In the Name of Allah, Ever-Merciful, Ever-Compassionate
Praise is Allah’s, Lord of the Cosmos, and ever-lasting peace be upon the best of His creation, Muhammad and his noble and pure progeny.
I call your attention to the following:
Let the dear fighters know, the ones who have been given the honour to be present in the battlefield against the transgressors, that:
1. Just as Allah, exalted is He, has called the believers unto Jihad [against the transgressors] and made it one of the pillars of religion, and just as Allah has privileged the Holy Warriors over those who do not fight [in Jihad], He, noble is His name, has placed certain conditions and etiquettes [on the conduct of Jihad]. Such conditions are necessitated by wisdom and mandated by the primordial nature of human beings. It is necessary, then, to learn these conditions and etiquettes thoroughly and to follow them sincerely, for the one who learns these conditions and follows them sincerely will receive his deserved reward and blessings from Allah, and the one who neglects these conditions will not receive [the blessings] he hoped for.
2. With regards to Jihad there are general guidelines to which one must adhere even when confronting non-Muslims. The Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, advised his Companions to follow these general guidelines before sending them off to battle. In an authentic tradition, it has been reported that the Imam Jaʿfar al-Sadiq (d. 765), peace be upon him, said: “when the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, would want to send a fighting contingent he would sit down with them and advice them to represent Allah justly and to follow the good example of the religion of the Messenger of Allah. He would [further] say, ‘do not indulge in acts of extremism, do not disrespect dead corpses, do not resort to deceit, do not kill an elder, do not kill a child, do not kill a woman, and do no not cut down trees unless necessity dictates otherwise.’”
3. Similarly, the fighting against those Muslims who oppress [others] and who wage war [unjustly] has its guidelines and etiquettes, too. Indeed such guidelines and etiquettes informed the actions of the Imam ʿAli (d. 661), who, when confronted with such situations, admonished his followers [to follow these guidelines and etiquettes]. The Muslim world agreed in unanimity that the actions, guidelines, and etiquettes of Imam ʿAli are a worthy example to emulate. So pay heed to the example of Imam ʿAli and follow his path. He, peace be upon him, said: “set your sights on the Family of the Prophet. Make them proud. Follow their deeds. Verily, the Family of the Prophet will not lead you away from the path of guidance, nor will they make you return to the path of error. If they rise, so shall you; and if they stand, so shall you. Do not traverse the path ahead of them, for you shall lose your way; and do not abandon them, for you shall perish.”
4. Be attentive to the sanctity of the human souls! Never should you do to them something which Allah has not deemed permissible. What great travesty it is to kill innocent souls, and what great honour it is to safeguard innocent souls, just as Allah, exalted is He, mentioned in His book [i.e. the Qurʾan]. The killing of an innocent soul has dangerous consequences, both in this world and in the hereafter. History has taught us that the Commander of the Faithful [i.e. ʿAli], peace be upon him, took much caution to protect the sanctify of the human soul in his wars. During his reign [as caliph] he said to [his companion] Malik al-Ashtar, whose friendship and proximity to ʿAli is well known: “be vigilant! Do not spill the blood of the innocent…”
If you [i.e. the fighters of the Popular Mobilisation Committees] find yourselves in an uncertain situation from which you fear the divine wrath, issue a vocal warning [to those fighting you], or issue a physical warning by directing your bullets in a manner which does not strike the target or cause its destruction. Surely this is better for you than to kill innocent souls.
5. Be attentive to the sanctity of the lives of those who do not fight you, especially the weak among the elderly, the children, and women, even if they were the families of those who fight you. The property of those who fight you does not include their families, but it only includes the money those fighters posses. It was the noble habit of the Commander of the Faithful [i.e. ʿAli], peace be upon him, to prohibit [his soldiers] from attacking the properties of the families, women, and children of those against whom he fought, despite efforts by some of those who [claimed to] follow him, such as the Kharijites, who insisted on attacking the families of their enemies. To refute them, ʿAli would say: “we fought the men but we do not inflict harm on their women, for they are Muslims. Do not inflict harm upon their women…”
6. Do not condemn others to heresy. Do not accuse them of blasphemy which could then lead to their death. Do not imitate the way of the Kharijites of the early Islamic period and their contemporary followers who are ignorant of the basic tenets of the religion. Some people today have followed the way of the Kharijites and have sought to justify their [un-Islamic] actions by recourse to some textual evidence, though in reality they have misunderstood the original texts. The Muslims of today have to live with the consequences of these misinterpretations.
Know that whomsoever bears testimony that there is only one Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger is indeed a Muslim. That person’s life and property must be safeguarded. If that person falls into the path of [theological] deviance and commits deeds not sanctioned by Islamic law, then know that not every error in judgment leads to disbelief, nor does every misdeed strip one of their faith.
7. Never inflict harm on non-Muslims, regardless of their religion and sect. The non-Muslims [who live in predominately Muslim lands] are under the protection of the Muslims in those lands. Whomsoever attacks non-Muslims is a coward. And rest assured that such an act of cowardice is one of the most repugnant in the eyes of Allah. In fact the Muslim must protect his non-Muslim neighbours in the same manner and vigour as he would when he protects his own family.
8. Do not steal the money of others. Those who steal from others will find themselves seated in the flames of the fires of hell.
9. Do not violate things sacred. Do not violate things scared with your tongues and actions. It has been reported that the Commander of the Faithful said: “do not disrespect the corpse of the dead, and if you defeat the men of your enemies do not violate the sanctity of their women and their houses. Do not enter their houses. Do not take anything from their houses. Take only what you find in their military encampments. Do not verbally abuse their women. Do not insult their honour, even if your enemies abuse your women and insult your honour.
10. Do not deprive any people, who do not fight you, of their rights even if they anger.
11. Know that most of those who fight you are victims who have been led astray by others. Do not let those who lead others astray be better than you. Let your righteous actions, your just conduct, and your sound admonition, serve as an example for them. Do not resort to oppression. Do not insult others. Whomsoever helps misguided souls find the path of righteousness is like the one who saves a soul from perdition. And whomsoever misguides a person knowingly it is as if he has killed him.
12. Corruption can only be cured by justice.
13. It may be the case sometimes that when you adhere to good conduct and remain disciplined you suffer [military] losses; this, nevertheless, is more spiritually rewarding. The example set by the Imams serves as a case in point. They did not wage war unless they were attacked, even if such actions caused them temporary losses.
14. Be the guardians and admonishers of those who accept you, so that in the end they will support you against your enemies. Help the weak among them in whatever you can. They are your brothers and your family. Show compassion towards them just as you show compassion towards you own. Know that you are within Allah’s sight, and that He knows your actions, intents, and your inner dispositions.
15. Do not let anything take precedence over your obligatory prayers. Prayer is the means through which man humbles himself before Allah. It is the foundation of religion and the criterion through which actions are judged. But in times of war Allah does not want to overburden you. During fighting and when in fear one may simply proclaim ‘Allah is Great’.
16. Remember Allah at all times. Recite passages from the Qurʾan. Remember that one day you will stand before Him.
17. Strive to act in the same righteous manner as the Prophet and his progeny, peace be upon them, in times of war and peace. Be the good example that Islam deserves. This is the religion that was built on illumination, reason, and good manners.
18. Do not be haste in situations where caution is required. Do not undergo an action which will be the cause of your spiritual perdition. Hold your lines and keep a united front.
19. Advice each other. You will not find better advice than that which you offer to each other. Unite, come together, and over look your differences.
20. Everyone must let go of those sentiments which carry hatred and bigotry. Follow the noble manners. Allah has made people into different tribes and races so that they may know each other. Do not be overcome by narrow-minded views. Do you not see how the majority of Muslims today are engaged in self-destruction where they spend their resources, energy, and wealth on killing and destruction? They should instead spend their resources and wealth on the advancement of knowledge and in order to improve the welfare of the people. Avoid internal strife. And if internal strife occurs, try your best to put it down. Hold on to the rope of Allah and do not disunite. Know that Allah knows whatever is in your hearts. Indeed nothing is beyond the remit of Allah.
The Office of Grand Ayatollah SayyidʿAli al-Sistani
The Holy City of Najaf
February 12, 2015.