Islam and the Bomb: An Examination of Islamic Principles of Warfare and their Application to the Possession and Use of Nuclear Weapons

Originally written in April 2007


The only Islamic state that has its own nuclear arsenal is Pakistan. However, several Islamic state and non-state actors are purported to be seeking their own nuclear weapons. These actors include Iran and Al-Qaeda, both of whom have attacked American and Western targets in the past. Islamic leaders and religious scholars have made arguments claiming Islamic moral norms prohibit the possession and use of nuclear weapons. Yet, other arguments have been made asserting the possession and use of such weapons is permitted.

Given the grave consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran or Al-Qaeda for the West, understanding what Islam says about the bomb is critical. A simple exploration of Islamic principles of warfare derived from the Quran, the actions of the Prophet Muhammad, the teachings of Islamic scholars, and the actions of Islamic states as well as non-state actors lend credibility to the argument that possession and use of nuclear weapons is permitted. Furthermore, a review of the gradual acceptance of the tactic of suicide bombing by Muslims show that any obstacles to the permissibility of the possession and use of nuclear weapons can be overcome. The notion that Islam prohibits nuclear weapons is mistaken and relying on such a notion to help in advancing nuclear non-proliferation efforts in the Islamic world is dangerous. The implications of this permissibility are serious for not just the West but also for the Islamic world. They would not just be threatened by nuclear-armed Islamic states and non-state actors but would risk losing the chance at holding the moral high ground in the debate over the conduct of warfare.


I n late 2002, the Islamic Ruling Committee at al-Azhar University in Cairo determined that “[t]he acquirement of modern nuclear weaponry is a religious obligation.” 1 Sunni Muslims regard al-Azhar as the premier Islamic institution of higher learning. 2 A member of the committee, Sheikh Ala A-Shanawi stated with regards to the issued fatwa, or Islamic religious ruling, that “[t]he prophet Muhammad would have prepared himself with all the resources possible in order to deal with the enemy…All Islamic nations are required to seize nuclear weaponry, giving the nation the utmost respect.” 3

Several months after the al-Azhar fatwa was issued, the Saudi cleric and dissident, Sheik Nasir bin Hamad al-Fahd, wrote a fatwa justifying the possession and use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction by Muslims. 4 In the this fatwa, titled “A Treaties on the Legal Status of Using Weapons of Mass Destruction against Infidels”, al-Fahd laid out an argument refuting the application of classic Islamic principles on warfare prohibiting the use of WMD. 5

Prior to the issuing if the fatwas, Osama bin Laden had claimed that al-Qaeda was seeking to build or acquire its own WMD, to include nuclear weapons. When asked during a 1988 interview published in Time whether or not he was trying to obtain nuclear weapons bin Laden replied,

[A]cquiring weapons for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty. If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so. And if I seek to acquire these weapons, I am carrying out a duty. It would be a sin for Muslims not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent the infidels from inflicting harm on Muslims. 6

Al-Qaeda has been trying to acquire nuclear material since the 1990s. 7 Pakistani nuclear scientists eventually met with bin Laden during the summer of 2001 and were asked how radiological material, supposedly possessed by al-Qaeda, could be weaponized. 8 The discovery of documents in Afghanistan during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM purporting to show the seriousness of al-Qaeda’s efforts in this regard only added to the significant possibility of Islamic terrorist using nuclear weapons. 9

Al-Qaeda is not the only Islamic actor purported to be seeking nuclear weapons. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s self-described efforts in nuclear-power development have the international community concerned that in reality, Iran is developing a nuclear weapons capability. Some believe it is not a matter of if, but rather when the Iranians will have a nuclear bomb. 10 The proliferation of nuclear weapons goes beyond just Iran. It has been reported that even Saudi Arabia has considered developing its own nuclear arsenal. 11 In addition, last year Egyptian President Mubarak’s son called for an Egyptian nuclear “energy” program. 12

Though many Islamic actors have sought nuclear weapons, Pakistan is the only Islamic state that has such weapons, developed largely in response to rival India’s development and deployment of it’s own nuclear weapons. 13 Most Islamic states (including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt) have vowed not to pursue nuclear weapons by signing onto the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Of the 57 nations who make up the membership of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, only one, Pakistan, is not a signatory to the NPT. 14

There have been and continue to be individual voices influential in the Islamic community that have spoken against the possession and use of nuclear weapons by Muslims. Dr Ayid al-Qarni, another Islamic cleric, criticized al-Fahd and the Saudi government even had al-Fahd arrested for writing his fatwa as well as for other writings and actions on the cleric’s part. 15 Al-Fahd would later retract what he wrote in the fatwa, although he did so while jailed in a Saudi prison. 16

The Iranian “supreme leader” Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated in late 2003 that “based on its fundamental religious and legal beliefs, [Iran] would never resort to the use of weapons of mass destruction.” 17 Two years later Khamenei apparently issued his own fatwa on the subject, ruling that “the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam.” 18 Over the last three decades religious scholars here in the United States and abroad have argued what some call a “Muslim WMD pacifist position.” 19 The consensus among these scholars was that the use or even the possession of nuclear weapons by Muslims violated Islamic moral norms.

All these conflicting Islamic views on the use of nuclear weapons beg the following questions: What does Islam say about the possession and use of nuclear weapons? What is the basis of any supposed prohibition or permissibility and is it sound? Is there or is there not an Islamic moral norm prohibiting the possession of use of nuclear weapons? In order to answer these question one must look to Islamic principles of warfare. A review of classical Islamic principles of warfare applied to nuclear weapons, at first glance appears to point to an outright moral prohibition. Yet, just as some in the West have made the argument that possession and use of nuclear weapons in certain contexts could be morally acceptable, could the application of Islamic principles of warfare be made to do the same? 20

In order to determine what Islam says about nuclear weapons, this essay will examine the Islamic principles of warfare concerning non-combatant immunity, indiscriminate attacks and weapons, reciprocity, military preparedness and military necessity. Additionally, how these principles can be applied in either permitting or prohibiting the possession and use of nuclear weapons will be explored. It will then consider how recent Islamic state and non-state actors have applied these principles and their relevance to the possession and use of nuclear weapons. The essay will conclude with a set of implications of the permissibility in Islam for the possession and use of nuclear weapons.

A simple exploration in this essay of Islamic texts illustrating supposed Islamic moral norms prohibiting the possession and use of nuclear weapons will also show such norms can be disregarded or ignored. The varied judgments of who make up non-combatants, the believed military necessity to discount or completely ignore the limits on indiscriminate attacks and weapons, and the conviction that Muslims must deal with their adversaries in a like manner all suggest the permissibility to develop or acquire nuclear weapons to use as a deterrent or as an actual weapon in war.

Nuclear Weapons

Before exploring the Islamic principles of warfare, there is a need to describe the effects of a detonated nuclear device and how an Islamic actor would likely employ such a weapon. Understanding the effects and potential employment of this type of weapon will be helpful when applying the Islamic principles of warfare the possession and use of nuclear weapons. Though the findings of this essay could be applied to the possession and use of any type of WMD, nuclear weapons stand out because of the magnitude of destruction associated with a successful nuclear attack.

Nuclear weapons differ greatly from conventional weapons given their exponentially larger blast effects and the fact that fallout from a nuclear attack will affect a much greater area than just the blast area. Bill Keller of the New York Times brought such destruction to the attention of many in a 2002 piece in the New York Times Magazine by describing the effects of a crude one-kiloton nuclear device detonated in New York City’s Times Square:

The blast and searing heat would gut buildings for a block in every direction, incinerating pedestrians and crushing people at their desks. Let’s say 20,000 dead in a matter of seconds. Beyond this, to a distance of more than a quarter mile, anyone directly exposed to the fireball would die a gruesome death from radiation sickness within a day — anyone, that is, who survived the third-degree burns. This larger circle would be populated by about a quarter million people on a workday. Half a mile from the explosion, up at Rockefeller Center and down at Macy’s, unshielded onlookers would expect a slower death from radiation. A mushroom cloud of irradiated debris would blossom more than two miles into the air, and then, 40 minutes later, highly lethal fallout would begin drifting back to earth, showering injured survivors and dooming rescue workers. The poison would ride for 5 or 10 miles on the prevailing winds, deep into the Bronx or Queens or New Jersey. 21

Attacking a city would be the most likely way al-Qaeda would employ a nuclear device, especially if the organization could smuggle one into the United States or another Western nation. 22 It is probable an Islamic state actor wanting to use a nuclear weapon in war, would target cities as well. 23 Such an attack would kill indiscriminately and cause massive destruction in the immediate and surrounding area. In the attack described above, women, children and even Muslims would perish. The destruction of physical property and disruption of basic services would be extensive.

The Sources of Islamic Principles of Warfare

T he Prophet Muhammad (570–632) did not provide comprehensive guidance on warfare and thus it can be a challenge to apply the Islamic principles of warfare in a modern context especially one dealing with nuclear weapons. Muhammad was no stranger to war though. After fleeing Mecca and becoming the leader of the Muslim community in Medina, he engaged in war against the people of Mecca, carrying out raids and sieges throughout the Arabian Peninsula. 24 Muhammad himself was involved in 27 battles. 25 He also sent out raiding parties against other communities under the control of the Byzantine Empire. 26 The spread of Islam during the last years of his life was carried out in no small part by military means. In short, as leader of a number of raids and battles, he provided some direction upon which Muslims have been able to draw in the development of Islamic jurisprudence in regards to warfare.

To understand the Islamic principles of war, one must be familiar with the primary sources of Islamic jurisprudence. They are first and foremost the Qur’an and second the Hadith. Muslims believe the Qur’an is the word of Allah (God) transmitted or given to Muhammad. It follows the path of Islam in Arabia between 610 and 632. The Qur’an is a guide and regulates all aspects of a Muslim’s life. It is divided into 114 chapters and 6,219 verses. 27 A Hadith is a narration about the life of the Prophet or what he approved. 28 The Hadith are in essence the sayings and the actions of Muhammad as remembered by his companions and recorded either by these same companions or by others who can attribute than directly to Muhammad. 29

A point needs to be made here alluding to the differences between the two main branch of Islam: Sunni and Shi’a. There is little difference between the two when it comes to waging war. 30 One difference to note is the argument of who should lead the Muslim nation, which forms the basis of this division. From this difference comes the rejection by Shi’a Muslims of the Hadith reported by companions of Muhammad, such as Abu Bakr. The Shi’a Muslims only accept Hadith reported by direct descendants of Muhammad and unlike Sunni Muslims they also include in the Hadith the sayings and actions of imans who they see as on par with Muhammad. 31 Both Shi’a and Sunni Muslims share a common understanding of the main principles of Islamic warfare, with little disagreement, if any, on those principles explored in this essay.

Besides these two primary sources, there are other Islamic writings from both the classical Islamic scholars and more current thinkers that assist in defining the Islamic principles of warfare. Examining these sources, which in part deal with Islamic principles of warfare, provides guidance on how Muslims should conduct themselves in war. In some ways, this can be looked at as an Islamic jus in bello. Much like Western thought, Islamic tradition does not “permit wanton slaughter”. 32 In addition, both traditions have similar views on the treatment of combatants and noncombatants. 33

Since the time of Muhammad’s death, Muslims have had to rely on varying interpretations of this Islamic jurisprudence. There is no organized hierarchy or authority in Islam such as there is in the Roman Catholic Church and thus there are no authoritative or “official” rulings on matters dealing with Islamic principles like one would see with a papal encyclical or a teaching from an ecumenical council. 34 It is important to note that the differing interpretations of the Qur’an and Hadith can be problematic. This has led to conflicting rulings such as determining when it is permissible to go to war and whether actions such as suicide bombing are prohibited. Though many Muslims may agree that there are prohibitions against suicide bombing, given the weak position Muslims see themselves in compared to the West, these prohibitions can be overlooked. This will be explored further later in this essay.

The verses that direct Muslims how to fight, reflect the time during which these and other verses were revealed to Muhammad. When Muhammad first began to preach, he was living in Mecca, a city that did not welcome his message. It was here that the verses dealing with tolerance were revealed. Bassam Tibi points out that there are no verses from this period in the Qur’an dealing with war. 35 It was not until after the migration to Medina that Muhammad called for armed struggle with polytheists and those “given the Book”. 36 These verses revealed between 622 and 632, “relate to the establishment of Islam at Medina through violent struggle” against the people of Medina and later Mecca. 37 These later verses, it is claimed, nullify the earlier revealed verses. 38 The verses revealed in Medina also tend to be “more legal and administrative in nature” and thus more likely to contain rules on conducting oneself during battle. 39

Development of Islamic Principles of Warfare

P re-Islamic cultural norms played a role in establishing Islamic principles of warfare that would eventually be revealed in the Qur’an and transmitted through the Hadith. One can gather from pre-Islamic Arabic poetry that it was prohibited to harm women and children in battle, but that night raids were permitted. 40 A Jewish influence is also evident because of Islam being “rooted in the Abrahamic tradition”. 41

The principles of warfare found in the Qur’an and Hadith are from Muhammad’s actions as a military commander. From these sources appears a theme of justness in war. There are directives for waging war justly in the Qur’an. A verse that sanctions war but with restraints reads:

And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits. And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers. But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be onlyfor Allah, but ifthey desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors. The Sacred month for the sacred month and all sacred things are (under the law of) retaliation; 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). And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands, and do good (to others); surely Allah loves the doers of good.(2:190–195) 42

It has been argued that this verse is “interpreted as requiring rules to regulate not only who may be attacked and killed, but also weapons that may be used in the process”. 43. Another verse relating to warfare reads:

Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the [last day, nor do they prohibit What Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book [Christians and Jews], until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of[Muslim] superiority and they are in a state of subjection. (9:29)

These verses however, seem to contradict Islamic teachings on tolerance and peaceful discussion that were noted previously and many in the West are often reminded of. The Qur’an reads:

Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. (16:125)

An idea of an Islamic principle of discrimination appearing in the Qur’an can be seen in the following verse describing Muhammad’s displeasure after seeing a woman killed in battle:

…whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men: and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men. (5:32)

This attitude led to the development of a code of conduct among Muslim fighters that included no killing of women, children and innocents; no wanton killing of livestock and animals; no burning or destructing of trees and orchards; and no destruction of wells. 44

Abu Bakr, the first caliph after Muhammad’s death, would further develop this code. 45 Bakr was a companion of Muhammad and fought in all the battles that he led. He put together a set of instructions for a Muslim army setting out to conquer Syria, then held by the Byzantines, which is still referenced by Muslims today:

Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone. 46

Islamic Principles of Warfare: Protection of Non-combatants

T here is a concept of non-combatant immunity in Islamic culture, but determining who should be considered a non-combatant is complex. The Arab philosopher known as Averroes touched on this Islamic principle in his Malikite rite textbook, Bidäyat al-Mujtahid. 47 In it, he gets to the heart of the contradiction between two key Qur’anic verses which deal with determining non-combatants’ status. They read:

And fight in the way of Allah With those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits. (2:190)
So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them. (9:5)

The contradiction here is that 9:5 apparently gives a “rule without exception”, that is attack and kill all those who are enemies of Islam and that 2:190 places limits on harming “those.. which do not take part in the fighting [i.e. women, children and the elderly]”. 48 Averroes points out that the difference is in why one wants to slay the adversary. Those holding to 9:5 believe it is because the enemy is made up of any unbelievers and thus no exceptions can be made. Essentially, the entire population of an adversary nation was considered combatants. Those holding to 2:190 believe the enemy is only those who are able to fight. Thus, any non-combatants are not to be harmed. Muslims who may want to justify attacks against any non-Muslims without making a distinction on combatant status can manipulate this difference. TK

Along with the Qur’anic verses dealing with non-combatant immunity previously noted there are directions dealing with this principle from the Hadith. Early Islamic scholars agreed that based on several of the Hadith dealing with protection of non-combatants, “that women and children should not be deliberately killed”. 49 There are two Hadith that address this protection. They come from the Sahih Muslim collection of Hadith recorded by Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj. 50 They read:

It is narrated on the authority of ‘Abdullah that a woman was found killed in one of the battles fought by the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). He disapproved of the killing of women and children. (19:4319)
It is narrated by Ibn ‘Umar that a woman was found killed in one of these battles; so the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) forbade the killing of women and children. (19:4320)

This protection went beyond only women and children. “[J]urists ageed that noncombatants who did not take part in fighting, such as women, children, monks and hermits, the aged, blind, and insane, were excluded from molestation”. 51 Yet another source of this protection is an Islamic text written by a 9th century Islamic scholar known as al-Hasan al-Shaybani. Shaybani was of the Sunni Hanafi school, which is the largest of the four Sunni schools. 52 Shaybani’s Siyar (or book) details the conduct of a state in its relationships with other states. 53 This could be described as a book of Islamic law. The first chapter of his Siyar is titled Traditions Relating to the Conduct of War and became an early source of Islamic principles of war, “establishing precedents [for] subsequent generations of Muslims”. 54 TK

The key question which Shaybani answers is: Who can be targeted? Shaybani points out specific instructions Muhammad gave to his army before battle to not “mutilate anyone or kill children”; that “he of the enemy who has reached puberty should be killed, but he who has not should be spared”; that “prohibited the killing of women”; and that “you may kill the adults of the unbelievers but spare their minors — the youth”. 55

Early Islamic scholars made exceptions to non-combatant immunity. Al-Muslim pointed out exceptions from the Hadith that reads:

It is reported on the authority of Sa’b b. Jaththama that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), when asked about the women and children of the polytheists being killed during the night raid, said: They are from them. (19:4321)

Given the nighttime conditions, the inability of the Muslim attackers conducting the raid obviously made it much more difficult to keep from harming non-combatants.

There were early Muslims who permitted the killing of non-combatants. 56 These were the followers of Nafi’ibn al-Azraq (d. 685). These Muslims argued that all Muslims and unbelievers should be treated the same and thus not protected. Many modern Islamic scholars believe this prohibition still applies, and its disregard is by only fringe elements ofIslam (i.e. radical Islamic groups such as al-Qaeda and Hamas). 57 Some experts contend the exceptions against the prohibitions against harming non-combatants are taken out of context as well and that these ideas “have been widely condemned by most scholars.” 58

However, non-state Islamic terrorist organizations’ actions in this realm are becoming the basis of Islamic opinion. 59 Even though the likes of bin Laden have justified such acts in times of war, other Islamic terrorists have not. These other terrorists see the acts as unjust, but because of the “distinct disadvantage” the terrorists find themselves vis-a-vis their adversaries, they may disregard Islamic norms protecting non-combatants and prohibiting indiscriminate warfare. 60 These acts, though a large part of the classical Islamic tradition, are “clearly susceptible to interpretation.” 61

Women and children are protected, yet this protection is not as simple as it first seems. Concerning children, one of the reasons they may be exempted is ‘that they have not yet reached the age of refusal of Islam”. 62 It must be understood that Muhammad directed Muslims before attacking their enemy, to invite them to become Muslims (We never punish until we have sent a messenger. (17:15)) or pay a poll tax to compensate for security and protection. 63 Military action could not commence without this invitation and its subsequent “refusal”. 64 It was understood that children could be caught up in the middle of any fight and their deaths considered unintended. 65 As previously pointed out, Muhammad permitted such accidental deaths, justifying such action because those who were killed “are from them” (i.e. they were not Muslim). The protection of women is similiar to those for children. 66

These protections apply to women and children more so during captivity then during combat and that it was understood that there would be unintanional killing of non-combatants “on the battlefield” but that it would be prohibited “in the camp”. 67 The protections cited by Islamic scholars apply to protecting women and children captives. Al-Fahd, in his fatwa mentioned previously, makes a similar argument claiming the prohibition is against killing them intentionally. If they killed collaterally…there is nothing wrong with it. 68

The 20th century scholar Roger Arnaldez contends there is an exception to harming women and children. There is no protection prescribed during nighttime attacks due to the inability to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants in the darkness. 69 This harming of non-combatants was accotable for it was not done intentionally. Arnaldez points out examples from Muhammad however where such harm was intentional. These included Muhammad ordering the execution of all the men, not just men who were combatants, of the tribe of Banu Qurayza and the assassination he permitted of an elderly Arab poet following the Battle of Hunayn. 70

Nuclear weapons cannot distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. This characteristic makes justifying their use very problematic. Yet the differing Islamic understandings of both non-combatant status and exceptions to non-combatant immunity could simplify the justification of the use of nuclear weapons. Excluding women and children from non-combatant status or making exceptions for allowing harm to come to non-combatants has occurred in Islamic history and could again to justify a nuclear attack.

Islamic Principles of Warfare: Indiscriminate Attacks and Weapons

I ndiscriminate attacks may cause non-combatant deaths, non-combatant injuries, destruction of civilian property or any combination of the three that are excessive compared to the military gain desired. There are examples of this type of attack carried out by Muslims during the time of Muhammad to the present day.

The Qur’an, in places, directs the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks. One Qur’anic verse that illustrates this reads:

If (the believers and the disbelievers) had been clearly separated We verily had punished those of them who disbelieved with painful punishment. (48:25)

This verse was revealed after Muhammad’s unsuccessfill pilgrimage to Mecca in 627. Though he and his followas were at great risk, the revealed verse directs Muslims to take care and discriminate between combatants and non-combatmts in their attacks. Another verse from the Qur’an reads:

Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (Guarantees of) peace, then Allah Hath opened no way for you (to war against them). (4:9)

Though these verses do appear to prohibit the use of indiscriminate attacks the Qur’an also records Muslim raids and surprise attacks on towns whose residents were asleep at night or during the day with some of these towns destroyed and the communities eradicated. 71 Any military objective met in such raids is not noted. However, it is diffcult though to imagine what objective would be so important as to completely destroy these towns and eradicate its citizens. Two Qur’anic verses dealing with these kinds of attacks read:

And how many a town that We destroyed, so Our punishment came to it by night or while they slept at midday. (7:4)
And when We wish to destroy a town, We send Our commandment to the people of it who lead easy lives, but they transgress therein; thus the word proves true against it, so We destroy it with utter destruction. And how many of the generations did We destroy after Noah! And your Lord is sufficient as Knowing and Seeing with regard to His servants’ faults. (17:16–17)

Other examples illustrate the permitted use of indiscriminate tactics and weapons by Muslim fighters suggesting the prohibitions in the Qur’an were either ignored or non-existent.

In the chapter of his Siyar concerning the conduct of Muslims fighting in enemy territory, Shaybani points out there are rules which permit an army to attack during the day or at night and to burn or flood fortifications. 72 There is direction permitting the destruction of “whatever towns of the territory of [the enemy] that they may encounter”. 73 With regard to the weapons Muslims could use, Shaybani points out the permissibility of the use of the indiscriminate tactics including flooding, burning with fire, and the use of mangonels. 74

Mangonels were catapults or hurling machines Muslims used during sieges of fortifications and cities. During a siege of Baghdad in the 9th century by a Muslim army, mangonels “were said to have been used for the indiscriminate bombardment of the civilian population and to have inflicted terrible casualties.” 75 They could conceivably throw rocks, burning objects, or even dead animals and humans in order to spread disease. 76 By its very nature, the mangonel was inaccurate and thus an indiscriminate weapon, which “caused terror and considerable loss of life among people.” 77 Another indiscriminate siege weapon used by the Muslims was the bow and arrow. TK

Shaybani also provides instructions to fighters on how to deal with the situation of Muslim non-combatants, such as prisoners, who are among the enemy. These instructions permitted attacks with arrows, mangonels, flooding and fire against an enemy even if it meant the killing or wounding of these Muslims. 78 The reasoning provided for permitting this was that “if Muslims stopped attacking the inhabitants of the territory of [the enemy] [in order to avoid killing or wounding fellow Muslims], they would be unable to go to war at all, for there is no city in the territory of [the enemy] in which there [are no Muslims].” 79

Another Islamic scholar, Abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi, in an 11th century work, al-Ahkam al-Sultania, in part dealt with the administration of war. Al-Mawardi wrote a Muslim army was to operate according to “definitive legislation”. 80 One of the principles of this legislation was that “[t]he commander is free to use [any] means ofdestuction; siege artillery including ballistas and mangonels, night raid, fire and devastation of the crops are [all] legitimate war measures.” 81

Averroes also discussed the types of permitted weapons. He pointed out contoversy existed over the use of fire as a weapon. 82 Likewise, there was controversy over the use of mangonels. The basis of this conflict is whether or not women and children are present. 83 Averroes, however, does lay out a justification for the use of mangonels: “Those who do allow it do so, as it were, with a view to the general interest. ..[tol the extent to which injury may be inflicted upon the person of the enemy.” 84

Islamic scholar, Sidi Khalil wrote in a 14th century Islamic text, “Let those who fight employ flooding, any and all sorts of weapons, and, when all else fails, and when there are no Muslims among the enemy, let them use fire.” 85 He did write that burning and flooding should not be used if children are present and, if an adversary uses Muslims as shields, then fighting is permitted “without aiming at this shield, provided that there is not too great a risk for most of the Muslims. 86 This was the only medieval Islamic scholar found during research of this essay who wrote of such prohibitions.

There has been a pattern in the history of Muslim warfare that shows Muslims have used every kind of weapon available to them. This has “included poisons and dead animals for contaminating the water and the air and for spreading diseases, the use of phosphorous and other chemicals to incinerate their enemies, and virtually any other type of weapons that they have been able to acquire from their allies and their enemies. 87

In the Hadith, Al-Muslim pointed out an exception concerning the prohibited destruction of trees and orchards:

It is narrated on the authority of ‘Abdullah that the Messenger of Allah ordered the date-palms of Banu Nadir to be burnt and cut. These palms were at Buwaira. Qutaibah and Ibn Rumh in their versions of the tradition have added: So Allah, the Glorious and Exalted, revealed the verse: “Whatever trees you have cut down or left standing on their trunks, it was with the permission of Allah so that He may disgrace the evil-doers. “ (59:5) (19:4324)

Arnaldez wrote that Islamic regulations make it “permissible to burn the produce of the land, the trees, and the vineyards. One may also burn down houses or demolish them.” 88 These are based on the actions of Muhammad. In one case, he “set fire to the palm groves of the Banu Nadir, a Jewish tribe in Medina.” 89 In another, he had grapevines in Taif cut during the siege of that city. 90 He points out that Abu Bakr as caliph, forbid such actions. He further points out that Bakr “had the right to do so, since this kind of destruction is not commanded but simply permitted.” 91 In other words, such destruction was not prohibited outright. Rather, Islamic leaders in certain situations could allow it. Another 20th century scholar adds to this view, arguing such destruction was allowed if a leader saw the destruction as a way to weaken his adversary. 92

There seem to be some similarities with regard to the destruction of animals, which should be looked at in this context as property. Arnaldez indicates that some classic Islamic scholars permitted the killing of the animal herds of one’s adversary. 93 The reasoning is that “war should bring destruction upon the enemy, and everything that is not consumed by the
Muslim invader must be rendered unusable.” 94

With regard to weapons, Sohail Hashmi, an expert in Islamic law and who argues for the “Muslim WMD pacifist position”, grants that classical Islamic scholars permitted the use of indiscriminate weapons, but that there is no consensus today among the Islamic schools of law over the use of these types of weapons. 95 To some classic Islamic scholars, incendiary type weapons were only allowed in certain cases, with others contending they could be used more liberally. 96 There appears to have been less disagreement over the use of other indiscriminate weapons, but Hashmi points out the concern raised by these scholars, that the use of such weapons might have provoked retaliation in kind by the enemy or that the effects of these weapons could also affect the weapons’ employers. 97 Interestingly, he fails to point out the Qur’anic verses that appear to permit retaliation that will be explored in the next section.
 Though there is evidence in the Qur’an and in Muhammad’s actions permitting the destruction of an adversary’s property, Hashmi points out the lack of consensus among classical Islamic scholars on what can and cannot be targeted for destruction. 98 He cites Abu Bakr’s rules against destroying trees and slaughtering the adversary’s herds as a counterpoint to Muhammad’s actions in destroying the palm trees in Banu Nadir. Hashmi contends Bakr either knew that Muhammad later prohibited such destruction or that such actions may be permitted, but only in certain instances. 99 As previously suggested, it is such destruction was allowed in some situations. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine why some situations would allow this type of destruction and others would not.

The examples noted suggest indiscriminate attacks and weapons indeed permitted and justified. This may have been due to the view that the military gains outweighed the loss of life or injury to non-combatants and destruction of civilian property. Such actions may have been based on the reasoning that the use of indiscriminate weapons was the only way to ensure military success. Either way, the past use of indiscriminate attacks and weapons could be validation for future use of a nuclear weapon.

Islamic Principles of Warfare: Reciprocity

T he idea of reciprocity as an Islamic principle of warfare is of an in-kind response toward the actions of one’s adversary. This idea of retributive action was not new to Muhammad and early Muslims. The Jews maintained a similar principle known as “an eye for an eye”. 100

A Qur’anic verse that provides guidance for Muslims in their discussions with and tolerance for non-Muslims hints at this principle. Surprisingly this verse was revealed during Muhammad’s time in Mecca and seems much less tolerant than one would expect from such a verse. Nevertheless, it reads:

If you punish, then punish with the like of that by which you were afflicted (16:126).

Another such verse already mentioned reads:

The Sacred month for the sacred month and all sacred things are (under the law of) retaliation; 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). (2:194)

This direction given to Muslims who are attacked during the “Sacred month” to also attack during the “Sacred month” is justification for Muslims to retaliate in kind for attacks made against them. These verses seem to contradict verses such as 2:190 which direct Muslims to fight “in the way of Allah”, but direction from later Islamic leaders suggest the principle of reciprocity was permitted.

Abu Bakr directed his warriors “to fight the enemy with a sword if he fights with a sword and…with a spear if he fights with a spear. 101 Another member of the Islamic Ruling Committee mentioned in the introduction of this essay, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantwai, with regard to Bakr’s command, was quoted as saying, “Had Abu Bakr lived today he would have said… ‘If they fight you with a nuclear bomb, fight them with a nuclear bomb. 102 The Hadith underpins this code. Al-Muslim wrote:

It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah [Muhammad] said: Do not desire an encounter with the enemy; but when you encounter them, be firm.” (19:4313)

Though there are verses that “mention that Muslims are allowed to be charitable towards their enemies and not retaliate against them, other passages seem to indicate that this license only applies to enemies who are also ‘believers’ — i.e. other Muslims.” 103 Thus, Muslims should retaliate against their non-Muslim foes. Qur’anic verses like the two above have been used recently to justify nuclear weapons by Islamic clerics. 104 Bakr’s command and direction from the Hadith add force to this justification.

Islamic Principles of Warfare: Military Preparedness

T he Qur’an directs how Muslims should prepare for war. One such verse directing military preparation reads:

Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly. (8:60)

The Qur’an here is directing that such preparations be done in order to “strike terror into” one’s enemies. This threatening could be construed as a form of deterrence. The strategy of deterrence is very relevant to nuclear weapons. A strategy of deterring one’s enemies by threatening to use nuclear weapons worked well for the United States and former Soviet Union during the Cold War. To some Muslims the only way to make use of nuclear weapons is as a deterrent. 105 Many in the West believe nuclear deterrence to be immoral because it is ‘morally wrong to intend [i.e. threaten] to do what is morally wrong to intend [i.e. threaten] to do what is morally wrong to do. 106 Yet, this same conviction may not be shared in the Islamic world because of the Islamic principle to prepare to fight one’s enemy that would include obtaining the weapons required to wage war. It could be argued Pakistan acquired its nuclear arsenal for this very reason.

Islamic Principles of Warfare: Military Necessity

A n underlying current flowing beneath all of the principles already explored is the principle of military necessity. This principle applied here would void non-combatant protections, and permit indiscriminate attacks, responding in kind, and deterrence if necessary for military success. In Islam “we find the precept ‘Necessity overrides the forbidden’” which allows “the moral constraints to be overridden in emergencies.” 107

It is obvious Islam does recognize some moral constraints on the conduct of war. The issue is determining whether the instances in which the constraints have been overridden constitute emergencies. Additionally, declaring such emergencies provides a broad justification for taking any action necessary to overcome an adversary. Given the lack of a central Islamic authority and consensus on Islamic moral norms, this necessity could easily supersede any prohibitions. In addition, just as some Western Just War experts have made arguments that “supreme emergencies” override constraints in the conduct of war, it seems similar arguments could be used by Muslims to justify the use of nuclear weapons. 108

Modern Application of Islamic Principles of Warfare

A relatively recent example of how Islamic principles of warfare have been applied by Muslim actors can be found in the conduct of Iran during the war between Iran and Iraq (1980–1988). It is interesting to note that the Iranian leadership in its attempt to implement Islam in all facets of life, applied-at least at first-the Islamic principle of non-combatant immunity in its fight against Iraq. The Iranian leaders made a distinction between Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath Party on the one end and the Iraqi people on the other. The Iranians felt the Iraqi people were oppressed and would, if encouraged and the chance, rise up, overthrow Hussein and the Ba’ath Party and eventually establish an Islamic state in Iraq. 109

The Iranian political and religious leader at the time, Grand Ayatollah Khomeni, wished to conduct the military affairs of Iran “according to Islamic teachings’. This would lead to Iran sparing otherwise defenseless Iraqi cities, in order to avoid harming “ordinary people, innocent people. 110 The initial strikes against Iraq by the Iranian air force destroyed many military targets, but were minimized in order to consciously avoid collateral damage to noncombatants. 111 This adherence to non-combatant immunity and rejection of indiscriminate attacks drove how the Iranians fought the Iraqis up to 1984. At that time, the Iranians changed their tactics and began to use indiscriminate weapons.

The Iranians shelled Basra with long-range artillery in 1984 and would eventually launch SCUD missiles against Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. 112 The realization that the Iraqi people would not rise up likely led to this action. 113 The Iranians may have seen their refusal as a sign of support for Hussein and the Ba’athists. Though not stated by the Iranian leadership, this support likely changed their status from non-combatants to combatants. It showed as well the Iranians’ and other Muslims’, for that matter, adherence to a strict Islamic idea of non-combatant immunity and exclusion of indiscriminate attacks matter little when either the status of noncombatants could be easily changed or indiscriminate attacks could be approved supposedly out of military necessity. Again, this may have been due to a belief by the Iranian leadership that the Iraqi people were in some way responsible for Hussein’s and the Ba’athists’ actions and thus no longer non-combatants. Alternatively, it may have been they believed past efforts were not enough for military success and thus Iran was required to respond in new ways to Iraqi attacks. Either way it is evidence that Islamic principles could be construed to justify whatever action seemed necessary.

There is evidence that the Iranian leadership would not cross certain lines in waging war against Iraq. In a 1988 letter to his political allies explaining why Iran accepted a ceasefire with Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Khomeini explains that his military commanders advised him that in order to win the war, Iran would need to acquire “atomic weapons”. 114 Though Khomeini makes no judgment of his military commanders’ stand on needing to acquire a nuclear weapon, one could argue that one of the reasons for the ceasefire was that he saw the possession and use of nuclear weapons as prohibited by Islam. If defeating Iraq meant possessing and possibly using nuclear weapons, then Iran could no longer continue this war.

More recently, the Iranian religious leadership has been echoing Khomeini. As stated previously, Grand Ayatollah Khamenei in 2003 reiterated the prohibition. Another cleric has stated, “There is complete consensus on this issue. It is self-evident in Islam that it is prohibited to have nuclear bombs. It is eternal law, because the basic functions of these weapons is to kill innocent people. This cannot be reversed.” 115 Regardless of these clerics’ claims, it is important to point out that though it would take some time and effort to do so, such a stand could be reversed. 116 How suicide bombing by Muslims has become acceptable to man in the Islamic world is one such example of this kind of reversal.

What Can Suicide Bombing Tell Us About Nuclear Weapons?

I t appears suicide bombing has become a widespread norm among Muslims. This will be shown below. The reason for this trend is critical to Muslim possession and use of nuclear weapons discussion. If a tactic such as suicide bombing can once be condemned and later allowed, then could Muslims do not the same for the possession and use of nuclear weapons?

The Qur’an condemns suicide: [C]ast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands. (2: 195). More importantly, because of the targets of suicide bombing, namely non-combatants, it should be considered prohibited due to the harm done to women, children and fellow Muslims.

David Cook, a religious scholar who writes about suicide bombing, has explained that Muslims have taken to the tactic of suicide bombing because the “awesome power of the enemy (the entire world, but more specifically the Western “Christian” world)[justifies] any and all methods of fighting…to obtain victory, or in some cases to simply stave off total defeat.” 117 He contends that the failure to heed the tenet of non-combatant immunity shows that Islamic principles do not guide Islamic military tactics. Rather it is the losses those tactics inflict on the enemy that justify their use, even if the tactic necessitates suicide for Muslim fighters. 118 This notion of military necessity appears to trump non-combatant immunity, as well as the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks violated by the use of this tactic. Nuclear weapons, like suicide bombing, would inflict great damage on any adversary. Like those who use suicide bombing tactics, the use of nuclear weapons within an Islamic moral framework could be justified.

Suicide bombing is deemed permissible by many prominent Islamic clerics. One such cleric is Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi of the European Council for Fatwa and Research. He stated in 2003 that suicide bombing against Israelis is not prohibited by Islam for several reasons. One of these reasons included that Israeli society is a “military society’ with all Israelis eventually serving in the military and thus there are no non-combatants in Israel. 119 Another reason gets to the heart of the argument against non-combatant immunity. Al-Qaradhawi stated,

“[I]n modern war, all of society, with all its classes and ethnic groups, is mobilized to participate in the war, to aid its continuation, and to provide it with the material and human fuel required for it to assure the victory of the state fighting its enemies. Every citizen in society must take upon himself a role in the effort to provide for the battle. The entire domestic front, including professionals, laborers, and industrialists, stands behind the fighting army, even if it does not bear arms. Therefore the experts say that the Zionist entity, in truth, is one army. 120

In 1998, Osama bin Laden in conjunction with several Islamic groups issued a statement from the World Islamic Front calling for attacks on all Americans, to include non-combatants. The statement, which the group asserted was a fatwa, read in-part:

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty Allah, “and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together”, and “fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah.” 121

Though it is true that some suicide attacks, such as the 9/11 attacks, are condemned by most prominent Islamic scholars and clerics, many of these same scholars and clerics do not condemn “all suicide bombings in all circumstances.” 122

As previously pointed out, Islamic leaders such as die ayatollahs in Iran have declared nuclear weapons are prohibited by principles. Yet just as the reasoning for the status of what would otherwise be non-combatants has facilitated the reversal of the prohibition on suicide bombing, it is not difficult to see the same reasoning being used to reverse the prohibition on possessing and using nuclear weapons. Though it may take time and effort to do so, a reversal on any supposed prohibition on nuclear weapons could and is likely already taking place.


T here are several implications for the lack of an Islamic moral norm prohibiting the possession and use of nuclear weapons. Muslims, who may disagree with the assessment of this essay, if they hope to prevent the acceptability of nuclear weapon possession md use by Islamic actors, need to stop and reverse the progress of those who have made suicide bombing an acceptable tactic. As well, they will need to differentiate themselves from those that justify the use of such weapons. Those Islamic state actors who adhere to the NPT could boost these efforts. Without any effort to reverse and counter this view, Muslims may end up walking a regretful path.

Fashioning moral arguments for the possession and use of a nuclear weapon by an Islamic actor, as some in the Islamic community already have, signals the start of conceding the moral high ground that Muslims can hold against those nations that already possess nuclear arsenals. It is difficult for Muslims to protest the killing of innocents by Western military forces when Muslims publish legal opinions such as “The Ruling with Regard to Killing Woman, Children and the Elderly In War”. 123 In the same way, when an Islamic actor justifies the possession and use of nuclear weapons, they lessen Muslims’ chances to further nonproliferation efforts.

Accepting and allowing the use of a nuclear weapon in war make it very difficult to remain religiously and morally legitimate in the eyes of the world. TK The diminished moral authority of the Islamic world following the use of a nuclear weapon by an Islamic terrorist group or Islamic state would be very difficult to overcome. Muslims, and the rest of the world for that matter, would no longer be able to point out the United States as the only nation to use nuclear weapons in war.

Another implication would involve the relationships among Islamic actors. Could those actors which acquire nuclear weapons be trusted enough not to use them against another actor? The recent history of conflict in the Islamic world illustrates how Islamic states have difficulty trusting other Islamic actors. Examples include the Sunni-Shi’a violence in Iraq today, al-Qaeda attacks against Saudi targets in the last several years, the Algerian Civil War during the 1990s, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Iran-Iraq War during the 1980s, and the North Yemen Civil War during the 1960s. Muslims should be wary of their fellow Muslims possessing nuclear weapons. Without any prohibitions against nuclear weapon use, is it not possible to imagine al-Qaeda using a nuclear weapon against a Saudi target or Iran using one against an Iraqi target?

Facing a nuclear threat, other Islamic states may wish to bolster their own defenses in order to deter their potential enemies. They may also look to develop systems to deal with the effects of any nuclear attack. A more dangerous move would be for these states to acquire their own nuclear weapons. This in turn would likely weaken the non-proliferation regime established by the NPT. If an Islamic state leaves the NPT, Islamic states could follow. As well, efforts to reign in Pakistan and India’s nuclear arsenals would be dealt a blow.


T hough there is already one Islamic state with its own nuclear arsenal, another supposedly developing its own, and an Islamic terrorist organization which made efforts to acquire and threatened to use nuclear weapons, there are still individuals who claim Islamic principles of warfare prohibit Muslims from possessing and using such weapons. Behind the confusion created by the actions of some Islamic actors on the one hand and the words of Islamic scholars and clerics on the other is evidence of exceptions in Islamic principles of warfare that have been and continue to be made.

After a simple examination of Islamic texts, it appears any supposed prohibition of nuclear weapons is unconvincing; because of the exceptions that have been made from the founding of Islam to the present day. Even if a deeper examination of Islamic rulings revealed judgments and limits that could be formulated to prohibit such weapons, the lack of an authoritative and theologically sound interpretation in Islam demonstrates the difficulty in teaching and enforcing any prohibition.

Though there are rules on protecting non-combatants, Islam is unclear in defining their status. Though it is clear women, children, and the elderly have been included as noncombatants since the time of Muhammad, exceptions have been made in the Qur’an, the Hadith, and by Islamic leaders and scholars. Indiscriminate attacks have been and continue to be used by Muslim fighters. From the early use of mangonels as a siege weapon to the Iranian SCUD missile attacks against Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq War, Muslims have utilized indiscriminate weapons that have resulted in excessive harm to non-combatants and civilian property when compared against the military effects desired. The Islamic principles of reciprocity and preparedness and their application throughout Islamic history to be ready to deal with adversaries in a like manner lend further weight to the view that there is no prohibition on nuclear weapon possession and use. This is especially true given that the United States, and it is believed Israel, both possess their own nuclear arsenals and are seen by many Muslims as enemies of Islam.

Given the gradual acceptance by many Muslims of the use of suicide bombing tactics against what traditionally were known as non-combatants, specifically, women and children, it seems likely the same view could be applied to support the use of nuclear weapons. If it seemed unlikely several decades ago, Muslims would ever use suicide bombing tactics, holding on to similar expectations regarding the use of nuclear weapons is both risky and misplaced.

End Notes

1 “New Islamic Ruling Calls for Nuclear Weapon Armament,” Independent Media Review Analysis, December 24, 2002.
2 “Al-Azhar University,” Encyclopeadia Britannica Online,
3 “New Islamic Ruling Calls for Nuclear Weapon Armament.”
4 Noah Feldman, “Islam, Terror the Second Nuclear Age,” New York Times Magazine, October 29, 2006.,
5 Nasir Bin Hamd al-Fahd, “A Treatise on the Legal Status of Using Weapons of Mass Destruction against Infidels.”
6 Rahimullah Yusufzai, “Conversation with Terror,” Time, January 11, 1999.
7 Ben Venzke and Aimee Ibrahim, The Al-Qaeda Threat : An Analytical Guide to Al-Qaeda’s Tactics & Targets (Alexandria, VA: Tempest Pub., 2003), 52.
8 “Scientists Discussed Nukes with Bin Laden,” Washington Post, December 12, 2001.
9 “Christiane Amanpour: Mysterious, Ominous Documents,”,
10 Rowan Scarborough, “U.S. Military Sees Iran’s Nuke Bomb 5 Years Away,” Washington Times, August 31, 2006.
11 Ewen MacAskil and Ian Traynor, “Saudis Consider Nuclear Bomb,” Guardian Unlimited, September 18, 2003.
12 Michael Slackman and Mona El-Naggar, “Mubarak’s Son Proposes Nuclear Program,” New York Times, September 20, 2006.; William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, “Eye on Iran, Rivals Pursuing Nuclear Power,” New York Times, April 15, 2007. Broad and Sanger point out that the Saudis, Turkey and several other Middle Eastern states are looking to develop their own nuclear power programs.
13 Robert S. Norris et al., “Pakistan’s Nuclear Forces, 2001,” Bulletin of the A; William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, “Eye on Iran, Rivals Pursuing Nuclear Power,” New York Times, April 15, 2007. tomic Scientists 58, no. 1 (2002): 70.
14 “Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuc1ear Weapons (NPT),”; “Organization of the Islamic Conference,”
 15 Kelly Uphoff, “Osama Bin Laden’s Mandate for Nuclear Terror,” The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, December 10, 2004. /
16 Ibid
17 Robert Collier, “Nuclear Weapons Unholy, Iran Says Islam Forbids Use, Clerics Proclaim,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 31, 2003. Khamenei is not only the highest ranking political leader in Iran but also highest religious authority for Iran.
 18 “Leader’s Fatwa Forbids Nukes,” Iran Daily, August 11, 2005. Interestingly there is no known English translation of this fatwa and no one seems to have actually seen a copy.
19 Sohail Hashmi, H., “Islamic Ethics and Weapons of Mass Desruction: An Argument for Nonproliferation,” in Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Religious and Secular Perspectives, ed. Sohail Hashmi, H. and Steven P. Lee (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 321–52.
20 Steven P. Lee, “What’s Living and What’s Dead in Nuclear Ethics,” in Ethics and the Future of Conflict : Lessons from the 1990s, ed. Anthony F. Lang, Albert C. Pierce, and Joel H. Rosenthal (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2004), 94. Lee points out that those who argue that nuclear weapon possession and use is morally acceptable do so in the context of a limited nuclear war.
21 Bill Keller, “Nuclear Nightmares,” New York Times Magazine, May 26, 2002. 
22 Venzke and Ibrahim, The Al-Qaeda Threat : An Analytical Guide to Al-Qaeda’s Tactics & Targets, 53. 
 23 “The Consequences of Nuclear Conflict between India and Pakistan,” National Resources Defense Council, / 
24 Youssef H. Aboul-Enein and Sherifa Zuhur, “Islamic Rulings on Warfare” (U.S. Army War College, 2004), 6.
25 Ibid., 1.
26 Ibid., 6.
 27 “Quran,” Wikipedia,
28 “Hadith,” Wikipedia,
29 Aboul-Enein and Zuhur, “Islamic Rulings on Warfare”, 35. There are seven collections which are considered reliable by the majority of Muslims: al-Bukhari, AL-Tirmidhi, Muslim, Abu Dawid, al-Nisa’i, al-Nawawi and Ibn Majah. These are the recorded sayings of Muhammad or his Companions.
30 Majid Khadduri, “The Law of War: The Jihad,” in The Legacy of Jihad : Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non Muslims, ed. Andrew G. Bostom (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005), 312. To appreciate the similarity between Sunni and Shi’a teachings on principles of warfare see Mehdi Abedi and Gary Legenhausen, Jihad and Shahadat: Struggle and Martyrdom in Islam, pages 1–39.
31 Antoin MacRuaidh, “The Compilation of the Text of the Qur’an and the Sunni-Shia Dispute,”
32 James Turner Johnson, The Holy War Idea in Western and Islamic Traditions (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997), 102.
33 Ibid.
34 Fred M. Donner, “The Sources of Islamic Conceptions of War,” in Just War and Jihad : Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Traditions, ed. John Kelsay and James Turner Johnson (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991), 31, 59. For example the Catholic Church teaches that indiscriminate destruction of entire cities is immoral.
35 Bassam Tibi, “War and Peace in Islam,” in The Legacy of Jihad : Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, ed. Andrew G. Bostom (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005), 326.
36 Mary R. Habeck, Knowing the Enemy : Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 44. Those “given the Book” are Jews and Christians. Many individuals in Jewish and Christian traditions found in the Jewish Torah and Christian Bible are considered prophets in Islam (e.g. Moses and Jesus) 
37 Tibi, “War and Peace in Islam,” 327.
38 Habeck, Knowing the Enemy : Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror, 44.; Aboul-Enein and Zuhur, “Islamic Rulings on Warfare”, 11.
 39 David Cook, “Suicide Attacks or “Martyrdom Operations” In Contemporary Jihad Literature,” Nova Religio Vol 6, no. 1 (2002), pp. 7–44
40 Donner, “The Sources of lslamic Conceptions of War,” 35.
41 Mehdi Abedi and Gary Legenhausen, eds., Jihad and Shahadat (Houston, TX: The Institute for Research and Islamic Studies, 1986), 3–4. Abedi and Legenhausen point out “elements of a code of war” in Deuteronomy 20:10–20, which are similar to rules for Muslim fighters.
 42 All references to the Qur’an come from the website of the University of Michigan, “The Koran”. It is an electronic version of The Holy Qur’an, translated by M.H. Shakir and published by Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., in 1983.
43 Hashmi, “Islamic Ethics and Weapons Destuction: An Argument for Nonproliferation,” 326.
44 Aboul-Enein and Zuhur, “Islamic Rulings on Warfare”, 22.
45 Ibid.
46 Ibid.
47 Averroes, “Bidayat Al-Mudjtahid,” in The Legacy of Jihad : Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, ed. Andrew G. Bostom (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005), 149–53. 
48 Ibid., 151–52.
49 Hashmi, “Islamic Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Argument for Nonproliferation.”, 326.
 50 Abdul Hamid Siddiqui, “Translation Of Sahih Muslim,” This Hadith comes from Book 19, The Book of Jihad and Expedition. The Sahih Muslim collection is known as one of the most important of the six Sunni hadith collections. Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj will be referred to hereafter as al-Muslim. All citations to al-Muslim’s collection come from the website above.
51 Majid Khadduri, War and Peace in the Law of Islam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1955), 103–04.
52 John Kelsay, “Al-Shaybani and the Islamic law of War,” Journal of Military Ethics 2, no. 1 (2003); 63. There are four schools of Sunni Islam: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii or Hanbali.
53 Majid Khadduri, The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani’s Siyar (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1966), 39. 
54 Kelsay, “Al-Shaybani and the Islamic Law of War,” 63.
55 Khadduri, The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani’s Siyar.
56 Hashmi, “Islamic Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Argument for nonproliferation,” 326–27.
57 Ibid., 327.
58 Ibid.
59 Ibid., 357.
60 Ibid., 357–59.
61 Ibid., 359.
62 John Kelsay, Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), 63.
 63 “Jizya,” Wikipedia,
64 Kelsay, Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics, 61.; Khadduri, War and Peace in the Law of Islam, 96.
65 Kelsay, Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics, 63.
66 Ibid.
67 Ibid.
68 al-Fahd, “A Treatise on the Legal Status of Using Weapons of Mass Destruction against Infidels,” May 2003. 
69 Roger Arnaldez, “The Holy War According to Ibn Hazm of Cordova,” in The Legacy of Jihad : Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, ed. Andrew G. Bostom (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005), 275.
70 Ibid.
71 T. P. Schwartz-Barcott, War, Terror & Peace in the Quran and in Islam : Insights from Military & Government Leaders (Carlisle, PA: Army War College Foundation Press, 2004, 60.
72 Khadduri, The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani’s Siyar, 95.
73 Ibid., 99.
74 Ibid., 101.
75 Hugh Kennedy, The Armies of the Caliphs . Military and Society in the Early Islamic State (London, New York Taylor & Francis, 2001), 184.
76 David Nicolle, Medieval Siege Weapons (1): Western Europe AD 585–1385 (Osprey Publishing, 2002), 6.
77 Kennedy, The Armies of the Caliphs : Military and Society in the Early Islamic State, 155. 
78 Khadduri, The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani’s Siyar, 102.
79 Ibid.
80 Edward J. Jurji, “The Islamic Theory of War,” The Moslem World 30 (1940):335–36.
81 Ibid., 338.
82 Averroes, “Bidayat AJ-Mudjtahid,” 152.
83 Ibid., 152–53.
84 Ibid., 153.
85 Edmond Fagnan, “The Jihad or Holy War According to the Malikite School,” in The Legacy of Jihad : Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, ed. Andrew G. Bostom (Amherst, NY; Prometheus Books, 2005), 252.
86 Ibid.
87 Schwartz-Barcott, War, Terror & Peace in the Quran and in Islam : Insights from Military & Government Leaders, 326.
88 Arnaldez, “The Holy War According to Ibn Hazm of Cordova,” 273.
89 Ibid.
90 Clement Huart, “The Law of War,” in The Legacy of Jihad : Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, ed. Andrew G. Bostom (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005), 290.
91 Arnaldez, “The Holy War According to Ibn Ham of Cordova,” 274–75. Arnaldez points out that Muhammad did not have palm trees cut down during the Battle of Khaybar.
92 Huart, “The ofWar,” 290.
93 Arnaldez, “The Holy War According to Ibn Hazm of Cordova,” 274.
94 Ibid. Arnaldez contends that some Islamic scholars saw a difference on applying this principle depending on whether one was fighting a general war or a holy war (jihad). Regardless, if the reasoning for killing of the animal herds is to bring destruction on enemy then why not kill their women and children as well?
95 Hashmi, “Islamic Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Argument for Nonproliferation,” 328. In addition to the mangonel, Hasmi points out other siege weapons used including incendiary weapons such as ‘Greek fire’, smoke, poisoned tipped weapons, and flooding. 
96 Ibid.
97 Ibid., 329.
98 Ibid., 329–30. 
99 Ibid., 330.
100 See Exodus 21:23–21.
101 Shmuel Bar, Warrant for Terror : Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty of Jihad (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 71.
102 Yotam Feldner, “Egypt Rethinks Its Nuclear Program, Part III: The Nuclear Lobby (Continued),” The Middle East Media Research Institute,
103 Schwartz-Barcott, War, Terror & Peace in the Quran and in Islam : Insights from Military & Government Leaders, 320.
104 Sohail Hashmi, H., “Interpreting the Islamic Ethics of War and Peace,”
105 Hashmi, “Islamic Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Argument for Nonproliferation.” See 337–339 for Hashmi’s discussion on Islam and deterrence.
106 Lee, “What’s Living and What’s Dead in Nuclear Ethics,” 93.
107 Tibi, “War and Peace in Islam,” 331.
108 Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars : A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (New York: Basic Books, 2000). See Chapter 15 for Walzer’s argument that in a “supreme emergency” otherwise prohibited actions could be taken to ensure military success and potentially national survival.
109 John Kelsay, “Islam and the Distinction between Combatants and Noncombatants,” in Cross, Crescent, and Sword : The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic Tradition, ed. James Turner Johnson and John Kelsay (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990), 213.
110 Shahram Chubin and Charles Tripp, Iran and Iraq at War (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988), 50.
111 Ibid.
112 Ibid.
113 Ibid.
114 Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, “Iran: Khomeini’s ‘Killer Poison’ Returns,” Asia Times Online, 4, 2006.
115 Collier, “Nuclear Weapons Unholy, Iran Says Islam Forbids Use, Clerics Proclaim.”
116 Ibid. 
117 Cook, “Suicide Attacks or “Martyrdom Operations” In Contemporary Jihad Literature.”
118 Ibid.
119 “Al-Qaradhawi Speaks in Favor of Suicide Operations at an Islamic Conference in Sweden,” The Middle Easy Research Institute.
120 Ibid.
121 “Jihad against Jews and Crusaders: World Islamic Front Statement,” February 23, 1998.
122 Feldman, “Islam, Terror and the Second Nuclear Age.” Feldman notes David Cook believes that Palestinian suicide attacks against Israelis seem to be one of the few exceptions to the supposed prohibition.
123 Cook, “Suicide Attacks or “Martyrdom Operations” In Contemporary Jihad Literature.”

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