What Is Transgression
- From: "We are Muslims and we are extremely proud of it." <born_to_be_muslim@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2012 01:16:32 -0800 (PST)
What Is Transgression
Muslims who would violate its imperative.
The first Qur'anic verse considered that applies the mercy imperative
quite clearly imposes a burden of restraint upon Muslims engaged in
fighting an enemy. The Qur'an reads: "Fight in the cause of Allah
those who fight you, but do not transgress limits, for Allah loveth
The idea of transgressing the limits of God imposes upon Muslims the
obligation to restrain themselves on the field of battle. What this
verse does not do is tell us what it means to transgress the limits of
God. For such clarification, we must look to how Muslims themselves
constructed and understood the meaning of this verse. Interestingly,
this verse has consistently been understood by Muslims over centuries
to provide the basis for what modern human rights commentators would
call the civilian-combatant distinction. For instance, the Muslim
jurist Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari (d.923 C.E.) argues that
transgressing the limits of God includes attacking and killing those
who pose no military threat to the Muslims. He expounds upon this idea
by listing categories of protected persons. For instance, al-Tabari
asserts that to avoid the transgression intended by the verse, one
must not kill children or women. His specific reference to women and
children, though, is not exhaustive. Rather, he would argue that
Muslims are prohibited from fighting those who are not participating
in the battle. Women and children are simply the most obvious
examples, in al-Tabari's age, of those who do not fight.
Over two centuries later, the Qur'anic commentator, al-Zamakhshari (d.
1144 C.E.), upholds the basic idea conveyed by al-Tabari centuries
earlier. Addressing the notion of transgressing the limits of God, al-
Zamakhshari writes that this constitutes killing those whom the
Muslims are prohibited from killing. Specifically, such protected
people include women, the elderly, children, and those who have a
treaty of security with Muslims. The idea underlying al-Zamakhshari's
list of protected categories of persons is that these types of people
do not fight, and therefore do not pose a military threat to Muslim
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