Does Islam Permit the Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Truth can never dispense with power to defend itself against falsehood. Truth that is powerless is helpless and can easily be vanquished at the hands of those who deny it. Thus, the Muslim Ummah is required to equip itself with all kinds of up-to-date weaponry in order to achieve the balance of power which deters enemies and secures peace. This power, however, is restrained by the general principles of war in Islam, including the prohibition of killing innocents and causing unnecessary overwhelming destruction.

On this issue, Dr. `Ali Jum`ah Muhammad of Egypt, explained as thus:

Militarily, ‘weapons of mass destruction’ refers to untraditional, deadly and powerful weapons. These kinds of weapons cause great destruction to the area that is hit, including humans, animals and even the environment of the surrounding area.

These weapons are of three types: (1) Atomic weapons, such as the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb and the neutron bomb. These weapons are designed to spread radioactive substances that destroy humans and establishments, and pollute the environment of complete cities for long periods of time.

Some of them are limited to just destroying humans and not establishments. (2) The second type is chemical weapons such as gases that work in numerous ways and contain substances that burn, which have very harmful affects and can lead to the death of any creature that is exposed to it. These also affect plants. These toxic substances are usually in a gaseous form or liquid form and evaporate quickly; they are seldom in a solid form. (3) The third type is biological weapons, which contain germs and viruses that are used to spread dangerous epidemic diseases in the enemy lines and cause immense loss to animals and plants.

The possession of these weapons by Islamic countries as a deterrent for attackers is a religious requirement. The proof for this is what Almighty Allah says, (And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery, etc.) to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy…) (Al-Anfal, 8:60)

In the previous verse, Almighty Allah commanded that we should deter our enemies so that they will not think of attacking us. Deterrence is a religious principle used in the context of the penal laws of Islam, and it is also considered a political concept that all countries adopt in their political defense as well as in their military strategies. The benefit of this is clear-cut; creating strategic and military balance between countries.

This is the ruling regarding the possession of these weapons and obtaining them to scare and deter transgressors and enemies. There is, however, a difference between possessing them as a means of deterrence and taking the initiative to use them. The question in hand assumes that taking the initiative in using them is based on some independent opinions of individuals or particular views of certain groups or sects. However, this is not religiously allowed. Their claim that this is religiously allowed and supported by great Muslim scholars is a lie and a fabrication attributed to the religion. This is proven by the following:

First: Basically, war is not to be conducted except under the flag of a Muslim ruler. He should be responsible for taking the decision of waging a war and the Muslims should follow his orders. This has been assigned to him because of his awareness and insight concerning apparent and hidden affairs and his comprehension of the consequences and interests of his subjects. This is why waging wars and concluding general and international treaties are his responsibility, immediately after assuming power. In turn, he does not make a decision based on his own personal whims or desires; rather, he refers to the specialists in their fields when making his decision, including technical and military experts and political advisors who are considered as participants in decision-making.

The independent decision of a person or a group of Muslim laypersons to use these weapons is not only a transgression on the rights of the ruler but on the entire Muslim nation; as they gave themselves the right to make a decision that affects the whole nation without referring to them or to those charged with authority in matters that may cause fatal consequences for everyone.

Second: This act would be a breach of international agreements and treaties that Muslim countries have made, agreed-upon and joined out of their free will to ensure international peace and security. Almighty Allah says, (O you who believe! Fulfill (your) obligations.) (Al-Ma’idah 5: 1) The word “obligations” refers to any agreement between two parties on a certain matter.

At-Tirmidhi reported on the authority of `Amr ibn `Awf Al-Muzani (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Muslims are bound by their conditions, except a condition that makes the lawful unlawful or the unlawful lawful.

Also, Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The asylum (of protection) granted by any Muslim is to be secured (respected) by all the other Muslims; and whoever betrays a Muslim in this respect incurs the curse of Allah, the angels, and all the people, and none of his compulsory or optional good deeds of worship will be accepted.

In addition, Al-Bukhari reported, in his sahih, on the authority of `Abdullah ibn `Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever has the following four (characteristics) will be a pure hypocrite and whoever has one of them will have one characteristic of hypocrisy unless and until he gives it up. (1)Whenever he is entrusted, he betrays. (2) Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie. (3) Whenever he makes a covenant, he proves treacherous. (4) Whenever he quarrels, he behaves in an evil manner.” (Al-Bukhari)

Hence, all parties of international agreements and treaties should live in peace without wars, based on what they have agreed upon.

Third: This act may involve a sudden attack with the aim of killing unmindful people. Abu Dawud and Al-Hakim in his Mustadrak reported on the authority of Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The believer shall not attack (an unmindful person suddenly) with extreme violence; as faith prevents from attacking with extreme violence.

Fourth: This act may involve killing and harming women and children. Al-Bukhari and Muslim reported on the authority of `Abdullah ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said, “During one of the Prophet’s battles, a woman was found killed. Therefore, Allah’s Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) disapproved killing women and children.” In another narration, `Abdullah ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “During one of the Prophet’s battles, a woman was found killed. Therefore, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade killing women and children.” Imam An-Nawawi commented, “Muslim scholars have unanimously agreed upon the application of this hadith and upon the prohibition of killing women and children, as long as they do not fight against the Muslims; but if they fight against the Muslims, the majority of scholars have viewed that they should be fought (and killed).” (See Sharh Sahih Muslim)

Fifth: This act may involve killing and harming the Muslims who live in these countries, whether they are original inhabitants or foreigners. Our great religion strongly sanctifies the blood of a Muslim and warns about shedding it or harming a Muslims without any due right; as Almighty Allah says, (And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell to abide therein, and the Wrath and the Curse of Allah are upon him, and a great punishment is prepared for him.) (An-Nisaa’ 4:93) Also, He the Almighty says, (Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.) (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)

In his Sunan, Imam An-Nasa’i reported on the authority of `Abdullah ibn `Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Causing the world to decline is less significant before Allah than killing a Muslim.” Also, Ibn Majah reported on the authority of `Abdullah ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said, “I saw the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) circumambulate around the Ka`bah while saying, “How good you are, how pleasant is your smell, and how great is your sacredness, by He Who holds my life in His Hand, the sacredness of the believer is greater to Allah than yours; regarding his wealth and blood, and that we should think of him but the good.’”

Sixth: The evil and disastrous consequences of the foolishness of using these weapons will be devastating for Muslims and even for the entire world; as the country under attack will retaliate in the same way or even worse. Moreover, the devastating effects of some of these weapons may exceed the stricken area and be turned by the wind to guiltless neighboring countries. Hence, the evil consequences of using these weapons are much worse than their benefits, if there are in fact any benefits at all. One of the basic principles of the religion is that avoiding harm is given precedence over achieving benefits.

Seventh: Using these weapons will result in wasting money and institutions as well as general and private property. The sharia has prohibited wasting money. This prohibition becomes even stronger if the money being wasted does not even belong to the person who wastes it, but to somebody else, which is the case here. Hence, the prohibition refers to infringing what has been forbidden in the sharia, on the one hand, and the rights of others, on the other.

Eighth: In some cases using these weapons requires that the perpetrator enter the targeted countries after fulfilling the necessary formal procedures before entry is allowed. A country’s approval to allow someone to enter its territories naturally entails allowing him to enter on the condition that he will not cause any corruption; even if it is not specifically mentioned; it is understood. Many Muslim jurists agreed on this meaning. In his famous book Mukhtasar Al-Khiraqi, Imam Al-Khiraqi said, “Whoever enters the enemy’s land with a warrant of security should not betray them when it comes to their money.” Ibn Qudamah explained this statement by saying, “Betraying them is unlawful; because they gave him this warrant of security with the condition of not betraying them, and that they will remain safe from him. Even if this is not explicitly stated, it is understood….” (See: Al-Mughni, vol. 9, p. 237)

As for the religious and juristic texts that were quoted to justify the propagation of this sinful notion, they were taken out of their contexts and have different meanings. Hence, quoting them as evidence is meant to cause a kind of confusion; as this involves the negligence of considerable differences between diverse circumstances. For example, the state of war is not the same as the state of peace; as the state of war has specific rules that differ from those applied in the state of peace, in which lives, property and honor are well-protected. This is a significant difference with which it becomes improper to draw an analogy between using these weapons and the issues mentioned in Islamic jurisprudence concerning the permissibility of attacking the enemy suddenly at night and the permissibility of shooting the Muslims taken by the enemy as human shields. Hence, drawing such an analogy is absolutely incorrect, notwithstanding the fact that the quoted issues are correct in themselves and with regard to the contexts intended by the jurists and their applicable cases. The mistake, however, is to take these correct rulings from their context and reality to others of a different nature and rulings.

In addition, making the use of these weapons analogous to the rulings of fighting and killing As-Sa’il (the assailant, attacker, violator, and so on) is improper; as there are many differences between the rulings of As-Sa’il and those of jihad including the fact that As-Sa’il is to be deterred by the gradual use of force. If he is deterred by words, then physical combat is not allowed; if he is deterred by physical combat, then drawing a sword is not allowed, and so on. Consequently, this does not conform with using weapons of mass destruction in the way mentioned above.

Moreover, the hadiths they quoted as evidence, which allow attacking the disbelievers suddenly at night and using a catapult or fire against them making the use of weapons of mass destruction analogous to these cases, is indeed invalid analogy, due to the huge and clear differences between these two matters. These hadiths refer to the state of war; and there is a huge difference between the rulings concerning the state of war and those at other times. There is also an unmistakably great difference between the effects of throwing stones by using a catapult and the use of weapons of mass destruction. The effects of a catapult are minimal in comparison to weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, the events that are mentioned in these hadiths occurred under the supervision of a Muslim ruler. This is a major difference; as this claim necessitates rebelling against those in authority giving individuals the right to announce war by themselves, which is a transgression against the entire nation and against those in authority, on the pretense of calling this as jihad.

Nevertheless, we see that the correct opinion is to forbid using the various kinds of weapons of mass destruction, as they cause massive conflagrations, following the prophetic prohibitive injunction concerning torturing with fire, since he forbade its usage after he had commanded to use it even though there was a state of war at that time. Imam Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said, “It is Allah Alone Who punishes with fire.’” Thus, the correct opinion is to completely ban their use even in times of war based on the general prohibition of punishing with fire.

Accordingly, this claim is false and adopting and propagating it cause the spread of chaos, criminality and corruption on earth. These have been totally prohibited by Almighty Allah and their perpetrators have been threatened with the harshest punishment. Almighty Allah says, (If the hypocrites, and those in whose hearts is a disease (evil desires, etc.), and those who stir up sedition in Al-­Madinah, cease not, We shall certainly let you overpower them, then they will not be able to stay in it as your neighbors but a little while.) (Al-Ahzab 33:60) And, (…and do not cause corruption on the earth after it has been set in order; that will be better for you, if you are believers.) (Al-A`raf 7:85)