Rethinking Jihad (with reference to some new Urdu books on it)

The most misunderstood Islamic term, no doubt is Jihad. It is most talked upon and most written about subject as well. Jihad is commonly believed as terrorism particularly in non-Muslim circles, yet the fact of the matter is that Jihad is not the name of terrorism. There is as much distance between them both as there is between heaven and earth. Islam and bloodshed can never come together like fire and water can never come together. This fact is very clear from the Holy Qur’an which is the first authentic source of Islam. The same is known from the established Sunnah of the holy prophet. However, the jurisprudential views based on some prophetic traditions and on instances from early periods of Muslim history, create some misconceptions in the hearts of the people about jihad. And these misunderstandings are not trivial but so common that good minds fall prey to them. Not only that but being a commonplace matter, they get a lot of attention, as coming from the words, slogans, sermons, and unsolicited statements of ignorant clergy, the Islamophobes do not spare a single minute in propagating those false notions against the religion of Islam. Therefore, it is important to close the gaps wherefrom all the  misunderstandings arise.

For that blessed purpose some Muslim Ulema , scholars and writers from subcontinent such as Inayatullah Subhani, Ammar Khan Nasir, Yahya Numani ,Sultan Ahmad Islahi and of course Javed Ahmad Ghamdi wrote on Jihad and tried their best to go away with many misgivings and misunderstandings around Jihad and the related issues. But some more rigid scholars and ulema confront them with some objections and heated response so close reading of classical Muslim stand on this issue is a must, so that one understands and thereby can give a  satisfactory answer to the objections. One thing in principle, should be clear here. And that is: one thing is the text of the Qur’an and Sunnah, which is ever lasting, the other is its interpretation which is totally another thing. An interpretation is a human understanding only  ,it cannot be given a  divine status, and it could be changed time to time. While the divine text always remains the same. We must clearly distinguish between the two. And scholars have always distinguished between them. But unfortunately, most of the time we are not able to keep this difference in mind. Obviously, the text is always the same, but it is not necessary that there be the same uniformity in its understanding, nor is it required from us to do so .For, this undermines the universality of religion. The understanding of a religion is not an indispensable part of religion but a part of the religious tradition and religious thought which is used to continue the journey of knowledge. Understanding text is always evolving, there is always a possibility of new research and fresh interpretation. It is a pity in our traditional circles that the principle of inquiry is not freely practiced and the understanding of religious text is not being encouraged. For example, there is a well-known and popular belief among Muslims about jihad that disbelief كفر will not be tolerated and jihad has been started only for the eradication of disbelief from the surface or the earth. In his book, by studying the relevant verses and researching the hadiths, Subhani has argued that this theory is wrong. The Qur’an proves the legitimacy of jihad for the eradication of sedition, persecution and oppression only. The author has invited scholars and readers for a scholarly discussion.(see his two books جہاداورروح جہاد ،جہاداورآیات جہاد:

Yahya Numani also  has similar views on Jihad yet, he defended the jurist’s views and criticized Modudi’s idea of not tolerating the dominance of kufr on its own territory. He observes that a close and fresh reading of the text reveals that the legitimacy of jihad depends on persisting persecution and tyranny of a ruler or a nation and not a religion or any creed, as well as Islam allows for infidels to have a political system of their choice  (see what is Jihad by Numani)

Sultan Ahmad Islahi in his bookآزاد ہندوستان اورمسلم اقلیت کا کردار observed that aggressive war was justified in the case of righteous caliphate (Khilafate rashdia) era, as it was according to the Urf and custom of  those times, in modern times the custom has changed so we have to have new opinion on Jihad too.

Moulana Wahiduddin Khan in his book zuhore Islam opines that Muslim invasions in Rashidun’s era on Iran, Iraq ,Egypt ,Syria etc were triggered firstly in defence of Arabian territories, then eventually this war drive became offensive. It was to him ,a part of historical Islam, it doesn’t belong to core issue of Dawah ,which should be done peacefully.

    This is of course a new study and new understanding of the verses related to jihad on which the learned authors have invited scholars and readers to ponder upon.

The above referred new books correct some misconceptions, for example, Muslims under the influence of certain traditions have the notion that there is a compulsion in religion. Muslim jurists and scholars generally justify this view saying that there are a number of prophetic traditions that prove this to be true, for example, that a child should be commanded to pray at the age of seven and be punished at the age of ten for praying. It is also argued that the punishment for apostasy is murder ,that also proves coercion. And Shah Waliullah has also written in Hujjatullah al-Balighah that there is compulsion in religion. We should talk briefly on his points also.

SHAH Waliullah justified اكراه coercion likening it to a ‘’master compelling his sick slaves to have a bitter but curing drug forcefully, be the sick slave willing to drink it or not. Because his lord has the power to give him that medicine and can not be blamed for that.

فمثله في دلك كمثل سيد مرض عبيده فأمربعض خواصه أن يكلفهم شرب دواء شاواام ابوافلو انه اكرهم على دلك كان حقا(حجة الله البالغة الجزء الاول،القسم الاول مبحث السياسات الملية ص      157دارالجيل)(The same applies to the master of the diseased slaves ,who ordered  some of his friends to compel them drinking a medicine they like it or not, for that was really his right

Hujjat Allah Al-balighah, Part 1, Section One, discussion on  Political Policy Studies, p. 157)

To me, this orientation and justification may sound good in his times when slavery was not abolished, but in today’s times it is safely may be said that the example may not be true and plausible for our times. Secondly our universe is governed by some divine rules and laws ,among them there is the law of testing and examining people based on the principle that “in the sphere of belief human being is given full freedom of choice”, after showing him  both the way; good and bad, to see and judge which way he goes. He has been given reason and intellect supported with the divine revelation, thus the convincing argument is completed for him by every standard. So now one has no excuse to present in his case on the day of judgement. Thirdly then there are so many verses in the Quran fix the right of freedom of choice. Shah’s reasoning negates these verses which are in abundance in the holy book is tantamount to negate it.

Ammar Khan Nasir also have the same critical observation on Shah’s view.

Now the question is, can we satisfy the modern  mind with these arguments? And the bigger question is what is achieved by these methods? Does beating a child or a student make him more observant and enthusiastic about prayers? The question that has always been in our minds is whether this unwise method can be attributed to the holy Prophet? (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Subhani’s research shows all these traditions have come from weak sources, therefore it is not correct to make the Qur’anic command of لااكراه في الدين suppressed by such weak hadith. The right way instead of beating children or students for prayers etc., is to give them loving advice, benevolent treatment and compassionate counselling and training. The effects will be positive and lasting.

The raison d’être of Jihad to the jurist’s is ending the disbelief كفر ,

In our opinion, this notion of jurists needs to be examined in detail. Their argument is that because of disbelief, the people of disbelief become rebellious against God, so their lives, wealth and reputation are not Protected. If they have received these things, then they have obtained them thanks to existence of people of Islam. Therefore, the jurists generally believe that the real relationship between the disbelievers and the followers of Islam is war and not reconciliation. It could be for a limited time period no more than 10 year, and they should continue to attack the infidel government from time to time as it is the position adopted by the Shafie school of thought. The Hanafis have a different opinion and in their view peace and war are based on the interests of the Muslim state. The question is whether this classical jurisprudential position needs to be reconsidered or not? Maulana Maududi disagreed a little with this position and said that disbelief is not an issue and no war will be fought only because of disbelief but the glory of disbelief is not tolerable in the eyes of Islam.(See الجہادفی الاسلام )

 Scholars of Farahi school of thought, such as Javed Ahmad Ghamdi, argue that the law of completing the convincing argument(اتمام حجت ) is at paly here.(See his book قانون جہاد: میزان جاویداحمدغامدی

Ammar Khan Nasir a distinguished scholar , also furthered this view and added new meaning to the basic ideas of Farahi school of thought, as his book shows brilliantly (See جہادایک مطالعہ)

  In any case, the position of Subhani is different from these two positions and he considers only the persecution and mischief of the disbelievers as the cause of jihad. Similarly, he did not consider the law of completing the convincing argument as a proof for waging a jihad against disbelievers.

*Research Associate with Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India, AMU Aligarh.

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Mohammad Ghitreef
3 years ago

There is a dire need to do a continuous discussion about this important topic, we began it and we invite the readers to participate in this discussion on it.
Mohammad Ghitreef

Mami Masaki gives the most passionate Moreat

You’ve made some reallpy gopd points there. I checcked onn
tthe web to find oout ore about tthe issue and foynd
most individcuals will goo along ith your views oon this website.

1 year ago

Very descrriptive article, I enjoyed thbat
a lot. Will there be a part 2?

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