If they refuse to enter Islam, take the jiziyah [poll tax] from them. If they agree to this, accept it from them and do not fight them. But if they refuse this, seek Allah’s help and fight them’> [related by Muslim].
The above hadith clarifies for us how the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to instruct the army leaders to have gallant qualities when dealing with the enemies, not being treacherous, not mutilating the dead bodies or killing children.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) stressed the principle of freedom of belief and respected this if they refused to enter the religion (Islam) as long as they paid the jiziyah (poll tax).
We also find that fighting is the last choice which the army is forced to fall back on after exhausting all negotiations and alternatives. This is in direct contrast to the propaganda of some misguided people, who claim that Islam was spread by the sword…Where are they [and their views] in relation to this authentic hadith which has been recorded from the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)?
Sahil ibn Saad As-Saadi (may Allah be pleased with him) told us, which are considered the most prized cattle by the Arabs. [related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
This stance makes clear to us how eager the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was to call others to Allah (Glorified is He), to tell them about the meaning of Islam, and to guide the people to Allah. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) wanted this more than anything else.
Abdullah ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, [related by Al-Bukhari].
Concerning The Messenger of Allah’s treatment of prisoners of war, it was better than all present-day international agreements, treaties and covenants which boost of good treatment of prisoners of war and how humanely they are dealt with.
Abu Azeez ibn Umair, the nephew of Musayb ibn Umair from his father’s side, said, [related by At-Tabarani].
Moreover, a man from the tribe of Bani Haneefah called Thumamah ibn Uthal was taken prisoner of war by the Muslims at Najd and was then tied to one of the pillars in the mosque. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) went to him and said, <‘What is the matter, oh Thumamah?’ Thumamah replied, ‘Good, Oh Muhammed. If you kill me you will have killed one who [wanted or] has [blue] blood (who wanted to kill the Messenger of Allah, or has a lineage so his family would retaliate for him). But if you set me free, you will do a favor to one who will be thankful. If you want wealth, ask whatever you want from me.’ The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) left him until the next day, when he asked him the same question. Thumamah gave the same answer. Therefore, The Messenger of Allah ordered that he be freed, saying, ‘Free Thumamah.’ Thumamah then went to a palm tree near the mosque, had a bath and then entered the mosque and said, ‘I testify that there is no god [that deserves to be worshipped] but Allah and I testify that Muhammed is the Messenger of Allah. There was no one on the earth whose face was further [from my heart] than your face, but now, your face is the most beloved face to me. By Allah, there was no religion further [from my heart] than your religion, but now, your religion is the most liked religion to me. And by Allah, there was no city more further [from my heart] than your city, but now, your city is the most loved city to me…’> [related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
This story makes one ask oneself a question, “What did Thumamah see when he was a prisoner of war with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) that made him return, after he was freed, by his own free will, to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) to tell him that he had entered Islam and to tell him how much he now loved the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) after having disliked him so much earlier?”
He must have seen that he was treated very well and with good manners when he was a prisoner of war, such treatment changing his previous opinions and making him review the matter again.
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) related to us what happened to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) when he went to Taif, concerning how the polytheists denied him and sent their young boys and the foolish among them to attack the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). Aisha related that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said about this situation, <…I left and the troubles were clear on my face and I was not aware of where I was walking until I reached Qarn of Thalib. [There] I raised my head and [saw that] a cloud had overshadowed me. I looked at it and [saw that] Gibrael was in it. He came close to me and said, ‘Truly, Allah heard what your people said to you and how they replied to you. And Allah sent the angel of the mountains to you for you to order to do whatever you like with them.’ The angel of the mountains came closer and greeted me. Then he said, ‘Oh Muhammed.’ He continued, ‘[I will do] whatever you wish. If you want, I will make these two big mountains [near Mecca] fall on them.’ I [the Messenger of Allah] said, ‘But I hope that Allah will bring from their offspring those who will worship Allah alone, not taking any partners with Him.’> [related by Al-Bukhari].
Oh how merciful and how wise you are, Oh Messenger of Allah!! His enemy denied him, pushed him out of the city and harmed him greatly, and the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) had the ability to ruin and overcome them, but he viewed the situation with mercy and wisdom, hoping they would have righteous Muslim offspring who believed in the Oneness of Allah (Glorified is He) and worshipped only Him, alone!
How did the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) deal with the prisoners of war?
Respect your agreements and covenants with others, as this was the way of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).