Fatawa >Section Ten > P2


Rules of Self-defense

Defending other People

Should another person not be capable of warding off danger to themselves or their property, or even being capable, yet not aware of the danger, it is obligatory on the mukallaf to come to their rescue. This should be the case, even if, in the process, one could lose their life or sustain any other injury.

If the other person/persons are capable of defending themselves, yet they chose to ignore their responsibility instead, it is not obligatory to come to their rescue, as individuals. That said, it is permissible, but not obligatory, to protect them against aggression, in the event of real danger which may lead to death or less than that, such a blindness, paralysis, and insanity.

Generally speaking, all the rules governing self-defence are applicable to defending the others; one should, however, take note of the following:

i. All that which is applicable to the person is applicable to their mahaarim, i.e. father, offspring, wife, brothers and sisters and their offspring, and paternal/maternal uncles and aunts.

Aggression is one whether it results in a personal injury or a breach of one's honor and integrity, such as rape, or what is less than it.

ii. It is also obligatory to defend all other categories of people, other than those mahaarim mentioned in the preceding point, including the individual's relatives and Muslims at large.

However, in getting involved in such activity, the person should ensure that no serious harm would befall them of the type which is greater than that of the danger they aspire to repel, especially where there is a possibility that they might lose their life or sustain a less serious injury.

In case the potential injury falls short of death, or that of its league, it is permissible rather than obligatory to engage in the defence. Should it entail death or the like, it is not permissible, let alone not becoming obligatory.

Protecting One's Property

It is permissible to protect one's property from theft or damage, even if it leads to killing the aggressor of the defender; it is permissible, though, not to engage in such activity and let the aggressor off the hook.

The rules governing the indemnity, or lack of it, of any loss sustained by the aggressor, discussed previously are applicable here. Likewise, one should not lose sight of exhausting all means, i.e. from the less harmful to the most injurious, in repelling aggression.

Just as the person is allowed to defend themselves and property, so are they allowed to defend their family and property. As for engaging protecting the property of other people, they are permitted to do so, should they be certain that they are not going to put themselves in harm's way.

National Defence

According to the prevailing international codes of conduct, every Muslim state is considered a homeland to those living in it. This also applies to lands where Muslims from the majority. Thus, any aggression directed against such lands, be it through occupation or any other form, must be regarded as aggression against the population.

Should Muslim lands be invaded by a foreign power among the infidels, it is the duty of their own population, by way of wajibun kifa'ie, to use (all means at their disposal) to liberate their land and push back the aggressor. If they fail, it becomes obligatory on those closest, then the closer to them and so on, to come to their rescue.

However, two points have to be borne in mind, i.e. such obligation is of the wajibun kifa'ie type and the help should be commensurate with one's ability and means.

If the invader and aggressor is the ruler of another Muslim country, this falls within the definition of injustice (baghy) where reconciliation between the two parties should be sought.

Should one party do injustice to the other, they should be fought under a different definition, i.e. not defence, because what we are discussing now is the mechanics of reversing the aggression that has befallen a Muslim country, within the framework of the term of "homeland" of a group of Muslims taking it for their residence. And since the aggression constituted a threat to their own being and living in stability and peace, defending them is sanctioned.

182. Defence is not exclusive preserve of men and youth, rather it covers all people according to their ability and the level of defence; men and women, old and young, the healthy and the sick are all included. However, if sufficient numbers of defenders take it upon themselves to do the job, the rest are absolved of the responsibility.

183. The obligation could be of the wajibun aini type, i.e. for those with specialized expertise who are vital for the effort. Such must take the initiative in volunteering their services; it is not permissible for them to be apathetic or dodge their responsibility. Indeed, it becomes obligatory on those of them who live outside their homeland to return to do what is required of them.

184. In case it is not feasible to obey the just jurist-ruler (alwaliyyul faqih), and it is felt that it is necessary to immediately start the defence operation, probity of the person, among Muslims, leading the operation should not become an issue, especially, where his expertise is an established fact.. Indeed, it may become obligatory to obey the commands of the person, who has a proven track record and whose fidelity has been tested, even if they were non-Muslim. This should be the case, if there were no other commanders available among Muslims.

However, should it be feasible to obey the commands of the just jurist-ruler, sanctioned defence is within his prerogative. It should, therefore, follow that no one else should engage in any defence outside his jurisdiction and what he sees fit.

185. It is obligatory on the population of the occupied land to provide every possible support and protection to the fighters who are carrying out the duty of defending the land, whatever it takes to bring the struggle to a successful end, be it material or moral support, taking care of the families of the martyrs… etc.

186. It is permissible for the offspring not to obtain their parents' permission to embark on the job of defending the land, should the obligation be of the wajibun kifa'i type. Indeed, it is absolutely within the offspring right to do so, even if their parents prevented them.

187. The Zionist entity occupying Palestinian lands and territories in south Lebanon and Syria is an aggressor and a usurping one. It is, therefore, obligatory to wage war against it till the liberation of all the occupied lands. Also, it is not permissible to have a trade, make peace with that entity, or condone its occupation of Muslim lands. Furthermore, it is not permissible to have any sort of dealing with the Zionist entity.

188. Should the nature of the confrontation with the enemy necessitate that the Mujahideen engage in operations where they might get martyred, it is wholly justifiable. Indeed, it might become obligatory, if victory depended, in a greater measure, on such operations. It shall, therefore, not be treated as though one risks danger (tahlukah), (i.e. for no good reason).

This is so as the evidence in favor of jihad is absolute (mutalq). To start with, jihad is predicated on sacrificing oneself. Even if, for the sake of the argument, it means risking danger, making the embarkation on such an enterprise harram where there is no more important Islamic interest that can be served, i.e. its being objectionable (haraam), can no longer be sustained. This is particularly true, where a more important interest is served.

189. In this day and age sovereign countries may not be subjugated by a land invasion. Subjugation could take the form of imposing a repressive, or a client, regime; it may be subjected to economic aggression, such as unfavorable trade agreements, and so forth. In such a case, the obligation, of the wajibun kifa'ie type, is to fight off these scheming with the appropriate means, as the leadership of the just jurist sees fit.


This principle is based on the Quranic ayahs, "..whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on them equivalent to the injury they have inflicted on you,," (2/194). ".. the punishment of an evil is the like of it..". (10/27).

These two verses state clearly the extent of using retaliatory measures in repelling aggression, i.e. like for like.

However, the topic we have so far been dealing with is that of defending oneself, honor, and property, which may entail sacrificing oneself, or sustaining any other injury, in the process. This may seem contradictory.

In truth, defense is the action taken to nip aggression in the bud. Just as the shari'a has ruled that one should not give in to the aggressor, so has it ruled that one should be prevented from initiating aggression and; it has made standing up to aggression obligatory, hence the rules regulation that.

As for "reprisal", it deals with the issues resulting from the aggression after it has taken place, regardless of whether or not any steps to avert it were taken. It deals with the retaliatory options open to the victim to eliminate the consequences of aggression, should they have the means of embarking on them.

Perhaps, this matter is more appropriately discussed under "retribution" (qasaas) rather than defense; therefore, it is discussed in detail in the place where it belongs. However, we will confine the discussion here to those aspects which are related to the subject we are addressing:

190. Retaliation should be taken up in line with the original aggression, should it be quantified. For example, one could trade insults, blows, wounds, fractures… etc.

If the crime is of that which cannot be quantified, such as concussion and rupture, the principle of reciprocity should not be applied. Instead, compensation could be accepted. However, in all cases, forgiving is more of a pious thing to do and is and example of standing on a higher moral ground.

191. Certain insults could amount to defamation (qazf), which should entail punishment. Such cannot be traded, because slander is absolutely haraam, even by way of retaliation. Furthermore, it may entail involving one's family who should be spared the slinging matches of insults.

Apart from that, other types of insults can be returned to the aggressor, provided they do not lead to committing that which is haraam, such as the use of obscene language (fuhsh). The one at the receiving end could, though, return the insult using rude language, that is neither haramm nor actually descriptive of the aggressor, i.e. false accusation.

However, it goes without saying that elevating oneself above any mud slinging is much better for restoring one's dignity, and is indicative of good manners.

192. In waging a war of aggression, the enemy may resort to using internationally banned weapons, attacking civilian targets, and so forth. It is permissible to retaliate in kind. Indeed, it is permissible for the Mujahideen to engage, at the start, in such warfare, if in so doing they can nip the aggression in the bud, to avert a greater potential damage. However, identifying its purpose and means is a very important and highly sensitive job, which should be left to the Marji' and his aides among the experts.