Ch 4: Rights of enemy soldiers and non-combatants at war

Ch 4: Rights of enemy soldiers

and non-combatants at war


The actual codification of the ‘international law’ in war began in the middle of the nineteenth century.

  1. All forms of barbarity
  2. and savagery were perpetrated in war,
  3. and the rights of those at war were-
  • not even recognized,
  • let alone respected, before that period.

Law of War and Peace in Islam:

The rules which have been framed by Islam to make war civilized and humane, are in the nature of law, because_

  1. they are the injunctions of God
  2. and His Prophet
  3. which are followed by Muslims in all circumstances,
  4. irrespective of the behaviour of the enemy. 

 The Rights of the Non-Combatants:

Islam has first drawn a clear line of distinction between

  1. the combatants
  2. and the non-combatants of the enemy country.
  3. As far as the non-combatant population is concerned such as
  • women,

  • children,

  • the old

  • and the infirm, etc.,

the instructions of the Prophet are as follows:

“Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman” (Abu Dawud).

“Do not kill the monks in monasteries” or “Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship” (Musnad of Ibn Hanbal).

The Rights of the Combatants:

1. Torture with Fire

In the hadith there is a saying of the Prophet that: “Punishment by fire does not behove anyone except the Master of the Fire” (Abu Dawud). No one should be burnt alive.

2. Protection of the Wounded

“Do not attack a wounded person”-thus said the Prophet. This means that_

  • the wounded soldiers who are not fit to fight,

  • nor actually fighting,

  • ]should not be attacked.

3. The Prisoner of War Should not be Slain

No prisoner should be put to the sword”, a very clear and unequivocal instruction given by the Prophet (S).

4. No one Should be Tied to be Killed

“The Prophet has prohibited the killing of anyone_

  •  who is tied

  • or is in captivity.”

5. No Looting and Destruction in the Enemy’s Country

Muslims have also been instructed by the Prophet that_

  1. if they should enter the enemy’s territory,

  2. they should not indulge in_

  • pillage

  • or plunder

  • nor destroy the residential areas,

  • nor touch the property of anyone

  • except those who are fighting with them.

It has been narrated in the hadith: “The Prophet has prohibited the believers from loot and plunder” (al-Bukhari; Abu Dawud). His injunction is:

“The loot is no more lawful than the carrion” (Abu Dawud).

Abu Bakr al-Siddiq used to instruct the soldiers while sending them to war,

“Do not destroy_

  1. the villages
  2. and towns,
  3. do not spoil the cultivated fields
  4. and gardens,
  5. and do not slaughter the cattle.”

6. Sanctity of Property

The Muslims have also been prohibited from_

  • taking anything,

  • without paying for it,

from the general public of a conquered country.

If in a war the Muslim army_

  • occupies an area of the enemy country,

  • and is encamped there,

it does not have the right to use the things belonging to the people without their consent.

7. Sanctity of a Dead Body

Islam has categorically prohibited its followers from_

  • disgracing
  • or mutilating the corpses

of their enemies as was practised in Arabia before the advent of Islam.

It has been said in the hadith:

“The Prophet has prohibited us from mutilating the corpses of the enemies”

(al- Bukhari; AbC Dawud).

8. Return of Corpses of the Enemy

In the Battle of Ahzab_

  • a very renowned
  • and redoubtable warrior of the enemy was killed
  • and his body fell down in the trench which the Muslims had dug for the defence of Medina.
  1. The unbelievers presented ten thousand dinars to the Prophet
  2. and requested that the dead body of their fallen warrior may be handed over to them.

The Prophet replied_
“I do not sell dead bodies. You can take away the corpse of your fallen comrade.”

9. Prohibition of Breach of Treaties

Islam has strictly prohibited treachery.

One of the instructions that the Prophet used to give to the Muslim warriors while sending them to the battlefront was:

“Do not be guilty of breach of faith.”

This order has been repeated_

  • in the Holy Quran
  • and the hadith again and again,
  1. that if the enemy acts treacherously let him do so,
  2. you should never go back on your promise.
  3. The Prophet declared that:
  4. “We cannot break the agreement”.

10. Rules About Declaration of War

It has been laid down in the Holy Quran: Muslims have been prohibited from_

  1. opening hostilities against their enemies
  2. without properly declaring war against them,
  3. unless of course, the adversary has already started aggression against them.

Otherwise the Quran has clearly given the injunction to Muslims that_

  1. they should intimate to their enemies that no treaty exists between them,
  2. and they are at war with them.
This is a brief sketch of those rights which fourteen hundred years ago Islam gave to man, to those who were at war with each other and to the citizens of its state.
Acknowledgment: This article was down-loaded from_, make a gist and reformatted.

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