Islamic rulings are derived from the Qur’ān (the word of God revealed by the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad, God bless him and grant him peace) and the Sunna (the way shown by the Prophet, including his sayings, deeds, and tacit approvals or disapprovals). What follows is a compilation of Muslim sacred texts in condemnation of wanton destruction and indiscriminate killing.
FROM THE QUR’ĀN
1. “[…]We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul – unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And, whoever saves one, it is as if he had saved mankind entirely”. (Qur’ān, 5:32)
This verse establishes the sanctity of life.
2. “[…] And do not kill the soul which God has forbidden except by right […]”. (Qur’ān, 6:151)
3. “And do not kill the soul which God has forbidden except by right. And whoever is killed unjustly, We have given his heir authority but let him not exceed limits in [the matter of] taking life. Indeed, he has been supported [by the law]”. (Qur’ān, 17:33)
4. “And [the believers are] those who do not invoke any deity with God, nor kill the soul which God has forbidden except by right, nor commit zina”. (Qur’ān, 25:68)
This verse conveys the heinousness of unjustifiably taking a human life, and indicates that wrongful murder is close in enormity to shirk and zina.
5. “And fight, in the path of God, those who fight you […]”. (Qur’ān, 2:190)
This verse indicates that only those involved in combat are to be fought, which excludes non-combatants such as women, children and civilians; a regulation detailed further by narrations from the Sunna, as mentioned in the following section.
6. “Among mankind is he whose speech impresses you in worldly life, and he calls God to witness as to what is in his heart, yet he is the fiercest of opponents. And, when he goes away, he strives throughout the land to cause corruption therein, and to destroy crops and lives. And God does not love corruption”. (Qur’ān, 2:204–5)
These verses indicate that wanton destruction and indiscriminate killing are tantamount to working mischief / corruption upon the earth.
FROM THE SUNNA
Prohibition against causing suffering even to animals
1. “A woman entered the Fire on account of a cat, which she tied up, neither feeding it, nor letting it eat [for itself] from the vermin of the earth, until it died, and as a result she entered the Fire [of Hell]”.
2. “Do not take something with a soul as a target”.
Another version says, “Ibn ‘Umar passed by some youths of Quraysh who had set up a bird and were shooting at it, giving any arrows which missed to the owner of the bird. Thereupon, Ibn ‘Umar said, ‘God curses the one who does this. Verily, the Messenger of God cursed the one who takes something with a soul as a target’”.
Another version says, “The Messenger of God forbade taking something with a soul as a target”.
Another version says, “God curses the one who takes something with a soul as a target”.
3. “Indeed, God tortures those who torture people in this world”.
The narrator of this h.adīth, H.akim ibn H.izam, saw some people in the Levant who had had oil poured over their heads and were being made to stand in the hot sun as a punishment for not paying taxes, and he cited the h.adīth in condemnation of this. This establishes the severe prohibition of inflicting torturous suffering on people, even when they are duly-convicted criminals.
4. “Do not punish with the punishment of God, the Mighty, the Majestic”.
This h.adīth specifically prohibits the infliction of burning on human beings.
Prohibitions Against Wrongfully Taking Life
5. “A Muslim remains in latitude concerning his religion as long as he does not take a life”.
6. “Avoid the seven ruinous [sins] […] associating partners with God, sorcery, unlawfully taking life which God has prohibited, consuming interest (riba), consuming the property of an orphan, fleeing on the day of marching [in battle], and accusing a chaste, unaware believing woman of adultery”.
Specific Narrations Regulating Killing During War
7. Ribah ibn al-Rabi‘ al-Tamimi says, “We were with the Messenger of God in a battle. He saw people gathered, and then he saw a slain wo man, whereupon he said, ‘This [woman] was not fighting!’”
Another version adds, “Thereupon, the Prophet repudiated (i.e. prohibited) the killing of women and children”.
Another adds, “Catch up with Khalid and tell him: The Messenger of God commands you not to kill [women and] children, nor hired workers”.
Ibn ‘Abbas says: The Messenger of God, when dispatching his troops, would tell them, “[…] Do not behave treacherously, nor misappropriate war-booty, nor mutilate [those whom you kill], nor kill children, nor the people in cloisters”.Another version contains, “[…] Do not kill a decrepit old man, nor a child, nor a youngster, nor a woman […]”.
Another contains, “[…] Do not kill a woman, nor a child, nor an old, aged man […]”.
Another contains, “Do not kill a child, nor a woman, nor an old man, nor obliterate a stream, nor cut a tree […]”.
9. The words of anyone after the Prophet do not carry independent religious authority, but the above teachings of the Prophet are clearly reflected in the practice of his immediate successor, the first Caliph, Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr gave ten directions to Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan, one of his commanders, when dispatching him at the head of an army to the Levant:
“Do not kill a woman, nor a child, nor a decrepit aged person; do not cut down a fruit-bearing tree; do not destroy a dwelling; do not kill a sheep or camel, unless [you need to kill it] for food; do not set date-palms on fire, nor drown them; do not misappropriate war-booty; and do not be cowardly”.