Islam Would Die Without Jihad
by Mohammad Asghar (November 2009)
Many people have written books, treatises and articles for the purpose of defining the role that jihad is supposed to play in the lives of Muslims. Most writers have tried, in their own ways, to come up with the “true” meaning of this word, while others took circuitous routes to try to make us believe that Islam means peace, and that peace is also the purpose for which, Allah has made jihad an integral and essential part of Islam.
My dual-mindedness ended when I had the opportunity to read the book “Forbidden Love.” Its author is a Jordanian woman. Arabic is her mother tongue. In it, she pointed out the true meaning of the Arabic words “qatilu” and “jihadu,” as these have appeared in the Arabic text of Islam’s holy book - the Quran.
My newly-acquired familiarity with the words “qatilu” and “jihadu” made me go over the Quran once again. Reading it this time with the great care it deserves from all readers, I was able to relate to what the Jordanian author said in her book and understood why Allah used these words in His revelations (some say “inspirations”) to Muhammad, the best and the greatest prophet to have ever walked the earth!
Qatilu: meaning to wage a war, has appeared 64 times in the Quran. Through the use of this word in His celestial holy book, Allah has commanded all Muslims to wage wars on the Unbelievers (kaferun in Arabic), mainly, for the purpose of plunder. Allah has permitted them to kill their victims and to take over their possessions together with their women as captives of war. Muslims have been encouraged to have sex, and children, with their captive women without getting married to them.
The seizure of their enemies’ possessions enabled the Muslims to fill up their empty stomachs; the taking over of the female captives satisfied their sexual drive. “Qatilu” also means a warfare that Muslims are supposed to launch on and against, the non-Muslims who live in the Muslim countries, firstly, to subdue them, and then to force them to pay Jizya (a protection tax) to their Islamic governments. Failure of the surviving Unbelievers to pay protection tax is a ground for Muslims either to uproot and deport them from their homes, or to kill them ‘in the cause of Allah.’
“Dhimmis,” as the protection tax-paying Non-Believers are supposed to be called, must live among their Muslim compatriots in total submission to them. Wearing badges of different colors to identify their religious affiliations, dhimmis should neither build tall buildings, nor should they ride horses. They must display their ‘inferior’ status to their ‘superior’ Muslim neighbors.
The following verse of the Quran speaks well about qatilu and dhimmitude:
9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah, nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, (Islam), (even if they are) of the People of the Book (i.e. Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.”
Commenting on the above verse, Mohammed Arkoun, whose work Robert D. Lee has translated into English, says in “Rethinking Islam”:
“(These verses) like the rest of Sura 9, warrant a long historical and theological commentary. They have fed an interminable polemic from which there is no escape because it is conducted at the dogmatic level. I cite them here not to touch off new controversies but to attract attention to the urgent need for a modern rereading of these sacred texts that takes account of historical context and doctrinal struggles aggravated by the appearance of the Qur’an at the beginning of the seventh century.” (p.72).
Professor Philip K. Hitti has been candidly straight forward, while drawing our attention to the historical facts that had formed the basis of Muslim aggressions against the non-Muslims from the time Islam was in its infancy to the time it had acquired enough military muscle to conquer almost one third of the world’s Pagan, Jewish and Christian lands. Writing in the History of the Arabs (pp. 143 & 144), he says: “… Outside the Arabian peninsula and especially in the instance of the ahl-al-kitab (Christians and Jews) there was a third and, from the standpoint of the conquerors, more desirable choice besides the Koran and the sword-tribute. “Make war … upon such of those to whom the Book has been given until they pay tribute offered on the back of their hands, in a state of humiliation.”
This third choice was later by necessity of circumstances offered to Zoroastrians and heathen Berbers and Turks; in the case of all these theory gave way to expediency. … The passion to go to heaven in the next life may have been operative with some, but the desire for the comforts and luxuries of the civilized regions of the Fertile Crescent was just as strong in the case of many.
… Al-Baladhuri, the most judicious of the historians of the conquest, declares that in recruiting for the Syrian campaign abu-Bakr “wrote to the people of Makkah, al-Taif, al-yaman and all the Arabs in Najd and al-Hijaz summoning them to a ‘holy war’ and arousing their desire for it and for the booty to be got from the Greeks. Rustam, the Persian general who defended his country against the Arab invasion, made the following remark to the Muslim envoy: “I have learned that ye were forced to what ye are doing by nothing but the narrow means of livelihood and by poverty. A verse in the Hamasah of abu-Tamam has put the case tersely:
"No, not for Paradise didst thou the nomad life forsake; Rather, I believe, it was thy yearning after bread and dates.”
The first well coordinated qatilu Muslims had launched under Muhammad’s leadership against the Meccan Pagans, took place on the ground of Badr in 624 A.D. It was designed to ambush an unarmed Meccan caravan, and to loot the goods and other valuables it was transporting from Syria to Mecca. The caravan, however, escaped unscathed due to an evasive action taken by its leader. Had Muslims been able to lay their hands on that caravan, we would be reading a much shorter story than the one we read today about Islam’s travails, and the opposition it allegedly endured during its rise among the Pagans, Jews and Christians of the seventh century Arabian Peninsula.
The cause or causes for which Allah has permitted Muslims to launch “qatilu” (wars) on the non-Muslims having been made clear, let us now examine the word “jihadu” to understand its significance, true meaning and import in the context of the Quran.
Jihad: Read “jihadu” in Arabic, it appears 33 times in the Quran. In many cases, the word “jihadu” appears in conjunction with the phrase “fi sabil Allah.” It means “in the cause, or for the sake, of Allah.”
Like qatilu, jihad also denotes hostile acts, in the shape of wars, which Muslims, under Allah’s command, undertook in the past and are required to do so even now, and in future as well against the non-Muslims, specifically with the purpose of converting them to Islam. In jihads, Muslims should not expect to gain any booty, but should it come their way in the aftermath of their ‘striving in the cause of Allah,’ they should not only accept it gladly, they must also cherish it wholeheartedly, for all rewards and gifts come from Allah. Refusing Allah’s gifts is a cardinal sin (cf. Quran; 66:1). Converting the Non-Believers to Islam is what the Quran subtly refers to as being the “cause of Allah.”
Other pre- and post jihad rules are like those of qatilu. Those of the Unbelievers who escape death in wars must convert to Islam. Unwilling infidels must pay protection tax; their failure to do so entitles the Muslims either to kill them, or to deport them to another country. At the time of leaving their homesteads, the infidel deportees must leave behind whatever they may be forbidden by their Muslim masters from carrying with them. The list of the prohibited ‘goods’ may include their personal belongings, their young mothers, sisters, wives and daughters.
In the backdrop of the above discussion, let us now explore some of the Quranic verses in which, the word ‘jihadu” appears, as well as the purpose and the intent for which it has been incorporated in them. While reading these verses, we must keep in mind the situation and the circumstances that had prevailed at the time they were ‘revealed’ by Allah to Muhammad, as well as his listeners’ inability to ‘dissect’ each and very word to find out their so-called etymological roots and grammatical correctness in the manner we do today. They were simple folks and they took each word of the revelations in the sense, they knew, they conveyed to them.
4:75: “And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed))? Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from Thee one who will protect; and raise for us from Thee one who will help!”
Two causes are mentioned in the above verse for Muslims to fight for: one to protect the oppressed, which is undoubtedly a good cause, and the second “in the cause of Allah,” a cause that remained undefined. The following verse sheds light on what I understand to be Allah’s cause:
4:76: “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject Faith fight in the cause of Evil: so fight ye against the friends of Satan: feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan.”
In the sight of Allah, the Unbelievers are the friends of Satan. Fighting them, and to bring them to the fold of Islam, is the responsibility of all Muslims. This effort on the part of Muslims is ‘a cause of Allah.’
4:100: “He who forsakes his home in the cause of Allah finds in the earth many refuge, wide and spacious: should he die as a refuge from home for Allah and His Apostle, his reward becomes due and sure with Allah: And Allah is oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
As the above verse postulates, leaving one’s home, taking refuge in places friendly to, or supportive of, Islam and dying for Allah and His Apostle are two of the many ‘causes of Allah.’ These, in no way, relate to one’s struggle with his “inner thoughts and desires.”
9:41: “Go ye forth (whether equipped) lightly or heavily, and strive and struggle, with your goods and your persons, in the cause of Allah. That is best for you, if ye (but) knew.”
Clearly, striving with light or heavy arms is not, and it cannot be construed to be, a struggle with one’s inner thoughts and desires. Striving here means a war against those who are Unbelievers; hence they deserve to be eliminated from the face of Allah’s earth through violent actions and killings.
29:6: “And if any strive (with might and main), they do so for their own souls: For Allah is free of all needs from all creation.”
Striving with ‘might and main’ is not a struggle against one’s inner thoughts and desires. It clearly refers to a physical war all Muslims have been ordained by Allah to wage against those Non-Believers who refuse to accept Islam and its doctrines.
66:9: “O Prophet! Strive hard against the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell,- an evil refuge (indeed).”
The above verse lays bare the true meaning of the word “jihadu.” Through it, Allah asked Muhammad to strive hard against the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites. Killing by him of the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites is implied here; for Allah can consign them to the fire of hell only after they were dead. No humans can be made to take their residence in hell in their lifetime.
In the parlance of the Quran, the torment of a sinner begins immediately after his burial. Soon after he is laid to rest, angels visit him to find out whether or not he was an Allah-fearing and pious Muslim in his worldly life. If he is found to have lived a sinful life, the angels curse him and leave him in the grave to suffer from all the punishments the grave is programmed to continually inflict on his person.
On the Day of Judgment, he would be raised and after being judged by Allah Himself, he would take up his residence in hell.
It is the last scenario that the above verse refers to. And this scenario begins unfolding after one has died or been killed. Striving hard against the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites was, therefore, a command from Allah to Muhammad for putting them to death; otherwise the contents of the verse would have had no justification for its inclusion in the Quran.
For those readers, who like to read or hear straight forward talks or arguments, the following clear cut definition of Muslim struggle or jihad, as given by Abd al-Salam Faraj, should be sufficient and satisfying:
“… It is our duty to concentrate on our Islamic causes, and that is the establishment first of all of God’s laws in our own country and causing the word of God to prevail. There is no doubt that the first battlefield of the jihad is the extirpation of these infidel leaderships and their replacement by a perfect Islamic order, and from this will come the release of our energies.” (Al-jihad: l-Farida al-Ghaiba (Amman, 1982). English translation: The Neglected Duty: The Creed of Sadat’s assassins and Islamic Resurgence in the Middle East (New York, 1986), pp. 159 ff).
Contrary to the understanding of almost all the scholars of Islam, and, furthermore, if the compilation of the Quran is believed to be a correct one, I can say without an iota of hesitation that Muhammad and his handful of followers had began their jihad against the Meccan Pagans soon after Allah nominated him as His Prophet. He did not wait for Allah’s permission to harass and kill those Pagans on whom he and his followers were able to surreptitiously lay their hands. Verse 73:20 of the Quran makes this fact clear.
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