By Reza Shah-Kazemi
20 August 2015
While the Emir fought French colonialism
militarily, in the following century, another great Sufi master in Algeria,
Shaykh A^mad al-¢AlawÏ, chose to resist with a peaceful strategy, but one which
pertained no less to jihad, in the principal sense of the term. One has to
remember that the literal meaning of the word “jihad” is effort or struggle,
and that the greater jihad was defined by the Prophet œ as the jih¥d an-nafs
(the war against the soul). The priority thus accorded to inward, spiritual
effort over all outward endeavours must never be lost sight of in any
discussion of jihad. Physical fighting is the “lesser” jihad and only has
meaning in the context of that unremitting combat against inner vices, the
devil within, that has been called the greater jihad.
One contemporary Sufi master vividly
contrasts the kind of inner warfare that characterizes the true “warriors of
the spirit” from the mass of ordinary believers. He does so in connection with
the Qur’anic distinction, within the category of those who are saved in the
Hereafter, between the companions of the right (a|^¥b al-yamÏn) and the
Every Muslim is at
war with the devil. As regards those of the right, however, this warfare is
desultory and intermittent, with many armistices and many compromises. Moreover
the devil is aware that as fallen men they are already to a certain extent
within his grasp, and having by definition no faith in the Divine Mercy, he
cannot foresee that they will escape from his clutches in the life to come. But
as regards the foremost, he feels them actually throwing off his domination in
the present, and they even carry the war into his territory. The result is a
The individual’s moral and spiritual effort
in this inner struggle is a necessary but not sufficient condition for victory;
only by means of heaven-sent weapons can the war be won: sacred rites,
meditations, incantations, invocations—all of which are summed up in the term
“remembrance of God.” In this light, the strategy of the Shaykh al-¢AlawÏ can
be better appreciated. It was to put first things first, concentrating on the
“one thing needful” and leaving the rest in God’s hands. It might be seen,
extrinsically, as an application, on the plane of society, of the following
esoteric principle, enunciated by one of his spiritual forbears, Mulay ¢AlÏ
al-Jam¥l: “The true way to hurt the enemy is to be occupied with the love of
the Friend; on the other hand, if you engage in war with the enemy, he will
have obtained what he wanted from you, and at the same time you will have lost
the opportunity of loving the Friend.”59
The Shaykh al-¢AlawÏ concentrated on this
love of the Friend, and of all those values connected to this imperative of
remembrance, doing so to the exclusion of other, more overt forms of
resistance, military and political, against the French. The Shaykh’s spiritual
radiance extended not just to a few disciples but, through his many muqaddams
(spiritual representatives), to hundreds of thousands of Muslims whose piety
was deepened in ways that are immeasurable.60 The Shaykh was not directly
concerned with political means of liberating his land from the yoke of French
rule, for this was but a secondary aspect of the situation: the underlying aim
of the French “mission civilisatrice” in Algeria was to forge the Algerian
personality in the image of French culture;61 so, in the measure that one
perceives that the real danger of colonialism was cultural and psychological
rather than just territorial and political, the spiritual indomitability of the
Shaykh and his many followers assumes the dimensions of a signal victory. The
French could make no inroads into a mentality that remained inextricably rooted
in the spiritual tradition of Islam.
Lest this approach be regarded as a
prescription for unconditional quietism, one should note that the great
warrior, the Emir himself, would have had no difficulty whatsoever in asserting
its validity: for even while outwardly engaging with the enemy on the
battlefield, he was never for a moment distracted from his remembrance of the
“Friend.” It was without bitterness and rage that he fought; and this explains
the absence of any resentment towards the French when he was defeated by them,
submitting to the manifest will of God with the same contemplative resignation
with which he went into battle with them in the first place. If one suspects
this account is romanticizing or that it overstates the Emir’s capacity to deal
with the exigencies of a brutal war whilst simultaneously plumbing the depths
of contemplative experience, the following account is useful; it is written by
a Frenchman, Léon Roche, who entered the inner circle of the Emir’s entourage
by pretending to have converted to Islam. During the siege of ¢Ayn M¥dÏ in
1838, Roche was traumatized by the fighting and killing, and he sought out the
Emir; entering his tent, he pleaded with the Emir to help him. He later wrote
about what happened:
He calmed me and
had me drink an infusion of schiehh (a kind of absinthe common in the desert).
He supported my head, which I could no longer hold up, on one of his knees. He
was squatting in the Arab fashion. I was stretched out at his side. He placed
his hands on my head, from which he had removed the haik and the chechias, and
under this gentle touch I soon fell asleep. I awoke well into the night. I
opened my eyes and felt revived. The smoky wick of an Arab lamp barely lit the
vast tent of the amir. He was standing three steps away from me. He thought I
was asleep. His two arms were raised to the height of his head, fully
displaying his milky white bernous and haik which fell in superb folds. His
beautiful blue eyes, lined with black lashes, were raised. His lips, slightly
open, seemed to be still reciting a prayer but nevertheless were motionless. He
had come to an ecstatic state. His aspirations towards heaven were such that he
seemed no longer to touch the earth. I had on occasion been granted the honour
of sleeping in Abd al-Kader’s tent and I had seen him in prayer and been struck
by his mystical transports, but on this night he represented for me the most
striking image of faith. Thus must the great saints of Christianity have
From this account, one sees that the
following “official” description of the Emir, given as the conclusion to a
pamphlet defining army regulations in 1839, was not simply pious propaganda:
Il Hadj Abdel
Kader cares not for this world, and withdraws from it as much as his avocations
permit.… He rises in the middle of the night to recommend his own soul and the
souls of his followers to God. His chief pleasure is in praying to God with
fasting, that his sins may be forgiven.… When he administers justice, he hears
complaints with the greatest patience.… When he preaches, his words bring tears
to all eyes, and melt the hardest hearts.63
This remarkable combination of
roles—warrior and saint, preacher and judge—recalls perhaps the greatest model
of all Muslim Mujahideen, ¢AlÏ ibn AbÏ >¥lib, cousin and son-in-law of the
Prophet Mu^ammad œ. This paragon of wisdom and virtue stands forth as the most
compelling holy warrior in the Islamic tradition. As Frithjof Schuon puts it,
“Ali appears above all as the ‘Solar Hero,’ he is the ‘Lion’ of God; he
personifies the combination of physical heroism on the field of battle with a
sanctity wholly detached from the things of the world; he is the personification
of the wisdom, both impassive and combative, which the Bhagavad-Gita
One of the great lessons of principled
warfare, of “fighting in the path of God,” imparted by ¢AlÏ was immortalized by
Rumi in his poetic rendering of the famous incident in which ¢AlÏ sheathed his
sword instead of finishing off his defeated enemy, who had spat at him in a
last gesture of defiance. Although the immediate spiritual significance of the
action is clearly ¢AlÏ’s refusal to kill on the basis of personal anger—the
warrior must be detached from self, and fight wholly for God—it is also given a
deeper metaphysical meaning by Rumi. In his MathnawÏ, Rumi turns the incident
into a sublime commentary on the Qur’anic verse, “Ye slew them not, but God
slew them. And thou (Muhammad) didst not throw when thou threwest, but God
threw.”65 The last part of the verse refers to the throwing by the Prophet œ of
a handful of dust in the direction of the enemy before a battle. But the verse
as a whole alludes to the reality that the true, ontological agent of all
actions is God Himself; man’s actions are good only if he is conscious of this,
and insofar as he is effaced in this consciousness. Rumi puts the following
words into the mouth of ¢AlÏ, who replies to the question of the baffled,
defeated warrior on the ground, “Why did you not kill me?”:
He said, “I am
wielding the sword for God’s sake, I am the servant of God, I am not under the
command of the body.
I am the Lion of
God; I am not the lion of my passion: my deed bears witness to my religion.
In war I am
(manifesting the truth of) thou didst not throw when thou threwest: I am (but)
as the sword, and the wielder is the (Divine) Sun.
I have removed the
baggage of self out of the way; I have deemed (what is) other than God to be
I am a shadow, the
Sun is my lord; I am the chamberlain, I am not the curtain (which prevents
approach) to Him.
I am filled with
the pearls of union, like a (jewelled) sword: in battle I make (men) living,
Blood does not
cover the sheen of my sword: how should the wind sweep away my clouds?
I am not a straw,
I am a mountain of forbearance and patience and justice: how should the fierce
wind carry off the mountain?”67
The true warrior of Islam smites the neck
of his own anger with the sword of forbearance;68 the false warrior strikes at
the neck of his enemy with the sword of his own unbridled ego. For the first,
the spirit of Islam determines jihad; for the second, bitter anger,
masquerading as jihad, determines Islam. The contrast between the two could
hardly be clearer.
Let us also note in connection with the
irresistible example of ¢AlÏ’s combination of heroism and sanctity, the crucial
connection he establishes between victory in the inner war against the enemy
within, on the one hand, and the principle of compassion, on the other. This
emerges from the metaphor given by ¢AlÏ for the battle that is waged in the
soul, and for the soul: the intellect, he says, is the leader of the forces of
ar-Ra^m¥n (the Compassionate); al-haw¥ (whim, caprice, desire) commands the
forces of ash-shay~¥n (the devil); the soul itself is between them, undergoing
the attraction of both (mutaj¥dhiba baynahum¥). The soul “enters into the
domain of whichever of the two will triumph.”69
The soul’s fundamental energy is not to be
destroyed but converted and redirected, away from the transient objects of
individualistic desire, and away from “ashShay~¥n,” (Satan) towards the one,
true object, that expressed by “ar-Ra^m¥n.” It is compassion and mercy that
prevail against the enemy, at whatever level, and this compassion is perceived
by the intellect in its normative state; it is when the intellect is clouded by
whim and caprice that this compassion is replaced by passion, bitterness, and
rage. The enemy is thus fought on its own debased terms instead of on the
higher ground of principle: instead of remembering the “Friend,” one gives the
enemy the satisfaction of victory through the very means employed in the
battle. One is no longer fighting for God because one is no longer fighting in
Finally, let us note the following sayings
of ¢AlÏ that help to underline the priority which must be accorded to the
spiritual struggle over the outward material one:
against the soul through knowledge—such is the mark of the intellect.
strongest people are those who are strongest against their own souls.
who fights his own soul, in obedience to God and desisting from sinning against
Him, has the rank of the righteous martyr in God’s eyes.
ultimate battle is that of a man against his own soul.
knows his soul fights it.
is more excellent than the jihad of the soul.70
The episodes recounted here as
illustrations of authentic jihad should be seen not as representing some unattainably
sublime ideal but as expressive of the sacred norm in the Islamic tradition of
warfare; this norm may not always have been applied in practice—one can always
find deviations and transgressions—but it was continuously upheld in principle,
and, more often than not, gave rise to the kind of chivalry, heroism, and
nobility of which we have offered a few of the more striking and famous
examples here. The sacred norm of chivalric warfare in Islam stood out clearly
for all to see, buttressed by the values and institutions of traditional Muslim
society. It can still be discerned today, for those who look hard enough,
through the hazy clouds of passion and ideology.
It is far from coincidental that both the
Emir and Imam ShamÏl—not to mention other noble warriors who resisted the
imperialist aggression of the West, such as ¢Umar Mukht¥r in Libya, the MahdÏ
in Sudan, ¢Uthm¥n dan Fodio in Nigeria—were affiliated to Sufism. No one need
claim that Sufism encompasses Islamic spirituality in an exclusive manner; but no
one can deny that the spiritual values of Islam have been traditionally
cultivated and brought to fruition most effectively and most beautifully by the
Sufis. And it is these spiritual values that infuse ethical norms—in whatever
domain—with vivifying grace, the grace without which the acts of heroism and
nobility surveyed here are scarcely conceivable. Sufism did not invent the
spiritual values of Islam; it merely sought to give life to them, from
generation to generation. An important definition of Tasawwuf is quoted
by ¢AlÏ al-HujwÏrÏ (d.456/1063) in his Kashf al-Mahjoob (Disclosure of
the Veiled), one of the most important early manuals of classical Sufism:
“Today, Sufism is a name without a reality; formerly it was a reality without a
name.”71 In other words, the values proper to Sufism are deemed to have been
present at the time of the Prophet œ and his companions, where their reality
was lived rather than named. After giving us this definition, al-HujwÏrÏ adds
that those who deny Sufism are in fact denying the “whole sacred law of the
Apostle and his praised qualities.”72
Now, it might seem surprising to assert
that a denial of Sufism is tantamount to a denial of the whole sacred law; but
the stress here should be on the word “whole.” For, if Islam is reduced to
merely a mechanical observation of outward rules, then it is not a religion in
the full sense; or, it is a religion without inner life: hence we find the
great alGhaz¥lÏ naming his magnum opus Revival of the sciences of religion;
and, it is clear from his writings that the spiritual values proper to Sufism
provide this inner life of religion.
It is also the Sufis, traditionally, who
have most deeply assimilated the universality proper to the Qur’anic message.
It is no surprise, then, that those most steeped in Sufism were the ones most
sensitive to the sanctity of human life, to the innate holiness of the human
being, whatever his or her religion; nor is it a surprise that those most
hostile to Sufism are those who demonstrate the most appalling disregard for
the inviolability of human life. It is becoming increasingly obvious to
intelligent observers of the Muslim world that those most inclined to violence
are members of deviant takfÏrÏ73 offshoots of various radical movements that
are not only purely “ideological” but also most hostile to Sufism and to many
of the values held most sacred within the spiritual tradition of Islam.
Now, such vehement opposition to the
spiritual values of the tradition cannot but entail a desacralisation of
religion at its core; and this, inevitably, goes hand in hand with a rejection
of the sacredness of other traditions. The political vilification of the
religious “other” is all the more easily accomplished in a climate where the
integrity of the sacred within one’s own tradition has already been undermined.
From attacking the sacred within oneself, it is but a short step to destroying
the religious other. One who has become insensitive to the sacred within one’s
own tradition is unlikely, to put it mildly, to be respectful of the religious
other. Sufis, such as those we have presented here, on the contrary, are keenly
aware not just of the intrinsic holiness of the religious other but also of the
sacred manifestations within the religion of the other. The Emir, upon being
confronted by the Church of Madeleine, uttered these words: “When I first began
my struggle with the French I thought they were a people without religion.…
Such churches as these would soon convince me of my error.”74
What we are witnessing today is the result
of a long process of desacralisation that has been working itself out within
the body politic of the Muslim world: self-righteousness masquerading as
virtue, sanctimoniousness replacing sanctity, sacrilege taking the place of
religion—such is the spectacle that unfolds as Islam is being reduced from a
way of salvation to the pretext for a this-worldly, political ideology with a
religious façade. This reductionism is most apparent in that tiny minority of
political extremists who claim to represent the Muslim umma (community), but
who manifest only the most violent consequences of the spiritual decline within
the Ummah. However, it should be stressed that the reason why the extremists
act in the name of the religion is that the majority of Muslims are still
“religious,” to whatever degree. In other words, the extremists’ recourse to
religious vocabulary in the effort to legitimize jihadist ideology is itself a
testimony to the continuing salience of religion in the Muslim world.
The body politic of the Muslim world has
indeed been infected by a poison which is now running riot within it; but it is
also receiving, from without, violent assaults which are further weakening the
body in its effort to eliminate the poison. What Muslims need to do is to diagnose
the poison and show that the tendency to resort to terrorism is a poison
afflicting Islam; it is not a product of the essence of Islam. To make such a
diagnosis is part of the battle against terrorism—indeed; the real “war on
terror” is being fought on this field, between Muslims themselves. The greatest
warriors in this battle are those who fight intellectually to reclaim Islam, to
revive its deepest and most noble ideals, in whose light the extent of the
deviation currently being paraded as “Islamic” can be clearly seen. But the
efforts of those Muslims struggling intellectually for authentic Islam, and
doing so in God, are certainly not helped by the demonization of Islam in the
West nor by the policies that exacerbate, even if inadvertently, that demonization
process, and thus further alienate moderate Muslims all over the globe. Such
policies only make the poison more virulent and further weaken the antibodies.
For example, Khaled Abou El-Fadl—one of the
most effective and scholarly voices in America calling for tolerance within
Islam, and rejecting all forms of violence, doing so on the basis of the
juristic tradition itself—has been labelled a traitor by many unthinking
Muslims. They say that at a time when Muslims are being slaughtered all over the
world (Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine, Xinjiang, Iraq, etc.), to speak of the
need for Muslims to be tolerant is not only a bad joke, it is turning a blind
eye to the intolerance of the West, and thus acquiescing in the tyranny of the
West. To this, Abou El-Fadl replies bravely that tolerance is at the heart of
the Islamic ethical tradition and that “If the Muslims’ response … is to become
alienated from their religious morality, then Muslims have lost something that
is far more important than the political struggle—they have lost their moral
Those who have indeed lost their moral
grounding, and who consequently resort to violence in the name of Islam, can
only do so on the prior basis of having already reduced the sacred essence of
the religion to its outer forms. Such a reduction from the essence to the
form—paradoxically but inevitably—impoverishes all forms; for, deprived of the
vivifying sap of their sacred roots, forms wither away—or else collapse in on
themselves in violent self-destruction: enter the suicide bomber.
The Emir bewailed the paucity of “champions
of truth” in his time; in our own time, we are confronted with an even more
grotesque spectacle: the champions of authentic jihad being blown to pieces by
suicide-bombers claiming to be martyrs for the faith. One of the truly great
Mujahideen in the war against the Soviet invaders in Afghanistan, Ahmed Shah
Massoud, fell victim to a treacherous attack by two fellow Muslims, in what was
evidently the first stage of the operation that destroyed the World Trade
Centre. It was a strategic imperative for the planners of the operation to rid
the land of its most charismatic leader: a hero who could credibly be used by
the West as a figurehead for the revenge attack on Afghanistan that was provoked,
anticipated, and hoped for, by the terrorists. But, politics aside, the reason
why Massoud was so popular was precisely his fidelity to the values of noble
warfare in Islam; and it was this very fidelity to that tradition that made him
a dangerous enemy of the terrorists—more dangerous, it may be said, than that
more abstract enemy, the West. To present the indiscriminate murder of western
civilians as jihad, the values of true jihad needed to be dead and buried.
The murder of Massoud was thus doubly
symbolic: he embodied the traditional spirit of jihad that needed to be
destroyed by those who wished to assume its ruptured mantle; and it was only
through suicide—subverting one’s own soul—that this destruction, or rather,
this apparent destruction, could be perpetrated. The destruction is only
apparent in that, on the one hand,
They destroy [but] themselves, they who
would ready a pit of fire fiercely burning [for all who have attained to
And on the other hand:
Say not of those who are slain in the
path of God: They are dead. Nay, they are alive, though ye perceive not. 77
Let it also be noted that, while it is
indeed true that the martyr (ash-Shahid) is promised Paradise, the true Shahid
is one whose death bears witness (shah¥da) to the truth of God. It is
consciousness of the truth that must animate and articulate the spirit of one
who “fights in the Path of God”; fighting for any cause other than the truth
cannot be called a “jihad,” just as one who dies fighting in such a cause
cannot be called a “martyr.” Only he is a martyr who can say with utter
sincerity, “Truly my prayer and my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for
God, Lord of all creation.” (6:162)
1 This is an expanded version of an
article entitled “Recollecting the Spirit of Jih¥d,” in Islam, Fundamentalism
and the Betrayal of Tradition, ed. Joseph Lumbard (Bloomington, IN: World
2 One of the best answers to this
question is contained in the series of essays on jihad by S.¢Abdallah
Schleifer. He mounts an excellent critique of the political reduction of jihad,
using as his basis “traditional Islamic consciousness,” and including, as a
case-study of jihad conducted according to this consciousness, the little known
muj¥hid in the struggle against the colonization of Palestine in the 1920s and
1930s, ¢Izz al-DÏn al-Qass¥m. This case-study forms part 1 of the series, which
was published in Islamic Quarterly 23, no.2 (1979). Part 2 of the series is
“Jih¥d and Traditional Islamic Consciousness,” Islamic Quarterly 27, no.4
(1983). Part 3 is in Islamic Quarterly 28, no.1 (1984); part 4 is in Islamic
Quarterly 28, no. 2 (1984); and part 5 is in Islamic Quarterly 28, no. 3
(1984). For an important rebuttal of the false conception of jihad as
aggressive and perpetual warfare, see also Zaid Shakir, “Jihad is Not Perpetual
Warfare,” in Seasons—Semiannual of Zaytuna Institute 1, no.2 (Autumn-Winter
3 Quoted in Stanley Lane-Poole, Saladin
and the Fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Beirut: Khayats Oriental Reprints,
1964), 232–3. (Originally published in London, 1898.) It is not irrelevant to
note here that, as Titus Burckhardt says, the Christian “knightly attitude
towards women is Islamic in origin.” See his Moorish Culture in Spain (London:
Allen & Unwin, 1972), 93. Simonde de Sismondi, writing in the early
nineteenth century, asserts that Arabic literature was the source of “that
tenderness and delicacy of sentiment and that reverential awe of women … which
have operated so powerfully on our chivalrous feelings.” Histoire de la
littérature du Midi de l’Europe, quoted in R. Boase, The Origin and Meaning of
Courtly Love (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977), 20.
4 Lane-Poole, Saladin, 233–4.
5 Quoted in Thomas Arnold, The Preaching
of Islam (London: Luzak, 1935), 88–9.
6 Qur’an 2:256.
7 Qur’an 76:8–9.
8 Qur’an 2:216.
9 Qur’an 48:29.
10 Qur’an 2:190.
11 Qur’an 3:159.
12 Qur’an 7:156 (emphasis added).
13 Qur’an 17:10.
14 Qur’an 55:1–3.
15 Martin Lings, Muhammad—His Life
According to the Earliest Sources (London: ITS and George Allen & Unwin,
16 Qur’an 41:34.
17 Arnold, Preaching of Islam, 81–2.
18 A copy of the document is displayed
to this day in the monastery, which is the oldest continually inhabited
monastery in Christendom. See J. Bentley, Secrets of Mount Sinai (London:
Orbis, 1985), 18–19.
19 See A. Guillaume, trans. The Life of
Muhammad—A Translation of Ibn Is^¥q’s SÏrat Ras‰l All¥h (London: Oxford
University Press, 1968), 270–77.
20 Qur’an 22:39–40.
21 Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam (Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), 8.
22 S.A. Schleifer, “Jews and Muslims—A
Hidden History,” in The Spirit of Palestine (Barcelona: Zed, 1994), 2.
23 Quoted in Schleifer, “Jews and
24 Burckhardt, Moorish Culture, 27–28.
25 Despite the fact that Maimonides
suffered at the hands of the al-Mohhads, during a rare episode of persecution
in Muslim Spain, the next stage of his career—as physician to
Saladin—manifested his continuing loyalty to Muslim rule.
26 Quoted in Schleifer, “Jews and
27 Qur’an 3:84.
28 Mark Cohen, “Islam and the Jews:
Myth, Counter-Myth, History,” in Jerusalem Quarterly 38 (1986): 135.
30 Qur’an 2:62.
31 Qur’an 3:113–14.
32 Qur’an 5:8.
33 Cited in W.B. Quandt, Revolution and
Political Leadership: Algeria, 1954–68 (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1969), 4.
34 See Roger Garaudy, Un dialogue pour
les civilisations (Paris: Denoël, 1977), 54–65, for this and many other
official accounts of such atrocities. This is cited from Rashid Messaoudi,
“Algerian-French Relations, 1830–1991” in Algeria—Revolution Revisited, ed.
Reza Shah-Kazemi (London: Islamic World Report, 1997), 6–46.
35 Ibid., p. 10.
36 See Mohamed Chérif Sahli,
Abdelkader—Le Chevalier de la Foi (Algiers: Entreprise algérienne de presse, 1967),
131–2. See also our essay “From Sufism to Terrorism: The Distortion of Islam in
the Political Culture of Algeria,” in Algeria—Revolution Revisited, 160–92
where several of these points were first made. 37 Cited in Michel Chodkiewicz,
The Spiritual Writings of Amir ‘Abd al-Kader (Albany: State University of New
York, 1995), 2. This selection of texts from the Emir’s Maw¥qif reveals well
the other side of the Emir: his inner spiritual life, lived out as a master of
Sufism. In this work, the Emir comments on Qur’anic verses and hadith, as well
as upon Ibn al-¢ArabÏ’s writings, doing so from a rigorously esoteric
perspective. Indeed, the Emir was designated as the w¥rith al-¢ul‰m
al-akbariyya, inheritor of the Akbari sciences, those sciences pertaining to the
Shaykh al-Akbar (the greatest master), Ibn al-¢ArabÏ. See pages 20–24 for this
little known aspect of the Emir’s function.
38 See Charles Henry Churchill, The Life
of Abdel Kader (London: Chapman and Hall, 1867), 295. 39 Cited by Benamar Aïd,
“Le Geste de l’Emir: prisonniers de guerre” in Itinéraires—Revue semestrielle
éditée par la Fondation Emir Abdelkader 6 (2003): 31.
40 Ibid., 32.
41 Ibid., 33.
42 Cited by the Comte de Cirvy in his
work, “Napoleon III et Abd el-Kader”; see “Document: Un portrait de l’Emir par
le Comte de Cirvy (1853)” in Itinéraires 5 (2001): 11.
43 Qur’an 2:190; see the important
treatise by the late Shaykh of al-Azhar, Ma^m‰d Shalt‰t, in which jihad in
Islam is defined in entirely defensive terms. The treatise, Al-Qur’¥n wa’l-qit¥l,
was published in Cairo in 1948, and presented in translation by Peters under
the title “A Modernist Interpretation of Jihad: Mahmud Shaltut’s Treatise,
Koran and Fighting” in his book, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam (Leiden:
Brill, 1977), 59–101.
44 Churchill, Life, 314.
45 This incident is recorded in Boualem
Bessaïeh, “Abdelkader à Damas et le sauvetage de douze mille chrétiens,” in
Itinéraires 6 (2003): 90.
46 Qur’an 4:135.
47 Churchill, Life, 318.
48 Qur’an 60:8.
49 Cited by Mgr. Henri Teissier (Bishop
of Algeria) in “Le sens du dialogue inter-religions,” Itinéraires 6 (2003): 47.
50 Qur’an 2:10.
51 Like the Emir, Imam ShamÏl was
regarded with awe not only by his own followers but also by the Russians; when
he was finally defeated and taken to Russia, he was fêted as a hero. Although
occasionally embroidered with romanticism, Lesley Blanch’s Sabres of Paradise
(New York: Caroll and Graf, 1960) conveys well the heroic aspect of ShamÏl’s
resistance. For a more scholarly account, see Moshe Gammer, Muslim Resistance
to the Tsar: Shamil and the Conquest of Chechnia and Daghestan (London: Frank
Cass, 1994). On Chechnya, see our own Crisis in Chechnia—Russian Imperialism,
Chechen Nationalism and Militant Sufism (London: Islamic World Report, 1995),
which offers an overview of the Chechen quest for independence from the
eighteenth century through to the war of the mid-1990s, with a particular
stress on the role of the Sufi brotherhoods in this quest.
52 That is, a dhimmÏ, a non-Muslim who
enjoys the dhimma, or “protection” of the Muslim state
53 Cited by Bessaïeh, “Abdelkader à
Damas,” 91–2 (translation modified). See also Churchill, Life, 321–2.
54 Quoted in Churchill, Life, 323.
55 One of the key aims of the
educational system outlined in Plato’s Republic is to teach the “guardians” of
the state how to be stern against enemies and at the same time gentle towards
their own people (as noted above, the Muslims are described as fierce against
the disbelievers, and merciful amongst themselves). It is for this reason that
such arts as music are taught alongside the martial disciplines. Warriors such
as the Emir and Imam ShamÏl perfected this combination of roles, thanks to the
intrinsically balanced virtues proper to the spirit of Islam. In modern
warfare, by contrast, fighting an “enemy” seems to be impossible without an
ideology which dehumanizes and demonizes him, whence the continuing atrocities
in our “postenlightenment” age.
56 We have developed this theme further
in the essay “Selfhood and Compassion: Jesus in the Qur’an—An AkbarÏ
Perspective,” in The Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society 29 (2001).
57 See Qur’an 56:8–10.
58 Ab‰ Bakr Sir¥j ad-DÏn, The Book of
Certainty (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1992), 80. See also the essay by
S.H. Nasr, “The Spiritual Significance of Jih¥d,” chapter 1 of Traditional
Islam in the Modern World (London: Kegan Paul International, 1987); and also
the section of this book which is entitled “Traditional Islam and Modernism,”
which remains an important principal critique of modernist and extremist
thought in Islam.
59 Quoted by the Shaykh al-¢ArabÏ
ad-Darq¥wÏ, founder of the Darq¥wÏ branch of the Sh¥dhiliyya Sufi order. See
Letters of a Sufi Master, trans. Titus Burckhardt (Bedfont, Middlesex:
Perennial Books, 1969), 9.
60 See the essay by Omar Benaissa
“Sufism in the Colonial Period” in Algeria: Revolution Revisited, ed. R.
Shah-Kazemi (London: Islamic World Report, 1997), 47–68, for details of this
religious influence of the tariqa of the Shaykh on Algerian society.
61 Alexis de Tocqueville bitterly
criticized the assimilationist policy of his government in Algeria. In a
parliamentary report of 1847 he wrote that “We should not at present push them
along the path of our own European civilization, but in their own.… We have cut
down the number of charities [i.e. religious waqf institutions], let schools
fall into ruin, closed the colleges [i.e. madrasas] … the recruitment of the
men of religion and of the [Shar¢Ïa] law has ceased. We have, in other words,
made Muslim society far more miserable, disorganized, barbaric, and ignorant
than ever it was before it knew us.” Quoted in CharlesRobert Ageron, Modern
Algeria, trans. Michael Brett (London: Hurst, 1991), 21.
62 Léon Roche, Dix Ans à travers l’Islam
(Paris: 1904), p.140–1. Cited in M. Chodkiewicz, Spiritual Writings, 4.
63 Cited in Churchill, Life, 137–8.
64 Frithjof Schuon, Islam and the
Perennial Philosophy (London: World of Islam Festival, 1976), 101. Schuon also
referred to ¢AlÏ as the “representative par excellence of Islamic esotericism.”
See The Transcendent Unity of Religions (London: Faber and Faber, 1953), 59.
65 Qur’an 8:17.
66 Cf. the following verse in the
Bhagavad-Gita: “Who thinks that he can be a slayer, who thinks that he is
slain, both these have no [right] knowledge: He slays not, is not slain.” Hindu
Scriptures, trans. R.C. Zaehner (London: Dent, 1966), 256.
67 The Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi,
trans. R.A. Nicholson (London: Luzac, 1926), book 1, p. 205, lines 3787–3794.
The parentheses are inserted by Nicholson. See Schleifer’s comments on Rumi’s
account of this episode in “Jih¥d and Traditional Islamic Consciousness,”
68 As Rumi says, continuing ¢AlÏ’s
discourse; see book 1, p. 207, line 3800.
69 Cited by ¢Abd al-W¥^id ®midÏ in his
compilation of sayings of Imam ¢AlÏ, Ghurar al-^ikam (Qom: Ansariyan
Publications, 2000), 2:951, no.9. Cf. “The intellect and passion are opposites;
the intellect is strengthened by knowledge, passion by caprice. The soul is
between them, pulled by both. Whichever triumphs, has the nafs on its side.”
(Ibid., no. 10)
70 Ibid., 1:208–11, nos. 20, 17, 8, 23,
26, 28. In our forthcoming publication, Justice and Remembrance—Introducing the
Spirituality of Imam ¢AlÏ (London: IB Tauris, 2005), we develop these themes in
the context of “the spirit of the intellect” in ¢AlÏ’s perspective.
71 ¢AlÏ al-HujwÏrÏ, The Kashf
al-Mahj‰b—The Oldest Persian Treatise on Sufism, trans. R.A Nicholson (Lahore:
Islamic Book Service, 1992), 44.
72 Ibid., p. 44.
73 Those given to performing takfÏr,
i.e. the declaration that someone is a k¥fir (disbeliever)
74 Churchill, Life, 295.
75 Khaled Abou El-Fadl, The Place of
Tolerance in Islam (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002), 98.
76 Qur’an 85:4–5. We follow Muhammad
Asad’s translation of these elliptical verses. See The Message of the Qur’¥n
(Gibraltar: Dar al-Andalus, 1984), 942.
77 Qur’an 2:154.
Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi is a Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili
Studies in London. He is founding editor of Islamic World Report, and has
written and edited several books and articles on such topics as the Qur’an and
Interfaith Dialogue, Comparative Religion, Jihad in Islam, Sufism and Shi’ism.
He is working on a new English translation of Imam ¢AlÏ’s Nahj al-bal¥gha; and
his book, Justice and Remembrance: An Introduction to the Spirituality of Imam
Ali, is due to be published by IIS/IB Tauris in the autumn of 2005. His
doctoral dissertation, a comparative study of Shankara, Ibn ¢ArabÏ, and Meister
Eckhart, is due to be published in the winter of 2005 under the title, Paths to
Transcendence by World Wisdom Books.