Killing of Non-Combatants

The Quran says very clearly “And do not kill any one whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause, and whoever is slain unjustly, We have indeed given to his heir authority, so let him not exceed the just limits in slaying; surely he is aided (Quran 17:33).” In other words, killing is permitted only when it is justified, such as in a war to end persecution, or to seek retribution as long as it does not exceed the limits prescribed by God. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) also forbade the killing of women and children (Bukhari V. 4, Book 52, 257 & 258). And these are the instructions that were given to Muslim armies by Caliph Abu Bakr who succeeded Prophet Muhammad: “When you gain victory over your enemies do not kill their children, old people nor women. Do not go even closer to their date palms nor burn the harvest nor cut the trees bearing fruits. Do not break the promise once you have made it and do not break the terms of a treaty once you have entered into it. You will find some people in the monasteries, monks engaged in the worship of God, leave them alone with what they are pleased with. Do not destroy their monasteries and do not kill them.” A detailed treatise on this subject was also written by Abul Hasan al-Mawardi in the 11th century in his book “al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah” (The Laws of Islamic Governance). According to him, “It is not permitted to kill women and children in battle, nor elsewhere, as long as they are not fighting because of the prohibition of the Messenger of Allah, may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, against killing them. The Prophet, may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, forbade the killing of those employed as servants and mamlouks, that is young slaves. If women and children fight, then they are fought and killed, but only face to face, not from behind while fleeing. If they use their women and children as shields in battle, then one must avoid killing them and aim only at killing the men; if, however, it is impossible to kill them except by killing the women and children, then it is permitted. If they are shielding themselves with Muslim captives, and it is not possible to kill them except by killing these captives, it is not permitted to kill them. If desisting them from attacking them leads to the Muslims being encircled, then the latter must attempt to free themselves as best they can, but while taking care not to kill any Muslim deliberately by their hands. If one is killed, then the killer must pay blood money and make expiation if he knew that he was a Muslim; he becomes liable for expiation alone if he did not know.” It is noteworthy that even if women and children are to be killed in a war, when they are combatants or are being used as a shield by the enemy to launch an attack, they are to be facing a Muslim army and not retreating or turning away to protect themselves. Furthermore, it is hoped that facing women and children would put sympathy in the mind of a soldier and who would desist from taking such a drastic action. Such rules and respect for non-combatants were recognized in Western countries not until the Geneva Convention of 1949. Even so, most of the countries, including Islamic ones, continue to bomb civilians. Even the United States allow some “collateral damage” to occur in its wars. Therefore, one can argue that the Islamic rules of war were way ahead of their times almost 1400 years ago, and in many respects they still are.


5 thoughts on “Killing of Non-Combatants

  1. muslima August 12, 2013 at 11:00 pm Reply

    why can you kill women and children who are non muslims who are being used as human shields but not muslims?

    • sincereadvisor August 13, 2013 at 7:05 am Reply

      First of all, it was not my opinion but that of al-Mawardi that I was quoting, to make a larger point that Muslims are required to take extreme precautions even in a battle to avoid civilian casualties. Secondly, al-Mawardi was describing a situation in which Muslims are at war with non-Muslims, who are in the enemy camp waging a war, and not just in ordinary circumstances. It is natural to protect one’s own life, limb and family. Finally, the situation that al-Mawardi was describing is in a battlefield, where women and children are brought in to serve as human shields.

      It was common practice in ancient times to encourage soldiers to bring their women and children along to raise the stakes, for in the event of defeat, these women and children were usually made slaves. A soldier who brought his family along was already willing to put them in harm’s way. So, to protect one’s life, if one fires at the enemy soldier and kills women and children by mistake, it’s not sinful–at least that’s al-Mawardi’s point of view. Prophet Muhammad’s commandment, on the other hand, is much broader with no exceptions.

      The United States claims to use the same principle as al-Mawardi’s, except that pilots or drones cannot distinguish between enemy combatants and civilians. It is hard to argue that militants who are simply living in their own houses are using their women and children as “human shields”, or the battlefield is any place where the enemy can be found.

  2. a brother December 30, 2013 at 11:55 am Reply


    With all due respect are you sure that you are 100% correct or that you did enough research? We all know that basically all of the Muslim groups “fighting” out there today (with the exception of maybe one group who are not “SJs” – Salafi Js) DO SAY that they can intentionally target NON-COMBATANT women, CHILDREN, AND even BABIES. If you are ignorant of this, then sorry, but you are not doing your homework. And you need to have a better argument and additional rebuttals to refute them!

    These “SJs” say over and over and over and over and over and over, well you get the point (haven’t you seen their videos or alleged “fatwas”), that NON-COMBATANT women, old men, and yes CHILDREN and BABIES can be intentionally targeted because of al-Qisaas, and use the various Ayahs in the Qur’an as their alleged “justification” (2:194, and 16:126 for example).

    As an example, they say that instead of killing the killer (or killers) who initially killed someone else’s children, that it is 100% Islamically halaal to kill HIS (the killer’s) children!!!!!! (And NOT the original killer… And that his children [including babies] must pay the price for a crime that they were NOT involved in, nor had anything to do with) Do you understand? I’m not saying it’s right, but this IS what they believe in… Yes, again they ALWAYS use the al-Qisaas Ayahs as “proof” that this is 100% Islamically halaal.


    • sincereadvisor January 3, 2014 at 12:54 pm Reply

      Just because an individual or a group of people say something and try to reference verses of Quran, which are hardly relevant, it doesn’t mean that they are right. The arguments that they are making are NOT supported by ANY of the great Imams, whether Sunni or Shia. If they have any evidence to the contrary, they should produce it. There is no question of Qisas here. Quran says very clearly, “And no bearer of burdens shall bear another’s burden…” Al-Qaida’s opinion is based on the idea that since Western countries are democracies and vote for their government, they are liable. But this opinion is not based on any Islamic principles, and it is in fact fallacious, because people vote for a variety of reasons not just on foreign policy.

  3. Herman March 30, 2014 at 2:16 pm Reply

    “Caliph Abu Bakr who succeeded Prophet Muhammad: “When you gain victory over your enemies do not kill their children, old people NOR WOMEN.”

    Someone should have asked Mr. Abu Bakr why Muhammad had the woman, Asma Bint Marwan murdered.

    Or better yet, let us ask Allah why Muhammad had Asma murdered. “Yo, Allah, why did Muhammad have Asma bint Marwan murdered?”



    In the original post we see this claim “If one is killed, then the killer must pay blood money and make expiation if HE KNEW THAT HE WAS A MUSLIM; he becomes liable for expiation alone if he did not know.”


    In Saudi Arabia, when a person has been killed or caused to die by another, the prescribed blood money rates are as follows according to Wikipedia:
    300,000 riyals if the victim is a Muslim man
    150,000 riyals if a Muslim woman
    50,000 riyals if a Christian or Jewish man
    25,000 riyals if a Christian or Jewish woman
    6,666 riyals if a man of any other religion
    3,333 riyals if a woman of any other religion

    Now the Saudis USE SPECIFIC PASSAGES IN THE KORAN AND IN THE HADITH which indicate that disbelievers “are not equal” to believers to justify this lack of fairness. To justify treating Jews & Christians as second class citizens, to justify treating women as if they were inferior, and to justify treating Hindus as if they were the scum of the earth.

    What a horrible, antiquated religion Islam is.

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