Chapter 6: Dynamics of Islamic Jihad by Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



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Dynamics of Islamic Jihad

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



  1. Ghanimah

  2. Fai

  3. General Rules Regarding Spoils

  4. Treatment of Lands

“To the victor belongs the spoils” was a popular slogan not only among the heathen Arabs of the pre-Islamic period but also among many other nations of the world. So the common practice before the advent of Islam was that the entire booty obtained in a war was either divided by the victorious army or was usurped by the tribal chief or the king for his own benefit. Islam brought about a great change in this outlook. It restricted the claim of the conquering soldiers to four-fifth of the booty while one-fifth of it was reserved for the Islamic state to be used for the common benefit of the nation. During the reign of Caliph Umar this division of the spoils between the Islamic state and the conquering army was further restricted to chattels and movable assets. It was decided by consensus that the lands conquered from the enemy should be kept in the ownership of the state for the common benefit of the existing and future generations instead of dividing the same among the soldiers who took part in the fight.

Islam divides spoils or booty into two categories, namely : ‘Ghanimah’ and ‘Fai’. If the spoils are obtained by actual fighting, the same are called Ghanimah. But if they are obtained without fighting i.e. the enemy surrenders or flees away, then they are called Fai. Different rules and regulations govern the treatment of Ghanimah and Fai and hence the same are dealt with separately as under :

I- Ghanimah

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Following are the verses of the Qur’an and the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which lay down the law regarding treatment of Ghanimah :

1.       They ask thee (O Muhammad) of the spoils of war. Say: The spoils of war belong to Allah and the messenger, so keep your duty to Allah, and adjust the matter of your difference, and obey Allah and His messenger, if ye are (true) believers.

–—(Al-Anfal 8:1)

2.       And know that whatever ye take as spoils of war, lo! a fifth thereof is for Allah, and for the messenger and for the kinsman (who hath need) and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, if ye believe in Allah and that which We revealed unto Our salve on the Day of Discrimination, the day when the two armies met. And Allah is Able to do all things.

–––(Al-Anfal 8:41)

3.       Abdullah-b-Amr reported that when the Holy Prophet gained a booty, he used to order Bilal who proclaimed among men. Then they used to come with their booties. He used then to take out the one-fifth share therefrom, and divide them (the rest). One day a man arrived after that with a reign of hair and said: O Messenger of Allah! This is what we acquired from the booty. He asked: Have you heard Bilal proclaim thrice? ‘Yes’, said he. Then he said: What prevented you to come therewith? He offered an excuse. He said: Be (so); you will thus come therewith on the Resurrection Day but I shall never accept it from you.

–––(Abu Daud)

4.       Abu Sayeed reported that the Messenger of Allah prohibited the purchase of booties till they were divided.


5.       Auf-b-Malik and Khalid-b-Walid reported that the Messenger of Allah gave decision of the goods of the killed for one who killed. He did not include the goods for charging fifth share.

–––(Abu Daud)

6.       Mujamme-b-Jariyah reported : The booty of Khaiber was divided by the Messenger of Allah…… He gave two shares to each horseman and one share to each footman.

–––(Abu Daud)

7.       Ibn Umar reported : We used to take honey and grapes in our fights and eat them, but we did not take them (for division).


So, in the reign of the Holy Prophet, the procedure followed for the division of the spoils was : After the war had come to an end, somebody used to proclaim on behalf of the Prophet (may Allah’s peace be upon him) and all the belongings of the enemy were gathered at one place. Then one – fifth was taken by the Prophet (PBUH) as share of Allah and His Messenger (Islamic state) and remaining four-fifth was divided among the soldiers who participated in the war. Two shares were given to the horseman and one share to the footman. It was a tradition that the soldier killing a particular enemy was given his (enemy’s) belonging in addition to his fixed share, as a reward. If the slaves, minors, non-Muslims or women had helped the Muslim army, they were not assigned any regular share. Instead, they were given some gift for their services.

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II- Fai

According to encyclopedia of Islam, “by the word Fai scholars in general understand all things taken from the unbelievers “without fighting” and further very often the lands in conquered territories”.

Muhammad Asad, quoting Taj-al-Arus, writes. “The term fai, a noun derived from the verb fa’a ‘he returned something or ‘turned it over’, is applied in the Quran and the traditions exclusively to war gains-whether consisting of lands or tribute or indemnities-which are obtained as a condition from an enemy who has laid down arms before actual fighting has taken place"”

The following verses of the Qur’an and the Ahadith of Muhammad (PBUH) regulate the treatment of Fai booty acquired from the enemy :

1.       And that which Allah gave as spoil unto His messenger from them, ye urged not any horse or riding-camel for the sake thereof, but Allah giveth His messenger lordship over whom He will. Allah is Able to do all things. That which Allah giveth as spoil unto His messenger from the people of the township, it is for Allah and His messenger and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, that it become not a commodity between the rich among you. And whatsoever the messenger giveth you, take it. And whatsoever he forbiddeth, abstain (from it). And keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is stern in reprisal. And (it is) for the poor fugitives who have been driven out from their homes and their belongings, who seek bounty from Allah and help Allah and His messenger. They are the loyal.

–––(59:Al-Hashr : 6-8)

2.       Malik-b-Aus reported from Umar that there were the properties of Banu Nazir out of Fai which Allah gave to His Messenger on the ground that the Muslims did not acquire them on horse-back or any conveyance, so it was special for the Holy Prophet who was to spend it over his family maintenance of a year and then to spend what remained for armours and conveyances as ammunitions in the way of Allah.

–––(Bukhari and Muslim)

3.       Auf-b-Malik reported : When Fai came to the Prophet, he used to divide it on that very day and give two shares to a man with family and own share to a bachelor.

–––(Abu Daud)

4.       Ayesha reported that a bag containing shells was brought to the Prophet. He divided them among the free women and slave girls. Ayesha said : My father used to distribute to free men and slaves.

–––(Abu Daud)

5.       Malik-b-Aus reported that the matter about which Umar procured proof was this: The Holy Prophet had three special properties-Banu Nazir, Khaiber and Fedak. As for Banu Nazir, it was reserved for his adverse turns, and as for Fedak it was dedicated for the travellers; and as for Khaiber, the Holy Prophet divided it into three shares-two shares for the Muslims and one share for the expenses of his family. What remained in excess after expenses of his family, he distributed among the poor refugees.

–––(Abu Daud)

So according to the Qur’an Fai means such of the properties of the unbelievers as are ‘returned’ to the Muslims without war. It is not to be distributed like booty among the soldiers. But the whole of it is for Allah and His apostle. Such property is to be spent on the heads of expenditure mentioned in the Quran, namely :

1.       Allah and his Messenger.

2.       Near of kin.

3.       The orphans.

4.       The needy.

5.       The wayfarer or travelers.

The messenger of Allah used to spend it like that. After his death, it is indeed the responsibility of the Islamic state to decide the ways and means how it could be expended for the common weal.

From the Ahadith quoted above it is evident that the Prophet (PBUH) himself managed Fai as the head of the Islamic republic. The Fai was state property and the revenue proceeds therefrom were to be applied to the general good like Khums on the spoils of war (Ghanimah).

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III- General Rules Regarding Spoils

The jurists of Islam have laid down the following rules and regulations regarding spoils of war in the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah :[1]

1.       Spoils of war, as stated above, are of two types : Ghanimah and Fai. The Ghanimah is the booty which is obtained from the enemy by actual war against him, whereas the Fai is the booty which is acquired from the enemy who peacefully surrenders and concludes a treaty or flees away due to the fear of Islamic army. Khaibar was conquered by the Prophet and so the spoils found there were treated as Ghanimah. The inhabitants of Fedak got frightened at the fate of Khaibar and surrendered, so the spoils found there were treated as Fai.

2.       Both Ghanimah and Fai may include movable property such as cattle, household and personal effects, gold and silver, money, etc. and immovable property like lands, buildings and houses, and also slaves.

3.       The whole of Fai belongs to the state, but in case of Ghanimah the share of the state is one-fifth only while the rest four-fifth is distributed among the soldiers who participate in war.

4.       The booty is to be distributed in the Islami territory and not in the enemy area where it is brought and then distributed by the commander or the leader of the army.

5.       Four-fifth of the Ghanimah is distributed among the conquering troops in equal shares without any distinction between an officer and ordinary soldier or between a volunteer and a regular paid soldier. However a footman or infantryman gets one share whereas a horseman or cavalry man gets two shares (according to some jurists the latter gets three shares but this is not the current view).

6.       Women, minors, slaves and non-Muslim soldiers are rewarded in the form of a gift for their services but are not given equal share with Muslim soldiers. However, when the non-Muslim soldiers form a formidable force in Islamic army or without whose sport the Islamic army would not be strong enough to counter the enemy, in such case non-Muslim soldiers would have equal shares with Muslim soldiers in the war booty.

7.       Besides their regular shares in the Ghanimah some warriors are given special prizes or rewards for their extraordinary services and valour. Such prizes are ‘Tanfil’ and ‘Salab’. ‘Tanfil’ is a prize which is given to a soldier who performs an act which generally demands higher risk of life. ‘Salab’ stands for the spoil which belongs to the slain and which is given to the victorious person who has killed him in the personal combat or hand-to-hand fight. ‘Salab’ includes the arms and personal effects of the slain.

8.       If anything possessed by a Muslim was captured by the enemy and was again taken back by the Muslim army, it would be given back to the ex-owner upon production of evidence before the distribution of the booty.

9.       Lands of the conquered countries would belong to the Islamic state whose head or leader would put such lands to any appropriate use which he decides in consultation with his council or Shura. Whether such lands fall under the category of Ghanimah or Fai would not make any difference. This rule was made by the second caliph of Islam Umar after exhaustive deliberations with his Shura.

10.   On the basis of its fundamental principle that “in the sufferings of this world, the Muslims and non-Muslims are equal”, the Islamic law allows the same rights to the enemy in respect of captured property as are possessed by Muslims. For example, if the enemy captures a thing from the Muslims, he becomes rightful owner of it so much so that he may sell it to Muslims.

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IV- Treatment of Lands

After the death of the Prophet, when Iraq, Iran and Egypt were conquered by Muslim armies, there arose a controversy among the people concerning the lands of these countries. Some of the leading companions of the Prophet at request of Caliph Umar held meetings to discuss and deliberate upon the issue. Imam Abu Yusuf in his book Kitab-ul-Kharaj gives a lengthy and interesting account of these debates. Abdul Rahman, Zubair and Bilal backed by the army generals were of the view that the conquered lands should be divided among the soldiers just like other categories of booty from which one-fifth is taken out for the Muslim community and four-fifth is distributed among the participating soldiers. On the other hand Umar backed by Ali-b-Abi Talib and Muadh-b-Jabal was of the opinion that these lands should be retained in state control and should not be distributed among the soldiers. Letter written by Umar to Saad bin Abi Waqqas, the commander of Islamic forces in Iraq and Persia, thows light on the views of the Caliph : “You urge in your letter that whatever property God has given you in booty should be distributed. On receipt of my letter you should distribute all the chattels including animals among the army after deducting one-fifth provided the booty has been obtained after the actual warfare, and allow the lands and the camels to remain in the hands of the original owners so that they may be used in support of the allowances of the Muslims. If you distribute (the latter) among the present generation, there would be left nothing for the posterity”.

Caliph Umar addressed the companions, in order to persuade them to accept his view, as follows :

You heard the people who say I am depriving them of their right. I think that after the land of Kisra (Chosroe) no lands will be left for conquest. God has granted us their wealth and lands. I have distributed wealth among Muslims, but I wish that lands be left with their tillers and I should impose Kharaj and Jizyah which they would be paying us to meet the expenses of the army, children of Muslims and generations to come. You have seen the borders, we need the army to protect them; you have seen the big cities and to protect them a regularly paid army is necessary, and if I distribute the lands, how will they be paid?”

So on the basis of these arguments Umar tried to press his point but was not successful due to strong opposition of Bilal and others who were not ready to concede anything for future generations. At last he did Ijtihad for some days and then convinced the companions of the Holy Prophet relying on the verses 7 to 10 of Surah Al Hashr of the Holy Quran. In these verses, Allah declares that Fai belongs to the poor among the Muhajreen and the Ansar––and to “those who come after them”. Umar laid emphasis on the clause “to those who come after them” and carried his point through. In this way, with the consensus of Majlis-e-Shura, it was declared that the conquered lands in these countries would be considered Fai property and would be kept under state control for the benefit of all Muslim Ummah including future generations.

Soon after taking over the conquered lands in the state control, Caliph Umar applied his best administrative abilities to reorganize the administrative system of these areas. He entrusted the work of survey of land in Iraq to Usman-b-Hanif who was an expert in this field. Usman-b-Hanif carried out the survey very efficiently. Imam Abu Yusuf writes that the area of swad of Iraq amounted to 3,60,00,000 Jaribs (one Jarib equal to almost 3000 square yards of these days). Kharaj was imposed on these lands. Total Kharaj collected from these lands of Iraq rose before the death of the great caliph to impressive figure of 12,80,00,000 Dirhams. Similarly lands of Egypt and Syria placed under state control brought Kharaj of 1,20,00,000 and 1,40,00,000 Dinars respectively to Muslim treasury.

With this considerable amount of funds in Bait-ul-Mal, the great caliph introduced a widespread network of social security unparalleled in the hitherto history of the mankind.

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[1]       List of these rules has been prepared mostly in the light of Dr. Hamidullah’s book ‘The Muslim Conduct of State’

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