Saturday, February 26, 2005

ISLAM: Jihad and Muslims



Those like Mawdudi who assert that the goal is the establishment of an Islamic state betray not only intellectual but also moral bankruptcy. Has Islam no message for the millions of Muslims who live in non-Muslim countries? The Prophet sent persecuted Muslims to Ethiopia to seek asylum there; not to establish an Islamic state on its soil. The Koran proclaims Muhammad as a Messenger of God. It does not appoint him as head of state. He drew up a detailed agreement with non-Muslims in Medina. Clause 25 is striking in this respect: "The Jews of Banu Awf are a community (ummah) along with the believers (Emphasis added, throughout). To the Jews their religion (din) and to the Muslims their religion (din)." How should a Muslim read this in the present times, regardless of whether he is in a Muslim country or a non-Muslim one? Does it not contain the essence of secular citizenship?


Jehad and Muslims
A.G. NOORANI


By understanding the true meaning of the word jehad, the Muslim ummah (community) will understand the true meaning of its faith, Islam.

"THE highest form of jihad is to speak the truth in the face of a tyrannical ruler." It is the neglect of this authentic saying of Prophet Muhammad that explains why Muslims and non-Muslims alike have misunderstood precisely what jehad means. While its true appreciation will remove misconceptions in the minds of non-Muslims, a similar exercise will secure for the Muslim ummah (community) an achievement that has eluded it for centuries. It will understand the true meaning of its faith, Islam, and in the process regain its lost soul. It will understand, in consequence, the true significance of the ummah in modern times, its relationship with the world outside, with other faiths and, indeed, among Muslim nations as well as between Muslim minorities and the countries to which they belong.

The Muslim ulama (clerics) have been anything but helpful. Very many readily lent their services to the adventurer of the day and issued a fatwa (edict) for jehad before he embarked on a war of aggression. In 1885 Moulavi Chiragh Ali, in some ways more daring than his friend and companion in the campaign for reform, Syed Ahmed Khan of Aligarh, wrote A Critical Exposition of the Popular "Jihad". He tabulated and analysed each verse of the Koran that was relevant and traced misconceptions to "the casuistic sophistry of the Canonical legists".

He wrote: "The Mohammadan Common Law is by no means divine or superhuman. It mostly consists of uncertain traditions, Arabian usages and customs, some frivolous and fortuitous analogical deductions from the Koran, and a multitudinous array of casuistical sophistry of the canonical legists. It has not been held sacred or unchangeable by enlightened Mohammedans of any Moslem country and in any age since its compilation in the fourth century of the Hejira. All the Mujtahids, Ahl Hadis, and other non-Mokallids had had no regard for the four schools of Mohammedan religious jurisprudence, or the Common Law." It is on this law, not the Koran, that rests the Muslim law on divorce and polygamy in force in India today. It is Anglo-Mohammedan law; not Islamic law.

Chiragh Ali's work was part of a wider effort for reform of Muslim law, beliefs and practices. It is beyond the scope of this article to describe how the reformers were silenced in India and bigoted ulama took over. The foremost of such called the Muslim League "a party of pagans". He opposed its demand for Pakistan and went on to exercise a baleful influence over its politics. This was the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abul Ala Mawdudi.

Professor Richard Bonney, Director of the Centre for the History of Religious and Political Pluralism and of the Institute for the Study of Indo-Pakistan Relations at the University of Leicester, has written a work of learning and insight. It is a service to inter-faith harmony no less than to scholarship. One wonders how many of the ulama in India or Pakistan can claim such erudition. The book is addressed to Muslims as well as non-Muslims. He does well to point out fundamental differences among Muslims themselves on the concept.

"Contrary to a frequent projection in the West, in its original sense jihad does not mean `war', let alone `holy war'. It means `struggle' (jahd), exertion, striving, in the juridico-religious sense. It signifies the exertion of one's power to the utmost of one's capacity in the cause of Allah; it is thus the opposite of being inert, the antonym to the word qu'ud (sitting) in the Quran (Q. 4:95)... It may comprise a campaign for justice and truth, or (as in one passage in the Quran), `that you believe in Allah and His Messenger and that you strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives... .' (Q. 61:11)." If jehad means "to exert", ijtihad means exertion of reason. It is a recognised source of Islamic law.

Like Chiragh Ali, the author meticulously analyses the Koranic verses. What is Islam about? It does not ordain an Islamic state. The faith must be distinguished from its exploitation by Muslim rulers and clergy. A distinguished scholar Qamaruddin Khan holds that in Islamic history, the Muslim state has often been equated with the Islamic faith and it is asserted that the one exists for the other. "This attitude has given the impression that Islam is a political device rather than a moral and a spiritual force." The reality is quite different, he asserts. The state was a "circumstantial event". It did not follow a set pattern, divine or human, but grew out of history.

The main concern of Muslims was to propagate the new faith. To realise this aim they had to unite themselves into an organisation that gradually developed into a state.

Qamaruddin Khan holds that Islam must progress in the world "as an independent, spiritual and moral force, conquering not lands, rivers and mountains, but the hearts and souls of men". Moreover, Islamic values can be developed within different political and social conditions and under different political systems.

Those like Mawdudi who assert that the goal is the establishment of an Islamic state betray not only intellectual but also moral bankruptcy. Has Islam no message for the millions of Muslims who live in non-Muslim countries? The Prophet sent persecuted Muslims to Ethiopia to seek asylum there; not to establish an Islamic state on its soil. The Koran proclaims Muhammad as a Messenger of God. It does not appoint him as head of state. He drew up a detailed agreement with non-Muslims in Medina. Clause 25 is striking in this respect: "The Jews of Banu Awf are a community (ummah) along with the believers (Emphasis added, throughout). To the Jews their religion (din) and to the Muslims their religion (din)." How should a Muslim read this in the present times, regardless of whether he is in a Muslim country or a non-Muslim one? Does it not contain the essence of secular citizenship? (For the full text of this nearly 1,400-year-old document, vide Charles Kurzman, Liberal Islam, Oxford University Press; Rs. 295, pp 169-178).

The Indonesian writer Monawir Syadrali, author of a study on Islam and the administration of the state (1900), argues that since the Constitution of Medina did not mention Islam as the religion of the state, the Prophet did not actually call for the establishment of a theocratic state in which Islam would serve as its sole basis. This argument is irrefutable.

Scholars and activists wrote in the context of the situation they faced. One of the greatest of them Ibn Taymiyyah (1268-1328) wrote in the context of the Crusades and the Mongol invasion. Bonney reproduces in the Appendix the text of his fatwa on the Mongols in 1303. "Ibn Taymiyyah's standpoint was not always a moderate one at the time, let alone when interpreted in the light of modern inter-faith relations. In his short treatise on the status of monks, he argued that those in the religious orders who were found outside their monasteries might be killed; they might also be killed if they had dealings with people outside their monastic community rather than living a completely isolated life. This tract was reprinted in Beirut in 1997 by Nasreddin Lebatelier (the Belgian Muslim convert, Jean Michot) under the title Le Statut des Moines, with an introduction quoting from the Groupe Islamique Arme's (GIA) communique number 43, which stated that it was justifiable under Islamic principles to take the lives of the seven Trappist monks killed in Algeria in 1996... "

For Osama bin Laden, Ibn Taymiyyah, along with Shaykh Muhammad Ibn' Abd al-Wahhab, is one of the great authorities to be cited to justify the kind of indiscriminate resort to violence that he terms jehad. It is another matter that, not seldom, he is quoted out of context. Natana J. De Long-Bas has written a definitive study of Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad (Oxford University Press; pages 370; $35) in which she points out that Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's treatise on jehad differes from Ibn Taymiyyah's doctrines. "Bin Laden's absolute division of the world into two mutually exclusive spheres and his declaration of permanent global jihad against unbelievers are not Wahhabi in origin. Their roots lie in the teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah... and Sayyid Qutb rather than in the teachings of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab".

It is not widely known now that the Wahhabi Saudi regime could not have won power but for British support. In 1788 the British joined hands with the Wahhabis in the occupation of Kuwait. They also did not help the Hashemites in the defence of Mecca and Medina when Ibn Saud's forces occupied them in 1924 and 1925.

Bonney traces the use of jehad for political ends in colonial times in Africa, Russia, Chinese Central Asia, in the Indian Mutiny as well as its enunciation by Mawdudi, Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and by Saiyyid Qutub. The Shia version enunciated by Iran's religious leaders is not neglected. The survey ends with the present times.

The author is unsparing in his criticism of American policies. "The clash between militant Islamists and the U.S.A. is not `a clash of civilisations' as Samuel Huntington proclaimed in 1993 (which implies an objective reality) but it is certainly a clash of `rival exceptionalisms' (which implies a portrayal of the reality, or a false consciousness on the part of militant Islamists and their militant equivalent in the United States, the neo-conservative Right... .

"Americans have been imbued with the idea that they are a `latter-day chosen people' with a providential exemption from the woes that have plagued all other human societies. During the Cold War the positive vision of America - the `myth of innocence' or the `myth of the new world' - was an essential tool of U.S. propaganda against Communism." President George W. Bush declared on October 12, 2001: "I know how good we are."

Prof. Bonney draws pointed attention to a danger that threatens not only the U.S. but all nations with "improvements" in the technology of warfare of which Al Qaeda has not been slow to take advantage. A top Al Qaeda planner boasted in 2002: "Western strategists... (claimed) that the new warfare would be strategically based on psychological influence and on the minds of the enemy's planners... not only on military means, as in the past, but also on the use of all the media and information networks... in order to influence public opinion and, through it, the ruling elite." There, the "fourth-generation wars" have already occurred and "the superiority of the theoretically weaker party has already been proven: in many instances, nation-states have been defeated by stateless nations... . The time has come for the Islamic movements facing a general crusader offensive to internalise the rules of fourth-generation warfare."

The Al Qaeda now perceives jehad as "fifth-generation" warfare - devoid of morality, humanity or sense; but mindlessly destructive and violative of every tenet of Islam. "It is not necessarily technological innovation, but ruthlessness and cost-effectiveness (to the terrorist) that characterises `fifth-generation' warfare."

Henry C.K. Liu commented in relation to the costs of war in January 2003: "Why should terrorists resort to ICBMs [Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles] that are costly and difficult to launch when a small bottle of biological agent can do more damage at a tiny fraction of the cost? A recent NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organisation] study shows that the costs of conventional weapons ($2,000), nuclear armaments ($800), and chemical agents ($600) would far outstrip the bargain basement price of biological weapons ($1) to produce 50 per cent casualties per square-kilometre (prices at 1969 dollars)."

Liu is Chairman of the Liu Investment Group in New York. He holds that "Terrorism can only be fought with the removal of injustice, not by anti-ballistic missiles and smart bombs. It is a straw-man argument to assert the principle of refusal to yield to terrorist demands. It is a suicidal policy to refuse to negotiate with terrorists until terrorism stops, for the political aim of all terrorism is to force the otherwise powerful opponent to address the terrorists' grievances by starting new negotiations under new terms. The solution lies in denying terrorism any stake in destruction and increasing its stake in dialogue.

"This is done with an inclusive economy and a just world order in which it would be clear that terrorist destruction of any part of the world would simply impoverish all, including those whom terrorists try to help. The U.S. can increase its own security and the security of the world by adopting foreign and trade policies more in tune with its professed value of peace and justice for all."

In other words, by shunning unilateralism and hegemonistic policies. The Al Qaeda, a hydra-headed cell-like structure, can be defeated only by enlisting the support of the entire international community. That was spontaneously extended after 9/11. Bush frittered it away.

Jehad is no answer to U.S. policies. Prof. F.E. Peters recalls: "In the centuries after Muhammad, the combination of juridically imposed conditions and political realities had diminished the effectiveness of jihad as a practical instrument of policy; though it remains a potent propaganda weapon both for Muslim fundamentalists to brandish and for their Western opponents to decry."

Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, a Tamil Sufi mystic from Sri Lanka, who died in the U.S.A. on December 8, 1986, wrote an important short book called Islam and World Peace in which he argued that the holy wars that the children of Adam are waging today are not true holy wars. Taking other lives is not true jehad.

Prof. Olivier Roy is one of the foremost authorities on political Islam. The analyses in his book The Failure of Political Islam have been proved all too correct by time. The present work is an appropriate sequel. He writes in an arresting style, with flashes of insight, and remarkable documentation. He spent several years with the Afghan mujahideens and has lectured in Iran's holy city, Qom. His analyses are original. "Globalised Islam refers to the way in which the relationship of Muslims to Islam is reshaped by globalisation, Westernisation and the impact of living as a minority. The issue is not the theological content of the Islamic religion, but the way believers refer to this corpus to adapt and explain their behaviours in a context where religion has lost its social authority."

Islamist movements ran out of steam. They adopted neo-fundamentalism that rejected national cultures and opted for an imagined unified ummah globally. Its members uprooted themselves from their native milieu. "The deterritorialisation of Islam is also a result of globalisation and has nothing to do with Islam as such, even if it concerns millions of Muslims. But through the increase in migratory and population flows, more and more Muslims are living in societies that are not Muslim; a third of the world's Muslims now live as members of a minority."

Religious revivalism is quintessentially anti-intellectual. It does not concern itself with studies in religion but with religiosity. Western themes and idiom are freely borrowed. Politics prevails over religion, everywhere.

However, "If one looks to modern times, Al Qaeda is not an isolated phenomenon. Suicide attack became a standard of guerilla warfare in the 1980s, through the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (or Tamil Tigers), who supposedly practise Hinduism, the religion of Mahatma Gandhi. Simultaneously, aeroplane hijacking was invented by the Palestinians (then secular) with the help of the ultra-leftist and Western Red Army Faction. The first suicide attack on Israeli soil was perpetrated in 1972, by the Japanese Red Army. The real genesis of Al Qaeda violence has more to do with a Western tradition of individual and pessimistic revolt for an elusive ideal world than with the Koranic conception of martyrdom."

Al Qaeda needs allies but its search is severely limited by its religiosity. It has no vision to share with them. Bin Laden's goals are unnegotiable. "His aim is simply to destroy Babylon". The work abounds with striking phrases and aphorisms which mark Roy's style. Bin Laden is not an Islamic jehadist. "Notwithstanding the debate on what the word really means, it is clear that jehad, as an armed struggle, has always been instrumentalised for political and strategic purposes, by state actors or would-be state actors. Bin Laden's jehad has more to do with the ethos of a modern Western terrorist."

Le Monde Diplomatique of September 2004 carried a brilliant article by Roy entitled "Al Qaeda brand-name ready for franchise". There are those who attack targets in the West, acting outside their home, and others who attack "Western" targets at home. The West imagines that it is a centralised outfit at work. In truth, "it is a network of militants and only exists as long as they attack". It has three options for its survival - franchising its band name, partnership and organised crime. "It has already started franchising its brand name" to local groups who act in its name but without direct links to its headquarters. Islamist Networks, co-authored with Mariam Abou Zahab, contains a detailed account of the links between Central Asian, Afghan and Pakistani outfits. Documents published by the National Security Archive in the U.S. suggest that the Taliban desperately sought U.S. recognition and might well have ditched bin Laden - for a price. The U.S. refused to negotiate.

Roy calls a specific form of fundamentalism "neo-fundamentalism". It is "both a product and an agent of globalisation, first of all because it embodies in itself an explicit process of deculturation. It rejects the very concept of culture, whether conceived of as arts and intellectual productions or as an integrated system of socially acquired values, beliefs and rules of conduct, as defined by anthropology. It looks at globalisation as a good opportunity to rebuild the Muslim ummah on a purely religious basis, not in the sense that religion is separated from culture and politics, but to the extent religion discards and even ignores other fields of symbolic practices." Local cultures are rejected in quest of an imagined unified community. L.K. Advani is one such. He wanted Kashmiri Pandits to be known simply as Hindus. Hindutva disdains the rich diversities of Hinduism and seeks to construct an artificial uniformity as do the Islamic neofundos. Political violence passed into the hands of both in the 1990s.

Significantly, most of the Muslim ulama denounced 9/11. Muhammad Qasim Zaman records in his book The Ulama in Contemporary Islam (OUP, Karachi; pages 293, Rs.595) that "the Deobandi Ulama were never unanimously euphoric about the Taliban". A number of them expressed their reservations. "In terms of intellectual activity, too, there is a great gulf between the Deobandi Taliban and Deobandi scholars like Taqi Uthmani".

Professors Roy and Bonney make an identical plea which Muslims would do well to consider seriously. Roy writes: "A puzzling problem remains to be answered, however; namely, the apparent dearth of reformist thinkers in the Muslim world. If Westernisation is such a tremendous challenge, and no matter what the practical adaptations to it of the average Muslims, what accounts for the seeming lack of theological debate? In fact there are many modern Muslim thinkers (such as Mohammed Arkoun, Khaled Abou El Fadl, Abdolkarim Sorouth, Muhammad Shahrur and Mohsen Kadivar). The issue is not about writers but about readers. Why are reformists so little read?"

Bonney urges Muslims to accept pluralism and interaction with other faiths. He proposes six principles - peaceful resolution of conflicts; "resort to war only in the last resort, when the cause is just and of a defensive nature"; dialogue between cultures and religions; acceptance of diversity of traditions; respect for human rights of the individual; and democratic political participation on the basis of equal citizenship.

"For too long the Muslim mainstream has hidden its `light under a bushel'. The debates within Islam which have addressed the main issues of modernity, pluralism and human rights, issues which are of concern for the West, are not well known in the West." Nor in India, though there is an increasing awareness of human rights in Muslim countries.

Mashood A. Baderin of the University of the West of England has written an excellent work in which he establishes that Islamic law supports every provision in both the United Nation's International Covenants - on civil and political rights and on the economic, social and cultural rights (International Human Rights and Islamic Law; OUP; pages 279, ?60).

So is international humanitarian law, which is a part of international law. Prof. Yadh ben Ashoor points out: "A number of works give accounts of relevant directives issued by Abu Bakr [the first Caliph who succeeded the Prophet], who is said to have given ten commandments to one of his generals: `Do not kill any women, children, elders or wounded. Do not have fruit-trees or date-trees cut down. Do not burn them. Do not destroy inhabited places. Do not have cows or sheep drowned. Do not be guilty of cowardice, but do not be inspired by hatred'... . It should not be forgotten that, on the legal front, the methodology adopted by Islam is founded on effort (ijtihad). Consequently, it is the duty of contemporary Moslem jurists to adapt classical solutions and interpretations to the needs of the times.

"The only condition is that the results should not run counter to the letter and spirit of the Koran or the Sunnah, but should foster the interests of the Islamic community. In fact, nothing in the Koran or Sunnah seems to be in direct contradiction to international humanitarian law. The opinions of certain great scholars should only be taken as doctrinal stand points, and these must be divested of their sacredness that the fortuities of history have bestowed on them." (International Review of the Red Cross; March-April 1980; pp.59-69).

According to a tradition of the Prophet (hadith), he instructed his commanders: "do not kill a minor child or an old man of advanced age or a woman, do not hew down a date palm or burn it, do not cut down a fruit tree, do not slaughter a goat or cow or camel except for food... According to a different transmission of the tradition, he enjoined upon his commanders `the fear of God. Do not disobey,'... `do not cheat, do not show cowardice, do not destroy churches, do not inundate palm trees, do not burn cultivation, do not bleed animals, do not cut down fruit trees, do not kill old men or boys or children or women."

The jehadis have no use for the Prophet's dicta or, for that matter, with Islam itself. Their concern is not with the faith, but its exploitation to secure their political ends.