Jihad & Martyrdom, War & Peace Part 2

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9. Most qualified jurists and recognised fatwa committees of our age hold – and their word in shari’ah affairs is authoritative and represents orthodoxy – that a state of war shall not exist between Muslims and others except if hostility against a Muslim land is initiated or barriers to da’wah erected. Al-Khallaf wrote: “The legislated jihad is there to carry the Islamic call and to defend the Muslims against any belligerency. Whoever does not respond to the call, nor resists its taking place, nor initiate hostilities against Muslim polities, then it is not permissible to fight them. A state of security cannot be altered for that of fear … A state of war will not exist between the Muslims and others except in cases where hostility towards Muslims is initiated, or barriers to da’wah are erected, or harm is perpetrated towards the callers or the call.”[22] Inarguably, in an age of the Internet and social media, as well as global movement or displacement, it’s nigh on impossible for countries to erect barriers to prevent the da’wah to Islam.

10. As for when the Muslim army is in the thick of a religiously-sanctioned war, this is where the following passages of the Qur’an (and their like) come into play: “Slay them wherever you find them; drive them out of the places from which they drove you.” [Al-Qur’an 2:190-91] Also: “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them [captive] and besiege them, and lie in ambush for them everywhere.” [Al-Qur’an 9:5] And then, of course, there is this: “But if they incline towards peace, incline to it too.” [Al-Qur’an 8:61] Observing peace accords with non-Muslim polities again demonstrates Islam’s willingness to live peacefully with its neighbours, regardless of their religion. When Muslims are instructed to fight treaty-breakers, it is the breaking of a treaty that invites conflict, not the fact that the treaty-breakers are disbelievers: “Will you not fight a people who have broken their pacts and desired to drive out the Messenger and attacked you first?” [Al-Qur’an 9:13]

11. If any Muslim state contracts a truce with a non-Muslim one, other Muslim states aren’t bound by this peace treaty. For each Muslim country has its own peace accords and foreign policies that are specific to itself. The cue for this is taken from the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah where the persecuted Makkan Muslim fugitives, like Abu Busayr, Abu Jandal and their men, weren’t bound by the treaty ratified by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, with the Makkans. Nor was their guerrilla warfare against the non-Muslim Makkans, or their raids against their caravans, seen as a breach of the Prophet’s truce, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam: for they were tantamount to being a self-governing state not bound by the political jurisdiction of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Ibn Al-Qayyim stated: “The peace treaty between the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the [Makkan] idolaters wasn’t a treaty that included Abu Busayr or his followers.”[23] In other words, each Muslim state is required to honour its own international accords, and not aid or support other Muslim states against those with whom they have a pact of non-aggression. Such is the weight that the Qur’an places on covenants of security and peace accords and truces, as Allah says: “But if they seek help from you in the affair of religion then it is your duty to help them, except against a people between whom and you there exists a treaty.” [Al-Qur’an 8:72]

12. Ibn Taymiyyah once wrote: “The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was the most perfect in terms of this bravery – which is appropriate for commanders in war. He did not kill anyone [in war] save Ubayy ibn Khalaf; killing him on the day of ‘Uhud. He didn’t kill anyone else before or after this.”[24] Of the twenty-seven battles (ghazwat, sing. ghazwah) which took place in his life, the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, participated in nine.[25] The total number of deaths on both sides was one thousand and eighteen persons. Of those, seven-hundred and fifty-nine were enemy deaths; two-hundred and fifty-nine were Muslims. In fact, the number of enemy fatalities drops to three-hundred and fifty-nine when speaking of those killed on the actual battlefield.[26] Such were the pious restraints that infused the spirit of jihad of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. What’s remarkable, Gai Eaton wrote, isn’t just the rapid pace with which Islam spread across the then known world, rather “the fact that no rivers flowed with blood, no fields were enriched with the corpses of the vanquished … they were on a leash. There were no massacres, no rapes, no cities burned. These men feared God to a degree scarcely imaginable in our time and were in awe of His All-Seeing presence, aware of it in the wind and the trees, behind every rock and in every valley … [T]here had never been a conquest like this.”[27] All this being so, despite the blood-thirsty image that ISIS-like extremists; on the one hand, and Islamophobes; on the other, continue to portray about Islam and the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

13. Speaking of death tolls in war, Dr. Naveed Sheikh’s essay, Body Count, is something of an eye-opener. It’s a statistical study which attempts to put numbers on the human death toll of religious and political violence during the last two thousand years, and relate these to religio-cultural civilisations. These civilisations, as well as their locales, are: Antitheist (former Communist block); Buddhist (East Asia, parts of South Asia); Christian (Europe, the Americas, few parts of Africa); Indic (India, Nepal, Mauritius); Islamic (Middle East, parts of Asia, parts of Africa); Primal-Indigenous (parts of Africa, the Americas before colonialism); and Sinic (China, some neighbouring states). Key findings showed that the Christian world was responsible for the highest death count in history (responsible for 31% of all deaths: 178,000,000); followed by the Antitheist (22%: 125,000,000); then the Sinic world (19%: 108,000,000); then Primal-Indigenous (8%: 46,000,000); after which came the Islamic world (5%: 31,000,000); and lastly the Indic (less than 0.5%: 2,000,000 fatalities). In contrast to the Islamic world, Buddhist civilisation has an exceptionally good press in the West. Yet the Buddhist contribution to world fatalities is three times higher than the Islamic; the Christian world’s being six times higher, while the Antitheist four times. Yet despite only the Indic civilisation having a lower death toll, the Muslim world tends to always be on the receiving end of media charges and stereotypes of violence, murder and intolerance.[28]

14. Lastly, let’s touch on the following: a believer’s love for martyrdom. In one hadith, we see the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, relish the following: “By Him in whose hand is my life. I would love to be killed in Allah’s way and then be brought back to life; then be killed and be brought back to life; then be killed and be brought back to life; then be killed.” [29] The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, cherished martyrdom, not because of the love of blood and gore; nor for the glory of war itself; nor for the clanging of steel or the thrill of the fight. He loved it because of what it manifested of the highest service and the ultimate sacrifice for God. To surrender to Allah one’s actual life, for a cause Allah loves and honours, is the greatest possible expression of loving Allah. It’s no wonder, then, that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Whoever dies without partaking in a battle, or even desiring to do so, dies upon a branch of hypocrisy.” [30] Believers, though, whilst they long to meet a martyr’s death, strive to live a righteous life. For how can one truly desire to die for God, if one does not sincerely try to live for God?

For much of the twentieth century the ‘ulama examined and reexamined the contents of the Sacred Law, so as to accord Muslims some principled accommodation with the emerging global consensus. Islam’s legal tools were, as it happens, well-equipped for the task at hand. The juristic practices of tahqiq al-manat (identifying the context for laws in order to ascertain their current form and application) and maslahah mursalah (taking account of public interest and utility) moved the jurists of the great centres of Muslim scholarship in the direction of acclimatization, adjustment and adaption. And while it is not Islam’s calling to conform to the age – Islam is, after all, the great global dissent – it can and must furnish Muslims with the spiritual and social technologies required to live in the age and navigate its eclectic mix of challenges. More than that, religion must offer believers insights on how best to heal modernity’s discontents and disillusionments too.

Those doctors of Islamic law who are also blessed with being spiritually rooted in the realities of ihsan, teach us that God’s law exists to instantiate mercy not severity; ease not hardship; good news (tabshir) not alienation (tanfir). They insist that today’s times call for tashil – facilitation; but not tasahul – slackness and over-leniency. And that far from capitulating to the secular monoculture, as the short-sighted or fiqh-less zealots imagine, this path maintained a wise, far-sighted openness to gentleness, which long predated the advent of the modern world. Even in the fourteenth century Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah pointed to this salient fact: “The shari’ah is based and built upon wisdom and [achieving] public welfare, in both this life and the next. It is justice in its entirety, mercy in its entirety, welfare in its entirety, and wisdom in its entirety. Any issue that departs from justice to injustice, mercy to its opposite, public welfare to corruption, or wisdom to folly cannot be part of the shari’ah, even if it is claimed to be so due to some interpretation.”[31]
The above discussion about war and peace is the outcome of how most contemporary Muslim jurists have engaged the new global paradigms. As individual Muslims, we are each part of a larger transnational Ummah. We each also belong to individual nations which are all committed to the global principle of non-aggression. This arrangement is certainly not perfect. But on the whole it has been instrumental in maintaining a fragile global peace – notwithstanding a few illegal occupations, continued conflicts, and even some modern genocides.

At the turn of the second millennium, Gai Eaton wrote that the West still sees Islam as a religion of war, bent on conquest. “They have inherited the fear,” he insists, “which obsessed their ancestors when Muslim civilization was dominant and Christendom trembled before the ‘heathen’ threat.”[32] He says that even Westerners who’ve turned their back on Christianity still share these fears and prejudices today. As for Muslims, he feels, historically they’ve seen Christianity, and now the secular West, as inherently hostile. Indeed, even today, many Muslims are convinced (and there is much rhyme and reason behind their convictions) that the ‘Christian’ West will carpet bomb them or shred them with missiles if they step out of line. “They react either with impotent fury or with a degree of subservience, but always with a deep sense of injustice.”[33] He concluded with this sober resolve: “There is, then, no end to this argument, so let me leave it where it is and consider what Islam actually teaches about peace and war.”[34]
And this, more or less, is what I’ve tried to do here.

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)



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