Preface to S. K. Malik, "The Quranic Concept of War"
By Allah Bukhsh K. Brohi
Danish translation: Indledning til S. K. Malik: "The Quranic Concept of War"
Source: Vlad Tepes
Published on August 15, 2019

Brig. S.K. Malik has made a valuable contribution to Islamic jurisprudence by presenting a comprehensive survey of the Quranic Approach to the Principles of War and Peace. His has been a scholarly presentation of what may be considered as an "analytic Re-statement" of the Quranic wisdom on the subject of war and peace. Some ruling concepts on that subject, as these are to be discerned in the writings of Western publicists, have been examined and exhibited for what they are worth in the context of Quranic principles. As far as I am aware there are hardly any Books in the forensic literature of Islam that have dealt with the problem from the perspective from which the learned author has attempted to deal with it in his treatise. The annexures exhibit some special features of Holy Prophet's military campaigns and more specifically, the case-studies that have a bearing on the battles of Badr, Ohad and Khandaq tend to show author's deep insight into the way Quran deals with the issues of war and peace. The value of the book has been considerably enhanced by the author having included in the book several maps showing the principal patterns of war strategy employed in the battle of Badar, Ohad and Khandaq. He has also included general bibliography and incorporated all the Quranic references in the light of which he has attempted to present his thesis.

Seen in the Quranic setting, man's role here below is one of 'struggle', or striving and of energetically combating forces of evil or what may be called, "counter-initiatory" forces which are at war with the harmony and the purpose of his life on earth. The most glorious word in the vocabulary of Islam is Jehad, a word which is untranslatable in English but, broadly speaking, means 'striving', 'struggling', 'trying to advance the Divine causes or purposes.'

The man, according to the teaching of Islam, has been sent down as Khalifa-tul Ard, that is, he has been called upon to obey the role of being a successor to earth. The earth has its own potentialities. It, too, has been created for a purpose. But man has been sent down as a responsible being and he is here to secure improvement of earth, of making this brown earth of God green. He is here to introduce order and reform, in the light of Heavenly mandate, what has been deformed by Satanic forces.

All this energetic striving to move forward is also clearly demanded of man at the time when choices have to be made out of the two conflicting courses of conduct which our consciousness presents to us. This world in which we live is the arena where there is a conflict between good and evil, between right and wrong and between Hag and Na-Haq (truth and untruth) and between Halal and Haram (legitimate and forbidden) courses of conduct. When man resolutely chooses that course of conduct which has been declared by the Lord by means of revelation, to be the right course, he fulfils the law; it is the duty of man to opt for goodness and to reject the evil. The fulfilment of this duty is not at all easy, it is also a war—a war with his lower-self. This may be called and has been called Jehad Bin-nafs (striving with oneself).

Similarly, when a believer sees that someone is trying to obstruct another believer from travelling on the road that leads to God, spirit of Jehad requires that such a man who is imposing obstacles should be prevented from doing so and the obstacles placed by him should also be removed, so that mankind may freely be able to negotiate its own path that leads to Heaven. To omit to do this is a culpable omission, if only because by not striving to clear or straighten the path we become passive spectators of the counter-initiatory forces imposing a blockade in the way of those who mean to keep their faith with God.

The ordinary wars which mankind has been fighting for the sake of either revenge or for securing satisfaction of their desire of getting more land or more booty are not allowed in Islam. This is so because here the rule is, all striving must be for the sake of God and for the purposes of up-holding His Majesty, Authority and the sanctity of His Holy Name. The wars in the theory of Islamic law are in the nature of an undertaking to advance God's purposes on earth, and invariably they are defensive in character. It is a duty of a believer to carry forward the Message of God and to bring it to the notice of his fellow-men in handsome ways. But if someone attempts to obstruct him from doing so he is entitled, as a measure of defence, to retaliate. The problem of war in Islam, therefore, strictly speaking, is controlled by one master desire, namely, of pleasing the Lord and of defending the lawful interests of those who, having believed in Him, are not being allowed to carry on the obligations imposed on them by their religion.

So far as the Holy Quran is concerned, there are numerous verses contained in it which highlight this concept of Jehad, and in one of the verses of the Holy Quran it has been clearly stated: "To those who strive unto us (Jahidu-fina) we always show them the way" (Chap: 29 V. 69). All this clearly means that Jehad also is a means of discovering the truth, of finding out what man should do in order to fulfil the law. Even search for knowledge is an aspect of Jehad and has been ranked as a Jehad-e-Akbar, that is to say, it is regarded as a greater struggle as contra-distinguished from Jehad Bil-Saif (striving with sword) which is described as a Jehad-e-Asghar, that is, Jehad on the minor scale.

It would thus appear that in Islam the personal will of the conqueror, his lust for power, his desire to have personal fame are totally irrelevant. When he fights in the name of Allah he does so to uphold His law and the honour of His Name and for the defence of legitimate interests of the believers. It is only in a defined set of circumstances that war is permitted. As any one can see, this is a highly controlled affair; indeed, it is totally regulated by law.

The Islamic law regulates declaration of war as also the limitations imposed on its conduct; upon examination, it would appear that Islamic Law has been designed to promote the Ideal of Justice. In Chapter II verse 190 we have reference to the duty of the Muslims to "fight in the cause of God those who fight you and be not aggressors. God loveth not those who are aggressors.” This clearly shows that there is a direction to the believers to fight only those who fight them. The believer thus is not allowed to be the aggressor, since "God does not love those who are aggressors". Of course, the term used, 'you', in the context would seem to be a pointer towards the whole of the body of believers and it is in this sense that war in Islam is total, that is, everybody who is a believer is to contribute his share towards the waging of war.

The Muslims when they are engaged in fighting are not to transgress the limits within which war is allowed to be waged and, in principle, they are not to be cruel or become revengeful. The general command to be just and fair is discernable from Chapter V. Verse 8:

"Oh, ye who believe
stand out firmly for God as witnesses
To fair dealings,
And let not the hatred of other people to you
make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.
Be just, that is next to piety. And fear God.
Surely, Allah is aware of what you do."

Then there is that famous directive issued by the first Caliph of Islam, Hazrat Abu Bakr which seems to reflect the spirit of moderation and humanitarian approach of the law of Islam. Said he,

"Remember that you are always under the gaze of God and on the eve of your death; that you will have to reckon on the Last Day: ....... When you fight for the glory of God behave like men, without turning your back, but let not the blood of women or that of children or the aged tarnish your victory. Do not destroy palm trees; do not burn dwellings or wheat fields; never cut down fruit trees; only kill cattle when you need it for food. When you agree upon a treaty take care to respect its clauses. As your advance progresses, you will meet religious men who live in monasteries and who serve God in prayer: leave them alone, do not kill them or destroy their monasteries."

There are various traditions of the Prophet which are tantamount to making similar declarations (see particularly Mohammad Hamidullah's Muslim Conduct of State, Lahore 1968, page 204). It would be seen that these declarations that have a bearing upon the humanisation of the ethos of the combatants in war were uttered at a time when barbarian kings drove their swords into the ground of the battle-field calling for massacre of all enemies taller than the hilt. But in Islam war is waged to establish supremacy of the Lord only when every other argument has failed to convince those who reject His Will and work against the very purpose of the creation of mankind.

Indeed, a person who goes to holy war is virtually offering testimony regarding the paramount and supreme authority of God's law by giving up the most precious thing he has, namely, his life. This seems to be in response to the norm laid down in the Holy Quran for those who wish to approach righteousness and win favour with their Lord. Says the Quran: "You cannot approach righteousness until you give up that which you love the most." Indeed the vary word "Shaheed" which is roughly taken to mean as a martyr, literally signifies the idea that he has borne testimony as a witness that God's law is supreme and any one who attempts to obstruct the progress of those who are taking their path to God will be dealt with sternly - for that is the only way in which to restore and to rehabilitate the authority of God on Earth. Similarly, in the Quran in Chapter IV Verse, 75, we are admonished that we must rescue those who are being oppressed by their tyrannical rulers. The actual text is as follows:

"And why should ye not fight
In the cause of God
And all those who
Being weak are ill-treated
(And Oppressed)
From amongst men, women and children
Whose cry is "Oh, Lord.
Rescue us from this land
Whose rulers are oppressors
And raise for us from thee
One who will protect,
One who will help."

Broadly speaking the war aims of any Muslim armed force engaged in fighting have also been stated in Sura Mohammad verses I and 4:

"Those who disbelieve and hinder (men) from the path of God, their deeds will the Lord render astray (from their mark) ......... Therefore, when you meet the unbelievers smite their necks; at length, when you have thoroughly subdued them build a barrier against them; thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom, until war lays down its burden."

Islam views the world as though it were bipolarised in two opposing camps-Darus-Salm facing Darul-Harb - the first one is submissive to the Lord in co - operating with God's purpose to establish peace, order and such other preconditions of human development, but the second one, on the other hand, is engaged in perpetuating defiance of the same Lord. Such a state of affairs which engages any one in rebellion against God's will is termed as "Fitna” - which word literally means test or trial. The term "Fitna" refers us to misconduct on the part of a man who establishes his own norms and expects obedience from others. thereby usurping God's authority - who alone is sovereign. In Sura Infa'al Chapter 8 - Verse 39, it is said "And fight on until there remains no more tumult or oppression and they remain submissive only to God." To the same effect are the words used in Sura Toba Verse 29, "Fight those who believe not in the Lord, nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by lord and His Apostle nor acknowledge the religion of truth (even if they are) of the people of the book, until they pay Jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued."

Many Western Scholars have pointed their accusing fingers at some of the above verses in the Quran to be able to contend that the world of Islam is in a state of perpetual struggle against the non-Muslims. As to them it is a sufficient answer to make if one were to point out, that the defiance of God's authority by one who is His slave exposes that slave to the risk of being held guilty of treason and such a one, in the perspective of Islamic law is indeed to be treated as a sort of that cancerous growth on that organism of humanity, which has been created "Kanafsin Wahidatin" that is, like one, single, indivisible self. It thus becomes necessary to remove the cancerous malformation even if it be by surgical means (if it would not respond to other treatment), in order to save the rest of Humanity.

In Islam, the believer is admonished to invite non-believers to the fold of Islam by employing the power of his persuasion and by using beautiful methods in extending the invitation to them to accept Islam. The first duty in Islam is to extend Dawa, and the Prophet of Islam himself has been described by the Quran as ‘Inviter to God' - one sent by God to call under His command people to His ways. Thus every believer, to begin with has to reflect this virtue by inviting people in handsome ways' particularly those who are seen by him as disrupting public order by creating mischief in the land. They are invited to shun their false ways and to return to the true path.

It is only after they refuse this 'Dawa' and confront the world of Islam by raising huge armies and equipping them with weapons to fight Muslims that a situation arises in which, the invitation to accept Gods law having been declined, the believers have no option but in sheer self-defence to wage a war against those who are threatening aggression—since that is the ultimate court of appeal in which the issue between right and wrong can be finally decided. The justification for waging war in defence of what is right is that, he who is in the right, if he goes to war with the purest of intentions, will be assisted by the Lord to prevail against those who having defied God's law have virtually created chaos in the land—for God doth not love the mischief-makers.

It is true that in modern society the maintenance of international order and peace in the international community of mankind proceeds upon the premises of sovereign equality of 'nation-states' whose number at present is 151. And this number is reached by taking notice of the territorial aspect of the structure of a modern nation-state. The idea of Ummah of Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam, is incapable of being realised within the frame-work of territorial states much less made an enduring basis of viewing the world as having been polarised between the world of Islam and the world of war.

Islam, in my understanding, does not subscribe to the concept of the territorial state and it would be recalled that even Iqbal in his lectures on "The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam" went so far as to suggest that, Muslim states, to begin with, he treated as territorial states and that too only as an interim measure since these are later on to be incorporated into commonwealth of Muslim states. Each one of these states has first to acquire strength and stability before it is able to prepare the ground on which a unified state of Islam can appear on the historical scene.

In the context of the present considerations, there are three terms that are often used indiscriminately and have caused greatest confusion in contemporary Islamic thought which require clarification: these are (1) Ummah; (2) Quome; and 3) Millat. This is not the place at which any extended discourse is called for to elaborate the precise meanings that could be accorded to these terms. But suffice it to say that each one of these terms is a manifestation of the application of the principle of synthesis or integration.

Quome has something to do with its root verb, Quam Yaqume, which means to stand. This necessarily signifies a group of people who constitute themselves as a nation by appeal to the principle of geographical contiguity—people who have a territorial nexus with some defined portion of the land.

The word 'Millat' which is primarily associated with Millat-e-lbrahimi is more racial on its scope, in the sense that, the principle of synthesis here is the blood or the tie of consanguinity, that is to say, those who have same quality of blood flowing in their veins, can and do form a nation. For instance, the Jews who call themselves as "Bani Israel" are a nation on that account. Even if they are wandering in the wilderness and have no fixed habitat, they consider themselves a nation if only because they are able to trace their descent from a common ancestor.

The term Ummah is associated with Umma of the Prophet of Islam and is linked with the root word, the mother. Here the mother-principle is to be spelled out from that famous verse of the Holy Quran which says "Ma kana Mohammadan Aba Ahadin Min Rajali Kum wala Kin Rasul Lullah wa Khatmunibiyeen" which means "Mohammad is not father of any one man but he is a Messenger of God (One sent down by Him) and he is the seal of the Prophets."

If Mohammad is not the father of any one man, no believer can inherit anything from him except the Message he brought and the model of exemplary conduct that he has left behind. He had been sent down by God having been raised from the Ummiyeens to recite his verses to them, to purify them, to teach them their destiny and make them wise (See Surah Jumma Vs. 2) All that he has done in relation to these duties imposed on him by God is the virsa (that is, 'inheritance') of the believers as also the Message contained in the 'Umul-Kitab' he has brought and since he has set the seal of finality upon the whole process of Prophecy which had been going on since times immemorial, he becomes, for all time to come, the spiritual guide of the whole of mankind and that is why he has been elsewhere in the Quran called Rafatilinass—as any one can see, the Umma participates in this heritage by a set pattern of thought, belief, and practice and by reason of this spiritual participation in the enterprise of universal history it supplies the spiritual principle of integration of mankind a principle which is supra-national, supra-racial, supra-linguistic and supra-territorial.

Thus man is viewed as wayfarer on his way to God and all those who join him in this march, (Fi Deenillah Afwaja) draw their nourishment from that spiritual reservoir of the milk of humanity of the kind which only an spiritual mother is capable of supplying to her infant children. It is important for the Mussalmans to realise how distant they are as yet from the Muslim ideal and unless they cling to the rope of God and put an end to their internal schism they will not be able to view the world of Islam as one Ummah. Their role on earth is to communicate the same Message of God and his practice (Sunnah) which they have inherited from their Prophet and if there be any one who stifles their efforts and obstructs them from communicating the Message he will be viewed as constituting membership of Darul-harb and liable to be dealt with as such. Since the motto of a believer is "La Ikraha Fiddin", war is not the way to secure conversions to Islam. This purpose has specially been directed to be achieved by means of extending "Dawa', and using valid arguments and presenting the case in beautiful ways to those who do not believe.

The law of war and peace in Islam is as old as the Quran itself. Indeed, the term used by Muslim Jurists for international law is Sayyar which is a plural of Seerat shows that it is the conduct of the state in relation to another state which is what international law regulates. In Islamic international law this conduct is, strictly speaking, regulated between Muslims and non-Muslims, there being, viewed from Islamic perspective, no other nations. The modern international law although it was very vitally influenced by Islam traverses a different ground altogether. It is a law which regulates conducts of various nations’ interests on the basis of sovereign equality of all nations. In Islam, of course, no nation is sovereign since God alone is the only sovereign in Whom all authority rests.

17. Before I conclude this brief survey of the special features and characteristics of the law of Islam touching and concerning the problems of war and peace I would like to refer to a recent article entitled "Conduct of Hostilities and the Protection of the Victims of Armed Conflicts in Islam" by Marcel A. Boisard. The writer is the Co-Director of Diplomacy Training Programme, in Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva. He has enumerated in a summary form the basic features reflected in legal rules of lofty humanitarian qualities as follows:

  1. "armed hostilities oppose systems, not people, who therefore are to be spared insofar as military necessities stricto sensu permit;

  2. strictly forbidden are excesses of any kind: inflicting cruel and useless suffering upon the enemy, using treacherous means and weapons of mass and indiscriminate destruction;

  3. the illegality of those reprisals which could constitute a violation of basic humanitarian principles;

  4. the distinction between combatants and non-combatants, respect for those who are no longer engaged in battle, the dead, the wounded, the prisoners and neutralisation of medical personnel and supplies;

  5. affirmation of individual responsibility - the basic axiom, of Muslim law in general - implying the non-permissibility of collective punishment and the taking of hostages;

  6. decent treatment of prisoners; guarantees that their lives will be spared and that they will be released as soon as possible;

  7. collaboration with the enemy on all humanitarian projects;

  8. finally, it can be noted at this stage that the abovementioned rules are binding in the case of "internal" conflicts as well. Rebels automatically enjoy a de jure recognition and are not held responsible for deaths and destruction caused by their acts of war."

The learned author after having summed up the above mentioned rules proceeds to offer his appreciation of the excellence and comprehensiveness of the rules he discerns in the scheme of Islamic International Law: in his words:

"This enumeration demonstrates that the fundamental postulates of the Muslim "law of war" are particularly pertinent, repeating and, sometimes, in their substance, going beyond the norms decreed by the rules of the Hague and the Geneva Conventions. We have described them in their raw state and in their positive traditional formulation, and have thus perhaps not emphasized an essential factor in the economy of the system: the absolute identity of law and religion. Because of his responsibility as an individual, the Muslim violating rules might expose himself, perhaps to worldly, and certainly to divine, punishments. Within the double perspective of eternity and relativity, we have had to concentrate our attention on the latter, though it is less important in the eyes of the believer. Legal scholars, searching for the guiding principles of their speculation in and from the sources of the faith and the example of the Prophet, established, as early as the 2nd/8th and 3rd/9th centuries, imperative norms which regulated internal and international conflicts. It is worth recalling them for they could be inspirational, not only to certain political leaders in the contemporary Muslim world, but also to participants in various diplomatic conferences, on arms limitation, on protection of human rights in times of violence, and on the reaffirmation of the international humanitarian law of armed conflicts. Indeed, the Muslims believe these rules to be divine and even the most sceptical outside observers must. recognise that they are. at the very least, eternal."

I have no doubt, the present book will stimulate interest in the Islamic law of War, particularly the special emphasis that the religion of Islam places upon regulation of hostilities by law. Brig. Malik has laboured to the end that the concept of war in Islam be better understood and for this we owe a deep debt of gratitude to him. May God bless his work and advance him, (Ameen).

76 Moskmabad, Karachi.