PoWs in the Eyes of Islam and Modern Civilisation

The exposure of the treatment meted out to the Prisoners of War (PoWs) in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo is appalling. However it is just tip of the iceberg and it seems that several Abu Ghraibs and Guantánamos must exist on the world to carry out the diabolic designs of big powers. Still an account of…

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The exposure of the treatment meted out to the Prisoners of War (PoWs) in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo is appalling. However it is just tip of the iceberg and it seems that several Abu Ghraibs and Guantánamos must exist on the world to carry out the diabolic designs of big powers. Still an account of some of the fortunate prisoners who managed to sneak away from those “hells” will illuminate on the abominable environment that prevails inside.
Ameen Saeed Al Sheikh (Detainee No. 151362 Abu Ghraib): “They said they would make me wish to die, and it will not happen; they stripped me naked; one of them said that he would rape me. He drew a picture of a woman to my back and made me stand in a shameful position holding my buttocks. “Do you pray to Allah,” one asked. “Yes,” I said. They replied, “Expletive you and expletive him” (God forbid).
Mustafa Jassim (Detainee No. 150542 Abu Ghraib): “They sodomised me with phosphoric light in the holy month of Ramadhan and as I was screaming with pain for help, one woman soldier was busy taking photos. They threw our meals into toilet and we were forced to eat it.”
Murat Kurnaz (Guantánamo): “In the shock rooms in Guantánamo I was subjected to severe torture for three months…. When you go into the room, they pump very hot air inside, after that they pump extreme cold air inside. It is horrifying kind of torture. There were various sorts of torture methods, including electrical shocks drowning in water tanks, depriving of food and water, chaining and hanging to ceiling, etc.
The list also includes psychological tortures like kicking a copy of the Qur’an and playing Adhan simultaneously with pop song and dancing on its tune, or making prisoners dogs and asking them to bark, etc. The tortures inflicted upon the fair sex are more sacrilegious. Anybody ignoramus about these soldiers’ background must conclude that such callous soldiers should be illiterate, fanatic, savage, belonging to some uncivilised country of Africa, unaware of international laws and covenants or they may be terrorists defying deliberately international laws for their petty interests, etc. The truth is that these soldiers are loyal to the lone superpower of the unipolar world – the USA.  Ignoble, immoral, fathead they might be but unlettered they aren’t. And even if they are for the argument’s sake, their commanders are absolutely not. It is a historical fact that the USA was among the first few countries signing the Geneva Convention 1949. But their behaviour since then has been in utter contrast even with what has been stated in the Convention. PoWs, according to the Convention, must be humanely treated (Article 13), protected against violence and insults (Article 13), no mental torture and coercion to answer (Article 15), quartered under conditions as for the force of detaining power (Article 25), sufficient clothing, etc. supplied (Article 27), must be allowed to receive books and material (Article 72).
These ‘high sounding moral codes’ are incongruous on the grounds for these super powers. And not only for these superpowers but even for their predecessors as well. If we turn the pages of history, we will be able to see many “wild beasts” in “human guise”. Take the example of Dracula or Julius Caesar who relished the sight of peeling off the hides of live humans (either PoWs or conquered ones). There had been Genghis Khan and Sons who literally engineered the canal rather sea of blood and flesh in Baghdad and other fateful cities. So was the zenith of their savagery that they first brutally slaughter all the people (who have surrendered) and after this indiscriminate butchery they used to make different kinds of piles of heads, limbs, breasts, etc. and took pride at its altitude.
Where are we heading with all this wanton buster? Is it to be surmise that PoWs are not “normal” human beings. They are degraded and ill-treated throughout the historical evolution of man – even today. Certainly not – this will be a conclusion after analysis of just one side of the picture, the dark side of it. Now let’s throw a bird’s eye view on the illuminating side of it, the apex of morality, humanity, and civilisation in the real sense of the term.
It would be in the fitness of things to cite a few instances of the magnanimous treatment that was accorded to PoWs by the Holy Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be with him), his Companions and later by all the true Islamic rulers (even regarding other rulers it is an established fact that however untrue and cruel they were, they never reached the brutality exhibited by Genghis and George W Bush or any other dictator at par).
At the advert of Battle of Badr, the Messenger and his companions endured for full 15 years unspeakable insults and injuries at the hands of the people of Quraish so much so that they were obliged to bid good-bye to their native place, Makkah. The Makkans who were thirsty for their blood, did not allow them to lead a life of peace in their new abode. They fell upon tiny Madinite state with all their might in order to exterminate it root and branch. In such an environment of hostility, after winning their first decisive battle at Badr – Muslims remained calm and self-possessed. The captives were treated with utmost kindness and consideration. “Blessings on the men of Madina,” Huzyr bin Umair (one of PoWs) said in later days, “they gave us wheat and bread to eat when there was little of it, contenting themselves only with dates.” The ransom of each prisoner varied with his financial position. The poor who could not afford to pay were set free without any compensation. Those who could read and write were given charge of small children, each one teaching 10 children.
In The Spirit of Islam Syed Amir Ali writes, “He (the Holy Messenger) who was once a fugitive and persecuted now came to prove his mission by deeds of mercy. The city which had treated him so cruelly, drives him and his faithful for refuge amongst strangers, lay at his feet. His old persecutors, relentless who had inflicted cruel outrage upon inoffensive men and women and even upon the lifeless dead were now completely at his mercy. But in the hour of triumph every evil suffered was begotten, every injury inflicted was forgiven and general amnesty was extended.
It will be pertinent to mention also the treatment of Salahuddin towards his foes. The Christian army let loose the reign of terror when they had captured Jerusalem. They massacred mercilessly thousands of helpless Muslims, including women and children. Salahuddin could have taken the revenge when he received back the territory in a valiant fashion but he did not do that. He entered Palestine as a noble conqueror and granted general amnesty to all the Christians. For those captives who wanted to go out of Jerusalem a ransom money was imposed – and the captives who had no money were freed (ransom money was paid by Salahuddin and his brother Malik Adil themselves).
Such is the standard of an egalitarian society set by Islam, which remains to be initiated afresh after the decline of Muslim empires all over the world. It is the only system which maintains the status of PoWs as human beings and not as some lower or alien species to be looked down upon. These noble principles emanate from the Holy Qur’an. And the distinction between a principle laid down in the Holy Qur’an and the Geneva Convention is that the former is for implementation and is inviolable while the latter to be kept in the showcase of international relations and could be violated for petty any diplomatic goal. Another distinction is that anything related to faith is not imposed by the Holy Qur’an in the literal sense but an individual is so motivated that he stands to fulfil the command. Enumerating the characteristics of Al-Abrar (pious believers) the Holy Qur’an says, “And they give food, in spite of their love for it, to the needy, orphan and the captives.” (76:8)
One who says it is not practical and feasible in the modern era is living in a fool’s paradise. Yvonne Ridley comments on the days of her captivity under Taliban regime in Afghanistan (she had entered the country illegally and was arrested): “I was terrified. Not only had I been captured by most brutal regime in the world (not mine, Mr. Bush’s words) but they hated woman as well. I never thought I would see the sunset that day…. There was one occasion when I lost my temper and spat and swore at my captors while being held in Kabul prison. I thought that might provoke a hostile reaction but they looked hearty and told me that I was their guest and their sister.”
To sum up, during war Islam draws a clear distinction between combatants and non-combatants. There are two types of non-combatants. One, woman, children, the old, and infirm are not to be killed. Also monks in monasteries and people in places of worship must be spared. Also, their property must not be confiscated.  The second category of non-combatants includes these PoWs. Islam sets a basic rule that captives are protected by their captivity and wounded by their injury. Their basic necessities must be fulfilled by the State. They could be ransomed or exchanged (with prisoners) but no effort is made to make a hell of their life by all kinds of torture prevalent in today’s war “ethics”.
The Messenger was unable to sleep the night when the prisoners of Badr were tied tightly with pillars. It was only when the Companions loosened the ropes of prisoners that he could manage to sleep. What a noble uswa to be followed by contemporary rulers.
Today the world is crying for peace. Apprehensions of outbreak of a third world war are not baseless. The outbreak of such a war will be followed by the nuclear winter and thereby extinction of life from the planet. The predicament of globe is worse than it was in the 6th century C.E. At that time the saviour of humanity was the system called Islam. The same remedy could be successfully applied to achieve peace and tranquillity worldwide once again in human history.
Recall the narrations of Ameen, Jassim, Murat, Huzyr and Yvonne. Pause and think for a while. If such is the light and wisdom of “Dark” and “Medieval” civilisation in contrast to the crimes and barbarism of the “enlightened” “modern” civilisation, do you not think it is better to turn to the “Dark age”.