Volume 15-10 No:178
Q. I am trying to understand what the regular Muslim, when faced with an ultimatum should do, when their brothers expect them to fight or kill for the cause of Allah? Should they remain peaceful? What does teaching in Islam say? I read a statement that there are hundreds of Muslims in USA, waiting for the go ahead to attack, uprise, what ever for Islam. I am very concerned.
(Miriam M. Fauth ; firstname.lastname@example.org)
A. This is a very delicate question. It must be decided by a panel of moderate religious scholars. If a single person is to issue a Fatwa, he must be a known rational scholar of International repute and stature. Unfortunately such scholars are not more than one or two and they are in the countries wherefrom they may not elect to issue a Fatwa thereof. I would, to the best of my knowledge and wisdom, try to analyze the scenario and offer my opinion.
The conditions of Jihad must be fulfilled by the Muslim fighters for the call of Jihad to be heeded by the Muslims in other countries. Following are the essential requirements of an armed struggle to be called Jihad.
The call is given by a stable Islamic nation. The people of the nation have been wronged, attacked or driven away from their homes. The reason behind their being wronged, attacked or driven away is none other than they profess Islam as their religion.
If the main purpose of the call is offence instead of self defence, then it should be in response to the desperate appeals by an oppressed people, be they Muslims or Non-Muslims, provided that the attacking nation has the necessary resources to attack the oppressor nation.
Had the Kashmiri militants given the call, I would outrightly have said that it is not Jihad. True, they have often been wronged by the security forces but only after their call of secession from India. They never rose when they were ruled by a Hindu Raja but they are revolting against a secular rule. If they are striving for a separate nation, there is no concept of separatism in Islam. They must resort to Dawah instead of trying to break away. If they want to be ruled by Pakistan, Pakistan is not an Islamic nation. Pakistani elements who infiltrate into India should first wage a Jihad against the Government of Pakistan to make it an Islamic nation. Only an Islamic nation can issue a call for Jihad.
Had they been Palestinians fighting the Zionists for their homelands from where they have been driven away, I would have agreed that they have been wronged for no fault of theirs. Still it would not be Jihad. They did not migrate to any Islamic country where they were again attacked to wage a Jihad. Now that a small Palestinian Autonomous Territory has been formed, we have seen that it is not an Islamic state. Its leader, Yasser Arafat is a known socialist. Only Iran, Afghanistan and to some extent Saudi Arabia are qualified to give a call for Jihad. Though Afghanistan and Iran both pursue a particular Maslak against the diversity of Islam, and one may differ with either or both of them on this count, but they are the only two states who have established Islamic nations. Saudi Arabia has also declared itself an Islamic nation and promulgated Islamic laws that are followed. It would have been a model Islamic state with a moderate outlook but for its system of rulers which is a dynastic rule. The seat of Ameerul Momineen in an Islamic state is very different from that of a king.
Since your query is obviously in context of American-Afghan conflict, the answer becomes truly delicate. No doubt, with the present Afghan Government, it is an Islamic state despite some reservations and shortcomings. Now Usama Bin Laden’s terrorists’ training camps (if they really existed) have harmed Islamic cause all over the world and his obsession with America is equally harmful. Afghanistan has invited troubles for itself sooner than it was due by harbouring a fanatic, howsoever sincere he may be. Despite this grave mistake, Afghanistan is wrongly under the siege (till this write up reaches you the attack might have been launched). It had taken a very principled stand that Bin laden would be expelled if proofs were handed over to it for the involvement of Bin Laden in the terrorist attacks in America. It is bullying tactics of America to threaten Afghanistan without producing the justly required proofs not only before Afghanistan but before the international community as well.
Before pondering over the role of Muslims in different nations, I must opine about the America as well. Despite its widespread image of being Anti Islam, America is definitely not against Islam. In fact to profess and propagate any Maslak of Islam is so much easier in America as is nowhere in the world. Muslims have so much freedom in America to propagate and prosper that in no other country they get such freedom. More than 5000 American soldiers have embraced Islam in recent years and American Government has no objection to it. They have instead, appointed Imams in army on Government expenses. White House has started hosting Iftar parties for the last three years. Churches have been converted into mosques in America with the permission of Christians. In fact the haughtiness and big brother psyche of America has exploited and bullied many nations in the world including the Muslim majority countries but inside its own boundaries Islam enjoys all the liberties it needs. The US must be among the last of the countries to be branded Anti-Islamic. In contrast many of the Muslim majority countries are truly Anti Islam, inflicting cruelties on devout Muslims.
America is considered Anti Islamic because of its consistent support to Israel against Arab nations. Given a thought US’ Israel support is not based on its Anti Islamic sentiments but on two factors. First there is a very strong and organised Jewish lobby that affects all elections in America and the America’s economy too. To counter it Muslims also should work as hard as the Jews have. Secondly, there is oil wealth in the Middle East and the US has found a lasting ally in the area. Shah Faisal of Saudi Arabia had once shaken the world including the US by forging a semblance of a unity among oil producing nations. That superficial unity did not last long but it has proved that the Muslim nations can make the world bow to them if they sort out their differences. The fault is their own. This lengthy discussion was to show that far from the US being Anti Islam, Islam has opportunities to grow and expand in America. Moreover the US is today the only superpower capable of ordering any nation anything. Any decision by American Muslims that turns it against Islam will not be in the interest of Islam. I would therefore strongly advocate that American Muslims while not responding to the call of Jihad by Afghanistan, should demand and put pressure on their Government to produce concrete proof of the involvement of Bin Laden in the terrorist attacks in America instead of attacking Afghanistan which is ready to hand him over to a third country.
The case of Indian Muslims too is worth considering. Usama Bin Laden has reportedly been giving training to the Kashmiri militants and terrorists inside Afghanistan. There are many Afghani prisoners in Indian jails who fought with the Kashmiri militants. The cause of Dawah, which is still in the infancy stage in India, would get a serious jolt in India if Indian Muslims actively supported Afghanistan’s call of Jihad. Moreover Islam has not made it obligatory for Muslims living in Non-Muslim countries to participate in a Jihad before permanently migrating from their homeland.
Q. I was just wondering if you could clarify some things for me. I am a Christian and have only a vague understanding of Islam. I do know a little about the history and beliefs of Islam, I have read portions of the Qur'an but I do not exactly understand the organization of Islam. Do you have a central modern day leader, do you have an organized "church"? Are the radical sects recognized even though they do no espouse the true Islamic values? I would appreciate any information that you could provide me.
(Johnson ; email@example.com)
A. There is no representative of God on earth after the last Prophet (pbuh) left the secure Word of God among us. In Islam there is no mediator between God and His bondsmen. All the four essential pillars of Islam upon which the building of Islam is erected (prayer, fasting, alms and pilgrimage) teach a Muslim the importance of organisation and collective leadership. But no man after the last prophet would now be appointed by God Himself to lead us. We have to gain knowledge and cultivate wisdom in the light of Qur’an, the Word of God and Sunnah, the Prophet’s life to rally behind an Ameer (leader) who should be selected by the wise men of the community. The Ameer is to take important decisions in consultation with a Shurah, the jury of wise men. The decision of Ameer is binding on all Muslims unless one thinks it is in contravention with Qur’an and Sunnah.
This is the prescribed arrangement but there is no Ameer of the Muslim world today. After the Prophet, the prescribed arrangement could remain for a short while and the institution of Kingship and family dynasties replaced it. Still those kings were accepted as central leaders by a majority of Muslims all over the world. With the devolution of Muslims in their true faith and practice, the king (who called himself the Caliph) got weaker and weaker and finally the namesake arrangement was also abrogated by Mustafa Kamal Pasha of Turkey in the last century.
The institution of Ameer carried the religious and political leadership in one person. With the dynasties the Muslims turned to pious Islamic scholars for religious guidance. Today there are more than 60 Muslim majority countries in the world, all having their elected or imposed political leadership. The religious leadership is also very weak and divided.
With the resurgence of Islam (Muslims) in the second half of the 20th century, the reformist as well as reactionary movements arose. As a majority of Muslims are still practically cut off from the Qur’an and Sunnah, many of them see in the reactionaries, the potential of lost lustre of the golden days. They would not have survived but for the media which projects and highlights their activities beyond proportions and plays a vital role in making them heroes. Right reactionary groups of other religions in the Non-Muslim majority countries also contribute to enhance their influence. The role of the financially and politically powerful countries is no less supportive for the rise of these groups.
Still I tell you that Islam has inherent potential to emerge victorious irrespective of its followers’ misrepresentation and the true Islam will prevail in not so distant a future.
Q. I have a question if you can be so kind to answer. You can conclude from question that my religion is not of yours. I hope you can have patience with me in your answer. Islam is a religion I have not heard before until this week with the planes ramming into the buildings in New York City. I would like to know how many years ago was Islam religion formed. It is estimated from bones found that the humans have been on the earth for approximate 5000 years. Is your religion this old? Thank you for your time and patience with this question
(L & J West ; firstname.lastname@example.org)
A. Islam started with the first man, Adam, on earth (not necessarily with the same title). It is a way of life God preferred for the mankind and sent his messengers (prophets) to guide them from time to time on different parts of the world. According to Qur’an, prophets came to every nation and brought His message in the language of their people. People kept losing the message till the humanity came to an era when Message could be recorded and would not be lost. It was also an era when the development of means of transportation would soon take every man to every other part of the world. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) came in this era and the need to renew the message ended. He confirmed and testified to the truth of all the earlier prophets. Since he was born in Arabia, the Message revealed to him was in Arabic. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Jonas, Job, David, Solomon, Moses and Jesus of the Bible (peace be upon them all) were all the prophets of Islam. A Muslim has to believe in all of them.
He preached that there is only One God. He neither begets and nor He is begotten. He was neither born nor would He ever die. No one is His equal or partner in His sovereignty. He is the sole Lord of all creation. All human being including Jesus and Muhammad were his bondsmen. Jesus was born to Virgin Mary as Adam was created without any parent. We have to worship and obey Him alone. The prophets were all pious human beings who guided the mankind to His path. He told us that man has been sent to earth temporarily to test His obedience. The success in passing the test lies in the following of the prophets. There will be a Day Hereafter when all life on earth will end and all those born earlier will be reborn for the Day of Judgment. To the disbelievers, He says in Qur’an that 2nd birth of all men and women is easier for Him who created them in the first place. On the Day of Judgment, the records of life of all human beings will be reproduced before them. Those who believed in what He conveyed through the prophets and obeyed the prophets will be rewarded in the eternal life of Heaven while the disbelievers and those who disobeyed the prophets will be condemned to the punishment of Hell.
Islam is not about hijacking passenger planes and ramming them into buildings of a city to cause misery to the mankind. Whatever their claims or names, those who did such inhuman acts are the enemies of Islam.
Islam is compassion and benevolence to the mankind. No race, colour or creed is superior to other in the eyes of Allah (One God) except on the basis of their piety and obedience to Allah. A black African is superior to a white American if he is more pious and obedient. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught us to be good to all human beings and call them to the path of guidance with wisdom and agreeable manner. He preached to us to join them with love who turn away in hate from us, to provide to those who refuse to provide to us, to forgive them who wrong us. He preached that one cannot be a Muslim if he eats wholesomely while his neighbour (Muslim or Non-Muslim) starves. He declared that he could not enter into paradise by whose hands and tongue his neighbours were not safe. He told us that the best of his followers would be those whose manners would be good and who would be good to others. He told that Allah may forgive one who offended Him if he repents but Allah will not forgive an act of transgression against a fellow human being. He told us to be just even to the enemies. He taught the virtues of endurance and forgiveness. He preached to take care of needy, orphans and stand in defense of the oppressed. Islam permits an equal revenge from the wrong doer as a law of justice but recommends that forgiveness by the offended is dearer to Allah.
If you want to know more about Islam, you may study Qur’an, the Word of God. The translations are available in all major languages but I will recommend going through a short collection of the Prophet’s saying, called Hadith before the study of Qur’an.
Q. Some people blew themselves in what is today known as human bomb or suicide bomber. I would like to know if this act of some people justified by Islam or not?
(Aquil Nomani ; email@example.com)
A. If the war is justified and the conditions of Jihad are fulfilled, the human bomb technique in such a Jihad could be justified in the present day warfare. There are instances in the history when a Sahabi (holy companion) entered into Jihad, knowing fully well that his intention and way of penetrating alone in the midst of enemy will surely get him Shahadat(martyrdom). They did not stand idle in the ranks of the enemy to get killed. That would have been suicide. But one fearless person who has decided that he is going to inflict huge loss to the enemy in Jihad by adopting a method that will terminate his life was not termed as suicide then and could not be termed as suicide now. The only way of sure Shahadat in those days was to pierce deep through the enemy ranks, fighting fearlessly till end.
There was very little chance of survival fighting with the weapons of those days, but the remote chance was still there. It is the change of weaponry which eliminates that little chance but nevertheless it will not be suicide. Think of a Mujahid, shooting his way through the enemy deep inside his territory alone on the lines of some Sahabis of the past. Has he any remotest chance of survival? Surely not but you will call him a Shaheed (martyr) even if every chance of survival has been eliminated. Such a brave Shaheed will not go much far and will not inflict much damage to the enemy even at the cost of his life. Why not use a weapon which would cause disproportionately large damage to the enemy when he has decided to attain Shahadat? There were a few such persons in those days and there will be a few such persons today. I think in a Jihad they should be called Shahadat bombs while in acts of terrorism, they will surely be suicide bombs.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the definition of al-ghazwat al-fikree (the ideological attack)?
By Shaykh Abdul-Aziz Ibn Baz
A: Ideological warfare is a modern term which refers to a set of efforts in which a nation engages in order to conquer or influence another nation, so that [the attacked nation] takes a particular course of direction.
It is far more serious than military warfare, since it aims at secrecy, seeking to achieve subtle objectives initially; so that the attacked nation does not perceive it, nor prepare to halt it, nor stand in its way - thereby falling victim to [such an attack]. The eventual result of this onslaught is that this nation becomes sick in mind and sense; loving what the enemy wants it to love and hating what they want it to hate. It is a chronic disease which attacks and destroys nations, doing away with its personality, removing such meanings as foundations and strength.
The nation which is struck by this [ideological attack] does not even feel what has hit it, or what it even is! That is why curing it becomes somewhat difficult, and making [the attacked nation] understand the ways of righteousness becomes a struggle. This war takes place by means of school curriculums, general education, media, small and large size publications, and other such channels [that influence the thoughts of its people]. Through this the enemy hopes to deviate the nation from its beliefs; becoming attached to what the enemy throws at it. We ask Allah for safety and protection from this.
1. The word Jihad (from the Arabic root Ga-Ha-Da) is a verbal noun meaning exerting an effort, expounding energy, striving, working to improve, struggling, doing one’s best.
From the same Arabic root, there is Majhood (effort), Mojtahed (a person who does his/her best), Ijtehad (Islamic science of deducting Islamic laws from basic sources), Johid (potential or energy as in electrical potential or energy) and Jihad (persuasion as in (29:8), (31:15), (6:109)).
2. Jihad in Islam is waging peace and justice. Jihad is a war against unjust, oppression, exploitation, tyranny, fear, corruption and denying the masses basic human rights (4:75-76) and to establish justice, peace, freedom, especially freedom of religion, security, equity and social justice (2:193).
The tools for launching this war are knowledge, effort, resources, activism, awareness, praying, persuasion, combativeness, advocacy in addition to exercising social, political and military pressures (9:111), (8:60), (9:44-45).
The use of the military option is not ruled out and would be used if and only if it is the only option to stop a greater evil (2:216). The rules of engagement are so strenuous for a given military option to qualify as Jihad. Not every military champagne is a Jihad (2:244).
3. Jihad in Islam is not meant for domination, and not to achieve personal, territorial and/or economical gains and not to exercise power and control. Any type of aggression would make Jihad null and void (2:190-191).
4. One of the most important objectives of Jihad in Islam is to stand for those who are oppressed and/or forced out of their homes just because of their religion (22:39-40).
5. Those who are performing outward Jihad must also spiritually reform themselves by performing (al-jihad al-akbar), an inward personal and more difficult type of Jihad (29:69), (22:78).
This type of Jihad is the internal spiritual and moral struggle which should lead to the victory over the ego. This is an important, necessary, and meritorious type of Jihad. In effect, this type of Jihad is the one which we wage against our lower selves, according to the Prophetic traditions. This personal effort made to overcome the self is considered to be “the greatest Jihad”, as mention in a Hadith narrated by Imam Ahmed.
6. It is impossible for Jihad to be performed by an oppressor, a tyrant, a transgressor or an exploiter; it does not matter what that person/government/group calls his/her/its actions. Nor there is Jihad for those who are after personal, tribal and national gains (9:24).
It is precisely in such a context that Jihad meant not to have a negative but a positive meaning both inwardly and outwardly and it is in this sense that Islam has stressed the positive aspect of combativeness; peace belongs to those who are inwardly at peace and outwardly at war with the forces of unjust.
7. Jihad is an unselfish and noble effort for the good of humanity (29:6), involving many sacrifices; money, time, effort, and the ultimate sacrifice of all, life itself. But the rewards of this unselfish and noble act are immense (29:69), (9:41), (4:74), (3:142), (9:16), (9:111), (49:15) and its negligence is costly for humanity (9:38-39), (9:24), (9:81).
8. For political and historical reasons, the word Jihad in the West connotes violence. It is most often translated into English not only as “a holy war,” but also a war waged against non-Muslims, a kind of Crusade in reverse.
Today in the West the term Jihad leads people to believe that Muslims are supposedly encouraged to take up arms in order to impose their faith by force, annihilating those who reject it.
This is contrary to the Islamic teachings that it is not for man but for God alone to judge and punish disbelief and that compulsion in religious matters is formally forbidden (2:256). It is regrettable that in Western public opinion, Jihad seems to have retained only the misleading meaning of “holy war.”
9. The Qur’an explicitly safeguards the clergy, declaring that God protects non-Muslim places of worship: “Did not God check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure.”
This prohibition is corroborated and elucidated by the Prophetic tradition, which forbids soldiers to do harm to any religious persons, whereas they could logically have been the primary targets if the motive of “holy war” had been religious.
Without putting Western civilization on trial, we should nevertheless mention by way of contrast that several centuries later, the founders of international law in Europe excluded the Muslim “infidels” from the benefits of the law of wars. Yet, the concept of “holy war” remains branded as the expression of the Muslims’ religious fanaticism. How ineradicable are the prejudices!
10. Jihad was and still being invoked in Muslim protests against foreign occupation, oppression and exploitation during colonialism, post-colonialism, and neocolonialism, a cause perceived as both just and necessary.
However some Muslims must bear responsibility for the bad name given to Jihad. Today some contemporary governments and groups in Muslim countries make reference to Jihad only in its military meaning, through words and deeds, in order to hide their moral, social and political bankruptcy. In the process they kill the innocent, cause only death and destruction and do not advance the cause of peace and justice. But regrettably they are the ones who show up regularly in the newspapers and on television.
11. Today Muslim’s outlook on Jihad are one of the following:
a. All types of Jihad are irrelevant to Muslims today.
b. All types of Jihad is justified except these types which involve the use of armed resistance.
c. All types of Jihad is very much relevant and needed today, from the inward spiritual struggle against one’s lower self, to activism for peace, justice, social justice,...etc, to armed resistance whenever armed resistance is justified; for example against foreign occupation, oppression, tyranny and unjust.
[Prof. Mohamed Elmasry is national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.]