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The Islamic Revival and Jihad

May 22, 2008

Interesting articles concerning the fast growing Islamic Revival in the world.  Yesterday, the Pakistan Daily published an article, "Clarifying the meaning of Jihad and What is Jihad".  We suggest you read it, and copy and paste it for future reference, as this article was taken off their site for some reason, then put back up under a different URL. 
Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch  writes about this article "... a detailed Qur'anic exposition of the ideas that jihad means offensive warfare against unbelievers in order to establish the hegemony of Sharia, and that the idea of jihad as spiritual struggle has scant foundation within the core Islamic texts. Of course, this is what I have said that the Islamic texts say all along.

Will Islamic apologists in the West -- Ibrahim Hooper, Salam Al-Marayati, Ali Eteraz, Stephen Schwartz, and the like -- direct any effort at all toward showing the author of this Pakistan Daily piece that his understanding of jihad is all wrong? Will the Administration realize that it has been sold a bill of goods by Islamic apologists, and acknowledge that jihad as warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers is deeply rooted within Islam, and the implications of that fact are manifold and must be faced? No on both counts, I'm sure. But the next time someone calls me an "Islamophobe" for pointing out that mainstream Islam teaches violent jihad and Islamic supremacism, I'm going to tell him to take it up with the editors of the Pakistan Daily, not with me.... "

Jihad Watch further shows that the Pakistan Daily article seems to originate from a May 4 blog posting, Islamic Revivial, which states the following.

Clarifying the meaning of Jihad and What is Jihad
Wednesday, 21 May 2008 23:34 Pakistan Daily   
 Clarifying the meaning of Jihad and What is Jihad

Jihad is an Arabic word that means, very broadly, striving hard or exerting oneself to the best one’s power and ability to behave in the way God, or in Arabic “Allah”, has set forth for mankind.

This behavior has two aspects: personal and communal interaction. The Quran, which Muslims believe is God speaking directly and with completion to mankind, is divided into sura or chapters that are, in turn, subdivided into aiya or verses. The Quran frequently urges Muslims to strive hard in different aiya that address different circumstances that we face in life, be it in daily, routine life or in unusual, tumultuous and extreme times, such as we are living in today. Therefore, the central question that is important in this regard is what kind of striving God is requiring Muslims to make. Most of the Islamic scholars, called Ulma, for the past fifteen centuries believe that Muslims should strive hard to attain their nearness to God by struggling to overcome bad desires or weaknesses of character, especially if acquired and to the extent possible if genetic. Muslims are reminded that they must adhere, or strive hard to adhere, to all the standards in Islam; they cannot “cherry pick’, no matter what the circumstances. They are to participate in the defense of the Muslim community when attacked by enemy forces that are intent and directed towards the destruction of the faith and the community of Islam.

2. Under what conditions does Islam sanction the use of violence?

It is crucial to understand, especially in today’s war on terrorism, which some high profile, influential people construe only in terms of Islamo-fascism or other emotive artifice against Islam, that there is no mention, let alone urging, in the Quran for individual Muslims to start or actively participate in military action or in any physical violence against an enemy of Islam, actual or alleged, without a clear declaration from the highest, relevant political authority first. That is why you see political and religious leaders questioning and challenging the authority of those calling for “Jihad” today. Without this initial, properly authorized, declaration of Jihad, all violence done in the name of Jihad is murder, mass murder or terrorism and this is one of the worst crimes that any Muslim can commit. Therefore, it is easy to see that those engaging in wrongful violence in the name of Jihad have in fact acted contrary to the very concept and dictates of Jihad as prescribed by God throughout the Qur'an. In addition, I should like to point out that preemptive war for regime change is strictly forbidden.

It is also clear that true, or properly declared, Jihad strictly forbids Muslims, whether as individuals or collectively as a political identity, to wage war against non-Muslims simply because of their religious belief. True Jihad is only waged against those, Muslim or not, who are actively engaged in the destruction of the faith and the community of Islam and the force to be used to counteract or neutralize that destructive action has to be, must only be, of the kind or relevance and to the minimum degree appropriate to succeed without engaging in “overkill”.

Therefore, within this context of Jihad, the question arises how the definition came to be construed broadly to mean the kind of fighting that we see globally today rather than the very limited, self-defensive action against clearly identified, active enemies. The answer has historical roots. Some historians have wrongly understood the definition of Jihad that was applied to the first battles that the founding Muslims were forced to fight for survival in the advent of Islam. Also some jurists tried to find justification in those battles for subsequent fighting by utilizing comparisons and verses in the Quran to make Muslims feel confident in themselves as warriors and confident in the purpose and view of the battle. It was to assure the warriors that their fighting, their killing and dying, and those battles were religiously correct. How did the jurists do this convincingly? First, they relied on the historians’ narratives and second, they gave every aspect of life a religious cover and meaning due to the influences and in keeping with the culture and times of the middle Ages.

However, there are two inherent flaws in this approach, which essentially reduces, renders and transforms persuasion from unbiased, intellectual curiosity and analysis of objective facts to unquestioning, subjective propaganda. The first mistake was casting the historians’ recorded news, that is facts, of the early Muslim battles in religious tones and the second mistake was casting all subsequent battles of Muslims into the exclusive scenery of religious Jihad. This second mistake by far has been the more egregious in its ability to mislead.

It is undeniable that the first Muslim battles were fought out of necessity and in self-defense for the very existence of Islam, for the first Muslims to practice their new faith and for the establishment and preservation of the founding Islamic community. The long-established communities saw the new Islamic faith and community as life threatening for many reasons, not least of which was economic since it abolished slavery and treated women as equals with legal rights. As there was no other reason for and goal than self-preservation in these initial battles, it is illogical to cast this existential religious character to some or all subsequent battles because it falsely conveys an inherent quality of religion and the magnified consequence of religious annihilation to them. This can be particularly persuasive to those with passion but with little to no comprehensive knowledge or objective understanding of history or religion for they can be easily manipulated by propaganda. Historically there have been many kinds of battles that have not been religious Jihad, such as civil, national and regional wars.

Wars fought for secular, economic or political reasons and goals are more easily terminated on terms that can be acceptable, even if disliked, to the warring sides unlike religious wars whose devotees seek vindication and protection of their faith, values and way of life. Further, exclusivity of eternal salvation and life is a common belief to devotees of particular faiths, especially those that include a proselytizing component, so that losing in war for these devotees includes a tacit admission that their faith is inferior to the conqueror’s or that their faith will be vanquished by the conqueror. Therefore, when the West defines the war on global terrorism as a war on qualified Islam, such as Islamo-fascism, which is a highly charged, emotive but intellectually vacuous term, the West casts a genuine cause that is acceptable to all rational civilizations into a religious cause of questionable purpose and goals.

So based on these earlier jurists’ misleading interpretations and coupled with the West’s depictions of the war on global terrorism in these charged religious terms, young Muslims today think not only that all past wars were true religious Jihad but that current wars that have nothing to do with any religion are also religious Jihad.

So it is clear that Jihad is not a war of aggression or preemption to conquer and occupy foreign lands, to possess and exploit the natural resources, property, lives and futures of others, be they Muslim or non Muslim. To reiterate, individuals can only battle in genuine Jihad after the proper declaration from the highest, appropriate government authority. If it is a religious battle, it must be existential for the religion, for the right to worship and for the Islamic community.

Those acts commonly considered terrorist actions are an abomination to Islam and strictly forbidden in true Jihad. Most wars do not meet the high conditions of Jihad. In authentic Jihad there can be absolutely no killing of any prisoners and noncombatants; there can be no use of poisonous weapons; there shall be no atrocities, such as any mutilation of people and animals, committed in conquered lands; there shall be no raping, pillaging and razing; there shall be no wanton despoliation of natural resources and necessary killing must only be done humanely. Therefore, in true Jihad the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons as well as the use of cluster and smart bombs and white phosphorus, is anathema because it flies in the face of several rules of engagement.

Applying these strict and absolute preconditions and conditions of true Jihad to the fighting today, it is hard, if not impossible, to consider this fighting Jihad. Nevertheless, such mandatory prerequisites have not prevented horrors from being perpetrated in the very name of Jihad and of Islam to the great sorrow of many millions of Muslims. While I do not find in Islam or in rational thinking any justification that excuses those who engage in atrocities, no matter what their avowed religious affiliation or expressed motivations may be, it is also true that not sufficient, objective analysis has been taken to rationalize their motivation in order to counteract their terrorism.

3. What would you tell suicide bombers who invoke Islam to justify their action?

Suicide bombers are first and foremost people, not lifeless weapons like cluster bombs or killing machines like armed airships, so before telling them anything I would listen to them, their life story, their motivation, their goals, their reasoning and how they reconcile their intended action not only to achieve their goals but to stay within Islam and true Jihad. This point is very important because a suicide bomber in Afghanistan may have a very different life story, goals and motivation from a suicide bomber in the Occupied Territories of Kashmir, Palestine and Iraq. Further there is a difference between targets: dying in fighting legitimately against enemy soldiers actively engaged in destroying Islam, the freedom of Muslims to practice Islam and the Islamic community is totally different from dying to kill unarmed, innocent civilians who are neither part of or sympathetic to but under the occupation of an active enemy force. After listening to the suicide bomber, I would discuss in an atmosphere of “a level playing ground” the difference between true Jihad and war for political or other secular reasons. We would discuss, in keeping with Islamic principles of warfare, alternative and appropriate means as well as the relevant degree of force, if indeed any is necessary, to directly combat successfully the actual or perceived threat after it has been defined accurately and fully.

Framing the argument purely in Islam, on the assumption that the suicide bomber is a Muslim, for not all suicide bombers are Muslim, we would start in agreement on the most fundamental basis: that the soul is not ours to destroy; our soul belongs only to God and it is our duty to nourish and preserve it from harm. From there I would go to the next step of mutual agreement. The Quran states explicitly and very clearly that Allah commands each Muslim to uphold Justice and to do good deeds, saying ‘surely Allah loves those who do well to others’. If necessary, we would return to these two grounding principles of mutual agreement whenever necessary but the discussion or debate would then embark using the whole Quran and the true Hadiths as well as the Islamic principles and historical facts, circumstances and justifications of warfare. We would engage in critical debate and intellectual curiosity. The point in the approach and substance would be to make the suicide bomber come to his or her own conclusion through Socratic questioning and logical reasoning that the action he or she contemplated is absolutely forbidden in Islam. For someone to become a suicide bomber, as it is generally perceived, the person first had to be indoctrinated or brainwashed as well as feel hopeless in resolving the threat or making things better outside of his or her suicide. Therefore, what and the manner of what I would say to the suicide bomber would have the goal of undoing the brainwashing and preventing any subsequent brainwashing through actual knowledge and personal conviction; by substituting reasoning for emotion and control for helplessness. My purpose would be to convert the suicide bomber from an enemy into an ally who could talk to and persuade others from becoming suicide bombers. Two mistakes the American government has made and continues to make is converting friends and allies into enemies and not making enemies or potential enemies into allies.

Ideally, the suicide bomber would through the discussion convince himself or herself that in the Qur'an violence, as defined in the Islamic tradition, is absolutely prohibited outside true Jihad whether undertaken by an individual or by a political or alleged religious entity. The suicide bomber would understand with conviction that Islam does not accept the justifications voiced today by terrorists and that wrongful violence becomes a complete abomination when it associated with Islamic slogans or justifications.

The concept of Jihad is complex for it permits defensive war for reasons totally outside of protecting Islam, the right to worship and the Islamic community. However, the same rules of engagement apply. So while the suicide bomber may defend his or her action by arguing this aspect of Jihad as well as buttressing this Islamic right with the complementary and equivalent right under international law to fight against illegal occupation and state terrorism by a harsh occupying force, I would hope to convince the suicide bomber that unless the preconditions and conditions of Jihad are met, violence that is outside Quranic correctness is terrorism.

I believe that we are in a very dangerous situation right now because there is too much high profile, vociferous confusion in linking suicide bombing and violence to Islam, as a religion, without the necessary understanding of the religion being given the same opportunity and prominent airing. Indeed many who publicly state their confusion between hearing that Islam is a moderate religion that advocates peace but that its practitioners are extremists or terrorists only compound the problem by implying that what they hear is false propaganda. The linkage of violence, suicide bombing and terrorism with Islam serves the goals of both the so-called Islamic, since I do not consider them Muslim, terrorists who want their actions to be considered Islamic and others who know little to nothing of Islam but have their reasons for instilling global fear of Islam through highly emotive, imprecise and false rhetoric. I would ask a true Muslim who intends to be a suicide bomber why he or she would want to help the forces against Islam rather than work for the good of Islam by explaining the truth about the religion. To put it in stark terms, I would ask the suicide bomber why he or she believes that he or she loves Islam when the intended action will only bring fear and hatred of Islam to the religion and the community.

QUESTIONS ON APOSTASY: How does Islam define apostasy? Is it permissible for a Muslim to convert to another faith? How can laws against apostasy and blasphemy be reconciled with the Quranic injunction of “no compulsion in religion”?
How does Islam define apostasy?

There is no definition of apostasy, called in Arabic rida, in the Quran but rather descriptions or incidents although the meaning of the word is well known as it is used in the Quran. The meaning of rida is turn around, which developed a similar, negative connotation of harmful betrayal in the Western term, turncoat.

Is it permissible for a Muslim to convert to another faith?

Aiya 144 of Sura 3, “Al-Imran”, (literally meaning “the family of Mary”) states:Mohammed (PBUH) is no more than a Messenger and indeed (many) Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you turn back on your heels (as disbelievers)? In addition, he who turns back on his heels, not the least harm wills he do to God; and God will reward those who are grateful.

This aiya was revealed by God to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) while he was still alive so it shows that reversion to the original belief or converting to another religion or belief was foreseen in Islam and addressed. An example of how Islam, the religion, deals with apostasy and blasphemy is found in a very early historical event.

Within the first Muslim community led by the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was a man called Abu Bakre, who was also the Prophet’s father-in-law. Upon the death of the Prophet, Abu Bakre was elected to be the first caliph, who resided in and ruled from Medina. Also upon the death of the Prophet, in Najd, central of Arabia, lived a man called Musaylima who immediately declared himself a prophet. He urged people to believe in and follow him becoming, within a short period, a religious leader with a substantial following. While Musaylima kept to imitate the belief and same practices of Islam, his self-designation as a prophet was blasphemous because Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was the “seal” of prophets, meaning that he was the last one. Therefore, Musaylima was a liar and false prophet. Abu Bakre sent a messenger to Najd from Medina urging Musaylima to abandon his claim. Musaylima not only refused but also answered Abu Bakre harshly and put the messenger to death. Upon hearing this news, Abu Bakre sent armies, one after another. The Muslim army had engaged in a sever wars with fighters from some tribes of Najd, those wars are known in the Islamic history by the name of the wars of apostasy.

The intolerance many Westerners see in Islam today derives not from this application of Islam to conversion but rather other historical events that presented existential problems to the fledgling Islamic community. Islam had many enemies and it was the intent of some to infiltrate the community and then sow sufficient suspicion and dissent to cause physical strife within the community, hoping it would lead to its demise. These converts to Islam were false so soon would renounce Islam. Because of the genuine threat to the community’s continuation, capitol punishment was imposed on Muslim converts, called “Munafiqoon” or hypocrites. Not only was such a punishment necessary to safeguard the community from within but it also attempted to insure that anyone who chose to become a Muslim did so with true intent, respect and commitment to both the religion and the community. The issues of apostasy and hypocrisy are very complex, from both the religious and social points of view, and to compound the matter the issues are so intertwined over the centuries that deep knowledge is required to separate the issues. Unfortunately many today, whether they are called religious leaders, experts or not, do not have the sufficient wisdom to apply the principles correctly. Many intentionally distort what Islam says or requires for their own purposes and this is true for some Westerners as much as for some Muslims.

How can laws against apostasy and blasphemy be reconciled with the Quranic injunction of “no compulsion in religion”?

Quranic law is known as the “Shariya of which there are several different schools. Because the laws are not monolithic, it is not possible to really answer this question superficially. Some Islamic jurists have argued that freedom is granted to all mankind. Therefore, logically, a Muslim can choose his faith, but these scholars condition this freedom on the convert from Islam to another religion keeping silent in his practice and speech. In other words, he is not to proselytize his new faith to the Islamic community in which he lives. Other jurists completely disagree. By relying on some of the Hadiths, or prophetic traditions, and interpreting some of the Quran’s verses stating that Islam is the last, complete revelation by God for mankind, they argue that God will accept no faith but Islam and so therefore a Muslim has no right to convert from the one true, last religion. This cha0uvinistic outlook is very prevalent in other religions, such as evangelical Christianity which believes it has the only true beliefs that will give mankind eternal life with God in Heaven.

Blasphemy is unacceptable in all Islamic schools of law. However, some Muslim countries have created a secular judicial forum to settle civil charges equivalent to blasphemy so that the accused can be tried outside the religious judicial system. As in the West, judicial systems have to work for the people and community they serve. Since religion plays a major role in daily life of people living in Islamic countries, the law should comply with and serve the needs of the community. This is no different from what is happening in the United States with Americans wanting their legal system to change to closer reflect Christian principles.

QUESTIONS ON WOMEN: What are the rights of women in Islam? How does Islam view male-female equality? How does this differ from the Western view?

Islam gives women many rights because the Quran clearly states that women are equal to men although men are given greater obligations to protect women. The Quran acknowledges the obvious differences between the genders, such as women being the sole gender to bear children, and their roles in the community. From a Western perspective, you would find the rights and duties of women in reference to those of men a combination of “equal but different” but without the wrongful discrimination, the US Supreme Court found in this concept applied to racial discrimination and dynamic, complementary equilibrium. With regard to this second concept the usual analogy is made to pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fitting together in order to make the fractured picture or, in this case, society whole, an integrated whole. However, I would add that rather than these pieces being fixed as they are in a jigsaw puzzle, they are fluid and changing as well as being fixed because what the Quran states is as relevant today and in very different societies with their own characteristic and local traditions. In other words women’s rights and duties in the Quran are universal and to be expressed or implemented in the “here and now”.

This is purely from a religious point of view and that is the reason you find some women and men in societies with restrictive traditions limiting the rights and role of women in their society arguing to be given their rights as stated in the Quran. For instance, women in the Prophet Mohammed’s community rode horses; learnt how to swim and swam; actively participated in battles; were fully educated and according to their ability and learning were respected by men who sought their advice; owned their own property and were influential and wealthy business women who ran their own businesses. The Quran forbade in the absolute the pre-Islamic practice of burying alive the first-born daughter. Islam forbids slavery. Slavery was not only very prominent in pre-Islamic society but it was also an economic pillar of society’s financial well-being. Islam established a system that would allow the abolishment of slavery without destroying the society economically. Female slaves were treated as property for their owners to do unto them what they pleased so you can see the Quran first recognized these women as human beings not as property or chattel and then gave them rights of equality.

Westerners today become fearful when they see men and women calling for or demanding women’s fundamental rights guaranteed in the Quran because they do not know what the Quran, or more correctly God, gives, they do not know how the Quran’s rights were radical freedoms in the society and at the time of that society when the Quran was revealed by God. The Quran`s teachings about women were enormously progressive in their original historical context. Women's legal and financial rights and equality with men saw dramatic advances over pre-Islamic social norms. Westerners not knowing this, see, instead, restrictive social traditions that are given the cover of religion being very harshly enforced by impassioned religious leaders in that society. This Western view is worsened dramatically and intentionally by some Western propagandists, such as but certainly not limited to very influential, high profile evangelical leaders, who denigrate Islam, the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and the Quran, for instance, by calling the Prophet a terrorist and the Quran the work of the Devil.

Criticism by Westerners of Islam for preventing women from becoming fully educated and taking an active role in their society’s well-being, for preventing women from driving and for other things is, therefore, totally misplaced. Indeed, people forget the first Muslim woman head of state was Shajrat Al- Durr of Egypt over 800 years ago. More recently, Benazir Bhutto was Prime Minister of Pakistan. In addition, there are many prominent women held high seats in the governments of Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Another very common criticism of Islam by Westerners is the inequality to divorce. Generally speaking, it is harder for women to divorce their husbands than husbands are their wives. However, what is unknown or unstated by Westerners is that the contract of marriage allows the woman to list all her conditions that would be grounds for divorce without lengthy procedural complications that is a divorce pursuant to the contract. If she marries unconditionally then she faces legal problems if she wants a divorce not because of Islam but by social norms. In Islam, women are not to be coerced into marriage and they are not to be prevented from listing their grounds for divorce or conditions of marriage in the contract. Men do not have this right in the contract. I should like to add here that while Islam does allow divorce, the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) strongly disliked divorce unless the difference or problems between the spouses were genuinely irreconcilable. This is why a man must divorce his wife three times before it is final and why he must marry another woman first if the divorced spouses want to remarry. This process is mediation and has the same purpose many states in the United States now that is only since the late twentieth century, require before spouses can divorce.

Westerners point out that Muslim men can marry Christian or Jewish women without their converting to Islam unlike Muslim women whose fiancés must convert to Islam before marriage. This distinction has social reasons based upon several premises. First, divorce is not encouraged and that puts an added seriousness to marriage and the suitability of prospective spouses. Society wants the marriage to work and for the unit to be harmonious within society for everyone’s benefit. Second, society is paternalistic and the husband is head of his household. The children will bear his family name. Third, it is assumed that parents will want their children to grown up in their religious community and become practitioners or believers in the same religion as them. Muslims consider Islam to be the final and complete religion desired and commanded by God. It is impossible for a true Muslim parent to teach his or her children to be believers in a different religion, just as it would be impossible, say of Billy Graham to have brought his children up Muslim while being an evangelical Christian preacher. A wife and mother will accept that she teach and/or allow her children to grow up and become believers in her husband’s religion. Therefore, it is assumed that a Jewish or Christian wife accepts that her children will be Muslims. For a Muslim wife of a non-Muslim husband to teach her children to become believers in a religion other than Islam is impossible. This religious difference, it is assumed, would cause irreconcilable problems for the family leading to divorce. As mentioned above, Islam requires that women be protected and so to protect women from this unpleasant situation, social tradition requires Muslim women to marry Muslim men.

Islamic tradition and values include a very clear picture of gender roles, especially within the family. The predominant view is that in order to maintain family order, the husband or father has the final say in matters of dispute. From this practice, outsider observers may understand that women in Islam have no equality with men. This social or domestic practice, however, is not religious; in fact, it is a pre-Islamic practice or a local custom that you find in Western homes as well.

From the preceding discussion, it is easy to see that Islam treats women’s rights well within the scope of contemporary international human rights. I would like to emphasize that the oppression of women is not an exclusive Islamic issue or problem. Some Muslim leaders just like those in other religions have often used or misused their own religion to control social behavior of women and men in various contexts. The roots of female subordination in social status and abuse by men as evidenced in numerous societies today go much deeper and broader than Islam.

However, it is true that many Muslim women do not know their rights in Islam and there is strong concern in the community to educate women on their rights. This concern is quite controversial in some segments as it flies in the face of tradition and control enjoyed by some.

Another concern in the community is the proper and full implementation and enforcement of women’s Islamic rights through competent social institutions and fair, correct procedures.

I would like to conclude this question by pointing out that Islamic religious tradition is rich with stories of Muslim women who are role models, for men and women of all ages and societies, of faith, courage, leadership and virtue.

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