Debates on the Rights of Prisoners of War in Islamic Law
Islamic Studies, 49:4 (2010) pp. 463-492
30 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2011 Last revised: 19 Aug 2012
Date Written: December 1, 2010
This paper explores the rights of protection available to the prisoners of war under Islamic law. It analyzes the differences of opinion among the early fuqaha’ regarding the POWs. The paper finds that the Qur’an mentions only two ways to terminate\ captivity, that is, mann (freedom gratis) and fida’ (ransom) (Qur’an 47: 4) a verse that was not superseded; that ransom was taken by the Prophet only from the POWs of Badr whereas the general practice of the Prophet (peace be on him) and his caliphs was to set POWs free without any condition or ransom. Non-Muslim states used to ask for ransom for the release of Muslim or non-Muslim POWs. In addition, enslavement of POWs as well as their execution had never been the general practice in Islam. Slaying the POWs had been very rare in Islamic military history. Finally, the Prophet and his caliphs had exchanged POWs on some occasions. Majority of classical Muslim jurists seem to have generalized exceptional cases regarding the execution and enslavement of POWs. The question of treatment has been debated particularly with reference to the La'ihah for the Mujahidin, a document issued by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2010. The paper argues that The Taliban have created new rules for terminating the captivity of POWs but have wrongly attributed them to Islamic law.
Keywords: Prisoners of war in Islam, POWs, Islamic law, opinions of, Muslim jurists, fuqaha, execution, ransom, termination of, Taliban, La'ihahPOWs and the Layha for the Mujahidin
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