November 30, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10990

Shi'ite Muslim Cleric In Saudi Daily: Islam Is A Humane Religion; Allah Permits War Only In Self-Defense; The Prophet Forbade Harming Civilians And Children

November 30, 2023
Saudi Arabia, Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 10990

In an article he published in the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh against the backdrop of the war raging in Gaza, Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Husseini, a moderate Shi'ite cleric who holds Lebanese and Saudi citizenship and is the secretary-general of the Arab Islamic Council, writes that Islam champions peace and sanctifies human life, and has never been a religion of violence, bloodshed or war. Islam, he explains, permits fighting only in self-defense and in accordance with specific rules and under specific conditions, such as, when the Muslims are prepared and have the required equipment, and when a ruler deems it necessary. He asserts that any jihad that does not meet these conditions is forbidden. Al-Husseini claims that, in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, the Muslims never initiated war, despite the oppression they suffered, and that Allah only permitted them to fight after 13 years of persecution, and even then only in self-defense. The Prophet, he adds, was determined to avoid bloodshed and being drawn into war, and therefore pursued all the diplomatic means and avenues to achieve peace. And even when war was forced upon the Muslims, the Prophet instructed them not to torture people or harm children and civilians. Al-Husseini provides quotations from the Quran and the Hadith to support his claims.

It should be noted that Muhammad Ali Al-Husseini is known for his moderate positions and his criticism of Hizbullah and of Iran. In 2020 he was among a delegation of 25 Muslim clerics, headed by Dr. Muhammad Al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League,[i] that paid a historic visit, the first of its kind, to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He was granted Saudi citizenship in 2021.

The article by Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Husseini in the Saudi daily Al-Rayidh (, November 19, 2023)

The following are translated excerpts from Al-Husseini's article:[ii]

Islam Is A Religion Of Peace That Sanctifies Human Life; Allah Permits Only Defensive Warfare

"Islam started out with a message of life, peace, progress and the leading status of humanity as a whole, without exception. It was never a religion of violence, murder or war. War was not an option, but rather [a response to] the need for self-defense and defense of homes and of land. Therefore, the decision to wage war in Islam was never an arbitrary decision or one that stemmed from a desire for revenge, for control or for profit – which was the norm back then [in the pre-Islamic era] among the warring tribes. Furthermore, [even] when Allah permitted war, it was defensive war, and this only occurred after 13 years during which the Muslims were oppressed in Mecca, expelled from their homes, their wives were taken captive and their property was seized. The permission for Muslims to defend themselves came in the second year after the Hijra [623 CE], when Allah said: 'Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory' [Quran 22:39]."

In The Time Of The Prophet The Muslims Did Not Initiate Wars; War Is A Deviation From The Main Principle Of Islam

"The Islamic approach to war:

"The principle that Islam seeks to anchor and to preserve is peace, so as to safeguard human life and the stability of societies and states and to bring an end to wars and their consequences for people and countries – for once the fire of war is lit, it consumes everything. In the time of the Prophet the Muslims did not start wars and did not initiate declarations [of war]. Despite the disasters that befell them, they bore their suffering patiently and emigrated [instead of fighting], in order to show the world that Islam had not come to kill or to cause bloodshed. On the contrary, it had come to preserve human life, to the extent that it forbade aggression and oppression, for it is said, 'Allah does not forbid you to be righteous and act justly toward those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly' [Quran 60:8].

"War is not a main [principle] of Islam, but rather a deviation from the main [principle], which is establishing the values of peace, as Allah said: 'O believers, enter into peace, all of you' [Quran 2:208]. Therefore, in Islam there are rules of war that are derived from the Quran and from the Sunna of the Prophet…"

The Prophet Forbade His Followers To Torture Enemies Or Harm Civilians And Children

"The Muslims were willing to suffer in order to prevent the situation from deteriorating into devastating wars from which no one emerges victorious. Furthermore, the Prophet's directives to his Muslim Companions, even in the midst of the wars that were forced on them, constitute irrefutable proof of the humaneness of Islam and its concern for the welfare of man, even of the enemy. For, [according to a hadith, the Prophet said]: "Go forth in the name of Allah, fight for the sake of Allah, [but] do not betray [the Muslims], do not loot, do not abuse [people] or mutilate [bodies] and do not kill children or monks.' In modern terms all of these are civilians, who may not be harmed."

The Prophet Made Every Effort To Prevent War And Bloodshed

"The authority to take decisions on war and constraints on this decision:

"There is no doubt that, when Allah permitted defensive war, it was after years of injustice suffered by the Muslims, as stated above. But, looking at this timing, we realize Allah's sagacity. For, had the Muslims declared war in Mecca, they would have been annihilated, because they were the weak side, and then the Quraysh tribe would have quickly eliminated Islam. That is why the timing was crucial. Furthermore, the Muslims did not have the numbers [to go to war], and they lacked the military gear they needed to confront their oppressors. Even after the Hijra Allah did not permit war straight away. The Muslims spent two years in Medina, established a strong state after uniting the muhajiroun and the ansar,[iii] and [only] then did Allah permit them to prepare to defend themselves, their homes and their property against  attack.

"[Even then] the Muslims were not the ones who started the war. In fact, the Prophet… was determined to prevent bloodshed and avoid being drawn into war. He exhausted every avenue of diplomacy and peacemaking and never started wars, because of the hatred they involve – for Islam is based on peace and mandates war only in defense of the homeland and the people."

Jihad Can Only Be Waged On Orders Of The Ruler

"Going back to the Prophet's history and biography, we find that war, according to the Islamic perception, requires three elements: preparedness, gear and [a decision] by the authorities… In fact, the Muslims [in the time of the Prophet] did not take the decision to go to war. It was Allah who permitted it to His Messenger [Muhammad], and the latter called on the Muslims to defend themselves. The decision [to go to war] must be taken by the leaders and authorities of the state, who understand the gravity of permitting such a measure in light of its sensitive repercussions. Before they enter [into a state of war] they study the situation, its [various] aspects and its consequences, for they are in charge and cannot send their people to perdition.    

"This means that some [kinds of] jihad are forbidden, namely, jihad that does meet these three conditions and is waged without the permission of the rulers. This is tantamount to disobeying Allah, for it is said, 'O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you' [Quran 4:59], and this is an issue that can cause death and bring perdition upon the servants of Allah and upon countries."


[2] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), November 19, 2023.

[3]  The muhajiroun ("migrants") were the Prophet's supporters who migrated with him from Mecca to Medina, and the ansar ("helpers") were people of Medina who promised to defend the Prophet after he migrated to their city.

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