Never during the Prophet’s time did the Muslim community plan to attack any group or to take them unawares. Only when the Prophet received intelligence that a particular tribe or grouping were planning to attack the Muslims did he take countermeasures to ensure that the danger they represented is forestalled. But even when he took such measures, he would not launch an attack without alerting the enemy and calling on them to accept Islam and live in peace with the Muslim state.
Evidence for this is plentiful. However, we will concentrate today on a particular situation involving one of the main army commanders during the Prophet’s lifetime: Ali, his cousin and son-in-law. Let us consider first this report by Anas ibn Malik: “The Prophet sent Ali ibn Abi Talib to fight a certain people. He then dispatched someone after him. He told the man: “˜Do not call out to him (i.e. to Ali) from his rear, and tell him not to fight them before he has called on them (to accept Islam).– (Related by Al-Tabarani)….
This is then the right approach and the only one that Islam accepts. The issues must be clear before engaging in any fight. The enemy must be made aware of Islam and what it calls for before the Muslims could fight them.
This is in accord with a key hadith that I have cited here many times. The Prophet Muhammad emphasizes that those to be fought must first be “invited” to accept Islam:
Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war… When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them….If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them. (Sahih Muslim 4294)
And from Osama bin Laden’s November 2002 letter to America:
What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?
(1) The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam.
(a) The religion of the Unification of God; of freedom from associating partners with Him, and rejection of this; of complete love of Him, the Exalted; of complete submission to His Laws; and of the discarding of all the opinions, orders, theories and religions which contradict with the religion He sent down to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Islam is the religion of all the prophets, and makes no distinction between them – peace be upon them all.
It is to this religion that we call you; the seal of all the previous religions. It is the religion of Unification of God, sincerity, the best of manners, righteousness, mercy, honour, purity, and piety. It is the religion of showing kindness to others, establishing justice between them, granting them their rights, and defending the oppressed and the persecuted. It is the religion of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil with the hand, tongue and heart. It is the religion of Jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah’s Word and religion reign Supreme….
Indeed. And since America did not accept, the jihad continues.