Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq (Photo Jean Marc Boulu). To get an idea of today’s ‘humane’ treatment of prisoners of war, do take a look at these images in Google.
Prisoners of war should be clothed according to your own standard of living
Even those countries which are parties to international conventions are not under an obligation to feed and clothe prisoners of war on a scale and level which is prevalent in the case of their own citizens. This injunction was, however, very rigidly observed by the Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him.
Prisoners should eat before you eat yourself
On a particular journey, it is said, some of the Companions were accompanied by prisoners, and these prisoners themselves relate that the party ran short of provisions at a certain stage. The Companions, therefore, decided that they would feed the prisoners upon the remaining store of dates and would themselves subsist upon date-stones. It is related that there were not even enough stones to go round. It will be recognised that this injunction of Islam is very equitable and humane.
The compensation for beating is immediate release
Another rule laid down by Islam is that no prisoner of war must be struck or beaten. If any prisoner of war is beaten or assaulted, he must be set at liberty at once. On one occasion the Holy Prophet (s) on emerging from his house saw a Muslim beating a prisoner. This Muslim relates that while he was beating he heard the Holy Prophet (s) call out:— “What are you about? Surely this is very un-Islamic. Do you not realise that God has much greater power over you than you have over this prisoner?” He said, he was terrified on hearing this and said, “O Prophet of God, I liberate him.” ‘The Holy Prophet said, “If you had not done so, you would have tasted the fire.” These days many people have no qualms while beating their domestic servants, and yet the Holy Prophet (s) called one of his Companions to account for beating a prisoner.
Another Companion relates that they were seven brothers and that they possessed a female prisoner, and on one occasion the youngest of them gave her a slap for some fault she had committed. When the Holy Prophet (s) learnt of this, he said that the only penalty for the slap was that she must be liberated, and this was done. In other words, it was not only serious beating or striking that was prohibited, but even a slap involved liberation, inasmuch as such conduct indicated that the person guilty of it was not fit to be entrusted with the custody of, or authority over, another human being.
Marriage should be arranged for prisoners
The Holy Qur’an also prescribes that marriage should be arranged for such of the prisoners as have arrived at, at the age of matrimony:
Marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male prisoners and your female prisoners. (24:33)
Islamic treatment of prisoners has no comparison even today
Could humane consideration go any further? Islam says, ‘Feed them with the food that you eat; give them to wear the kind of clothes you wear; subject them to no kind of hardship; make arrangements for their marriage; and if ever any of you should happen to strike any of them the only penalty for this is liberation.’ Many of them may be released unconditionally or only on condition that they will not again participate in a war against Muslims. I doubt very much whether today the most civilized State would forego reparations merely on condition that prisoners of war released by it shall not again participate in a war against itself.
Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, The New World Order of Islam (1942), Islam International Publications, Tilford UK 2005 (pdf); p. 65-67. Subheadings by the editor.
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