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The Sealed Nectar

 The Sealed Nectar by Shaykh Safi ur-Rahman

Q. Does Islam allow Muslims to behead civilians and prisoners of war?

A. In principle, Islam forbids targeting civilians and those who don’t contribute to the war. A Muslim fighter can only target those who attack him and waged war against his country.

As for civilians or those who oppose the war, it is unacceptable to kill them at any case. That is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and Muslim Caliphs after him, used to advise the leaders of the Muslim army in all battles not to kill monks, civilians, or whoever surrenders and decides to leave off the battle. This is because fighting in the perspective of Islam is like a surgery sought only as the last resort. Allah SWT commanded us to establish peace entirely: {O you who believe! Enter into peace whole-heartedly.} (Al-Baqarah 2: 208) Therefore, fighting is an exceptional case; if it happens, it has to be limited to the warring parties.

Killing captives is unjustifiable in the perspective of Islam, except in case of retaliation or responding to the same tactic the enemy is using. If there is a war between Muslims and non-Muslims and the non-Muslim army get used to kill Muslim captives—only in this case it is allowed that captives be killed in return, in conformity with Allah’s saying: (whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you and be careful (of your duty) to Allah and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).) (Al-Baqarah 2: 194)