Jihad in Islam – Habib Ali

This is taken from an article in the Washington Post.

What is Jihad? Under what circumstances does Islam sanction the use of violence? What would you tell would be suicide bombers who would invoke Islam to justify their actions?

The Islamic tradition inequivocally condemns any type of aggression toward innocent civilians.

Islam does not sanction armed struggle except when opposing an aggressor who occupies another’s land or in order to help remove oppression from oppressed peoples.

The concept of jihad in the Islamic tradition carries the meaning of exerting all of one’s resources and energies in order to arrive at the realization of truth, preparedness to make sacrifices for the sake of
doing good, and reaching out to others with goodness, seeking nothing in return save the contentment of God.

The root of the word “jihad” in Arabic is to struggle or endure hardship; expending energy & resources. When this is applied to the Islamic context it becomes the effort to advance goodness and
enlightenment. This is the doctrinal understanding found in the original and defining religious texts.

The greatest expression of jihad is the struggle (Ar. mujahada) against the ego in order to bring about its spiritual purification and growth. This jihad is known as the “Greater Jihad” amongst Muslims.

Other forms of jihad are: the Jihad of “word”; the Qur’an tells us: {and struggle against them with it (i.e. with the Qur’an)} (Qur’an, Chapter: 25, verse: 52). The Prophet (peace & blessings upon him) said “the best jihad is that of speaking a word of truth to an unjust ruler”. Other forms include the jihad of educating, the jihad of building functional economies and eradicating poverty, and the jihad of politics, diplomacy and constructive policy creation. However, it is the jihad against injustice, which can include armed struggle as a last and conditional resort, that has dominated the spotlight in our times. As the reality of Jihad has to do with reaching the truth, doing goodness, and reaching out to others with this goodness, armed struggle really has no place here except in two circumstances:

  1. Defense against an aggressor (conditioned by right ethical conduct); or
  2. To secure for people the freedom to choose their own path to religious truth.

The Islamic tradition forbids suicide; it forbids any form of harm to innocent people. The Islamic tradition advocates the rule of law in the strongest terms.

Islam forbids the taking of life so what drives the suicide bombers to just that? The question about suicide bombings is misleading in that it tends to be framed in such a way as to focus on the “suicidal” nature of the act alone. However, there is something worse at the heart of this.

It is the issue of the treachery, the betrayal of the trust that all innocent people must be permitted to assume as part of a mutually dependent social order. This observation in turn, leads into another question. Is this any more or less horrific than a person who sits behind a button which he presses – bringing death and destruction to thousands – and then returns to his routine without an afterthought? No, both are horrific, and both require humanity to wake up and take responsibility for its actions.

Two things tend to be confused here, one of them is agreed upon, the other is a point of difference.

  1. The one we all agree upon is that the crime of these people is that of taking innocent lives, as well as the additional devastation that it brings. This is something which was forbidden by Islamic Law 14 centuries ago, only later to become rejected by modern human conscience.
  2. The point of difference here is in the silence of the unasked question: who is responsible for these young people reaching such a point of despair that they would actually want to blow themselves up and others along with them?

Are they alone in the perpetration of such acts? Or can we add to the list of responsible parties the absence of mature and holistic Islamic learning. An absence that has left gaps in people’s understanding of their religion, gaps which extremists are all too quick to fill with disinformation which perpetrators then proceed to act upon. One of the teachings of Islam (which the perpetrators of such acts have missed) is that no matter what hardships and afflictions a person experiences, it can never justify doing anything which contradicts Islam’s ethical framework.

Will it ever be possible to reach a point where people can feel safe from the specter of being accused of “terrorism” for simply positing questions about the extreme injustices and oppression experienced by societies in the Developing South? Injustices driven by pressure from quarters which exert an undue influence on the international community and its institutions rendering them incapable of protecting citizens from such iniquities to the point that young people despair of having a fair legal system, or fair international institutions. These young people may then find themselves listening to the voices which call for vengeance justified by misinterpretations of sacred texts; giving young people promises of paradise in exchange for their miserable situation. Wherever injustice reigns supreme, and hope is lost you find suicide.

In normal criminal cases we give a lot of importance to the forensics and the background of the crime and hold accountable the society which gave rise to the criminal personality; while still holding the criminal responsible for his actions. In the case of the crimes perpetrated by these bombers our accountability is even greater; and the need for investigation and analysis greater still. It is a sad situation that we have arrived to; rectification and healing will require maturity and courage from all communities.

I repeat: Islam categorically condemns the acts carried out by the bombers on the Twin Towers of New York, the Trains in Madrid, the London Bombings and all other attacks aimed at innocents.

Lastly I am grateful for those who have opened a channel of dialogue for individuals seeking to work together and extend bridges between people of sagacity, for the purpose of reclaiming the mantle of leadership from the hands of extremists on all sides who would lead our world into discord and instability. Increasing the circle of dialogue, understanding, and the clarification of differing viewpoints is a reassuring indicator for the future of our small and intimate world.


1 Comment

  1. Aswaz Truv said,

    December 28, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Sorry-dear reader.
    Since nearly 200 years- if one sincearely wishes to understand what it is all about- one HAS to look at the intentions and works of the “most-of-all-criminal-organisations” ,socalled -Secret Services- unfortunately now spread all over the world.
    This I am writing as an expert in this field.
    All what is written above and elswhere about ,no matter where in the world and in whatever disguise used to manifest theire humanity-poisoning activities,if one wishes to stop that most-criminal-actions one must first of all stop all the socalled “wolfs in sheeps clothes”-the Secret Services-In the first row CIA,Mossad, ISI(=CIA)ect,ect.Taliban IS CIA! Al-Qaida IS CIA! Jihadis ARE CIA! Hamas IS Mossad! etc.etc.
    These agencies have to be shot down forever,their agents and all of those who are involved ,no matter from which walk of life,or those intending to get involved in such an activity- quickely be put in prison for a very long time.then,and only then there will be an end to such nonsence -activities.
    But I am sorry to say that this will first of all not be enough believed and also those organisations are so powerfull today and act above law that the only way to stop them from doing there evil backround-work will be some happening like an asteroid hitting the earth and ending all that most-criminal activities on the spot,because people now are in their deapest sleep since the beginning of HUMAN mankind.
    With most good wishes for the change of mankinds condition we are in now. Dr. Aswaz Truv

    Ps.: These plastic-muslims doing the dirty work for their hidden or not hidden criminal agencies,are the most foolish ones.Why? First and most important of all:
    !!!!!!! THERE IS NO PERMISSION for their socalled JIHAD!!!!!!!!
    How This can be?
    Go! and find out-but ask not the fanatics and extremists
    -they know NOTHING!
    That is Why they are involved.
    And the fact that they are involved alltough there is no permission ,is the most clear sign that Secret Services are financing,supplying with weapons,and doing the propaganda work for it -and for the public-against it.And none of those individuals,no matter what the may be told or believe about,will ever enter paradise or become a matyr by doing such criminal idiot-works for the only benefit to lay much more heavy burdens on themselves,their families,their communities,and even whole mankind,poisoning -for the benefit of their hidden or not hidden suppliers -their hearts and the hearts of all those around them. They are the biggest idiots in that whole game-and the biggest losers. AND SECRET SERVICES KNOW THIS FACT VERY WELL-THAT IS WHY THEY ARE DOING THIS DIRTY WORK NOT BY THEMSELVES-THERE ARE MANY FOOLISH PEOPLE OUT THERE TO MANIFEST A MANY MOST-SLEEPING-ELITES CRIMINAL INTENTIONS.

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