Self-defense and all that which is aimed at preserving one's life are
intrinsic urges. Thus, the Shari'a has made it lawful and
obligatory on the mukallaf to comply with it. Furthermore, by
rewarding the practicing self-defense and punishing for its abandonment,
the Shari'a has stressed its importance for it aims at man's
prosperity, progress of nations, and peace and security of the human
The importance of this sacred duty is not less than that of enjoining
good and forbidding evil, if it does not outstrip it. By taking to the
former, we aim at defending the faith and moral values; by practicing the
latter, which is a defensive jihad, we mean to protect the very existence
of the human race society, and the homeland, hence the plethora of
Quranic verses and traditions (hadith) which talk favorably about
this topic; parallels have often been drawn between jihad and striking a
deal with the Creator, in that embarking on it would open up a special
gate to Heaven, which Allah has reserved for the elite among His
We will confine the discussion to the defensive type of jihad (al
jihad ad difa'ie), because the jihad in the way of Allah (al jihad
al ibtida'ie) is not feasible before the re-appearance of the twelfth
Imam (May Allah hasten his re-appearance).
Defensive jihad does not stop at defending oneself, property, honor,
etc., rather it goes far beyond this circle to cover the defense of
others, be they Muslim or non-Muslim. Furthermore, it goes beyond driving
away direct threat to one's own being to that which is indirect, e.g.
that which may result in undermining society, the land as a sovereign
entity, and all that which relates to its security, economic welfare,
political interests, and so on of the type which makes the individual and
society function according to what Allah has ordained.
On certain occasions, self-defense against the dangers on a personal
level could fall on the individual himself (wjibun aini), if he
can do that. However, should the individual not be in a position to
protect himself, others should, by way of wajibun kifa'ie, take it
upon themselves to do it for him.
Yet, defending the homeland and other public interests falls within the
remit of wajibun kifa'ie to start with. That said, it might take
the description of wajibun aini sometimes.
Defending Oneself and Similar Issues
170. It is obligatory on every mukallaf, man and woman, to ward
off danger from themselves, regardless of its source, be it from another
human being ,animal, or anything else (natural). Indeed, it is haraam for
the mukallaf to cause injury to themselves.
The level of personal injury precipitating action from the individual to
protect himself against it is that which reasonable people perceive as
practicable. However, its uppermost ceiling is death. Next on the list of
dangers is coma, paralysis, insanity, and blindness, i.e. in that order
of gravity; thereafter ghastly wounds and cuts, fractures and diseases,
especially acute ones and those resulting in excruciating pain, and so
That said, cuts, bruises, concussions, mild pain, or common diseases,
such as colds and cough are not of that order.
Other dangers which one should guard against are sexual attack, attacks
aimed at denigrating the human integrity and honor by way of adverse
attitude and perhaps rude language, which could lead to ridiculing,
upsetting, or harassing the victim, and any other moral injury.
Among the dangers too is breaching other people's privacy, by way of
breaking into their homes, snooping on them, for any purpose and by any
means, such as by using binoculars, peeping, filming, taking snapshots…
etc. The victim has every right to avert/fight of such crimes perpetrated
against him, so much so that they should not be held responsible to
indemnify any material damage sustained by the culprit, should it occur
in the process of defending oneself.
171. No exceptions are such self-inflected inquiries as endangering one's
health by smoking. Among these too are those sustained for "religious
reasons", such as cutting one's head with a sword or a machete, or
causing bleeding in other parts of the body or burning them (self
mutilation) in commemorating the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam
However, if any of these actions fit the definition of injury, which one
should protect oneself from, it is haraam, i.e. one should not put
themselves in harm's way. This is so, even if the practice has become
established and widespread or tinged with some "religious' tradition,
which the Shari'a neither called for nor condoned.
172. It may be obligatory to sustain a lesser injury to avert a greater
one. Indeed it may be obligatory, or permissible, to getting martyred in
the process of waging jihad against the enemy.
173. Protecting oneself is done in two stages:
i. By taking necessary measures to avoiding danger and shielding oneself
against it. This is a fundamental means to forestalling natural dangers
from taking their toll on the human being, such as those accidents caused
by the elements, contagious diseases, predatory animals, etc.
Should the aggressor be a human being and it is possible to avoid their
aggression, by any means at one's disposal, even by fleeing, it is
permissible to do it, unless it leads to breach of the sanctity and
dignity of the intended victim; however, it may be obligatory, even with
the possibility of humiliating oneself, if both the safety of the
aggressor and the victim could be achieved, especially in situations of
the flare-up of tempers between family members, or the aggressor being a
lunatic, and so on.
It is worth noting, though, that cases covered in this type of
self-defense are numerous and varied; indeed, some of them are complex.
Thus, the mukallaf should spare no effort in being very careful in
identifying what is best for them, but never losing sight of getting to
grips with the dictates of the practical laws of Islam, being cautions,
Precaution is called for in every sphere of self-defense and the means
uses to achieve it, even when using force and violence, lest one should
be excessive, so much so that they could be overstepping the boundaries
of the legitimate right.
ii. The use of pre-emptive strike, as a means of averting imminent
danger, but stopping short of causing death. However, it is within one
right to use any means at their disposal to protect themselves, even if
it leads to hurting the aggressor and killing them in the process.
That said, every care has to be taken to using force, starting with the
less harmful to the most devastating one as the case may be, provided
that the party doing the defending should be capable of handling the
confrontation on all levels. This is in stark contrast with the situation
where the would-be victim is not capable in every department to handle
the fight, i.e. even with the step-by-step approach.
174. Every case of defense has its own means of progressive approach, as
i. Resorting to any way falling short of hitting; this could be achieved
by insulating oneself from the aggressor by, say, a shield, locking the
door, shouting, firing in the air, brandishing a gun, and showing sings
of aggressive behavior.
ii. Using force against the aggressor by way of hand and stick. Such
force should first be directed to the parts of body that produce the
least pain and gradually to the force which inflict most pain.
Progression in the level of force used is also called for, i.e. from that
which my not leave marks on the body to that which is capable of leaving
The type of defensive weapon used should also be taken into account. That
is, the use of blunt implements for a start to the sharper and then the
sharpest, in the last resort. The type of intended injury should start
with the most superficial to the severest.
However, should the would-be victim know before hand that the aggressor
cannot be repelled only with the maximum force; they have the right to do
so. The same goes for not being able to identify the least injurious
method of defense to the aggressor because of the nature of the standoff
and its complications.
They yardstick of deciding the level of force which may result in
inflicting the least painful injury or the most painful one is what has
become common practice (urf).
157. The person resorting the protect themselves against aggression
should not be made to compensate the aggressor, be it for a personal
injury or loss of property, if they abided by what is within their own
right. Should they use unwarranted excessive force and turn aggressors
themselves, they must stand to indemnify the other party.
176. The person might erroneously think that someone intended to attack
them. In the process of warding the perceived danger off, they inflicted
injury on the other party. They should be held responsible for
compensating the injured party any loss, be it personal or in property.
However, the culprit should not be deemed sinful.
177. The person carrying out self-defense must fulfill certain
requirements to qualify for engaging in such an activity:
i. Making absolutely sure that the other party is intent on inflicting
harm on you. This should be the case because mere suspicion of the
perceived danger does not give you the right to engage the other party,
while you have the means of fighting off the danger.
Should you think that they might wage s surprise attack on you, while you
are not prepared, and that such a suspicion is accepted as an established
practice (urf), it is permissible for you to engage them. Should
there only be a remote chance of the other party really meaning to attack
you, to say it is permissible to engage them, is problematic (ishkal);
it is more likely (al aqrab) that it should not be the case.
ii. If there be a possibility that you are not going to overcome the
aggressor, you are not required to engage them, unless in not doing so a
greater harm could ensue. In such a case, it is incumbent on you to stand
for your right, even if you may be defeated.
iii. In defending yourself against injury or death, you are not required
to fight of the aggressor, even if it leads to their death. That is,
although you are allowed to do so, it is not obligatory.
As for the cases where defense is sanctioned, such as protecting your
property, engaging the aggressor is haraam, if it leads to their
death. Anything short of causing their death is permissible, even though
what my result from the action of defending your property is far worse
than what you have set out to preserve.
178. For self-defense to become permissible or obligatory there is no
difference whether it came from a stranger or a relative, be they close
or far, including family members. That is, you are justified in defending
yourself against any attack, albeit from a father or a son, even if the
engagement results in death.
179. Once the aggressor is checked and backs off, it is not permissible
to chase them up; should you carry on engaging them after they have
backed off or fled and caused them any injury in the process, the victim
turned aggressor should stand to compensate them any loss they may have
sustained, let alone deeming them guilty.
180. Should repelling aggression require enlisting the help of the
wrongdoer or the unbeliever, it is either permissible or obligatory, as
dictated by the circumstances. This should be the case, even if the
victim resorted to using undue excessive force in the process.
However, if the victim was able to prevent the helping party from using
excessive force, it is obligatory on them to do so. The party who has
sought help should not indemnify any injury of loss caused by the helping
party; the latter are responsible for their own actions.
181. Should a scuffle between two people, resulting in mutual injury,
both the parties involved should indemnify one another's injury or loss
of property. However, should any party back off, and the other party
continue with the fight, forcing them to take action to stop the
aggression, and causing injury to the attacker in the process, they
should not be held accountable to compensate the attacker.