What does Islam say about War?

Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam permits fighting in self-defence, in defence of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock. As Muslims see it, injustice would be triumphant in the world if good men were not prepared to risk their lives in a righteous cause. War is the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law.

The Qur’an says:

Fight in the cause of God against those who fight
you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love
transgressors. (Qur’an 2:190)

If they seek peace, then seek you peace. And trust in
God for He is the One that heareth and knoweth all
things. (Qur’an 8:61)

War, therefore, is the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law. The term Jihad literally means ‘struggle’, and Muslims believe that there are two kinds of Jihad. The other Jihad is the inner struggle which everyone wages against egotistic desires, for the sake of attaining inner peace.

Jihad in the sense of an armed struggle, is always subject to the Qur’anic condition of its being carried out in the path of God. In Islam, fighting for attaining land or wealth is totally unlawful. Therefore, only that war can be termed jihad which takes place solely for God’s cause.

In other words war is waged against injustice and oppression irrespective of man made physical borders. This means that self defence of a country is not the only reason for war, rather war is declared against any injustice that exists in the world. Sayyed Qutb, a famous Muslim scholar eloquently discusses the notion of jihad and self-defence in his book Milestones, he stated:

“If we insist on calling Islamic jihad a defensive movement, then we must change the meaning of the word ‘defence’ and mean by it “defence of man against all those elements which limit his freedom”. These elements take the form of beliefs and concepts as well as of political systems, based on economic, racial, or class distinction.”

Allah states in the Qur’an:

“Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you, but do not be aggressive. (Qur’an 2:190)