Amidst worldwide fanatical calls to recruit minds for particular deceitful ideologies, it is a solemn duty to present a moderate approach as a step to address the global suffering from extremism in the name of religion. One of the most controversial allegations that have been propagated by fanatics is the permissibility of shedding the other’s blood. However, religions order their faithful followers to save human lives. Let’s take stock and implicitly refute their allegations with evidence.
One of the Islamic core teachings is the sanctity of blood. Non-Muslims/different others’ blood is haram (inviolable), be they Christians/Jews, refugees, or otherwise; their blood must be spared as Allah says, “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion” (Qur’an, 109:2). Further, Islam orders Muslims to remain righteous and fair towards non-Muslims. Allah says, “Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly” (Qur’an, 60: 8). In this regard, a new report published in 2023 by the Ayaan Institute, a London-based think tank, entitled “Aiding the Ummah: Analyzing the Muslim Humanitarian Charity Sector in the UK,” has revealed that British Muslims donate at least £1 billion a year to charity, with the projected amount reaching £4 billion by 2051.
If we contemplate the goals of fighting in the light of the fact that Islam is a religion that calls for peace and co-existence, we find out that Islam legislates jihad for just two reasons: defending the state from enemies and protecting religious freedom. Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) never waged a war in his own right. Rather, all his battles were fought back as a means to resist/deter the aggressors. The only purpose of jihad, which extremist groups want to tamper with, is to defend one’s self, beliefs, and homeland. Moreover, Allah says, “And fight them until there is no fitnah and the din [faithfulness] is for Allah….” (Qur’an, 2:193). In this context, the word “fitnah” means terrorism and radicalization, which indicates combating terrorists and aggressors until their evil ceases to exist in society so that people can practice their religious rituals peacefully. This verse, revealed over 1400 years ago, is an order from Allah to all Muslims to be on the frontlines to combat all forms of terrorism and oppression.
On the other hand, some individuals misunderstand at-Tawbah Chapter, the surah tackling combat/military action extensively, where Allah says, “So when the scared months have passed, then kill the mushrikin wherever you find them and take them, surround them, and wait for them at every outpost”. In the original text in Arabic, Allah says qital, which in English means combat, not qatl, meaning to kill. There is a great difference between the two in meaning and usage. The verb kill means to attack an innocent person and put an end to their life, but the accurate verb is to combat, which means to be involved in a battle to defend yourself. This is exactly the verse; it relates to a specific situation where a peace treaty was violated. The period of four months is to re-negotiate, but if this period is over, Muslims should fight non-Muslim attackers to defend themselves. It is a mere sense of self-defense.
Moreover, it is not permissible in Islam to fight anyone, except to repel aggressors and terrorists who attack the innocent. The real Islamic jihad is a defensive war, rather than an offensive one. Allah says, “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed, Allah does not like transgressors” (Qur’an, 2: 190). In this regard, it is narrated that Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) addressed Ali ibn Abi-Talib, saying, “Go to them patiently and calmly till you enter the land. Then, invite them to Islam, and inform them what is enjoined upon them, for, by Allah, if Allah gives guidance to somebody through you, it is better for you than possessing incalculable worldly fortunes.”(Sahih al-Bukhari).
Some people misunderstood the meaning of the Prophet’s saying, “I have been ordered to fight mankind until they say that there is no god except Allah and that I am the messenger of Allah… [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. Simply put, this hadith has a special time context, which has nothing to do with killing at all. Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Prof. Ahmad At-Tayeb explained that the Arabic word “An-Nas” is a plural noun which definite article indicates that the case is specialized for certain people and at a particular time. The hadith refers to Meccan Mushrkin (pagans) who tortured and killed Muslims and forced them to flee away from Mecca. It is a specific time-limited permission from the Almighty to the Prophet to defend Islam and its vulnerable followers at that time. Meanwhile, Muslims entered Mecca and the Prophet (PBUH) said, “O people of Quraysh, what do you think that I am doing to you?” “Well, a generous brother you are, and a generous nephew you have always been”, they replied. “Go, you are free”, he mercifully said.
After that glance at Islamic teachings towards saving human lives, it is noteworthy that the Quran and Sunnah are full of texts that establish the concept of peace and guarantee human rights, which terrorist groups and anti-religious movements twist and misinterpret to make their own military and economic benefits. The reality is that such groups have nothing to do with Islam in any way, so it is not reasonable to judge a whole religion based on the acts of a few of the so-called followers. Allah says, “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (Qur’an, 2:256). That said, it is worth quoting the Prophet’s recommendation as to battles; he said, “Do not mutilate, do not act treacherously, do not steal from the spoils of war, and do not kill children” (Sunan Ibn Majah).