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Published in the 16-31 Dec 2003 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

INTERVIEW: IMAM KHALEEL AWN AL-HASHIMIY
‘Jihad is acceptable for self-defense only’

Imam Seyed Khaleel Awn El Hasaniyul Hashimiy is an Islamic philosopher and Sufi master. Author of many Islamic and spiritual books, he strives to bring harmony among religions by uniting the minds of people. Imam Awn is imparting Islamic spiritual knowledge in the light of Holy Qur'an and teachings of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) to thousands of people in Sri Lanka, India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, Arab and South East Asian countries. He is proficient in Arabic, English, Tamil and Sinhala languages. His father, Jamaliya Yaseen Mowlana El Hasaniyul Hashimiy, had authored an exegesis of Sahih al-Bukhari.

Imam Awn has now established Markaz Irfanith Thauheed (MIT) to show people the path of spiritual wisdom.MIT centers are in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, Malaysia,Singapore, UAE, Kuwait and active members are engineers, doctors, lawyers, graduates of various disciplines. Imam Awn resides in Srilanka and regularly visits South India, Malaysia, Singapore, UAE to deliver discourses and meet people. Being always active he advises others to be so in all walks of life. Imam Awn observed that the most difficult thing is to make man to lead a human life. Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) had achieved this feat. He therefore insists on keeping up Shari’at, establish the stipulated five time prayers, recite Qur'an daily after dawn prayers. Imam Awn strives for peace and tranquility to prevail everywhere, for man to lead a human life by promoting harmony, to realize truth thus guiding people into the right path in the light of Qur'an and Sunnah.

Imam Awn was also instrumental to start Marai Ghnana Pezhai, a monthly journal devoted to Islamic spirituality and morals which is edited by Professor M. I. Liaqath Ali, a former director of Dr Ambedkar Institute of Productivity, Chennai. He also established an Arabic college, Madrasathul Hasanain Fee Jamiya Yaseen at Trichirapalli in central Tamil Nadu. Along with Islamic spiritual knowledge, its also offers technical education. Following are excerpts of an interview with him conducted by Mohamed Iqbal in Dubai: 


When Islamic scholars say that Islam is a religion of peace, and books also portray the same, why there are so many wars in Islamic history? 
Islam seeks global peace. But vested interests place hurdles on the way. So Islam has to fight to remove these hurdles. It is a sort of defensive offensive, not a war in the usual sense. 'They (infidels) wish to extinguish Allah's light by blowing their breath. And Allah shall (in any case) bring His light to perfection, even if the unbelievers dislike it’ (61:8). This has to be done through people. So Allah enjoins Muslims to fight those people who create hurdles on the path of creating a peaceful and just society. But "Only till opposition ceases and the word of Allah (good and just) prevails. Then if they stop fighting there is no aggression except against the oppressors’ (2:193). 

There is a strong notion that Islam is spread by the sword..
It is a false allegation. Islam is not at all required to be spread by sword. Also this is against the basic philosophy of Islam. Such notions are spread by some westerners and negative-minded people. Qur'an says, "There is no compulsion (or force) in the matter or religion" (2:256). It urges the use of wisdom and politeness: “'Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious” (16.125). 

It is said that in some countries and places Muslims show hatred towards non-Muslims...
This is totally due to the ignorance of Islamic moral values and not understanding Prophet Mohammed's life and teachings. Islam is a very tolerant religion. It forbids even suspecting all foreigners to be unbelievers: ‘O ye who believe! when ye go abroad in the cause of Allah investigate carefully and say not to anyone who offers you a salutation: “Thou art none of a believer!”’ (4.94), ‘With regard to those who do not fight you for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes Allah does not prohibit you from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just’ (60.8). 

In today's world the word "War" is commonly heard. What is Islam's stand on fighting? 
Peace at any cost. ‘If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel make ye peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah; but if it complies then make peace between them with justice and be fair: for Allah loves those who are fair (and just)’ (49:9). 

What about retaliation?
Islam prefers forgiveness at individual level but teaches reciprocal behavior at national level: 'In retaliation lies your survival, O people of wisdom’ (2:179). But any excess in retaliation is to be avoided” 'Oppress them to the extent they oppress you, and fear Allah (against exceeding limits)’: (2:194). 'But if the enemy incline towards peace then you (also) incline towards peace’: (8:61). Islam says that ‘disturbance of public peace is severer than the murder’ (2:191, 217). 

How far can a warfare go? 
Islam fights not for revenge but for peace: ‘So, if they withdraw from you and fight you not, and (instead) send you (guarantees of) peace, then Allah hath opened no way for you (to continue war)’: (4:90). Once the goal of peace is achieved there is no sense in continuing warfare. 

What about Jihad? 
Jihad is basically fighting against one’s own soul (nafs) and such one is called Jihad ul akbar. We should understand the meaning of Jihad correctly. It originally means "struggle". Technically it is "war” or “fighting." Fighting against enemies is also called "Jihad" because it too is a struggle against those who place hurdles in the way of establishing peace. For "fighting" (battle) the correct word is "qital." Jihad is acceptable for self-defense only: "Permission (for Jihad) is granted to the believers who are forced to fight, because they have been oppressed like those who have been turned out of their homes simply because they say “Our Lord is Allah”': (22:39). War for any worldly goal (expansion of political or economic power) is not Jihad. In Jihad the motive must be to promote peace and justice. There can be Jihad for education, industrial revolution, eradicating poverty etc. 

In today's world there is an impression that Islam promotes terrorism. What do you say about this? 
Terrorism has no religion and Islam stands for peace alone. Can anybody cite a single incident of terrorism from the life of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh)? Did he encourage any terrorism? Can the so-called Muslims indulge in terrorist activities? Never. There is no room for violence or terrorism in Islam. Each and every deed of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his noble family and companions are examples of the way of Islam. If anyone says Islam promotes terrorism, he should learn basic values of Islam and the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the unmatched personality in the world who established good civilisation and offered a role model in each and every walk of life.Those who follow, obey and respect Allah's Apostle, achieve great success in this life and the Hereafter. 

What about killing of innocent people by suicide bombings? Doesn't it show that Islam does not attach much value to human life? 
Suicide for any purpose is prohibited in Islam. Qur’an says: "Do not put yourself to destruction with your own hands" (2:195). A tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) says, "If somebody commits suicide with anything in this world, he will be tortured with that very thing on the Day of Resurrection." Suicide bombing involves killing oneself as well as others. So it is doubly condemned. Islam condemns all unlawful killings. Take the first murder of Abel by his brother Cain. Qur’an says, "For this We enjoined upon the Children of Israel [and this includes Jews, Christians and Muslims] that whosoever kills one person unlawfully, or without his causing disruption in the land, it is like killing the whole of mankind, and whosoever protects life of one person it is like giving life to whole mankind" (5:39). As regards the value of life, Islam prohibits unnecessary killing of even animals. Islam places highest value on human life, allowing even eating of pork if inevitable for one’s survival. Even during war Islam prohibits killing of women, children, old persons, non-combatants and expressly forbids destroying crops and property. 

People should understand that God is one. It is very essential to attain knowledge of One God, i.e., Tawheed. Without Tawheed, man is but a corpse that walks. Calling by different names in their respective languages, people regard Him as their exclusive God. But whatever tongue people may speak, whichever religion they may practice, be they sages or people of high ranks, be they rich or poor, God is the same for everybody everywhere. Each and everything emanated from God. We call this spiritual knowledge, philosophy and awareness of Tawheed. 

Of all creatures, man is the fittest to acquire this knowledge. There is absolutely nothing beyond human capability. Everything is innate in man. The Holy Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) stressed upon knowledge and wisdom. The instrument of God-realisation is knowledge and man should strive for the same and live with others peacefully respecting their faith, culture etc. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "All mankind is a fold, each member of which shall be a keeper or shepherd to every other and be accountable for the entire fold. Live together, don't turn against each other, make things easy for others and don't put obstacles in each other's way.
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