- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
THE Quran exhorts believers to “strive for the cause of God as it behoves you to strive for it.” (THE QURAN 22: 78) .This earnest struggle is expressed in Arabic by the word jihad which is derived from the word juhd, which means to strive, to struggle, to exert ourselves to the utmost to achieve our goals. Thus the original meaning of jihad is striving very hard. Since the early Muslims had to strive hard during wars with aggressors, these wars by extension, came to be called jihad. However, the actual word for such a war in Arabic is qital, not jihad. Islamic jihad is a positive and continuous process. It is at work in the entire life of a believer War with an aggressor is a chance occurrence, taking place as warranted by particular situations, while jihad is a continuous and on-going action at the core of the believer’s life, day in and day out. It is the struggle to maintain strict adherence to the will of God in all aspects of our lives and the resistance to any obstacles that come in the way of fulfilling God’s will—for instance, the desires of the self, the urge to serve our own interests, the compulsion of social traditions, the temptation to compromise on one's principles, ego problems, the greed for wealth, etc. Overcoming all such hurdles and persevering in obeying God’s commands is the real jihad. This is the primary use of the word jihad. We cite here some traditions, as recorded in Musnad Ahmad, which define the role of a mujahid or one who is engaged in Jihad. A mujahid is one who struggles with himself for the sake of God. (THE QURAN 6: 20) A mujahid is one who exerts himself for the cause of God. (THE QURAN 6: 22) A mujahid is one who struggles with his self in submission to the will of God. The Greater Jihad Jihad essentially is a peaceful struggle. One form of this peaceful struggle is to do dawah (to communicate the message of God). The Quran says: Do not yield to those who do not believe, but fight them strenuously with it (with the Quran). THE QURAN, 25: 52 This is referred to as the ‘Great Jihad’. This does not refer to military action or physical combat with those who do not believe. What it actually means is that we must continuously engage ourselves in conveying the peaceful message of the Quran. The present world is a testing ground; the entire fabric of this world has been designed to fulfil the purpose of the divine trial of man. This being so, the human being is necessarily faced with all kinds of temptations, which are barriers to our measuring up to God’s standards. For instance, when a matter of truth comes before us and we refuse to acknowledge it for fear of losing our status; when we have someone’s wealth or property in our possession and hesitate in restoring it to the true owner; when we resent having to place curbs on ourselves in order to lead a life of modesty as desired by God; when we feel that suppressing our anger and vengefulness in order to be patient amounts to our inability to stand up for ourselves; when we fail to speak the truth and stand up for justice for fear of losing our interests; when we are loath to renounce comforts and convenience in order to be of a principled character. Migration or hijrath of the Prophet Muhammad is a clear example of abandoning violent solutions in favour of peaceful solutions. In all such situations, it becomes essential for us to sacrifice our feelings and desires. We may have to kill our egos completely. In spite of having to surmount all such hurdles, we should be determined to stick to the truth in the real and primary sense of jihad. Those who engage in this jihad will be held deserving of paradise in the Hereafter. The truth is that in life we have to choose between two courses—the confrontational and the non-confrontational, the peaceful and the violent. A study of the Prophet’s life tells us that in all matters the Prophet abandoned the violent course of action in favour of the peaceful one. The entire life of the Prophet provides a successful, practical example of this principle. We present, here, some examples of this nature. Communication Of The Message Of Monotheism After being appointed as Prophet, the first question before him was which of the two above-mentioned courses he should follow. As we know, the Prophet’s mission was to bring polytheism (shirk) to an end and establish monotheism in its place. The Kabah in Makkah was an ancient centre of monotheism, but at the time of the Prophet, 360 idols were contained within its walls. In view of this situation, the first verses to be revealed in the Quran should have been, one might think, about purifying the Kabah of the idols and making it a centre of tawheed, or oneness of God. But beginning his mission with this task would have amounted to war, because the Quraysh, the most powerful tribe in Arabia, were the guardians of the Kabah. As seen during the conquest of Makkah, the Prophet adhered to the principle of peace even in extreme emergencies. The Prophet, therefore, completely avoided the physical purification of the Kabah and limited himself to the communication of the message of monotheism. This was an example of adopting a peaceful and nonconfrontational method instead of a violent or confrontational one. The Battle Of The Trench The battle of the Trench is another such example. On this occasion a large number of people from different tribes had come to Medina with the intention of attacking it. It was clearly a military challenge. But the Prophet used a strategy to avoid an encounter with the enemy. According to this plan, the Prophet worked hard day and night along with his companions to dig a long trench between him and his opponents. This trench served as a buffer. Therefore, when the army of the Quraysh arrived, they could not attack. So, they camped there for some days. In the end they gave up the idea of attacking as it was impossible to cross the ditch. They eventually left Medina. The digging of this trench provides an example of opting for a peaceful course instead of a violent course. The Hudaybiya Peace Treaty The Hudaybiya peace treaty is another good example. The Prophet and his companions wanted to perform the minor pilgrimage (umrah) in Makkah, but when they reached Hudaybiya, nine miles from Makkah, they were stopped by the leaders of the Quraysh who refused to allow them to enter Makkah. This could easily have taken a military turn. If the Prophet wanted to advance as planned towards Makkah, an encounter would have taken place. The Prophet, however, ended his journey at Hudaybiya and signed a peace treaty, accepting all the conditions laid down by his opponents. He then came back to Medina without having performed the umrah. This was another clear Prophetic example of adopting a peaceful method as opposed to a violent method. The Conquest Of Makkah The conquest of Makkah provides an equally telling example. On this occasion, the Prophet was accompanied by 10,000 devoted followers. They could easily have fought, and won, a battle against the Quraysh. Yet the Prophet Muhammad decided to subdue his enemies with a demonstration rather than a battle. He made preparations for a journey to Makkah in secret, and with his companions, quietly entered Makkah. Their entry was so sudden that the Quraysh could not make any preparations for war and Makkah was conquered without any carnage. This incident provides a fine example of adopting a peaceful method instead of a violent method. These examples show that not only in normal situations, but even in emergencies, the Prophet adhered to the principle of peace. All his successes are practical examples of this peaceful method. Now, a peaceful course of action is not just one of the possibilities: it is the only feasible and result-oriented option. As mentioned above, the position of peace in Islam is sacrosanct, while war is allowed only in exceptional cases when it cannot be avoided. Let us look at the state of affairs prevailing today. This modern age is totally different from preceding centuries. In ancient times violence was the norm, so that maintaining the peace was extremely difficult. But now the situation has totally changed. Today, we have reached the stage where any kind of violence is undesirable and unacceptable. A peaceful strategy is the only viable solution to all problems. Modern societies have a number of positive aspects such as the right to freedom of expression, the possibilities opened up by the communications systems, etc. These facilities have rendered possible a peaceful, more effective course of action. As mentioned above, the method of the Prophet is that if it is possible to adopt a peaceful method, it should be put into practice during any struggle. As a result of facilities that have become available in the present age, the peaceful method is not only available at all times but is also the most effective way to spread any message. It would therefore be no exaggeration to say that in present times a violent struggle is not only a hard option but is also impractical, whereas non-violence is not only an easier option, but is also highly effective and result-oriented. Now, a peaceful course of action is not just one of the possibilities: it is the only feasible and result-oriented option. This being so, it would be right to say that violence has been practically abandoned. This is what we call an abrogated command in the language of the shariah (Islamic law). Now believers are, in reality, left with only one choice, and that is indeed the peaceful course of action. According to the Islamic shariah, peace is the rule in matters of jihad, while war is the least desirable option. One celebrated example of the success of such a course is to be found in the life of the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). Gandhi decided to wage political battles successfully by adopting the principles of non-violence and engaging in peaceful civil disobedience. It is a known principle that the commands of the shariah change according to altered situations. This accepted principle of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) demands that with the changing times, a new application of the shariah should be sought in order that shariah commands may be in consonance with the changing circumstances. This principle of Islamic jurisprudence relates not only to civic matters, but also to war. This principle demands the practical avoidance of a violent course of action. Only a peaceful course of action should be accorded the status of a shariah command. The jihad movements of modern times It is true that in ancient times, violent solutions were adopted at certain stages due to the prevailing circumstances. People had no other alternative. There is no longer this compulsion, however. According to the Islamic shariah, peace is the rule in matters of jihad, while war is the least desirable option. Many groups of Muslims in many countries have launched movements of armed jihad, in the name of Islam. But a movement cannot be a jihad just because its leaders describe it as such. An action can be termed a jihad only when it fulfils the conditions set by Islam. Any military action which is carried out without fulfilling these conditions will not be a jihad but a fasad, which is spreading corruption across the world. Those who engage in fasad should expect only divine punishment. Far from being an armed offensive, jihad is essentially a peaceful struggle. Jihad in the sense of qital (armed struggle) does not fall into the same category of individual acts of devotion as prayer and fasting: it is an activity which relates totally to the state. The true Islamic jihad as it relates to the individual is a positive and continuous process, which is at work throughout the entire life of a believer. There are three major kinds of this process of jihad. Jihad-bil-nafs: to control our negative and undesirable feelings and to persevere in the way of God’s choice in all circumstances. Dawah: the communication of the message of God to all human beings and dealings with all human beings with compassion. This gigantic task has been called the greatest jihad by the Quran. Jihad in the face of enmity: This jihad has always been a peaceful process, and it is still so. In this respect, far from being an armed offensive, jihad is essentially a peaceful struggle.