The Iran-Iraq War: The Politics of Aggression

By Farhang Rajaee | Go to book overview

14
The Problem of Retaliation in Modern Warfare from the Point of View of Fiqh

HAMID ALGAR

Although Islam realistically treats warfare as a permanently recurring feature of human existence, it regards war as an exceptional and intrinsically undesirable state. The rank of the ghazi and still more that of the martyr are honorable ones, but the honor derives from the purpose to which the fighting is devoted--the elevation of God's word and the removal of injustice and disorder 1--not from the act of fighting itself. As jurists have expressed it, war is intrinsically a type of fasad, a disturbance of the natural order, and it acquires its acceptability from factors extrinsic to itself; it is "good because of the goodness of other than itself" (hasan ala husni ghayrihi). Put differently, war is the attempt to repel a greater evil by means of a lesser one. As the Qur'an (2:191) says, gross disorder and corruption are worse than fighting (al-fitnatu ashaddu min al-qatl).

Given this concept of legitimate warfare in Islam, it follows that methods of fighting must be adopted that are consonant with its purpose and that wanton destruction and killing are to be avoided. Although the Prophet of Islam described himself as simultaneously the Prophet of Mercy and the Prophet of Battle, 2 the former attribute clearly has priority over the latter; mercy must therefore both limit and underlie the conduct of war. Earlier prophets had in some cases called for the annihilation of their enemies, 3 but the Prophet Muhammad, in view of the particular nature of his mission, adopted a more discrimi-

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