ENTIRE QURAN IS A MANUAL ON JIHAD
Now we can take up the third observation in Justice Basak’s judgement, namely, that “This book [The Quran] is not prejudicial to maintenance of religious harmony”, and that “Because of the Koran no public tranquility has been disturbed upto now and there is no reason to apprehend any likelihood of such disturbance in future”. He has gone further and chosen to repeat the etymological exercise which we find in most of the books written by apologists of Islam in modem times. We are informed by Justice Basak that the word “Muslim” has been formed from the word “IslAm” which in turn derives from “as-salam”, meaning peace. The mission of Islam, we are assured by him, is the establishment of peace, and a Muslim is he who works wholeheartedly for this fulfilment. The argument is clever but not consistent either with what is advocated by the scriptures of Islam or with what we find in the recorded history of this creed spread over more than fourteen hundred years. Human history has known several movements which have used words to mean exactly the opposite of what those words stand for in common parlance. Christianity, Communism and Nazism abound in such doublespeak. So also Islam.
The Quran uses the words “salam”, “IslAm”, and “Muslim” in some of its Ayats, but the synonyms of these words - “ImAn”, “DIn”, and “Mu’min” - occur far more frequently. There is not a single Ayat, however, in which these words or their synonyms stand or can be interpreted to stand for peace.
The word “salam” means literally “A contract involving an immediate payment of the price, and admitting delay in the delivery of the article purchased”.1 It has been used in the Quran (2.131, 3.20) to mean “bowing down before Allah” or “surrender to Allah”. The word “as-salAm” which has been derived from it is “One of the ninety-nine names or attributes of Allah” and means according to al-BaizAwI, “He who is free from all loss or harm.”2 Another word derived from it is “taslIm” which means “The benediction at the close of the usual form of prayer”, that is, namAz.3
Similarly, the word “IslAm” in the Quran means “doing homage to Allah” and “is said to be the religion of all the prophets” who preceded Muhammad, the Last Prophet.4 According to 3.19, Islam is Allah’s own religion, and those who reject Allah’s revelations will be punished soon. According to 3.85, he who believes in a religion other than Islam will not be accepted, and will be a loser on the Last Day. According to 49.14, the Bedouins say that they have confessed ImAn but they should say instead that they have confessed IslAm.
Coming to the word “Muslim” it simply means “one who has received IslAm”.5 We quote a few Ayats where the word occurs. At 2.132, the Quran says, “This is what Abraham and Issac bequeathed to their sons, ‘Allah has chosen this religion for you. Die as Muslims.’” At 3.84, the Quran says, “We believe in what Allah has revealed to us. We are his Muslims”, that is, obedient servants. At 22.78, the Quran says, “And wage war (jihAd)... your religion is the religion of Abraham. He named you as Muslims.” At 39.11-12, the Quran commands the believer to say, “I have been asked to worship Allah alone, and become a Muslim first of all.”
Now we can take up the synonyms. The word “ImAn” means “belief of the heart and confession of the lips to the truth of Muslim religion”.6 The word “mu’min” (pl. mu’minUn, popular momin) is “A term generally used for Muhammadans in the Quran and all Muslim books.”7 Two sUrahs of the Quran are named after this word. SUrah 23, Al-Mu’minUn, gives a warning to those Meccans who argue with Muhammad and ask inconvenient questions, that they will burn in hell. And SUrah 40, Al-Mu'min, describes the terrible torments of hell which are waiting for all unbelievers according to the “revelations” from Allah.
Finally, the word “DIn” which occurs quite frequently in the Quran like the words “ImAn” and “mu’min”, is “The Arabic word for ‘religion’,” and “is used especially for the religion of the prophets and their inspired books”.8 Nowhere does it mean 64 peace” or “religion of peace”. In fact, in some Ayats (2.190-91; 8.39, 72; 9.19-22, 111), it is used for inviting the believers to engage in jihAd.
Sir William Muir writes as follows about the earliest 64 revelations” received by Muhammad: “There is at this period hardly an allusion to Jewish and Christian Scripture or legend. The Kor’An did not as yet rest its claim on the evidence of previous revelation and its correspondence therewith. But the peculiar phraseology of the new faith has already become fixed. The dispensation of Mohammad was distinguished as ISLAM, that is, Surrender of the soul ‘to Allah’; his followers as MUSALMIN (those who surrender themselves), or as Believers; his opponents as KAFIRIN, that is, those who reject the divine message, or as MUSHRIKIN, such as associate companions with Allah...”9
Maxime Rodinson defines the new creed in terms of Muhammad’s feeling of “a sense of subjection to the terrible yet fascinating mysteries which surrounded him”. He continues, “Many others besides him have had this feeling. But it manifested itself in a form which was peculiar to himself. The presence, Allah, was an almighty power which had no limits of any kind; a will which no bounds could contain... The only possible attitude towards this Allah was an infinite humility and total surrender (islAm) in anticipation of a terrible judgment of which the outcome was wholly unpredictable.”10 This attempt to convert Muhammad into a philosopher and a mystic can be accepted only with a fistful of salt. Muhammad never claimed to be either; in fact, he had contempt for both. What is, however, quite clear again is that Islam has always stood for surrender to Allah, that is, Muhammad.
Margoliouth also has something to say on this subject. He writes, “Finally a name had to be given to the new sect, and either by accident or choice led to its being called the sect of the Muslims or Hanifs… no Arab seems to have known any thing about the Hanifs... and since in Hebrew the word means ‘hypocrite’ and in Syriac ‘heathen’, pious followers of Mohammed did not care to study its etymology. The other word, Muslim, naturally meant ‘traitor,’ and when the new sect came to be lampooned, it provided the satirists with a witticism; Mohammed showed some want of humour in adopting it but displayed great ingenuity in giving it an honourable meaning: whereas it ordinarily signified one who handed over his friends to their enemies, it was glorified into meaning one who handed over his person to Allah; and though, like Christian, it may conceivably have been first invented by enemies of the sect whom it designated, divine authority was presently adduced for the statement that Abraham coined the name.”11
The reference here is obviously to Muhammad’s Abyssinian connection.
The Abyssinian Connection
The Abyssinians who were Christians had invaded and occupied South Arabia in 525 CE. They had persecuted and oppressed the Pagan Arabs in various ways. An Abyssinian army had moved to Mecca also and threatened to destroy the Pagan Temple at Ka‘ba in 570 CE, the same year in which Muhammad was born. The army had to retreat because of a plague which broke out soon after. But it had left a lasting hatred in the minds of the Meccans for both Abyssinia and Christianity. Abyssinia had continued to inspire fear also because it was a powerful kingdom as compared to Mecca which was a small city state.
It sounds strange that Muhammad should have thought of Abyssinia of all the places as soon as he met opposition at Mecca. But it is quite understandable once we grasp the psychology of those who get alienated from their own society and culture. They take little time in ganging up with the enemy. Small wonder that Muhammad sent some of his new converts to the court of Negus, the king of Abyssinia. The move caused considerable commotion in Mecca. His clansmen, the Quraish, hurried an embassy of their own to the same court in order to counter Muhammad’s move.
Muhammad’s biographers have presented the Muslim migrants to Abyssinia as refugees from persecution at Mecca. But they have concealed the true story. Margoliouth reveals: “On the analogy of similar scenes we should suppose that the envoys of Mohammed urged the Negus to take an active part in suppressing paganism, reminding him of the Abyssinian rule in South Arabia, a fact which gave him some sort of title to the country; and that the idea of regaining this ancient possession was what led him to favour the Meccan insurgents.”12 It was, therefore, natural for the Meccans to describe as “Muslims” the followers of a man who was inviting a ruthless enemy to slaughter and enslave his compatriots.
Curses and Street Brawls
In any case, Islam could not have sounded anything like a message of peace to Muhammad’s contemporaries. He started by cursing that his clansmen who did not concede his claim, would cook in the fire of hell for all time to come. The list included his indulgent uncle and protector, Abu TAlib. Before long, he would consign his dead mother also to the same dreadful place.
The curses were soon backed by street brawls which his boisterous Muslims managed to provoke. He had a real tough lot on his side, apart from his ideology which animated the lowest passions in human nature. Margoliouth says: “The persons whose accession to Islam was most welcomed were men of physical strength, and much actual fighting must have taken place at Meccah before the Flight; else the readiness with which the Moslems after the Flight could produce form their number tried champions would be inexplicable. A tried champion must have been tried somewhere: and no external fights are recorded or are even the subject of an allusion for this period. The Prophet himself is said on one occasion after reciting Surah xxxvi to have flung dust on the heads of his opponents... The growth of the new religion tended to spread discord between families and so keep the city in a state of turmoil and confusion. Those who for any reason felt aggrieved with their condition could gratify their ill-will by joining Mohammed; and some probably did this in momentary pique. Desperadoes of whom the whole city was ashamed seem to have been received into the fold of Islam; they could then on the strength of their faith claim to be better than their neighbours.”13
Wars waged by the Prophet
Soon after Muhammad migrated to Medina, he started organising surprise raids on unsuspecting caravans and tribal settlements. He slaughtered quite a few of his clansmen at Badr. Waging war on his own countrymen became his main occupation during the succeeding years. Slaughter of those he viewed as his enemies not only satisfied his inflated ego but also brought to him much plunder. He also enriched himself by plundering the prosperous Jews of Medina. It is reported that his lieutenant, ‘Umar, had counselled him to wear silk, and live in luxury. Muhammad had replied curtly that it was far better to spend the plunder on buying arms and horses. He acquired these sinews of war even by selling women and children captured in war and reduced to slavery.
Biographers of Muhammad have listed as many as eighty-two expeditions which he mounted against various tribes of Arabia and the neighbouring lands, in a brief span of ten years between his migration to Medina in 622 CE and his death in 632 CE. The average comes to two expeditions every three months. Twenty-six of these, we are told, were led by him in person. After he had reduced Mecca and the rest of Arabia, he started planning expeditions against the Byzantine and the Persian empires. It was only his death which stopped him from waging more wars.
One, therefore, finds it difficult to believe that the word “IslAm” could have meant peace in Muhammad’s life-time, either to his votaries or to his unwary victims. Nor did it do so for a long time afterwards, as the sword of Islam swept east and west spreading death, devastation and dark terror over many lands. Muslim historians of those terrible times have not tried to hide what their “heroes” did to the “infidels” of all sorts, everywhere. In fact, they gloat over those gory scenes with unashamed glee. Hindus have known for more than thirteen hundred years what Islam stands for. It was not very long ago that Islam made rivers of blood flow on both sides of the borders of what remains of India today. Justice Basak’s exercise in etymology cannot wipe out national memories and put the stamp of peace on an essentially violent creed. Islam was born as an ideology of totalitarian terror, and so it has remained till today. The key to understanding Islam is not in modem apologetics but in the life of the Prophet.
The Prophet’s life-pattern becomes a Theology
The wars waged by Muhammad in his own life-time turn out to be no more than minor skirmishes when compared with even the not-so-famous conflicts of human history. They would have been forgotten before long but for the labours of Islamic theologians who transfigured the triumphant march of Muslim armies into the unfoldment of a divine plan. The seeds of this theology were already there in the Quran (33.21) and Muhammad’s sayings in his normal moments, that is, when he did not speak in a state of trance (wahy). They flowered into full-fledged faith when fortune continued to smile on the Muslim military machine for two long centuries.
Perhaps the men who mattered after Muhammad’s death were awe-struck at their own victories which followed in quick succession, and could not help looking at them as a series of miracles. Or, perhaps, that was what they could sell more easily to their followers who had become wide-eyed with wonder. In any case, it was in this darkroom of miracle-mongering that the portrait of the Prophet was enlarged to a fabulous size and painted in superhuman colours. Even the least little detail of his life, public and private, was invested with infallibility.
Finally, as the imams and the sufis stood face to face with the finished product, they were moved irresistibly to the conclusion that the Prophet’s mode of living (Sunnah) was not a personal and passing phenomenon but a divinely designed pattern of universal and permanent validity. All men, everywhere and for all time to come, were now expected to fashion themselves after that pattern, voluntarily and willingly. The “infidels” who demurred were to be forced into this fixed mould for their own good, here and hereafter.
Place of War in Islam
would have been a harmless fossil so far as the non-Muslims are concerned,
if waging of aggressive wars for the spread of the faith had not occupied
the pride of place in the petrified image of the Prophet. Presenting
this persistent sabre-rattling as jihAd or “exertion in the way
of Allah”, does not change the situation. Nor does the translation
of this term as “holy war” help matters in any manner. We have to
face the fact that violence and war-mongering have become essential and
major ingredients of the Muslim
The Quran (9.10) makes the point quite clear. The mujAhid (Muslim who engages in jihAd) is presented as far superior to the mere mu’min (person who affirms that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah). Allah asks the Prophet (Quran, 9.19), “Do you make the givers of drink to pilgrims or the maintainers of Scared Mosques equal to the believers in Allah and Last Day, and the crusaders (mujAhids) in the cause of Allah?” He himself provides the answer in the same verse. “They are not,” he announces, “comparable in the sight of Allah. And Allah guides not those who do wrong.”
The Sahih Muslim is the second most important collection of Hadis. It reports the Prophet as saying: “Whoever cheerfully accepts Allah as his Lord, Islam as his religion and Muhammad as his Apostle is necessarily entitled to enter paradise... (yet) there is another act which elevates the position of a man in paradise to a grade one hundred (higher), and the elevation between one grade and the other is equal to the height of the heaven from the earth... What is that act? JihAd in the way of Allah! JihAd in the way of Allah !”14
A still higher grade goes to the ghAzi, that is, one who slays an “infidel” with his own hands. That is why this appellation was flaunted by all Muslim sultans who invaded or thrived in India at one time or the other. Babur became a ghAzi by raising tower after tower of severed Hindu heads in the wake of his victory over Maharana Sangram Singh of Mewar. Akbar also earned the rank when as a boy of only thirteen years, he was made to cut off the head of a defeated and half-dead Hindu king, Himu, after the Second Battle of Panipat. The Later Mughals, some of whom never went anywhere near a battlefield, claimed that they had inherited the title from their more renowned ancestors.
It is, however, the shahId (martyr) who gets the highest grade in the Islamic roll of honour. The mujAhid who gets killed in a jihAd becomes a shahId and goes straight to jannat (paradise) without having to wait for the Day of Judgment like the rest of the mu’mins. Muhammad did not believe in rebirth, nor in traffic between heaven and earth. But he forgot his own teaching when he tried to glorify a martyr. A martyr, he proclaimed, “will desire to return to this world and be killed ten times for the sake of the great honour that is bestowed upon him.”15
If one is really interested in getting at the core of the Quran, one should go to the original sources rather than read the modern apologists who sell only sweet tales in the name of Islam. The earlier imams and sufis were far more honest and straight-forward in stating what the Quran stands for. They had no use for twentieth-century humanist notions which the apologists have been trying to foist on Allah and his Prophet.
Modern Islamic Apologetics
The Apologetics that presents Islam as a mission of peace, human brotherhood, social equality and the rest, is a recent development in the history of Islam. Till the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Islam had in its armoury only two weapons which have been wielded by all aggressively imperialistic and totalitarian ideologies - Dogmatics and Polemics. Muhammad had started with Dogmatics which we find in the earlier sUrahs of the Quran. It was not long before he evolved his poisonous Polemics to be hurled recklessly at what he described as kufr and shirk the religion prevailing among the Pagans of Mecca. He suffered a setback when the Pagans hit back, asking inconvenient questions about his pedigree, his person, his prophethood, his mentors, his promises, and his threats. He was thrown on the defensive, and displayed the first Apologetics in the history of Islam.16 But he returned rather fast to Dogmatics and Polemics when his own followers showed signs of rebellion against him after he “revealed” the famous verses from Satan in a bid to reach a compromise with the Pagans. Since that time, Islam was never in need of Apologetics as its military machine designed by Muhammad himself continued to march triumphantly in West Asia, North Africa, and parts of Europe. The heresies that arose in subsequent centuries, particularly the Shia sects and the sufi silsilas, were more fanatic and fundamentalist than the four Sunni mazhabs - Hanafi, Hanbali, MAliki, and ShAfii.
The development that really shook Islam for the first time was the breakdown of the Safavi empire in Iran, the Mughal empire in India, and the Ottoman empire spread over West Asia, North Africa and southeastern Europe. European empires had risen everywhere on the debris. The reaction among a section of Muslim “intellectuals” has been what H. Lammens labels as “modernism” and K.S. Lal describes as “hiding the true face of Islam”, particularly in Turkey, Egypt, and India. “The most moderate amongst them,” observes Lammens, “have undertaken the mission of showing the complete agreement between IslAm sanely interpreted, and the progress and aspirations of modem times. They protest that misunderstanding has given rise to a belief in their antinomy and they are resolved to dissipate it.”17 Again, “All vie zealously with one another in the apologia of IslAm. They often enhance the credit of Quranic institutions by pointing to the temperance campaign and the recrudescence of divorce among Christian peoples. Above all, the progressivists boast they can prove that as far as liberty of conscience, the rights of man and other ‘conquests’ of modem civilization are concerned, Islam is several centuries ahead of Europe... All are agreed in affirming that, judiciously interpreted, the QorAn not only proclaims the complete equality of sexes, but that in its efforts to raise the status of woman, it has outstripped all other religions.”18
Coming to India, Lammens traces the rise of “modernism” to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his Aligarh movement. “Very eclectic in the matter of traditions, they do not trouble about the hadIth, when the latter fail to accord with modem progress; they then refute them unhesitatingly by recourse to inner criticism. Here again their line of argument which is entirely subjective, is lacking in logic and does not shrink from distorting history, for instance, to suit their ends. They describe the life of Medina in the first century A.H. and the reign of the four first Caliphs as inspired by tendencies of the most advanced liberalism. A Persian newspaper Al-Habl al-matIn (27th of May, 1915) [published in India], shows us FAtima and ‘Ayesha in the intimate circle of the Prophet engaged in philosophical arguments.”19 Again, “According to them, Muhammad was the declared adversary of slavery. If any mistake has been made on the subject, it is through misinterpretation of the QorAnic texts which appear to make this institution lawful... The jehAd troubles them considerably... Their theory is that the QorAn contemplated only defining [defensive?] warfare and that its recommendations, were valid only in the Prophet’s own time.”20
Much water has gone down the Ganges after Lammens wrote in 1929. Islamic Apologetics in India since then has progressed by leaps and bounds. The Quran has been roped in to prove that Islam stands for equality of all religions and religious tolerance. “There are some,” writes Dr. Harsh Narain (1990), “who find in the Qu’rAn glimpses of equal respect for all religions, indeed for polytheism and idolatry as well. One of its verses relied upon by them runs thus: ‘Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.’ But this verse teaches nothing like respectability of all religions.” After quoting the full verse (109.6), he cites renowned Islamic theologians - JalAluddin SiyUti, Hussain Waiz KAshfi, Ibn Kathir, Abul AlA Maududi, Ashraf Ali ThanawI and Abdul Majid DaryAbAdi - who either say that this verse has been abrogated by the verse on jihAd (Ayat as-sayf, 9.5) or that it means the opposite of what it is being made to mean by modem apologists. “In other words, Islam is Islam and Kufr is Kufr, and never the twain can meet.”21
“Another oft-quoted verse,” he continues, “is, ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ From it, too, the unwary or the unscrupulous are wont to hear a declaration of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence of Islam with other religions.” Again, after quoting the full verse (2.256), he cites Islamic theologians to the effect that this verse, too, has been abrogated by the aforesaid verse on jihAd. “Shah WalI AllAh interprets it in such a way, however, that it ceases to rule out the use of force in propagation of Islam and, instead, provides a basis for just the use of such force. He writes: ‘There is no compulsion for the sake of religion, that is, the doctrine of Islam has been demonstrated. Hence it is not tantamount to compulsion, as it were, though compulsion it is, on the whole.’”22
Even if we accept that these verses mean what the apologists say they mean, it has to be pointed out that the exercise only proves the poverty of the Quran in matters of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. One wonders why it does not occur to them that they are able to quote only one line each from two long verses out of the more than 6,200 verses which comprise the Quran. Why do they fad to take into account the rest of the Quran which is brimful of transparent intolerance and vociferous war-mongering? Are they fools or knaves to go on parroting ad nauseam these 15 words out of the more than 3,23,600 words which Allah is supposed to have addressed to their prophet?
Dr. Harsh Narain has not mentioned many other acrobatics of modem Islamic Apologetics in India because he was dealing only with the myth of equality of all religions. That has been taken care of by Prof. K.S. Lal in his latest (1999) book. “These days,” he writes, “a group of Muslim writers is busy making an all out effort to present Islam with a benign face. A long series of defeats at the hands of Christian Europe and persistent resistance of Hindus in India, has resulted in inculcating in the Muslim masses a hatred of the West and the Hindus. At the same time it has prompted some Muslim scholars to present Islam as religion of peace, to put it on par with, say, Hinduism, Jainism or Buddhism…”23 He quotes at some length the “prolific writer” Asghar Ali Engineer who says in so many words that “ jihAd is essentially a war for justice, not for aggression or lust for power”, that sufis practised “absolute nonviolence”, and that “Islam is as non-violent a religion as any religion can be”.24 And Maulana Wahiduddin of the Islamic Centre in New Delhi who writes that “Islam is as tolerant a religion as any other”, that “so far as forced conversion is concerned it is totally unlawful in Islam”, and that although the Prophet “was persecuted by others, he strictly avoided confrontation, and followed the path of forbearance”.25 And Zafar Jung, President of the Muslim Mainstream Movement, New Delhi, who proclaims that “the word Islam means peace”, and that “the Quran and HadIth foster communal harmony”.26
These writers, observes Prof. Lal, may be sympathised with as they are not historians and belong to institutions which receive liberal funds from Gulf states for giving a face-lift to Islam. What he finds inexcusable is that renowned historians have joined the game. “Many writers on medieval Indian history find in conversion of many low caste Hindus to Islam a hand of the oppression of Hindu upper castes, or the Hindu caste system itself, and the attraction of the ‘democratic spirit of Islamic brotherhood and equality’.”27 He cites Muhammad Mujeeb in this context who “misinterprets well-known facts in cleverly carved language”, and tries to prove that “Islam was adopted by families or groups of families who were regarded as outcasts in Hindu society”.28 And Mohammad Habib who proclaims that the Muslim state in medieval India “was not a theocratic state in any sense of the term” and that “its foundation was non-religious and secular”.29
Prof. Lal wonders why these Muslim apologists ignore “what has been said by contemporary chroniclers of the medieval period”. His explanation is that “Probably they are shocked at the barbarous conduct of their medieval brethren and want to salvage the reputation of Islam, although whatever was done was done in accordance with the canons of their creed”. He goes on to show how the two versions of medieval Muslim history - medieval chroniclers’ and the modem apologists’ - contradict one another. “Muslim historians of the medieval period honestly state that non-Muslims were converted to Islam through force; modern Muslim apologists claim that conversions were effected through peaceful means. Medieval chroniclers take pride in the iconoclastic zeal and achievements of their heroes; modem apologists plead otherwise. Medieval historians credit Muslim invaders with fighting Jihad for spreading Islam; modem Muslim writers say that their motive was economic - that the invaders were interested in loot and plunder and had little to do with religion. It needs to be emphasized that the truth here does not lie midway. It lies on the side of the medieval chroniclers. Still the apologists complicate matters by contradicting the versions of their own coreligionists who were closer and more intimately associated with events about which they wrote than our modern apologists. The idea of a secular Muslim state is an innovation of a few ‘progressive’ writers who wish to bracket Muslim civilization with tolerant civilizations.”30
He continues, “This phenomenon baffles Indian Muslims to this day - why could India not be made a Muslim country despite the exertion of more than a thousand years? The apologists try to explain it by ‘discovering’ that Muslim state was a secular state. They do not attribute it to persistent Hindu resistance, nor to the continuance of the great Hindu civilization to which should go the real credit.”31 Again: “There is no need to feel apologetic if most conversions were forcible. Force and violence have special place in Islamic history throughout the world. The heroes of Islam in India are men like Muhammad bin Qasim, Mahmud of Ghazni, Timur and Aurangzeb. They, their poets and chroniclers, all become lyrical when they describe their achievements in the service of Allah which included conversions by force. There is no justification for M. Mujeeb to unseat these old Muslim heroes from their ferocious pedestals and turn them into pacifists like Hindus and Buddhists.”32
We are afraid, Justice Basak’s comments on the Quran appear to be more in line with modem Islamic Apologetics than with Islamic Dogmatics and Polemics which still dominate the overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country as well as elsewhere. Modem apologists of Islam have been increasingly marginalised by the resurgence of Islamic fanaticism since the seventies of this century. Oil wealth of the Arab countries has encouraged and equipped Islam to go on the offensive everywhere, particularly against the West and Hindu India which it perceives as stumbling blocks in the way of its triumphant march towards world domination. Muslim seminaries everywhere are training terrorists for doing service to Allah, and Muslim publishing houses are flooding the markets with primary source materials on Islamic theology and history. The Quran is now available in authentic translations undertaken by orthodox Muslim scholars. The picture of Islam that emerges from this material is being presented in the pages that follow.
Comprehensive concept of JihAd
Modem writers by and large including modem apologists of Islam state that AyAts on jihAd were “revealed” to the Prophet after his migration to Medina. They explain that jihAd was the last course to which the Prophet was forced to resort because his “peaceful preaching in Mecca” was not only rebuffed but also met with “persecution by the Meccan pagans”. They locate and give a count of the Ayats on jihAd in the Medinan surAhs. Brigadier S.K. Malik has collected these Ayats in the context of military strategy; they add up to 267 spread over 17 sUrahs out of around 1457 Ayats spread over 23 sUrahs which were received by the Prophet at Medina.”33 The rest of the Ayats in the Quran - around 4754 in 91 Meccan sUrahs and around 1190 in 23 Medinan sUrahs -, the apologists insist, pertain to other subjects such as beliefs, prayers, rituals, ethics, social rules and regulations etc.
Brigadier Malik, however, does not agree with this concept of jihAd which, according to him, is far more comprehensive. Let us listen to what he has to say on the subjects. He writes:
The first step to this study is to understand the difference between total strategy, that is Jehad, and military strategy. The term, Jehad, so often confused with military strategy, is, in fact, the near-equivalent of total or grand strategy or policy in execution. Jehad entails the comprehensive direction and application of ‘power’ while military strategy deals only with the preparation for and application of force. Jehad is a continuous and never-ending struggle waged on all fronts including politica4 economic, social, psychological, domestic, moral and spiritual to attain the object of policy. It aims at a g the overall mission assigned to the Islamic State, and military strategy is one of the means available to it to do so. It is waged at the individual as well as collective level; and at internal as well as external front.
Waged in its true spirit, and with multiple means available to it, the Islamic concept of total strategy has the capacity to produce direct results. Alternately, however, it creates conditions conducive to the military strategy to attain its objectives speedily and economically. Military strategy thus draws heavily on the total strategy (Jehad) for its successful application. Any weakness or strength in the formulation, direction or application of the total strategy would affect military strategy in like manner. In the absence of Jehad, the preparation for and application of ‘force’ to its best advantage would be a matter of exception, not rule. Conversely, optimum preparation and application of military instrument forms an integral part of Jehad.34
The Hadis collections, commentaries on the Quran (tafsIr), and treatises on this specific Islamic lore also proclaim that the so-called Ayats on jihAd “revealed” at Medina pertain to only one form of jihAd, namely, jihAd bil saif - striving by the sword. At the same time they mention three other forms of jihAd as follows:
Looked at from this comprehensive perspective, the whole of the Quran comes out unmistakably as a compendium on jihAd. It contains Ayats which were “revealed” to the Prophet vis-à -vis kufr (unbelief) and shirk (idolatry) while Islam was preached by him in private, and the small number of converts were organized in a secret society. These Ayats were recited by the faithful individually and silently, or in private gatherings of a few people. They constitute jihAd bil nafs. Next, came the jihAd bil lasAn either joined to jihAd bil qalam or undertaken separately or simultaneously. That was when Allah commanded the Prophet to preach Islam publicly after Muslims had functioned underground for three years and grown in numbers as well as in terms of self-confidence. During the next ten years - from 613 CE to 622 CE - the Quran grew considerably in size as well as subject-matter as it included not only those Ayats which had been “revealed” before 613 but also those which “came down” subsequently.
As regards AyAts which do not directly denounce or warn the unbelievers, they are obviously of an auxiliary or supplementary character; they are meant for marshalling the Muslims into a militant fraternity (ummah) on the basis of a common belief system, a common set of rituals, and a common code of conduct. JihAd in any form can be practised only when there is an organized and disciplined community, small or large, to practise it. And jihAd in the service of the only god, the only prophet, the only book, the only dIn, needs above all an only ummah.
So each of the five pillars of Islam - the only themes elaborated in the Quran - is a component of jihAd. Among them the first and topmost place goes to shahAdah or Kalimah (confession of faith, ImAn); it is a loud and clear declaration of jihAd or war on the unbelievers, made repeatedly and endlessly in every tenet and ritual of Islam. The other four pillars - salAt or namAz (prayers), zakAt (poor-tax), saum or rozah (fasting during Ramzan), and hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) - are aimed at fortifying the first pillar in the hearts and minds of the believers so that it becomes a passion and a war-cry. In short, we can conclude as follows:
Firstly, the Quran is an exposition of the Kalimah or proclamation of jihAd in all its aspects, implications, dimensions and dynamics.
Secondly, it is an exhortation towards marshalling a gang of desperados for imposing the Kalimah on the rest of mankind by every means including the sword.
And jihAd bil saif prescribed in the Ayats “revealed” at Medina and practised by the Prophet during the last ten years of his life from 622 CE to 632 CE - is only the crowning piece in the Quran. Let the crowning piece stand where it does in all its glamour and glory, but the edifice which sustains it should not be viewed as something different or alien or antagonistic to it. The Quran as a whole is a unique piece of unity which runs throughout its seemingly diverse themes.
JihAd bil Saif
The book by Brigadier S.K. Malik to which we have referred above is a study of “striving by the sword” as elaborated in the Quran. It carries a Foreword by the late General Zia-ul-Haq who had seized power in Pakistan in 1977 after being appointed the Chief of the Army by Z.A. Bhutto, who was dictator of that country for more than a decade, and who promoted the concept of “proxy” or “low intensity” war against India - a war which continues in various forms and on several fronts till today. The General says:
Jehad fi sabilallah is not the exclusive domain of the professional soldier, nor is it restricted to the application of military force alone.
This book brings out with simplicity, clarity and precision the Quranic philosophy on the application of military force within the context of the totality that is Jehad. The professional soldier in a Muslim army, pursuing the goals of a Muslim state, cannot become ‘professional’ if in all his activities he does not take the ‘colour of Allah’. The nonmilitary citizen of a Muslin state must, likewise, be aware of the kind of soldier that his country must produce and the only pattern of war that his country’s armed forces must wage.35
Allah Bukhsh K. Brohi who served for some years as the Advocate-General of Pakistan, and who was that country’s ambassador in India at one time, has written a Preface for Malik’s book. He makes the following points:
The book has ten chapters and seven appendices attached to chapter nine which deals with ‘The Application of the Quranic Military Thought’ with particular reference to major battles fought by the Prophet - Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Hodaibiyyah, Tabuk. In Appendix I, however, the author provides a complete fist of ‘The Holy Prophet’s Military Campaigns’ from 622 CE to 632 CE. It comprises 26 ghazwahs (expeditions led by the Prophet himself) and 55 saryas (expeditions sent by the Prophet under other commanders) - a total of 81 campaigns. He divides them into six periods as follows:46
The most significant revelations from the viewpoint of jihAd bil saif are provided by the author in Appendices H, IV, V and VI. They relate to the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Hodaibiyyah and Tabuk - sUrahs 8, 3, 33, 48 and 9 respectively. In Appendix HI, he provides in great detail ‘A Case Study of the Battle of Uhud’ from 11 March 625 CE when the Muslim army marched out of Medina, to 24 March when the Quraish retreated after inflicting a defeat on the faithful. He lists 6 psychological shocks suffered by the Muslims during this battle. These shocks are supposed to carry lessons for Muslims when they are faced with adversity.47
Now we can take up Malik’s thesis, chapter by chapter.
“Divine in conception, the Quranic philosophy of war ... can particularly absorb a great deal of the modem military science at the operational level, without sacrificing its own distinctive and fundamental features and principles.”48The Quran “lays down its own mystic doctrine as to the three categories of human beings and how they receive Allah’s message”49 First, there are the Faithful who believe in Allah’s revelations and his prophet (2.2-5; 5.17- 18). Second, there are the -Unbelievers who “reject the Faith” (2.7). Third, there are the Hypocrites who “outwardly profess Faith but harbour treacherous designs inwardly” (2.16). The Quranic philosophy of war has, therefore, to be studied with a view to how the Prophet conducted his military campaigns with the help of the first category of people, and against the other two categories. For the Quran itself says that the Prophet provides a beautiful pattern for Muslims to copy, everywhere and at all times (33.21).50
2. Historical Perspective
When the Prophet of Islam “voiced his Divinely-ordained mission in Arabia” in 610 CE, there were four major global powers - Eastern Roman empire, the Persian empire, India, and China. The Romans who were Christian and the Persians who were Zoroastrian, had been engaged in mutual warfare from 480 CE onwards. When the Romans suffered a defeat at the hands of the Persians in 621 CE, the Arab Pagans and the Jews were delighted. But the Prophet predicted a victory for the Romans (30.1-5), which the latter achieved in 628 CE. At that time, the Prophet had not yet turned against the Christians. But after he started operating as a warlord from Medina in 622 CE and succeeded in putting down the Jews and the Pagan tribes of Arabia, he denounced the Christians also. In 629 CE, his army started measuring swords with the Romans. After the Prophet died in 632 CE, the Muslim armies started battling simultaneously against both the Romans and the Persians. “Under the rising sun of Islam,” brags Malik, “the Persian empire disappeared from the map of the world by 680 AD. By about that time, the Muslims had conquered Syria, Egypt, Anatolia, Cyranica, Tripolatania and Armenia from the Romans as well.”51 He does not say in so many words that this triumphant sweep of the Islamic sword should be credited to the “beautiful pattern” followed by the Muslim invaders. But that is what he means, following in the footsteps of earlier Muslim historians.
3. The Causes of War
“The central theme behind the causes of war as spelt out by the Holy Quran, was the cause of Allah (2.190, 244; 4.84).”52 It was essentially a war fought by the Faithful against the Unbelievers (4.76). Malik goes on to summarise what another Muslim scholar, Dr. Hamid Ullah, has stated on the subject. “In his opinion war could be entered upon if the enemy physically invaded the Muslim territory or behaved in an unbearable and provocative manner short of actual invasion. War could also be waged for punitive, retaliatory and preventive purposes. Permissible also would it be to resume a war stopped temporarily. A Muslim state could also enter into armed hostilities in sympathy with their brethren living in another [no-Muslim] state...”53 So the “cause of Allah” gives a very wide latitude to the Faithful to unleash a war against the Unbelievers on any pretext, whenever the former find or feel that they are in a position of strategic or tactical advantage over the latter.
4. The Object of War
The Quran commands the Faithful to keep on fighting “until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevails justice and faith in Allah” (2.193; 8.40). Here the language is deceptive as in all cases of double-speak. The words “tumult and oppression” stand for opposition to Islam, for whatever reason. So the Muslims are to continue waging wars so long as there are non-Muslims anywhere in the world. Of course, Muslims are free to sign treaties of peace with non-Muslims whenever such treaties serve their purpose. But they are also free to violate the treaties of peace whenever they find war more profitable than peace; they can always accuse the Unbelievers of planning treachery (8.56-58). “The Book, however, kept the doors of compassion and forgiveness open for those who offered genuine repentance”, that is, embraced Islam under duress (9.3, 5, 11).54 Another concession is reserved for those who, though defeated, refuse to become Muslim. They can pay jizyah and live as zimmis (non-citizens) in an Islamic state.55But no quarter is to be given to those who are suspected of being either “hypocrites” or “hidden enemies”. They are to be slaughtered straight-away (4.89, 91).56 And these guidelines laid down by Allah in the Quran and practised by the Prophet in his own life-time, are valid for all times and places in a permanent war which is still being waged by the Faithful on many fronts.
5. The Nature and Dimensions of War
“The dimensions given to war by the Holy Quran,” observes Malik, “take into account the divine purpose behind the creation of Man and guide him to his ultimate destiny... the Book commands the Muslims to wage their war with the spirit of a religious duty and obligation (2.216)… it also looks upon war as something virtuous for the Faithful and beneficial for the rest of humanity.”57To those who fight for the “cause of Allah”, the Quran promises “generous heavenly assistance” (47.7; 3.160; 4.22-23).58In fact, this “divine war” is a profitable bargain also because Allah guarantees an eternal paradise to those who engage in it (66.10-13; 9.111).59 At the same time, Allah is committed to punish with the torments of an everlasting hell those Believers who refuse to participate in this “holy war” (9.24, 38-39, 81-82). There are, however, certain tests which Believers who aspire to obtain heavenly help, have to pass. Allah expects his flock to remain firm in their Faith even if they suffer defeat or face adversity (2.214; 3.141-42).60Staying at home when a “holy war” is on or running away from the battlefield serves no purpose because death is inevitable, and it is better to die for “Allah’s cause” than without hope for his grace (2.28, 218; 3.156-57; 4.74, 77; 22.58).61 The “divine reward” varies according to the “performance of the Believers”. Those who participate in the “divine war” stand higher in the eyes of Allah than those who stay at home even if the latter are pious otherwise and practise other tenets of Islam. (4.95-96). And the highest favour from Allah goes to those who are slain in Allah’s cause; for they are not dead but very much alive in Allah’s presence, that is, in paradise (2.154; 3.157, 169-70).62
Strangely enough, Malik does not mention in this context the worldly rewards like plunder including prisoners of war who can be sold as slaves, and living on the fat of the lands conquered and labour of the subjugated people. He has a lot to hide because Islam has to be presented as a “noble and humanitarian” religion and it is no more correct to glorify what was glorified till only the other day.
6. The Ethics of War
This is the briefest chapter in Malik’s vociferous book on the “divine war”. He cites only four verses from the Quran, three of which exhort Muslims “not to commit aggression” (2.190-91, 194) and the fourth one (47.4) recommends “generosity or ransom” after the Faithful have had their fill of slaughter and taken prisoners. It is obvious that he has not found any verses about the “ethics of war” in the Quran, because he is palpably dishonest in interpreting the verses he has cited. Yet he concludes, “A Muslim’s cause of war is just, noble, righteous and humanitarian. A victory in Islam is a victory of Islam. So noble and humanitarian a cause cannot be allowed to be attained through inhuman and undignified ways.”63 Instead of delivering a sermon, he should have cited some verses of the Quran which sound “just, noble, righteous and humanitarian”. Or has he made a mistake by talking about ethic of war vis-à-vis the Quran? In any case, we see in the next chapter the ethics which the Quran stands for.
7. The Strategy of War
“Instructions pertaining to the divine theory of military strategy are found in the revelations pertaining to the battles of Badr, Ohad, Khandaq, Tabuk and Hodaibiyya” (3.124-26; 8.9-10, 11, 59-60). All these “revelations” urge the Faithful “to prepare for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies…”64
Malik elaborates as follows:
Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end in itself… It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy. It is the decision we wish to impose upon him...
Terror... can be instilled only if the opponent’s Faith is destroyed. Psychological dislocation is temporary; spiritual dislocation is permanent. Psychological dislocation can be produced by a physical act but this does not hold good of the spiritual dislocation. To instill terror into the hearts of the enemy, it is essential, in the ultimate analysis, to dislocate his Faith ... 65
Does it sound diabolical? Not to Muslim ears, for sure. Terrorism in all its forms has been the most effective weapon in the armoury of Islam ever since its advent. Great terrorists have been the heroes whom Muslims cherish the most. And it is terror which has seen to it that the victims do not remember what they were subjected to before they were forced into the fold of the Faithful. The victims are expected and exhorted to become - and do become in most cases - terrorists in their own turn!
8. The Conduct of War
“The Holy Quran wishes to see the Muslim armies always in an uppermost, dominating and commanding position over those of the adversaries (9.5)... The Book wants the Muslims to retain the initiative to themselves through bold, aggressive but calculated and deliberate planning and conduct of war.”66 The Muslims are to be harangued constantly and roused to commit aggression again and again (8.65). A determined minority always succeeds if the victims of aggression do not understand the game, even if the latter are larger in number and more prosperous. That is how the Christians succeeded in the Roman empire, the Muslims in Arabia, the Communists in Russia and China, and the Nazis in Germany. It is as simple as that. And Malik does not have more than that to say in this chapter except for invoking the Quran to call upon the Believers “to display the highest standards of mutual love, affection, respect and concern” (3.200) and warn them “to guard against disunity among their ranks” (8.46).67
But history of Islam is a witness that the call as well as the warning failed whenever Muslims could not target or were incapable of fighting Unbelievers. Prof. K.S. Lal observes, “Such is the important place given to violence in Islam that when there are no non-Muslims to fight, the Muslims call one another Kafir and fight Jihad.”68 Malik does not deal with this boomerang as is the case with other Muslim savants who use it in order to explain away the defeats and decline of Islam.
9. The Application of Quranic Military Thought
This chapter with seven appendices deals with the career of the Prophet as a warlord from 622 CE to 632 CE. Malik and Muslim scholars of his ilk want us to believe that the Muslim armies succeeded in these campaigns because they practised the strategies of war reposited in the Quran. This is a Big Lie. They succeeded because the Pagan Arabs lived in a series of tribal settlements and did not understand Muhammad’s game, while Muslims at Medina built up a formidable war machine with the help of plunder obtained in raids, and by recruiting desperadoes from all over Arabia through lure of loot and bloodlust. Later on, the militarized Arabs succeeded in overrunning the Persian and Roman empires because the two empires had exhausted themselves through mutual warfare for a thousand years.
First of all, it has to be pointed our that the Prophet did not evolve the so-called strategies on the eve of battles he fought. The strategies were “revealed” to him after the battles were over. Which means that in every case, the strategy was an after-thought on the part of Muhammad. The only credit he can take is as a perceptive person who learnt from his experience, while the Arab Pagans failed to do so. Secondly, Malik and his tribe have to explain why the same strategies failed when it came to Christianized Europe, China and India. In Europe, Muslim armies were driven out of Spain and, later on, from the Balkans. In China, those armies failed even to make a dent. In India, the Muslim sword took 500 years to reach Delhi, and another 500 to sweep over the South. But it failed to convert the country to Islam even after invoking the Quran and practising its strategies for more than a thousand years. Lastly, what happened to those strategies when Muslims were faced with the Mongols of Chingiz Khan and Halaku who massacred millions of Muslims, sacked many a metropolis of Islamdom and finished the Abbasid Caliphate by beating the last Caliph to pulp? And why did those strategies fail to work when a resurgent Christian imperialism swept over the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, and crushed Turkish and Arabian navies from the fifteen the century of the Christian era onwards? Why did the mighty Muslim empires crumble and disappear from the map when faced with superior art of warfare developed by modem Europe?
10. Summary and Major Conclusions
This chapter in Malik’s book has nothing new to say. He repeats what he has already said in the earlier chapters. He, however, continues in this chapter the message that the Quran is a Manual on War. That is what we also say, except that it is not the only Manual of its kind nor the best known to the history of mankind. There are many other Manuals in comparison to which the Quran stands reduced to no more than childish prattle, and which do not need an Almighty Allah or his Last Prophet for elucidating what has always been and remains a mundane theme. Looking at the advances made by the modem art of warfare, the Quran as a Manual on War can serve only one purpose -it can spread an epidemic of madness among the Muslim masses so that creed-drunk mullahs and cynical adventurers can use them as cannon-fodder in private bids for power and pelf. There can be nothing more foolish than presenting madrasas and masjids as training camps for warriors who will conquer the world for Islam. These institutions can train only terrorists and assassins who waste their own lives and inflict wanton suffering on their innocent victims, here and there. They can never match the military academies of the modem world or the arsenals produced by armament industries in the advanced countries.
The Ideology of Islam
Taking into account the character of the basic text of Islam - the Quran - as a Manual on War, Islam cannot pass as a spiritual doctrine in any sense of the term. On the contrary, it stands exposed as a political ideology of predatory imperialism like
Christianity, Communism and Nazism with all of which its shares its source, namely, the Bible, as well as many psychopathological traits. Professor K.S. Lal has studied and taught the history of Islam in India for the last more than fifty years. He has written a dozen books, starting with his famous History of the Khaljis (1950). In his latest book (1999), he has reviewed the history of Islam in India in the light of Islamic scriptures - the Quran, the Hadis, the Sunnah, and the Shariat. His characterization of Islam as an ideology is being presented below:
Prof Lal has presented many
other facets of Islam such as that Islam has no word for democracy; that
secularism and Islam are mutually exclusive; that Islam can set up only
a theocratic state; that Islam has institutionalised slavery and degraded
women; and that Islam has laid waste many countries. But here we
have been discussing Islam as “a religion of peace”.
3Ibid., p. 628.
4Ibid., P. 220.
5Ibid., p. 423.
6Ibid., p. 204.
7Ibid., p. 419.
8Ibid., p. 84.
9Life of Mahamet,
op. cit., p. 79. Italics in the original.
cit., p. 235.
11Mohammed and the
Rise of Islam, op. cit., pp. 116-17. Emphasis added.
12Ibid., pp. 161-62.
13Ibid., pp. 154-55.
14Cited in Ram Swarup,
Islam Through Hadis, op. cit., pp. 126-27.
15Cited in Ibid., p.
16See Sita Ram Goel,
Temples: What Happened to Them, Second Enlarged Edition, New Delhi,
1993, Volume II, Section IV, Chapter 15, ‘Muhammad and the Meccans’, pp.
17H. Lammens, Islam:
Beliefs and Institutions, London, 1929, New impression, 1968, p. 206.
18Ibid., pp. 214-15.
Italics in the original.
19Ibid., p. 209.
20Ibid., pp. 214-15.
21Harsh Narain, Myths
of Composite Culture and Equality of Religions, Voice of India, New
Delhi, 1990 (reprinted 1997), pp. 57-59.
22Ibid., pp. 59-60.
23K.S. Lal, Theory
and Practice of Muslim State in India, op. cit., pp. 285-86.
24Ibid., p. 286.
25Ibid., p. 288.
27Ibid., p. 120.
28Ibid., p. 289.
29Ibid., p. 25.
31Ibid., p. 41.
32Ibid., p. 293.
33The Quranic Concept
of War, op. cit., pp. 149-50.
34Ibid., pp. 54-55, emphasis
35Ibid., p. i, italics
in the original.
36Ibid., p. iii.
37Ibid., pp. iii-iv,
italics in the original.
38Ibid., p. viii, italics
in the original.
39Ibid., p. x.
40Ibid., p. xi-xii, emphasis
in the original.
41Ibid., p. xii,
emphasis in the original.
42Ibid., pp. xii-xiii,
43Ibid., p. xvii.
44Ibid., pp. xvii-xviii,
45Ibid., p. xviii.
46Ibid., pp. 99-103.
47Ibid., pp. 109-26.
48Ibid., p. 3.
49Ibid., p. 4, emphasis
50Ibid., p. 5.
51Ibid., p. 15.
52Ibid., p. 20.
53Ibid., pp. 23-24.
54Ibid., pp. 30 and 32.
55Ibid., p. 33.
56Ibid., pp. 34-35.
57Ibid., pp. 37-38.
58Ibid., pp. 38-39.
59Ibid., pp. 39-40.
60Ibid., pp. 40-41.
61Ibid., pp. 41-43.
62Ibid., pp. 42-43.
63Ibid., p. 50.
64Ibid., p. 58, emphasis
in the original.
65Ibid., P. 60, emphasis
66Ibid., p. 66.
67Ibid., p. 69.
68Theory and Practice
of Muslim State in India, op. cit., p. xii.
69Ibid., p. 337.
70Ibid., p. 10.
71Ibid., p. 34.
72Ibid., p. 285-89.
73Ibid., p. 297.
74Ibid., p. 255.
75Ibid., p. 256.
76Ibid., p. 251-52.
77Ibid., P. 15.
78Ibid., p. 78.
79Ibid.9 p. 5.
80Ibid., p. 55-56.
81Ibid., p. 305.
82Ibid., p. 307.
83Ibid., p. 68.
84Ibid., p. 276.
85Ibid., p. 296-97.