8 Nov 2008
Statements of Classical Scholars on Freeing Muslim Captives
The scholars have many positions on this subject, but they are agreed upon it being obligatory to free the Muslim prisoners of war, by either sacrificing ourselves or by our wealth.
Ibn Qudamah Al-Hanbali said (Al-Mughni 9/228):
It is obligatory to pay the ransom money for the Muslim prisoners, if it is possible.
This was also said by Umar bin Abdul-Aziz, Imam Malik and Ishaq. It has been narrated from Ibn Zubair that he asked Al-Hassan bin Ali about freeing the prisoners. Al-Hassan replied: “It is obligatory upon the entire Earth on which he was fighting.”
It has been established from the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) that he said: “Feed the hungry, visit the sick and free the prisoner.”
It has been narrated by Saeed through his chain from Hibban bin Jabalah, that the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said: “Indeed it is obligatory upon the Muslims to free their captives or to pay their ransoms.”
The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) wrote a letter advising the Muhajireen and Ansar: “To restrain the enemy soldiers in their fortresses and to free the Muslim captives with goodness.”
The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) paid the ransom for two Muslim men with a man who he (SAWS) had taken from Bani Uqail, and he paid the ransom for two people with a woman who was given as a gift by Salamah bin Al-Akwa.
These evidences show how the prisoners were freed, not specifying any particular way. However, if we are able to free the prisoners through a particular way then it becomes obligatory upon us do take that course. This is what the jurists did and they said: “It is compulsory upon us to even wage war in order to release the Muslim captives, if we are in a position to wage war.”
An-Nawawi said (Ar-Raudah 10/216):
If the enemy capture a Muslim or two, then is it equivalent to invading a Muslim land? There are two opinions on this. The first opinion is no, because the troubling of one Muslim soldier is insignificant. The more correct and other opinion of the two is yes, because the sanctity of a single Muslim is greater than the sanctity of an entire state. Therefore, if the Islamic State is close to the location where the prisoner was captured, then it should release the prisoner and exact a fine from those who have captured him. (Otherwise, paying the ransom money is wajib (compulsory) if we can free the prisoner by it).
Al-Qurtubi (2/26) said:
Our scholars have said that ransoming the prisoners with money is wajib (obligatory), even if one dirham does not remain in the Islamic Treasury. Ibn Khuwaiz Mindad has confirmed the existence of verses of the Quran that indicate the obligation of releasing the prisoners. It has also been narrated from the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) that he ransomed the prisoners and ordered others to do so as well. This has also been course taken by the Muslims and their consensus that it is incumbent to free the prisoners by taking money from the Islamic Treasury, and if that is not possible, then it becomes compulsory as a collective duty: if one person executes it, the sin is lifted from the shoulders of the rest of the Muslims.
Related from the author of The Book of Jihad and Fighting in Islamic Politics from the author of As-Seer Al-Kabeer with its commentary (3/1583):
It is OK to exchange both male and female non-Muslim prisoners who are in the hands of the Muslims, for Muslim prisoners. This is the opinion held by Abu Yusuf, Muhammad and it is the strongest opinion held by Abu Hanifah (may Allah be pleased with him).
Ibn Juzai Al-Maliki said (Page 172 of Qawaneen Al-Ahkam Ash-Shar’iyyah):
It is necessary to rescue the Muslim prisoners from the hands of the disbelievers by fighting them. If the Muslims are unable to do so, then it becomes compulsory upon them to pay the ransom money. It is incumbent on a rich person to ransom himself and on the Imam (leader), to pay the ransom money for the poor people, from the Islamic Treasury. If they still fall short, then it becomes compulsory to take from the wealth of all the Muslims, even if it finishes their wealth.
Al-Izz bin Abdus-Salam said (Page 97 from Ahkam Al-Jihad wa Fadailihi):
Rescuing the Muslim prisoners from the hands of the disbelievers is one of the best means of coming close to Allah. Some of the scholars have said: “If even one Muslim is captured, it becomes compulsory upon us to persevere in fighting the disbelieving enemy until we either free the Muslim captives or destroy the disbelieving enemy. Therefore, what do you say if they capture a large number of Muslims!?”
Ibn Nuhaas transmits from An-Nawawi in Ar-Raudah (2/838 from Mashari Al-Ashwaq ila Masari’ Al-Ushaq):
If the enemy capture a Muslim or two, then is it equivalent to invading a Muslim land? There are two opinions on this. The first opinion is no, because the troubling of one Muslim soldier is insignificant. The more correct and other opinion of the two is yes, because the sanctity of a single Muslim is greater than the sanctity of an entire state.
Ibn Taymiyyah said (Al-Fatawa 28/635):
Freeing the prisoners is one of the greatest compulsory deeds and spending ransom money and other means towards that, is one of the greatest ways to come close to Allah.
Ibn Al-Arabi said (Ahkam Al-Quran 2/440):
Unless the prisoners are from the weak and oppressed, then the State should be steadfast in their cause. To help them with our bodies is wajib (obligatory) and no one should remain behind until they all leave to rescue them or spend all of their wealth to rescue them. This was said by Imam Malik and all of the scholars. Verily, to Allah we belong and to Him we must return, if we leave our brothers in the hands of the enemy and they have wealth, weapons, number, strength and authority.
Ibn Hajar Al-Haithami said (Tuhfah Al-Muhtaj 9/237) said:
If the enemy captures a single Muslim, it becomes wajib (obligatory) on every one who has the ability, to rush to their rescue (even without seeking anyone’s permission). It is apparent that it is compulsory on everyone, similar to the situation where the enemy invades our land. Moreover, saving our brothers is of a higher priority, as the sanctity of a Muslim is greater (than the sanctity of a State).
Abu Bakr Al-Jassas (Ahkam Al-Quran 1/58) said:
The ransoming of Muslim prisoners is one of the obligatory deeds that has been established upon us. Al-Hajjaj bin Artaah narrated about this ruling from his grandfather, that the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) wrote a letter to the Muhajireen and Ansar, to detain the enemy prisoners in their stronghold, ransom their prisoners for something befitting and for peacemaking amongst the Muslims. Mansoor narrated from Shaqeeq bin Salamah from Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari that the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said: “Feed the hungry, spread the greeting (salam), visit the sick and free the prisoner.”
These two serve as evidences for freeing the prisoners because the word, ‘Al-Aani’ in Arabic refers to prisoner. Imran bin Hussain and Salamah bin Al-Akwa’ narrated that the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) ransomed pagans for Muslim prisoners.
Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani said (Fath Al-Bari 6/167):
The saying of Imam Al-Bukhari, ‘The Chapter on Freeing Prisoners’ refers to freeing them from the hands of the enemy by money or by other means. The word ‘Al-Fakak’, where the fa (Arabic letter) from the word has a fatha (it is also permissible for it to take a kasrah), means to free. This word is mentioned in two hadiths. The first one is the hadith of Abu Musa: “Free the prisoner.” Ibn Battal said that freeing the prisoners is compulsory on a collective duty (Fard Kifayah). This opinion is also held by the majority of the scholars.