Should All Disbelievers be Fought?

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick


I have heard from non-Muslim critics of Islam and several Muslim authors that the Shafi’i School permits the fighting of non-Muslims on the grounds of disbelief and that they are to be fought.

Is this true, and how is this actualized? And, does the Shafi‘i School believe in the sanctity of life, Muslim and non-Muslim?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to what pleases Him. Amin.

In the Shafi’i School, as in other Sunni Schools, the principles of jurisprudence are based on the Quran, Hadith (sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), consensus (ijma), and analogical reasoning (qiyas). Considering the historical context and broader principles of Islamic jurisprudence, it is essential to approach these matters with a nuanced understanding.

Peace and Coexistence

Regarding the claim that the Shafi’i School permits the fighting of non-Muslims on the grounds of disbelief, it is crucial to emphasize that Islam promotes peace and coexistence with people of other faiths. The Quran acknowledges religious diversity and encourages dialogue.

For instance, Allah (Most High) says, “Let there be no compulsion in religion, for the truth stands out clearly from falsehood. So whoever renounces false gods and believes in Allah has certainly grasped the firmest, unfailing hand-hold. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” [Quran, 2:256] This verse underscores the importance of respecting religious differences.

Regarding the issue of fighting, the Quran provides guidelines for self-defense and just warfare. Allah says, “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed, Allah does not like transgressors.”[Quran, 2:190]  The concept of self-defense is fundamental in Islam and is not tied solely to the religious identity of the opposing party.

The Sanctity of Human Life

The Quran, Sunna, and all Schools of Thought espouse the sanctity of human life. Allah says: “…Whoever takes a life—unless as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land—it will be as if they killed all of humanity; and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity…” [Quran, 5:32]

Allah (Most High) says: “Do not take a ˹human˺ life—made sacred by Allah—except with ˹legal˺ right. If anyone is killed unjustly, We have given their heirs the authority, but do not let them exceed limits in retaliation, for they are already supported by law.” [Quran, 17:33] This verse further underscores the sanctity of all human life, regardless of religious affiliation.

Shafi‘i Works

In the Shafi’i Fiqh, the classical juristic texts, such as Imam Nawawi’s works and others, emphasise the importance of justice and respect for life. The Shafi’i School does not endorse indiscriminate violence against non-Muslims based solely on their religious beliefs. Warfare, if necessary, is regulated by strict ethical principles, such as avoiding harm to non-combatants and ensuring proportionality.

In conclusion, while it is easy to manipulate any religious, classical religious texts to espouse violent and intolerant narratives and prejudice, the scholars of the Shafi’i School, like other Sunni Schools, uphold the principles of justice, self-defense, and the sanctity of human life. Any claims suggesting otherwise should be carefully scrutinized in light of the broader Islamic teachings and legal principles.

Allah says: “Allah does not forbid you from dealing kindly and fairly with those who have neither fought nor driven you out of your homes. Surely Allah loves those who are fair.” [Quran, 60:8]

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan (Allah have mercy on him), where he taught.

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Shaykh Muhammad Awama, Shaykh Muhammad Hasan Hitu, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has been the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and, for six years, the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has fifteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic podcast, education, and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy Prophetic living and fitness.