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Jihad Killings of POWs and Non-Combatants (Continued) By: Andrew G. Bostom
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, September 09, 2004

Ibn Hudayl, a 14th  century Granadan author of an important treatise on jihad, explained forthrightly, sanctioned procedures and methods which contradict Bernard Lewis’ categorical, but erroneous assertion:


“It is permissible to set fire to the lands of the enemy, his stores of grain, his beasts of burden – if it is not possible for the Muslims to take possession of them – as well as to cut down his trees, to raze his cities, in a word, to do everything that might ruin and discourage him, provided that the imam (i.e. the religious “guide” of the community of believers) deems these measures appropriate, suited to hastening the Islamization of that enemy or to weakening him.  Indeed, all this contributes to a military triumph over him or to forcing him to capitulate.  6


And the late, seminal 20th century scholar of Muslim Spain and North Africa, Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq, characterized the impact of these repeated attacks, indistinguishable in motivation from modern acts of jihad terrorism, like those that occurred on both 9/11/01 and (perhaps even more geographically relevant) 3/11/04:


“It is not difficult to understand that such expeditions sowed terror.  The historian al-Maqqari, who wrote in seventeenth-century Tlemcen in Algeria, explains that the panic created by the Arab horsemen and sailors, at the time of the Muslim expansion in the zones that saw those raids and landings, facilitated the later conquest, if that was decided on:  ‘Allah,’ he says, ‘thus instilled such fear among the infidels that they did not dare to go and fight the conquerors; they only approached them as suppliants, to beg for peace.’ ” 7

 Akyol mentions Al-Mawardi, a significant 11th century (Shafi’ite) jurist from Baghdad (d. 1058), but does not reveal the specifics of what Mawardi wrote regarding the treatment of jihad POWs. Citing Karen Armstrong, Aykol then reiterates her hagiographic account contrasting Saladin’s benevolent treatment of Christian POWs with the barbarities committed against Muslims by the Crusader, Reynaud de Chatillion. This highly selective example obfuscates the real issues at hand: what Muslim Law actually instructs regarding jihad POWs; how the spate of contemporary beheadings of prisoners of jihad terrorism comports with these rulings; and the documented actions of Muslims toward their prisoners during  jihad campaigns conducted throughout Muslim history. 

Al-Mawardi’s writing makes clear that killing of jihad POWs is a primary (i.e., “first”) option based solely upon what is most expedient for the Muslims: 

“As for the captives, the amir [ruler] has the choice of taking the most beneficial action of four possibilities: the first to put them to death by cutting their necks; the second, to enslave them and apply the laws of slavery regarding their sale and manumission; the third, to ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners; and fourth, to show favor to them and pardon them. Allah, may he be exalted, says, 'When you encounter those [infidels] who deny [the Truth=Islam] then strike [their] necks' (Qur'an sura 47, verse 4)”....Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah.” 8

Aykol also fails to acknowledge that Al-Mawardi was hardly unique, the views of this Shafi’ite jurist being nearly identical to those of  key jurists representing the three other main Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, including the Hanafites, who prevailed in Ottoman Turkey: 

Abu Yusuf (from the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, d. 798): 

“..that one can even ..finish off the wounded, or kill prisoners who might prove dangerous to the Muslims.. As for the prisoners who are lead before the imam, the latter has the choice, as he pleases, of executing them, or making them pay a ransom, for the most advantageous choice for the Muslims, and the wisest for Islam. The ransom imposed upon them is not to consist either of gold, silver, or wares, but is only in exchange for Muslim captives..” 9 


Ibn Abi Zayd Al_Qayrawani (d. 996), head of the North African Maliki school at Qairuan:


“There is no inconvenience to kill white non-Arabs who have been taken prisoner”. 10


The famous Syrian jurist Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) of the Hanbali school under the Mamluks:


“…If a male unbeliever is taken captive during warfare or otherwise, eg.,  as a result of a shipwreck, or because he has lost his way, or as a result of a ruse, then the imam may do whatever he deems appropriate: killing him, enslaving him, releasing him or setting him free for a ransom consisting in either property or people. This is the view of most jurists and it is supported by the Koran and the Sunna…” 11


These rulings had tangible consequences. For centuries, from the Iberian peninsula to the Indian subcontinent, jihad campaigns waged by Muslim armies against infidel Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Hindus, were punctuated by massacres, including mass throat slittings and beheadings of captives. Here are but a few examples. Non-Muslim (i.e., Christian) prisoners were beheaded, summarily, during a  jihad campaign against Tripoli in the mid-7th century, as chronicled by Ibn Khaldun in his, History of the Berbers and the Moslem Dynasties of Northern Africa:

“Abd-Allah set siege to the city [Tripoli];  but later, unwilling to let himself be diverted from the goal that he had in mind, he gave the order to break camp.  While we were making our preparations, we spied some vessels that had just landed on the shore; immediately we attacked them and threw into the water anyone who was aboard.  They put up some resistance, but then surrendered, and we tied their hands behind their backs.  They were four hundred in number.  Abd-Allah then joined us, and he had their heads cut off.” 12

During the period of “enlightened” Muslim rule, the Christians of Iberian Toledo, who had first submitted to their Arab Muslim invaders in 711 or 712, revolted in 713. In the harsh Muslim reprisal that ensued, Toledo was pillaged, and all the Christian notables had their throats cut. On the Indian subcontinent, Hindu combatants captured during  jihad campaigns were killed in orgies of brutal violence, on a simply staggering scale, as documented, primarily, by Muslim chroniclers. After Muhammad bin Qasim took the fort of Brahmanabad in Sindh following a 6-month siege, around 711-712 C.E.,


“…When the plunder and the prisoners of war were brought before Qasim, and enquiries were made about every captive, it was found that Ladi, the wife of Dahir, was in the fort with two daughters of his by his other wives. Veils were put on their faces, and they were delivered to a servant to keep them apart. One-fifth of all the prisoners were chosen and set aside; they were counted as amounting to twenty thousand in number, and the rest were given to the soldiers…(Qasim) sat on the seat of cruelty, and put all those who had fought to the sword. It is said that about six thousand fighting men were slain, but according to some, sixteen thousand were killed…” 13


And Amir Timur, during his jihad campaigns through Northern India (1397-99 C.E.) conducted what may have been the greatest mass slaughter of prisoners ever chronicled:

“Next day, Friday the 3rd of the month. I left the fort of Loni and marched to a position opposite to Jahan-numa where I encamped…  I now held a Court…  At this Court Amir Jahan Shah and Amir Sulaiman Shah and other amirs of experience, brought to my notice that, from the time of entering Hindustan up to the present time, we had taken more than 100,000 infidels and Hindus prisoners, and that they were all in my camp…I asked their advice about the prisoners, and they said that on the great day of battle these 100,000 prisoners could not be left

with the baggage, and that it would be entirely opposed to the [Islamic] rules of war to set these idolaters and foes of Islam at liberty.  In fact, no other course remained but that of making them all food for the sword. When I heard these words I found them in accordance with the rules of war, and I directly gave my command for the tawachis [drumbeaters] to proclaim throughout the camp that every man who had infidel prisoners was to put them to death…When this order became known to the ghazis of Islam, they drew their swords and put their prisoners to death. 100,000 infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain. Maulana Nasiru-d-din ‘Umar, a counselor and man of learning, who, in all his life, had never killed a sparrow, now, in execution of my order, slew with his sword fifteen idolatrous Hindus, who were his captives…” 14

Lastly, Babur (1483-1530), the founder of the Mughal Empire, who is revered as a paragon of Muslim tolerance by modern revisionist historians, recorded the following in his autobiographical “Baburnama,” about infidel prisoners of a jihad campaign:

"Those who were brought in alive [having surrendered] were ordered beheaded, after which a tower of skulls was erected in the camp." 15

Why Akyol neglected to mention these and numerous other historical examples from jihad campaigns is unclear. But even his contemporary analysis is confined to the high profile beheadings in Iraq, ignoring recent jihad-inspired decapitations of infidels by Muslims which have occurred across the globe- Christians in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Nigeria; Hindu priests and "unveiled" Hindu women in Kashmir.

Akyol’s contention that Islam does not sanction the killing of non-combatants is also highly questionable, and at any rate, is clearly contradicted by the repeated actions of Muslims during jihad campaigns throughout history. Both Muslim and non-Muslim sources document countless episodes of the pillage and massacre of non-combatants during jihad conquests and raids. And there is ample juridical justification for such acts. For example, the great Maliki jurist and philosopher Averroes (d. 1198) asserted,

“Most scholars agree that fortresses may be assailed with mangonels, no matter whether there are women and children within them or not. This is based on the fact that the Prophet used mangonels against the population of al-Ta’if.” 16

The much lionized Sufi theologian Al-Ghazali (d. 1111) made a similar pronouncement:

“…one must go on jihad (i.e., warlike razzias or raids) at least once a year...one may use a catapult against them [non-Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them...” 17


The Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) provided this caveat, which allowed for killing those who would otherwise be classified as non-combatants, if they merely engaged in verbal or written propaganda:


“As for those who cannot offer resistance or cannot fight, such as women, children, monks, old people, the blind, handicapped and their likes, they shall not be killed unless they actually fight with words [eg. by propaganda] and acts [by spying or otherwise assisting in the warfare]. Some jurists are of the opinion that all of them may be killed, on the mere ground that they are unbelievers, but they make an exception for women and children since they constitute property for Muslims” 18


Contemporary Muslim theologians like Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, hailed as a moderate voice in Britain, sanction homicide bombings against all Israeli citizens using  jihad criteria consistent with those iterated by these classical jurists. 


Unfortunately, historical examples of the killing of non-combatants during jihad campaigns, abound, beginning with the very earliest Muslim conquests. The 7th century Chronicler John of Nikiou describes the jihad conquest of Fayyum and Nikiou, including the massacre of non-combatant women and children:

“[In Fayyum] The Ishmaelites attacked, killed the commandant, massacred all his troops and immediately seized the town…Whoever approached them was massacred; they spared neither old men, nor women, nor children…Then the Muslims arrived in Nikiou.  There was not one single soldier to resist them.  They seized the town and slaughtered everyone they met in the street and in the churches – men, women and children, sparing nobody.  Then they went to other places, pillaged and killed all the inhabitants they found…  But let us now say no more, for it is impossible to describe the horrors the Muslims committed when they occupied the island of Nikiou, on Sunday, the eighteenth day of the month of Guenbot, in the fifteenth year of the lunar cycle, as well as the terrible scenes which took place in Cesarea in Palestine.” 19

To continue reading this article, click here.

Andrew G. Bostom is a frequent contributor to Frontpage Magazine.com, and the author of The Legacy of Jihad, and the forthcoming The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism.

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