Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"They are from them."

Misquoted Narration 

سُئِلَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنِ الذَّرَارِيِّ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ يُبَيَّتُونَ فَيُصِيبُونَ مِنْ نِسَائِهِمْ وَذَرَارِيِّهِمْ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏ "‏ هُمْ مِنْهُمْ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ 
When asked about the possibility of women and children of the polytheists being exposed to danger during a night raid, the Prophet Muhammad said, "They are from them."
Before addressing the specific narration in question, let us first emphasize the fact that Islam prohibits the killing of women and children.

Narrated Ibn 'Umar: A woman was found killed in one of these battles, so the Messenger of God forbade the killing of women and children. (Sahîh Bukhârî, Sahîh Muslim)

Ibn `Abbas says: The Messenger of Allah, when dispatching his troops, would tell them, " ..Do not behave treacherously, nor misappropriate war-booty, nor mutilate [those whom you kill], nor kill children, nor the people in cloisters."
(Musnad Ahmad, Sunan At-Tirmidhî)

Another narration records that he said, "…Do not kill a woman, nor a child, nor an old-aged man(Sharh as-Sunnah Al-Baghawî)

Narrated Anas ibn Malik: The Prophet said: Go in Allah's name, trusting in Allah, and adhering to the religion of Allah's Apostle. Do not kill a decrepit old man, a young infant, or a child, or a woman; do not be dishonest about booty, but collect your spoils, do right and act well, for Allah loves those who do well. (Sunan Abî Dawûd)

And again, "Do not kill a child, nor a woman, nor an old man, nor obliterate a stream, nor cut a tree…" (Sunan Al-Bayhaqî)

The strict conditions that Islam has laid out in the event of warfare are referred to in the verse:
2:190 Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.
The companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) continued to abide by these conditions in all the military campaigns they undertook after his death. The first caliph, Abu Bakr, advised his military commander:
"I advise you ten things: Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly."
(Muwatta Mâlik)
Having established that Islam forbids the killing of women and children and all devastation during war, the narration concerning the night raid may now be examined. In this narration the Prophet Muhammad was asked about the potential injuries which may unintentionally befall non-combatants during a night raid. The narration is as follows:
Narated By As-Sab bin Jaththama : The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the polytheist warriors at night with the possibility of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them." (Sahîh Bukhârî)
In other words, the Prophet (peace be upon him) acknowleged the unfortunate yet inescapable possibility of what is today referred to as "collateral damage". In military campaigns, women and children are never to be targeted and their deaths are to be avoided at all costs. Nevertheless, it remains a fact that such deaths do occur as an unintentionally during the fighting. As Shaykh Abdullah Al-Manî'î writes concerning the narration in question:
Those who are not generally engaged in fighting – like women, children, the elderly, the handicapped, and others who do not participate in the fighting – are not to be killed. The Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited this. His prohibition of the killing of women and children is clearly related by Ibn `Umar in Sahîh al-Bukhârî (3015) and Sahîh Muslim (1744).

The only exception to this is where such people participate directly in the fighting or are so intermixed with the fighters that it is impossible to separate them from those who are fighting. This exception is indicated by the hadîth of al-Sa`b b. Jathâmah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about the women and children of the polytheists who were among them and who would be injured if the enemy was attacked. He said: “They are of them.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (3021) and Sahîh Muslim (1475)]

In short, non-Muslims living in Muslim lands, those who are under covenant, and those with whom we have peace cannot be attacked. As for those who are at war with us, the combatants may be fought and killed. Those who are not combatants cannot be killed or targeted for killing. The only way that they can be killed is as an unintentional consequence of fighting against the enemy combatants.

Indeed, the hadîth in question actually shows us that the general rule is not to kill non-combatants, even when they are present on the battlefield. The only exception is when the non-combatants are so mixed in with the fighters in the theatre of combat that it is impossible to fight against the combatants without the possibility of some non-combatants inadvertently being killed. This is only out of dire necessity.

Ibn Hajar writes in his commentary on this hadîth in Fath al-Bârî (6/146):

His statement “They are of them” means that they are construed as such under those circumstances. It does not mean that it is permissible to deliberately target them.

It is a matter of agreement among scholars that a person’s unbelief is not reason for that person to be killed. There is considerable evidence for this. Aside from the Prophet’s prohibition of killing non-combatants, we have where Allah says: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 256]

And Allah knows best.
Imâm Abu Zakariyyah An-Nawawî (d. 1300CE) explains that this may occur during a night raid because one's ability to see is impaired by the dark (Sharh Sahîh Muslim 2790). This does not negate the fact that such unfortunate accidents remain just as abhorrent.

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