|In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the MercifulJihad The Holy War of Islam and Its Legitimacy in the QuranAyatullah Morteza Mutahhari Translated by:Mohammad Salman Tawhidi Published by The Islamic Propagation Organization, P.O. Box No. 11365/7318, Islamic Republic of Iran Printed by Sepehr, Tehran, Iran1405-1985
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In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
(The Holy War of Islam and Its Legitimacy in the Quran)
Sir David Ochieng’ Foundation
On the authority of
Sir David Ochieng
The President (Amir) Sir David Ochieng Foundation http://www.davidochiengfoundation.net
Mohammad Salman Tawhidi
Islamic Propagation Organization
P.O. Box No. 11365/7318
Islamic Republic of Iran
Sepehr, Tehran, Iran
The Islamic Revolution of Iran continues its triumphant mareh, despite the enemies’ plots, and this year (1985) the Islamic Republic of Iran celebrates the sixth anniversary of the victory of the Revolution on Feb. 10, 1979.
On this day, after a centuries-long night, the sun of Islam rose again in all its resplendent glory, and this historic event is celebrated in the Islamic Republic during the course of the “Ten-Day Dawn Celebrations” (Daheh-ye Fajr).
On this auspicious occasion, we thank God, the Almighty, for strengthening the Revolution and for assisting us in our efforts to bring its message of salvation to the Muslims and the rest of the world’s oppressed people. Indeed the secret behind its victory was trust in God, obedience to the laws of Islam, and the leadership of Imam Khomeini – may God continue to light our path by the light of his guidance.
The present book is one of a series of publications brought out on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution. We pray to God to keep us steadfast on the straight path of Islam, to confer upon us more sincerity and strength in our efforts to implement the laws of God. In Him do we trust and it is He who grants success.
The council for Ten-Day Dawn Celebrations
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
First Lecture: Questions about Jihad
«And Fight those who have not faith in God, nor in the Hereafter, and (who) forbid not what God and His Prophet have forbidden and (who ) are not committed to the religion of truth, of those who have been brought the Book, until they pay tribute by hand, and they are the low.» (9:29)
This Quranic verse concerns the People of the Book, meaning those non-Muslims followers of one of the holy books, namely the Jews, Christians and perhaps the Zoroastrians.
The verse is one of war with the People of the Book, but at the same time, it does not tell us to fight them; it tells us to fight only those of them who have no faith in God, in the Hereafter, and who do not abide by the rule of God, allowing what He has forbidden – and who are not religious according to the religion of truth. It is these People of the Book whom we are to fight until they pay the Jezyah (tribute). That is, when they are ready to pay the Jezyah and are humble before us, we are to fight them no more.
This verse gives rise to many questions which remain to be answered through a study of those Quranic verses pertaining to jihad, which we will set apart and review.
The first question that arises is what exactly is meant by the words,
«Fight those who have not faith in God»
Do they mean that we are to drop everything and start fighting or is it meant that we must fight them the moment they go beyond their territory and violate ours? In the terms of the learned of Islam, the ulema, this is an unconditional verse which, if there are similar verses that are conditional, must be interpreted as being conditional.
Conditional Verses and Unconditional Verses
This term is a very important one, and I wish to explain it to you, for otherwise it will be difficult for you to grasp the full meaning of the verse under discussion. Any command (even a human command) can be given in one place with no conditions, and then again in another situation with a condition attached. In such a case, we immediately realize that whoever issued that command, introduced that law, meant the same thing in both instances. Now, having realized this, what are we to do? Are we to adhere to the unconditional command and assume that the conditional was given for that special instance? Or should we interpret the unconditional as the conditional which means adhering to the conditional?
Let me cite a simple example. On two separate occasions, for instance, we are given a command by someone having the authority to do so and whose commands we respect. On one occasion, we are told that we must respect such and such person, which is an unconditional command. In another he commands us to do the same thing, saying that we must respect that person if he does such and such a thing, like taking part in our meeting. The second time the command contains an “if.” The command is now conditional. The person giving the command did not simply state that such and such a person is to be respected. The first command had no condition; we were simply told to respect him, and assuming we had ears and heard this command. it would have meant to us that we were to respect that person whether he came to the meeting or whether he was too lazy to bother. But when we hear the other command, we understand that we are to respect the person provided he comes to the meeting, and, if he refrains from doing so, we are not to respect him.
The ulema say that the rule requires us to interpret the unconditional as the conditional, meaning that we must assume the aim of the unconditional to be exactly that of the conditional.
Now, among the unconditional and conditional verses of the Quran pertaining to jihad, is one which we have seen:
«Fight ye those who have not faith in God, nor in the hereafter and (who) forbid not what God and His Prophet have forbidden»
In another verse, we are told:
«Fight in the way of God those who fight you» (2:190).
What are the meanings of these verses? Do they mean that we must fight these people regardless of whether they are about to attack us? Is the command unconditional so that we must fight them whether they intend or not to attack us, whether they are guilty of aggression or not?
There are two possible views. One is that the command remains unconditional. “The People of the Book are not Muslims, so we are allowed to fight them. We are allowed to fight the non-Muslims until we subdue them. If they are not Muslims and not People of the Book, we should fight them until either they become Muslims or we kill them. If they are People of the Book, we should fight them until they become Muslims or, if they do not become Muslims, until they pay us tribute – such is the opinion of those who say that the verse remains unconditional.
The other view, however; holds that the unconditional must be interpreted as the conditional. Someone with this view would say that the other Quranic verses bring us the conditions for the legitimacy of jihad, we realize that the true meaning of the verses is not unconditional at all. What, then, are the conditions for the legality of jihad? Amongst them, for example, are the following: that the other side intends to attack us; or that it creates a barrier against the call of Islam, meaning that it negates the freedom of that call and becomes an obstacle to its diffusion, while Islam says that those barriers are to be removed. Or, likewise, in the case of a people subject to the oppression and tyranny of a group from amongst themselves, Islam says that we must fight those tyrants so as to deliver the oppressed from the claws of tyranny. This has been expressed in the Quran thus:
«Why is it that you do not fight in the way of God and the way of the deprived (mustazafin)?» (4:75)
Why is it that we do not fight for God and for the men, women and children who are subject to torture and tyranny?
Can We Fight All the People of the Book?
The second question is related to the fact that the verse does not explicitly state that we are to fight all the People of the Book, but tells us that we are to fight against those of them who believe neither in God nor in the Hereafter,… who count as permitted that which God has forbidden, and who are not at all religious in line with any religion of truth. Now what does this mean? Does it mean that the People of the Book en masse – i.e. all the Jews, the Christians and the followers of the different sects – have no faith in God, no faith in the Hereafter, no faith in God’s ordinances and no faith in any religion based on truth, so that if one of them claims that he believes in God, he is a liar and does not actually believe in God? Is the Quran actually saying that all the People of the Book, however much they claim to believe in God, in reality have no such belief? Is it possible for us to argue that because the Christians claim Jesus is God or the ‘son of God,” they really have no belief in God? Or that, because the Jews say things about Jacob, the Jews have no more faith than the Christians? Or that those who say: «The hand of God is tied» (5:64) cannot be believers in the true God and the same applies to the rest of the People of the Book?
Thinking in these terms will mean that we believe that the Quran does not recognize any faith in God or in the resurrection other than the faith of the Muslims. If we are asked why, we will say that the Quran states the beliefs of the People of the Book to be confused and misconceived. A Christian, even if he is a learned Christian scholar, recognizes God and even recognizes the Oneness of God, but at the same time, he may have some idea about Jesus or the angel Gabriel that pollutes his belief in the Oneness of God (Tawhid.) This is the view of some of the Quranic commentators. To them, when the Quran tells us we are to fight against the People of the Book, it means that we are to fight against all the People of the Book, that the faith in God of not one of them is a valid faith; that the faith in the resurrection and in what God has forbidden and permitted of not one of them is valid. What these commentators believe is that the word “ Prophet” in this verse means the last of the prophets, Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him and his household, and that “religion of truth” means the religion which mankind of today has the duty to accept, rather than a religion which was the duty of people to accept during some particular period in the past.
A different group of commentators, however, consider that with this statement, the Quran intended to show us that the People of the Book form two categories; that not all the People of the Book are the same; that some of them really do believe in God, and resurrection, really do believe in the laws of God, and these we are to leave alone. Those of them whom we are to fight are those who are People of the Book in name only, but who in reality, have no valid belief at all, and who do not consider forbidden that which God has forbidden, even what He has forbidden in their own religion. So it is not with all the People of the Book that we are to fight, but a group from amongst them. This is another issue in itself.
The third question relates to the word jezyah or tribute. We are told to fight them until they pay the jezyah, which means until they either accept Islam or pay the jezyah. In the Quran there is no doubt that a difference has been maintained between the People of the Book and the polytheists, or mushrikin, those who formally worship idols and do not follow any holy book. Nowhere in the Quran are we told to fight the mushrikin until they pay the jezyah, and to fight them no more once they have paid it. Concerning the People of the Book, however, we are told that once they are willing to pay the jezyah, we are to fight them no longer. This is a difference that clearly exists.
This brings us to this question, namely, what is jezyah? There is debate about the word itself. Some say it is not an Arabic word by origin; that it has no Arabic root, but is a derivative of the Persian word gaziyet, the name of a tax introduced by Anoushiravan, the Sassanian King of Persia. This tax, however, was a poll tax on the people of Persia themselves and not on anyone else and it was collected for war. They say that the use of the word then spread from Iran to Hira, a town situated roughly on the site of present-day Najaf (in Iraq) and from there it was adopted by the rest of the Arabian peninsula where it became widely used.
Others reject this. Though it is true that jezyah and gaziyeh are very close, jezyah is an Arabic word from the root “jaza” – and this is the view of most etymologists. The real interest is not in the nature of the word, however, for what we are looking for is the nature of the essence which the word denotes. Is jezyah the extortion of “protection money” or “danegeld,” a kind of blackmail? Does Islam tell us to fight so as to obtain blackmail and, when it has been paid, to fight no longer? A poet has even said: “We are such that from emperors we have taken taxes, then we even took their crowns and maces.”
If the meaning of jezyah implies a kind of blackmail, the question arises as to what is the meaning of it all. What kind of instruction is it? Is it not a law of violence and brute force? What kind of basis in human rights and justice can it have, for Islam to give Muslims permission, even make it obligatory for them, to fight the people of other religions until they either accept Islam or buy the Muslims off? Both these alternatives present a problem, for fighting them until they become Muslims will mean imposing Islam on them, and fighting them until they buy the Muslims off will mean exacting wealth from them. Both alternatives are the use of violence and force, for either it means imposing beliefs upon them or forcefully extracting money from them. So here too we must enter into details to find out just what jezyah is. Is it really “blackmail,” “protection money,” “danegeld?” Or is it something else?
Here, the Quran says “vahom sagheroon” meaning, “and they are the low,” “while they are the low.” Sagheroon comes from the word ‘seghar” and ‘seghar” means “low (small).” While they are the low. What is the meaning of “they are the low?” This is also the fourth question namely what is the meaning of they are the low? Does it mean that they must only humble themselves before your power or does Islam mean other matters besides humility (being humble)?
Here we must set aside the meaning of this verse and the questions that arise from it, and look at other issues that must be separately analyzed and discussed in preparation.
Philosophy and Goals of Jihad
The fifth issue concerns the reason for the law of jihad in Islam. Some believe that there should be no jihad in religion at all: that religion should contain no law of war: that since war is a bad thing, religion must oppose it and not itself establish war as a law. We, on the other hand, know that jihad is a basic principle in Islam. When we are asked how many are the subsidiary beliefs of Islam (furuedin) we say, “Ten – prayer, fasting, khoms, zakat, hajj, jihad, etc.”
Of the arguments that Christians propagate in an extraordinary fashion against Islam is this one. First, they ask why such a law exists in Islam and then they state that due to this legal permission, Muslims started wars with various peoples, forcibly imposing Islam on them. They claim that the Islamic jihads were all fought for the imposition of Islamic beliefs. It is due to this permission that Muslims imposed Islam by force, which is how, they say, up to now, Islam has always spread. They say that the principle of jihad in Islam and one of the basic rights of man, viz. freedom of belief, are in eternal conflict. This is one of the issues to be discussed.
A second issue is the difference that Islam has maintained in the laws of jihad between the mushrikin – the polytheists – and the non-polytheists. There is a provision for living in harmony with the People of the Book that is not applicable to the polytheists.
Another issue is the question of whether Islam differentiates between the Arabian peninsula and the rest of the world. Has Islam appointed for itself a place as its headquarters, its center, wherein no one from amongst the mushrikin or the People of the Book is admitted? And is that place the Arabian peninsula, while in other places Islam is not so severe, and, for example, lives in harmony with the mushrikin or the People of the Book? In short, is the Arabian peninsula any different in these terms or not?
The answer is that between Mecca and other places, there is without a doubt a difference, and in the verse preceding the one under discussion we are told:
«The idolaters are filth, so they must not approach the Masjid ul-Haram (in Mecca).» (9:28)
The fourth issue concerns agreements with mushrikin. Is a Muslim allowed to make agreements with such people? Can he make promises to them? And if he does, is the promise or agreement to be honored or not?
The last issue concerns the conditions of war. When Islam has legalized warfare, what kind of warfare, in terms of the particular conditions of war, does Islam see as legal, and what kind of war does it see as forbidden? For example, does Islam consider the killing of a whole people to be lawful or forbidden? Does Islam view as permissible the killing of those who have not lifted the sword: old women, children, men who are peacefully engaged in their jobs and trades? Is the killing of all these in the view of Islam permissible or forbidden? These are all issues that have to be discussed. The verses pertaining to jihad occur in many places in the Quran. We shall try to compile all of them with the help of God so as to obtain the view of Islam on this matter.
The Legitimacy of Jihad
The first issue that we shall consider will relate to the legitimacy of jihad, whether or not it is correct for a law of war to exist within the context of religion and the text of its commands. Protesters say, “No, war is evil, and religion must always be opposed to evil, so religion must always be opposed to war. It must always support peace. And, since it intends to support peace, it must not have any laws about war, and it must never itself go to war.” This is the kind of propaganda that Christians carry on; weak and limpid, with no ground to stand on.
War – is it always bad? If in defense of a right, against oppression, is it still bad? Obviously not. We must regard the conditions and motives of war and consider for what motive and aim war is fought. There are times when war is aggression. When, for example, a group of people or a nation sets its greedy eyes on the rights of others, on the lands of others, or when it sets its sights on the common wealth of a people, or falls prey to over-ambition, to lust for pre-eminence or superiority, claiming that “of all races our race is the most outstanding, superior to other races, and thus we must rule over those races.” Obviously, war for these reasons is not correct. Whether a war is launched to take possession of land, to seize ownership of national wealth, or due to contempt of others and out of sentiment of racial superiority, i.e. “those people are inferior to us who are superior, and the superior must govern over the inferior,” it is a war of aggression. These types of war are certainly evil, and there can be no doubt about it. We will later talk about another type of war, war for the imposition of belief.
But if a war of defense is undertaken in the face of aggression – others have occupied our land, or have cast their eyes on our wealth and property, or on our freedom and self-esteem, which they want to deprive us of, and intend to impose their rule over us – in these cases, what is religion to say? Is it to say, “War is absolutely evil, laying hands on a weapon is evil, picking up a sword is evil,” and that it advocates peace? And we, when facing imminent attack and the risk of being destroyed, must we not go to war – If we do not, would it not mean failing to defend ourselves – on the pretext of peace? This would not be peace, this would be surrender.
Peace is not Submission
In such an event, we cannot say that because we are the advocates of peace, we are opposed to war. Such a thing would mean that we are advocates of misery; advocates of surrender. Make no mistake, peace and surrender are as different from each other as chalk and cheese. The meaning of peace is honorable coexistence with others, but surrender is not honorable coexistence; it is coexistence that on one side is absolutely dishonorable. In fact, it is a coexistence that is absolutely dishonorable on both sides. On one side, the dishonor is aggression, and on the other side, it is the dishonor of surrender in the face of zulm, in the face of injustice and oppression.
So this fallacy must be eradicated, and a person who declares himself opposed to war, saying that war is totally bad – be it injustice or be it defense and resistance in the face of injustice – has made a great mistake. War that means aggression must be fully condemned while war that means standing up (qiyam) in the face of transgression is to be commended and necessary for human existence.
The Quran also indicates this matter, in fact it illuminates it. It says:
«And if God did not prevent mankind, some with others, the earth would be full of corruption.» (2:251)
and elsewhere it tells us:
«If God did not prevent people, some with some (others) then truly the cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques – in which is oft brought to mind the Name of God – would have been destroyed» (22 :40)
So, if God did not prevent some people by means of other people, ruin and corruption would become the rule everywhere. Furthermore, it is for this very reason that all the countries of the world deem it necessary, essential for themselves to maintain armed forces for their defense. The existence of armed forces, the duty of which is to prevent aggression, is an absolute necessity. Now, if there are two countries that both have armed forces – one for aggression and the other for defense – do not say that the one which has an army without the intention of aggression is weaker than the other and if it were stronger it would also intend to aggress. We are not concerned with this matter. The fact is that the existence of an army for defense is essential for every nation in order for that nation to be strong enough to check any aggression against itself.
Thus, the Quran tells us:
«Prepare against them armies, of readied steeds: you frighten thereby God’s enemies and your enemies.» (8:60)
The statement means, “prepare forces as much as you can and centralize your forces in your frontiers.” Rebat comes from the word Rabt. Rabt means to tie. Rebat-ol-Kheyl means tied horses (horses tethered). The statement about horses in readiness is made because in the past, the strength of armies consisted mostly in horses, but naturally each age has its own characteristics. What the Quran is saying here is that for the fear of our strength to enter the hearts of our enemies and so as not to lay the idea of aggression in their mind, we are to build ourselves an army and make ourselves strong.
Difference between Islam and Christianity
It is said about Christianity that it has the distinction of not having any rule governing war. We, on the other hand, say that Islam has the distinction of having the law of jihad. If we look closely, we see that in Christianity there is no jihad because it has nothing at all. By which I mean that there is no Christian structure of society, no Christian legal system, and no Christian rules as to how a society is to be formed, for these to contain a law of jihad. There is no substance in Christianity; it contains no more than a few moral teachings that form a set of advice such as “tell the truth”, “do not tell lies”, “do not gobble up the wealth of others”, and so on. Such things do not call for jihad? Islam however is a religion that sees it its duty and commitment to form an Islamic state. Islam came to reform society and to form a nation and government. Its mandate is the reform of the whole world. Such a religion cannot be indifferent. It cannot be without a law of jihad. In the same way, its government cannot be without an army. While the scope of Christianity is extremely limited, that of Islam is extremely wide. While Christianity does not cross the frontiers of advice, Islam is a religion which covers all the activities of human life. It has laws which govern the society, economic laws, and political laws. It came to organize a state, to organize a government. Once this done, how can it remain without an army? How can it be without a law of jihad?
Islam and Peace
Thus, those groups which claim that religion. must always oppose war, and advocate peace, because peace is good and war is totally bad, are mistaken. Religion must of course advocate peace, and the Quran says: «Was-Solho khayron», «Peace is better», but it must also advocate war. If the opposing side is not ready to coexist honorably, for example, and being oppressive it intends to trample upon human dignity and honor, and we do submit, then we have welcomed misery: we have accepted dishonor. Islam says:
“Peace if the other side is ready and willing to accept it. If not, and it turns to war: then war.”
Conditions for warfare
The Second issue concerns the circumstances in which Islam says we must fight. The first verses of the Quran that come to us about jihad, in the accepted view of all the commentators, are those from Suratul-Hajj:
«Truly God defends those who have faith. Truly God loves not the treacherous rejecter (kafir). Permission (for warfare) is given to those who are attacked and definitely wronged. And truly God is capable of helping without justice, for no reason except their saying: “Our Nourisher is God” and if God did not prevent people, some with some (others) then truly cloisters, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the Name of God is oft brought to mind, would have been destroyed. And God will help whoever helps Him – for truly, God is Powerful, Prevailing – those who, if we settle them in the earth, establish prayer, pay the zakat and command to what is recognized and prohibit what is rejected. And with God is the result of all affairs.» (22:38-41)
These are amazing verses. They are the very first revealed Quranic verses concerning the legislation of jihad.
The Muslims in Mecca
Before an examination of them, however, we must turn our attention to something else first. As we know, the first revelation was brought down to the Prophet in Mecca, when he was forty years old. After that, the Prophet lived thirteen years in Mecca, during which time, either he himself or his companions were terribly tortured by the pagans of the Quraysh, the ruling houses of Mecca; so much so that a group of them were forced to seek permission from the Holy Prophet to migrate. They left Mecca and went to Ethiopia. Repeatedly the Muslims asked the Holy Prophet for permission to defend themselves, but during the whole of the thirteen years that he was in Mecca, he did not grant it, for which there was a good reason, until at last his holy mission took solid shape and Islam spread, amongst other places, to Medina. There, a small group of Medinans had become Muslims, had gone to Mecca, had paid their allegiance to the Prophet, and had made a covenant that if he were to go to Medina they would support him. So the Holy Prophet migrated to Medina and the Muslims also migrated and, in Medina for the first time, an independent Muslim base was brought into existence. During the first year, permission for defense was still not given. It was during the second year of the hijrah that the first verses an jihad, these same verses I have just recited, were revealed. The tone of the verse goes thus:
«Truly God defends those who have faith… God loves not the treacherous rejecter.»
This indicates that the polytheists had been treacherous to the Muslims, had betrayed them, had transgressed against them, and had rejected God’s blessing upon themselves. Then it declares:
«Permission (for warfare) is given to those who have been attacked and definitely wronged.»
Permission to fight has been given to those whom others have come to fight. Which means: “O Muslims, now that the polytheist rejecters have come to fight against you, fight them.” In reality this is a state of defense. Why has this permission been given? Because the oppressed must defend themselves. Then comes a promise of help:
«And truly God is capable of helping them; those who have been expelled from their homes for no reason except for their saying: “Our Nourisher is God”»
To those people who have been unjustly turned out of their homes and lands for no offense except that they said, “Our Rabb, our Lord, Master, Cherisher and Nourisher, is God,” God gives permission for jihad. Their offense was that they said: “Rabbonallah”, “God is our Rabb.” To such people does God give permission to fight.
Notice to what extent the verse adopts a tone of defense. Then it states the whole reasoning behind jihad. The Quran is amazing in the way it discloses realities and brings to mind all their details. For here comes a particular verse just as if the Quran had been confronted with all the questions and problems raised by the Christians of today, who say: “O Quran. You are supposed to be a divine book, you are supposed to be a religious book, how can you give permission to fight? War is a bad thing, always say “Peace!” Say “Purity!” Say “Worship!”
But the Quran tells us: No. If the other side becomes aggressive towards us and we do not defend ourselves, not a stone will be left upon a stone. All the houses of worship will be destroyed:
«And if God did not prevent people, some with some (others) then truly cloisters, churches, synagogues and mosques – in which the Name of God is oft brought to mind would have been destroyed.»
If God did not check the aggression of some people by means of others, all the houses of worship of all the different sects and religions would be destroyed. The churches of Christians, the synagogues of Jews, the monasteries, the masjids, places of prostration of Muslims, all would exist no longer. Some people would commit such aggression that no one would find the freedom in which to worship God.
The Quran then makes a promise of help:
«And God will help whoever helps Him -Truly God is Powerful, Prevailing.»
Whoever helps God, meaning whoever helps the truth and justice of reality, will be helped by God, and God is Powerful and ever the Victor.
Now notice how God describes those He helps. God helps the people who defend themselves, the people who, when they establish a government, form one on these lines:
«Those who, if we settle them in the earth, … »
The people who, when God gives them a place to inhabit and sets up a government for them, the people who, when God gives them power and authority, form a state on these lines. What lines?
«… establish prayer,… »
They institute worship of God.
«pay the zakat… »
They pay the purification tax. Prayer is the correct spiritual bond between man and God, and zakat is the correct spiritual bond of cooperation between individuals. The people who worship God in sincerity and help one another,
«… and command to what is recognized and forbid what is rejected»
Who consider themselves as being under an obligation to promote what is good and to combat what is evil.
«And with God is the result of all affairs.»
The result of all matters, all subjects, are in the “hands” of God.
What we have learnt so far is that the Quran has fundamentally defined jihad not as a war of aggression or of superiority or of authority, but of resistance against aggression.
Of course, the forms of aggression to be resisted are not always on the lines of one party invading the territory of another. Perhaps a form of aggression will be on the lines of the other side in its own territory subjecting to torture and tyranny a group from amongst themselves, a group that is weak and powerless, who, in the terms of the Quran, are called mustazafin. In such conditions Muslims cannot remain indifferently aloof. Muslims have a mandate to free such afflicted people. Or perhaps the other side has created such a terrible state of repression that the call of haqq, the call of truth, love and justice is not allowed to flourish; has created a dam, an obstacle – which must be destroyed. All these are types of transgressions. Muslims must free mankind from the chains of bondage of thought and the bondage of other than thought. In all these conditions jihad is an urgent necessity; and such a jihad is in defense, in resistance against zulm, against injustice and oppression, against transgression. The word “defense” in its general meaning means resistance against an existing zulm or injustice and oppression, but the types of zulm and the types of transgression against which jihad, in the view of Islam, is a necessity are still to be discussed.
Second Lecture: Defense or Aggression
Christianity’s Protest Against Islam
Previously we said that one of the points that, in its own view, the world of Christianity considers to be a weak point of Islam is the issue of Islamic jihad, which prompts it to say that Islam is a religion of war, not a religion of peace, while Christianity is a religion of peace. It says that war is totally bad and peace is good, and any religion that is divinely founded must advocate peace which is a good thing, and not advocate war, which is a bad thing. Until yesterday Christianity looked at things from the angle of morals; morals exclusive to Christianity; morals that have entered the stage of “turning the other cheek;” morals that foster limpidity. But Christianity today has switched positions. It has changed its face. It now looks at things from a different angle, and carries on its propaganda through a different channel, through the channel of essential human rights and the essential human right to freedom. Through the channel of “war being totally opposed to the right to freedom.” To freedom of belief, to freedom of will, to freedom of choice of religion, nationality and other things. But we Muslims look at the issue from both angles, both from the moral angle and the standards of morals, and also from the angle of human rights and the “new” human standards. I stated the answer to this matter in the previous sitting. It is self-evident and clear that what the Christians are saying is not at all valid.
Of course peace is good. There is no doubt about it. And war, for the sake of aggression against other people – people who have no intentions against the aggressor, no intentions against that aggressive society – war for the sake of occupying that unsuspecting nation’s lands and of grabbing their property, for the sake of enslaving its people, for the sake of subjecting them to the influence and laws of the aggressors, is undoubtedly bad. That which is bad is transgression and aggression. Aggression is bad. But all war, on all sides, is not always aggression. War can be aggressive and it can also be a reply to aggression, for sometimes the reply to aggression must be given by force. There are times that force is the only reply that can be given.
Any religion, if it is a complete religion, must have thought about what it will do on that day when it is faced with aggression, or, let us suppose, it is not itself faced with aggression but another people are. It is for such a day that religion must have a law of war, a law of jihad. The Christians say that peace is good, and we agree; peace is good. But what about submission, humiliation and misery? Are submission, humiliation and misery also good? If one power is faced with another power and both advocate peace, both of them desire, in today’s terms, to live in peaceful coexistence without one power wishing to aggress the other, but both of them willing to live in peace with reciprocal rights and mutual respect, then this is called peace and is good and essential. There is a time, however, when one group is the aggressor and, on the pretext of war being bad, the other group accepts surrender, which means that the humiliation of having to tolerate aggression becomes imposed upon it. The name of this is not peace. The name of this is willing acceptance of humiliation and misery. Such a submission in the face of force can never be called peace. For example, while you are passing a desert, an armed bandit attacks you suddenly and orders you to “get off your car quickly, raise your hand and give me anything you have.” Here you submit yourself and say to him: “I am an advocate of peace and opposed to war completely. I’ll accept anything you order. I give you my money, my luggage and baggage, my car and I’ll obey anything you say. Say anything you want and I will give it to you. Because I advocate peace.” This is not advocation of peace. This is the acceptance of humiliation. In this case a man must defend his property, his prestige unless he knows that if he wants to defend, his property will be abolished, his blood will be shed and there will be no use in it. Of course it must be known that sometimes the blood is very effective and fighting is very worthful and it is not that someone’s blood be shed at defile and then everything comes to end. No, resistance here is not wise and one must sacrifice one’s money and wealth in order to save one’s life.
There is a difference between the advocation of peace and the acceptance of humiliation. Islam never gives permission to be humiliated, while at the same time it strongly advocates peace.
What I want to stress is the importance of this issue which Christians and others have used to attack and protest against Islam, claiming it to be Islam’s weak point, adding that the life of the Holy Prophet was exactly this: that Islam is a religion of the sword; that Muslims raised the sword over the heads of people and said, “Choose Islam or die;” and that people accepted Islam in order to stay alive. Therefore, I think it is necessary for us to discuss this issue thoroughly and minutely, and we will use not only verses from the Quran, but also confirmed traditions of the Prophet and glimpses from his life. We shall start with the Quranic verses:
Unconditional verses about Jihad
I said that some of the Quranic instructions about jihad against kufar (disbelievers) are unconditional, which means they state only this: “O Prophet Fight with the Kufar and the hypocrites.” Or, in the case the verse pertaining to which we recited, after a period which is given to the polytheists (four months), if they have not adopted Islam or haven’t migrated, then they are to be killed. (Does it mean in the surroundings of Mecca and around the sanctuary or every place? This question (must be discussed later.) Or that verse with which we began our discussion and which is about the People of the Book.
«And fight those who have not faith in God nor in the Hereafter and (who) forbid not what God and His Prophet have forbidden, and who are not committed to the religion of truth.» (9:29).
or another verse:
«O Prophet, Fight the kufar (disbelievers) and hypocrites and be stern against them.» (9:73).
If we were to pay attention only to this verse, we would say that Islam fully instructs the Muslims to fight against kufar and hypocrites and they (Muslims) must never be in a state of peace with them, that Muslims must fight them, as vehemently as they can. They must fight them. And if we speak like this we will come to believe that the Quran unconditionally tells us to fight the non-Muslims.
I stated, however, that there is a scholastic rule that when both an unconditional and a conditional command exist, i.e. when there is an instruction that in one place is unconditional but in another place has a condition attached, then, according to the ulema, the unconditional must be interpreted as the conditional. The verses I have just recited are unconditional. Other verses exist that are conditional, meaning that they read like this: “O Muslims. Fight against those polytheists for the reason that they are in aggression against you, because they are in a state of war with you, and therefore you definitely have to fight against them.”
Thus it becomes clear that where the Quran says: “O Prophet Fight against the kufar and hypocrites,” it means that we must fight those kufar and hypocrites who are fighting us and who will continue fighting if we fight them.
In Suratul-Baqarah, the Quran tells us:
«And fight in the path of God with those who are fighting with you and do not transgress, God loves not those who transgress.» (2:190)
O You of Faith. Fight those who are fighting you – i.e. fight them because they are fighting you – but do not violate the limit. What does this mean, not to violate the limit? Not to be the transgressor? Naturally its obvious meaning is that it is those who are fighting us that we are to fight and not anyone else, and that it is on the battleground that we are to fight, meaning that we are to fight with a certain group of people and that group is the soldiers that the other side has sent, the men of war whom they prepared for war with us and who are fighting us. These it is we are to fight, and, in everyday language, we are not to turn chicken on the battlefield: we are not to run away. We must cross swords, exchange bullets, and fight. But with people who are not men of war, who are not soldiers, who are not in a state of combat, such as old men, old women – in fact all women, whether they are old or not – and children, we must not interfere and we must not do any of the other things that are counted as transgression. We must not do these things. We must not cut down their trees (i.e. ruin their economic resources.) We must not fill their canals. Such things we must not do. These are all transgressions.
Do not be misled into thinking that if we have to fight with the soldiers of the other side, there is no option but to damage houses, etc. The fact that on such occasions, if such things cannot be avoided, is a separate issue. In Islam, such military operations directed at damaging houses, etc. are forbidden, unless we have no other choice.
Another conditional verse is the one which we talked about from Suratul-Hajj, which in fact consists of five or six consecutive verses and is the first revealed verse on jihad. It says that because the other side has lifted its sword against us, we can do the same.
In another verse of Surah at-Tawba, we are told:
«Fight with all the polytheists just as they fight with all of you.» (9:36)
Rushing to the Defense of the Oppressed
Before touching this subject and the verses relating to it, a point must be mentioned. I stated that the permission for jihad is subject to some conditions. What conditions? One is that the opposing side is in a state of aggression. Those comprising this side are attacking us, and because they are fighting against us we must fight them. Are the conditions for jihad limited to just this: that the other side wants to fight us? Or are there other factors? Perhaps the other side does not propose to fight us, but is guilty of a gross injustice towards another group of human beings, and we have it in our power to save those human beings from the clutches of that aggressor. If we do not save them, what we are doing in effect is helping that oppressor’s oppression against the oppressed. We may be in a situation whereby a party has not transgressed against us but has committed some type of injustice against a group from another people, who may be Muslims, or who may be non-Muslims. If they are Muslims – like today’s plight of the Palestinians who have been exiled from their homes, whose wealth has been seized, who have been subjected to all kinds of transgression – while, for the moment, the transgressor has no intentions against us, is it permissible for us in such circumstances to hurry to the help of those oppressed Muslims and deliver them, or is this is not permissible?
Certainly this too is permissible. In fact it is obligatory. It would not be a case of commencing hostilities, it would be rushing to the defense of the oppressed especially if they are Muslims, to deliver them from the clutches of oppression.
But if the tyrannized person or party is not a Muslim, then the tyranny can be of two types. There is a time when the oppressor has positioned a people in a vacuum and blocks the call of Islam. Islam gives itself the right to spread its message throughout the world, but this depends upon there being the freedom for it to spread.
Imagine some government that says to the Muslims who are delivering the call of Islam to a nation: “You have no right to say what you are saying. We do not allow it.” In these circumstances it is not permissible for us to fight with that nation, with those people who are blameless and unaware. But is it permissible for us to fight against that corrupt regime which props itself up with a putrid ideology that it uses like a chain around the necks of the people to imprison them in a blind alley, isolated from the call of truth; a regime which acts as a barrier against that call? Is it permissible for us to fight that regime so as to remove that obstacle? Or, in real terms, is it permissible for us to fight against that prison of repression or not? In the view of Islam this is also permissible for this itself would be a form of uprising against zulm, against injustice and oppression. It may be that the mazlum, the wronged, the oppressed, are not aware of the nature of the injustice and have not sought for help, but in fact there is no need for them to request it.
The seeking of help is another issue; assuming that the oppressed seek help from us, is it permissible or obligatory for us to help them? Even if they do not apply for help, is it still permissible for us to help them, or even obligatory? The answer is that it is not necessary for them to seek our help. The simple fact that the oppressed are oppressed, that an oppressive regime has erected a wall, a barrier, for its own well-being, preventing a nation from becoming aware of the Call wherein lies the prosperity and happiness of that nation, the Call which if they hear and become aware of, they are sure to accept; prompts Islam to say that we can break that barrier which, between it and those people, exists in the form of a repressive government.
Wars of Early Islam
Many of the wars of Early Islam were fought for this very reason. The Muslims who went to war used to say that they had no fight with the peoples of the world, and that they were fighting governments in order to rescue peoples from the misery and slavery, imposed on them by those governments. When Rustam, the pre-Islamic champion of Persia asked those Muslims what was their goal, they replied: “To change the worship of worshippers from the worship of those who worship to the worship of God.” – “Our aim is to free these creatures of God, these people whom, by your tricks and violence, you have placed under the yoke of slavery and bondage to your own selves. We are going to deliver them from the yoke of bondage to you. We are going to set them free, make them the devotees of God the Sublime, the devotees of their Creator; not the devotees of what is created by Him just as they themselves are.”
In the letters that the Holy Prophet of Islam wrote to the People of the Book he particularly used to include this Quranic verse:
«Say: O You of the Book, come to an expression that is equal between us and you, that we worship none except God, and associate nothing with Him, and that some of us do not take others as our Lord.» (3:64)
which instructed the Prophet to invite the People of the Book (those same people about whom the instructions of jihad were revealed) to accept an expression, an expression that was the same in respect to them as it is in respect to us. It does not say that they are to accept an expression that is for our benefit and related only to us. It says that they are to accept the expression that is the same for all and the concern of all.
If, for example, we say to a people: “Come, O people, accept our language,” then those people have the right to say: “Why? We ourselves have a language, why should we come and accept yours?” Or we might say: “Come and accept our special habits and customs,” and they may say: “Why should we accept your habits and customs? We have our own.” But if we say: “Come and accept this thing that is not ours and not yours, but is everyone’s; God is the God of us all, so accept Him,“ this relates no more only to us. When we say: “Worship He Who is both our Creator and your Creator, rather He Who is the Creator of all,” then this is the same for them as it is for us.
The Quran says:
«Come to an expression that is equal between us and you.» (3:64)
Only God, the Creator of us all is to be worshipped. And another expression that is supremely, profitable both for us and for them is:
«And that some of us do not take others as our Lords» (3:64)
Which means that the social order of master and servant is canceled, and the order of equality between human beings is established.
This verse reveals that if we fight, we fight for a thing that is the same in regards to all mankind. Having stated this, we can now say that one of the conditions which the unconditional verse can be subjected to is that if a people are bearing the oppression of a certain group, it becomes permissible for us to fight to free those people.
Now there are two other verses that I wish to recite, the first one of which is a verse from Suratul-Anfal:
«And fight with them until there is no chaos, and religion is wholly for God.» (8:39)
What is the meaning of this? It means that we are to fight with those who create chaos amongst us and who want to cause us Muslims to relinquish our religion. With these we are to fight until the chaos they cause has been eliminated. This is itself a condition. A further condition is contained in verse 75 from Surah an-Nisa:
«And why is it that you do not fight in the way of God and the way of the mustazafin of men, women, and children.» (4:75)
O Muslims why are you not fighting in the way of God and in the way of those who are helpless. Men, women and children who are helpless in distress; why do you not fight for them? Why do you not fight to save them?
Interpreting the Unconditional as the Conditional
These five verses that we have spoken about have shown us that, if the instructions of Islam about jihad given in some places are unconditional, in other places they are conditional, and in the terms of the scholars, the unconditional must be interpreted as the conditional.
No Compulsion in Religion
In the Quran we have a group of verses which specify that religion is to be accepted freely and cannot be forced upon someone and this confirms what we have been saying namely that in Islam no one can be coerced, be told either to become Muslims or die. These verses illuminate those unconditional verses in a different way.
One is a part of Ayatul-kursi (2:255-257) and is well-known;
«La ikraha fid-din. Qat-tabayanar-rushdo min al-ghayy.»
«There is no compulsion in religion, for the truth has been made manifest from the false» (2:255)
Which means that we must explain clearly the right path to people; its own reality, is manifest. There is no place for the use of compulsion in religion, no one must be obliged to accept the religion of Islam. This verse is explicit in its meaning. In the Quranic commentaries it is written that an Ansari who had previously been a polytheist had two sons who had converted to Christianity. These two sons had become fascinated by Christianity and very devoted to it, but their father was now a Muslim and upset that his sons had become Christians. He went to the Holy Prophet and said to him: “Rasula-lah! What can I do to these sons of mine who have become Christians? Whatever I have tried, still they do not accept Islam. Do you give me permission to force them to leave their religion and become Muslims?” The Prophet said: “No. La ikraha fid-din, there is no compulsion in religion.”
About the circumstances in which this verse was revealed, it is also written that there were two tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj, who were living in Medina, and who were the original inhabitants of Medina. At the dawn of Islam they were living there together with several large Jewish tribes who had come to Medina at a later period. One was the tribe, Bani Nazil, and another was the Bani Qoraizeh, while there was yet another large tribe of Jews that lived on the fringes of the city.
The Jews, having Judaism as their religion and having also a holy book, came to be more or less considered as the learned of that society, while, amongst the original inhabitants of Medina, who were polytheists and generally illiterate, there had newly come into existence a small group also able to read and write. The Jews, as a result of their superior culture and the wide dimension of their thoughts, exercised quite an influence on this group. Thus, despite the fact that the religion of the Aws and Khazraj was different from that of the Jews, nevertheless they allowed themselves to be influenced by Jewish ideas. As a result, they would sometimes send their children to the Jews to be educated, and while they were among the Jews, the children would once in a while renounce their pagan religion of polytheism and convert to Judaism. Thus, when the Holy Prophet entered Medina, a group of these boys from that city were being trained by the Jews and had chosen for themselves the Jewish religion, which some of them chose not to renounce. The parents of these children became Muslims, yet the children did not give up their new religion Judaism. And when it was settled that the Jews should leave Medina (as a punishment for the chaos they had instigated), those children also left with their fellow Jews. Their fathers came to the Holy Prophet asking him for permission for them to separate their children from the Jews, to force them to relinquish Judaism and to become Muslims; permission which the Holy Prophet did not give. They said: “O Rasula-lah! Allow us to force them to leave their religion and embrace Islam.” The Holy Prophet told them: “No. Now that they have chosen to go with the Jews, let them go with them.” And the commentators say that it was then that the verse:
«La ikraha fid-din. Qat-tabayanar-rushdo min al-ghayy» (2:255)
Another famous verse is:
«And call to the way of your Lord (Rabb) with the judgment and beautiful admonitions, and dispute with them with that which is beautiful…» (16:125)
Invite people to the path of your Rabba. With what? With force of sword? No. With beautiful admonitions and advice.
«And dispute with them with that which is beautiful… » (16:125)
With those who dispute with us, we must also dispute, beautifully. This verse has introduced clearly the way for Islam to be embraced.
In another verse we are told:
«The truth is from your Rabba, so whoever has the will so he must reject…» (18:29)
Whoever wants to believe will believe, and whoever wants to be a kafir will be a kafir. So this verse has also stated that faith and rejection, iman and kufr, can only be chosen by oneself, they cannot be forced upon one by others. So Islam does not say that others must be forced into Islam; that if they become Muslims, well and good, and if they do not, they are to be killed, that the choice is theirs. Islam says that whoever wants to believe will believe, and whoever does not want to, will not.
There is also this verse:
«And if your Rabb willed all the earth would have believed, in total, will you then compel them to be believers.» (10:99)
The verse is addressed to the Prophet. The Holy Prophet really loved the people and wanted them to be true believers. The Quran says that the use of force in the matter of belief is meaningless. If force was valid, God Himself, with His own Power of creation would have made believers of all the people, but belief is a thing that people must choose for themselves. God with all His Powers of creation and compulsion has not forced mankind to be true believers and has given them the free will to choose. Thus, for the same reason the Prophet also was to let them choose for themselves. He whose heart has the desire will become a good believer, and he whose heart does not want to, will not.
Another verse addressed to the Prophet says:
«Seemingly you will grieve yourself to death that they do not become good believers.» (26: 3)
«O Prophet! it is as if you intend to kill yourself because they have not believed as if you want to destroy yourself. Do not be so full of grief for their sakes. We, with Our Power of Creation and Might, if we wanted to force the people to belief we could easily have done so. If we willed it, we could send down the sky a sign to overshadow their neck, for them to be submissive» (26:4)
Here God says that if He wanted to send down from the sky a sign, an affliction, and tell the people that they must either become true believers or be destroyed by that affliction, all the people under compulsion would become believers, but He does not do so because He wants the people to choose for themselves.
These verses further clarify the idea of jihad in Islam and make clear that jihad in Islam is not that which some self-interested parties have said it is. These verses clarify that Islam’s aim is not compulsion; that it does not command Muslims to raise the sword over the head of whoever is not a Muslim and offer the simple choice of Islam or death; that this is not the purpose of jihad.
There is another group of verses occurring in the Quran which are also worth mentioning. On the whole, Islam gives much importance to the issue of peace. In one verse, it is explicitly defined:
«Was-solho Khayro» (Peace is better) (4: 128)
Though, as we have said, peace is not the same as violence, misery and submission to an oppressor. In another verse we are told:
«O you who have found faith, enter peace wholly.» (2:208)
But more illuminating still is this one:
«And if they incline to peace, then you incline to it, and trust in God» (8:61)
Here the Prophet is told that if the opponents advocate peace, if they make sincere efforts for peace, he too should make peace. If they sincerely desire peace, he too is to desire peace. These verses clearly show that the soul of Islam is the soul of peace.
In another verse which is in Surah an-Nisa, the Prophet is also told:
«So if they withdraw from you, have not fought with you, and have put forward peace to you, then God has not placed a path for you against them.» (4:90)
“O Prophet, if they have withdrawn from war, and have not fought against you, and have made a manifestation of peace, have said that they are ready to make peace with you, then God does not give you permission to advance any further and fight them.”
In the same surah, it is further stated, this time about the hypocrites:
«And if they flee, then seize them and slay them wherever you find them, and take them not as your dear ones, nor as helpers. Except those who connect themselves to a people between whom and you there is a bond, or who come to you with their hearts hindered from fighting with you or from fighting their people.» (4:89-90)
If the hypocrites who are fighting us run away, they are to be taken and killed wherever they are, they are not to be taken as friends; we are not to accept help from them, except from those who have a treaty with people with whom we have a treaty, and who are ready to come to an agreement with us. These we are not to kill and with those who are tired of fighting, we are also not to fight.
Thus we have looked at four series of verses. One series consisted of those verses that tell us unconditionally to fight, so if we had ears and heard only these and not the others, it would be possible for us to think that Islam is a religion of war. The second series consist of verses that give the order to fight but with certain conditions; conditions such as the opposing side being in a state of war with us, or a mass of Muslims or non-Muslims having been placed under the heels of a group from amongst themselves which has trampled on their freedom and rights. The third series of verses make it perfectly clear to us that the call of Islam is not sounded with any force of arms. And in the fourth group Islam decisively announces its love of peace.
Third Lecture: Defense – the Quiddity of Jihad
One of the points that now comes into question is the Islamic view of the essence and quiddity of jihad. On this point there is complete agreement amongst researchers; the essence of jihad is defense, meaning that not one of them even suspects jihad, or any kind of fighting, that is motivated by aggression, by lust for the wealth and riches and other resources of the other side, for an aggressor’s harnessing of a people’s economic or human resources, to be in any way permissible in the view of Islam. In Islam, fighting based on such motives are types of zulm, types of tyranny and oppression. Jihad is only for the sake of defense, and in truth, it is resistance against transgression, and can certainly be lawful. Of course, there is also the third possibility that one fights not for the sake of aggression, nor in defense of oneself or of a human value, but for the expansion of a human value, and this will be discussed later. Leaving this point aside, however, we see that in the basic definition of jihad, there is no difference of opinion and all the researchers are agreed that jihad and war must be for the sake of defense. The differences of opinion that do exist are minor ones, and concern the question of what it is that has to be defended.
Types of Defense
The opinions of some on this matter are limited. They say that defense means self-defense; that war is lawful for an individual, a tribe or a nation in defense of itself and its life. According to this, if the lives of a people are exposed to danger from another region, then fighting in defense of their lives is lawful for that people. In the same way, if their property is subject to aggression, then from the point of view of human rights, they have the right to defend that property which is their right. Likewise, if a people is faced with the aggression of another nation that wants to take possession of its wealth and perhaps carry it away, then that people has the right to defend its wealth, even by force.
“Al-maqtulu duna ahlihi wa ‘iyalihi shahidun.”
Islam tells us that whoever is killed for his property or chastity is a martyr. So, in Islam, defending one’s chastity, is like defending one’s life and property. In fact it is superior. It is the defense of one’s honor. For a nation, to defend its independence, is undeniably lawful. So when a group wants to take away the independence of a nation and place that nation under its own mandate, if the people of that nation decide to defend themselves and pick up the gun, this action is lawful, in fact laudable and worthy of admiration. So, defense of life, defense of wealth, property and lands, defense of independence, defense of chastity, all these are lawful defenses. No one doubts the fact that in these cases, defense is permissible and as we have said, the view that some Christians put forth about religion having to advocate peace and not war, and that war is absolutely bad and peace is absolutely good, has no logical or reasonable basis to support it. Not only is fighting for the sake of defense not wrong, but it is extremely correct in this case to fight and one of the necessities of human life. This is what is meant in the Holy Quran when we are told:
«If God did not prevent mankind some with others, the earth would become full of corruption.» (2:251)
«If God did not prevent people, some with some (others), then cloisters, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the Name of God is oft brought to mind, would have been destroyed.» (22:40)
Up to this point all the scholars are more or less in agreement.
There exists the question, however, of whether the things we are allowed to defend are only these, i.e. individual, group and national rights, or whether it is legitimate for us to defend other things as well. Do there exist things, the defense of which is necessary and obligatory, that do not pertain merely to the rights of the individual, tribe or nation but pertain literally to the rights of humanity as a whole? If somewhere a right of humanity is somehow encroached upon, is it legitimate
- Questions about Jihad (davidochieng.wordpress.com)
- Jihad: What a Misapprehension! (davidochieng.wordpress.com)