Why Jihad after all? Why does Islam permit Jihad? Why do the Muslims wage Jihad? These and alike are some of the questions which are generally raised by non-Muslim critics against Islamic doctrine of Jihad. It is perhaps due to misunderstanding of Jihad that Muslims are being labelled, in the world of today, as terrorists, extremists, fundamentalists, militants and harbingers of doom; while Islam is being perceived as threat to international peace and security because in the view of the critics it preaches war and violence.
In this chapter we would try to explain, according to our understanding and knowledge, the philosophy of Jihad and the reasons which justify it. Aims and objectives of Jihad will also be elaborated. So far as the charge of terrorism against the followers of Islam is concerned, we shall examine it in a separate chapter.
The word ‘Islam’ literally means ‘peace’. It also means submission to the will of Allah, who is the Creator, the Sustainer and Sovereign of the whole universe. In the chain of revealed religions, Islam is the last one. It is the final religion and its message is perfect and complete. Islam came to give peace and security to mankind and being a universal religion for humanity it teaches its followers to live in peace and follow the path of complete submission and obedience to the commands of God.
Thus peace is fundamental to Islam and Islam attaches great sanctity to human life. Of all the things of the world, human life is no doubt the most valuable one. The life in fact is a trust of Allah and it is the foremost duty of the followers of Islam to preserve and protect it under all circumstances. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, highlights the importance of human life when it condemns the first human murder, by a son of Adam who killed his brother, in the following words which have achieved fame of a proverb on the sanctity of human life….” 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 whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.
This verse of the Holy Qur’an emphatically asserts the value of human life. According to the Qur’an, human life is so much valuable that murder of even one individual without lawful cause will be treated as if the whole humankind were killed and the preservation of the life of a single person shall be taken as if the whole human race had been saved. A few other verses of the revealed book of Islam are reproduced to emphasise how strongly the assassination of a human being has been forbidden.
1. ……. And that ye slay not the life which Allah has made sacred, save in the course of justice. This He hath commanded you, in order that ye may discern.
2. Slay not your children, fearing a fall to poverty, we shall provide for them and for you. Lo! the slaying of them is a great sin.
3. And slay not the life which Allah hath forbidden save with right. Whoso is slain wrongfully, We have given power unto his heir, but let him not commit excess in slaying. Lo! he will be helped.
Muhammad (PBUH), the Prophet of Islam has vehemently condemned the crime of murder. Following are some of his reported traditions which highlight this fact.
1. Abdullah-b-Mas’ud reported that the Messenger of Allah said: The murder of a Muslim …… is not lawful except for one of three (persons): life for life, a married adulterer and a retrograde from his religion……
2. Abdullah-b-Mas’ud reported that the Messenger of Allah said: The first of what will be decided on the Day of Resurrection among the people will be about (murder).
3. Abu Darda’a reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Perchance Allah will forgive every sin except (the sin of) one who dies a polytheist, or one who kills a believer deliberately.
4. Abu Hurairah reported from the Messenger of Allah who said: If all the inhabitants of heaven and earth take part in the murder of a believer, Allah will throw them all unto Hell.
5. The Prophet of Islam, in his world-famous address delivered during last pilgrimage, declared: “Most surely your life, your property and your honour are as sacred as this day of pilgrimage, this month of yours and this town of yours. Surely you will soon meet your Lord and you will be held answerable for your actions”. He further reiterated”. …… they will save their lives from me (i.e., the state) except when they commit a crime against the law of Islam…… their lives and their properties are sacred to us except when they violate the sanctity of the life and property of others, and Allah alone is the Judge of their intentions”. He is also reported to have once said that a believer’s faith continues expanding until he sheds sacrosanct blood.
The above mentioned verses of the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet of Islam establish the fact that human life in Islam is held sacred and taking it without lawful cause is a heinous crime and an unpardonable sin.
Despite glorifying sanctity of human life and holding life as a sacred trust, Islam permits war in which very many human lives are lost. Why? This is because Islam is a religion of peace and security and it is also a religion of nature and humanity. None understands human nature better than God Who has created the mankind. Human society is not composed of Angels who cannot do any wrong. Evil and good are in the instinct of man. There are certain individuals and groups of people who are evil minded and who do not let others live in peace. They transgress all bounds of morality and laws of society and violate the rights of others. They attack other individuals and nations and deprive them of their homes, property and lives. They subjugate other people, occupy their lands and impose their own laws and values on the conquered people. Thus they create mischief in the earth (fesad fil arz) and persecute the oppressed nations and, therefore, disturb the peace and security of the world. Such mischief mongers and corrupt have to be kept under restraint. This is how the question of war against such anti-human elements comes in. That is why Islam allows retaliation in the case of murder because in the words of the Qur’an: “And there is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding, that ye may ward off (evil)”-(2:179). And that is why Islam permits war for repelling aggression. The philosophy and rational behind this permission has been explained by the revealed book of Islam thus : “……And if Allah had not repelled some men by others, the earth would have been corrupted. But Allah is a Lord of Kindness to (His) creatures”-(2 : 251). At another place, the same underlying wisdom has been elaborated further: “For had it not been for Allah’s repelling some men by means of others, cloisters and churchs and oratories and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down”.-(22:40)
The Prophet of Islam and his followers were subjected to the worst type of persecution at Makkah for no fault other than that they worshipped One God and invited the people to the religion of Allah, to the way of belief, piety and justice. But the Quraish of Makkah, who were prophet’s own kith and kin, not only opposed and abused him but also inflicted extreme hardships and tyranny on him and his followers. So the Prophet (PBUH) and his followers were forced to leave their homes with their women and children and seek refuge in a far off town called Yasrib (Madinah). Even there, the Muslims were not allowed to live in peace. The non-believers of Makkah with their allies continued threatening and even physically attacking the new abode of Muslims with evil designs of destroying the followers of Islam and their religion completely. It was in these circumstances that the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions were allowed to take up arms in self-defence. The verse of the Holy Qur’an which grants them permission reads: “permission to fight has been granted to those against whom war has been waged because they have been treated unjustly, and God is certainly able to help them. These are the people who have been expelled unjustly from their homes only for the reason that they said ‘our Lord is Allah”……(22:39-40). Thus, war is the last resort when there is no other way left to check aggression. The Prophet of Islam is reported to have explained this point to his followers in these words: “Never desire war but pray to Allah for peace and security. And when you are (forced) to fight the enemy, fight with steadfastness and know that Paradise is under the shadow of swords”.
Islam being religion of peace and humanity does not allow war for aggressive designs or with the motives of killing or conquering other human beings. War has been permitted in defence only. Al-Qur’an, the religious scripture of Islam, ordains: “Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors” (2:190).
Grounds on which the Muslims are permitted to go to war or the reasons which justify waging of Jihad are now discussed as under :
1. War against Aggression: The Muslims are permitted to fight against those who have invaded them or who have invaded their faith or their country. In other words the Muslims are allowed to wage war in defence against the aggressors but they are not permitted to initiate aggression or hostilities against others. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, says: “Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.” ----(2 : 190)
The first verses of the Qur’an which gave permission to the Muslims to fight against aggression are: “Sanction is given to those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give victory; Those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they said, Our Lord is Allah………………” -----22(39-40)
Following Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) highlights that fight undertaken in defence of one’s ownself, one’s family, one’s property and the cause of Allah is a just war and if the person falls in such defence he is ‘shaheed’ or a martyr:
“Whoever fights in defence of his person and is killed he is a martyr; whoever is killed in defence of his property is a martyr; whoever fights in defence of his family and is killed, is a martyr; and whoever is killed for the cause of Allah is a martyr.”
War in defence can be waged against the enemy who has actually invaded the Muslim state or who has not actually so invaded but has behaved in an unbearable manner and is preparing to invade the Muslim territory. War of Uhud and war of the Trench were waged by the Prophet in defence against the aggressors who had actually invaded Madinah, whereas attach on Khaiber is in the nature of nipping the evil in the bud.
2. War against Persecution: It is war waged for a just cause against those oppressors and persecutors who restrain the Muslims from practicing their religion. Those who stop the Muslims from the way of Allah and put restrictions on the religious freedom of the Muslims, they commit a crime against Islam. The Holy Qur’an enjoins upon the Muslims to wage war against such persecuters. The Qur’an says: “Those who disbelieve and turn (men) from the way of Allah, He rendereth their actions vain.” -----(47 : 4) “And fight them until persecution is no more and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease , then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do.” ---(8 :39)
The followers of Islam have been exhorted to fight against those people who drive the Muslims from their homes and land and who persecute them because of their religious beliefs. The Qur’an says: “And slay them wherever ye find them and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out.” -----(2 191) At another place the Holy Book of Islam says: “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 said, Our Lord is Allah ………….” 22 : (39 : 40)
War against persecutor is justified as persecution is worse than manslaughter. The Qur’an says: “They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of worship, and to expel His people thence, is greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than manslaughter. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can……..” (2 : 217)
3. War in support of oppressed Muslims living in non-Muslim lands: If oppressed Muslims living in a non-Muslim country seek help of the Islamic state against their non-Muslim Government, help might be given to them. The Holy Qur’an enjoins upon its followers to help their oppressed and persecuted brothers in these words: “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 of 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)
However, such help is not unconditional. Such help cannot be given against a state with whom the Islamic state has treaty-relations. The Holy Qur’an says: “………And those who believed but did not leave their homes, ye have no duty to protect them till they leave their homes; but if they seek help from you in the matter of religion then it is your duty to help (them) except against a folk between whom and you there is a treaty. Allah is Seer of what ye do.” -----(8 : 72)
4. War against those who break treaties: Islam gives utmost honour to international treaties and conventions. However, it permits the Islamic state to take punitive action against those people or nations who have made treaties with the Islamic state but they either break such treaties openly or deceitfully indulge in hostile activities against the Islamic state in utter disregard of such treaties. The Holy Qur’an says:
----(8 : 56 – 58)
-----(9 : 4)
-----(9 : 12 – 13)
5. War against internal enemies: Islam permits the Muslim state to wage war against hypocrites, apostates, rebels and terrorists who raise standard of rebellion, refuse to pay Zakat and other taxes, openly disobey the laws of Islam, pose a danger to peace and security, undermine the law and order, and threaten the integrity and ideological basis of the state. The Qur’an says:
-----(9 : 73)
– O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be stern with them. Hell will be their home, a hapless journey’s end.
-----(66 : 9)
Islam, as we have already discussed, is a religion of peace and of humanity and it propagates peace and security. Islam sanctions war only in exceptional circumstances and that too in defence of Islamic faith, Islamic state, oppressed Muslims and for any other just cause against aggressors, persecutors, oppressors, terrorists and disturbers of peace and security. No wars with material designs to establish empires, to subjugate other nations, to occupy other countries, to expand Islamic state, to promote trade or commercial interests are allowed by Islam. Nor the use of sword or melitary power is permitted to forcibly convert the non-Muslims to Islam. There is no compulsion in religion, as stressed by the Holy Qur’an (2 : 256), and so no Jihad can be undertaken by the Muslims to bring others into the fold of Islam. In fact, Jihad is waged with very noble objectives which in brief are underlined as follows:
1. To Fight for the Cause of Allah: The Qur’an exhorts the believers to fight for the cause of Allah with their lives and their wealth in these words: “O, ye who, believe! Shall I show you a commerce that will save you from a painful doom? Ye should believe in Allah and His messenger, and should strive for the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is better for you, if ye did but know.” -----(61 : 10-11)
(a) Abu Musa reported that a man came to the Messenger of Allah and enquired: A man fights for booty, a man fights for fame, and a man fights that his position may be known – who then (fights) in the way of Allah? He said: Whoso fights to raise highest thereby the word of Allah, is in the way of Allah.
(b) Ubadah bin Thamat reported that once the Messenger of Allah said “whoever goes to fight in the way of Allah and has the intention to get one rope of a camel, he will get only that rope. He will not get any reward.”
–—(Hadith quoted by Encyclopedia of Seerah)
(c) Muadh bin Jabal reported Allah’s messenger as saying: “Fighting is of two kinds. The one who seeks God’s favour, obeys the leader, gives property he values, helps his associates and avoids doing mischief will have a reward for all the time he is asleep and awake, but the one who fights in a boasting spirit, for the sake of display and to gain a reputation, who disobeys the leader and does mischief in the earth will not return without blame.” (In other words, he will suffer punishment).
2. Self Defence: Second aim of jihad is self-defence, defence of one’s faith and religion, and defence of helpless men, women and children. The Qur’an says: “Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors ….” (2 : 190). When the Prophet and his followers were driven from Makkah and they settled at Madinah, Allah permitted them to fight: “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 because they said: “Our Lord is Allah ….” (22 : 39-40). For protection and help of weaker men, women and children, Qur’an enjoins upon the believers to fight in these words: “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 this town of which the people are oppressors! Oh God, give us from Thy presence some protecting friend! Oh, God give us from Thy presence some defence!”
(4 : 75)
3. To Protect Religious Freedom: The aim of war is not only to safeguard religion of Muslims only but also to protect religious freedom and places of worship of other religions. The Qur’an says: “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 have been pulled down……” (22:40). In this verse, the Qur’an has mentioned a universal principle of Allah that He replaces one people by the other through war so that one dominant group should not weild power in earth permanently and may not destroy the places of worship of various religions wherein the Name of Allah is remembered.
4. To Eliminate Persecution: Another objective of jihad in Islam is to end persecution, oppression, tyranny, aggression. The Qur’an says: “And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers.” (2:193). At another place the revealed book of Islam enjoins upon the believers thus: “And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do” (8:39). Persecution, in the sight of Allah is worse than slaughter, and this fact has been emphasized by the Qur’an on many occasions:” And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter ……” (2:191). At another place, persecution has been held even worse than fighting in the forbidden months. With regard to this, the Qur’an says: “They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the Way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable place of worship, and to expel His people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing” (2:217).
5. To Establish Peace: The ultimate aim of Jihad is to establish peace. The believers have been enjoined upon to be prepared for peace even in the midst of war provided their enemy shows any inclination for peace. The Qur’an says: “And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah…..” (8:61).
The philosophy of Jihad in Islam has been underlined by the revealed book of Islam, the Qur’an, in its verse No. 40 of Surah Al-Hajj which reads”….. 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 have been pulled down …..” (22:40). The same principle has been reiterated by the Holy book in another verse which states: “…..And if Allah had not repelled some men by others, the earth would have been corrupted. But Allah is a Lord of Kindness to (His) creatures” (2:251). According to the principle laid down in these verses, power in the earth does not belong permanently to one group or one class or clan of persons. Power corrupts man and absolute power corrupts him absolutely. Had power been vested in one set of people or one group of persons permanently, the earth would have been filled with corruption, chaos and oppression. The powerful people would have let loose a reign of terror on the others by subjugating them to the worst type of tyranny. They would have not only terrorized the subjugated people physically, but also they would have destroyed their places of worship like churches, synagogues and mosques, etc. Thus, the permanent power in the hands of one group would have completely annihilated other groups of human beings, their houses, their belongings and their religious places wherein the Name of Allah is often mentioned. To prevent this corruption, oppression and disorder in the land, nature uses weapon of war. The group in power falls on account of its corruption and other reasons while the other group which is generally better comes to power. That other group remains in power till it starts committing the same excesses and indulging in the same corruption. So, they are replaced by another group and this cycle goes on.
Islam is a universal religion. It is a religion of nature, a religion of humanity. Its God is one God, i.e. Allah Who is very kind to His creatures. According to His wisdom, He does not let one people hold power in His earth permanently. He tries the human beings and replaces one people or one nation by the other through the instrument of war or Jihad. This philosophy of Jihad in Islam explains the phenomenon of rise and fall of various nations and different civilizations in the world.
The philosophy of Islamic Jihad, briefly speaking, is to establish kingdom of God on earth so that word of God should reign supreme in the world. The Islamic conception of life is based on the Unity of God and vicegerency of the Godly man on earth. It implies the establishment of virtuous state on earth which stands for peace, rule of law and justice, universal brotherhood and equality of man, freedom of religion and conscience, complete submission of man to the supreme will of his creator the Almighty God. It acts for complete elimination of persecution, oppression, tyranny, enslavement of man by man, racial and ethnical biases and socio-economic evils. Islam is the last one in the chain of revealed religions and Muhammad (PBUH) is the final messenger of Allah in the chain of prophets sent by God for the guidance of mankind. No other religion would be revealed after Islam and no other prophet would be sent after Muhammad (PBUH) for the guidance of humanity. So God has made the followers of Islam leaders of mankind and has assigned them the task of promoting the good, suppressing the evil and establishing the rule of Allah on earth. The Qur’an says:
1. Say (O Muslims) : We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.
2. Thus we have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses against mankind, and that the messenger may be a witness against you.
3. Lo! religion with Allah is the Surrender (Islam)……
4. And whoso seeketh as religion other than the Surrender (to Allah) it will not be accepted from him, and he will be a loser in the Hereafter.
5. Ye (the Muslims) are the best community that hath been raised up for mankind. Ye enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency (evil); and ye believe in Allah.
6. He it is who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion, however much the idolaters may be averse.
7. And verily We have written in the Scripture, after the Reminder : My righteous slaves will inherit the earth.
8. Those who, if We give them power in the land, establish worship (salat) and pay the poor-due (zakat) and enjoin good and forbid wrong……..