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Treatment of POWs By: Andrew G. Bostom
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, March 28, 2003


Earlier this week, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Ahmad al-Hadithi  was quoted as saying that the already brutalized US POWs captured in southern Iraq would,  "be treated according to the principles of Islam"..Unfortunately, this statement is not reassuring at all. The classical Baghdadian jurists Abu Yusuf (from the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, d. 798) and al-Mawardi (a Shafi’ite jurist, d. 1058) were prolific, respected scholars who lived during the so-called Islamic "Golden Age" of the Baghdadian-Abbasid Caliphate. They wrote the following, based on their interpretations of the Qur'an and Sunna (i.e., the recorded words and deeds of Muhammad):

“..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..” Abu Yusuf  Ya’qub Le Livre de l’impot foncier Translated from Arabic and annotated by Edmond Fagnan. Paris” Paul Geuthner, 1921, Pp. 301-302

“...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 favour to them and pardon them.”....Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah. The Laws of Islamic Governance, trans. by Dr. Asadullah Yate, (London), Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd., 1996, p. 192

Indeed such odious “rules” were iterated by all four classical schools of Islamic jurisprudence, across the vast Muslim empire. Specifically, Ibn Abi Zayd Al_Qayrawani (d. 996), head of the North African Maliki school at Qairuan, and the famous Syrian jurist Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) of the Hanbali school under the Mamluks, wrote the following: 

“There is no inconvenience to kill white non-Arabs who have been taken prisoner”. Ibn Abi Zayd Al_Qayrawani, La Risala ou Epitre sur les elements du dogme et de la loi de l’Islam selon le rite malikite. 8th ed. Translated from Arabic by Leon Bercher. Algiers: 1980, p. 163

“…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…” Ibn Taymiyya, in Rudolph Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam, Princeton, NJ, 1996, p. 50

The grisly video aired on Al-Jazeera, and many other Arab media outlets, suggests that indeed, the "primary option", i.e., execution, may very well have been exercised with regard to those US POWs captured in southern Iraq.

In stark contrast, under the Geneva Convention, (Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War Adopted on 12 August 1949 by the Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of International Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War, held in Geneva from 21 April to 12 August, 1949 entry into force 21 October 1950) PART II GENERAL PROTECTION OF PRISONERS OF WAR ,  Article 13, it is stated explicitly [http://193.194.138.190/html/menu3/b/91.htm]:

“…Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest. Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity…”

Let us pray that humane elements among the Iraqi regime prevail in deciding the fate of US POWs, and they rely exclusively upon the dictates of the Geneva Convention, and not Islamic jurisprudence.

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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