths into consideration will not lead a person to a true conclusion.

Islam Wants the Means to be Legitimate too

When the conditions make it obligatory, to fight can be a fard for the Muslims. And such a struggle will form part of jihad, which is defined as "eliminating the barriers between Allah and people". Not to oppose in a place where the religion, property, lives and honor of people are attacked and not to struggle to protect them cannot be together with belief. However, while struggling, only legitimate means should be used and the boundaries determined by the religion should not be transgressed.  It is quite natural that every nation and society defends their country when it is attacked. Our religion wants both the target and the means to reach this target to be legitimate and has introduced some rules to ensure it. A Muslim who has this consciousness cannot kill people (women, children) without any discrimination by becoming a suicide bomber. Islam does not campaign wars against individuals. A group or organization cannot declare war. It is something that the state decides. As a matter of fact, Hanafi scholars mention jihad as one of the four duties of the state. Those rules need to be observed at the beginning of the war; Islam has also introduced rules to be observed during war, which we will explain below.

Rules to be Observed When the State of War Continues

General rules have been introduced by the verses of the Quran regarding the issue:

"And if ye do catch them out, catch them out no worse than they catch you out: but if ye show patience, that is indeed the best (course) for those who are patient."(an-Nahl, 16/126)

"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors." (al-Baqara, 2/190)

"O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear Allah For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do."(al-Maida, 5/8)

The law of war is expressed in a more detailed way by the applications of the Prophet (pbuh). He gave the following instructions to the commanders he sent to war:  

"Set off in the name of Allah; struggle in the way of Allah; if there is a treaty between you and the people you fight, obey that treaty; do not transgress; do not commit musla (showing disrespect to the dead bodies of the enemy by cutting off their noses and ears); do not kill children, old people, women and the people in temples."(Musnad, 1/300; Abu Dawud, Jihad 82; Sunan al-Kubra, 9/90)

Hazrat Abu Bakr gave the following instruction to Usama, when he sent him to Syria.

"O Usama! Do not betray; do not do wrong; do not plunder; do not commit musla; do not kill children, old people and women; do not destroy and burn date groves. Do not cut down fruitful trees. Do not kill sheep, cattle and camels if you do not intend to eat them. You might see some people living in temples, monasteries on the way; do not touch them and do not intervene in their worship...."(Ibnu'l-Athir, 2/335)

When the Prophet (pbuh) saw a woman killed during a war, he said,

"This woman is not a warrior; why was she killed?"

He prohibited killing women who did not oppose Muslims with weapons even during wars. (Bukhari, Jihad 147)

When we evaluate the principles to be observed during war in general, we see the following:

- People who do not take part in fighting and who do not harm Muslims cannot be killed. Therefore, women, children, slaves that help their owners who are warriors, the blind, religious people who have nothing to do with the world, the insane people, old people, ill people, paralyzed people, etc cannot be killed.

- The parts of the dead bodies of the enemy cannot be cut off; they cannot be tortured.

- Avoiding acting contrarily to the promises and treaties.

- Agricultural products, forests and trees cannot be burned down if it is not necessary for the war.

- Avoiding rape, fornication and illegitimate intercourses.

- The captives of the enemy cannot be killed. They cannot be killed even for retaliation.

- Avoiding killing prisoners of war or the people of the conquered land.

- Avoiding confronting one’s relatives in the battlefield if there is any; trying not to confront him as much as possible.

- Avoiding killing people like farmers, merchants, businessmen who do not take part in war and who are not interested in war.

- Avoiding using captives as human shield.

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