Terrorism & killing civilians
Is it permissible in jihad to attack civilian targets?
Sheikh Salman al-Oadah
On the basis of principle, Islam prohibits targeting innocent people such as women, children, and others like them even when there is actually a war being waged between the Muslims and the disbelievers. Disbelief, in and of itself, is not a justification to kill someone.
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and the Rightly Guided Caliphs who came after him stressed the need to protect the weak and the noncombatants and were very considerate of them.
Ibn `Umar said: “I saw the body of a slain woman during one of the battles of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), so he forbade the killing of women and children.” [Sahîh al-Bûkhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
Abû Dâwûd relates from Rabâh b. Rabî` with an authentic chain of narrators that he said: “We were with Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) during a battle and we saw people gathered together. He dispatched a man to find out why they were gathered. The man returned and said: ‘They are gathered around a slain woman.’ So Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: ‘She should not have been attacked!’ Khâlid b. al-Walîd was leading the forces, so he dispatched a man to him saying: ‘Tell Khâlid not to kill women or laborers’.”
In another narration from Ibn Mâjah, it is related that Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Tell him not kill children or laborers.”
Laborers are not to be attacked deliberately, even if they are present during the battle, as long as their activities are not directly connected with the fighting. Workers who are not present at the battlefield are definitely not to be treated with aggression, regardless of the fact that they are in the enemy country. Abû Dâwûd relates from Anas b. Mâlik that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) would say the following words to his troops before sending them to war: “Go forward in the name of Allah. Do not kill an elderly person, nor a small child, nor a woman, and do not exceed the bounds.”
In the Muwatta’, it is related from Yahyâ b. Sa`îd that Abû Bakr sent an army to Syria and went out to give them words of encouragement. He walked alongside Yazîd b. Abî Sufyân, then said: “You are going to find a group of people who have devoted themselves to the worship of Allah (i.e. monks), so leave them to what they are doing.”
It might be appropriate to make mention of the proposal that the angel of the mountains made to Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that he would bring the two mountains down upon the inhabitants of Mecca. Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “No, I hope that Allah will make some of their descendants worship Him alone.” He said this in spite of the fact their destruction would have been of a divine nature and he and the believers with him would not have had to lift a finger against them.
Those people and these today are to be called to Islam. They are the ones to bring the message to. Failure to fulfill this duty properly at one time or another does not mean that it always has to be this way, because there is an Islamic effort that offers the promise that this will take place.
Moreover, public places like airplanes and markets are open territory where both Muslims and Non-Muslims meet. It is also a place where adults and children, men and women are to be found. These places are never to be turned into targets, even during times of war.