Jihad has always been misconstrued by the self-styled jihadists and radicals who peddled hatred towards other human beings, deprived them of their fundamental rights and natural privileges, denied them justice and peace and created mischief and chaos. The outrageous misinterpretation of the scriptural texts of divine Islamic literature is primarily motivated by petty motives and vested interests. The radical production of jihad, Islamic state and many other religious doctrines of Islam in the writings of Maulana Maududi, the ideologue of the Islamic state advocates in the Indian subcontinent, is one such grave instance.
Maulana Maududi’s politicized interpretation of Islamic doctrines and practices reached an extent that he viewed every belief and act of Islam with a political outlook. In his bid to propagate Islam as a political ideology of wanton jihadism, rather than a faith of peace and spirituality, he issued completely baseless and incendiary pronouncements on theological issues. He even challenged the collective consensus of Muslims on the Islamic prayers, which they offer to seek pleasure of and closeness to God, declaring them “means and tools to prepare for Jihad”. He writes in a provocative and style:
“Salaat (Namaz) is a training exercise for Jihad. Zakat (Islamic charity) is a military fund for Jihad. Fasting is aimed to train people like soldiers who have to stay without food at times for long periods during the Jihad. Hajj is a huge conference in nature for plotting larger scale military operations. Thus, Salaah, Fasting, Zakat, and Hajj are actually meant for this very preparation and training” (Fundamental of Islam by Maulana Maududi – Page: 250).
Maulana Maududi advocated establishing an Islamic state where the so-called “Islamic Jihad” should be incumbent upon every Muslim until the authority of God is established on the entire earth, where the rights of non-Muslims would be limited and they would not be permitted to practice the faith, rituals of worship or social customs, where “Islamic Jihad” would not recognize their right to administer state affairs, because, as laid out in the writings of Maulana.
Maulana wrote nearly 120 books in which he extended intellectual and theological support to the radical Islamism and exclusistic ideology of faith. In his book Haqiqat-e-Jihad ( literally meaning “the truth of Jihad”), he elaborates his point:
“A ‘Muslim Party’ will not be content with the establishment of Islam in just one area alone –both for its own safety and for general reform. It should try and expand in all directions. On one hand it will spread its ideology; on the other it will invite people of all nations to accept its creed, for salvation lies only therein. If this Islamic state has power and resources it will fight and destroy non-Islamic governments and establish Islamic states in their place.
(Maulana Maududi, Haqiqat-e-Jihad ,Pg 64, Taj Company Ltd, Lahore, Pakistan 1964)
In another book “al-Jihad fil-Islam” (Jihad in Islam), he explains his radical understanding and militant interpretation of Jihad:
“It must now be obvious that the objective of the Islamic jihad is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system, and establish in its place an Islamic system of state rule. Islam does not intend to confine his rule to a single state or a handful of countries. The aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution. Although in the initial stages, it is incumbent upon members of the party of Islam to carry out a revolution in the state system of the countries to which they belong; their ultimate objective is none other than world revolution”.
(: Jihad in Islam by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi “– Chapter 3, Pg 10)
In his writings, Maulana exhorted Muslims to fight “evil forces” physically and go to the extent of laying down their life, possessions, powers, wealth and health in the fight against “evil forces of the world”. He writes In his book “Jihad in Islam”: “But the most important – indeed the most basic – ideal of the revolutionary doctrines of that “Revolutionary Party” known as Muslims is to expand all the powers of the body and soul, life and possessions, in the fight against the evil forces of the world; not so that, having annihilated them, we should step into their shoes, but so that evil and contumacy may be eradicated and Allah’s Law enforced on earth. This is the significance of jihad fi Sabillilah, Jihad for the cause of Allah.”
He further writes: “the terms “offensive” and “defensive”, which are usually applied to definitions of warfare, are not at all applicable in the case of Islamic Jihad. These terms are relevant only in the context of wars between nations and countries, for technically speaking, the terms “attack” and “defence” can only be used with reference to a country or a nation.” He further elaborates his point: “The division of Islamic Jihad into “offensive” and “defensive” is not permissible. Islamic Jihad is both offensive and defensive at one and the same time. It is offensive because the Muslim party attacks the rule of an opposing ideology, and it is defensive because the Muslim Party is constrained to capture state power in order to protect the principles of Islam in space-time forces.” (Maulana Maududi: Jihad in Islam)
After reading the above excerpt from Maulana Maududi’s book, it should not be difficult to see what the essence of Islamic Jihad in his view was. Much against the view of mainstream Islamic scholars of the Muslim world who look at “Jihad fi Sabillilah” as a defensive struggle against oppression and tyranny, Maulana Maududi declared Jihad to be an offensive war on non-Muslims, both combatants and civilians, aimed at establishing the sovereignty of God on earth.
Contrary to Maulana Maududi’s self-created view of offensive Jihad, the mainstream Islamic scholars, including those from the early Islamic period, have been of the opinion that Islam permits only defensive jihad. Imam Burhanuddin Marghinani the author of the text books on Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh), which are taught in the mainstream Madrasa curriculums, writes:
“If the enemies attack the city, it is permissible for the civilians to launch self-defence” (Hidaya: Vol. 2, p. 559)
Allama Abu Bakr Kashani writes in his book al-Baday’e, which is also included in the Dars-e-Nizami curriculum of Indian Madrasas:
“Fighting is lawful against the war-mongers and war farers. It is not lawful against women, children, elderly men and ailing persons.” (al-Baday’e: volume 6, p. 64).
An overwhelming number of moderate Islamic scholars, in recent past, have endorsed and preached the same view. The most noted among them were Shaikh Muhammad al-Ghazali, the renowned Egyptian scholar, Mufti Muhammad Abduh and his disciple Shaikh Rashid Rida, Abdur Rahman Azam, Allama Mustafa Sibai, Ahmad Amin, Mahmud Aqqad, Shibli Numani and the famous Indian scholar Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan etc. Even the Egyptian Islamic scholar Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is known for his Salafist influence and attachment with the Muslim Brotherhood, also shares the same view, as is outlined in his book “Fiqh al-Jihad” (the Jurisprudence of Jihad), which has triggered a considerable debate in the Arab world. Following the moderate Islamic scholars, the adherents of mainstream Islam subscribe to the doctrine of defensive jihad and they believe that the rationale (Illat) of waging a war in the early Islamic period was the aggression or offensive attack from the infidels and deniers, not just their infidelity or denial of the truth (Kufr).
It will also be interesting to know what the present day Sunni-Sufi scholars have to say about the rulings of Jihad in Islam.
Noted Sunni Sufi scholar of India Mufti Shareeful Haq Amjadi defines Jihad in his commentary on the Bukhari Hadith collections:
“Literally, the word Jihad means exertion and struggle. In Islamic terminology, it implies one’s struggle to uphold the truth. Being a multifaceted term, it also denotes one’s endeavour to strive against one’s baser self (Nafs) in order to curb and tune it to saintly virtuousness, merely to please God”. (Nuzhatul Qari, Sharh-e-Bukhari: Volume 6, page 154, Dairatul Barkat, Ghosi, Mau, UP, India)
A well-versed Sunni-Sufi Islamic jurist Mufti Ale Mustafa Misbahi (Mufti of Jamia Amjadia, Mau, UP) writes in his article “Jihad: Its Conditions and Requisites” published in the special Issue on Jihad of Urdu Monthly Jaam-e-Noor: “It is incumbent on us to spread the message of Islam to those who are not acquainted with it. But it is not permissible for the believers to wage jihad against them in this process. Islam does not aim at waging jihad or causing injury, rather it seeks to bring man closer to God. And this aim is achieved by propagating the divine message by mouth, not by sword. So, there is no justification to resort to armed struggle for the preaching of Islam”
Maulana Yaseen Akhtar Misbahi, leading Sunni-Sufi Islamic scholar and renowned Urdu writer gives his reflections on the verses of Jihad in the Quran:
“Although there are certain verses of the Qur’an which mention killing and murder, there is a specific reason and context behind these verses. However, a group of people have taken these verses out of context and have not tried to understand the story behind them and raised objections against these verses and against the Holy Qur’an. It has become the habit of these people to portray Islam as a religion of murder and mayhem and especially in this era of sectarianism all over the world. They are using these verses to turn people against Islam and its teachings. It is the effort of these narrow-minded people to portray Islam as a violent and dangerous religion and Muslims as aggressive mischief-makers.” (Aayat-e-Jihad Ka Qur’ani Mafhoom, Foreword)
It is a common knowledge that the violent acts by the self-styled jihadists and all other extremist Muslim groups, perpetrated in the name of jihad, are completely antithetical to the principles of Islam. But still radical Islamism and violent jihadism are growing in the Muslim countries. Why? The reason is simple. They are supported and motivated by radical religious ideologues and extremist clerics who misinterpret the Qur’anic verses of jihad, Qital, Jizyah, Khilafah etc. which actually came in relation to particular political contexts and for unavoidable reasons. This is a harsh reality of the Muslim countries today that cannot be discarded.
However, the more distressing phenomenon is that the radicals’ universal interpretation of the Jihad-related verses just goes unchallenged and even unnoticed by the mainstream Ulema. I think this is also a reason for the spread of extremist ideology among growing number of youths in the Muslim world. Obviously, when their misguided ideologues present the verses of jihad and qital out of context to ensure the permissibility of killing non-Muslims and seizing their properties, they see no reason why they should take a second thought over their mindless acts.
Therefore, mainstream Ulema and moderate Islamic scholars are required to engage in more concerted efforts to denounce and refute all kinds of violence and terror in ideology. Thus, they can substantiate the point that the holy Qur’an, both in content and spirit, is a symbol of peace and non-violence. It is about time they come up with the true interpretations of the Qur’anic verses related to jihad, Qital, Shahadah, Khilafah, in a way that can redress the grievances of the present day. If they adopt a proactive approach to interpret the Qur’an and disseminate the correct understanding of its verses, none of the Muslims will potentially slip into the path of terror and violence.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar. He has graduated from a leading Islamic seminary of India, Jamia Amjadia Rizvia (Mau, U.P.), acquired Diploma in Qur’anic Arabic from Al-Jamiat ul Islamia, Faizabad, U.P., and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies, Badaun, U.P. He has also graduated in Arabic (Hons) and is pursuing his M. A. in Comparative Religion from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.