Jihad is the central doctrine of Islam and dhimmitude its historical consequence. Both should be defeated for India and the world to be really free.
Jihad is the central doctrine of the Islamic state, ordained by its scripture. Thanks partly to the September 11 terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the world now knows something of jihad and its ties to Islamic terror. Nonetheless, jihad continues to be presented as a noble internal struggle over one’s baser instincts – something like meditation and Yoga. Even when the violent aspect of jihad is pointed out, its apologists claim that violence and terrorism cannot be justified as jihad, as if “real jihad” is something we should all welcome.
As a result, a good deal of confusion prevails in the public mind with regard to the true nature of jihad and its relationship to Islamic terror. The worst offenders in this game of sophistry are not the Muslims themselves but non-Muslim intellectuals and academics in India, Europe and especially America. It seems never to occur to these worthies that a medieval theocratic concept like jihad has no legitimacy in a modern secular state, no matter what its real or imagined merits.
Another point worth noting is that terrorists worldwide, acting in the name of jihad, cannot be defeated by redefining jihad to suit our comfort level. The various jihadis are drawn to the interpretation of jihad given by the likes of Osama bin Laden and not the apologists that fill Indian and Western universities and newspaper columns. More significantly, this “kinder, gentler” version of jihad has no basis in either doctrine or history. It is necessary, therefore, to look at the primary sources to understand the place of jihad in Islamic law and behaviour.
(Islamic law is part of its scripture. More details on the place of jihad in Islamic scripture and history can be found in Sita Ram Goel’s The Calcutta Quran Petition cited at the end of the article).
The Dictionary of Islam defines jihad as: “A religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad [the Prophet]. It is an incumbent religious duty, established in the Quran and in the Traditions (the Hadiths or ‘Acts of Muhammad’) as a divine institution, and enjoined especially for the purpose of advancing Islam and of repelling evil from Muslims.”
The last point about “repelling evil” calls for an explanation: its primary goal is to prevent Muslims from deviating from the true teachings of Islam, of unrelenting hostility towards Kafirs, and lapsing into heresy. Movements intended to root out such ‘evil’ – often called ‘purification movements’ – are a feature of Islamic history. The Wahhabi movement that led to the Saudi brand of Islam and the Tablighi movement in India are two recent examples of such purification.
The Dictionary of Islam also observes: “Sufi writers say that there are two Jihads: al-Jihadu ‘l Akbar, or the ‘greater warfare,’ which is against one’s own lusts; and al-Jihadu ‘l Asghar, or the ‘lesser Jihad’ against infidels.” It is important to note this is a later Sufi innovation that has no scriptural sanction; in fact it is a heresy that is rejected by the orthodox.
Historically, Sufis have actively supported and participated in the violent version of jihad, the only one that has any scriptural sanction. The nonviolent version is invoked by apologists, though it has played hardly any role in history since no one follows it. The Dictionary of Islam is also perceptive in noting: “The duty of religious war (which all commentators agree is a duty extending to all time) is laid down in the Quran in the following verses, and it is remarkable that all the verses occur in the al-Madinah Surahs, being those given after Muhammad had established himself as a paramount ruler, and was in a position to dictate terms to his enemies.”
So any hint of compromise that one finds in the earlier al-Meccah Surahs can be explained by the fact that they were given at times when Prophet Muhammad felt besieged and was forced to compromise with his adversaries in order to gain time. These were erased by the later Surahs revealed when the Prophet had become the paramount ruler.
Surah (IX. 5,6) sheds light on jihad against infidels: “And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with God [Allah] wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege them with every kind of ambush; but if they shall convert, and observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then let them go their way, for God [Allah] is Gracious, Merciful.” So the Mercy of God offers unbelievers the ‘choice’ of conversion or death! This is just one example of many Surahs in the same spirit. There is no room for compromise in Jihad.
Terrorism in history
The most famous of the early Islamic terrorist organizations was the Nizari Ismailiyun, a Shiite politico-religious sect founded in 1094 by Hasan-e Sabah. He and his followers captured the hill fortress of Almaut in northern Iran and turned it into their base of operations. Hasan styled himself Grand Master and went on to set up a network of terrorist strongholds in Iran and Iraq. He captured young boys and turned them into drug addicts by giving them progressively larger doses of hashish. They became totally dependent on him and would do anything in return for hashish. They came to be known as hashishin, from which get the word ‘assassin.’ The deadly mix of terror and drugs is hardly new.
Hasan-e Sabah and his successor Grand Masters commanded an army of assassins who spread terror among the people throughout Iran and Iraq. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Grand Master had “a corps of devoted terrorists, and an unknown number of agents in enemy camps and cities, who claimed many victims among the generals and statesmen of the Abbasid caliphate as well as several caliphs.”
The Nizari Ismailiyun or Order of the Assassins expanded into Syria after its founder’s death. In the 12th century, Rashid ad-Din as-Sinan, famous as the ‘Old Man of the Mountain,’ set himself up as an independent Grand Master of the Assassin Order in the impregnable castle of Masyaf in Syria. From 1094 to 1256, these Grandmasters and their assassins spread terror throughout the Middle East.
Their end came at the hands of the Mongol warriors of Haleku (Hulagu) Khan, grandson of Chengiz Khan. He captured and destroyed the assassin strongholds in Iran one by one; finally Almaut fell in 1256. He mercilessly killed every one of the assassin agents and their leaders. Two years later, in February 1258, Haleku’s soldiers sacked Baghdad itself and ended the Caliphate by executing the Abbasid Caliph al-Mustasim and his sons.
The Syrian castles and strongholds were gradually reduced by Baybars I, the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt. The Ismaili order gradually faded into insignificance, becoming a minor heresy. It still has some followers in Syria and Iran, with India and Pakistan having the largest numbers. They are known as Khojas and are followers of the Aga Khan. They no longer indulge in terror. In Pakistan, they are considered non-Muslims and widely persecuted.
As noted, the Mongols ended the Caliphate in 1258. The 19th century claim of the Ottoman Turkish Sultans to be the inheritors of the Caliphate was not recognized by Muslims outside India. It was a political ploy by the Ottoman Sultans to keep together their crumbling empire. But Mahatma Gandhi made restoration of the Turkish Sultan as Caliph the centrepiece of the disastrous Khilafat Movement in support of which he launched the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921. It resulted in a reign of terror in Malabar (Kerala), the Moplah Rebellion. The Khilafat that sowed the seeds of Partition; it showed that terror could be used for political ends by invoking Islam.
Inspired by the terror that followed the Khilafat, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a ‘liberal’ Muslim, resorted to terror to gain his political goal of partitioning India. In 1946, his call for ‘Direct Action’ in support of his demand for Pakistan led to street riots all across North India. The Congress capitulated and agreed to the Partition of India. So was Pakistan born. [The claims of some revisionists that Jinnah was opposed to Partition has no basis. Jinnah created the Two Nation Theory followed by the call for Direct Action that led to the Great Calcutta Killings. Put bluntly, the Partition was Jinnah’s only contribution to politics. Jinnah is Partition or he is nothing.]
In all this, there is an almost religious belief that terrorism is both legitimate and effective in gaining political ends. In the Pakistani official manual, The Quranic Concept of War by Brigadier Malik, it is explicitly stated: “Terror struck into the hearts of the enemy is not only a means, it is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved… Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon him.”
State of permanent terror
The idea is to make the enemy live in a state of perpetual terror. The authority for this is the Koran (Anfal 59-60): “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the enemies of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know.”
This is the seed of indiscriminate terror employed by Grand Masters of the Order of the Assassins centuries ago, and by Osama Bin Laden and a host of others down to the present. This belief in the power of domination through terror, and its legitimacy, is what needs to be defeated. But first, it is necessary to recognize that this legitimacy rests on the scripture itself. Terrorism runs like a thread throughout Islamic history.
(To be concluded…)
N S Rajaram
The author is a mathematician, scientist, analyst of contemporary affairs and Contributing Editor of Folks Magazine