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Debating Islam ( 3 Jul 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Offensive Jihad Requires A Clear And Unambiguous Stand by the Ulema: Why have so many reputed Islamic Scholars supported it?

By Abdur Rahman Hamza, New Age Islam

3 July 2016

In this day and age, internet is proving to be a double-edged sword for all religions including Islam. There are thousands of debates on the internet regarding jihad. If on the one hand Muslim moderates are putting their utmost efforts to prove that Islam is a religion of peace, opponents are presenting some Quranic verses pertaining to Jihad and our own Hadith literature to prove the opposite. Ulema Islamic scholars) are maintaining a studied silence on this subject except giving general statements describing the acts of terror organisations like ISIS, Boko Haram etc. as un-Islamic.

In this environment of intellectual chaos and confusion, various new interpretations of these Quranic verses by some moderate Muslims, which are diametrically opposed to the popular opinions of the authentic exegetes belonging to different schools of Islamic thought are adding to the already prevailing confusion in the minds of the youth, Muslim and non-Muslim. Many books and articles have been written over the years, giving totally different interpretations to such Quranic verses, apparently to save Islam from the accusation that it advocates violence against non-Muslims and seeks world domination. But, by fabricating new meanings, they are actually doing disservice to Islam because now the huge material available on the internet has made it impossible to hide anything. One such book authored by Syed Hamid Mohsin has been published by Salam Centre, Bengaluru with the title, “Islam: facts vs fictions”. In this book the learned author, under the sub-title, “Misquoted Quranic verses” writes:

“Islam has its own fair share of critics as well as enemies. A popular sport for them is to accuse Islam of advocating violence against non-Muslims….To paint Islam in the darkest colours, their media is ever engaged in distorting the Quranic verses to make them appear preaching violence….In understanding the verses of the Quran, it is essential that each of them is related to its context. The critics of the Quran precisely err on this account and tear them out of context to support their prejudices against Islam…. There has been an attempt in India and other parts of the world to create confusion about a few verses of Quran…. Writers with ill intentions misquote the verses out of context and write the commentary with their own perceptions. Quran should be read in context. If anyone just chooses a verse and ignores the perspective, he will many a time go astray…… Here we are presenting such verses of Quran which are used by some writers whose intention is to create confusion and mislead the people.”

 Thereafter, he quotes some verses to prove his point.  I would like to focus on: 2: 191-193 and 9:5, which is called the verse of sword and which is said to have abrogated all the previous peace verses and cancelled all the peace treaties the prophet had made with the polytheists of Mecca.”

2:191: “Slay them wherever you may come upon them, and expel them from where they had expelled you; for oppression (persecution) is worse than slaughter; but fight them not near the Sacred Mosque, unless they fight you therein; but if they fight you therein, slay them. Such is the reward of unbelievers.”

2:192: “But if they desist, then God is All-forgiving, Compassionate to each.”

 2:193: Fight them until persecution is no more; and religion is for God. But if they desist, then all hostility shall cease, except against those who wilfully do wrong.”

”The author, while translating the word, ‘fitna’ in the verse 2:193 as persecution, says: Here, the verse ‘” until persecution is no more and religion is for God’ (Quran 2:193) has nothing to do with the domination of Islam and the subjugation and suppression of non-believers.

Keeping the above claim in mind, it seems worthwhile to discuss these verses in detail and have a look at the authentic tafaaseer written over the last many centuries and see what the reputed Islamic scholars, as well as Sahaba (companions of the Prophet), Taabieen (second generation of Muslims) and Taba Taabieen (third generation of Muslims) have understood by the word ‘fitna’ and also find out whether, as claimed by the author, they too have committed the crime of misleading the people and defaming Islam. ”

Ibn Kathir writes in Tafseer Ibn Kathir:

 2:191- 193. And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah is worse than killing. And fight not with them at Al-Masjid Al-Haram (the sanctuary at Makkah), unless they (first) fight you there. But if they attack you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.  But if they cease, then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and the religion (all and every kind of worship) is for Allah (Alone). But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimin (the polytheists and wrongdoers).

Allah said: “but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors.”

This Ayah (verse) means, `Fight for the sake of Allah and do not be transgressors,' such as, by committing prohibitions.

 Al-Hasan Al-Basri stated that transgression (indicated by the verse), "includes mutilating the dead, theft (from the captured goods), killing women, children and old people who do not participate in warfare, killing priests and residents of houses of worship, burning down trees and killing animals without real benefit.'' This is also the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, `Umar bin `Abdul-`Aziz, Muqatil bin Hayyan and others.

Since Jihad involves killing and shedding the blood of men, Allah indicated that these men are committing disbelief in Allah, associating with Him (in the worship) and hindering from His path, and this is a much greater evil and more disastrous than killing. (And Al-Fitnah is worse than killing.) Meaning what you (disbelievers) are committing is much worse than killing.

(And “Al-Fitnah is worse than killing.”) "Shirk (polytheism) is worse than killing.''

Allah then commanded fighting the disbelievers when He said:

(...until there is no more Fitnah) meaning, Shirk. This is the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi`, Muqatil bin Hayyan, As-Suddi and Zayd bin Aslam.

Allah's statement:

 (...and the religion (all and every kind of worship) is for Allah (Alone).) means, `So that the religion of Allah becomes dominant above all other religions.' 

Maulana Maududi writes in his tafseer Tafheemul Quran

(2:191) Fight against them wherever they confront you in combat and drive them out from where they drove you out. Though killing is bad. persecution is worse than killing. Do not fight against them near the Masjid Haram unless they attack you there.

Note 202: Here the word fitnah is used in the sense of 'persecution'. It refers to a situation whereby either a person or a group is subjected to harassment and intimidation for having accepted, as true, a set of ideas contrary to those currently held, and for striving to effect reforms in the existing order of society by preaching what is good and condemning what is wrong. Such a situation must be changed, if need be, by the force of arms.

Bloodshed is bad, but when one group of people imposes its ideology and forcibly prevents others from accepting the truth, then it becomes guilty of an even more serious crime. In such circumstances, it is perfectly legitimate to remove that oppressive group by the force of arms.

(2:193) Go on fighting with them till there is no more a state of tribulation and Allah's way is established instead. *204 Then if they desist from it, there should be no more hostility except against those who had been guilty of cruelty and brutality. *205

Note 204: Here the term fitnah is used in a different sense from the one in which it was used above (see verse 191). It is evident from the context that fitnah refers here to the state of affairs wherein the object of obedience is someone other than God. Hence the purpose of a believer's fighting is that this fitnah should cease and obedience should be consecrated to God alone.

An investigation of the usages of the word deen (which occurs in this verse) reveals that the core of its meaning is obedience. In its technical usage, the word refers to that system of life which arises as a result of a person recognizing someone as his Lord and Sovereign and committing himself to following his commands and ordinances. This explanation of the word deen makes it quite clear that when some human beings establish their godhead and absolute dominance over others, this state of affairs is one of fitnah. Islam seeks to put an end to this and replace it by a state of affairs in which people live in obedience to the laws of God alone.

Note 205: What is meant here by 'desisting' is not the abandonment of unbelief and polytheism on the part of the unbelievers but rather their desistance from active hostility to the religion enjoined by God. The unbeliever, the polytheist, the atheist, has each been, empowered to hold on to his beliefs and to worship who and whatever he wishes. In order to deliver these people from their error, Muslims are required to counsel them and tell them where their good lies. But Muslims ought not to try to achieve this purpose by resorting to force. At the same time, these misguided people have no right to either enforce the false laws of their own contriving instead of the laws of God or to drive the people of God to bondage of others than God. In order to put an end to this fitnah, both persuasion and force be used, whenever and to the extent to which each of the two is needed, and a true believer will not rest until the unbelievers give up this fitnah.

Mufti Shafi Usmani Saheb writes in his Maariful Quran:

Note on 2:191: Since Muslims, during their entire Makkan period, were made to stay away from fighting against the disbelievers and were repeatedly asked to forego and forgive, so much so, that the noble Companions were, before the revelation of this verse, under the impression that killing disbelievers was bad, and prohibited. It was to remove this misconception that it was said: "And Fitnah is more severe than to kill," that is, it is true that to kill someone is a terribly evil act, but more terrible and severe is what the disbelievers of Makkah have done by insisting on their kufr and shirk (infidelity and the associating of others with Allah) and by stopping Muslims from fulfilling their religious obligations, and from performing Hajj and 'Umrah. It is to avoid this greater evil that killing them has been permitted. The word, Fitnah in the verse (not translated for want of a perfect equivalent in English) inescapably means kufr and shirk and to prevent Muslims from fulfilling their religious obligations of 'ibadah. ---- Jassas (Abu Bakr Ahmad bin Ali Al-Razi Al-Jassas (d. 370 AH/980 CE), Imam Abu 'Abdullah Al-Qurtubi (1214 - 1273 CE) and others.

Since the generality of the words 'kill them wherever you find them' might lead to the misconception that killing the disbelievers is allowed even in the precincts of Haram (Kaaba), this generality has been particularized in the next sentence of the verse by saying: And do not fight them near Al-Masjid al-Haram unless they fight you there. That is, 'you should not fight them close to AL-Masjid aL-Haram, which includes all its environs in Makkah, unless they themselves start fighting you there.'

It also comes out from this verse that the prohibition of initiating Jihad is restricted to Al-Masjid al-Haram and its environs to which the sacred precincts extend in Makkah. At other places, just as the defensive Jihad is necessary, the initiating of Jihad and Qital is also valid.

Tafseer Surah Tauba (Q. 9:1-5) by Prominent Salafi A’lim Maulana Muhammad Junagarhi and Maulana Salahuddin Yusuf

Tafseer-e-Quran Urdu published and distributed by the Saudi government which has been translated by the prominent Salafi A’lim Maulana Muhammad Saheb Junagarhi and explained by Maulana Salahuddin Yusuf says in its footnote on 9:1-5, “Allah said, 9:1 “Freedom from obligations from Allah and His Messenger”, is a declaration of freedom from all obligations from Allah and His Messenger to those of the Mushrikin (polytheists), with whom Muslims made a treaty.

“This Ayah refers to idolaters who had indefinite treaties and those, whose treaties with Muslims ended in less than four months. The terms of these treaties were restricted to four months only. As for those whose term of peace ended at a specific date later (than the four months), then their treaties would end when their terms ended, no matter how long afterwards (probably nine months). So whoever had a covenant with Allah's Messenger then it would last until its period expired. During this period, the idolaters were permitted to live in Mecca and its surrounding areas so that they can decide, before the expiry of this period, either to accept Islam or leave the Arab peninsula or face death.

“But there was an exception from the four month’s warning for those of the idolaters (they were two tribes) with whom Muslims had made a peace treaty, and they had not subsequently violated the treaty, nor had they supported anyone against the Muslims. So Muslims were asked to fulfil their treaty obligations with them until the end of their term. This is the type of idolaters whose peace agreement with Muslims was carried out to its end. But after the expiry of this period Muslims were ordered to fight and kill all the idolaters without exception (those who had violated the peace treaty as well as those who had not) unless, and until, they embrace Islam or leave the Arab peninsula.”

Tafseer Noorul Irfan – The famous Barailvi tafseer (interpretation).  

Note on 2:193 “From this verse we learn that the purpose of Jihad is not the total annihilation of the infidels, but to destroy the power of infidelity so that they do not become an obstacle in the propagation of Islam. The might of infidels should be destroyed so that the institution of worship of one true God can be established without any obstacle.”

Khazai-nul-Irfan by well-known Barailvi A’lim Maulana Naeemuddin Muradabadi.

Interestingly, another famous Barailvi A’lim Maulana Naeemuddin Muradabadi, in ‘Khazainul Irfan’, his urdu tafseer of Kanzul I’man, has also explained the word ‘fitnah’ in 2:193 as KUFR and SHIRK. He says, while explaining the verse 2:191, (Aur kafiron ko jahan pao maro…………………. And kill them wherever you find them), “Jo jang ke qabil naheen hain unse jang na karo, ya jin se tum ne ahed (agreement) kiya ho unse bghair dawat (inviting to Islam) ke jang na karo kyonki tareeqa-e-shara (Islamic way) yeh hai ki pahle kuffar ko Islam ki dawat dee jaye, agar who inkaar Karen to jizyah talab kiya jaye, ab agar is se bhi inkaar Karen to to unse jang ki jaye. Is mana par is aayat ka hukm baqi hai, mansookh nahin huwa hai. It further says, explaining the word ‘fitnah’ that “fitnah (Fasa’d) se shirk’ (polytheism) murad hai ya musalmanon ko makkah mukarramah mein dakhil hone se rokna”. Moreover, commenting on the next verse 2:193 (phir agar who baaz aa jayen


But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimin) “yani Agar kufr aur shirk se baaz aa jayen (that is, if they desist from kufr (disbelief) and shirk, idol-worship) …


Minhaj-ul-Quran by Dr Tahirul Qadri:

2:193. “Aur unse jang karte raho hatta ki koi fitna baqi na rahe aur deen yani zindagi aur bandgi ka nizam amalan Allah hi ke tabe ho jaye, phir agar who baaz Aa jayen to sewai zaalimon ke kisi par zyadti rawa nahin.”

In his note on the above verse 2:193 Dr Tahirul Qadri says, “Jihad aur inqilabi jadd-o-jahad deeni fareeza hain. Aur fitna-e-batil ke mukammal khatma aur qiyam-e-amn tak inqilabi jang jari rahni chaahiye. Ghalba aur nifaz-e-deen (Islam’s domination and the implementation of the Islamic Sharia- emphasis mine) Jihad aur inqilabi jang ki aakhri manzil hai. Haan agar mukhalif quwwaten fitna parwari se baaz aajayen to unpar sakhti na ki jaye.

Any person having sufficient knowledge of Islam and jihad can easily understand what Dr Tahirul Qadri actually understands by the word ‘fitna’ in verse 2:193, though he has used carefully selected and sugar-quoted words and phrases to hide the real purpose of offensive Jihad which, according to his own statement is “the ultimate domination of Islam and implementation of its Sharia all over the world.”

 I am really shocked! I see no difference whatsoever between what these Ulema, both Deobandi and Barelvi are saying and what Maulana Maududi has written. They all agree that the purpose of Jihad is to establish the Islamic domination all over the world after destroying the powers of Kufr and Shirk where ever and whenever Muslims have the power to do it. So we should not be surprised at what ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda, Lashkar -e-Taiba and Taliban are doing in their lands under the guidance of their Ulema to carry out this DEENI FAREEZAH (Religious duty).

Now let us come to the claim of Syed Hamid Mohsin sb regarding the Quranic verse, 9:5 “So when the Sacred Months have passed, then fight the Mushrikin wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform the Salah (prayer), and give the Zakah (Islamic Tax), then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

Hamid Mohsin Saheb says about this verse, that it cannot be seen as a command for all times. Once again, it is a specific instruction to those who violated the peace treaty. The verse speaks of the sacred months when a truce of sorts was supposed to be in operation. But actually with the exception of the tribes of the Bani Damrah and the Bani Kananah, (who respected the treaties they made with Muslims) all other tribes in, and around Madinah frequently violated the agreement and continued to kill and persecute the Muslims. Indeed, such violations were a common characteristic of the Arabian tribes. These are the specific people to whom this verse refers, not the polytheists who respected the peace treaties.

Ibn Kathir says, Allah said: 9:1-2 “Freedom from obligations from Allah and His Messenger, (to those of the Mushrikin (idol-worshippers, polytheists), with whom you made a treaty. So travel freely (Mushrikin) for four months (as you will) throughout the land."

 This Ayah refers to idolaters who had indefinite treaties and those, whose treaties with Muslims ended in less than four months. The terms of these treaties were restricted to four months only. As for those whose term of peace ended at a specific date later (than the four months), then their treaties would end when their terms ended, no matter how long afterwards, for Allah said,

9:4. “Except those of the Mushrikin with whom you have a treaty, and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor have supported anyone against you. So fulfil their treaty for them until the end of their term. Surely, Allah loves those who have Taqwa.”

The exceptional pagan tribes who remained true to their word were the Banu Hamza and Banu Kina’na who swore their treaty near the sacred mosque and faithfully observed it. Regarding them Allah said, “So fulfil their treaty for them until the end of their term 9:4. One source says the remaining period was 9 months.

9:5. So when the Sacred Months have passed, then fight the Mushrikin wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform the Salah, and give the Zakah, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

All agree that this condition (submission to Islam as a condition for exoneration or leaving the Arab peninsula or getting ready to die) equally applied to all the polytheists without exception: those who frequently broke the peace treaty as well those who remained true to their word and faithfully observed it, after the terms of their treaty ended. So it is quite clear that the fight was not against treacherous enemy but against Kufr and Shirk.

Jawed Ahmad Ghamidi on Jihad

Ghamidi believes that there are certain directives of the Qur'an pertaining to war which were specific only to the Prophet Muhammad and certain specified peoples of his times (particularly the progeny of Abraham: the Ishmaelites, the Israelites, and the Nazarites). Thus, the Prophet and his designated followers waged a war against Divinely specified peoples of their time (the polytheists and the Israelites and Nazarites of Arabia and some other Jews, Christians, et al.) as a form of Divine punishment and asked the polytheists of Arabia for submission to Islam as a condition for exoneration and the others for jizya and submission to the political authority of the Muslims for exemption from death punishment and for military protection as the dhimmis of the Muslims. Therefore, after the Prophet and his companions, there is no concept in Islam obliging Muslims to wage war for propagation or implementation of Islam. The only valid basis for jihad through arms is to end oppression when all other measures have failed.

Ref: Mizan, The Islamic Law of Jihad.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Efforts on the part of the prophets over a period of thousands of years had proved that any struggle which was confined to intellectual or missionary field was not sufficient to extricate man from the grip of this superstition (shirk).

(So) It was God’s decree that he be a da’i (missionary) as well as ma’hi (eradicator). He was entrusted by God with the mission of not only proclaiming to the world that superstitious beliefs were based on falsehood, but also of resorting to military action, if the need arose, to eliminate that system for all time.


      This same mission of leading men from darkness to light had been entrusted to all the prophets in turn. The sense, however, in which the Prophet of Islam was distinct from the others was that, in his case, God had decreed - since no Prophet was to come after him - that he should not just communicate the divine message to humanity and leave it at that, but that he should also take practical steps to change the entire existing state of affairs.

      The prerequisites for putting this plan into action were all provided by God. Moreover, God also guaranteed that any shortcoming in worldly resources would be amply compensated for by special help from the angels."


"This Point Has Been Made in The Hadith in Different Ways. One Hadith in Particular Is Quite Direct in its wording: “I Am The Eradicator Through Whom God Will Obliterate Unbelief.” Thus The Prophet Was Not Just a Da’i (Missionary) But Also a Mahi (Eradicator).  He Was The Caller To The Faith, But He Had Also To Compel People To Answer His Call. The Qur’an clearly states that besides human beings, God’s angels would also help him in accomplishing his mission.


“This commandment of God was, indeed, realized through the Prophet, so that a whole new era could be ushered in."


But Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, on many occasions, seems contradicting himself. For example, he writes, in his book, “,The True Jihad: The Concept of Peace, Tolerance and Non Violence in Islam “There are certain verses in the Quran which convey injunctions similar to the following: 'Kill them wherever you find them.' (2:191)
Referring to such verses, there are some who attempt to give the impression that Islam is a religion of war and violence. This is totally untrue. Such verses relate in a restricted sense, to those who have unilaterally attacked the Muslims. The above verse does not convey the general command of Islam. (pp. 42-43)” 

Contrary to the above, the same Maulana
Wahiduddin Khan says in his Urdu tafseer, “Tazkeer-Ul- Quran”, while commenting on the same verse, “Momin ko deen ka aamil banne ke sath deen ka mujahid bhi banna hai.Yahan jis jihad ka zikr hai wo jihad wo hai jo rasooluullah ke zamane mein pesh a’ya. Arab ke mushrikeen itma’me hujjat ke bawajud risalat se inkar karke apne liye zindagi ka haq kho chuke the. Neez unhon ne jarihiyyat ka izhar kar ke apne khilaf fauji iqdaam ko durust sabit kar diya tha. Is bina par unke khelaf talwar uthane ka hukm hua…. “Aur unse lado yahan tak ki fitna baqi na rahe aur deen Allah ka ho jaye” ka matlab yeh hai ki sarzameen-e-Arab se shirk ka khatma ho jaye aur deen-e-Tauheed ke sewa koi deen wahan baqi na rahe. Is hukm ke zariae Allah Ta’la ne Arab ko Tauheed ka daimee markaz bana diya.


However, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan also believes that there are certain directives of the Qur'an pertaining to war which were specific only to the Prophet Muhammad and certain specified peoples of his times. After the Prophet and his companions, there is no concept in Islam obliging Muslims to wage war for propagation or implementation of Islam because it is not possible in our time.


Clearly, Ulema need to go beyond making pious declarations of Islam having nothing to do with the offensive Jihad going on in several parts of the world today. They must take a stand and clarify why Islamic theologians over the centuries including reputed Indian ulema have interpreted war-time Quranic verses as calling for offensive jihad. These verses are being used both by Jihadis and Islamophobes to justify their respective viewpoints. It is the religious duty of Ulema to come clean and clear the air, both for the sake of Muslim youth who are joining the Islamic State in growing numbers and non-Muslims who have come to fear Islam for obvious reasons.


Abdul Rahman Hamza is a Delhi-based writer. With his expertise in Arabic language and literature, he has spent decades studying the Holy Quran. He contributed this article to New Age Islam.


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