Friday, June 4, 2010

Jihaad - A misunderstood principle

Jihaad - A misunderstood principle


In an age when many Muslim laws are being criticised and misrepresented, it is vital that Muslims fully equip themselves with the knowledge of their religion, so that Islam can be fully propagated in the Western world. One of the most misunderstood principles today, knowingly or unknowingly, is undoubtedly Jihad. In this article, Mohammad Arshad Al-Misbaahi highlights the exact meaning of Jihad, and how it is sometimes confused with kitaal (fighting) and harb (war).

Jihad is an Arabic word which is derived from Jahada. It means to struggle or strive. The Quran has made a clear distinction between kitaal (fighting) and Jihad. Jihad is such a comprehensive word that it encompasses striving and facing hardship in great difficulties. It is an all round struggle obligatory upon all Muslims, be it in physical capacity, intellectual ability, gift of speech or worldly riches. This fact has been elucidated throughout the Quran. To understand the true nature and significance of Jihad, we present these 2 verses;

?The believers are only those who believed in Allah and His apostle and thereafter doubted not, and struggled hard with their riches and their persons in the cause of Allah. Those! They are the truthful.?

?And strive hard for Allah, as is due unto Him hard striving. He has chosen you and has imposed no hardship on you in (the matter) of religion, the faith of your father Ibrahim.?

These two verses beautifully sum up the spirit of Jihad in Islam. It has a far wider scope than fighting. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once significantly remarked explaining the qualities of a true Mujaahid (one who strives in the path of Allah), ?The Mujaahid is one who tries to struggle against his self, i.e his evil self.?

Esteemed scholars have elucidated this point by saying that the Jihad, which is against the enemies of Allah, is only part of the struggle which a servant carries out. It is greater in significance to strive against your evil tendencies which have dominated your mind and heart, than to fight the enemies in the outside world. Imam Raghib points out that a Muslim is required to fight against three foes;

1. Against the visible enemy.
2. Against the devil.
3. Against the Nafs (self)

The Dear Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has explained in a clear manner that Jihad does not consist of using the sword only. Even when a Muslim uses his tongue for protesting against the atrocities of tyrants, he is waging Jihad. The following Ahadith (sayings) mention that the best Jihad is to speak up to the truth.

?The highest kind of Jihad is to speak up to the truth in the face of a tyrannical Sultan (leader).?

?Whoever amongst you sees something abominable should endeavour to change it with his hand. If the necessary power is lacking then he should use his tongue. If this is not possible then at least abhor it in his heart. And this is in fact the weakest point of Imaan (faith).?

These sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) make it very clear that Jihad in Islam is not an act of violence. It is in fact an all round struggle to bring peace and tranquillity to the world. Let us keep in mind that Jihad is only permitted in Islam in respect of defence against any aggression, or when the onslaught of the enemy is imminent.

Otherwise, war is morally unjustifiable. The Dear Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) preached Islam exactly as his Lord had guided him through the Quran. He and his companions tolerated untold hardship and persecution at the hands of the Meccan pagans, but even in this situation, his Creator ordered him to; ?Invite all to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation and argue with them with that which is best.? And wait in patience the command of your Lord. For verily you are in our eyes.? (52;48)

The Quran further says;
?But turn away from them and say ?peace?. But soon shall they know.? (43;89)

In the Quran the Muslims are consoled by Allah that their hardship is not going to continue forever, and that soon truth will prevail. Allah says;

?Tell those who believe to forgive those who do not look forward to the days of Allah?.

Even in the unbearable circumstances of Mecca, when Muslims were facing great hardship, they were instructed with the following words;

?Repel evil with that which is best; We are well acquainted with things they say.?

Permission for Jihad.

After 13 very difficult years in Mecca, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was given the permission to migrate to a peaceful place, Madina. Even though the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his followers had given up everything for the sake of Islam, the infidels would still not let them live in peace.

In the light of these circumstances, it was imperative to defend the cause of religion, the newly found Islamic State and also its new culture. The first revelation regarding Jihad came in Medina in these words;

?To those whom against war is waged, permission is given to fight because they are wronged; and verily Allah is most powerful for their aid; they are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right- for no cause except that they say ?Our Lord is Allah?.? (22;39-40)

The above mentioned Quranic verses should be an eye opener for those people who wrongly indict Islam as a religion which spread through the sword and force in the early days. A little contemplation indicates that during the first 13 years of Islam, no permission for Jihad was granted. When finally it was granted, it was basically on the account of the following reasons;

1. The mission of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in its early days was persecuted and thwarted for no other reason other than that Muslims believed in Allah and adopted a system quite different to the existing ones in pagan Arabia.
2. If Jihad had not been permitted even after the migration (Hijrah), the enemies would have destroyed the very roots of Islam. The non-believers would have persisted in their hatred and tyranny in order to force Muslims to give up their belief in Allah.
3. The special permission for Jihad was given so that Allah?s law could be established on this earth.

It was in the second year at Medina that Jihad became compulsory in the following words;

?Fighting is prescribed for you though you dislike it. But it is possible you dislike something which is good for you, and that you love something which is bad for you. But Allah knows and you know not?. (2;216)

Jihad in Islam is never fought merely for territorial gain or colonialism. It is always the desire of the Mujaahedeens to spread the truth, Islam. When we look at the conquests of Hitler, Napoleon, the British, Dutch and French imperialists, it is clear that their only aim was to deprive free nations of their inborn freedom.

Many non-Muslim biographers of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) have tried to paint a sombre picture of him as a man with the sword in one hand and the Quran in the other. If we look at the ten years when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) undertook military leadership, we learn that the total loss of life incurred by the Muslims was only 255, as against 759 enemies of Islam.

With this small number of casualties Islam has spread over a million square miles and all opposition was suppressed. If these Jihad movements were at all inspired to convert people to Islam by force, they would have left behind a record of atrocities, just as we find in the case of other religious wars.

It will be interesting to note that the total number of prisoners taken in all Jihads were 6524. From this number, only two were executed for definite crimes committed, while 6347 were released. The remaining 215 prisoners probably accepted Islam and became part of the Muslim Ummah.

In short, we have learnt that Islam has assigned a special place to Kitaal (fighting). Throughout human history there have arisen circumstances where the use of arms has become a dire necessity. Therefore Islam has permitted the use of force. But it should be kept in mind that fighting in Islam represents in Muslim law what is known amongst western jurists as the ?just way?.

To conclude let us quote one last verse from the Quran to remind ourselves of the sanctity of life in Islam;

?..On that account we ordained for the children of Israel that if one slew a person, unless it be for murder of for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew all human beings. And if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of all human beings.?

Hafiz Muhammad Arshad Al-Misbaahi. (The author is a graduate and former teacher of Jamia Al-Karam. He is currently an Imam at Victoria Park Mosque, Manchester.)

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