Are Muslims exempt from punishment (in an Islamic state) for killing of Non-Muslims?

Recently someone brought to our attention a hadith that is being propogated on the net as "Muslims are allowed in Islamic state to kill non-Muslims".

The hadith from Sahih Bukhari is as follows:

Narrated Abu Juhaifa: I asked 'Ali "Do you have anything Divine literature besides what is in the Qur'an?" Or, as Uyaina once said, "Apart from what the people have?" 'Ali said, "By Him Who made the grain split (germinate) and created the soul, we have nothing except what is in the Quran and the ability (gift) of understanding Allah's Book which He may endow a man, with and what is written in this sheet of paper." I asked, "What is on this paper?" He replied, "The legal regulations of Diya (Blood-money) and the (ransom for) releasing of the captives, and the judgment that no Muslim should be killed in Qisas (equality in punishment) for killing a Kafir (disbeliever)." - Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 83, Number 50

This is one of the weak hadiths and there is no oher hadith expanding this point further. Nowhere is a similar thing mentioned in the Quran or sayings of prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

First of all, it should be clear that Islam maintains the protection of life and does not sanction any violation against it, irrespective of the people’s religion, race, sect, etc.. The Qur’an says about the prohibition of murder, “…Take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.” (Al-An`am: 151) “Nor take life, which Allah has made sacred, except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, We have given his heir authority (to demand Qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the law)” (Al-Isra’: 33)

According to the Qur’an, killing any person without a just cause is as big a sin as killing the whole humanity and saving the life of one person is as good deed as saving the whole humanity. (See Al-Ma’idah: 32) Muslims do not hate – let alone kill - non-Muslims, be they Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhist or followers of any religion or no religion. Our religion does not allow killing any innocent person regardless of his or her religion. The life of all human beings is sacrosanct according to the teachings of the Qur’an and the guidance of our blessed Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and upon all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah.

When we Muslims state that Islam is a religion of peace, we are not trying to prove something unreasonable or solve a crossword puzzle. Rather, we are just stating a fact backed by clear-cut evidence and unquestionable proofs. Even we don’t need to state this fact, for Islam, in itself, is self-explanatory, in terms of its meaning, its noble teachings and the core of its message conveyed by the Prophets Allah sent to mankind.

With that statement, we don’t intend to sound apologetic, for Islamic concept of peace is very clear. It does not mean weakness, slavishness or surrendering to aggression and injustice. The Islamic concept of peace aims at securing security and harmony for the whole world, without any discrimination as to religion, race or color. Thus, Islam, right from its inception, waged a total war against injustice and oppression. It has made it clear that people should not be deprived of having access to the light of guidance. But throughout its history you can never find any trace of infringing upon people’s right to self expression, even at times that such right was misused. The cogent example to be mentioned here is the way the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, received the two envoys sent by Musailamah Al-Kazzab (the Liar). His fine remarks always ring in mind whenever the issue of diplomatic immunity comes to fore. He, peace and blessings be upon him, told the envoys when they addressed him in a very provocative way: “If not that the envoys should not be killed, I’d have ordered for you to be beheaded”, thus laying down the rule that was later codified as one of the principles of the modern international law.

The point here is, it’s not of the Islamic teachings to kill people just because they happen to be non-Muslims or happen to disagree with Muslims on some points. What attests to this is the fact that the first war in the Islamic history would have never occurred if not that the enemies of Islam could not be satisfied with expelling Muslims from their home (Makkah), rather they planned to carry the aggression to Madinah in order to exterminate Muslims once and for all. So the question that should have been asked is: why do opponents are always on the trail of Muslims?

Focusing more on your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

“Islam is indeed a religion of love and peace. Islam does not teach people to kill all those who disagree with them simply because they disagree with them. If certain bigoted Muslims did so that is not the fault of Islam. How unjust would it be to say that Christianity is a religion that teaches violence and blood shed by looking at the historical performance of some so-called Christians: After all, Hitler who committed genocide against the Jews, the white supremacists in South America who practiced barbarities against the blacks, the Serbs who committed genocide against the Muslims in Bosnia, those who systematically practiced mass slaughter of Muslims and Jews in Spain, and burned heretics, etc. all claimed to be Christians. What about the Christians still killing each other in Ireland? So why use double standards in judging Islam? Stereotyping is wrong regardless of against whom we use it.

Vast majority of Muslims have nothing to do with such violence or bloodshed that may or may not have been committed by those who claim to be Muslims. According to the strict verdict of the Qur’an, taking life of a single human being unjustly is akin to taking the life of all humanity. A good Muslim, therefore, is one who believes in sanctity of all life. The Prophet, peace be upon him, taught us that if a person were to kill even a single little sparrow, it would appear before the Lord of the worlds seeking God’s justice against the person!” (Source:

Islam was practiced in a proper way during the time of Prophet Muhammad (saws) and the Khalifas (raa) and there is not a single instance of this rule being applied.

Narrated Salim's father: "The Prophet sent Khalid bin Al-Walid to the tribe of Jadhima and Khalid invited them to Islam but they could not express themselves by saying, "Aslamna (i.e. we have embraced Islam)," but they started saying "Saba'na! Saba'na (i.e. we have come out of one religion to another)." Khalid kept on killing (some of) them and taking (some of) them as captives and gave every one of us his Captive. When there came the day then Khalid ordered that each man (i.e. Muslim soldier) should kill his captive, I said, "By Allah, I will not kill my captive, and none of my companions will kill his captive." When we reached the Prophet, we mentioned to him the whole story. On that, the Prophet raised both his hands and said twice, "O Allah! I am free (or innocent or not responsible for) from what Khalid has done." (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, Number 628)"

And what does the Quran say:

"They perform (their) vows, and they fear a Day Whose evil flies far and wide. And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive -- (Saying), 'We feed you For the sake of Allah alone: No reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.' (The Noble Quran, 76:7-9)"

In these Noble Verses, we clearly see how Allah Almighty orders the Muslims to treat their captives with kindness and to not expect anything back in return. Muslims must do it for the love of Allah Almighty, hence they have to feed their captives in kindness and love. Notice here how Allah Almighty is so Great, Merciful and Gracious, that even the captives are given His Love. Allah Almighty's door for Mercy and Forgiveness is always open.

Muslims not only can't kill their captives, but they also must feed them for the "love of Allah". Our Prophet peace be upon him forgave the enemies of Islam. When the Muslims liberated Mecca from the Pagan Arabs, and the Pagans' army gave up, because they were widely out numbered by the Muslims, our Prophet peace be upon him said his very famous word that was taught to us in schools: "Go, you are free."

Islam and Ethnic Cleansing

Ethnic cleansing is a western concept and is generally followed by Christian societies. For example, Islam ruled Spain for nearly 500 years and at that time there were Muslims, Jews and Christians living together. As soon as the Christians took over, they either killed or expelled al Jews and Muslims from Spain. Similarly before the second world war, the Christians from Europe ethnically cleansed it from Jews and upto six million Jews were killed throughout Europe. Recently there has been enthnic cleansing of Muslims by Christian Serbs in Yugoslavia and recently by the Russians in Chechnya.

In Islam ounishment can be imposed on Non-Muslims if they are trying to destry Islam.

"The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter; Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case, know that God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (The Noble Quran, 5:33-34)"

Let us look at some incidents where Noble Verse 5:33 had been applied to the enemy:

The first incident is when the Muslims were just starting Islam in Madina. Along with the Muslims there, there were some Christians and three big Jewish tribes: Bani Al-natheer, Bani Qaynuqaa, and Bani Quraytha. When the Pagans of Mecca wanted to end Islam once and for all, they finally agreed along with several other Pagan tribes out side Mecca to attack the Muslims in Madina. Prior to this, the Muslims had already signed a treaty of united defense of Madina with the Jews. When the Pagans of Mecca and their allies finally started marching to Madina, the Muslims became aware of it. One of our beloved Prophet's close companions, Salman Al-Farisi (may Allah Almighty be pleased with him, rest his soul and grant him Paradise), suggested that the Muslims should dig a big trench to along all of the plain areas of Madina to disable the Pagans from attacking the Muslims.

The Jews' tribes were stationed in the North side of Madina. They didn't need to dig any trench because they had such high mountains that they could easily defend by stationing their troops on top of the mountains, which would then disable the Pagans from entering Madina from the North. But the Jews will always remain Jews no matter what. They betrayed our Prophet and told the Pagans that they could attack them from the North along with the Jewish army. Allah Almighty had blessed the Muslims with a big victory after long battles and Allah Almighty's blessings of the winds that blocked the eye sights of the enemies of Islam. After the Pagans withdrew back to Mecca, our Prophet peace be upon him executed Noble Verse 5:33 and exiled Bani Quraytha, the first Jewish tribe to betray the Muslims, from Madina. Later on, the other two Jewish tribes were exiled too.

The second incident is in the following narration about our Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, which further explains in details when the Muslims need to apply Noble Verse 5:33 to the enemy:

Narrated Abu Qilaba: "Anas said, "Some people of 'Ukl or 'Uraina tribe came to Medina and its climate did not suit them. So the Prophet ordered them to go to the herd of (Milch) camels and to drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). So they went as directed and after they became healthy, they killed the shepherd of the Prophet and drove away all the camels. The news reached the Prophet early in the morning and he sent (men) in their pursuit and they were captured and brought at noon. He then ordered to cut their hands and feet (and it was done), and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron, They were put in 'Al-Harra' and when they asked for water, no water was given to them." Abu Qilaba said, "Those people committed theft and murder, became infidels after embracing Islam and fought against Allah and His Apostle. (Sahih Bukhari, Ablutions (Wudu'), Volume 1, Book 4, Number 234)"

Notice in the above incidents that the enemy had betrayed the Muslims. In the first incident, the Jews betrayed the Muslims by breaking up the treaty and fighting along side with the Pagans. In the second incident, the Pagans killed the Shepherd and and stole all of the Camels after they gained the Muslims' trust by embracing Islam. These are the only times where Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him ever applied Noble Verse 5:33 to anyone.

Islam is a merciful religion and Allah Almighty gives the enemies of Islam the opportunity to be forgiven when they're captured in the battle field. Muslims must always treat their captives with kindness and feed them.

If the enemy was caught after they played a very dirty trick on the Muslims and caused the Muslims much damage from their evil deceptions and tricks as the Jews and some of the people of Tribe of Urania did to our Prophet and the Muslims, then Noble Verse 5:33 must be applied for their punishment.

The door for mercy and forgiveness is always open for the treacherous enemy as clearly stated in Noble Verse 5:34, but depending on the situation, if the enemy is so obviously not willing to sincerely repent even if they declare it, then Noble Verse 5:34 can not be applied to them and the punishment of Noble Verse 5:33 must be applied.


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