by Dr. M. Hamidullah

This is an excerpt from The Muslim Conduct of State by Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah 

(310) I need not enter into any philosophical or historical discussion of war. It may, however, briefly be noted that Muslims to, think of war only as unavoidable, not as desired or to be sought-after. The Qur'an says:

"And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in God." (Qur'an VIII 61)
And again:
"So do not falter, and to invite to peace when ye are the uppermost. And God is with you, and He will not [be]grudge (the reward of) your actions." (Qur'an XLII  35)
A Hadith of the Prophet goes:
"Do not be eager to meet the enemy, but ask God for safety. Yet if you meet them, persevere and have patience; and know that Paradise is under the shadow of swords.
On another occasion, the Prophet said:
"Do not be eager to meet the enemy, perhaps you may be put to test by them, but rather say: 'O God! Suffice for us, and keep their might away from us!"
(311) A later Muslim author strikes an interesting note by saying:

(Arabic type)

[Wars are accidents among the happenings of the time, just like sicknesses, in contrast to peace and security, which resembles health for bodies. So it is necessary to preserve health by means of political action, and to shun sicknesses by means of warlike action, and by busying oneself with the preservation of health.]

Definition of War

(312) An old Muslim jurisconsult, al-Kashabiy, defines Jihad or war of the Muslims, thus: "Jihad in the technology of law is used for expending ability and power in fighting in the path of God by means of life, property, tongue and other than these. This same saying is repeated in different words by practically all the later Muslim writers on Muslim Law, but no-one mentions in the definitions who it is  who will undertake a war: the public or the government? Incidentally, the question is answered in the course of other discussions. So the fact that jihad is not considered as a personal duty to be observed by each and every individual (which, if accomplished by a sufficient number, the rest will no more be condemned for the neglect of that duty) -- this fact renders the administration of jihad entirely in the hands of the government. The practice of the Prophet shows the same thing. As early as the Constitution of the City State of Medina, in the first year of the Hijrah, a clause laid down explicitly that to go to war with would only be with the permission of Muhammad (the Head of State), and that war and peace are undesirable things for all the population, Muslim as well as non-Muslim. Pursuing the same principle, either he himself organized the expeditions or delegated its authority to responsible governors or tribal chieftains (cf Ibn Hisham, p. 934). As for [the] jurists, Abu Yusuf, the chief Qadi of the Habun-ar-Rashid says: No army marches without permission of the Caliph (Central Government). Defence of foreign aggression is must naturally be excepted. As-Sarakhsiy, commenting on ash-Shaibaniy, goes even so far as to maintain that if a for an armed force without the permission of its government takes belligerent action against a Muslim State, that does not amount to a declaration nor existence of war between the two States. In such cases redress may be obtained by diplomatic negotiations and even by direct actions as the occasion may require.

(313) As all the acts of life of a Muslim are controlled by the Qur'an, so everything he does with the intention of obeying his Lord are acts religiously held to be meritorious, even his eating and drinking -- in order to preserve strength for performing his duties to God -- or taking part in a war  -- in order to establish on earth the Kingdom of God. Without appreciating this background, it will not be easy to understand why even wars of expansion [can] be considered as acts in the path of God. In the verse of the Qur'an, often referred to, it is stated:

"Lo! God has bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because Paradise will be theirs: they shall fight in the path of God and shall slay and be slain. It is the promise which is binding on Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur'an. And who fulfilleth his covenant better than God? Rejoice then in the bargain that you have made, for that is the supreme triumph." (Qur'an 9:111).
(314) These and scores of other verses and Traditions of the Prophet render military service an obligatory duty on every Muslim. Ordinarily women and slaves are exempt, but if manpower proves insufficient, even these are liable to active military service. Regarding training and preparation in the time of peace, we read again in the Qur'an:
"And make ready for them all ye can of armed forces and of horses tethered, that ye may dismay the enemy of God and your enemy, and others besides them whom ye know not: God knoweth them. And whatsoever ye spend in the path of God, it will be repaid to you in full, and ye will not be wronged. And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it and trust in God. Lo! He is the Hearer, the Knower. (viii: 60-61)