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Chapter 18: Struggling for God: Jihad


Fighting ethically
The teachings of Abu Bakr, the first Caliph
of Islam and close companion of Prophet
Muhammad, clarify the ethics of armed strug-
gle. He taught his companions the following
ethics:
Do not commit treachery or deviate fromthe
right path: This teaching calls believers not
to abandon the Muslim army during conflict,
to fight in battle with a God-conscious mind,
and to avoid becoming the oppressor in the
fighting against oppression.
Do not mutilate dead bodies: This teaching
seeks to end oppression and bring freedom,
not to dishonor those who have died and
those who are alive.
Do not kill women, children, or aged men:
Scholars also include non-combatant men
in this teaching.
Do not harm fruit-bearing trees: Jihad
seeks to end oppression. As such, Muslims
must protect the environment and food
stocks so that inhabitants of the land do not
suffer hunger or disease.
Do not steal the enemys food: Stealing is
prohibited as an unethical act, and war
does not legitimize stealing.
Protect rabbis, priests, and monks: Muslims
must protect religious people and institu-
tions because Qital seeks to establish the
freedom of worship.
Scholars of Islamic law have identified other war
ethics from the practice of Prophet Muhammad
and early generations of pious Muslim leaders:
Do not wage wars of hostilities: Muslims
cant start wars unless they have justifica-
tion of self-defense, stopping of oppression,
or freedom of religion.
Only a state leader can declare war:
Islamic scholars agree that offensive armed
struggle cant take place unless the leader
of an Islamic state officially declares war.
Surprise attacks and unofficial wars are
completely forbidden. However, defensive
armed struggle to resist oppression and
tyranny is generally permitted even without
a legitimate state leader.
Invite enemies to Islam: Before any hostil-
ity takes place, the Islamic state must invite
its enemies to Islam. If they accept, then all
hostilities must end, and former enemies
become brothers in faith. According to sev-
eral Islamic jurists, the state must also issue
this invitation throughout the war in an effort
to end hostilities.
Struggle only for good purposes: Qital may
only occur to serve the public good. Any
other type of war, such as one fought to
acquire resources, is completely forbidden.
Resources can only be acquired through
trade that is by mutual goodwill that ben-
efits public good of both the seller and the
buyer. Killing and destruction for resources
is not an ethical act, even if it may benefit
some in the short term (4:2930).
Do not wage war to seize land or expand
territory: Muslims are allowed to fight for just
reasons, but simply conquering land with-
out establishing justice is impermissible.
Do not poison wells or food stocks: Many
contemporary scholars of Islamic law
believe that this rule also forbids the use of
modern warfare with chemical and biolog-
ical weapons.
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