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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 26 Jul 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Violence is No Jihad


By Dr M.Ghitreef Shahbaz Nadwi, New Age Islam

27 July 2012

Said Ribie Ibn Amer, as reported by Tabari, before Rustam, the commander in chief of the Persians in the famous Qadsia battle, “God had sent us, so as we take whomsoever He wills, out of the worship of   people to the worship of God alone, and to save them from the injustice of other religions to the justice of Islam.”

These historic words are a telling testimony to the fact that Jihad had been a liberating force for the humanity and a gigantic tool to empower the slaves and the deprived and the oppressed ones. But what is the scene today? Regrettably, now it is commonly believed that “All Muslims are not terrorists but all the terrorists necessarily are Muslims”.

Jihad in true sense, is a Divine boon for humanity, it is a sacred peaceful struggle in the way of God. As its root word suggests, for Jihad (جهاد) is derived from the root جَهَدَ meaning to do an utmost struggle for a cause. Allah says in Quran: وجاهدهم به جهادا كبيرا (and do a greatest jihad with them (Makkans) by the Quran). Needless to say that Quran is not a sword or a gun it is a word of God.

Yet, regrettably, a most misunderstood and misinterpreted concept of Islam has become prevalent in today’s world. Misinterpreted by Muslims and thereby misunderstood by non-Muslims. For Muslims, it is a gateway to enter Paradise and to gain hegemony over others in this world. For non-Muslims, it is a terrorist act, usually perpetrated by non-state actors, who might occasionally be supported by some states too.

The truth is lost in between. You find Muslims everywhere, save a handful of people, complaining that the world powers, in collaboration with world media, are hatching vicious plots and conspiracies against Islam and Muslims.

To my mind, in the first place, this sweeping statement is very far away from the truth, but even if that is the case, Muslims too, are to be blamed. If their Imams, Ulama as well as leaders on the pulpit of mosques, (Pakistan is a case in point) very loudly and bluntly invoke people to raise and to kill and smash the supposed enemy, say India, America, Israel, et al, saying that it is a sacred jihad, obligatory on them; and this too in this age of information technology, then, what would an Indian audience conclude? And what would the international community conclude?

When the tragedy of 9/11 occurred a section of popular Muslim mood was jubilant, but when it turned out that the perpetrates of this heinous crime have to pay its price too, and that might be very heavy, they turned at once, into a denial mood, taking refuge in some whimsical notions appearing on the net here and there, saying that these terror strikes were the handiwork of some clandestine Zionist hands, or CIA itself, etc. Not only that Muslim masses made Osama Bin Laden the greatest hero of Islam, not knowing that once upon a time he had been an American favourite when he was engaged in jihad against the atheist Soviets in the barren fields of Afghanistan.

In Rushdie’s case – not that I am in love with this myopic man of no worth - and in similar cases, say, these wretched cartons of Holy Prophet published in Danish papers, which were a non issue for Islam, Muslims all over the world time and again took to streets chanting and sloganeering: “America should be doomed, Israel must be wiped out from the world map” and so on and so forth.

Yes, I also firmly believe that Israel is an occupying force, but it is a reality now and cannot be wiped out, so in dealing with it we have to be realistic. India is the home of the greatest Muslim minority in the world. America too has a sizable portion of Muslim population. These minorities are enjoying equal citizenship and all the civil rights other Indian and American citizens have. So how can a Muslim invoke the wrath and rage of Heavens against them? But Muslim Imams and Ulama are yet to understand this simple truth and have this degree of common sense.

The situation is worsened when world media wrongly relate the sporadic terror acts perpetrated by Muslims and Arabs and others, like suicide bombings in Palestine, Bali, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere, aeroplane hijacking, targeting of civilians and civil places like hotels in Mumbai, Lahore and Afghanistan etc. in the name of Jihad. It should be noted that almost always the targets of these terror attacks are innocent civilians, and of course, many of the victims are Muslim themselves.

Emerging of Osama Bin Laden cult and attacks on American twin towers, the World Trade Centre, created a new brouhaha all over the world, and to our horror and shock, there was no sane voice among Muslim Ulama, thinkers and intellectuals the world over, again, except an honourable few, to condemn the horrific tragedy in clear terms and with no ifs and buts. It is causing bewilderment that almost always, and without a second thought, they attribute all these terror acts to, either non-Muslim elements, or state agencies like CIA, Mossad etc. And in case they concede a Muslim hand, then they try to justify them, saying that since Muslims everywhere are an oppressed and a deprived lot and also have no resources to stand in face of atrocities done to them, that is why they have no choice but to resort to this militant activism, So they are not to be blamed but their oppressors are to be blamed.

To me , Ulama and clergy are also responsible to this pathetic Muslim psyche, simply because whenever there was a terror attack they could not dare to condemn it in clear-cut terms without any ifs and buts, rather they always opted to seek some excuses for the culprits. Actually their denial mood was based on the fear that if they strongly oppose radicals, then the community would shun them and outlaw them as it is seen in some cases. A palpable mobocracy! For example watch Zakir Naik, this televangelist never condemns Muslim terrorists; instead he condemns CIA, America, and other western powers in strong words. Of course they are condemnable when they are wrong, but the case is not always so.  So when it comes to criticize Muslim terror Zakir Naik takes a U turn and uses a dubious language. Same is the case with all Ulama and scholars of Islam the world over except a small minority among them.

Jihad does not always imply holy war, nor is it essentially tantamount to aggression against ''others”. Jihad is not an expedition to extend Muslim domination over the world as it is suggested by Muslim jurists, writers and Ulema. Rather, to my mind, it first of all, is a purification of self, the greatest Jihad, (جهاد أكبر), then it is a peaceful struggle in the way of God, to propagate His word amicably and peacefully. And it is a passive resistance to all the odds, aggression, and persecution, as the prophet had done in his Makkah period. Yet on some occasions it could mean a defensive war against an invading enemy. In its last phase it is also a struggle to put an end to aggressive and oppressive powers, Muslim and non Muslim alike, when it is needed, and when circumstances so warranted. Of course this struggle would be waged, using all necessary methods to achieve the desired goals peacefully whether it is hectic diplomacy or persuasive dialogue and debates. War can only be a last option. Moreover this war option too, is a conditional one, and in the absence of justifying circumstances, this might not be resorted to at all.

This is the true picture of Islamic Jihad, which is seen in the life account of the prophet himself. For, the prophet persisted to continue his Dawah work for 13 years in Makkah, facing all the wrath, humiliation, defamation, abuse, physical and mental torture and agony and persecution meted out by Makkans to him and on his companions... This was his passive resistance to Makkan Quraish. Then he migrated when it became impossible to stay at Makkah.

In Madina he established a city state and went on his Divine mission avoiding a conflict situation at all costs, and using for that matter, a hefty and successful diplomacy, fruitful negotiations and peace pacts with adjoining tribes and clans. But Makkans did not let him do his work in a peaceful manner and continued to create troubles for him. So many times they took on Madina, playing havoc there and inflicting a great deal of loss in lives and in kind. That compelled the prophet to take fast and intense protective measures and tactics, including a pre-emptive road blockade for Makkan caravans, fetching foods, arms and war material from Syria and other far flung areas, that eventually led to a sudden armed conflict with the invading Makkans with a thousand well-armed people on horseback marching towards Madina and camping near Badr, a village in Medinan surrounding. In this grim situation too, when the threat was looming large and the very survival of the tiny Islamic state and the small Muslim community was at stake and a war was becoming necessary, the prophet did try to pursue Makkah to shun their aggression and avoid war. So he sent Umar Bin Al-Khattab to Makkan chieftains to talk them in the matter, but in the fit of vanity and power, they refused it squarely and the rest is history.

And yet, in these difficult and trying circumstances, Muslims are asked not to ‘transgress limits’ – i.e., they are not to commit atrocities, kill women, children or non-combatants, or burn down property or destroy cattle and crop, or respond disproportionately to aggression — for aggression could lead to self-destruction:

“Do not, with your own hands, hurl yourself to destruction.” (Quran 2:195)

And as a matter of fact this was not limited to the battle of Badar only. All the battles that took place in the life time of holy prophet were of a similar defensive nature.

So far as wars fought in the era of Rashidun Caliphs (خلفاء راشدين) are concerned, they too are of a defensive sort on one hand, because both the superpowers of the time: Roman and Sassanid Iran Empire, were by proxy, creating troubles in Arabia, prompting their Arab clients to rise against the nascent Medinan Islamic state. Also being repressive and tyrannical powers both were destined to fade from the face of the earth anyway.

So only prophetic and Rashidun era are a model to define the jihad and explain its connotations, not the Muslim history of latter times, which was engaged in power struggle, feudal disputes, and wars among power hungry royals and satraps and even killings of siblings for that matter. So we should not defend this dark, shameful and damned long period of our history because it was not a model for us at all. Wars of this period of Islamic history hardly could be called jihad. Yes, in this long dictatorial, monarchical period of Islamic history too there are some exceptional bright examples, but on the whole it was a purely materialistic and despotic history we must not be proud of.

Now how can these terror acts like suicide bombing, detonating trains and buses and bustling markets and so on, be described and justified as jihad?

Yes, it is true that UNO failed the world and specifically the third world. Time and again it acted like a puppet institution in the hands of America and her allied powers, but I think, the world scenario is rapidly changing now. For, there are popular uprising in Arab world, America and Europe, being in a tight pressure caused by economic meltdown, no longer will enjoy the status of world masters and would not be able to act as world cop. Time is ripe to bring quick and desired changes in U No's structure and to strengthen it. And it is high time for Muslims too, to retrospect and reassess their role in the present world and shun all the activities which damage Islam's purity and malign its character.

Dr. M. Ghitreef Shahbaz Nadwi is the director Foundation for Islamic Studies, New Delhi. He can reached at:,