Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Denigrating Jihad


Maryam Sakeenah

It is fashionable among our intellectual elite, to allude to Jihad in a debasing manner, as if you were referring to something unmannerly that educated, decent people avoid mentioning; as if it were something uncivilised and barbarous.

It is sad that our intellectual elite are completely brainwashed by the Western media. The stream of influence that flows from the West has our men of letters completely under its thumb, so much so that they are unable to think independently. It is Western tact to mix the good with the bad so that gradually, as one appreciates their honesty in depicting the truth dispassionately, one tends more or less to also subconsciously accept their biased and prejudicial statements. This is a well thought-out plan of intellectual imperialism. It has been insidiously engineered in such a way that most of the victims do not even register the thought-control process that is well under way.

Due to this, as well as with the advent of commercialism, the rising trends of globalisation and the enticing razzle-dazzle of Western development, foreign media has earned the image of the ‘enlightened one’. They are looked up to as the real, true upholders of the cause of ‘liberalism’, ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’. In actuality, though, the ‘enlightened West’ implements these values only selectively. They are meant only for Christian East Timor, or for oil-rich Kuwait, or for the Israelis suffering under Palestinian ‘oppression’. The rest of the world__ particularly the Muslim world__ has no claim whatsoever to these select ideals.

For our Western media giants, a Muslim fighter trying to protest the illegal occupation of his homeland is a terrorist. A six-year-olds stone-throwing at formidably guarded Israeli fortifications is shocking terrorist activity, whereas the state-sponsored military bombing of unarmed civilian population is merely a benign act of self-defence…! So much for their so-called ‘honest’ coverage and analysis of events! Therefore, their calling Jihad synonymous with aggression does not come as a surprise. But it is a trifle disturbing when it comes from within our own people.

Since the Western media talks of Jihad as gory aggression, we have to follow suit. After all, it is in fashion! It is deplorable that we have been so much blinded that we take pride in speaking ill of our own religious edicts because that is in tune with what the forthright West says. Have we ever tried to find out for ourselves what Jihad really is and what Allah has to say about it? Perhaps not, because the West’s verdict is enough in this regard. Is the Gospel of Western Liberalism more sacred than Allah’s Word? Or are we that deluded?

It drives me to tears to come across derogatory and vilifying allusions to the sacred doctrine of Jihad. Those who undertake this ‘struggle in the way of Allah’ are often scooped up and rated with terrorists, mafia gang leaders and blood-curdling fanatics, and are very often referred to as ‘jihadis’. Our own writers and analysts shamelessly distort this beautiful Quranic term by talking of it in such a demeaning manner. It is indeed a very sorry fact that we are unable to draw a line between the beauty and wisdom of Jihad in Allah’s way and the goriness of terrorism.

However, no matter what the popular media says, Jihad is way above aggression or terrorism. It is NOT violence. But sadly, we have never dug that deep into its meaning. Jihad is the implementation of a just, exploitation-free social and political order. It is meant to safeguard and protect the sanctity of human life, not to violate it. It aims at protecting the weak, the suffering and the sinned-against. The aim of Jihad, it must be understood, is not to annex territory or acquire military greatness, or even to assert strategic hegemony. This striking difference in objectives is where Jihad falls apart with any other kind of warfare at the very outset. Moreover, Jihad does not involve insidious and wily underground tactics, dirty tricks or needless cruelty. Jihad is justice implemented in letter and spirit. It is confrontation in the open, not venom festering beneath the surface. With the advent of Islam, the entire concept of warfare was revolutionised. Jihad purged the concept of war from all kinds of cruelties and injustices. Allah first declared Jihad obligatory in His Book in the following words: ‘Fight against those who fight with you but be not aggressive.’

Jihad is not like Western double standards, which decree bomb-raids on Iraq for amassing weapons but turn the other way when sophisticated Israeli tanks fire out missiles at stone-throwing civilian protesters. Jihad is justice for all: ‘O you who believe, be you staunch in justice.’ And again: ‘Let not your enmity against a community deter you from following the path of justice. Be just, for that is next to piety.’

The unrealistic, impractical pacifist organisations that rush health aid and food supplies when the harm has already been done are often found to be ‘lacking teeth’ when circumstances demand them to come into action. With their saintly pacifism, all they can do is rush aid. But the pot continues to simmer. The very reason for the failure of the League of Nations was that it lacked decisive military capability. Hence it was virtually rendered defunct by the late 1930s and could not avert the impending World War.

Unlike these, the mechanism of Jihad does not ‘lack teeth’. It provides for decisive military action to be taken in the face of glaring injustice. It does not ask us to sit back and enjoy the spectacle when the mightier side cracks down on the defenceless weak. It calls for the use of force to put down force__for this is the ONLY way force can be curbed. History bears testimony to it. The US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s statement becomes very telling in this regard: ‘Political threat to aggression is meaningless without the will and ability to use military strength to illustrate the point.’ It is an established fact that force cannot be restrained or kept in check by conciliatory speeches. Though negotiation and diplomatic pressure is always the preferred way in Islam as in other systems, it has to yield to the military alternative provided that diplomacy and dialogue give out __and give out they do__ most of the time, sadly. That is when Jihad comes in __ as the last and decisive resort.

For this reason, in order to be able to undertake Jihad when circumstances call for it, we should endeavour to attain economic and military strength and an invincibility that enables us to keep the forces of oppression and injustice in check.

The Holy Quran and the example of the Sunnah clearly and categorically lay down the conditions when Jihad should be resorted to. It is important to note that even in the event of these pre-conditions, it is desirable to refer the matter to dialogue first. It is only when reconciliation fails that war is to be contemplated. This was also the method of the Prophet (SAW). The only exception to this rule is when the enemy launches a direct offensive or breaks a Covenant that had been signed in good faith earlier on, while obstinately refusing to budge. In these cases, you are required by Allah to head straight for an all-out war. (See Surah AlTaubah for reference).

I am amazed that people can call Jihad ‘inhuman’. Who are we to exercise our own discretion in matters decreed by the Creator? Do we claim to be higher humanitarians that we can pass our verdict of ‘inhumanity’ on what comes from Allah? He (SWT) says: ‘And will He who has created not know?’ Do we consider ourselves more philanthropic, more humanly conscientious than the Most Merciful Lord?

Jihad is NOT inhuman. Sitting and watching your brethren being killed off like flies is. And that is where Jihad makes the difference. It refuses to sit back and watch complacently human blood being lost to felony. This is the wisdom__ the unmatched divine ‘hikmah’ of the doctrine of Jihad. If this is what disturbs our refined, civilised, westernised tastes, I call it contemptible!