We are Against Hate, Not Faith

Jihad is an integral part of Islam

Many people have written many books, treatises and articles for the purpose of defining the role jihad is supposed to play in the lives of the Muslims. Most writers have tried, in their own ways, to come up with the “true” meaning of the dreadful word “jihad,” others took circuitous routes to emphasize on what they believed was the purpose for which God has purportedly made the launching of jihad by Muslims an integral part of their lives.

Until recently, my mind had remained in a state of dichotomy; it being the result of the inadequate attention, I admit, I had paid to the contents of the Quran while reading it a number of times. On one hand, I tended to think that jihad was a word that was used in the Quran to denote “striving” with one’s inner thoughts and desires; on the other, I believed God required the Muslims to engage themselves in bloody wars in order not only to sustain their existence through plunders, but also to occupy others’ lands and possessions through the use of brute force.

My dual-mindedness ended when I had the opportunity to read the book “Forbidden Love.” A Jordanian woman is the writer. In it, she pointed out the meaning, as it is understood by the Arabic speaking people, of the words “qatilu” and “jihadu” that appear repeatedly in the Arabic text of the Quran.

My newly-acquired familiarity with the correct meaning of the words “qatilu” and “jihadu” made me to go over the Quran once again. Reading it this time with great care it deserves from all readers, I gleaned from it the true import and significance of both the words God had conveyed to Muhammad and his followers through His revelations.

Qatilu: Meaning to wage wars, this word appears 64 times in the Quran. Through the use of this word in the celestial book, God commanded all Muslims to wage wars on the unbelievers (kaferun in Arabic), mainly, for the purpose of plunder. In such wars, Muslims have God’s permission to kill their victims in order to enable them to take over their possessions together with their female family members.

The first action enabled them to fill up their empty stomachs; the taking over of the female captives satisfied their huge sexual appetite. “Qatilu” also means a warfare that Muslims are supposed to launch on, and against the non-Muslims who live in Muslim countries, firstly, to subdue, 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 the Muslims either to uproot and deport them from their habitats, or to kill them ‘in the cause of God.’

“Dhimmis,” as the tax-paying non-believers are supposed to be called, they must live among their 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 to show their ‘inferior’ status to that of their ‘superior’ Muslim neighbors.

In order to substantiate my stated claims, citation of the following verse from the Quran should suffice:

9:29: “Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission and fell themselves subdued.”

Commenting on the above verse, Mohammed Arkoun, whose works Robert D. Lee has translated into English, says in “Rethinking Islam”:

“{This verse} 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 the Muslims’ aggressions against the non-Muslims from the time Islam was in its infancy to the time it had acquired enough military muscle that had enabled it to conquer almost one third of the world’s pagan, Jewish and Christian’s 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 qatilu Muslims launched under Muhammad’s leadership against the Meccan pagans, took place at the grounds of Badr in 624 A.D. It was designed to ambush an unarmed Meccan caravan, and to loot the goods and 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 the riches of the caravan, we would now be reading a story that would have been shorter, and different from the one we read about Islam’s travails, and the opposition it supposedly endured during its rise among the pagans, Jews and Christians of the Arabian Peninsula.

The cause or causes for which God has permitted Muslims to launch “qatilu” (wars) on the non-Muslims having been made clear, let’s 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 is the equivalent of the word “jihad” we non-Arabic speaking people commonly use in our writings and conversation. It appears 33 times in the Quran.

In many cases, the word “jihadu” appears in the Quranic verses to gather with the phrase “fi sabil Allah.” It means “in the cause of God.”

Like qatilu, jihad also denotes hostile acts, in the shape of wars, which Muslims, under God’s command, undertook in the past and are required to undertake even now and in future 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 God,’ they should not only accept it gladly, they must also cherish it wholeheartedly, for all rewards and gifts come from God, and refusing them 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 God.”

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 that is willing to give them shelter. At the time of leaving their homesteads, deportees must leave behind what they may be forbidden by their Muslim masters from carrying with them. The list of the prohibited ‘goods’ may include 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 intent for which it has been incorporated in them. While reading the verses being quoted here, we must keep in our mind the situation and the circumstances that had prevailed at the time these were ‘revealed’ by God to Muhammad, as well as his listeners’ inability to ‘dissect’ each and all words to find out their etymological roots and grammatical correctness in the manner we are able to do today. They were simple folks and they took each word of the revelations in the sense they knew and believed they conveyed to them.

4:75: “And why should ye not fight in the cause of God 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 God,” a cause that remained undefined. The following verse sheds light on what I understand to be God’s cause:

4:76: “Those who believe fight in the cause of God, 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 God, the unbelievers are the friends of Satan. Fighting them, and to bring them to the fold of Islam is what the verse says is the responsibility of all the Muslims. This effort on the part of the Muslims is ‘a cause of God.’ Fighting for the purpose of converting non-Muslims to Islam can, in no way, be taken to mean a Muslim’s struggle against his ‘inner thoughts and desires.’

4:100: “He who forsakes his home in the cause of God finds in the earth many refuge, wide and spacious: should he die as a refuge from home for God and His Apostle, his reward becomes due and sure with God: And God is oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

As the above verse postulates, leaving one’s home, taking refuge elsewhere and dying for God and His Apostle is the cause of God. It, in no way, relates 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 God. That is best for you, if ye (but) knew.”

Clearly, striving with equipment is not a struggle that can be construed to be a struggle with one’s inner thoughts and desires. Striving (jihadu in Arabic) means a war against those who are unbelievers, hence they deserve to be eliminated from the face of God’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 God 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 means a physical war all Muslims have been ordained by God to launch 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, God asked Muhammad to strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites. Killing by him of the unbelievers and the hypocrites is implied here; for God can consign them to the fire of hell only after their dearth. No humans can be made to take their residence in hell until they die or are killed.

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 a God-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 ordained by God to continually inflict on his person.

On the Day of Judgment, he would be raised and after being judged by God again, 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 hypocrites was, therefore, a command from God to Muhammad for putting them to death; otherwise the contents of the verse under discussion 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 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.

The first jihad that Muslims had undertaken came to be known as the ‘conquest of Mecca.’ Their campaign against the Meccan pagans was aimed at taking over their city, and to convert all of them to Islam. From this effort, Muhammad and his followers gained no material benefit. This was not something that was unexpected, for, in case of jihad, Muslims should not expect to obtain any material gains, as the very purpose of jihad is to ‘serve God and His cause’ in the ways I have discussed above.

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