Mahad’ad-Dawa Institute (MDI)
Orientation and Facilitation Centre
International Humanitarian Law (القانون الدّولي الانساني)
April 8th, 2020
Weapons of mass destruction and the permissibility of warfare
When I first came to Da Pulay Poray parts, some fifty years ago, people had rifles, but these were rifles that just shot one shot. These rifles were known as ‘owuh dazi’ and ‘pinzuh dazi’, in other words they had magazines which contained five or seven cartridges. Each cartridge had to be loaded separately, so only one shot could be fired at one time.
Then rifles called ‘shal dazi’ were introduced – rifles capable of firing twenty shots in quick succession – the first of what one might call machine guns. Then came the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979 and weaponry very quickly became advanced. The resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan ushered in a Kalashnikov culture. I am no military expert but my understanding is that these automatic rifles would let off, not one shot, but a series of shots. The result was that not just one person would bite the dust: several would.
I cannot put a name and a date on this, it is hearsay, but I can recall hearing at this time of deliberations among the ulema of the Afridi territory, where I was residing at the time, as to whether these new, automatic weapons were permissible from an Islamic point of view. They were indiscriminate. Rather than targeting the one person, whom one might or might not have justification to target, several innocent people were being killed or wounded by these rifle shots. How could this be permissible, particularly considering that in the very first Quranic verse to be revealed allowing qital – fighting in self-defence – one was only allowed to fight against the very person or persons who fought against one:
وَقَٰتِلُواْ فِي سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّذِينَ يُقَٰتِلُونَكُمۡ وَلَا تَعۡتَدُوٓاْۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُعۡتَدِينَ
You may fight – conduct qital – in the path of Allah against those who fight against you, but you are not allowed to exceed the set boundaries. Allah does not look favourably on those who are excessive.
What constitutes ‘exceeding the bounds’ in warfare? There are many ways in which one may exceed the limits of rectitude in warfare, one being targeting women and children:
وفي الصحيحين عن ابن عمر قال : وجدت امرأة في بعض مغازي النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم مقتولة ، فأنكر رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قتل النساء والصبيان
A woman was found slain in the course of one expedition of the Holy Prophet. This was repulsive to the Holy Prophet, who disapproved of the killing of women and children in warfare.
(Bukhari and Muslim)
Clearly, modern weaponry does not discriminate between civilians like women and children on the one hand, and those actively engaged in warfare on the other. This point has been reinforced in a saying of Hasan Basri, a renowned saint and scholar from the generation after the Holy Prophet, on the basis of several Ahadith:
ويدخل في ذلك ارتكاب المناهي كما قاله الحسن البصري من المثلة ، والغلول ، وقتل النساء والصبيان والشيوخ الذين لا رأي لهم ولا قتال فيهم ، والرهبان وأصحاب الصوامع ، وتحريق الأشجار وقتل الحيوان
Included in exceeding the bounds of warfare is mutilation, and appropriating spoils of war, killing women and children, ones who are not part of the war effort. Also one is not allowed to kill monks, and those who are praying in their places of worship. Neither is one allowed to burn trees, or kill animals without justification.
All these things take place as a result of modern weaponry. How, then, can the use of modern weaponry be justified.