The most revered Prophet (SAW) took part in eighty battles that were imposed on him, in which around one thousand people were killed and an equal number injured. The modern world fought just two wars, leaving millions dead. Not only the history but the geography of the world changed due to these wars.
The Holy Prophet (SAW) was the first human-being to say that everything was not fair in war. Instructions from the most revered Prophet (SAW) to his worthy companions (RA) merit special mention here: “Do not kill non-combatants, do not kill the enemy when he surrenders, do not cut trees, do not destroy standing crops, do not harm the bishops, do not touch children and women, do not subject the elderly to inconvenience”.
Hundreds of persons were taken prisoner during the Holy Prophet’s (SAW) times. Nobody was subjected to extra-judicial execution. Nobody disappeared. Nobody was killed in a fake encounter. Nobody was tortured and nobody was stripped or humiliated. On the contrary, the prisoners were fed well and treated well.
The seventeenth of Ramadhan is an important date in the annals of humankind as it changed the course of world history. On this day, a handful of Muslims (313) defeated an army of infidels, and is remembered for a variety of other reasons. On this day, the most revered Prophet (SAW) stressed on the need to enforce the rights of prisoners. It is, therefore, also remembered as the day of the prisoners.
Scores of infidels were taken into custody after they suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Muslims. Soon after, the Holy Prophet (SAW) sought counsel from his pious companions. Hazrat Umar (RA) the great was in favour of killing the prisoners. But the Prophet’s friend, Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) counseled granting pardon to them all. The prisoners were released, some in lieu of a consideration, and most of them without any conditions. To win their freedom, a handful of them were told to teach Muslims to read and write. Ultimately all of them were released. Why?
Before migrating to Madinah, the most revered Prophet (SAW) had received a revelation about prisoners. “And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan and the captive.” (Ad-Dahr: 8)
In this surah, Allah the Most Exalted narrates the story of the creation of man, how the righteous shall be rewarded and the wrong-doers punished. While outlining the qualities of the righteous, Allah says: And they feed, for the love of Allah…
So a person who loves Allah the Most Exalted treats prisoners well. How could the Holy Prophet (SAW), therefore, accept the counsel of Hazrat Umar (RA)? How could he order the execution of the prisoners? The story does not end here. Since there was no jail for the prisoners, the Holy Prophet (SAW) directed his pious companions (RA) to take them home. “Treat them well. Respect them,” he ordered. Nobody objected. The order was carried out in its totality. Most Muslims in those days were poor. Notwithstanding this, they would feed the prisoners first, and then take a few morsels themselves, if any were left. Not surprisingly, most of the prisoners later embraced Islam.
Prisoners cannot be harassed while in captivity. Measures have to be taken to make them feel good. “O Prophet ! say to those who are captive in your hands, If Allah findeth any good in your hearts , He will give you something better than what has been taken from you, and He will forgive you: for Allah is oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al Anfaal: 70)
There is no scope for Abu Ghraibs, Guantanamo Bays, or Papa1 and Papa 2 in an Islamic set-up. A prisoner is a human being and nobody can snatch from him his rights.
After a few years, the most revered Prophet (SAW) conquered Makkah. It was a conquest with a difference. Not a single drop of blood was shed. Abu Sufian, who was the leader of the unbelievers and often used to hatch conspiracies against Islam and the Muslims was not humiliated or harmed. Instead his house was declared a place of peace for the nonbelievers. “Whoever is in Abu Sufian’s house will not be harmed,” the most revered Prophet (SAW) announced.
Yes, in contemporary times, Muslims find themselves involved in wars and confrontations. But an in depth analysis reveals that they are only resisting external aggression, be it in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq or Kashmir.
A follower of the Holy Prophet (SAW) cannot be a ruthless killer. If a Muslim does not respect an individual’s (not only of Muslims) right to life, he has not understood the teachings of the most revered Prophet (SAW). Remember that the very concept of human rights owes its origin to Islam. It was only about 60 years ago that the modern world began showing concern on human rights. But what the authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came out with after deliberating for several months has been there for fourteen centuries, in the last sermon of the most revered Prophet (SAW).