‘The Pakistan Times’ April 13, 1979: Conncept of ‘Jehad’ in Islam – Dr. Sayed Abdul Wadud

The concept of ‘Jahad’ in Islam has been grossly misunderstood, rather distorted. In the West, where it has been presented as barbarism, as aggressive use of brute force. The term, ‘militant Islam’, which has been in vogue in the world Press recently, is a follow-up of this very approach to the fundamental concept of Islam and a continuation of the old Jehad’ phobia of the non-Muslims.

The after-affects of the Crusades, which badly affected the relations between the Muslims and the Christians, still linger on. European Christians are still smarting under that defeat. They have, therefore, tried all sorts of means to eliminate the spirit of Jehad from amongst the Muslims, as it was this spirit that reduced their designs to dust. Through malicious propaganda campaigns, distortion on the true concept of Jehad and labeling of Muslims as barbarous killers and usurpers, they have depicted a horribly ugly picture of Islam in the eyes of the world. The significance of Jehad must, therefore, be elucidates in the light of the Holy Quran.

‘Jehad’ means striving utmost to achieve an objective. The primary objective before the Muslims is establishment of a social order based on the Quranic fundamental principles. All efforts to that end fall with in the meaning of ‘Jehad’. Armed fight against formidable resistance by self-seeking people, which is called ‘Qatal’ is also Jehad and has been allowed by the Quran. Otherwise, Islam is a ‘din’ of peace and safety.

Three questions arise here: (1) Is Islam really a ‘din’ of peace, justice, and tolerance? (2) Does it allow discriminate fighting against the enemy, or has it laid down certain checks and rules for it? (3) Under what circumstances did the Muslims fight against non-Muslims?

So for as the first question is concerned, the Holy Quran says, “There has come to you from Allah a light in the form of a perspicuous book wherewith Allah guides all who seek His good pleasure to a path of peace and safety.” (5: 15-16). The very word ‘Islam’ means peace. Mischief is prohibited in Islam. Thus it is said, “Do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order.” (7:56). The Quran refers to past nations who were destroyed for spreading mischief in the world (18:4-5). According to the Holy Quran, the very object of sending Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last messenger of God, was to eradicate mischief which had spread on account of human whims and wishes replacing the Divine laws brought by the previous messengers of God (30:41). Belief in God and mischief cannot go together. They are opposed to each other. (38:28).

A Muslim society cannot accommodate injustice. “O you who believe stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to God, even as against yourself, or your parents, or your kins, or whether it be (against) rich or poor for Allah can best protect both.” (4:135). To do justice in a favorable and neutral atmosphere is meritorious but the real test comes when you have to do justice to people who are your enemies. The Quran says: “O you who believe, stand out firmly for God as witnesses to fair dealing and let not the hatred of others make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.” (5:8). The Holy Quran has strongly prohibited killing anyone unless one is a murderer, or one who spreads mischief in the land.” (5:35). The Quran strongly prohibits plunder and arson whether the offender or the victim & a Muslim or a non-Muslim (2:205). In code of ethics, how can one expect the followers of the Quran to be cruel and usurpers. The vigorous enemy propaganda that Islam spread by dint of sword springs from sheer prejudice. Compulsion in the matter of faith is contrary to the basic Quranic teachings. The objective before a Muslim is so to develop his personality in accordance with the Divine laws as to survive physical death and reach a higher evolutionary stage in the life hereafter.

Can an unwilling convert then fit in the Quranic society? The Quran says, “If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth; will you then compel mankind to believe against their will? (10:99). Again it is said, “So the truth is from your Lord. Let him who will, believe, and let him, who will, reject it.” (18:29). The Holy Quran has forcefully declared: “Let there be no compulsion in ‘Din’; truth stands out clear from error.” (2:256).

The question then is, under what circumstances did Muslims fight against non-Muslims? Islam is a ‘din’ which relates to a social organization encompassing all aspects of human life. In a State based on ‘Din’, the sovereignty is that of Allah or of the fundamental and immutable laws that lie safely inside the Holy Quran. The central authority of the State is only an instrument for the enforcement of laws.

Law & power

An organized political community cannot exist without power. According to the Holy Quran, the Book (law), the balance (justice) and the iron (power) hold a society together. Thus the law its enforcement with justice and the power to protect the rule of law are the basic pillars of a State organization under Divine guidance. The Quran says: “We sent afore time our messengers with clear signs an sent down with them the Book and the balance that men may stand forth in justice; an we sent down iron which is a great strength (for protection) as well as many other benefits for mankind.” (57:25). A law becomes law in reality when it has been enforced which cannot be done without power. But power too should be used in accordance with law for otherwise it will reduce itself to barbarism.

QITAL: Qital is only a part of Jehad, which is constant struggle for the establishment and protection of ‘Din’. It was first permitted to Muslims in self-defence only when the Quraish attacked Madina. Where the former had migrated to escape persecution by the Meccans to work for Islam in a more favorable environment”. To those against whom war is made permission is given (to fight) because they are wronged: and verily Allah is more powerful for their aid. (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes for no truthful cause except that they say, ‘Our Sustainer is Allah.;”

The Quran enjoins upon believers to protect non-believers living in an Islamic State and allow them the freedom of worship and protection of their places of worship. Are they not then entitled to protect themselves? The concept of religious freedom amongst non-Muslims is the freedom of worship and freedom to observe their rituals. But in Islam it is the right to determine a way of life or organize a political community based on the Quranic fundamentals. Anybody who comes in the way of this freedom, or interferes with this way of existence shall be resisted by the Muslims. The believers cannot exist in an atmosphere of slavery, though it may be called peaceful from the worldly point of view. Generally, a peaceful reign means the one where all sorts of crimes are forcibly eliminated. This is a positive act, but the Quran leads further. According to the Holy Quran, a real peace can exist only where there is subservience to Allah and Allah alone. Such is the only constructive reign. Subservience of an established truth to human whims and wishes is ‘Fasad’ (disorder and confusion) in the Quranic terminology. (23:71). Accordingly, any conflict between State based on Divine fundamentals on the one hand and one based on man-made laws on the other is a conflict between truth and falsehood between order and confusion. (7: 46). Thus fighting is allowed against the forces of evil which interfere in the establishment of a social order based on truth. But believers are commanded only to raise arms in defense of ‘Din’ and are not allowed to transgress limits. (2:19)

Fighting is also allowed in the event of violation of international contracts. Fulfillment of contracts is one of the basic teachings of the Quran. (5:1, 17:34, 16:91). The Muslims are bound to honour them as long as the other party is faithful to them. But a contract can be openly, not deceitfully, terminated of treachery on the part of the enemy is feared.

As against this, the modern pattern of international relationship is based upon diplomacy, which is hailed as an art and a commendable act, though it is another name for deceit. Machiavellianism governs modern inter-State relations. Alliances are made only to be broken at will. But the Quran has laid down specific rules for breaking a treaty. It is ordained that a period of four months should be allowed by way of notice after denunciation of the treaty; that due protection be accorded in the intervening period; that the door to repentance and reunion with the people f God should always be left open; and that if all measures fail and war is bound to be undertaken, it must be pushed with the utmost vigour.

Defence of weak

The Quran also allows fighting for the help of the oppressed. “And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? Men, women and children whose cry is: ‘Our Lord’! Rescue us from this town where people are oppressors and raise for us from thee one who will help.” (4:75). Evil consorts evil The good have all the more reason for drawing together by not only living in mutual harmony, but also by being ready at all times to protect each other. Otherwise, the world would be given over to aggression by unscrupulous people and the good will fail in their duty to establish peace and strengthen the forces of truth and righteousness (8:73). To help the oppressed, wherever they are and whatever is their race, colour, language and faith, is the duty of the Muslims enjoined by Allah. Allah’s plan is universal. He provides protection to all his creature. To protect one, He may have to check another. “And did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, the world would indeed be full of mischief: but Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds.” (2:251).

Within the Islamic State itself, use of force is allowed, first, against those guilty of treason against the State (5:36); and, secondly against the hypocrites who, though given the privileges of association with goodness and piety, persist in wicked deeds. (66:9)

The Rasool (peace be upon him) and his immediate successors acted upon these principles. It was because of their having strictly observed _______ is ethics that the Muslim rule of law spread over vast areas of the globe within a short span of time. But when the subsequent Muslim generations turned their back upon the teachings of the Quran, they were bound to reap what they had sown.

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