Just and Unjust Warriors: Marking the 35th Anniversary of Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars

The Use of Force under Islamic Law


This article focuses on the use of force under Islamic law, i.e., jus ad bellum. Islamic law allows the use of force in self-defence and in defence of those who are oppressed and unable to defend themselves. In contrast, the offensive theory of jihad is untenable. Muslim states follow the defensive theory of jihad. Islamic law also allows, under certain conditions, anticipatory self-defence. Only the head of a Muslim state (a ruler or caliph) is allowed to declare jihad. Most of the current so-called declarations of jihad have been issued by non-state actors, e.g. Al-Qaeda, who have no authority to declare jihad. These declarations thus have no validity under Islamic law and, indeed, Muslim states are fighting these armed groups. Islamic law imposes certain restrictions on the use of force in self-defence, i.e., military necessity, distinction, and proportionality. Accepting an offer of peace and humanity are also relevant conditions.

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