Ruling with Regards to the Killing of Non-Fighting Kaafir
Women and Children in a Situation of War
Hassan El-Rashid

Assalaamu 'Alaykum 

What follows is an edited and summarised translation of a chapter from Doctor 'Abdullaah Azzams book: 
'Fi al Jihad, Adaab Wa Ahkaam', i.e. 'Guidelines and rules of Jihad.

This issue is very relevant to the latest bombings that have targeted the occupying and oppressor Jews in Palestine. Many Muslims know about the hadeeth in which the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) ordered his Companions (radiallaahu 'anhum) not to kill any women or children, etc., but very few know that there are exceptions to this case. 

In summary, Muslims do not have to stop an attack on Mushrikeen, if non-fighting women and children are present. But, Muslims should avoid the killing of children and non-fighting women, and should not aim at them. 

I am sure the following has enough evidences to prove the above statement. 


Abu Taha - Hadi 

The Islamic Ruling with Regards to Killing Women, 
Children and the Elderly in a Situation of War
(Translated from Dr. 'Abdullaah Azzam's Work)

Islam does not (urge its followers to) kill [anyone amongst the Kufaar] except the fighters, and those who supply Mushrikeen and other enemies of Islam with money or advice, because the Qur'anic Verse says: 

And fight in the Cause of Allah those who fight you...

Fighting is a two-sided process, two sides are involved, so whoever fights or joins the fight in any means/way is to be fought and slain, otherwise he, or she is to be spared. 

That is why there is no need to kill women, because of their weakness, unless they fight. Children and monks are not to be killed intentionally, unless they mix with the Mushrikeen, and, [therefore], we are unable to attack the fighting Mushrikeen alone, in this case we fire at the Mushrikeen, but we do not aim at the weak (i.e. non-fighting women, monks, and children). 

Abusing/slaying the children and the weak inherits hatred to the coming generations, and is narrated throughout history with tears and blood, and generation after generation would be told about this. And this is exactly what Islam is against

Islam wants to bring people closer (to the Truth), it also seeks to make Allah (Ta'aala), His Messenger (salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) and His religion lovable to the people - but, on the other hand, it does not alter according to peoples whims, nor does it change its Path in order to please the people: 

And if the Truth had been in accordance with their desires, verily, the heavens 
and the earth, and whosoever is therein would have been corrupted! 

Scholars have different opinions with regard to this issue (i.e. the slaying of women, children and the elderly in the situation of war). 

- The first opinion:  

Killing women and children is not allowed under any circumstances, even if the Kufaar use their women and children as human shields. And this is the madh-hab of Malik and Al Ouzaey. (This opinion is not well supported by  evidences.

- The Second opinion: 

The weak (i.e. women, children and the elderly) are not to be aimed at, unless they fight, or mix with the fighters, in such a way as to make it impossible for the [Muslims] to fight without killing them. And this is the opinion of the Shafi'ee's and the Hanafis

Al Mawurdee said (in Al Ahkaam As Sultaaniyah p41): 

"Killing women and children in war is not allowed, as long as they do not fight, because of the Prophet's (salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) ban on killing them." 

Al Sarkhasy said (in Al Mabsoot Vol, 10, p31): 

"Setting their castles (i.e. the Kaafir's) on fire shall not be stopped [merely] because of the presence of women and children, it shall not be stopped either because of the presence of a Muslim prisoner of war - as long as [it is the] Mushrikeen [that] are aimed at, and targeted.

The elderly - who have a say in decision making - can be slain, because the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) agreed on Abu Amr Al Ash'aree's killing of Duraid As Sammah, who was over 100 years old. [The hadeeth is narrated in Bukhari and Muslim] 

Blind, disabled and mentally-ill war prisoners are not to be killed, because only fighters are to be [intentionally] killed. There is nothing wrong with sending water on (i.e. flooding) a Kaafir's city or setting their [cities] on fire, or bombarding them with Al Minjaneek (Mangonel ballista, a war machine that is used to throw rocks), even if there are children, or Muslim individuals present... 

The Scholars [of the Salaf] had different opinions regarding this matter, due to the way they understood some Ahadeeth, and the availability of these Ahadeeth to them. 

The Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) showed the reason behind forbidding the killing of women and children, when he passed by a slain woman (after one of the battles), he (salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) said: 

"She was not (able) to fight. (i.e. she shouldn't have been 
killed because she was not able to fight.)"
[Narrated by Ahmad and Abu Dawood]

Imam Malik used the following hadeeth as general evidence to the illegality of killing women and children; Ibn 'Umar (radiallaahu 'anhuma) said: 

"A woman was found killed in one of the battles of the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhee 
wa sallam), so the Prophet banned the killing of women and children."
[Narrated by AlJama'ah  (i.e. Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majah, At Tirmidhee) 
except for An Nasaa'ee, and Abu Dawood]

While the Shafi'ee's agreed that while, this is the general rule or guideline for war, there are special cases and situations, as is proven by the following hadeeth. As Sab Ibn Juthamah said: 

"The Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) was asked about attacking the Mushrikeen at night time, where women and children get hit (un-intentionally). He (salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) replied:  

"They are from them. (i.e. the attack should not be stopped because of 
the presence of women and children.)"
[Narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majah, 
At Tirmidhee etc.]

Another hadeeth supports this opinion; At Tirmidhee narrates: 

"The Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) used Minjaneek 
(Mangonel ballista) to bombard the people of At Taa'if.
(And it is known that the people of the city of At Taa'if had all their families with them inside their castles.

As well, a third hadeeth supports this argument. Salmah Ibn Al Akwa said: 

"We attacked Houzan (tribe) at night time with Abu Bakr As Siddiq, after the Prophet 
(salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) assigned him as the Ameer for this attack.
[Narrated by Ahmad and Abu Dawood].

The above two attacks, i.e. that of At Taa'if and Houzan, were towards the end of the Prophet's (salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) life. (So it can not be said that this rule is invalid and was replaced by a different ruling, as some might argue). 
Looking at the issue from a different angle, we see that stopping the Muslim army from fighting Mushrikeen when they have children with them; would put Muslims and their interests under danger and harm, especially in these days where fighting relies on artillery fire, aircrafts and tanks. For this would mean that the use of all these machine guns [and weaponry, etc.] would have to be avoided and stopped. (Which is non-sense). 

The Scholars have unanimously agreed on the [unintentional] killing of a Muslim if he/she is taken [and used] as a human shield by the Kufaar, so why would they forbid fighting the Kufaar because they have their (Kaafir) women and children with them?... 

Is the sanctity of Mushrik women and children greater than that of Muslims? 

Plus, the forbidding (of the of killing of women) is when a woman does not take part in the war, nor joins the fighting, nor sacrifices for her faith and ideology and [seeks to] die for them... As for now, the situation has changed, and women do not differ much - regarding this specific issue - from men. 

Shaykhul Islam Ibn Taymeeyah says [in his Fatawi 28/537]: 

"The Muslim Ummah has unanimously agreed that when the Kufaar take Muslims as human shields, and the Muslims fear (defeat) if they do not attack, then it becomes permissible to fire, but we aim at the Kufaar. Some scholars [have] said that it is [still] permissible to fire even if ceasing fire will not form any [kind of] danger (for the Muslims).

Ibn Al Arabee (Note: this is not the deviant kaafir Sufi Ibn Arabi) said in Ahkaam al Qur'an 1/104: 

"[Kaafir] Women shall not be slain unless they fight, because the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhee wa sallam) forbade that, [But] that's [only] if they do not fight. If they do, they get slain.


- Formatted and Edited by Abu Suhayb

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