There are a lot of texts in the Qur’an and the Sunnah showing the virtues of keeping and raising horses for jihad, for they were the peoples’ weapon at that time. This is why they were highly praised in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Today’s “horses” are the warfare weapons such as the military vehicles, warplanes, missiles, etc., which are worthy of the reward associated with horses in the Qur’an.
Yet, raising horses nowadays for jihad is still a divinely rewardable act, for there are certain war sites where horses are most suitable, or at least better and faster than other vehicles. Still, there should be balance regarding the suitable kind of weapons used, as horses can be the main weapon for a certain country and good for nothing for another.
The eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states the following: Horses are the symbol for power and military ability, and so were they during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). However, today’s horses are the armoured vehicles, tanks and the like, which dismay the enemy of Allah and our enemy as stated in the Qur’an, (Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy) (Al-Anfal 8:60). Still, there are certain war sites where horses are more useful than other military vehicles. As for the “horses tethered” stated in the above-mentioned verse, it refers to the weapons and vehicles required for fighting, which vary and develop in each age.
In fact, horses were the best military vehicles in the past, and they used to give cavalrymen power over infantrymen in battlefields. No wonder then that there are texts in the Qur’an and the Sunnah indicating the merits and virtues of horses and their effectiveness in jihad. To illustrate, there is a whole surah in the Qur’an about horses, namely Surat of Al-`Adiyat (The Coursers), which was revealed in Makkah. In this Qur’anic surah, Almighty Allah swears by horses saying, (By the snorting coursers!) (Al-`Adiyat 100:1), bearing in mind that when Almighty Allah swears by any of His creatures, it is because He wants to stress its usefulness and significance. In this regard, Abu `Abdullah Al-Halimi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Ibn `Abbas and then `Ikrimah, Mujahid, `Atiyyah, Abu Ad-Duha, and Qatadah, maintain that this divine oath, (By the snorting coursers, striking sparks of fire, and scouring to the raid at dawn) (Al-`Adiyat 100:1–3) refers to the horses mounted for attacking and raiding on the enemy.
The Qur’an also mentions the horses of Sulayman (Solomon—peace be upon him) and shows how much he liked them and took care of them. This is stated in Surat Saad, in which Almighty Allah says: (And We bestowed on David, Solomon. How excellent a slave! Lo! he was ever turning in repentance (toward Allah). When there were shown to him at eventide light-footed coursers. And he said: Lo! I have preferred the good things (of the world) to the remembrance of my Lord; till they were taken out of sight behind the curtain. (Then he said): Bring them back to me, and fell to slashing (with his sword their) legs and necks) (Saad 38:30–33).
Horses in Hadiths
As for what is stated in the Sunnah regarding the virtues of the horses raised or kept for jihad, Abu Hurayrah narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “If somebody keeps a horse in Allah’s cause, motivated by his faith in Allah and his belief in His promise, then he will be rewarded on the Day of Resurrection for what the horse has eaten or drunk and for its dung and urine” (Reported by Al-Bukhari, An-Nasa’i, and others).
Abu Hurayrah also narrated that when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked about horses, he said, “Horses are of three types. To one man (they are) a burden (or a source of sin), to another man (they are) a means of protection, and to another man (they are) a source of reward” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Moreover, a man from the Ansar narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Horses are kept for one of three purposes: A man may keep a horse in the cause of Almighty Allah, in which case its price is (recorded for him as) a reward, mounting it is a reward, and lending it is a reward. Another may keep a horse for betting and gambling, in which case its price is (recorded for him as) a sin and mounting it is a sin. And another man may keep a horse for earning his livelihood. May it be sufficient for him against poverty, Allah willing!” (Ahmad, and the chain of transmitters of this hadith are those of the sahih (authentic) hadiths).
Furthermore, `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Horses are of three types: a horse for the Beneficent (Allah), a horse for Satan, and a horse for man. The horse for the Beneficent is that kept in Almighty Allah’s cause, in which case its fodder, urine, dung, etc., are recorded as rewards. The horse for Satan is that used for gambling and betting, and the horse for man is that kept by man to earn his livelihood, in which case it is regarded as a means of protection against poverty” (Reported by Ahmad, with a good chain of transmitters).
Besides, Sahl ibn Al-Handhalah (Sahl ibn Al-Rabi` ibn `Amr) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He who provides for horses is like one who is lending a helping hand in charity and never withholding it” (Reported by Abu Dawud). In addition, `Urwah ibn Abi Al-Ja`d (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Horses are always the source of good, namely, rewards (in the Hereafter) and booty (in this world), till the Day of Resurrection” (Reported by Abu Dawud).
Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah stress the virtue and significance of horses, keeping and raising them in the cause of Allah, and preparing them for jihad, to the extent that when dividing the spoils of war, the Prophet used to give one share to the infantryman and three shares to the cavalryman—one for him and two for his horse! That was because horses were the military vehicles then, which is not the case today, when things have changed and horses have become no longer significant in fighting except limitedly in certain areas. Thus, we can say that today’s horses are the tanks, armored vehicles, and suchlike military weapons used in wars today. Those who perfect using them are the cavalry of our age.
Accordingly, all the virtues and rewards attributed to horses in the Qur’an and the Sunnah are equally attributed to today’s horses and military vehicles.