- Kuwait Times Extra
The word jihadophobia is a neologism formed from jihad and phobia, referring to irrational fear of the concept of jihad in Islam. An increase in jihadophobiarelated events is gradually erupting in the west. Some recent examples of these events are: an advertisement that reads “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad” that went on display in 10 New York City subway stations; and a statement delivered by United States representative Michele Bachman calling for a ban on what she calls “jihadi” foods in school lunches in the US. Thus, I found it exceedingly significant to illuminate the true meaning of jihad in Islam. Undoubtedly, jihad is one of those hotly disputed Islamic concepts, having generated so much disagreement and diametrically opposed interpretations.
In the Western media, jihad is frequently used in Islamophobic contexts where it is presented as symbolizing the killing of innocent people, often non-Muslims, by a marching crowd of religious fanatic Muslims with savage beards and flaming eyes brandishing drawn swords and attacking the ‘infidels’ wherever they meet them. Jihad is often fallaciously portrayed as “holy war”. However, in Islam, there is no such thing as holy war. This terminology was created in Europe throughout the Crusades and their war against Muslims. Islam recognizes Jews and Christians as the “People of the Book” because they all follow the Prophet Abraham, believing in Moses’ and Jesus’ teachings and messages. For many centuries, Muslims have peacefully coexisted with Christians, Jews, and people of other faiths, maintaining social, business, political and economic relations.
The word jihad stems from the Arabic root word J-H-D, which means “struggle” and “strive”. Jihad is an effort to struggle against evil thoughts, actions and aggression against a person, family, society or country. In Islam there are two categories of jihad: an inner spiritual struggle (jihad el nafs) and an outer physical struggle (jihad bel seif ) also known as the “jihad of the sword”. Since the first category of jihads concerns only the spiritual side of Muslim beliefs and have no external interference, I will directly tackle the second kind of jihad. “Jihad of the sword” means struggling against those who are non-Muslims. But mark my words, “jihad of the sword” in Islam is not merely a ‘struggle’; it is a ‘struggle for the Cause and in the way of Allah’. This is the most crucial condition for ‘jihad’ in Islam. Allah says in his book (Quran): “Those who believe fight in the way of God and the unbelievers fight in the way of Taghut (devil)”. (4:76) The expression “Taghut” is derived from ‘Tughian’ (the deluge) that means ‘to cross the limit’. When the river crosses its boundaries we say ‘the deluge has come’. Correspondingly, when man transgresses all the legitimate Islamic restraints and exerts himself to assume a position above the law of Allah arrogating himself the right to kill innocent people and destruct their homes unduly, this is called as ‘fighting in the way of Taghut’.
On contrary, “fighting in the way of God” refers to the struggle for the establishment of God’s just order in the world. The fighter’s aim is to abide by the law of God and enforce it legitimately among other human beings. The law of Allah is primary enshrined in Quran (Muslims’ source book for guidance) and sunnah (the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)). Therefore, for a Muslim to be considered as a mujahid (a person who engages in jihad for the sake of Allah not the devil) he has to follow the rules of Quran and sunnah. Islam firmly assures the principle of peace and security in that it should not be violated in any way, except in the case of aggression by others, this showcases Islam’s eagerness to reach solutions with other nations on the basis of peace and security.
Allah mentions this in many verses in the Quran, including: “Ye who believe! Enter into peace heartedly, and follow not the footsteps of the evil one, for he is to you an avowed enemy” (2:208); “Therefore, if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (guarantees of) peace, then God hath opened no way for you (to war against them)” (4:90); “But if they (the enemy) incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in God: for he is the one that heareth and knoweth (all things).”(8:61) In order to humanize the war, Islam has regulated most of the conducts of hostilities, by the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the commands of Caliph Abu Bakr and Caliph Omar.
As Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Move forward in the name of God, by God, and on the religion of God’s prophet. Do not kill an elderly, or a child or a woman, do not misappropriate booty, gather your spoils, do good for God loves good doers”. Moreover, Abu Bakr, the first Caliph after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), restated several commandments that go hand in hand with Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) previous hadith; as he said to his commander Yazid Ibn Abi Sufyan: “I prescribe ten commandments to you: do not kill a woman, a child, or an old man, do not cut down fruitful trees, do not destroy inhabited areas, do not slaughter any sheep, cow or camel except for food, do not burn date palms, nor inundate them, don’t embezzle, nor be guilty of cowardliness”.
Furthermore, the last Caliph Omar wrote to one of the rulers in the caliphate, “we have been informed that when the Prophet of Allah sent any military company, he used to tell them: ‘Proceed with your expedition in the name of Allah, and for the sake of Allah, wage war against the disbelievers (i.e. those who attacked Muslims in this context), do not be deserters, nor commit perfidy, nor mutilate (your enemy), don’t kill a newborn, repeat this to your armies and companies, it’s God will, peace be upon you’”. Just to put the record straight, Islam also includes some verses that tell us unconditionally to fight, so if we had ears with no brain and heard only these verses and disregarded the others, it would be conceivable for us to think that Islam is a religion of war.
The extremist jihadists have used or rather abused those verses to justify committing all kinds of violence, including initiating devastating wars. However, most of the reasonable Islamic scholars read and interpret those verses in light of the other verses that give Muslims the order to fight but with certain conditions and the verses that remark that Islam decisively announces its affection of peace. Therefore, we may say that those who do not abide by the spirit of the Islamic scriptures and follow their self-made interpretations by killing innocent people do not follow Islam in this regard.
On another note, a big part of the problem is the one common form of double standards by which the international community associates evil perpetrated by Muslims to Islam but never does the same in incidents related to other groups and beliefs. Ancient and modern history identifies many examples of political and religious leaders, representing various political persuasions and religious faiths, inciting violence against their opponents and those who did not share their beliefs. Yet not all those political philosophies and religions get tarnished because of what individuals who believed in them performed.
By Omar Mekki
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