• Islam is emphatic that even in times of conflicts, harming non-combatants is absolutely prohibited
• In one of his traditions recorded in Musnad Ahmad, Prophet Muhammad described those who harm non-combatants as “the worst transgressors to Allah”
The abduction of two Cuban doctors working in Mandera by al Shabaab has once again ignited concerns about the precarious security situation in the region.
The medics were spirited across the border to Somalia and Kenyan troops are engaged in a rescue operation. A police officer was killed in the ambush while another is nursing injuries.
Due to security concerns, the government recalled Cuban doctors who had been posted in Garissa, Wajir, Tana River and Lamu—areas which border with Somalia. The departure of the medics rekindles memories of the mass withdrawal of non-local teachers from Mandera, Wajir and Garissa, which greatly affected studies in schools.
The doctors, part of the exchange programme between Kenya and Cuba, were providing crucial health services to residents of Mandera. For the last eight months, thousands of residents from Mandera and neighbouring Ethiopia were beneficiaries of improved medical services.
While Kenyan troops continue their pursuit of the abductors in Somalia, an intense security operation is underway in Mandera to smoke out those who played a role in the abduction.
The second Muslim Caliph Abubakar Siddiq, who expressly forbade harming women, children, monks and other innocent people during a state of war. These Islamic rules of war were the forerunners of the modern law of armed conflicts as captured by the Geneva Convention
On this, the government needs to be cautious and see to it that there is no victimisation of innocent people. This could fuel mistrust and animosity between residents and security agents, which is counterproductive.
In the past, residents have complained of collective punishment inflicted by security agents in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. This has dampened cooperation between local communities and security agencies.
While al Shabaab claims that its ultimate goal is to establish a government in Somalia based on Islamic principles, their unjustifiable activities which often times lead to loss of lives, injuries and displacement of innocent people, clearly go contrary to Islamic teachings. Islam is emphatic that even in times of conflicts, harming non-combatants is absolutely prohibited.
The concept of civilian protection is firmly established in Islamic scriptures, which give immunity to those who do not actively engage in a conflict. According to these principles, non-combatants are not to be harassed, threatened, driven out of their homes, abducted or killed.
In one of his traditions recorded in Musnad Ahmad, Prophet Muhammad described those who harm non-combatants as “the worst transgressors to Allah”.
Among the horrendous justification being made by groups such as al Shabaab to harm civilians is that they are reciprocally justified in harming civilians because non-Muslim armies are fighting against them.
This argument is repudiated by the famous edict of the second Muslim Caliph Abubakar Siddiq, who expressly forbade harming women, children, monks and other innocent people during a state of war. These Islamic rules of war were the forerunners of the modern law of armed conflicts as captured by the Geneva Convention.
It is clear that the abducted Cuban doctors were in the country purely on a humanitarian mission to provide medical services to people who have had difficulty accessing quality healthcare.
It was a great sacrifice on their part to leave their homes and travel thousands of kilometres to serve in an area considered a hardship zone to give a better life to the people of Mandera.
Instead of helping to save lives, which was their cardinal responsibility, they are now being held in harsh and dreadful conditions in an unfamiliar terrain across the border in Somalia. Their families back home in Cuba have been left in a state of pain and anguish, not knowing the fate of their loved ones.
The Cuban doctors were praised for transforming services in Northeastern, which faced a shortage of qualified doctors due to the reluctance of medics to move to the area because of security concerns.
Just like the withdrawal of teachers, which left the region in an education crisis, the departure of the doctors would no doubt affect health services and patients will have difficulty accessing specialised care.
One of the cardinal principles of Islam is the protection of the sanctity of life. Islam prohibits harming non-combatants and there is no justification whatsoever in harming, abducting or killing the innocent, even as retribution, which many extremist groups today use as justification for attacks against innocent people.
Head of media, Jamia Mosque Committee