The various Jehadi movements in Islamic world give an impression as if Islam makes it obligatory on its followers to wage war and solve all problems through war and as if Islam spurns peace and believes peace will only mean hegemony of non-Islamic forces. The media all over the world has almost equated Islam with violence. Also those scholars or journalists who are anti-Islam or have vary superficial understanding of it quote some verses from the Qur'an to substantiate their point. Firstly, we have to note that media, interested more in sensational and negative reporting headlines news about violent movements and statements of some Muslim leaders, though handful, who advocate jihad.

These jihadi leaders themselves have limited understanding of Islam or have powerful vested interest in taking up arms or making some people fight - in the name of Islam - to promote their interests and legitimise their actions through Qur'an and hadith. Their statements are taken as true representatives of Islamic position on matters relating to jihad. The media now has coined a term 'jihadi Islam' which is being used repeatedly. The media ignores those who refute such representation of Islam. It is also highly regrettable that some militants use the term 'jihad' even for territorial disputes like Kashmir. Many militant groups in Kashmir claim to be waging jihad. They often kill innocent people in and outside Kashmir for their political benefits without batting an eyelid and pass it off as 'jhad'. Such ruthless killings for political benefits passed off as jihad is bound to have very adverse impact on others. Let alone others even right thinking Muslims condemn such acts as inhuman and totally un-Islamic.

In fact as far as the Qur'an is concerned the concept of 'jihad' has nothing to do with violence. The Qur'an does not use this word in any sense of war at all. It is much later usage with which we are not concerned here. It is highly regrettable that not only non-Muslims even Muslims in general think that the Qur'an uses the term jihad for war and that it is duty of Muslims to wage jihad (i.e. in the sense of war) in the way of Allah. The word jihad unfortunately has been so misused in the history of Muslims that even an Arabic dictionary Al-Qamus al-'Asri by Elias Antoon (Cairo, 1972) gives its meaning as "militancy, fighting" and jihad fi' sabil al-din as "holy or religious war". This is how original meanings are distorted through popular practice.

The word jihad is derived from the root 'jahada' and means to exert, to strain, to endeavour and to exert oneself. Similarly the word 'juhud' means ability, power or strength and also strenuous or utmost efforts. Again it is from this that the word ijtihad has been derived which is used for strenuous efforts to re-interpret some Islamic doctrine or utmost creative efforts to apply Islamic teachings to new situations.

However, when the Qur'an uses this word jihad it has religious implication in as much as it is a struggle which is an act of worship ('ibadah') for which Allah will reward the mujahid i.e. one who strives in the way of Allah (fi' sabi lillah). Thus it becomes a religious act performed selflessly only to please Allah and not for any selfish desire. Thus it will not be jihad, though great deal of efforts might have been made, if it is for some personal ends. Any trace of selfish interests will disqualify it for any religious merit and it will not fall within the category of jihad.

We will quote some of the verses from the Holy Scripture of Islam to substantiate our point. Thus we see in 22:78 "And strive hard (wa jahidu) for Allah with due striving. He has chosen you and and has not laid upon you any hardship in religion - the faith of your father Abraham." Had jahadu here meant 'war' it would not have been followed by words "has not laid upon you any hardship in religion".

Another important verse in the Qur'an in this regard is 9:24 which is as under:

"Say: If your fathers and your sons and your brethren and your wives and your Kinfolk and the wealth you have acquired and trade whose dullness you fear, and dwellings you love, are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving (jihad) in His way, then wait till Allah brings His command to pass. And Allah's guides not the transgressing people."

This verse which uses the word jihad also implies striving for Allah's sake with ones wealth and every thing one has. He should be ready to sacrifice all the interests to promote a higher purpose in life before which everything one has becomes insignificant.

Agasin in the verse 22:52 the Qur'an says:

"So obey not the disbelievers, and strive against (wa jahidhum) them a mighty striving (jihadan kabira).

It is to be noted here that striving here is described as jihad kabir - a mighty striving because in adverse circumstances one has to make very great efforts to spread the message of truth. At times such efforts may require to face aggression from the forces of falsehood or those of unbelief and one may have to battle to defend oneself. But we will throw more light on this aspect little later. It is also to be noted that the above verse begins with the words "So obey not the disbelievers?" which implies that one should not listen to those who do not believe in truth and should strive in mighty way to fight untruth through ones efforts. There is no reference to any kind of violence in the verse neither from the side of disbelievers nor from the side of Muslims but only to mighty efforts to contain untruth.

There is another verse in the Qur'an (60:1) which is important from our viewpoint. It says, "If you have come forth to strive (jihadan) in my way to seek my pleasure, would you love them (unbelievers) in secret? And I know what you conceal and what you manifest."

We learn from commentators that this verse was revealed shortly before the Prophet (PBUH) conquered Mecca. The Prophet had not set out from Mdina with any intention to invade Mecca. His earlier expedition to Mecca also ended in peace of Hudaibiyah rather than entering the holy city by force. Finally when the Prophet (PBUH) entered Mecca after this verse was revealed he entered quite peacefully. There was no bloodshed and no revenge killing though the unbelievers of Mecca had severely persecuted the Prophet and his followers. But the Prophet did not permit any revenge killing. He generously pardoned all those who approached him for amnesty. And all those who remained indoor were not touched. When one of the followers of the Prophet during this march to Mecca shouted that "today is the day of fighting", the Prophet immediately corrected him saying 'No today is the day of mercy' and, as pointed out above, the holy Prophet did show mercy to his enemies in abundance.

There are similarly other verses in the Qur'an which use the word jihad and its derivatives but nowhere it indicates aggression against others. Thus in 9:19 the Qur'an says, "Do you hold the giving of drink to the pilgrims and the maintenance of the sacred Mosque equal to (the service of) one who believes in Allah and the Last Day and strives hard (jahada) in Allah's way? They are not equal in the sight of Allah." Here in this verse though a derivative of the word jihad (jahada) has been used but the whole context makes it clear that there is no reference to violence of any kind at all.

The verse 49:15 says, "The believers are those only who believe in Allah and His Messenger, then they doubt not, and struggle hard (wa jahadu) with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah. Such are the truthful ones." Here too, one can see there is no reference to any kind of violence or war. It only implies striving hard with all sincerity in the way of Allah without any selfish motive and without entertaining any doubt about the mission of Allah and His Messenger.

It is even clearer in the verse 29:6 which says, "And whosoever strives hard {jahadu), strives for himself. Surely Allah is Self sufficient, above (need of) (His) creatures." Thus one who strives hard for truth it benefits his own self and this striving hard in no way benefits Allah. Allah only shows humans path of truth. In other words He guides them to the right path and for that they have to strive hard.

Thus in all these uses of the word jihad and its derivatives in the Qur'an it is clear that war is not implied. There are other words like qatilu, qital etc. which have been used in Qur'an for war. Then the question to be dealt with is whether the Qur'an, approves of war or discourages violence in absolute sense. And also whether non-violence in absolute sense is possible in all situations? We would like to throw light on these questions in what follows.

It must be made clear that Qur'an does permit use of violence in certain given situations but with some strict conditions. Firstly, it disapproves of any kind of aggression which it calls 'udwan. 'Udwan can also mean transgressing or exceeding the limits. The concept of limits of Allah (hudud Allah) is very important. Allah has fixed limits for everything and anyone who transgresses these limits harms himself as well as the society he lives in. Adhering to these limits ensures a balanced, moral and ethical life, which is necessary for meaningful and purposeful life. Allah has fixed limits for use of violence too. Any use of violence transgressing these limits will seriously injure social life and the moral fabric. The concept of limits is very important in Islam and anything transgressing these limits is considered sin. Thus aggression transcends the limits fixed by Allah and is thus sin in Islam.

We will throw light here on the verses permitting qital (war) for Muslims. It is to be noted and also as pointed out earlier the word for war in the Qur'an is qital and not jihad. There are several verses on qital in Qur'an but none permits war of aggression. The one such verse is as under:

"Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed. And Surely Allah is able to assist them." (22:39)

Commenting on this verse Maulana Muhammad Ali says in his Holy Qur'an (Lahore, 1973):

"According to authentic reports, this is the earliest permission given to the Muslims to fight. There is nothing to show that this verse was not revealed in Makkah. On the other hand, it was owing to this revelation that in the well-known oath of allegiance taken at 'Aqabah, the Holy Prophet required a promise from the Madinah deputation that they would defend him against his enemies even as they would defend their own children. The words in which the permission is granted show clearly that war was first made on the Muslims by their opponents; and secondly, that the Muslims had already suffered great oppression at the hands of their persecutors. The words of the next verse, those who have been expelled from their homes, may refer to the emigration to Abyssinia, or to the exodus to Madinah, which commenced soon after the 'Aqabah allegiance was sworn." (Pp-656)

Thus the verse and comment on it clearly shows that permission to wage war was granted only for defence and to ward off aggression by the unbelievers of Mecca and this was the earliest permission granted to Muslims to defend themselves. There is another similar verse in the Qur'an, which permits to fight in the way of Allah to deliver the oppressed from their oppressors:

"An what reason have you not to fight in the way of Allah , and of the weak among the men and the women and the children , who say: Our Lord, take us out of the town, whose people are oppressors, and grant us from Thee a friend, and grant us from Thee a helper." (4:75)

This verse makes it abundantly clear that one must not hesitate to fight for the liberation of the weak, the old, the women and children who are being oppressed. This verse was revealed after many people who could afford to migrate from Mecca to Medinah migrated leaving behind those who had no means to do so and which included amongst others women and children who were being severely persecuted at the hands of the Kuffar of Mecca. These helpless people needed to be rescued from the clutches of their oppressors and this was not possible without fighting against them. This is another reason for permission to fight granted to Muslims by Allah.

Another among early verse requiring Muslims to fight is from 2nd chapter i.e. 2:190 which says, " And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you but be not aggressors."

This verse clearly states that fight only those who fight you and that do not be aggressors. This is the main outlook of the Qur'an as far as waging war is concerned. One has to fight those who fight you is, one can say, the Qur'anic doctrine of war. Also, it is conditional that one should not be aggressor and one should not transcend limits.

Another verse in the Qur'an, which throws light on the conditions on which fight with the enemies is permitted is 9:12. It is as follows:

"And if they break their oaths after their agreement and revile your religion, then fight the leaders of disbelief - surely their oaths are nothing - so that they may desist."

Thus another reason for fighting the leaders of disbelief is that they break the agreement after entering into it and also do not stop at that. They also revile the religion of Muslims. In Arabia of the time agreements entered into had great importance and breaking an agreement meant declaration of war as per the then prevailing tribal traditions. The above verse permitting fight with leaders of disbelief who break agreement and revile religion of Muslims should be seen in that light.

The basic objective of the Qur'an is to establish peace and sustain it. This could be achieved in those days as today by entering into agreements with the opponents. The Qur'an specifically forbids war with those who do not break the agreement even if they are non-believers and refuse to accept Islam. Thus we see in the following verse a clear injunction in this regard:

"It may be that Allah will bring about friendship between you and those of them whom you hold as enemies. And Allah is Powerful; and Allah is Forgiving and merciful.

"Allah forbids you not respecting those who fight you not for religion, nor drive you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly. Surely Allah loves the doers of justice."

"Allah forbids you only respecting those who fight you for religion, and drive you forth from your homes and help (others) in your expulsion, that you make friends of them; and who ever makes friends of them, those are the wrongdoers." (90-8-9)

Thus the above two verses from the Qur'an put forward the doctrine of war as far as Islam is concerned. Respect those who do not fight you for your religion and do not drive you out of your homes. Not only that do not fight them but show them kindness and deal with them justly as Allah loves the doers of justice. Thus justice and peace is fundamental doctrines and maintain peace and do justice to those who are not Muslims but do not do any harm to you. Thus there is no question of waging war against others just because they are unbelievers and refuse to accept Islam.

The Qur'an also requires of Muslims that do not refuse any proposal for peace. Thus it says: "And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Surely He is the Hearer, the Knower." (8:61) Thus it is against the commandment of Allah to reject in proposal for peace from the enemy. As indicated in the previous verse quoted above Allah can create friendship with the enemies. Thus ultimate purpose is to establish peace. War should be considered an abnormal situation.

Some people quote the verse 9:29 to prove that Islam requires fighting all those who do not accept Islam and imposes jizyah on those who refuse to accept Islam. The verse is as under:

"Fighty those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, nor follow the Religion of Truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgement of superiority and they are in a state of subjection."

Firstly, it has to be kept in mind that this verse is about the people of the Book i.e. Christians and Jews. However, it should be read in conjunction with those verses quoted above which lay down a principle. It cannot be read in isolation. It is well-known fact of the Islamic history that the Jews who are among the people of the Book had frequently conspired with the leaders of unbelievers of Mecca despite the fact that the Prophet had given them full religious freedom through the covenant of Madina. They broke agreements repeatedly and it became necessary to fight them.

Now the Prophet (PBUH) received reports of the Christian power (Roman empire) preparing to wage war against the Muslims and to subjugate them. The above verse is related to this event. The Prophet set forth on what is known as Ghazwa-e-Tabuk the battle of Tabuk. However, when the Prophet came to know that the Roman Empire had still not mobilised its forces, he returned and did not proceed. This again establishes the principle that Muslims cannot take initiative in launching war against the enemy. It will constitute aggression, which is prohibited.

The above verse does not command Muslims to convert others at the point of sword or to wage war to convert others to Islam. The verse lays down that either they should follow their own religion of Truth (Din al-Haq) or follow Islam and its teachings or pay jizyah after laying down arms for having committed aggression. Jizyah was enforced not to humiliate but to protect those who had laid down arms. It is quite clear from the context of the verse.

Thus it will be seen that peace is very basic to Islam. In fact as pointed out by many scholars and theologians Islam in Arabic means establishing peace as well as to surrender to the Will of Allah. It is this bounden duty of every Muslim to strive to establish peace. Real jihad (striving) is to strive for peace and justice in the world. One of the names of Allah is Salam (peace) and since Muslims are servants of Allah they are above all servants of peace. Their whole life should be spent in the service of peace to fulfil their religious obligation.

Also, one has to bear in mind that the Qur'anic injunctions about war should be situated in the 6-7th century Arabia and its tribal traditions. Absolute non-violence as demanded by some is an utopia even now and much more so in the pre-Islamic Arabia. The Holy Prophet and his followers had to deal with actual situation as they faced. There were powerful enemies who were out to wipe out Muslims as is obvious from various verses quoted above. The Prophet himself left Mecca when there was real danger to his life and he had to leave the town in great secrecy and after careful planning. Even then the Prophet tried his best to maintain peace in Mecca.

When in Madina he entered into a covenant with Jews and idolaters and gave them full freedom to practice their respective religions. But even then the Jews resented the emerging power of Muslims and conspired with the unbelievers of Mecca and betrayed the Prophet and the community of Muslims. Some idolaters, on the other hand, entered into agreement with the Muslims and honoured the agreement and the Qur'an prohibited Muslims to fight them as quoted above. The peace of Hudaybiyah on most unfavourable terms to Muslims also shows convincingly that as far as possible the Prophet wanted to avoid war.

And if one takes note of all the battles the Prophet had to fight it will be obvious that all were forced on the Muslims. Various Islamic scholars and historians have given details of these battles to show that Muslims were not the aggressors. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan has given such details in his Tafsir al-Qur'an (volume II) while explaining the verses of the Qur'an on permission to fight. It will convince anyone that though Islam permitted violence for defence in given situation its transcendent vision is of peace and it is transcendent vision which is more important than what is permitted in a given situation. Peace and security of human life is most fundamental to the teachings of the Qur'an. The Qur'an says that "?whoever kills a person, unless it be for a man -slaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he killed entire humanity and whosoever saves a life as though he has saved entire humanity." (5:250). This is quite an eloquent statement of the Qur'an to show it is totally against bloodshed or even killing of a single innocent person without any cause.

There is no doubt that there is great deal of violence in history of Islam but it is due more to the vested interests undertaking wars for their own interests misusing some of the verses of the Qur'an rather than due to injunctions of the Qur'an. It is also to be borne in mind that there were more internecine wars in the history of Islam than against non-Muslims or for spreading Islam. It would be interesting to study al-Baldhuri's Futuh al-Buldan (Conquest of Countries) which mentions various pacts entered into by Muslims with non-Muslims to understand this. As there were wars between various Muslim rulers there were wars with non-Muslims for conquest and political hegemony. Some historians hostile to Islam project these wars as wars for spreading Islam. Such projection of history is, to say the least, quite simplistic and based not on proper understanding of Islam but on hostility to Islam. It is injustice both with Islam as well as history.

Similarly the jihadi groups among Muslims today are also doing great injustice to Islam by misusing some of the Qur'anic provisions in entirely different circumstances. Their urge for violence has nothing to do with Islamic teachings. It is either their impatience or their interests, which make them take up guns where problems could be resolved peacefully and democratically. One should not be misled by their conduct. Islam is and remains religion of peace. Islam wants its followers to devote themselves for peace and worship Allah who is peace embodied (Salam).

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