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How the Quran Looks at War
The concept of war is mentioned in the Quran only six times. First, God and his messenger declare a spiritual war on the rich who make money by unproductive financial transactions (interest, currency trade, stock market speculation, derivatives). He asks creditors to give debtors time, or better yet, to forgive the debt as charity. 2:278
Second, after praising Abel for not fighting back when Cain murdered him, and decreeing that killing one soul is like killing all humanity, God condemns mass murder by gangs, calling it a war against law and order. The only exceptions are killing in self defense and court ordered execution of a murderer when the victim's family does not forgive. 5:27
Third, we learn that people in certain groups will keep trying to kindle a fire of war, and God promises to put it out. 5:64
Fourth, God condemns nations that regularly violate international treaties and start wars. He requires other nations to prepare forces of deterrence against such war starters, but commands us to make peace with them whenever they are open to it. 8:56ff
Fifth, the Quran tells us that warmongers will commit mass murder and falsely blame it on Muslims in an attempt to start a war against Muslims. Fortunately, the verses tell us that such plots are fragile, built on the crumbling edge of a mud hill, bound to collapse with the plotters into Hell. 9:107ff
Finally, God tells us that when war is over, the killing must stop and prisoners must be exchanged or set free. 47:4
It is interesting how these verses may be tied together in a scheme that gives us a fresh perspective of current world events.
Nations under military attack have to stick to very strict rules of self defense. "You may use lethal force with God's permission only against those who are currently using lethal force against you . . . but you may only kill the ones you confront in battle, and you may only expel your opponents from places they have previously expelled you from. Mass murder because of religion is worse than plain killing. . . . use force to stop it so that people's souls are free under God alone. If they stop using force, then you stop, too . . . Respond only with equal counter attack . . ." 2:190ff
Since the invention of bombs, it has become nearly impossible to limit combat killing to those who are currently trying to kill you. When "collateral damage" is expected, it is akin to premeditated mass murder, not self defense. This defeats the sole purpose of self defense: to preserve one's life and the lives of defenseless civilians.
Nowadays, atrocities, especially wars against people of a certain faith, must be stopped with international non-lethal pressure. It seems as if God expected that, by the time we invented bombs and machine guns, we would be evolved enough to deter and eliminate wars.