Unfortunately, many radio and T.V reporters and newspaper journalists keep quoting the words extremism and extremists, fundamentalism and fundamentalists, terrorism and terrorists, bombs, killings…etc., altogether and constantly along with the words Islam and Muslims. This steady brainwashing process makes the viewer, the listener, or the reader believe gradually that there is somehow a relation between Islam and terrorism. It is never a matter of religion when a person from a different faith commits some terrorist acts or a murder, which occurs every minute or second around the world. Unfortunately, when it comes to Muslims – and humans are not all perfect- the issue is considered religious or has something to do with the religion of Islam or what the smart journalists call “Holy War”. The latter is actually an unfamiliar idiom to the Muslims and the Islamic literature that was imported from the European Crusaders and used to mean for the Europeans a holy Christian war against Islam and the Muslims.
Misconceptions about the word “Jihaad”
Jihaad derives from the three root letters word “ja-ha-da”, which derives from the word Juhd, and which means effort and strife. The verb for Jihaad is Jaahada, which means to strive, to make an effort, and to do the best in one’s capacity in order to reach a certain noble goal.
Jihaad is the endeavor to obtain and reach the pleasure of God whether by consecrating one’s life and time to work righteousness and virtuosity or by fighting to establish justice – on the other hand fighting for corruption is not a Jihaad but rather a bagh’y, which means tyranny and injustice.
The definition of Jihaad in Islam is, “to strive in defending oneself, one’s family, one’s faith, one’s property, and one’s honor when they are attacked by a transgressor, or an enemy”. We can define Jihaad also as ” a defensive reaction, or measure, against an outside aggression that attacks directly the main necessities of life in Islam: one’s faith, one’s life/ health, one’s mind, one’s progeny, and one’s property”.
The greater Jihaad has more to do with one’s own struggle to overcome the temptation around, the desires and lusts. The Jihaad of everyday is the strife to stick to the straight path; the path of righteousness and piety. In every person’s journey in this life, there are good times and bad times. To make Juhd, or effort to the utmost level while dealing with all the ups and downs of life, is actually a great Jihaad. Any hurdles and obstacles need sacrifices, which require great energies in order to be overcome. They can be in different forms and tastes, but the believer recognizes what is beneficial or harmful in this life and for the hereafter.
Allah has called sticking to Qur’an, to its values and teachings, and using it for intellectual argumentation against those who do not believe in it, a great Jihaad in itself. Allah (swt) says,
“Therefore obey not to the Unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost endeavor, with the (Qur-an) (25:52).
Actually, in the Qur’an, the great Jihaad is to work righteousness by living the divine word and translate it into practice and reality. Allah (swt) says,
“And those who strive in Our (Cause), We will certainly guide them to Our Paths: for verily Allah is with those who do right.” (29:69).
The world today is very well familiar with the word Jihaad, but not with its meaning and significance. We can just take a look at a local newspaper or turn on the radio or T.V for the daily news to see and hear the demonizing of the Muslim people. Many people think that Jihaad tells Muslims to go and kill innocent people and civilians as the “Holy war” of the Crusades did. In Islam, people do not go to fight just for the sake of fighting, shedding blood and slaying, but they fight only to defend themselves and fend off corruption on earth and to establish righteousness, law and order on different levels as I mentioned above. Allah (swt) says,
“And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Verily, Allah does not like the transgressors” (2:190).
Jihaad is a defensive measure in all cases not an offensive one. It defends all the necessities of life that if lacked, life cannot continue existing.
Jihaad and Terrorism
If we compare the examples of Jihaad in the time of our Prophet (S), which was in accordance with the Islamic law (Shari’ah), with what is now called terrorism in general, we find absolute differences in terms of the motives, reasons, and the manner both are conducted.
First, it must be emphasized that the system of Islam is anti-terrorism and anti- extremism. A simple look at the Qur’an or the Hadith would be enough to draw this conclusion. We can quote in this context, for instance, this following Ayah where Allah is instructing Muslims to be kind to others who are not Muslim and do not fight or oppress them.
“Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just.” (60:8)
Second, Muslims do not and cannot condone or tolerate any terrorist acts including the killing of innocent people no matter what their faith is.
Third, Allah (swt) showed explicitly in the Qur’an and Muhammad (S) explained clearly in the authentic Hadiths that one cannot kill children, women, old or innocent people, and civilians, who are not fighting against Muslims. It is also forbidden to destroy crops and cut down trees or kill animals, except for subsistence – as far as Islam is concerned, being righteous even in times of war is a cornerstone of the faith.
Fourth, Allah has set the limits for Jihaad, or self-defense, and Muslims have no other choices but to stick to them. The Messenger of Allah (S) himself practiced Jihaad within clear and defined limits that are well known in the Islamic law. If some people use the Machiavellian rule, which says: “Goals justify the means” to interpret Jihaad in the Qur’an they are indeed wrong. These people cannot relate to the teachings of Islam because such a rule is considered in Islam, a satanic rule. They may use it the way they want and the way it fits their agenda because divine commandments, the consequences, and the price, which is almost always paid by the innocent, is not their concern. Such individuals neither represent the Muslim Ummah nor do they derive any authority from it. In fact, in Islamic law Jihaad has to be declared only by the highest authority of the Muslim governance. After exhausting every other peaceful solution and in consultation with the council of scholars and representatives of the people, a decision is made and then, the commands are to be obeyed accordingly.
War, Violence, and Peace
The idea of war in Islam is the act of last resort and it is only to defend Islam, its people, peace, and those who ask for help to establish justice. When the Prophet (S) went to fight, he first warned the people not to transgress the limits, and not to stop the messengers who were calling people peacefully to Islam. Allah (swt) says,”There is no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)
We read sometimes some allegations against Muslims, which accuse them of spreading Islam in the past by the sword. This kind of statement does not stand on clear evidences. Islam, as mentioned above, doesn’t use the Machiavellian rule “goals justify the means”.
The Prophet (S) when faced by the need of using this act of last resort, namely the use of force, he used to pre-warn the opponents; he didn’t surprise them, he faced them, didn’t kill them from the back, and he never started the war until the enemy started it. If solutions could not be reached, he used to tell them to pay Jizyah. The latter is a kind of tax to be paid by people living in the land controlled by the Muslim state in order to become eligible for protection and citizenship. Muslim citizens had to pay another form of tax called “Zakaat” – alms, which is the third pillar of Islam. Otherwise, if they refused and insisted on fighting, the war was the last solution and resort. Allah (swt) says,
“And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah does not like the transgressors” (2:190).
Ibnu ‘Abbass, the highest authority in commenting and explaining the Qur’an among the companions of the Prophet (S), as well as other scholars said that the order was to defend themselves and react against any aggression without involving children, women, monks, and the like.
This verse was the first one to be revealed concerning Jihaad in order to explain to the Muslims that there is no contradiction between what they were taught by the Messenger of Allah (S):
“Muslims are those who avoid harming others with their tongues and hands” and between defending themselves against an aggression. Jihaad is very important in Islam because it secures peace for the people, their honor, their properties, and the rule of law, order and justice. All nations do Jihaad when they are attacked, but what makes it special in Islam is that it becomes obligatory and a religious duty on ordinary people to defend themselves against their enemy, again, with well defined rules of engagement. And of course any sane person would fight when there is no one to defend him, or her, or when the government calls for volunteers. Allah (swt) says,
“To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged; and verily, Allah is Most Powerful for their aid; They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, (for no cause) except that they say, “Our Lord is Allah.” Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated, in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid His (cause); for verily Allah is Full of Strength, Exalted in Might” (22:39-40)
True practicing Muslims do not violate the laws of Islam and the laws of the countries where they live in. They are honest and brave, not cowards and they never stab from the back. Muslims are human beings and value the human life as stated previously. If a war does happen, Islam teaches not to kill children, women, old people, priests and monks who are praying or on retreat, not to destroy places of worship and crops, not to cut trees or kill animals.
Unfortunately, some media sources that are controlled by people with agendas do not bother with differentiating, investigating and ascertaining facts when a terrorist act happens in a Muslim country or any other part of the world – the usual fast conclusion is that Muslims did it. Muslims suffer this psychological onslaught by defamation in the streets, television, radio and newspapers. They suffer collectively through endless bitter nightmares as it happened to many of us in 1995, after the Oklahoma bombing took place.
Muslims are, however, not given a chance to defend themselves in most cases. In Islam using weapons of mass destruction such as bombs , chemical and biological weapons is not even permissible no matter what the cause is. A Muslim soldier who is fighting in a war cannot kill unless with beneficence. Mutilation and burning are not allowed; cutting noses, heads, legs…etc., is not permissible let alone using bombs. In Islamic law, bombs are not allowed nor tolerated, even in a war against the enemy because the bombs cause great damages to unintended victims and do worse than mutilation, which is forbidden in Islam.
The Prophet (S), teaching his companions how to take the life of an animal for food to eat in a manner that reduces the pain and suffering when slaughtered, said:
“Allah has prescribed beneficence in all things. Thus, when you kill do it the best way, and when you slaughter an animal do it the best way. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters” (Muslim and others) .
If this was said about the animal used only for food, what could we expect to be said about human beings? Bombs mutilate and destroy humans and other living beings, structures, and properties; hence bombs are not an option for Muslims. Consequently, based on the Islamic law and its principles, these kinds of weapons of mass destruction are not allowed. Muslims should actually stand with those movements, which are calling the governments to stop the proliferation of land mines, chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, not selectively but universally i.e. countries friendly to superpowers should be also prohibited from possessing weapons of mass destruction.
Moreover, as mentioned previously, the Islamic law does not allow the Muslim soldiers to kill women, children, the elderly, monks or to cut trees, destroy crops or kill animals, unless it is for the purpose of subsistence. When the Prophet (S) saw a woman killed in a battle he became angry and said to those who were with him “not to kill women and children”(Related by the Jamaa’ah -all the compilers of Hadith- except an-Nassa’i).
Even if they happened to be in the war, they should be pushed aside and not killed. Abu Daawud relates that the Prophet (S) said to some Muslims who were going for jihaad, in a self-defense reaction against an attack by the people of Makkah,
“Go in the name of Allah , with the help of Allah and according to the Millah (way) of the Messenger of Allah. Do not kill an old person, a little child, or a woman” .
In another narration related by Imam Ahmad, the Prophet (S) said,
“Do not betray, do not be excessive, do not mutilate, do not kill children and the monks who are worshipping in the monasteries” .
The companions of the Prophet (S) said,
“The prophet (S) used to encourage us to give charity and to forbid us from mutilation” .
In another narration it says,
“The Prophet (S) forbade us from taking properties by force and mutilating”.
There are many other Hadiths similar to the ones mentioned . When the Prophet (S) entered Makkah with a large army and conquered it, the former Makkan enemies felt humiliation from within and regretted what they did against the Prophet (S). They expected severe retaliation to happen to them. When the Prophet (S) asked the people of Makkah what they thought he was going to do with them, they said, “You are a noble person and a generous person in forgiveness and a son of a noble and generous person”. He said, ” go, you are free!” Then he read what Allah mentioned in the story of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) (P.b.u.h.) when his brothers admitted their sin and apologized for what they did to him,
“This day let no reproach be (cast) on you: Allah will forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!“(Yusuf: 92).
He (S) was in a position of power and could punish them or kill them, but instead he (S) wanted peace. He (S) told to his companions that no one could touch them or their property. This is what our Prophet (S) did when he was in a position of power.
When his uncle Hamza was mutilated and his nose, ears and intestines were cut off and his liver was eaten savagely by Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, the Prophet (S) did not avenge this cruelty on the person who had done it when he (S) met him later on. And this is how Muslims are supposed to behave. We can read hundreds of similar examples in history, recording the noble treatment by Muslim rulers of the Crusaders in Palestine after the latter’s defeat. Muslims do not enjoy taking revenge, but they enjoy establishing justice and peace.
Even if others opted to use the rule “Goals justify the means” we cannot use it. Human life is given honor, protection and full dignity in Islamic teachings. It shouldn’t be made cheap by ‘goals justify the means’, whether by Muslims or non-Muslims. In Islam human life is so valuable that it cannot have a price.
As Muslims, we are obliged to show to the world that Islam honors human life. Islam categorically says “no” to terrorism, guns in the hands of children, nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Islam says “no” to sanctions where innocent people, especially children, pay the price. These are sanctions carried out by the very people who profess to have human rights or claim to be defending human rights. Nobody wants to talk about terrorism of nations against nations as it happened in Bosnia, Kashmir, Kosova, Chechnya or Palestine. The media is silent about this kind of state terrorism. Many politicians have lost their credibility because of their double standards and hypocrisy. When the oppressed masses finally demand their rights, they are branded as terrorists. There have been many revolutions in the west against tyranny, but history does not record them as terrorism. Where is justice? Isn’t it the bedrock of peace?
From the Book “Terrorism: An Islamic Perspective” by Imam Hamid Slimi