Syed Qamar Hasan explains the Quranic term of Jihad and highlights the contrast between true Jihad and the ISIS-led violent extremism in the name of Islam
SYED QAMAR HASAN | Special to Caravan Daily
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he horrific attacks on Pairs by terrorists killing 129 people and wounding several hundreds has once again raked up the Quranic term of “Jihad” in completely twisted way. This cannot be by any stretch of imagination called “Jihad” a term used in the Quran 42 times, neither those killers “Mujahideen.” The traditional and correct translation of the word “Jihad” is struggle and endeavor by individuals or groups to achieve spiritual excellence and blessings of God, overpowering desires.
JIHAD FI SABEEL ALLAH (fight for the cause of Allah- 25:52, 66:9, 9:73 (Quran). In classical Urdu, the term Juhad derived from jihad means to put in extra efforts, concentration with consistency to achieve excellence in whatever, the set objectives.
Despite the fact that several hundred years have gone by after the Crusades and even after long interactions between the two civilizations at various levels, the West continues to go with the incorrect notion, qualifying the most legitimate of struggles by Muslims for their political rights and freedom from oppression as “Jihad” in a wrong perspective.
The Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the taking over of the US embassy in Tehran with 52 embassy staff as hostages for 444 days by pro-Khomeini students was a bitter start to America’s understanding of political Islam and its policies regarding the Muslim world.
The two Gulf Wars, 9/11 bombings of New York and Washington, and the disproportionate retaliatory military strikes on Afghanistan to smoke out Al Qaeda and its leadership, killing thousands of innocent civilians, all exacerbated US-Muslim-world relations.
The incarceration of hundreds in Bagram and Guantanamo prisons without trials, outsourcing of torture (renditions) to friendly Arab countries, the bloody crisis in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen has generated a lot of mistrust and anger towards the US among the youth in the Arab world. This anger blended with the inability to combat with the actual enemy gave birth to extremist militant groups, including the ruthless ISIL, that kills civilians and their armed opponents in the name of “Jihad”. Consequently, the neocons and the right-wing groups have been able to manufacture and disseminate their own flawed explanations and meaning to Islam and its practices.
The US, western governments and media by design has interpreted “Jihad” as “Holy War”. In India, the RSS and its associates including some Muslim thinkers and political leaders have the same view. The concept of “Holy War” and conflating it with “Jihad,” is a wrong construct by the West borrowed from the time of Crusades.
The actual word for armed struggle and confrontation (war) in the Quran is Qitaal, meaning fighting or to fight back. And the term used for the killing of the enemy is Qat’l. The Quran makes a very clear definition and distinction of the terms Jihad and its application.
Scholastically Jihad is ranked as Imaan’s (faith) apex and Qitaal as the apex of Jihad. Thus, it is clear that Qitaal is the top most action of Jihad as a whole, but not Jihad’ itself as generally perceived. And what is important is the application of these terms in their proper context. Scholars are of the opinion that Qitaal (war or armed confrontation) should not be mistaken with Qat’l (killing). Islam prohibits Qat’l before Qitaal. When there is no war, to kill is wrong.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, and his noble Companions throughout the 13 years of their stay in Makkah lived passively under severe persecution at hands of hostile Meccans, preaching the message of Quran as ordained in chapter 25 and verse 52,” F’LAA TU’TE AL KAFIREEN Wa JAAHIDU HUM BIHI, JIHADAN KABEERA” [25:53] So obey not the disbelievers and fight against them by means of it (the Qur’an) a great fight. All commentaries and explanations of this verse have explained that Jihadan Kabeera is a reference to Quran as the weapon.
The permission to fight or “Qitaal” was given to the Prophet and his Companions in Medina in clear terms, specifying reasons and circumstances, under which the faithful could go to war, (22:39,40,41) to end oppression and persecution of the helpless men and women. At the same time, the Quran enjoins upon the faithful to accept peace whenever offered.
Thus, perseverance towards God and his commands, righteous actions and behaviors are always to be invoked by using all available means of communications, and behavioral sciences. Aggressiveness, arrogance, and compulsion are totally excluded.
The permission to fight or “Qitaal” was given to the Prophet and his Companions in Medina in clear terms, specifying reasons and circumstances, under which the faithful could go to war, (22:39,40,41) to end oppression and persecution of the helpless men and women. At the same time, the Quran enjoins upon the faithful to accept peace whenever offered. “But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it and put your trust in Allah’’ (8:61.). Again allowing permission to fight in the way of Allah those who fight you and do not exceed the limits. He does not love those who transgress. (2:190).
Following the divine injunction, dimensions to war hitherto unknown were strictly maintained, the aged, women and children of the enemy were left untouched. No beheading of prisoners, no mutilations, no destruction places of worship, plantations, orchids and felling of trees.
It is presumptuously judged that Islam is a violent religion preaching violence and wars. The Prophet disdained wars. He cautioned his followers, “never desire to meet your enemy and if you do then never turn away.” All known religions, monotheistic or otherwise have sanctioned wars. Judaism regards to war and violence as a necessity to promote justice.
Rabbis are known to have issued caveats permitting obligatory wars, defensive wars, and optional wars. The Bible, Luke 22:36 says, “And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” The “Just War” of the Catholic Church, confirmed by the United States Catholic Bishops. The Bhagwad Gita 2:37 sanctions war, promising heavens to the fallen and pleasures of earthly kingdoms to the victor.
The western leaders and media need to review their perception of Jihad and classify the savage acts of terrorism originated by their own military actions with an appropriate terminology to avoid the clash of civilization which is terribly upsetting the very own western values of freedom.
Syed Qamar Hasan is a senior Indian journalist who has worked with popular English dailies, Khaleej Times and Gulf News, published from Dubai, for a number of years. The views expressed here are personal