The most revered Prophet (SAW) took part in eighty battles that were imposed on him. Around one thousand people got killed in these battles. An equal number suffered injuries. The modern world fought just two wars. Millions of people got killed. Not only the history but also the geography of the world changed due to these wars.
The Prophet (SAW) was the first human being to say that everything was not fair in war. The instructions from the most revered Prophet (SAW) to his worthy companions (RA) merit special mention here: “Do not kill the 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 people to inconvenience”.
Hundreds of persons were taken prisoners during the 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 and treated well.
Seventeenth Ramadan is an important date in the history of humankind as it changed the course of world history. On this day a handful of Muslims (313) defeated an army of infidels. The day is remembered for a variety of reasons. On this day, the most revered Prophet (SAW) stressed the need for enforcement of the rights of the prisoners. This day, therefore, is also called 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 that the Prophet (SAW) sought counsel from his companions (RA). Umer (RA) was in favour of killing all the prisoners. However, the Prophet’s friend, Abu Bakr (RA) told the Prophet (SAW) to grant pardon to all of them. The prisoners were released some in lieu of a consideration and most of them without any conditions. A handful of them were told to teach Muslims for securing their freedom. Ultimately all of them were released. Why?
Before, migrating to Madinah, the most revered Prophet (SAW) had received a revelation about prisoners. Allah the most exalted narrates the story of creation of man, how righteous shall be rewarded and the wrong doers punished in that Surah. While telling the Prophet (SAW) about the qualities of the righteous, Allah says, “And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan and the captive.” (Ad-Dahr, verse 8).
So a person who loves Allah the most exalted treats the prisoners well. How could the Prophet (SAW), therefore, accept the counsel of Umer (RA)? How could he order execution of the prisoners? The story did not end here. Since there was no jail for the prisoners, the Prophet (SAW) directed his pious companions (RA) to take the prisoners to their homes. “Treat them well. Respect them”, the companions (RA) were told. Nobody raised his brows. The order was carried out in totality. Most of the Muslims in those days were poor. Notwithstanding this, they would first feed the prisoners and then take a few morsels to keep them going. This had an impact. Most of the prisoners later accepted Islam.
In captivity the prisoners cannot be harassed. 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, verse 70).
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 then leader of the unbelievers 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 the contemporary times, the Muslims find themselves involved in wars and confrontations. But an in-depth analysis reveals that the Muslims are only resisting external aggression be it Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Kashmir.
If a Muslim does not respect the right to life of a person (not only of a Muslim), 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. There is no scope for Abu Gareeb, Guantanamo bay or Papa 1 and 2 in an Islamic set-up. A prisoner is a human being and nobody can snatch him his rights.