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EDITORIAL: 16-31 January 2000

This Jihad has no sanction in Islam
The recent hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane to Qandhar and Osama Ben Laden’s alleged call for ‘Jihad’ against the US and India last September have allowed many misguided or poisoned pens to harp on the sick tune of ‘Islamic terrorism,’ a term coined by the Israelis and now parrotted by many without understanding the background and motives of terrorist activity here and there.

There is no denying the fact that many Arabs and Muslims feel outraged by the US for its unconditional support to Israel and the propping up of dictators and military rulers in the World of Islam. True also that there are people in the Muslim World who are not pleased with India on account of the festering problem of Kashmir, anti-Muslim riots and the government’s failure to protect the Babari mosque, etc. But is it lawful for a true Muslim to indulge in terrorism and the slaughter of innocent people? Is it correct or prudent to consider India ‘anti-Muslim’ or anti-Islam? Both stands are wrong: Islam does not give license to any Muslim to kill others. It is the sole responsibility of a State to administer justice. Killing one innocent person is tantamount to killing the whole humanity according to the Qur’an (5:32).

As regards India, only a person blinded by Pakistani propaganda can claim that a country housing one and a half time more Muslims than Pakistan can ill-afford to be an enemy of Islam or Muslims. Riots or demolition of a mosque, however condemnable, are not State policy. Criminals are caught, tried and sentenced whenever sufficient evidence is produced in courts of law. Three ministers in the current central government are facing trial for their role in the Babri episode. It is not in the interest of any Muslim to pronounce India with its 150 million Muslims as an ‘enemy state.’ This may serve the narrow interests of a Pakistani elite blinded by hatred. Certainly it will not serve the interests of the Muslim Ummah. Such claims are only making life difficult for millions of ordinary law-abiding Muslims in India, the US and elsewhere. The activities and declarations of Osama Ben Laden and his ilk weaken the sane and enlightened forces struggling to create a better environment for a tolerant, multi-cultural and multi-religious society.

The Ben Laden phenomenon is not entirely unique. Islamic history has known lawless terrorist groups which operated secretly in order to achieve certain goals, like the Qaramitah (Carmatheans) of the tenth century CE and the Hashshashin of the eleventh-thirteenth centuries CE. But Muslim society and polity never accorded acceptance to such groups which remained to the end an abnormal aberration and their activities were never accepted as lawful ‘Jihad.’

In Islamic law and thought, Jihad is a responsible activity undertaken only by a State under a duly accepted/elected ruler, because it is a responsible act in which a clearly identifiable legal entity must be visible and present at all times in order to shoulder the responsibilities of its actions towards fighters, citizens, widows, orphans, enemy, conclusion of truce and peace agreements etc.. Islamic movements fighting against local despots or foreign colonial rulers waged Jihad under this concept — they formed a state, howsoever small, and elected a leader (ruler) before declaring Jihad. Ibn Tumart of Morocco (d.1130CE), Osman Dan Fodio of Nigeria (d. 1817), Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed of India (d. 1831), Imam Shamwyl of Daghestan (d. 1871) and Abdul Qadir of Algeria (d.1883) are a few examples of this approach. 

The phenomenon of secret political societies in the garb of ‘Islamic movements’ is a product of the post-colonial period. During the colonial period such movements were purely nationalistic and regional. Some were inspired, and at times supported, by communists. Their new incarnation in the shape of Egypt’s Jihad Group, or Takfir wal’l-Hijrah or Ben Laden’s Al-Qa’idah, are mostly inspired by the communist revolutionary models of Che Guivara, Mao Tse Tung and the leftist Palestinian outfits like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which resorted to hijackings and senseless murders in order to highlight their ‘cause.’

The phenomenon of terrorism under the banner of ‘Islam’ coincided with the Afghani struggle against the Soviet invasion and the Irani revolution against the dictatorial regime of the Shah. Many such movements have sprouted around the world of Islam inspired by these events or directly as a result of the Afghan war where non-Afghani veterans of the Afghani Jihad started such movements either in their own countries, as in Algeria and Egypt, or in other regions such as Central Asia, Indian Kashmir and Afghanistan where they are fighting side by side the Taliban. Within this environment, the kinds of Ben Laden have flourished with the political backing of powerful and rich groups in countries like Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Gulf, etc., who use them for their own purposes while the sponsors of the Jihad machinery make their cadres believe that they are engaged in a divine mission. Some supporters of such groups strongly believe that they are performing an ‘Islamic’ duty. But in reality they are Islam’s biggest enemies. They will stunt the progress of Muslim societies, curb freedoms and deny human rights. If ever in power, they will drag the society to the Dark Ages as the Taliban are doing in their part of Afghanistan. The World of Islam should join hands to rid itself of this cancerous growth. Let us beware at the same time of the western and Israeli schemes to brand lawful resistance as ‘terrorism.’

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