-- AN EXPOSITION
BY ATHAR HUSAIN
Published by the All India
Personal Law Bpard,
The word Jehad means [a] strenuous and devoted struggle in any good cause for getting the better of one's baser desires, for [the] promotion of peace and concord, for advancement in any useful direction and also [for] waging war in the cause or the way of God. The term jehad has, however, been much abused by western scholars, hostile critics and detractors of Islam to connote that it places a sword in the hands of Muslims to go about slaying non-believers. Finding no other fault or blemish in Islam, or the mix of the Muslims, many a western critic has spent all his energies and scholarship to show that Islam [was] spread at the point of [a] sword.
Much change has, however, taken place in the thinking and attitude of conscientious scholars since the time when Peter the Venerable, John of Damascus, Savonarola, Robertus Retenesis, the venerable lawyer George Sale or Melanchthon and a host of other pious dignitaries who denounced the Prophet as a black devil, an imposter, a forgerer, a robber and whatnot, the Quran as a monstrosity and manifest forgery, and lslam as a religion of idol-worshippers, barbarians, and freebooters. Some modern historians have evolved a new technique of tearing Quranic verses out of their context or reproducing only portions thereof to show that the Quran has given [the] authority to Muslims to be aggressive. For instance, they quote:
0 Prophet! Exhort The believers to fight. If there be of you twenty steadfast they shall overcome two hundred."(Q. 8:65)
Sanction is given unto those who fight " (Q. 8:39)
It is not for any prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land." (Q. 8:67)The first of these verses was revealed at the time of Badr when the Muslims were faced by an army three times larger in number. It was the first military encounter the Muslims were facing and it was not unnatural that many among them should have been greatly apprehensive of the result. The verse was revealed to put heart into them and not to encourage them to fight everyone they met.
The second verse reads as follows:
Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed able to give them victory."The third verse reproduced above was also revealed at the time of the Battle of Badr and it reads as under:
It is not for any prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter and Allah is mighty, wise."Some of the Muslims who had yet to be properly seasoned were lured by the temptation of booty and had started making captives with a view to get ransom. Soldiers in those days did not get any salary and they had to bring their own weapons. This verse was to drive home to them that they were fighting for a cause, to save Islam from the might of its enemies, and not for booty.
Hostile critics fail to appreciate that a religion which has such an enormous following and is gaining more and more adherents everyday could not have spread through aggression but only on the basis of its own sterling merits. Through aggression, lands and countries can be conquered, but society, institutions and man himself cannot be transformed. A change has taken place in the attitude of western critics and the day does not appear to be far off when they will reflect and see Islam in its true light. Lord Headley in his book, A Western Awakening to Islam, has aptly pointed out:
All the unworthy attempts to belittle the grand teachings of the Holy Prophet by direct and coarse abuse, as well as by specious arguments involving much suppressio veri and suggestion falsi have been advanced with the deliberate intention of misleading, and those who adopt such tactics should be reminded that if they are baptized Christians they should at least copy Christ in the matter of telling lies, which are so abominable in the eyes of the great teacher of Nazareth. There are several kinds of lies ... but of all lies, those told in the name of religion are the worst, for they bear the impress of trifling with the Almighty and which there can hardly be a greater sin."Says the Quran:
Who doeth greater wrong than he who inventeth a lie concerning Allah or denieth a truth when it cometh unto him." (Q. 29.68)
There is no compulsion in religion". (Q. 2 : 256)It only needed to reach the ears of the people and to stir their souls. He was not, however, a theoretical preacher, but was commissioned to wean people away from ignorance, wickedness and evil, to generate among men [the] fear of God and a new life-impulse, to change society and transform man [so as] to enable him to realise the real purpose of life, his ultimate destiny and his accountability for everything he does big or small, to his Creator; in short to lay the foundations, on [a] sound and secure base, of the eternal religion, i.e. Islam.
His task was stupendous, for it was a world of wrangling creeds and oppressive institutions when the soul was crushed under the weight of unintelligible dogma and the human body trampled under the tyranny of vested interests. The country was strife-ridden. There was no government, no organised society and people emitted all types of horror, vice, sin and tyranny.
Starting from one individual, Islam gradually spread in the teeth of bitter and violent opposition and amidst great danger till, in a short space of time, it blazed in radiant splendour over [the] continents. The barriers of caste, race, and exclusive privileges were broken, the cobwebs [of] self-interest had [been] woven in[to] the path of man to[wards] God were swept away. The value of knowledge and learning was recognised, peace and security prevailed, the inequalities [which] subsisted in society, and the ills bred by self-interest were eradicated.
The Prophet of lslam (peace be on him) lived up to the ideals which he presented to the world of man during his strenuous lifetime, and his message has a meaning for the world of today and tomorrow even as it had for the world in which he himself lived and worked.
The Prophet (peace be on him) had employed preaching,
exhortation and advice and had even resorted to migration with all his
followers from Mecca to Medina, leaving behind their hearth and home and
all their property to be occupied by the pagan Arabs. Seeing that the new
religion was taking root and gathering momentum, the Quraish had launched
one attack after another upon the nascent state of Islam and the Prophet
(peace be upon him) had to defend himself and the new State. He led and
organized punitive expeditions and his illustrious Caliphs had successfully
waged wars against the mighty Roman and Persian Empires seething with tyranny,
suppression, ignominy, vice, corruption and wickedness and
The Quran makes it clear that whether we want it or not, war is a fact of life at times of necessity of existence so long as there exists injustice, capricious ambition and arbitrary claims in the world. The Quran could not ignore this fact of life and could not fail to deal with the matter in a realistic and effective manner. And that is why Islam does recognise war as a lawful and jusifiabie course for self-defence and for restoration of justice, freedom and peace. It does not preach nihilism [n]or the theoretical and highly impracticable concept of turning the other cheek. Says the Quran:
Fighting is prescribed for you, and you dislike it. But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you. God knows, and you know not." (Q. 2 : 216)
If God were not to check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monastries, churches, synagogues and mosques in which the name of God is commemorated is abundant measure." (Q. 22: 40)
Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, and do not transgress; for God loves not transgressors. And slay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out for tumult and oppression is worse than slaughter, but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they first fight you there, but if they fight, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. But if they cease, God is Forgiving, Most Merciful, And fight them on until there is no more persecution or oppression, and there prevails justice and faith in God, but if they desist, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression." (Q. 2 : 190-193)War is not the normal course [n]or an objective of Islam. It is the last resort, an emergency measure when other measures fail. As has been succinctly said,
Islam is the religion of peace, its meaning is peace, one of God's names is peace, the daily greetings of [a] Muslim are peace, the adjective Muslim means peaceful. Peace is the nature, the meaning, the emblem and objective of lslam."
It is Islam alone which guarantees peaceful freedom of religion and forbids compulsion in religion. The Quran commands:
Let there be no compulsion in religion; truth stands out clear from error; whoever rejects evil and believes in God, has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things." (Q. 2:256)
A Muslim is not only forbidden to employ force in the propagation of Islam, but is also commanded to use the most peaceful methods. The Quran says :
Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious; for your Lord knows best who has strayed from His Path and who receives guidance." (Q. 16:125)The hostile critics have viewed the battles which the Prophet of Islam had fought with coloured spectacles and preconceived notions. When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) received the charge from God, he conveyed to the people the call to believe in the one True God, but he met with resistence, jeers, mockery and laughter. As he was not allowed to preach openly, he resorted to private preaching for some years to save the lives of his few followers. When God directed him to preach openly, persecution, and torture increased. When the infidels could not shake the faith of the believers, they organised a harsh boycott [and] a fierce campaign to ostracize the Muslims. Twice the followers of the Prophet (peace be upon him) had to be secretly sent away to the friendly country of Abyssinia. When [the] persecution became more severe, the Holy Prophet advised all his followers except two to migrate to the city of Medina and they had to leave behind their families, belongings and houses. The infidels hatched a plot to assassinate the Prophet and they had actually surrounded his house. He had to migrate to Medina accompanied by Hazrat Abu Bakr. The Muslims had endured all manner of persecution for thirteen years.
While at Medina, the Prophet started the work of organizing the Muslim community [thus laying] down the foundation of a stable and peaceful society. He entered into mutually agreed [upon] covenants with the Jews of Medina. The enemies at Mecca were burning with hatred and their determination to eliminate the Muslims grew stronger with the increasing popularity of Islam. They instigated and won over the Jews of Medina to [unrecognized word] from the covenants and to create trouble from within and the Meccans began to make plundering and fighting raids against the Muslims. Events were fast moving towards a full-fledged war which took place at Badr. The two forces had reached there almost simultaneously. The Meccans had come down about 180 miles and the Muslims had gone up to aggressive wars or to the passionate lust of [the] Arabs for plunder and raid and that the wars were motivated by economic need and circumstances. All these theories and suppositions have been exploded long time back.
A religion like Islam cannot be forced. If one accepts it under compulsion, he may become a Muslim in name but [could] never be sincere and honest about his faith which is the crux of the religion. It needs more than compulsion to develop sincere and good Muslims as were the Muslim converts of the new lands out of a defeated people and it requires much more than suppression to make them uphold and cherish the `forced religion". In the days of the early Caliphs, the natives of the Persian and Roman protectorates made urgent appeals to the Muslims to come to their aid and deliver them from [an] oppressi[ve] foreign rule.
History bears testimony that the Muslim conquerors were joyfully received by the common people as also by the religious patriarchs. They actually fought on their side against the oppressors. The prosperity, freedom and progress of the so-called invaded regions under Islam, as compared to what prevailed there before the conquests, is a revealing story. History belies that those Muslims took more than what they gave or drew more than what they deposited or made more than what they had invested.
If the Central Government received tributes or taxes from its conquered protectorates, they were needed for the development of those very protectorates and a fraction was retained in the State Treasury or Baitul Mal. Arabia was never given any preference or privilege in expenditures or developmental programmes over the conquered territories and there was no population explosion to force the Muslims of the day to carry out adventurous wars or economic explorations worth the adventure in the unknown world.
"The fact remains that Islam is [a] religion of peace
in the fullest sense of the term; that unjust war was never amongst its
teachings; that aggression was never in its tenets [n]or tolerated by it;
that force was never employed [so as] to impose it on any one. That the
expansion of Islam was never due to compulsion or oppression; that misappropriation
was never forgivable by God or acceptable to Islam." No amount of distortion
or misrepresentation can blur the truth that Islam expanded in the world
on its own merits. Had even worldly rulers, like [the] Mughal kings given
any temptation or extra advantage to or shown any semblance of coercion
on the people belonging to the so-called Scheduled Castes of India, hardly
any one would have been left to be Scheduled. Islam spread in India through
the preachings of Sufis and saints who preached brotherhood of mankind,
love and affection, goodwill and understanding among the people of all
communities and sects, toleration of all the religions and disrespect [for]
none, equal human dignity and rights and equal opportunities for all. They
taught good behaviour and morality, perfection of conscience, good relations
among the people, regard [for] neighbours, the poor and downtrodden irrespective
of his religion or creed and abstention from discrimination or exploitation
and fostering of justice and fair play.