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"Speaking truth in face of unjust ruler is the highest form of jihad"
By Andalib Akhter

AG NOORANI’s new book released in Delhi 

Many Muslims realise that the word Jihad has become a disturbing term for non-Muslims, who relates it to religious extremism and indiscriminate violence. Muslims do not look it at that way. For them the word signifies a positive religious concept which may be and frequently is misinterpreted either by Muslims themselves or by non-Muslims.

  New Delhi: “The highest form of Jihad is to speak the truth in the face of an unjust ruler. It is impeccably authenticated saying of prophet Muhammad. It alone suffices to dispel the long-held, but utterly false impression, among Muslims no less than the rest, that Jihad is synonymous with warfare. The word Jihad simply means ‘to exert’. Ijtihad is exertion of the intellect and is recognised source of Islamic law, Shari’h” says AG Noorani, noted columnist and legal expert. He was speaking at a function to mark the release of his new book, Islam and Jihad,’ here. The book has been published by LeftWord Books, New Delhi.

Quoting from his latest book, Noorani says, many Muslims realise that the word Jihad has become a disturbing term for non- Muslims, who relate it to religious extremism and indiscriminate violence. Muslims do not look at it that way. For them the word signifies a positive religious concept which may be, and frequently is, misinterpreted either by Muslims themselves or by non-Muslims. A comparison will make the point clear: the term “crusade” is widely used by many people who see no problem with it and employ it innocently to describe peaceful religious gathering. At the same time, however, when Muslims hear this word, they experience feelings of distress because it conveys to them an old message of religious violence and suffering. Precisely the same is true with the word jihad. Muslims use it in a positive sense to signify an important religious truth, while to some others it carries a message of needless religious violence. “This is not an apologia but a corrective” emphasized the author.

The book, which owes its conception to the spate of debates sparked off after September 11 on Islam and the concept of Jihad, is an attempt to “correct misimpression about Islam in the minds of non-Muslims as well as Muslims.” The book, which was penned in record three week, draws on two texts, first, an injunction by the Prophet himself on the concept of jihad, and the second, a Qur'anic verse. The book also discusses the concept of Islamic fundamentalism, human rights and liberation theology, Ijtihad and the challenge of modernity and media and burden of history. The term fatwa - simply means a legal opinion says the author. 

Speaking during the panel discussion that followed the launch of the book, former vice chancellor of AMU, Hamid Ansari, said the book draws attention to the need for constructive debate, both by Muslims and non-Muslims on the topic.” The term jihad does not even denote killing. Sometimes over the years terms acquire meanings and retain those meanings even though they may not be relevant. Often these meanings are time-specific and relevant to a particular context. An expression that was developed in the 6th or 7th century need not have relevance today," he contended. 

Today there is a feeling that there is something terribly dangerous about the word Islam and something wrong with the people associated with it, Ansari said. There is no recognition of the fact that Islam has contributed in the widest sense to world civilisation. 

Pronouncing the “intellectual bankruptcy” of Muslim institutions and the lack of information and analysis paid to developing modern interpretation, noted scholar Mushirul Hasan said that when there is a debate, “nobody listens to us. Perhaps because our ideals do not conform with their perspectives or perhaps because it is their interest to perpetuate that concept”. He added that there was a need for a ‘counter-campaign’ to explain, not apologise, the often misunderstood concept of Jihad. “In the aftermath of Gujarat, younger Muslims are going to ask questions. How are we going to reach out to them? We need some message to allay their fears.” 

Commenting on the spirit of the book, editor of Frontline, N Ram said the book lays emphasis on correcting, not apolgising for the concept of jihad. “The book is a rational critique of the prevailing notions on the subject. It is written with a progressive and liberal framework. Both Muslims and non-Muslim can benefit from the book” Ram said.

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