About the Book
This book seeks to address popular
misconceptions regarding the Islamic concept of jihad. The book firmly
establishes that the ideology of violence in the name of Islam as articulated
by various terrorist groups is a crass misinterpretation of the Islamic scriptures.
Nomani’s work verifies the essential altruism that Islam espouses. It studies,
at length, the Prophet’s teachings on multifarious issues such as war, peace,
jihad, inter-state relations and relations between Muslims and others, and, in
the process, establishes that Islam, if properly interpreted, has no room for
While translating Nomani’s work from Urdu into
English, Yoginder Sikand has maintained the spirit of the original work.
About the Author
Yoginder Sikand is the author of over a dozen
books on Islam and Muslims in South Asia. He has a PhD in History from the
University of London, and was a post- doctoral research fellow at the Institute
for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Leiden, The Netherlands. He is
presently associated with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion at the
National Law School, Bangalore.
Maulana Yahya Nomani is Associate Editor of al-Furqan, an Urdu religious
magazine founded by his grandfather, the late Maulana Manzoor Nomani. He holds
regular Qura’nic classes in mosques and Islamic camps for youth. Recently, he
set up the al-Mahad al-Ali lil Dirasat al-Islamiya (Institute for Higher
Islamic Studies) in Lucknow, which provides a two-year course for madrasa
graduates, to ‘make them aware of modem issues, concerns and challenges’.
This book is an English translation of my Urdu
book titled AI-Jihad. Many people, including my mentor, Maulana Atiq ur-Rahman
Sambhali, Professor Syed Salman Nadwi, and other noted ulema, repeatedly insisted
that it should come out in English in order to reach out to the wider,
English-speaking public-not just to Muslims but also others who wish to
understand the truth about jihad.
The Islamic concept of jihad has been greatly
misunderstood. It has even been deliberately misinterpreted, particularly by
Western writers, in order to damage the image of Islam and Muslims. The
American authorities must surely be aware of the actual perpetrators of the
attacks of 9/11, but after that incident, a huge propaganda offensive was
launched to give jihad a bad name and to justify Western imperialist offensives
against Muslims and occupation of Muslim lands, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Present-day conflicts between Muslims and the West have their roots in the
colonial age, and have now developed into proxy occupation of Muslim countries.
The horrendous crimes committed by Western powers in the course of their naked
occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of combating jihad have,
naturally, led to heightened anger among Muslims. Even in Europe and America
itself, a lot of peace-loving non-Muslims have stridently protested against
these policies and atrocities. However, Western governments and the mass media
have, through their massive propaganda machine, tried to brutally crush voices
that cry out for justice. In this situation, it is not surprising that this
continuing wave of oppression has inflamed a section of the Muslim youth. Their
youthful zeal did not permit them to take cognizance of the demands of wisdom and
practical realities. Consequently, some of them resorted to deviant behaviour
and acts, inspired by extremist thinking in the name of jihad. Goaded by
immense grief and pain, they began considering such acts as jihad that have no
sanction whatsoever in the Islamic Shari’ah. The conditions under which they
laboured also gave rise to the ideology of extremism.
This unfortunate situation requires that the
Islamic concept of jihad be properly interpreted and explained afresh in
accordance with the Shari’ah so that the wrong allegations against jihad can be
effectively countered and people do not continue to get swayed by
misinterpretations of jihad that would lead them to extremism and impermissible
actions, causing harm not only to themselves but also to the worldwide Muslim
community or ummah in general.
It is thus indispensable for Muslims to have a
proper understanding of jihad and its principles and rules. Many of our
non-Muslim brethren who sincerely wish for peace and justice are also eager to
know what the concept of jihad is all about. I hope that the English
translation of my book will meet that need in a modest way.
Both Muslims as well as non-Muslims are victims
of misunderstandings about the reality of jihad. The changing times and
conditions of the world and the transformation of global affairs have created
the urgent need for fresh interpretations of the concept of jihad and for the
formulation of new regulations covering its crucial aspects. Many rules
governing jihad depend on the prevailing international context and the
conditions of human civilization. The views about jihad of many classical
Islamic jurists or fuqaha and the Muslim Caliphs may have been appropriate for
their own particular historical context, but today, when the entire state
structure, international relations, and global affairs have undergone
tremendous changes, it has become difficult to understand those rules in
today’s context. I hope this book will be considered a balanced contribution in
I use the word ‘balanced’ here because while I
uphold and fully respect the Shari’ah texts, I have sought to operate within
the classical framework of ijtihad or creative reflection on the sources of the
Shari’ah in order to seek to derive Islamic guidelines for today’s context. For
instance, in the corpus of classical fiqh or Muslim jurisprudence, there is
simply no concept of permanent peace between Muslim and non-Muslim states. It
only mentions short-term peace agreements. It lays down that an Islamic state
is permitted to make peace with a non-Muslim state only if the, former is weak
or is under such compulsion that it simply cannot wage war against the latter.
Imam Shafi’i (767-820 CE), for example, argues that an Islamic state cannot
make a peace treaty with a non-Muslim state for a period of more than 10 years.
Today, however, we are faced with a very
different international situation. What, for instance, is the Shari’ah guidance
in a situation when Muslims are faced with a non-Muslim state that does not
oppress its citizens (including Muslims) or put any hurdles in the path of
inviting people to Islam, and allows free and uninhibited practice of Islam in
its domains? Can jihad be declared against such a state? To insist that in such
a context too jihad must be declared and that such a state must be forced to
accept a Muslim government cannot be justified at all. Every community should
have the right to be governed by its own people, as long as this government
does not engage in persecution and atrocities.
The Qur’an (8: 61) itself states that if one’s
enemy inclines towards peace, Muslims must willingly embrace peace. Then why,
one might ask, did the classical fuqaha of the early medieval period claim that
peace with non-Muslim states was possible only on a temporary basis? This
contradiction can easily be resolved if we take into account the historical
context which these fuqaha were addressing. I have sketched an outline of this
context in this book in such a way that the reader might be convinced that
while the opinions of the classical fUqaha may have been appropriate for their
own times, in today’s context the situation is different, because of which we
need to seek guidance on the matter in the light of the Qur’an and the sunnah,
the practice of the Prophet Muhammad.
Lamentably, some Muslims with only a
superficial under- standing of the Qur’an and the sunnah still continue to
believe that it is the duty of the worldwide Muslim ummah to wage war against
the rest of the world. This erroneous belief has been reinforced by the ongoing
and relentless imperialist offensives of Western powers and state-sponsored
terrorism in other countries, which has forced a section of Muslims to fall prey
to extremism and radicalism and to wrong understandings about the Islamic
concept of jihad.
Today, in contrast to the times of the
classical fuqaha, we live in an age where it is possible to conceive of
permanent, sustained peace and an international order based on such peace.
Further, at least theoretically, no country in the world now places any hurdles
in the path of Islamic missionary work or inviting its people to Islam. Because
of the astonishing development of the means of communication, we now have new
possibilities for Islamic missionary work available to us. This vastly changed
context thus leaves no basis, in reason and in the Shari’ab, for holding on to
the old concept, according to which Muslim states should, as far as possible,
avoid entering into peace treaties with other states, and instead, they should
wage war against them and thereby seek to bring them under the flag of Islam.
Many Muslim scholars have well understood, and
sought to avail of, the possibilities that have been made available in today’s
vastly changed context, including the now widely-held notion of international
peace, in order to invite others to the path of service to, and worship of, God
alone. They have sought to redefine discourses about jihad based on their
understanding that jihad does not mean snatching the reigns of power from
another community or establishing Muslim rule. They rightly point out that as
long as possibilities exist for leading one’s life according to God’s religion
and for inviting other people to it, and people are not subjected to
imperialist oppression or religious persecution, Muslims must abide by peaceful
activism in order to call people to the path of God, revive Islam and to
instill within Muslims piety and firm commitment to God so that they lead their
lives in accordance with the faith-these are all faces or forms of jihad.
Undoubtedly, if imperialist oppression and
religious persecution can only be ended through resort to force, it can
constitute jihad-indeed, the best form of jihad-provided that this jihad is
waged in accordance with the aims, rules and conditions that God has laid down.
Yet, it must also be noted that in the context of today’s vastly changed
conditions, for this to take a practical form that is in accordance with the spirit
of the Qur’an and the sunnah and that does not violate their explicit texts is
extremely difficult. From a believer’s viewpoint, it is possible that we may
want to empathetically evaluate the position of the classical fuqaha when they
insist that establishing peace with a non- Muslim state is permissible only if
an Islamic state is compelled to do so and has no other choice. At the same
time, we should realize the altogether different situation prevailing today.
Here we need to possess a proper awareness of the new conditions and context of
today as well as a deep understanding of the Qur’an and the sunnah.
Unfortunately, very limited effort has been
made in this regard so far, and that too only superficially and without
adducing strong evidence from the Shari’ah. Some scholars who have written on
the subject have erred, explicitly or otherwise, in the direction of seeking to
legitimize Western oppression, past and present. Others have presented a few
textual references to back their particular interpretations while ignoring the
arguments and references offered by those whose views they critique. Clearly,
this is inadequate.
The Islamic doctrine of jihad has for long been
a source of debate and controversy. An enormous number of books have been
written on the subject, by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Jihad remains at the
heart of contemporary discussions about Islam and its place in the modern world
and about Islamic teachings with regard to people of other faiths.
Some months ago, I chanced upon an Urdu book
tided Al-Jihad written by a Lucknow-based Islamic scholar, Maulana Yahya
Nomani. So fascinating did I find his book that once I began reading it, I
could not put it down till I had finished it. Although I had read several books
in English and Urdu before on the issue of jihad, this book struck me as quite
distinct. Written by a young scholar trained in a traditional Indian madrasa,
it seemed to appeal to Muslims as well as non-Muslims alike. It was equally
critical of portrayals of jihad by Islamophobic scholars as being allegedly
akin to terrorism as it was of radical self-styled Islamists, who believe it to
be a license for indiscriminate slaughter of non- Muslims as well as Muslims
who do not subscribe to their vision of Islam. While I did not agree with
everything that the author had to say, I felt that on the whole, the book made
a valuable contribution to longstanding and still on-going debates about the
doctrine of jihad. I believed that the book definitely deserved a much larger audience,
and that is why I decided to translate it into English after seeking permission
from the author.
Some salient issues that this book raises are the
concept and purposes of jihad; the limits and rules governing jihad; the
conditions under which armed jihad may be resorted to; the various non-violent
forms of jihad; the treatment of non- Muslim combatants and non-combatants or
civilians during armed jihad; the need for the contextual revision of certain
rules related to jihad that are contained in the medieval corpus of fiqh or
Muslim jurisprudence; the impermissibility of proxy war and communal conflict
in the name of jihad; the duties and responsibilities of Muslim citizens or
residents of non-Muslim states; and Islamic teachings about relations between
Muslims and followers of other faiths.
The Truth About Jihad
Not War, But Struggle in the Path of God
Reconciliation and Jihad
Important Conditions and Rules Regarding Jihad
Jihad and Abiding by Treaties
Non-violent Forms of Jihad
Islamic Teachings about Relations
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