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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Al-Sarakhsī’s Contribution to the Islamic Law of War


This paper examines the contributions of the Ḥanafī jurist al-Sarakhsī (d. 483 AH/1090-91 CE) to the development of the Islamic tradition of war. By examining al-Sarakhsī’s treatment of the use of force by both state and non-state actors in al-Mabsūṭ, this paper answers important questions about warfare in Islam. First, it asks whether Islam sanctions offensive war against non-Muslims because of their religious beliefs. Second, it investigates the extent to which Islamic jus in bello rules are consistent with the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols. Third, it examines the circumstances under which it is permissible for Muslims to rebel against their ruler. Fourth, it explores the meaning of terrorism according to Islamic law and whether or not terrorism is punishable under Islamic law. This paper shows that the Islamic law of war has the potential to impact the attainment of peace in our globalized world. More importantly, this paper exposes the need for a reevaluation of specific classical Islamic rules regulating warfare in light of present-day armed conflicts.

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