Prisoners of war in Islam
|Part of a series on|
The historical legal principles governing the treatment of prisoners of war, in shar'iah, Islamic law, (in the traditional madhabs schools of Islamic jurisprudence), was then a significant improvement over the pre-existing norms of society during Muhammad's time (see Early reforms under Islam). Men, women, and children may all be taken as prisoners of war under traditional interpretations of Islamic law. Generally, a prisoner of war could be, at the discretion of the military leader, freed, ransomed, exchanged for Muslim prisoners, or kept in bondage. In earlier times, the ransom sometimes took an educational dimension, where a literate prisoner of war could secure his or her freedom by teaching ten Muslims to read and write. Some Muslim scholars hold that a prisoner may not be ransomed for gold or silver, but may be exchanged for Muslim prisoners.
In pre-Islamic Arabia, upon capture, those captives not executed, were made to beg for their subsistence. During his life, Muhammad changed this custom and made it the responsibility of the Islamic government to provide food and clothing, on a reasonable basis, to captives, regardless of their religion. If the prisoners were in the custody of a person, then the responsibility was on the individual.
Historically, Muslims routinely captured large number of prisoners. Aside from those who converted, most were ransomed or enslaved. Pasquier writes,
It was the custom to enslave prisoners of war and the Islamic state would have put itself at a grave disadvantage vis-a-vis its enemies had it not reciprocated to some extent. By guaranteeing them [male POWs] humane treatment, and various possibilities of subsequently releasing themselves, it ensured that a good number of combatants in the opposing armies preferred captivity at the hands of Muslims to death on the field of battle.
According to accounts written by Muhammad's followers, after the Battle of Badr, some prisoners were executed for their earlier crimes in Mecca, but the rest were given options: They could convert to Islam and thus win their freedom; they could pay ransom and win their freedom; they could teach 10 Muslims to read and write and thus win their freedom. William Muir wrote of this period:
In pursuance of Mahomet’s commands, the citizens of Medîna, and such of the Refugees as possessed houses, received the prisoners, and treated them with much consideration. “Blessings be on the men of Medina!” said one of these prisoners in later days; “they made us ride, while they themselves walked: they gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was little of it, contenting themselves with dates.”— William Muir, The Life of Mahomet
These principles were also honoured during the Crusades, as exemplified by sultans such as Saladin and al-Kamil. For example, after al-Kamil defeated the Franks during the Crusades, Oliverus Scholasticus praised the Islamic laws of war, commenting on how al-Kamil supplied the defeated Frankish army with food:
Who could doubt that such goodness, friendship and charity come from God? Men whose parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, had died in agony at our hands, whose lands we took, whom we drove naked from their homes, revived us with their own food when we were dying of hunger and showered us with kindness even when we were in their power."
Treatment of prisoners
Upon capture, the prisoners must be guarded and not ill-treated. Islamic law holds that the prisoners must be fed and clothed, either by the Islamic government or by the individual who has custody of the prisoner. This position is supported by the verse [Quran 76:8] of the Quran. The prisoners must be fed in a dignified manner, and must not be forced to beg for their subsistence. Muhammad's early followers also considered it a principle to not separate prisoners from their relatives.
After the fighting is over, prisoners are to be released, with some prospect of survival, or ransomed. The freeing or ransoming of prisoners by Muslims themselves is highly recommended as a charitable act. The Qur'an also urges kindness to captives and recommends, their liberation by purchase or manumission. The freeing of captives is recommended both for the expiation of sins and as an act of simple benevolence.
Women and children
Muslim scholars hold that women and children prisoners of war cannot be killed under any circumstances, regardless of their faith, but that they may be enslaved, freed or ransomed. Women who are neither freed nor ransomed by their people were to be kept in bondage and referred to as ma malakat aymanukum (slaves). After the Battle of Awtas, in response to a question from the soldiers on whether it was permissible to have sexual relations with these women, Muhammad received a Quranic revelation that it was permissible to have sexual relations with the women captured in war.
Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, a Nigerian extremist group, said in an interview "I shall capture people and make them slaves" when claiming responsibility for the 2014 Chibok kidnapping. Shekau has justified his actions by appealing to the Quran saying "[w]hat we are doing is an order from Allah, and all that we are doing is in the Book of Allah that we follow". In October of 2014, in its digital magazine Dabiq, ISIL explicitly claimed religious justification for enslaving Yazidi women. Specifically, ISIL argued that the Yazidi were idol worshipers and appealed to the shariah practice of spoils of war. ISIL appealed to apocalyptic beliefs and "claimed justification by a Hadith that they interpret as portraying the revival of slavery as a precursor to the end of the world." In late 2014 ISIL released a pamphlet on the treatment of female captives and slaves which permits sex with them.
There has been disagreement whether adult male prisoners of war may be executed, although Muhammad did execute men on many occasions. One traditional opinion holds that executing prisoners of war is strictly forbidden; this is the most-widely accepted view, and one upheld by the Hanafi madhab.
However, the opinion of the Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali and Jafari madhabs is that adult male prisoners of war may be executed. Conventionally, execution was conditional on the reasonable belief that male prisoners would pose a genuine and immediate threat to the Muslim community if allowed to live. The decision for an execution is to be made by the Muslim leader. This opinion was also upheld by the Muslim judge, Sa'id bin Jubair (665-714 AD) and 'Abu Yusuf Ya'qub a classical jurist from the Hanafi school of jurisprudence. El Fadl argues the reason Muslim jurists adopted this position was largely because it was consistent with the war practices of the Middle Ages.
Most contemporary Muslim scholars prohibit altogether the killing of prisoners and hold that this was the policy practiced by Muhammad. The 20th-century Muslim scholar, Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi states that no prisoner should be "put to the sword" in accordance with a saying of Muhammad.
Even those the enemies of Islam, actively fighting against Islam, there may be individuals who may be in a position to require protection. Full asylum is to be given to them, and opportunities provided for hearing the Word of Allah...If they do not see their way to accept Islam, they will require double protection: (1) from the Islamic forces openly fighting against their people, and (2) from their own people, as they detached themselves from them. Both kinds of protection should be ensured for them, and they should be safely escorted to a place where they can be safe.
Maududi further states that Islam forbids torturing, especially by fire, and quotes Muhamad as saying, "Punishment by fire does not behoove anyone except the Master of the Fire [God]."
- Islamic views on slavery
- Islam and war
- Islamic military jurisprudence
- Slavery in 21st century Islamism
- Tafsir of the Qur'an by Ibn Kathir 
- Ahkaam al-Sijn wa’l-Sujana’ wa Mu’aamalat al-Sujana’ fi’l-Islam of the Hadith by Hasan Abi’l-Ghuddah 
- Shirazi, Imam Muhammad. The Prophet Muhammad - A Mercy to the World. Createspace Independent Pub, 2013, p. 74.[self-published source?]
- 'Abu Yusuf Ya'qub Le Livre de l'impot foncier,' translated from Arabic and annotated by Edmond Fagnan, Paris, Paul Geuthner, 1991, pages 301-302) Abu Yusuf (d. 798 CE)
- Maududi (1967), Introduction of Ad-Dahr, "Period of revelation", p. 159.
- (Crone (2004), pp. 371-72)
- Roger DuPasquier. Unveiling Islam. Islamic Texts Society, 1992, p. 104
- The Life of Muhammad The Prophet
- Muir, William (1861). The Life of Mahomet (Volume 3 ed.). London: Smith, Elder and Co. p. 122. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
- Naqvi (2000), pg. 456
- Judge Weeramantry, Christopher G. (1997). Justice Without Frontiers. Brill Publishers. p. 136. ISBN 90-411-0241-8.
- Judge Weeramantry, Christopher G. (1997). Justice Without Frontiers. Brill Publishers. pp. 136–7. ISBN 90-411-0241-8.
- Nigosian, S. A. (2004). Islam. Its History, Teaching, and Practices. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 115.
- Maududi (1967), introduction of Ad-Dahr, "Period of revelation", pg. 159
- ([Quran 4:36], [Quran 9:60], [Quran 24:58])
- ([Quran 4:92], [Quran 5:92], [Quran 58:3])
- ([Quran 2:177], [Quran 24:33], [Quran 90:13])
- Lewis 1990, page 6. All Qur'anic citations are his.
- (Patricia Crone. God’s Rule: Government and Islam. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004, pp. 371-72)
- Sahih Muslim 8:34333
- Abu Dawud 11:2150
- Lister, Tim (6 May 2014). "Boko Haram: The essence of terror". CNN. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- Ferran, Lee (5 May 2014). "Boko Haram: Kidnappers, Slave-Owners, Terrorists, Killers". ABC News.
- "Islamic State Seeks to Justify Enslaving Yazidi Women and Girls in Iraq". Newsweek. Reuters. 13 October 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- Athena Yenko, "Judgment Day Justifies Sex Slavery Of Women – ISIS Out With Its 4th Edition Of Dabiq Magazine," International Business Times-Australia, October 13, 2014
- Allen McDuffee, "ISIS Is Now Bragging About Enslaving Women and Children," The Atlantic, Oct 13 2014
- Salma Abdelaziz, "ISIS states its justification for the enslavement of women," CNN, October 13, 2014
- Spencer, Richard (13 October 2014). "Thousands of Yazidi women sold as sex slaves 'for theological reasons', says Isil". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "To have and to hold: Jihadists boast of selling captive women as concubines," The Economist, Oct 18th 2014
- By AFP, "ISIS jihadists boast of enslaving Yazidi women," Al Arabiya, October 13, 2014
- Nour Malas, "Ancient Prophecies Motivate Islamic State Militants: Battlefield Strategies Driven by 1,400-year-old Apocalyptic Ideas," The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 18, 2014 (accessed Nov. 22, 2014)
- Amelia Smith, "ISIS Publish Pamphlet On How to Treat Female Slaves," Newsweek, 12/9/2014
- Abul Taher, "Our faith condones raping underage slaves: ISIS publishes shocking guidebook telling fighters how to buy, sell and abuse captured women," Daily Mail, 13 December 2014
- Greg Botelho, "ISIS: Enslaving, having sex with 'unbelieving' women, girls is OK," CNN, December 13, 2014
- Katharine Lackey, "Pamphlet provides Islamic State guidelines for sex slaves," USA Today, December 13, 2014
- Carey Lodge, "Islamic State issues abhorrent sex slavery guidelines about how to treat women,",Christianity Today, 15 December 2014
- Adam Withnall, "Isis releases 'abhorrent' sex slaves pamphlet with 27 tips for militants on taking, punishing and raping female captives," The Independent, 10 December 2014
- El Fadl (2003), pg. 115
- El Fadl (2003), pg. 116
- Hashmi (2003), pg. 145
- Maududi (1998), p. 34
- Ali (1991), p. 498
- Ali, Abdullah Yusuf (1991). The Holy Quran. Medina: King Fahd Holy Qur-an Printing Complex.
- Brockopp, Jonathan E.; Hashmi, Sohail; El Fadl (2003). Islamic Ethics of Life. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-471-0.
- Lewis, Bernard (1990). Race and Slavery in the Middle East. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505326-5.
- Maududi, Sayyid Abul Ala (1967). The Meaning of the Quran. Lahore: Islamic publications.
- Maududi, Sayyid Abul Ala (1998). Human Rights in Islam. Islamabad: Da'wah Academy.