Chapter 15: Dynamics of Islamic Jihad by Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



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Dynamics of Islamic Jihad

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



  1. Why the Charge?

  2. Islam Stands for Peace

  3. Distinction Between Islamic Jihad and Terror

  4. Who is Terrorist?

  5. The Need of the Time

I- Why the Charge?

No religion in the history of the mankind spread as rapidly as the religion of Islam. For centuries Christianity had hidden itself in byways and corners; not until it had largely absorbed and assimilated paganism, not until a half-pagan monarch had come to its assistance with edicts and orders, was it able to rear its head among the creeds of the world.[1] Similar was the case of Bhuddhism and Zoroastrianism who won their way slowly, by painful struggle, and finally triumphed with the aid of powerful monarchs like Asoka and Cyrus respectively. Judaism never became a popular faith and never rose above the cult of the Jewish race. Islam, unlike other great religions of the world, sallied forth on its great adventure with the slenderest human backing and against the heaviest material odds and triumphed with seemingly miraculous ease.[2] The extraordinary rapidity with which the religion of Muhammad (PBUH) spread over the surface of the globe and its marvelous effect upon the minds of men gave rise to the charge that Islam was a religion of sword and it spread through sword. This charge still persisted when new charge of terrorism has recently been added. As the charge of religion of sword was on account of Islam’s rapid spread, similarly charge of terrorist religion has been levelled due to resurrected Islamic concept of Jihad which the Muslims are waging today against the forces of oppression. The accusers, both time, are the same – the non-Muslims led by Christians. See the map of the modern world and mark the hot spots where some type of cold or open war is going on, you would find that Muslims are definitely involved as one of the parties in the trouble, most often being the persecuted one. But still the Muslims are called terrorists and their religion is called terrorist religion! Let us examine the charge in detail in this chapter to see whether there is any truth in it.

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 II-  Islam Stands For Peace

Al-Islam or the Islam literally means peace or submission and complete surrender to the will of Almighty God, the Creator, the Sustainer and Sovereign of the whole universe. Being the last revealed religion and having universal appeal to all humanity, Islam teaches peace and security and enjoins upon its followers to surrender to the will of God completely. It attaches paramount importance to human life which in its view is sacred and cannot be taken without lawful cause. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, equates unjust murder of one human being with murder of whole mankind, and protection of life of one person with protection of whole humankind. It says: “whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and who saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind…..”

––(5 :32)

Despite glorifying sanctity of human life, no doubt, Islam allows Jihad or war in which many lives are lost. However, this permission is given in very exceptional circumstances. War is allowed when the followers of Islam are oppressed, persecuted, and are attacked or when their faith, their ideology or their land and their homes are attacked. Islam being religion of humanity, peace and security does not permit its followers war of aggression or war with the motives of killing and conquering other human being or war with the imperial or colonial ambitions to subjugate weaker nations for expansion of empire and trade. Even war for converting the people to Islam is not allowed. The followers of Islam pick up sword in their defence, in the defence of their faith and country, or in the defence of the oppressed Muslims or even in the defence of non-Muslim oppressed communities if need arises. The oppressed, subjugated and persecuted Muslims are permitted to rise up and wage Jihad against their oppressors for liberation from their yoke. Thus in the case of the oppressed Muslim communities Jihad becomes a war of independence, a war to regain the usurped fundamental rights, and Islam permits such war.

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III-  Distinction Between Islamic Jihad and Terror

This brings us to the point where we can distinguish between Islam, Jihad and Terror or more directly between Islamic Jihad and Terror.

Islam, as we have stated earlier, means peace and security and teaches its followers to live in peace, avoid war and preach their religion through peaceful/means.

‘Jihad’ is derived from word ‘Jihada’ or ‘Jihadun’ and means ‘exertion’, ‘striving,’ or ‘struggle’. It means to exert one’s utmost or to make effort and struggle for the achievement of one’s aim or objective. In order to achieve an objective, Jihad is waged through various means i.e, with the help of physical force, with the help of one’s tongue and pen, or with spending of one’s wealth. It is waged against foreign enemy; against internal enemies like rebels and terrorists; against the oppressors who are persecuting their Muslim subject; against social evils; against natural calamities; against despotic rulers and dictators; against one’s own self to conquer one’s evil desires, vices and unlawful ambitions. Even Jihad includes struggle for earning one’s livelihood by lawful means and nation-building activities such as roads, canals, bridges, hospitals, educational institutions, communication projects, etc. Thus Jihad in Islam is a very wide term. It has a wider meaning than war which only means an armed struggle to combat the enemy. However, for the purpose of our present discussion Jihad will be used for war which is waged in pursuit of some noble cause.

‘Terror’, as defined by various dictionaries of English language, means extreme fear. It is use of violence and threats of violence to achieve an objective or aim. Terrorize is to fill with terror by threats of violence, to dominate, coerce, or subdue by terror, or intimidation. Terror also refers to a period of violence or terror, as caused by political enemies or a terrorist group. Terrorist is a person who supports or participates in terrorism of terrorist activities. Terrorism is an organized system of intimidation and violence for achievement of certain goals.

Terrorism consists of a series of acts intended to spread intimidation, panic, and destruction in a population. These acts can be carried out by individuals and groups opposing a state, or acting on its behalf. The amount of violence is often disproportionate, apparently random, deliberately symbolic: to hit a target which would convey a message to the rest of the population. Violence perpetrated by the state or by rightwing terrorist groups is anonymous. Its goals are to shift sectors of public opinion to support the restoration of law and order and repressive measures, at the same time physically destroying political opponents and intimidating their actual and potential supporters. Violence from left-wing groups is usually ‘signed’. Its goals are the awakening of public opinion to the injustices of the ‘system’, the ‘punishment’ of hated representatives of the system and their lackeys, and the expansion of political support for, and/or the defence of, their organizations. The ultimate goal is to muster enough support to overthrow the regime or, at least, to produce a revolutionary situation. An intermediate stage might be the unmasking of the ‘fascist face’ of the regime and the revelation to the population of its repressive reality.

There is not a single cause of terrorism: several conditions and determinants must be present. For state terrorism the most important conditions are the willingness and determination of the dominant groups to retain power against mounting opposition, even by violent means. For sociopolitical terrorism, it is the unability to acquire sufficient support for radical changes in the light of mass passivity and elite unresponsiveness. However, terrorism is never simply the response to socioeconomic conditions of marginality. It is always the product of a political project. Be they at the service of the state or against the state, the terrorists pursue political goals.

According to their goals, one can define and identify several types of terrorism: repressive, revolutionary, secessionist. It is also possible to speak of international terrorism – though somewhat inappropriately – for those groups staging their activities on the international sence. They want to dramatize their plight and obtain international visibility, recognition, and support (such as some sectors of the Palestine Liberation. Organization (PLO), the Armenians, the Ustasha). However, most terrorist organizations are indigenous, such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the German Rote Armee Fraktion, the Italian Brigate roses and the neo-fascist Ordine Nuovo, the French Action Directe, the Basque ETA. They have roots and pursue goals that are inherently ‘national’, even though they might enjoy some (reciprocal) ‘international’ support.[3]

From the foregoing discussion it is clear that Islamic Jihad has no relation with terrorism neither those who wage Jihad are terrorists. Jihad, as we have discussed at length in this book, is a war which the followers of Islam wage against the aggressors, oppressors, tyrants, persecutors, disturbers of peace, makers of mischief in the land, perpetrators of corruption on God’s earth, terrorists and attackers of Islam and Islamic land. Jihad is waged for a just and noble cause and through open and transparent means. No aggressive or imperialistic war is permitted by Islam. Islam permits war only in defence when Islamic faith, Islamic country and the Muslim community is attached. Jihad does not mean killing and plundering others but offering one’s ownself to be killed. It is a supreme sacrifice required of an idealist, sacrifice both of property and life, for the sole purpose of obeying the command of one’s creator and master, God Almighty.[4] The justification as well as philosophy of Jihad has been underlined by the following verses of the Holy Qur’an

1.   Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.

––(2 : 190)

2.   How should ye not fight for the cause of Allah and of the feeble among men and of the women and the children who are crying: Our Lord! Bring us forth from out this town of which the people are oppressors! Oh, give us from Thy Presence some protecting friend! Oh, give us from Thy Presence some defender!

––(4 : 75)

3.   And fight them until persecution is no more and religion is for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is seer of what they do.

––(8 : 39)

4.   Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory: Those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they have said, Our Lord is Allah – for had it not been for Allah’s repelling some men by means of others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft mentioned, would assuredly would have been pulled down.

––(22 : 39-40)

The above mentioned verses of al-Qur’an are explicit and clear in bringing home the fact that Jihad is undertaken is defence of the Muslim community and in defence of the Islamic faith and country when subjected to aggression and invasion. It is also undertaken to assist those Muslims who are subjected to persecution and appression in non-Muslim lands in their struggle for liberation and independence. The Muslims are obliged even to wage Jihad for persecuted and oppressed non-Muslims for protection of their lives and places of worship. The laws of Jihad, as laid down by the Prophet of Islam, are humane, chivalrous, kind and tolerant. Killing of aged, children, women and disabled is prohibited. Servants and slaves, monks and hermits and those civilians who do not participate in war are not killed. The cruel and torturous ways of killing are not allowed neither mutilation of men and animals is allowed. Destruction of crops, cutting of trees unnecessarily, slaughtering of animals more than what is necessary for food and burning of houses is not allowed. Killing of enemy hostages and prisoners of war (except under the law) is strictly disallowed. General massacre and plunder is prohibited when the enemy is defeated. Prisoners of war are treated with utmost kindness and so are the subjugated people. Women captured in war are not raped. Sexual relations with them are prohibited until the caliph or the commander of forces formally distributes them among the soldiers and assigns them the responsibility of maintaining such women. The conquered people are to be provided full freedom of religion and their places of worship are to be protected.

Terrorism, on the contrary, is a philosophy as well as a practice which is resorted to by individuals or groups of individuals to achieve their aims and goals by terrifying the innocent people or by intimidating and coercing them. The terrorist groups are usually maphia groups who promote their political and material objectives through use of violence and threats of violence. They adopt all types of means without caring whether means adopted are lawful or unlawful, moral or immoral, fair or foul. They burn the houses, demolish the properties, blast the places of worship, implant bombs at airports, at railway stations, at official buildings, public places and even in educational institutions and hospitals. They hijack aeroplanes, kill helpless people and, kidnap innocent persons for ransom. They torture men, even women and children and kill them for achieving their ends. When terrorism is used by a state as an instrument of suppression of political opponents or minority communities, it indeed become a menace to humanity.

Thus both the concepts of Islamic Jihad and terrorism are diametrically opposed to each other. They have nothing in common. It is highly cruel and extremely unjust to bracket them together and relate them. It is rather one of the aims of Jihad to end terrorism, ‘fitnah’ (persecution) and ‘fisad’ (corruption and mischief in the land).

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IV-  Who is Terrorist?

The Muslims today are called terrorists, fundamentalists, extremists and militants. But the most popular label is that of terrorist while Islam is labeled as terrorist religion which teaches its followers militantism, terrorism and extremism. America blames that Islamic countries are supplying arms and money to at least thirty organizations engaged in terrorist activities around the world. Out of these organization, nine are allegedly working under the patronage of Osama bin Laden (formerly of America against Soviet Union in Afghanistan) who has been declared by America as the most wanted person being number one terrorist in the world. Out of seven countries placed by America on terrorist list, five are Muslim countries and out of various organizations enlisted for terrorist activities majority are those of Muslims which are engaged in Jihad. In a latest report,. American Foreign Office blames that Pakistan and Afghanistan are haven for international terrorists and South Asia is center from where terrorism is sponsored. Pakistan is being pressurized to persuade Afghanistan to hand over Osama-bin-Laden to America. Pakistan is also being pressurized to close down Islamic Madrissas (Islamic religious Seminaries) which, according to America, are engaged in the training of the terrorists. In 1998 America launched missile attacks against Sudan and Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama.

Encouraged by American stance. India, the most notorious country for its state terrorism against the people of Kashmir, has urged America to declare Pakistan a terrorist country as well as twenty-five organizations of Kashmiri Muslims which are engaged in Jihad in Kashmir as terrorists.

The question arises: Is Islam a terrorist religion and its followers terrorists? Our answer to this question is emphatic No.

Let us now glance through the affairs of contemporary world to find out who is terrorist?

There are about one billion and twenty crore Muslims in the world today-out of whom eighty crore Muslims are living in fifty-six Muslim countries while forty crore Muslims are living in non-Muslim countries. No doubt in some non-Muslims lands the Muslims are living happily as they are given good treatment and are granted human rights. But in countries like India, Russia, Israel, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia, Burma and Philippines, Muslim minorities are being severely persecuted and oppressed.

The Muslims are fighting battle of their survival in Kashmir, Palestine, Chechnya, Sinkiang, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Eriteria, Arakan and in some islands of Philippines. During last two decades, more than three million Muslims have been killed and many millions have been wounded or expelled from their homes. There are twenty million refugees in the world today; more than 80% are Muslims. Three hundred thousand Muslim leaders are in jails on the grounds of their religion and conscience. More than one hundred thousand Muslim women have been subjected to gang rape. Thousands of children were burnt alive. Hundreds of thousands of houses of the Muslims were burnt and hundreds of their places of worship were damaged and demolished during last few years. Properties of Muslims worth billions of dollars have been destroyed during last decade alone. Mass graves of Muslims are found in Bosnia, Kossovo, chechnya and other lands. The Muslims are indeed denied the very basic human rights such as protection of life, property and honour, religious freedom and access to places of worship.

Are the persecuted Muslims terrorists or are their persecuters terrorists? To be more direct: Are the oppressed Muslims of Kashmir terrorists or are their oppressors the Indians terrotists? Are the persecuted Palestinian Arabs terrorists or are their persecutors the Jews of Israel terrorists? Are the helpless Chechens terrorists or are the Russian plunderers terrorists? Are the innocent Bosnian and Albanian Muslims terrorists or are the ruthless Serbian Christians terrorists? The answer to these questions is left to human conscience although it is very obvious.

The fault of the persecuted Muslims in these lands is that they are Muslims. Their latest fault is that they have been forced to wage Jihad for their suvival. They are freedom fighters and are fighting war of independence.

If the Muslims are terrorists, they must torture and terrorize the non-Muslim minorities living with them. There are fifty-six Muslim countries in the world. Can an impartial observer levy any serious charge of persecution of non-Muslim minorities against any Muslim country. How many non-Muslims have been killed in Muslim lands during last decade? How many non-Muslims have been expelled from their homes? How many non-Muslim women have been gang raped in Muslim countries? How many non-Muslim leaders have been put in jails on religious grounds? How many places of worship of non-Muslims have been burnt in Muslim lands? How many massgraves of non-Muslims have been found in Muslim countries?

The answer to these questions would be emphatic No. There may be very few such incidents of small nature in Muslim countries but they generally take place in reaction to incidents of large scale persecution of Muslim minorities in non-Muslim lands; for example some incidents in Pakistan took place in reaction against demolition of Babari Mosque in India in 1992.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country. In Indonesia there are ninety percent Muslims. Five percent Christians are killing the Muslims wherever the Christians are strong and in majority. East Timor happens to be a small part of a small island of Indonesia. The non-Muslim powers could not tolerate that it should remain under Muslim rule although the Christians had an upper hand in this island and were not being persecuted in any way. It has been finally made independent after disturbances of few years. Those who waged war of independence in this island were awarded Nobel Prize and garlanded as heroes and freedom fighters. But those who wage Jihad for liberation of Kashmir and Chechnya are called terrorists. Is it justice by any moral standard?

When Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979-80, America saw in this invasion an opportunity to take revenge of its own humiliation in Vietnam. It organized Jihad in Afghanistan against Russia and engaged the Muslims from all over the world. The Muslim participants in the war were freedom fighters and Mujahideen when they were fighting against Russia. But when Russia was defeated and ultimately dismembered, America changed its standard overnight. Now the same Mujahideen are being labeled as terrorists and Jihad as terrorism. Why this turnabout? The reason is obvious. Jihad and Mujahideen were used to humiliate and defeat enemy number one. After dissolution of Soviet Union, America has been left as the only super-power on the globe. Now America perceives danger in Jihad because Jihad is the force which can change the status quo in the world. Therefore, Jihad is terrorism and Mujahideen are terrorists who need to be crushed.

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V-  The Need of the Time

The need of the time is that the world should understand the difference between Jihad and Terror and between Mujahid and Terrorists. In the lands where the Muslims are being persecuted Jihad is being waged. The freedom fighters or Mujahideen are in no way terrorists. They are fighting to liberate the persecuted people from the yoke of oppressors. Instead of suppressing the Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries and crushing their freedom fighters after condemning them as terrorists, the propriety demands that the grievances of such minorities should be understood and redressed.

A true Muslim understands the difference between Jihad and terror. He has no hesitation to share the concerns of the United States about terrorism. He would readily denounce the incidents of bomb blast in US embassy in East Africa in 1998, the Oklahoma city bombing in 1996 and the world Trade Centre attack in 1993. But he would not accept the destruction of the Muslim communities in Kashmir, Chechnya and Kossovo.

Let the sanity prevail in the world and let their usurped human rights be restored to the oppressed. Muslim minorities of the non-Muslim countries. It would be useful for the cause of international peace and security. Otherwise Jihad would go on because a true Muslim considers it his religious obligation to wage war against the oppressors whenever and wherever the oppressed on God’s earth cry for help.

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[1]       Ameer Ali: ‘The Spirit of Islam.

[2]       Lothrope.

[3]       The Social Science Encyclopedia.

[4]       Dr. Hamidullah: ‘The Muslim Conduct of State.

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