Editors note: This article appears in it’s entirety on The Daily Beast. Qasim will be joining us December 2, 2012 at 12pm ET on The American Muslim Podcast to discuss this article and more.
As the volatility between Israel and Gaza continues to transform, one constant remains: rising “collateral damage.” Unrest in Israel traces back six decades but the concept of collateral damage stretches back several millennia. And while in modern times we are allegedly “more civilized,” 11-month-old Omar Masharawi’s funeral, three dead Israelis, and a horrifying 120 killed Palestinians, tell a different story.
Prophet Muhammad is history’s first major figure to condemn collateral damage in word and deed. His advanced rules of war established 1400 years ago a yet unmatched humanitarian standard. And herein lies the solution to modern conflict. The Qur’an first describes when fighting is permitted:
Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged… Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is God’ — And if God did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down temples and churches and synagogues and mosques… (22:40-41).
Thus, the permission—not commandment—to fight is defensive. And that fighting protects temples, churches, synagogues, and mosques—which is to say, universal religious freedom.
While critics and extremist groups both love to cite Qur’anic excerpts like “kill them where ye find them,” they ignore that such verses clearly refer to treatment of those who would violently persecute Christians, Jews, or any person because of his faith. Indeed, Muhammad commanded the following uncompromising rules of war:
O people! I charge you with ten rules; learn them well…for your guidance in the battlefield! Do not commit treachery, or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone.