Maulana Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi
Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Permission (to fight in defence) is granted to those against whom (aggressive) war is waged. (This permission is granted to them) because they were oppressed and Allah is doubtlessly All-Powerful to help them (the oppressed). They are those who were unjustly expelled from their homes simply because they said: ‘Our Lord is Allah.’ And had Allah not been repelling one (aggressive) class of human society by the other (through defensive struggle), the cloisters (temples), synagogues, churches and mosques (i.e., religious centres and places of worship of all religions) would have been ruined where Allah’s Name is abundantly commemorated. And whoever helps (the Din of) Allah, Allah surely helps him. Allah is indeed All-Powerful, Ever-Dominant.” (22:39-40)
This verse (22:39) categorically forbids the killing of innocent civilians. In this verse, only the permission of defensive war was granted to the companions of the prophet (peace be upon him). However, they were first commanded to have patience when faced with the oppression and tyranny of the Arabs.
Thus, the verse is clear in its conditional permission of fighting which was granted only to those who were oppressed and expelled from their homes simply because they accepted Islam. Later, the fighting took place between Muslims and the Arab pagans. This was the result of the religious persecution and oppression against the Muslims. When the oppression was eliminated and the Muslims got all freedom to practice their religion and when they had two options; either to live peacefully or to wage war, they preferred peace-treaty to war. As long as this peace-treaty among Muslims and non-Muslims was adhered to, they lived peacefully. They fought only when it was breached.
In today’s nation states, we have full freedom to practice our religion. Therefore, we must practice Islam living peacefully with all other fellow citizens. No matter whether Muslims live in minority or majority, wherever they have a constitution, a peace-agreement or something like that in any form of law, it is forbidden to violate that as per the Qur’an, books of ahadith and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). It is a famous hadith that if any Muslim kills a peaceful citizen from among the non-Muslims, “he shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise”. This hadith implies that the violator of the constitution, law or the peace-treaty is liable to severe punishment in the Hereafter. A Quranic verse reads: “And fulfil the covenant [promise]. Verily the covenant will be questioned about” (17:34). The word ‘covenant’ applies to the treaty of peace.