‘Jihad’ struggle for well-being, not call for mad war
In the year 1998, Osama bin Laden, leader of the terrorist group al-Qaeda, issued a “fatwa” (Islamic edict) exhorting all Muslims to kill Americans because they were anti-Islam. He told them it was “jihad” or a holy war. He deliberately misinterpreted the word “jihad” to suit his politics, unfazed that the violent fallout of his actions would make Muslims suspect as terrorists for decades and taint Islam as the fount of theocratic terrorism.
Long after 9/11, long after the killing of Bin Laden, and long after thousands of misguided Muslim youth died waging a meaningless war at the behest of irreligious terrorist groups, the world, including the Muslims, are waking up to the fact that they were all taken for a ride.
Muslim and non-Muslim theologists, clerics, scholars, military historians and sociologists across the world are today grappling with the gigantic task of reversing the lies that formed the basis for violent attacks by terrorist groups in the guise of Islamic justice.
Countries like Pakistan, however, continue to harbour, protect and encourage terrorist groups to continue waging the fake “jihad” against its political enemies, especially India.
The United States, which reacted to 9/11 in the same, misguided, illiterate manner as Bin Laden to bring war to innocent millions in the old Persia-Mesopotamia region, is now realising that their mistrust of a beard because of what Laden did is misplaced.
A correct interpretation of Jihad and how Laden messed it all up is now compulsory reading in the officers’ training courses of the American military.
Indian Islamic scholar and peace activist, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, has perhaps the simplest interpretation of “jihad” in Qoranic terms. He is quoted as saying: “Jihad means essentially a struggle to invite people to God. As the Quran (25:52) says, “strive with the utmost strenuousness by means of this (Quran)”.
Khan elaborates on why such a pious task can turn into a struggle: “Dawah, or inviting people to God, is actually an ideological struggle. When efforts are made to engage in inviting people to God taking into consideration all kinds of demands (that come in the way), it becomes a great struggle. That is why inviting people to God is called ‘jihad’.”
He explains why there is so much confusion about ‘jihad’ and its loose translation into physical war: “On some occasions the word “jihad”, in its extended sense, is also used to refer to “qital” or physical war. However, this is only an extended application of this word. As far as the commandments and rules of conduct of ‘jihad’ and ‘qital’ are concerned, they are totally different from each other. The target of the ‘jihad’ of Dawah is to bring about a change in the thinking of the other party with whom Dawah is being done, while, the target of ‘qital’ is the extermination of the other party.”
What is “jihad” from a western, say, British, point of view? The BBC has perhaps the most accepted version of globally misinterpreted words and phrases. On ‘jihad’, the BBC website says: “The literal meaning of Jihad is struggle or effort, and it means much more than holy war.” But it says one of three kinds of struggle described as ‘jihad’ refers to “Holy war: the struggle to defend Islam, with force if necessary.” Aware that this can lead to arguments, the BBC explains: “Many modern writers claim that the main meaning of Jihad is the internal spiritual struggle, and this is accepted by many Muslims.”
Osama bin Laden subverted all this for his terrorist acts. The purpose here is only to show how he managed to give the impression that his diabolical acts of violence had sanction in Islam.
The crux of the ‘fatwa’ was: “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty Allah, and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together, and fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah.”
Nobody, including Islamic scholars, challenged Laden’s fraudulent theocratic credentials, even though they knew that the basis of his ‘fatwa’ does not adhere to, and cannot be justified by, Islamic law.
Laden cleverly began his ‘fatwa’ with an incomplete quotation of Verse 9:5, omitting the reconciliation part of it and focusing only on the war portion. By claiming that Americans controlled the holiest of Islamic places in Saudi Arabia, he gave it the appearance that Islam was under attack from foreign aggressors, thus justifying why the war should be a holy ‘jihad’.
Over a million young Muslims from largely Asia and Europe, generally impoverished, jobless and illiterate, were taken in by the ‘jihad’ advertisement which, incidentally, also gave them hopes of going to heaven should they be killed in the holy war. Nearly all of them were trained in ‘madrassas’ in Pakistan where they were brainwashed.
They were forced to spend their days in rote memorisation of the Quran in Arabic, a language they did not understand, followed by their indoctrination of radical messages and training in arms.
The clergy failed to clarify that, in Knapp’s words, “if the languages in the Quran and Hadith appears militant in places, it is a reflection of the world of the Muslims in the seventh century which consisted initially of resistance to a variety of more powerful non-Islamic tribes and then successful military campaigns to spread the faith”.
The propaganda calls for ‘jihad’ of the terrorists failed to tell the youth that the Islamic works also “laid out rules of engagement for war, prohibiting the killing non-combatants and giving notice to the adversary before an attack, seek peace if its opponent does”.
In his seminal 2003 work, Concept of Jihad in Islam, American military historian Michael G. Knapp observed: “Although he appears to be fired by the religious zeal of Saudi Arabia’s puritanical Wahhabi movement, Laden’s targets have not been offending religious and cultural institutions, but political, military and economic targets. Though he quotes selective and incomplete passages from the Quran to establish his basis for jihad, his motivations are really not that different from the anti-imperialistic doctrines that sustain religious and non-religious extremist groups all over the world.”