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In the Name of God بسم الله

Offensive War

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I'm thinking about when it would be morally acceptable to wage war.  The obvious answer is that only in self-defense.  The only war that is acceptable is one fought in self defense, that is to protect ones own country/people.

As attractive as that sounds prima facie, I think most people would disagree on further reflection.  It's also morally acceptable to fight a war to defend other people other than one's own, e.g. those threatened by the Nazis, eventhough they aren't in your country.  Of course this isn't a sufficient condition for acceptability of war - lots of other factors are also relevant like chances of success, and consequences of fighting the war etc.

So war can be acceptable to defend the lives of one's own people, as well as other people from other countries.

But again, I think further reflection shows that there is something missing here.  We can ask: Why is war acceptable to protect life?  The answer may be that everyone has a right to life, and violation of this right is a grave crime.  So war is acceptable to prevent the violation of such an important right.  But arguably, there are rights which are more important that the right to life, such as the right to know one's purpose in life, to the know fundamental truth about the world, to live one's life in accordance with this purpose.  A corollary of this is that misguiding someone is worse than killing someone, for when you misguide someone you cause eternal harm, whereas when you kill someone you cause potentially limited harm.  And it is better to be killed young and on the truth, than to die a natural death old and evil.  Imam Zaynul Abideen [a] in Dua Makarim alAkhlaq says:


 وَعَمِّرْنِي مَا كَانَ عُمْرِيْ

بِذْلَةً فِي طَاعَتِكَ، فَإذَا كَانَ عُمْرِي مَرْتَعَاً لِلشَّيْطَانِ فَـاقْبِضْنِي إلَيْـكَ قَبْـلَ أَنْ يَسْبِقَ

مَقْتُـكَ إلَيَّ، أَوْ يَسْتَحْكِمَ غَضَبُكَ عَلَيَّ

Let me live as long as my life is a free gift in obeying Thee,

but if my life should become a pasture for Satan,

seize me to Thyself before Thy hatred overtakes me

or Thy wrath against me becomes firm!



So if it is acceptable to fight to defend other people's lives, it should also be acceptable to fight to defend other people's access to the truth.  If there was an empire at the time of the Prophet [a] or Imams [a] that prevented its people from knowing or practicing Islam, then this Empire was violating a very fundamental right of its people, and committing a grave crime, and this could be grounds for fighting.  As I said before, lots of other factors should also be taken into account, and perhaps so many that the decision could only be made by a divinely guided Imam [a].  Interestingly this is the opinion of many fuqaha.

There is a lot of room to misuse the above argument to fight unjust wars.  One way it could be misused is to justify fighting non-muslim countries today.  This would be completely unacceptable, for many reasons, one of which is that they allow freedom of religion, and don't ban people from practicing Islam.

Edited by .InshAllah.
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