Islam And War
One of the most misunderstood terms in Islam is Jihad. Unfortunately the word ‘jihad’ has been misused and as a result many people associate it with war and terrorism. Linguistically Jihad means striving, whether for good or for evil. Its general meaning signifies resisting and opposing the self, oppression, persecution or standing up to a dictator.
Jihad can also denote military effort. This is seen as a last attempt to end the violation of rights of others or any act of aggression. Even during times of war Muslims are commanded to uphold morality. Acts of torture are strictly forbidden. Hurting civilians, women, children and the elderly during times of war are also strictly forbidden.
The Messenger of God said:
“Fight in the name of God, and for the cause of God… do not break treaties, do not mutilate, and do not kill young children.” (Muslim)
Islam also prohibits the destroying or desecrating of places of worship, killing or hurting of animals and destroying trees.
At the time of fighting between Muslims and non-Muslims, Abu Bakr, the first Caliph after the Prophet, would advise his commanders saying:
“I command you ten things. Learn them by heart: Don’t betray, defraud (by stealing the spoils of war), or break treaties. Don’t mutilate, kill women, young children, or the elderly. Do not uproot or burn palm trees. Do not cut down fruitful trees, slaughter sheep, cows or camels except for eating. You will come across people secluded in monasteries, so leave them and what they are devoted to.” (Tabari, Vol.3)
The Prophet told his companions that the greatest jihad (struggle) is the jihad against the ego.