The Protection of Life and Property in the Shari`ah

 By The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America

Protection of life and property is confirmed in the Shari`ah by faith and pledge of security (`ahd al-aman); just as the life of a Muslim is protected, so is the life of the people who are granted security pledge, be it of a permanent or temporal nature, and whether these people live inside or outside Muslim countries. Any aggression against any of such protected people is considered a vicious treachery and a forbidden violation that is resented by Allah and His Messenger.

Persons enjoying protection by virtue of a security pledge include the following:

  • A musta’man – a person belonging to a country at war with Muslims, who is admitted to a Muslim country by a temporary security pledge for a certain purpose.

  • A mu`ahid – a person belonging to a country that has a peace agreement, be it permanent or temporary, with Muslims. This is the norm of the international relationships nowadays.

  • A dhimmi – a permanent non-Muslim resident of dar al-Islam (Muslim lands) who enjoys its full citizenship rights and abides by its system, exactly as other Muslim citizens do.

It is recognized among all scholars of the Shari`ah that the lives of the above three categories are protected and that it is prohibited to attack them.

Allah commands, (Fulfill their treaty to them for the end of their term) (At-Tawbah 9:4). `Abdullah ibn `Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever kills a mu`ahid (a non-Muslim having a treaty with the Muslims, or a non-Muslim citizen) shall not smell the (fragrant) smell of Paradise though it can be smelled from a distance of forty years (of traveling)” (Al-Bukhari).

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) made treaties with non-Muslim groups such as Bani Quraizah and Bani An-Nadir tribes, and he had a 10-year truce with Quraish. He kept all of his pledges and never once violated them, it was only the other party who breached the agreements and treaties. The biography of the Prophet and Sunnah are abundant with similar incidents.

Therefore, attacking protected people inside Muslim countries, even if they belonged to countries that show most hostility and hatred towards Islam, can never be consider to be a form of jihad. Rather, these acts are denounced and are a form of treachery that is condemned by Allah and his Prophet, no matter how well-meaning and serious its perpetrators were about what they thought was defending Islam.

Equally looked down upon are the attacks against protected people living in non-Muslim countries. Such attacks represent a violation of the agreements concluded with various countries, and a betrayal because the visas granted to such Muslims entail reciprocal rights and duties, the least of which is the mutual security of life, property, and honor between the concerned person and the country he or she to visit. A very serious issue is that such acts provoke the hostility of non-Muslims and spread negative feelings against Islam and Muslims. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not execute some of the hypocrites who deserved it so that no one could claim that he killed any of his followers.

Even a security pledge that appears suspicious would be as valid and of protective effect as a sound security pledge. Some of the perpetrators of violent acts inside Muslim countries argue that the secular regimes that control Muslim countries do not represent Muslims, and as such, they have no valid authority. They claim that such regimes oppose Islam and reject its fixed principles and, accordingly, all the treaties and security pledges made by them are ineffective.

The above argument is unacceptable. Even if we were to assume that regimes in the Muslim world not be representative of Muslims, this does not nullify the security pledges issued by them, nor does it justify the killing of protected people who entered Muslim countries through normal means and according to entry visas issued by the official embassies. Non-Muslim visitors believe that the current regimes are truly Muslim and have a legal authority on their respective nations.

Muslim scholars agree that a suspicious security pledge is just as effective as a valid one. A tolerant approach instead of a restrictive one, should be adopted on the issue. The least probability or doubt of having a security pledge is enough to effect the protection. Any other approach would lead to destructive consequences. The pledge, hence, would not cease to be valid if it included invalid terms because the corruption of the qualities does not necessarily harm the very origin.

Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the founder of the Hanbali school of law, said, “If a hint was made to a non-Muslim and he understood it to indicate a pledge of security, which is not intended in effect, then the non-Muslim would be considered to have a valid security pledge. And anything understood by a non-Muslim to mean a security pledge would be accepted as a pledge of security.”

Commenting on the above saying, Ibn Taimiyah said, “This implies that a security pledge will go into effect once a non-Muslim understands that it was granted to him, even if no intention or mention of granting him such a pledge existed.”

Ibn Taimiyah also said, “To protect a non-Muslim from being deceived, even unintentionally, the Sunnah stipulates that whatever a non-Muslims understands to be a pledge of security should be deemed so.” He affirmed this principle in another book saying, “It is established that doubt of having a security pledge is as effective in protecting life as a valid pledge. “

Imam As-Sarakhsi said, “The pledge of security is based on tolerance and acceptance so any probability of its existence is enough to prove it and make it valid.” source