JIHAD A Battle for peace and Justice

JIHAD: A Battle for peace and Justice

By Sultan Shaheen
23 December 1999


" O ye who believe ! Bow down, prostrate yourself and adore your Lord; and do good; that ye may be successful. And strive in the way of Allah as ye ought to strive( with sincerity and discipline). He has chosen you and has imposed no hardship on you in religion, it is the Religion of your father Abraham. It is He Who has named you Muslim, both before and in this ( Book ) that the messenger may be a witness for you, and ye be witness for you and ye be witness for mankind! So establish Salat(prayer), give Zakat and hold fast to Allah! He is your protector, the best to protect you, and the best to help!" (22:77-78)

This is exactly how the Qur'an tells Muslim to "strive in the way of Allah". The Arabic language has a few words for war but the word used by the Quran are "Jihad fi sabil-illah- Jihad is the way of Allah! It is not war. It's not even holy war. Literally, the word Jihad means 'striving or exerting one's utmost' in furthering a cause and Jihad fi Sabil-illah means striving in the name of God. The striving might, in certain circumstances reach the stage of war and Islam makes no hypocritical apology about going to war. But instead of the general Arabic term for war, Harb the Quran advisedly uses the word Qital . Qital is not just 'slaying', it is also being 'slain'(9:111 and 3: 195). Jihad fi Sabil-illah is totally different from a non-Jihadist war in which one could, from a safe distance shower the whole populations with bombs and missiles and take pride in the glory of one's victory.

Qital is neither bravado nor vanity, it is like surgery in medicine; like lancing boil or amputating limbs so that a body is saved before the poison has reached vital organs. Jihad includes Qital but it is not confined to Qital. It is part of the larger Jihad which a Muslim should be waging all the time to seek the pleasures of God and to uphold His word. Qital is predicated upon conditions and circumstances and it is therefore, necessarily ephemeral. Jihad is ceaseless, it never stops, Jihad extends to each and every kind of Islamic endeavour: big and small; Physical or material; moral and intellectual.

The Quran speaks striving in His cause (5:35 and 29:6) and of those who strive and fight in the name of Allah with their goods and their persons (4:95). The ink of a scholar's pen is more sacred than the blood of martyr, said the fourth right-guided caliph, Syedna Ali(Radhi-Allah anhu). And that is why the Islamic metaphors- jihad by pen, Jihad by tongue Jihad by Wealth and of course, Jihad by sword.

Nothing of this, however, excludes or substitutes Qital, or Jihad bil-sayf, (Jihad by sword) whenever it may be legitimately called for. However, the sword in Qital is like a surgeon's scalpel and not the killer's knife. Since Jihad is fundamentally an act of obedience to God, it is absolutely important that those who may be called upon to raise their sword, in the way of God, are also equipped with moral discipline of Islam so that when they go into battle, they go as a friendly surgeon with a view only to removing the cancer of evil and help the body regain its full moral and physical health.

Qital can be done only in the way of Allah and in no other cause or in pursuit of personal glory. Therefore, a Mujahid is fighting his battle as much against one's own desires and 'self' (nafs) as against the cruel passions of a tyrant.

Someone asked the Prophet(peace be upon him) what is Qital in the way of Allah? A person may be looking for booty, another may wish to seek fame as a great warrior, a third one may want to fight because of personal enmity or nationalist fervour. But which of them, he asked, is fighting in the way of Allah? None of them, replied the Prophet(pbuh) except one who had no motive in fighting except to uphold the Word of God( Narrated by Abu Musa Ash'ari in Sahih Bukhari and Tirmidhi). On another occasion, the Prophet (pbuh), is reported to have said that if person went to battle to obtain (even such a trivial object like) a piece of string to tie his camel, he forfeits the reward. God [promises a place in the House of the Hereafter Paradise, only to those who seek not to set up their own lordship over earth, no do intend to spread mischief and corruption: and in the end, he says success is for the righteous(28: ).

Therefore, those who believe in Islam fight only in the cause of Allah. The Islamic world view is informed by two key values Maroof and Munkar, good and right, wrong and evil. The word Ma'roof means which is good and noble in universal and not in any particular or exclusive way. there are no separate standards of good for liberals and conservatives, populists and elitists, leftists and rights, socialists and capitalists, Jews and nazis, or Muslims and non-Muslims.

What is good for the Muslims is good for non-Muslims too. Likewise, what is repugnant in Islam is repugnant for (almost)everyone else. Muslims are therefore, required both to enjoin Maroof and do way with Munkar. And the believers are those who if God establishes them in the land, establish regular Prayer(Salat) and give regular charity (Zakat), enjoin right and forbid wrong. (The Quran 22:41).

Enjoining right and forbidding wrong is a natural corollary of bowing one's head (Salat) before God and showing gratitude to him (Zakat) by sharing one's prosperity with those who may be in need. Yet, however, enthusiastic as one may be to enjoin and share the universal Ma'roof and to curb and control the universal Munkar, Islam draws a clear line between invitation and compulsion, between choice and coercion, Islam's theory of social change, of inviting people to goodness (da'wah), is premised on the goodness within the inborn goodness of human nature; it totally rejects any manipulation, subversion, or subjugation of the human conscience. And, therefore, while Muslims are asked to invite people to the path of their Lord prudently, politely, and with good arguments(16:125) the freedom to choose is theirs.

Belief, flows from conviction and it is somehow to be imposed, then it can only lead to dissimulation and not conviction. Any culture based on truth and sincerity can have no place for lying and hypocrisy. More fundamentally, however, the right to choose between right and wrong - is given by God himself which is not to be violated by anyone, least by those who believe in God. The very principle of human responsibility and human answer ability in Islam is premised on the freedom of choice. Take that freedom away, and you take out responsibility. Take responsibility away, and you take out answer ability, and send everything adrift into an empty space or of zero moral gravity.

God cannot have any doubt about truth and error, right and wrong. But while Islam is exactly about inviting people to truth and right, and the Qu'ran declares that truth stands out clear from error, it also reinforces the statement with the directive that let there be no compulsion in the matter of Religion. (2:256).

Two things are, therefore clearly excluded from purview of Qital: forcing people to convert to Islam and to conquer land per se.

Surely, not all the wars that Muslim rulers have fought over a period of more than a thousand years were necessarily Qital in the way of Allah. However, it is also a fact of history that whatever the nature of the wars, Muslim conquests were always conquests of hearts, and not just land. Winning land was incidental to winning the people-totally unlike the colonial conquests.

In colonial conquests, when not physically exterminated, the indigenous population was enslaved and subjugated and their lands looted and vandalised. Muslim conquests have quite a different quality. A few or more may have been wanting in the Islamic qualities of Jihad, but instead of subjugation, they brought about a general liberation of the 'conquered' people. Indeed, one of the main objectives of Qital is to deliver the weak and the oppressed, who cry out for God to raise for them someone who would rescue them from their oppressors. (4:75).

After Muslims conquered Syria and Palestine, Christians occupied high posts, built new churches and the Nestorian church was revived. It was the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Bishop Sophronius himself who asked the second right guided Caliph, Syedna 'Umar, Radhi-Allah anhu, top come all the way, from Madina-al Munawwarrah to receive the key of the holy city. Sophronius was surprised to find that Caliph walking on foot while his 'slave' was riding the one single 'official' camel which they had been taking turns to share. The Patriarch was more surprised when the Caliph declined his invitation to say his prayers inside the Church of Resurrection, because he explained, the precedent could be misconstrued by some Muslims as giving them the right to hold their prayers inside a church. Similarly, when the Muslim Army reached the valley of the Jordan and (the Muslim commander) Abu 'Ubaydah pitched his camp at Fihl, the Christian inhabitants of the country wrote to the Arabs saying " O Muslims, we prefer you to the Byzantine, though they are of our own faith, because you keep better faith with us and are more merciful to us and refrain from doing us injustice and your rule over us is better than theirs, for they have robbed us of our goods and our homes. " The people of Emessa closed their gates against the army of Heraclius and told the Muslims that they preferred their government and justice to the injustice and oppression of the Greeks.

When Muslims conquered Egypt, the Copts welcomed them as deliverers from Byzantine rule. Sir Thomas Arnold's (1864-1930) Preaching of Islam (1896, Revised 1913, and 1930 with an introduction by R. A. Nicholson) from which the above quotes are taken, documents how the same history went on replicating itself in Asia, Africa and in South-eastern Europe even though the with passage of time there was a decline in the standard of Muslim governance and fighting wars.

In almost every part of the world, a large number of people embraced Islam over a period of 15 centuries, and they took their own time to make their own choice. This is why those who had accepted Islam after the conquests, rarely went back to their pre-Islamic beliefs. Not even after Muslims had lost political power. Beginning with the 18th century Muslim lands were massively colonised , but Muslim minds could not be de-Islamised. It is obvious their acceptance of Islam had not been function of Muslim political power. It was a function of choice and conviction and those who felt otherwise were also able to exercise their choice and stayed outside the fold of Islam.

The fundamental objective of Jihad is establish peace and justice, not to make war for its own sake. Islam places absolute value of justice, and it has zero tolerance for what is calls Fitna and Fasad.

It is obvious enough that if they are victims of aggression, Muslims are within their rights to defend their faith, their freedom, their territory and their identity. But Muslims are also required to fight and shed their blood in order to defend the life, possessions and honour of Ahlal-Dhimma (dhimmis) that is those non-Muslims who live under the protection of their authority. The prophet, (pbuh) put it categorically when he said if a person(Muslim) killed a non-Muslim under Islamic protection, he shall never taste the fragrance of Paradise although this fragrance can reach as far as the distance which one would take 40 years to travel. ( Ibn-Majah).

'They( the dhimmis) had accepted to come under our protection only in order that their blood and their wealth acquired the same inviolability as ours' explained the fourth right guided Caliph Syedna 'Ali, Radhi-Allah anhu', and Syedna 'Umar, Radhi Allah anhu declared 'I hereby will that you fully honour the protection promised by God and his Prophet(pbuh), [to the dhimmis] in that you fulfil the covenant made with the dhimmis, that you make Qital in order to protect them and that they should not be asked to pay more (jizya) than they can bear. '

There are no precise English equivalents for the terms Fitna and Fasad, but Fitna is broadly translate as transgression and oppression. Fasad is cruelty, coercion, and anything which subverts the social order, from the family to society. Between them, the two terms cover injustice, atrocity, and depravity; persecution mischief and sedition, including all unjust killings.

Therefore, as far as Islam is concerned, genocide is not about numbers. And God decreed to the Children of Israel that whosoever killed one single human for other than murder of corruption in the earth(Fasad), it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whosoever save the life of one, it shall be as if he saved the life of all humankind. (5:32).

Muslims, were therefore, first given permission to fight against those who make war against them(22:39) because they had been wronged. Next step they were told it was their duty to fight against Fitnah until there was no more tumult or oppression and justice prevailed. But they were also warned not to commit any transgression and to cease fighting if they cease their hostility because God does not like transgression. (2:193)

The entire purpose of Jihad and Qital is , necessarily, to get rid of Fitnah and uphold justice; for Islam considers Fitnah to be far worse than even killing(2:191 and 217) because, the Qu'ran says if the Fitnah is not crushed, the land will be filled with tumult and mischief, oppression and sedition(8:73).

Jihad is, therefore, a continuous and comprehensive striving in the way of God and wherein come occasions when it is necessary to go beyond words to use one's hands in order to end the state of atrocity and sedition; subject, however, to the rule that this is done only in order to restore justice and out of rancour or enmity. Muslims are strictly commanded to be upright in bearing, witness for God and not let the enmity of any people deviate them from justice. (5:8).

Islam not only defines the objectives of Qital in clear ethical terms -to terminate sedition and uphold justice -but it also lays down distinct ethical rules to forbid dirty and indiscriminate war. From the very outset, Islam drew a clear line between two different types of belligerents: combatant and non-combatant. The combatants were those who actually took part in the war; namely, the young and able-bodied men. The non-combatants were those who normally did not take part in fighting; namely old men; women and children; sick, injured and disabled; travellers, blind and insane; and nuns, monks and clergy etc.

Though this principle of trying to differentiate between combatants and non-combatants occurred to Europe in the 17th century, it was observed more in breach than in practice. And the indiscriminate targeting of non-combatant civilians has since come to be justified as 'collateral' damage.

Jihad on the other hand, is holistic obligation. But the modern idea of 'total war'in which a warring party gives itself the right to inflict total death and total damage upon its enemy is concept that is alien to the ethics of Jihad.

The Prophet(pbuh) admonished the famous Muslim commander, Khalid bin Waleed, when saw the body of a woman lying on the battle field and reminded that they must never kill and old person, a child or a woman and they should be kind and compassionate towards people because God liked those are gracious and magnanimous. Similarly, when Muslim entered Makkah al-Makarramah, they were told not to attack any soldier, if he happened to be wounded; or to chase him, if he was trying to escape with his life; and were ordered to give him protection (aman) if shut himself inside the house.

Islam has not given rights even to combatants in actions against it. The enemy soldiers are not to be thrown into or inflicted death by burning. They are not to be killed cruelly, subjected to slow and tortuous death, or put to death after tying their hands and feet; and the dead are not to be mutilated. Homes are not to be entered into or their women beaten up. Muslim soldiers are not allowed to loot or touch any civilian or non-combatant property. They cannot slaughter their sheep and cattle for their food, nor take the milk from the cattle, except with the permission of their owners. Neither are the trees to be felled , nor the corps burnt or destroyed. All this is Fasad, according to the Qu'ran (2:205). Those who flout these rules are not to be regarded as battling in the way of God, in Jihad.

The Prophet (pbuh) always told Muslims to treat the prisoners of war (POW's) kindly and generously. In the event, some of the companions fed and clothed the prisoners better than themselves.

Islam does not allow Muslims to wage Qital without any warning and ultimatum or launch a night attack when people may be asleep. Whenever the Prophet (pbuh) arrived at a place during night, he would not launch the attack until there was light.

If the Muslim land is invaded, Qital becomes obligatory upon the people of that land. But if it appears they are not in a position to repel or defeat aggression, it is the duty of the entire Islamic Ummah to go to their help. However, for Qital to be universally obligatory, the decision has to come from the demure or , in its absence, de facto

Islamic authority. If the Islamic authority issued a general call, it would be incumbent upon all Muslims to take part in the Jihad.

However, the degree of obligation would depend upon a community's closeness or distance from the theatre of action. The nearest should join first, and others according to the nearness from the front. But as those who live at a distance, Qital is a collective duty(fardhe Kifayah) and if some people from the community took part in the Jihad, it would be as if they had done so on behalf of others in the community.

There may be other situations of Fitnah or Fasad in which the Islamic authority may have to declare Qital. Howsoever, only a legitimate and acceptable Islamic authority takes the decision to sanction or give the call for Qital- that is to declare war in the common language- normally the state does.

In the absence of such authority Qital may be declared by non-official Islamic leadership" for example, by respected and knowledgeable 'Ulema whose religious and political judgement would be acclaimed and followed by the Islamic Ummah. However, those taking upon themselves this strategic responsibility to sanction Qital are required not only to do their determination on clear Islamic grounds, including the strategic feasibility of their decision. They have also to satisfy themselves that Qital was a realistic and feasible proposition in the given objective situation and the Muslims had the minimum tools, to wage a realistic Qital. But if the situation called for Qital and Muslims happened not to be prepared the authority or leadership would defer its decision and arrange for the necessary preparations before making any formal declaration .

It is the responsibility of the Islamic leadership or authority not to lead Muslims, whether wittingly or unwittingly into a situation for which they may not be ready, mentally and militarily and which may turn out to be suicidal. A battle fought according to plans and strategy not because of anger or provocation. The objective of Jihad is to establish order and not to contribute to any disorder; and that is why the conditionally, that the decision to sanction Qital should be taken by a legitimate and acceptable authority and not by individuals, howsoever pious and enthusiastic they might me.

Even if otherwise necessary, it is simply not practicable for individuals to decide on such a strategic question which would involve the population. A decision which did not enjoy the consent and consensus of the broad Ummah(jumhoor) can have little chance of success. It could , on the other hand lead only to sporadic violence and produce anarchy(Fasad) instead of order and defeat the very purpose of Jihad. Such individual action would also give the enemy an easy excuse to inflict more death and defeat upon the Muslims and hurt their future ability to prepare and wage war.

But, if there did not exist any de jure Muslim authority which was willing do to its duty in the way of Jihad, it is for the people, Ulema, and Islamic societies to educate, demand and mobilise public opinion in favour of Qital. This might possibly result in the existing authority getting convinced of its duty or yielding to the movement for Jihad.

What is not possible, however, is for the individuals or groups of individuals to declare Qital without the knowledge, consent and consensus of the jumhoor i. e. Ummah. However, unlike the past, when the world could be divided into Muslim lands(Darul Islam) and non-Muslim lands, and the non Muslim lands sub-divided further into lands with whom Muslim were at war(Darul Harb) and lands with whom they had a peace treaty, there are now large Muslim citizen communities in several non-Muslim countries. What would be position of these Muslims in the event of a general call for Qital pitting them against the countries of their citizenship? This hypothetical situation is probably new, but the Islamic law is quite clear.

These communities have an obligation to stand by their citizenship contract; should they want to get out of it, they would have to quit the contract and get out of the jurisdiction. Islam requires Muslims to inform and notify the other party if they want to quit any agreement.

So, if there is Jihad, it is open and announced. Jihad cannot be covert or clandestine and it has no place for sabotage and subversion from within. Jihad is a clean and moral battle in the pursuit of clean and moral objectives; if not, it is not Jihad.


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