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Book 19: The Book of Jihad and Expedition (Kitab Al-Jihad wa'l-Siyar)


The word Jihad is derived from the verb jahada which means:" he exerted himself". Thus literally, Jihad means exertion, striving; but in juridico-religious sense, it signifies the exertion of one's power to the utmost of one's capacity in the cause of Allah. This is why the word Jihad has been used as the antonym to the word Qu, ud (sitting) in the Holy Qur'an (iv. 95). Thus Jihad in Islam is not an act of violence directed indiscriminately against the non-Muslims; it is the name given to an all-round struggle which a Muslim should launch against evil in whatever form or shape it appears. Qital fi sabilillah (fighting in the way of Allah) is only one aspect of Jihad. Even this qital in Islam is not an act of mad brutality. It has its material and moral functions, i. e. self-preservation and the preservation of the moral order in the world. The verdict of all religious and ethical philosophies-ancient and modern-justify war on moral grounds. When one nation is assailted by the ambitions and cupidity of another, the doctrine of non-resistance is anti-social, as it involves non-assertion, not only of one's own rights, but of those of others who need protection against the forces of tyranny and oppression. A Muslim is saddled with the responsibilities to protect himself and all those who seek his protection. He cannot afford to abandon the defenceless people, old man, women and children to privation, suffering and moral peril. Fighting in Islam, therefore, represents in Islamic Law what is known among Western jurists as" just war".

The very first revelation in which the permission to wage war against the forces of evil sums up the aims and objects of qital in Islam:

" Permitted'are those who are fought against, because they have been oppressed. and verily God is more Powerful for their aid. Those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they said: 'Our Lord is Allah, ' for had it not been for 'Allah's repelling someone by means of others, cloisters and churches and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft-mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down. Verily Allah helps one who helps Him. Lo! Allah is Strong. Almighty" (xxii. 39. 41).

These verses eloquently speak of 'the fact that it is neither for the acquisition of territory nor for the love of power and distinction that the Muslims have been permitted to raise arms against the enemy. They were allowed to do so because their very existence had been made difficult by the high-handedness of the Meccans. The Holy Qur'an has elucidated this point in the following verse:

" And what reason have you not to fight in the way of Allah and for the oppressed among men and women and children who say: Our Lord! take us forth from the town whereof the people are oppressors and grant us from Thee a friend and grant us from Thee a helper" (iv. 75).

The war in Islam is waged with a view to securing liberty and freedom for those who are groaning under the oppression of heartless tyrants. It is the bounden duty of the Muslims to alleviate their sufferings and create for them an atmosphere of peace and security.

Then in the succeeding verse a distinction is also drawn between two types of war: one which is fought for the sake of Allah and the other which is waged for evil ends:

" Those who believe fight in the way of Allah and those who disbelieve fight in the way of devil. So fight against the friends of Satan; verily weak indeed is the strategy of the devil" (iv. 76).

It has been made clear that those people who fight for self-glorification or for the exploitation of the weak are in fact friends of the devil; wheres those who raise arms to curb tyranny and aggression, to eradicate evil from the human society, fight in the way of Allah. Mere fighting is not, therefore, Jihad in Islam; it is the noble objective alone which makes it a sacred pursuit like devotion and prayer. It is narrated on the authority of Abu Musa Ash'ari that once a man went to the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) and said: One man fights for the sake of spoils of war, the second one fights for fame and glory and the third to display his courage and skill; which among them is the fighter for the cause of Allah? Upon this the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) replied: He who fights with the sole objective that the word of Allah should become supreme is a Mujahid in the cause of the Lord.

A Mujahid is thus a noble person who offers his life for the achievement of lofty ends. He is actuated by human considerations lifts arms not under the impulse of fury and revenge, but with will, fore-thought, tenacity and fellow-feeling, and his conduct bears the imprint of human intellect, human sympathy and sense of justice.

The Holy Qur'an has explained this point in Sura Anfal in these words:

" O you who believe, when you meet an enemy, be firm, and remember Allah much, that you may be successful. And obey Allah and His Apostle. And fall with no disputes, lest ye falter and your strength fail; but be steadfast! For Allah is with those who patiently persevere. Be not as those who came forth from their dwellings boastfully. And to be seen of men and debar (men) from the way of Allah. And Allah encompasses what they do" (viii. 45-46).

Here the Muslims have been exhorted to observe five principles of war:

Be steadfast in the face of the enemy.

Have full reliance on the help of Allah and remember Him much.

Have the unity of purpose and solidarity of corporate life always before your eyes.

Be fully aware of the lofty purpose before you in fighting.

Don't be proud and boastful in your attitude and behaviour.

Islam has purified even war of all its cruelty and horrors and has made it a" reformative process" to deal with evil. The Holy Qur'an bserves:

" And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you and transgress not the limits. Verily Allah loves not the transgressors" (ii. 190).

The Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) has given clear instructions about the behaviour of the Muslim army. He observed:

" Set out for Jibad in the name of Allah and for the sake of Allah. Do not lay hands on the old verging on death, on women, children and babes. Do not steal anything from the booty and collect together all that falls to your lot in the battlefield and do good, for Allah loves the virtuous and the pious."

So great is the respect for humanly feelings in Islam that even the wanton destruction of enemy's crops or property is strictly forbidden. The righteous Caliphs followed closely the teachings of Allah and those of His Apostle in letter and spirit the celebrated address which the first Caliph Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) gave to his army while sending her on the expedition to the Syrian borders is permeated with the noble spirit with which the war in Islam is permitted. He said:

" Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman. nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not ary of the enemy's flock. save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monast ic services; leave them alone"

It is said that once at the time of conquest, a singing girl was brought to al-Muhajir b. Abu Umayya who had been publicly singing satirical poems about Hadrat Abu Bakr. Muhajir got her hand amputated. When the Caliph heard this news, he was shocked and wrote a letter to Muhajir in the following words:

" I have learnt that you laid hands on a woman who had hurled abuses on me, and, therefore, got her hand amputated. God has not sought vengeance even in the case of polytheism, which is a great crime. He has not permitted mutilation even with regard to manifest infidelity. Try to be considerate and sympathetic in your attitude towards others in future. Never mutilate, because it is a grave offence. God purified Islam and the Muslims from rashness and excessive wrath. You are well aware of the fact that those enemies fell into the hands of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) who had been recklessly abusing him; who had turned him out of his home; and who fought against him, but he never permitted their mutilation."

Another letter written by hadrat 'Umar the Second Caliph, which is addressed to sa'd b. Abu Waqqas, speaks eloquently of the noble spirit with which the Muslims have bear exhorted to take up arms:

" Always search your minds and hearts and stress upon your men the need of perfect integrity and sincerity in the cause of Allah. There should be no material end before them in laying down their lives. but they abould deem it a means whereby they can please their Lord and entitle them. selves to His favour: such a spirit of selflessness should be inculcated in the minds of those who unfortunately lack it. Be firm in the thick of the battle as Allah helps man according to the perseverance that he shows in the cause of His faith and he would be rewarded in accordance with the spirit of sacrifice which he displays for the sake of the Lord. Be careful that those who have been entrusted to your care receive no harm at your hands and are never deprived of any of their legitimate rights.

Such in fact is the humane and noble attitude which Islam exhorts its followers to adopt on the battlefield where passions are generally let loose. It is an attitude the like of which is not to be found in the history of any other nation. Has the world any code of military ethics more noble and compassionate than this?" The moral tone adopted by the Caliph Abu Bakr in his instructions to the Syrian army was," says a Christian historian," so unlike the principles of the Roman government that it must have commanded profound attention from the subject people-such a proclamation announced to Jews and Christians sentiments of justice and principles of toleration which neither Roman emperors nor orthodox bishops had ever adopted as the rule of conduct."

Western scholars have indulged in a good deal of mud-slinging on the question of the use of the sword in Islam. But if one were to reflect calmly on this point one would be convinced that the sword has not been used recklessly by the Muslims; it has been wielded purely with humane feelings in the wider interest of humanity. Utmost regard was always shown to human life, honour and property even on the battlefield. That is why in all the eighty-two encounters between the Muslims and the non-Muslims during the life of the Holy Prophet (may peace he upon him), only 1018 persons lost their lives on both sides. Out of this 259 were Muslims, whereas the remaining 759 belonged to the opposite camp. One wonders at the audacity of these writers only when one compares the religious wars of Charles the Great, in which 4300 pagan Saxons were killed in cold blood, when one recalls the" famous answer by which the Papal Legate, in the Albigensian war, quieted the scruples of a too conscientious general, 'Kill all, God will know His own'.... When we recall the Spanish Inquisition, the conquest of Mexico and Peru, the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and the sack of Magdeburg by Tilly."

It is indeed strange that the criticism on the use of sword by Muslims emanates from those whose hands are soiled in the blood of countless innocent human beings, by those who exult in the techniques of homicide, who have depersonalised warfare to such an extent that millions of innocent men and women are put to death and numberless are thrown into concentration camps and flogged with steel rods and ox-hide whips, and all this is done without any qualm of conscience. As human beings. we hang our heads down in shame when we think of the horrifying atrocities which have been perpetrated by the modern civilised men. It is estimated that. in the First World War, ten million soldiers were killed and an equal number of civilians lost their lives, and twenty million died on account of widespread epidemics and famines throughout the world as an aftermath of this war. Economic costs are estimated at $ 338,000,000,000 of which $ 186,000,000,000 were direct costs.

The losses in the Second World War were staggeringly greater as compared to those in the first one. Twenty-two million persons were killed and thirty-four million were wounded. The estimated cost of the war was $ 1, 348. 000,000,000 of which $ 1, 167,000,000,000 consisted of direct military costs.

It is significant that in the Korean War, the first instance in which an international organisation for establishing peace utilised military force to suppress aggression, more than one million persons were killed which added to the civilian deaths in Korea and totalled about five millions.

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