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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 24 March 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Kashmir Event for Deradicalization: Ulema need to go beyond peaceful rhetoric, into the deep theological roots of the ‘flawed interpretation of Jihad’

By Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam

24 March 2021 

After decades of radical militancy in Kashmir, for the first time, a serious attempt is being made at countering radicalisation. According to a report in the Times of India, nearly 550 religious leaders, 200 women and 200 youths from Kashmir came together on 23rd March to reject what they called the “flawed” interpretation of jihad as Islam’s ‘advocacy’ of killing innocent people and put forth the “correct” counter-narrative focused on ‘peaceful co-existence’. 

The report, however, does not mention any serious attempt at going deep into the theological roots of what is loosely called Jihad. Educated people, often professionals, academics, cannot possibly engage in the business of what Quran calls Qital, killing innocents and getting killed, abandoning their family and friends, on the basis of a superficial understanding of what is technically called Jihad fi sabillillah, Jihad in the path of God. They study Islamic theology of consensus of all sects and find that the message jihadi ideologues are giving them are based on the solid foundations of a centuries-old understanding of Islam as a totalitarian, political project, for world domination.No serious student is going to trust ulema if they simply make rhetorical statements of this interpretation being flawed, without engaging with the arguments on which this understanding has been the staple diet of Islamic theological schools of thought for centuries. 

However, let us first see what transpired at the event. The TOI correspondent Bharti Jain reports: “As per the correct interpretation of Quranic verses, cleric Mufti Mohammad Aslam told TOI on the side-lines of Srinagar conference, Islam does not teach its followers to take lives of fellow humans or bring them to harm but to protect and peacefully co-exist with one and all, irrespective of their religion. He said ‘jihad’ really means fight with one’s own ‘nafsaanikhwahish’ (deadly sin).” 

If this is so, Mafti Saheb, may I ask, how come almost all the books on Jihad simply dismiss this “fight with one’s own ‘nafsaanikhwahish’ (deadly sin)”, in a few words, while using tens of thousands of words to describe the Qital aspect of Jihad. Of course, Jihad is an effort, an endeavour. Almost any endeavour can be called Jihad. Life itself is an endeavour, a Jihad. But although Quran mostly uses the term Qital for fighting, killing and war, defensive or offensive, almost all Muslim theologians have exclusively used the term Jihad in the sense of Qital. 

The term greater Jihad and lesser Jihad must have been mentioned in this deradicalization event. This is the staple of all such attempts at deradicalization around the world. This is based on a Hadith in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) is said to have said after returning from a battle, that we have come back from a minor Jihad to a greater Jihad. On being asked what was that, he said, fighting with one’s own negative ego (nafs) is greater Jihad. This is indeed so; any right-minded person would agree. Fighting with the temptations that our minds and egos create is not easy at all and is indeed a great and constant endeavour, certainly greater Jihad than mere fighting in a battle. This Hadith has the ring of truth. Our Prophet must indeed have said this, if we go by our assessment of his life and deeds before acquiring prophethood and after. But most of our theologians are agreed that this is a weak, if not a concocted Hadith. So, quotations from such Prophetic narrations are reserved for events like the one taking place in Kashmir. Otherwise, we are told that this is a weak, unreliable Hadith. Same is the fate of the Hadith which quotes the Prophet as saying that Muslims should go as far as China, if required, in order to acquire knowledge, apparently secular knowledge, as there was no Muslim in China at that time.


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I hope that the things Mufti Nasiruddin told TOI in the quotation below are actually going to happen and moulvis and muftis would indeed do what they promise. “Islam teaches one to practice peace, harmony and sensitivity. It is this correct interpretation of Islam that all the Muftis and moulvis gathered here today shall propagate among the people through their Friday sermons from mosques in J&K. A similar message shall go out to those studying at madrasas here, as well as to family units, especially the mothers, to educate their children so that they do not get swayed by ‘false’ narratives being peddled to radicalise them,” another cleric Mufti Mohammad Nasiruddin told TOI.” 

That I am quite sceptical of peaceful rhetorical flourishes from our ulema must be obvious. The reason is that they never engage with the dominant themes of Islamic theology that they teach in their madrasas, never even disassociate themselves with the political understanding of Islam that the most revered theologians have taught through the ages. I am giving below some quotations which will explain what I mean. I have used these quotations before in my writings on New Age Islam and in my oral statements in regular sessions of UNHRC at Geneva. I am focussing mostly on Sufi theologians hereas Kashmir has a great affinity with Sufism. All these authors I am quoting have explained these ideas in great detail in their books. With references available, any one can go further and study them. 

Even though I have highlighted these issues before, and raised these and similar questions, no alim (scholar, singular of ulema) hasever engaged with these questions. That tells me that they are themselves convinced of the soundness of the line of thought displayed in the following quotations, but reserve their peaceful, pluralistic rhetoric for events like the one in Kashmir or elsewhere. Prove me wrong, dear ulema-e-karam, say that you do not agree with these great theologians, whom you revere and get your students to revere. Old Age Islam must go; a New Age Islam must be born. Only then we can deradicalize our youth, particularly the highly educated, sophisticated young professionals and academics, who provide leadership to militancy around the world.


I am presenting here some quotations from Sufi masters and theologians to put the issue in perspective, take the discussion forward and try to find a way out of this labyrinth.


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Appendix 1

Eleventh century Sufi mystic, theologian, jurist and philosopher Imam Abūāmid Al-Ghazali is said to have an understanding of Islam next only to that of Prophet Mohammad (saw). He is quoted ad nauseum in the media to have said about Jihad and relationship with non-Muslims:

“Just as scholastic theology is used with thinking people concerning the truth, the sword is used with the infidels after informing them with the truth…so just as it cannot be said that the sword was Mohammad’s most eloquent argument, neither can it be said that scholastic theology is the ultimate science.”–Ihy’a ‘Uloum ed-Din by al-Ghazali vol. V p. 35

…one must go on jihad at least once a may use a catapult against them [non-Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them...If a person of the Ahl al-Kitab [People of The Book – Jews and Christians, typically] is enslaved, his marriage is [automatically] revoked…One may cut down their trees...One must destroy their useless books. Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide...they may steal as much food as they need...

 …the dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle…Jews, Christians, and Majians must pay the jizya [poll tax on non-Muslims] …on offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protuberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible] … They are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells…their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddle[-work] is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths…[dhimmis] must hold their tongue…. 

“After the death of Muhammad, the man of the miracle [the Qur’an] and the apostle of truth and the companions, fearing the weakening of Islam, the decrease of the number of its followers, and the return of masses to their previous infidelity [This is referring to tohurub al-riddah— the Wars of Apostasy — which were fought during the reign of Caliph Abu Bakr and delayed the Wars of Conquest against the kuffar], saw that holy war and invading other countries for the sake of Allah, smashing the faces of the infidels with the sword and making people enter the religion of Allah as the most worthy of all tasks and better than all sciences.”–Ihy’a ‘Uloum ed-Din by al-Ghazali vol. V p. 35

----- Imam Abūāmid Al-Ghazali (1058 –1111). Kitab al-Wagiz fi fiqh madhab al-imam al-Safi’i, Beirut, 1979, pp. 186, 190-91; 199-200; 202-203. [English translation by Dr. Michael Schub.]


Appendix 2

Most revered Indian Sufi mystic and theologian, considered Mujaddid Alf-e-Thani, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564—1624), says:

Shariat can be fostered through the sword….

Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam.

Kufr and Islam are opposed to each other. The progress of one is possible only at the expense of the other and co—existence between these two contradictory faiths is unthinkable…

The honour of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One who respects kafirs, dishonours the Muslims. To respect them does not merely mean honouring them and assigning them a seat of honour in any assembly, but it also implies keeping company with them or showing considerations to them. They should be kept at an arm's length like dogs. If some worldly business cannot be performed without them, in that case only a minimum of contact should be established with them but without taking them into confidence….

The highest Islamic sentiment asserts that it is better to forego that worldly business and that no relationship should be established with the kafirs. The real purpose in levying jizya on them [the non—Muslims] is to humiliate then to such an extent that, on account of fear of jizya, they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling. It is intended to hold them under contempt and to uphold the honour and might of Islam….

Cow—sacrifice in India is the noblest of Islamic practices. The kafirs may probably agree to pay jizya but they shall never concede to cow—sacrifice.…

The execution of the accursed kafir of Gobindwal [a Sikh who lead an uprising against the oppressive Muslim rule of his community] is an important achievement and is the cause of great defeat of the accursed Hindus….

Whatever might have been the motive behind the execution, the dishonour of the kafirs is an act of highest grace for the Muslims. Before the execution of the kafirs I had seen in a vision that the Emperor had destroyed the crown of the head of Shirk. Verily he was the chief of the Mushriks and the leader of the kafirs….

--- Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, Muslim revivalist movements in northern India in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Agra, Lucknow: Agra University, Balkrishna Book Co, 1965, pp.

Also quoted in Yohanan Friedmann’s Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: An Outline of His Thought and a Study of His Image in the Eyes of Posterity pp. 73-74


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Appendix 3

Shah Waliullah MuhaddisDehlavi (1703—1762), is revered by Muslims as a mystic and theologian of the highest order. Some of the selections of his writings doing the rounds on internet are:

It has become clear to my mind that the kingdom of heaven has predestined that kafirs should be reduced to a state of humiliation and treated with utter contempt…. Should that repository of majesty and dauntless courage [Nizam al—Maluk] gird his loins and direct his attention to such a task he can conquer the world…. Thus, the faith will become more popular and his own power strengthened; a little effort would be profoundly rewarded. Should he make no effort, they [the Marathas] would inevitably be weakened and annihilated through celestial calamities and in such an event he would gain no credit...As I have learnt this unequivocally [from the divine] I spontaneously write to draw your attention to the great opportunity laid before you. You should therefore not be negligent in fighting jihad...Oh Kings! Mala a'la urges you to draw your swords and not put them back in their sheaths again until Allah has separated the Muslims from the polytheists and the rebellious kafirs and the sinners are made absolutely feeble and helpless.'

In his testament to [subsequent Caliph] Umar, [then Caliph] Abu Bakr had informed him that if he feared God, the entire world would be frightened of him ['Umar]. Sages had declared that the world resembled a shadow. If a man ran after his shadow it would pursue him, and if he took flight from the shadow it would still pursue him. God has chosen you as the protector of the Sunnis as there is no—one else to perform this duty, and it is crucial that at all times you consider your role as obligatory. By taking up the sword to make Islam supreme and by subordinating your own personal needs to this cause, you will reap vast benefits.

We beseech you [in a letter to Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali Durrani] in the name of the Prophet to fight a jihad against the infidels of this region. This would entitle you to great rewards before God the Most High and your name would be included in the list of those who fought jihad for His sake. As far as worldly gains are concerned, incalculable booty would fall into the hands of the Islamic ghazis and the Muslims would be liberated from their bonds. The invasion of Nadir Shah who destroyed the Muslims left the Marathas and Jats secure and prosperous. This resulted in the infidels regaining their strength and in the reduction of the Muslim leaders of Delhi to mere puppets.

When the conquering army arrives in an area with a mixed Muslim—Hindu population, the imperial guards should transfer the Muslims from their villages to the towns and at the same time care for their property. Financial assistance should be given by governments to the deprived and the poor as well as to Sayyids and the 'ulama. Their generosity would then become famous with prompt prayers for their victories. Each town would eagerly await the arrival of the Islamic army ('that paragon of bounty'). Moreover, wherever there was even the slightest fear of a Muslim defeat, the Islamic army should be there to disperse infidels to all corners of the earth. Jihad should be their first priority, thereby ensuring the security of every Muslim.


Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi. Shah Wali Allah and his Times. Canberra, Australia, Ma'rifat Publishing House, 1980, pp. 294—296, 299, 301, 305.


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Appendix 4

In his analysis of Shah Wali Allah and his times, pp. 285 286. Rizvi writes:

According to Shah Wali Allah the mark of the perfect implementation of the Shari'a was the performance of jihad. He compared the duties of Muslims in relation to the law to those of a favourite slave who administered bitter medicine to other slaves in a household. If this was done forcefully it was quite legitimate but if someone mixed it with kindness it was even better. However, there were people, said the Shah who indulged in their lower natures by following their ancestral religion, ignoring the advice and commands of the Prophet Muhammad. If one chose to explain Islam to such people like this it was to do then a disservice. Force, said the Shah, was the much better course — Islam should be forced down their throats like bitter medicine to a child. This, however, was only possible if the leaders of the non—Muslim communities who failed to accept Islam were killed; the strength of the community was reduced, their property confiscated and a situation was created which led to their followers and descendants willingly accepting Islam. The Shah pleaded that the universal domination of Islam was not possible without jihad and by holding on to the tails of cows.


Appendix 5

While these thoughts appear quite out of sync with the circumstances of the present times, one has to remember that all scholars are products of their times grappling with the situations in which they are placed according to their sensibilities. In the 20th and now the 21st century, some new theologians, jurists and exegetes of Quran have taken diametrically opposite positions, although, unfortunately, the consensus of Islamic theology continues to follow the classical theologians and their outrageously bigoted points of view, absolutely out of sync with modern sensibilities.

For instance, in his Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an, Sheikh Mohammed al-Ghazali al-Saqqa (1917–1996) makes every effort to prove that the message of Quran is peaceful and pluralistic. Nothing shows this better than his commentary on Surah Taubah verse 5 (Q 9:5) which is considered even by earliest Sufi commentators like Rashid al-Din al-Maybudi (early 12th century) as a sword verse that has abrogated as many as 124 verses of Quran preaching peace and pluralism as well as patience in times of adversity. A brief quote from his commentary given below will be very illuminating. But a brief introduction of this scholar is needed first.

 Sheikh Mohammed al-Ghazali al-Saqqa was an Islamic cleric and scholar whose writings "have influenced generations of Egyptians". The author of 94 books, Sheikh Ghazali attracted a broad following with works that sought to interpret Islam and its holy book, the Qur'an, in a modern light. He is widely credited with contributing to a revival of Islamic faith in Egypt in recent times. [2] Another source called him "one of the most revered sheikhs in the Muslim world."[3]) – Wikipedia


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Sheikh Mohammed al-Ghazali al-Saqqa writes in his Commentary on Surah Taubah verse 5, (Q.9:5):

“… Muslims are therefore basically opposed to war and are never the ones to start it. By the imperative of their own religion, they are taught not to impose their beliefs on others by force. Their mission is to impart and communicate Allah’s message, leaving people free to decide whether to believe or reject it. Those who refuse to believe are free to pursue their lives in peace as long as they do not pose any obstacle or threat to Islam and the Muslims, who perceive their faith as the strongest and most vital binding relationship between Allah and humankind and that it is their responsibility to make others aware of it and provide them with the opportunity to understand and appreciate it.

"This is the basis of the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in Islamic society. Allah says elsewhere in the Qur’an:

“Therefore, if they (the unbelievers) do not trouble you and cease their hostility towards you and offer you peace, God gives you no authority over them” [al-Nisa: 90]. Those who take up arms against a Muslim state or parts of it must be met with force, and if they are overcome, they should be disarmed. Once that is achieved, they are free to lead their own lives and practise their beliefs in peace and security under the protection of the Muslim authorities, in return for which they have to pay a levy.

“This is the background against which prescription of the Jizyah, or exemption tax, came into being. It is not due from those who are neutral and have never taken up arms against the Muslim state. The Qur'anic verse gives ample explanation for the reason behind the establishment of this tax, for it stipulates who should pay it. They are those “who do not believe in God and the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, and who do not follow the true religion, until they pay the exemption tax unreservedly and with humility.”

--- Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali al-Saqqa, “A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an” [The International Institute of Islamic Thought, Second Printing, 2005]

 Appendix 6  

The above pacifist view, however, has not been the dominant view, nor very influential. Probably the most influential of theologians of the 20th century, has been a Shia mystic and Iran’s revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. His views are no different from that of Sunni Salafi theologians like Syed Qutub of Egypt and Maulana Abul Ala Maududiof India who later shifted to Pakistan. Imam Khomeini says:


Islam’s jihad is a struggle against idolatry, sexual deviation, plunder, repression, and cruelty. The war waged by [non-Islamic] conquerors, however, aims at promoting lust and animal pleasures. They care not if whole countries are wiped out and many families left homeless. But those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. All the countries conquered by Islam or to be conquered in the future will be marked for everlasting salvation. For they shall live under [God’s law]. ...


Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does that mean that Muslim should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill the [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender [to the enemy]? Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors! 


There are hundreds of other [Koranic] psalms and hadiths [sayings of the prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.  

---- From the book Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East (a collection of source documents and statements from key militant Islamic figures). The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini answers the question, “Is Islam a religion of peace?” 


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Appendix 7 

Excerpts from writings of Salafi Theologians for a comparative study with the Sufi theologians quoted above:  

 Imam Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328): Most revered Hanbali jurist and scholar among Wahhabi-Salafi Muslims whose influence has recently grown immensely with the propagation of his creed by the Saudi monarchy:


“Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God's entirely and God's word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought... As for the People of the Book and the Zoroastrians, they are to be fought until they become Muslims or pay the tribute (jizya) out of hand and have been humbled. With regard to the others, the jurists differ as to the lawfulness of taking tribute from them. Most of them regard it as unlawful...”  (Excerpted from Rudolph Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1996), pp. 44-54).

 Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624): Indian Islamic scholar, Hanafi jurist, considered Mujaddidalf-e-Saani, the renewer of Islam of the second millennium:


“...Cow-sacrifice in India is the noblest of Islamic practices.”

“Kufr and Islam are opposed to each other. The progress of one is possible only at the expense of the other and co-existence between these two contradictory faiths is unthinkable.

"The honour of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One, who respects kafirs, dishonours the Muslims.”

"The real purpose in levying jizya on them is to humiliate them to such an extent that, on account of fear of jizya, they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling".

"Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam.”

(Excerpted from Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements in Northern India in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Agra, Lucknow: Agra University, Balkrishna Book Co., 1965), pp.247-50; and Yohanan Friedmann, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: An Outline of His Thought and a Study of His Image in the Eyes of Posterity (Montreal, Quebec: McGill University, Institute of Islamic Studies, 1971), pp. 73-74.)  

Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (1703–1762): Highly revered Indian scholar, theologian, Muhaddis (Hadith expert) and jurist:


“It is the duty of the prophet to establish the domination of Islam over all other religions and not leave anybody outside its domination whether they accept it voluntarily or after humiliation. Thus the people will be divided into three categories. Lowly kafir (unbelievers), have to be tasked with lowly labour works like harvesting, threshing, carrying of loads, for which animals are used. The messenger of God also imposes a law of suppression and humiliation on the kafirs and imposes jizya on them in order to dominate and humiliate them…. He does not treat them equal to Muslims in the matters of Qisas (Retaliation), Diyat (blood money), marriage and government administration so that these restrictions should ultimately force them to embrace Islam.” (Hujjatullahu al-Balighah, volume – 1, Chapter- 69, Page No 289)

 Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703–1792): Founder of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi-Salafi creed:


“Even if the Muslims abstain from shirk (polytheism) and are muwahhid (believer in oneness of God), their faith cannot be perfect unless they have enmity and hatred in their action and speech against non-Muslims (which for him actually includes all non-Wahhabi or non-Salafi Muslims). (Majmua Al-Rasael Wal-Masael Al-Najdiah 4/291).

Abul A'laMaududi (1903–1979): Indian ideologue, founder of Jamaat-e-Islami:

 “Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam, regardless of the country or the nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a state on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which nation assumes the role of the standard-bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic State. …

"Islam requires the earth — not just a portion, but the whole planet.... because the entire mankind should benefit from the ideology and welfare programme [of Islam] ... Towards this end, Islam wishes to press into service all forces which can bring about a revolution and a composite term for the use of all these forces is ‘Jihad'. .... The objective of the Islamic ‘jihad’ is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule.” (Jihad fil Islam).

 Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi, a Hyderabad-based scholar, justifies indiscriminate violence in his fatwa on the concept of power in Islam. Let me quote a few lines from the writings of this maulana who runs a girls’ madrasa in Hyderabad and is known to have been an inspiration behind Indian Mujahedin:


 “Let it be known that, according to Islamic jurisprudence, fighting the infidels (kuffar) in their countries is a duty (farz-e-kifayah) according to the consensus of ulema …

“… I can say with full conviction that qital (killing, violence, armed struggle) to uphold the kalimah (declaration of faith) has neither been called atrocity or transgression nor has it been prohibited. Rather, qital has not only been ordained for the purpose of upholding the kalimah but also stressed and encouraged in the Book (Quran) and the Sunnah (Hadith). Muslims have indeed been encouraged and motivated to engage in qital and they have been given good tidings of rewards for this.”

 “It is the duty (of Muslims) to struggle for the domination of Islam over false religions and subdue and subjugate ahl-e-kufr-o-shirk (infidels and polytheists) in the same way as it is the duty of the Muslims to proselytise and invite people to Islam. The responsibility to testify to the Truth and pronounce the Deen God has entrusted with the Muslims cannot be fulfilled merely by preaching and proselytising. If it were so there would be no need for the battles that were fought.

 “Jihad has been made obligatory to make the Deen (religion) dominate and to stop the centres of evil. Keeping in view the importance of this task, the significance of jihad in the name of God has been stressed in the Quran and Hadith. That’s why clear ordainments have been revealed to Muslims about fighting all the kuffar (infidels): “Unite and fight the polytheists (mushriks) just as they put up a united front against you” (Surah Tauba: 9:36)”.

 [Excerpted and translated from Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi’s Urdu booklet "Taqat ka Istemal Quran kiRaoshni Main," ‘The use of violence, in the light of the Qur’an’]

 Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (Born 1925), otherwise a promoter of peace and pluralism, says the following:


 "Efforts on the part of 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, kufr). (So) it was God’s decree that he (Prophet Mohammad) 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 (shirk, kufr) were based on falsehood, but also of resorting to military action, if the need arose, to eliminate that system for all time".

 [From Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s book “Islam – Creator of the Modern World,” re- printed in 2003].


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 It is ironic that even an indefatigable promoter of peace and pluralism among Muslims has to concede on the basis of commonly accepted Islamic jurisprudence that the Prophet’s job was to eradicate unbelief from the world, even using military means. And if this is so, what would stop Osama Bin Ladens and Abu Bakr Baghdadis of this world claiming that they are simply carrying forward the Prophet’s unfinished mission?

A comparative analysis of all the above quotes will show that there is no difference between Shia, Sunni, Salafi, Sufi, Deobandi, Wahhabi, Ahl-e-Hadithi, Muslim Brotherhood’s or Jamaat-e-Islami theologies.

The message from all these sermons is clear. Islam must dominate the world and it is the duty of every Muslim to help the process. Wherever a Muslim turns to he gets the same Islam-supremacist message. The latest among the most authoritative books on Islamic theology is a 45-volume comprehensive Encyclopaedia of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). It was prepared by scholars from all schools of thought, engaged by Ministry of Awqaf& Islamic Affairs, Kuwait, over a period of half a century. Its Urdu translation was released in Delhi by Vice-president Hamid Ansari on 23 October 2009.

This most influential book of Islamic jurisprudence has a 23,000-word chapter on jihad. We moderate Muslims and Sufis keep talking ad nauseum about struggle against one’s own nafs (lower self, negative ego) being the real and greater jihad and qital (warfare) being rather insignificant, lesser jihad. But except one sentence in the beginning, the entire chapter talks entirely about the issues related with combating and killing enemies, i.e.  infidels, polytheists or apostates, starting with the stark declaration: “Jihad means to fight against the enemy.” There is no mention of real or greater jihad.

Then Ibn-e-Taimiyya is quoted to say: “… So jihad is wajib (incumbent) as much as one’s capacity”. Then comes the final, definitive definition: “Terminologically, jihad means to fight against a non-zimmi unbeliever (kafir) after he rejects the call towards Islam, in order to establish or raise high the words of Allah.” (Translated from original Arabic)

It is not difficult for an intelligent, educated Muslim to discover our hypocrisy. Clearly what is censured by us moderates as radical Islamist theology is not substantially different from the current Islamic theology accepted through a consensus by ulema of all schools of thought.

Late Osama bin Laden or his ideological mentor Abdu’llāhYūsuf ‘Azzām, now called father of global jihad, and his present-day successor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not invent a new theology. Their use of consensual theology is what lies behind their great success in attracting thousands of Muslim youth in such a short while. They will continue to attract more and more youths until we mainstream Muslims realise our hypocrisy and change course.

It is imperative that Sufi theologians, in particular, who are being seen as a source of hope for Islam in the 21st century, look within their own theologies and weed out elements of supremacism and political Islam that continue to be there. Let Islam be understood as a spiritual path to salvation, one of the many, not an exclusivist political, totalitarian ideology, designed to make Islam dominate and rule the world. There is much in Islamic scriptures that supports pluralism and co-existence with other religions, as there is much that supports exclusivism and political domination. Earlier theologians built their arguments on the basis of socio-political situations prevailing in their times to meet the challenges of their times; nothing is stopping theologians of 21st century to follow them in principle and build their arguments and interpretations of scripture on the basis of requirements of our era to meet the challenges like terrorism and gender injustice in Islam facing us today.  

Let me end with a saying of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), indeed a well-known Hadith recognised as authentic by several Muhaddithin of the third century Hijri or 10th century (CE). Let us spend some time reflecting on the implications of what the Prophet says here in regard to pluralism, co-existence with and acceptance of other religions as religions established by the same One God that we Muslims worship:


“My position in relation to the prophets who came before me can be explained by the following example: A man erected a building and adorned this edifice with great beauty, but he left an empty niche in the corner where just one brick was missing. People looked around the building and marvelled at its beauty. They wondered why a brick was missing from that niche. I am like unto that one missing brick and I am the last in the line of the Prophets". (Bukhari, Muslim, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Tirmizi, Musnad Abu Dawud).


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