Although the Holy Prophet PBUH fought many battles against his enemies, yet the purpose and manner of the battles fought by him were totally different. He started his mission through peaceful invitation to the people to accept that Allah is One and that all should worship none but Him. But this peaceful propagation of Islam received serious opposition from pagans who did their best to suppress it by persecution. When they found that in spite of serious opposition, Islam was gaining strength in Madinah, they took up arms to destroy it as the Quran tells us:
“Nor will they Cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can”(2:217)
Under these circumstances the first command of Allah permitting the Muslims to fight was given which said:
“To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight) because they are Wronged” (22:39)
And again the second command which said:
“Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits-” (2:190)
From these verses, it is clear that permission to fight was given against those who waged war. This type of war according to the Quran, is fighting in the way of Allah (3:167) and which is known as Jihad-fi-Sabil Allah. In other words, it also means striving for the cause of Allah. The Quran says:
“O Prophet! Strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be firm against them.” (9: 73)
According to the Quran, fighting is to end persecution. War is to continue till the enemy goes on fighting. But if it stops, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.
From this it is clear that Jihad is to end persecution, to help the weak and the oppressed and it is only against those who fight. This is also clear from the addresses of the Holy Prophet PBUH which he delivered to his followers at the time of sending them out to fight. At Badr he said,
“You shall not be the first to attack. You shall not permit personal hate or revenge sway your hearts while fighting. You shall not raise your arms against anyone who is not a party to the fight. You will spare the old and the sick. You shall protect women and children from injury.”
At Uhad he had said:
“You are fighting for neither land nor wealth nor bloodshed but merely to defend the word of Allah and to keep high the banner of truth.”
At Khyber, when some of his followers forcibly took the animals and fruit trees of the Jews he became angry and said: “Allah has not permitted you to enter into the houses of the people of the Book, except with their permission, or to torture their women, or to eat their fruits, when they have fulfilled their terms with you.”
At Muta, he laid down the following principles for the conduct of Muslim armies:
1. They were not to attack those engaged in prayers.
2. No woman, child or old man was to be injured or killed.
3. No green trees were to be cut or destroyed.
Thus, the Holy Prophet PBUH purified the system of war from all sorts of cruelties and inhuman activities. His real aim in coming on the battlefield was neither to gain power nor to acquire lands. It was to end persecution and create a calm and peaceful atmosphere for everybody and also to help the poor, weak and the old. This was the reason that after the victories over his enemies, he never took revenge from anybody. He revolutionised the System of war into a system of Jihad which is actually a form of Ibadat or worship in Islam.