Ethics of War According to Islam

By: Imaam Yakhsyallah Mansur

Muslims need to pay attention to the ethics that must be observed, even in times of war, because Islam has regulated this.

Hopefully, with the brief explanation in this Friday sermon, Muslims will gain enlightenment regarding the principles and ethics of war in Islam.

Allah Subhanahu wata’ala says in the Quran, Surah Al-Hajj [22], verses 39 and 40:

أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَٰتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُوا۟ ۚ وَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ نَصْرِهِمْ لَقَدِيرٌ [٣٩] ٱلَّذِينَ أُخْرِجُوا۟ مِن دِيَٰرِهِم بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ إِلَّآ أَن يَقُولُوا۟ رَبُّنَا ٱللَّهُ ۗ وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ ٱللّٰهِ ٱلنَّاسَ بَعْضَهُم بِبَعْضٍ لَّهُدِّمَتْ صَوَٰمِعُ وَبِيَعٌ وَصَلَوَٰتٌ وَمَسَٰجِدُ يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا ٱسْمُ ٱللّٰهِ كَثِيرًا  ۗ  وَلَيَنصُرَنَّ ٱللّٰهُ مَن يَنصُرُهُۥٓ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللّٰهَ لَقَوِىٌّ عَزِيزٌ [٤٠] (الحج [٢٢]: ٣٩ــ٤٠)

“Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory. [39] [They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, ‘Our Lord is Allah.’ And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” [40] (Surah Al-Hajj [22]: 39-40)

Imam Ibn Kathir (may Allah have mercy on him) mentioned in his exegesis that fundamentally, war is not a command but merely permission granted to those who have been wronged to defend themselves and respond to injustice and oppression.

In addition to being wronged, Muslims are permitted to engage in war when they are attacked first, their property is seized, they are expelled from their homeland, and prevented from practicing their religious obligations.

The permission to fight for Muslims, as stated in the above verses, is to defend themselves, protect places of worship, and establish peace, security, and tranquility in society.

If Muslims engage in war under these conditions, Allah will surely grant them assistance and victory, for such is easy for Allah.

The purpose of war in Islam is not merely to defend the interests of Muslims but more importantly, to establish order and peace in the world, to defend oppressed people, uphold justice for all humanity, and spread mercy to all beings.

In Islamic law, there are ethics that must be upheld during warfare. There are rules that must be adhered to, including not violating treaties and agreements.

In Islam, it is forbidden to kill civilians, such as monks, priests, the elderly, women, children, and unarmed individuals.

In military missions, Muslim fighters are prohibited from indiscriminately cutting down trees, polluting the environment, damaging or destroying public facilities, and places of worship such as monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques.

If the enemy surrenders, Muslims are not allowed to kill them. Prisoners of war must be treated humanely, without torture or physical harm.

In a hadith narrated by Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

اِنْطَلِقُوْا بِسْمِ اللهِ، وَبِاللّٰه ِ، وَعَلَى مِلَّةِ رَسُول الله لاَ تَقْتُلُوْا شَيْخًا فَانِيًا ، وَلاَ طِفْلاً ، وَلاَ صَغِيرًا ، وَلاَ امْرَأَةً ، وَلاَ تَغْلُوا ، وَضَمُّوا غَنًائِمَكُمْ وَأَصْلِحُوا ، وَأَحْسِنُوا إِنَّ اللهَ يُحِبُّ اْلمُحْسِنِيْنَ (رواه ابو داود)

“Set out in the name of Allah, and by Allah, and upon the religion of the Messenger of Allah. Do not kill the elderly, children, or women. Do not commit treachery, nor mutilate. Collect your spoils, do right and act well, for indeed Allah loves those who act well.” (Abu Dawud)

This aligns with International Humanitarian Law, which sets strict limits on actions that must not be violated during warfare, such as prohibiting attacks on civilians, paramedics, schools, places of worship, hospitals, ambulances, and vehicles carrying medical supplies, and humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, in various media reports, during their military aggression, Zionist Israel indiscriminately attacked Gaza residents. They targeted civilian settlements, schools, hospitals, churches, mosques, and all public facilities were not spared from their violence. Now, nearly all buildings in Gaza have been devastated by their missiles and bombs.

Zionist Israel no longer heeds calls for peace from the international community, violating various agreements and ignoring UN resolutions. Calls for peace talks and ceasefires are disregarded.

Therefore, what greater crime can there be than what they have already committed? It is fitting and very appropriate for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to describe Zionist Israel’s actions as genocide in Gaza.

Islam teaches its followers to peacefully coexist with other communities, in harmony, despite differences in beliefs, religions, races, and nationalities.

This was practiced by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his noble companions in Medina. In Medina, alongside Muslims, there were Jewish communities and non-Muslim tribes who had not embraced Islam. They agreed to a covenant to live together, cooperate, based on principles of tolerance and harmony.

If there were disturbances or threats from external parties, the people of Medina would collaborate, support each other to secure the city. This agreement is known as the Constitution of Medina (Shahifah Al-Madinah).

When facing conflict, as long as possible, Islam teaches its followers to prioritize dialogue, negotiation, consultation, and consensus, while upholding principles of peace, equality, and respect for human values.

Allah Subhanahu wata’ala and His Messenger greatly praise those who achieve peace. Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

أَلَا أُخْبِرُكُمْ بِأَفْضَلَ مِنْ دَرَجَةِ الصَّلَاةِ، وَالصِّيَامِ، وَالصَّدَقَةِ؟ ” قَالُوا: بَلَى. قَالَ: ” إِصْلَاحُ ذَاتِ الْبَيْنِ. وَفَسَادُ ذَاتِ الْبَيْنِ هِيَ الْحَالِقَةُ (رواه ابوداود)

“Shall I not inform you of something more virtuous in degree than fasting, prayer, and charity?” The companions replied, “Certainly, O Messenger of Allah.” He said: “Reconciling people in discord. Verily, causing discord among people is the shaver (destroyer) of deeds.” (Abu Dawud)

Therefore, a true Muslim should actively promote peace, mediate conflicts, provide solutions as a problem solver in conflicts, and be a unifying force among communities.

By establishing the principles of Al-Jama’ah (community solidarity), peace, tranquility, and harmony in societal and national life can be realized.

Through unity, God willing, we can all contribute to the liberation of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Palestine. Ameen, O Lord of the Worlds. (T/RE1/P2)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)