The Religion Of Islam vol.2

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  • The Religion Of Islam vol.2


    Chapter XXX - The Religious Defensive

    Warfare Koranic Verses on Jihad

    It is a sacred religious duty incumbent on the Muslim nation at large to set forth defensive war against unbelievers to repel their persecution upon the believers or aggression upon Muslim territories.

    This divine duty of religious war is laid down in several verses of the Holy Koran as well as in the Tradition of the Prophet.

    The following are translated quotations from the Koran bearing on the subject of religious wars:

    In Chapter IV, verses 75-76, we have the following injunctions:


    “Muslims are to fight in defence of the cause of their Lord and to redeem their weak Muslim brethren and sisters and children who are oppressed, who cry for help from Allah to save them from such oppression and to send them some champion to redeem them. Muslims are to fight to defend the cause of Allah, while the unbelievers do fight to defend the cause of the devil: surely the struggle of the devil is so weak.”


    These verses explain what is meant by fighting for Allah. While most of the believers who had the means had escaped from Mecca, there remained those who were weak and unable to emigrate. These were still persecuted and oppressed by the Meccan idolaters. The verses imply a prophecy that those who are fighting for the devil shall be ultimately vanquished.

    In Chapter XXII, verse 214, the Muslims who emigrated to Medina are addressed by the Koran as follows:


    “Do you think that you would enter Paradise, while yet the critical state of those who have passed away before you had not come upon you: Distress and affliction had befallen them and they were shaken violently, so that the Apostle of God and those who believed with him said: “When would the help of Allah come to us’? . Now surely the help of Allah is well nigh.”


    This verse clearly inculcates faith and perseverance under the hardest trials and is an indication of the Prophet’s own unequalled endurance and faith. It refers not only to the great trials and hardships which were yet in store for them, and which they could clearly see in the masses of all forces that could be used to annihilate them.


    In Chapter II, verse 216, we have the following injunctions:

    “Fighting is enjoined on the Muslims, though fighting is an object of dislike to them; and it may be that they may dislike something while it is good for them; and it may be that they may like something while it is evil for them. Now let it be known that Allah knows best what is good and what is evil while people know not.”   


    This verse shows that Muslim did not fight for the booty. They were too weak to carry out the struggle against the might forces of the idolaters that were bent upon their destruction, and also they disliked war. Foreign critics of the history of the advent of Islam are quite mistaken to pretend that the Prophet had now (at Medina) to resort to the sword to accomplish what is preaching at Mecca had failed to do ([1]).


    It is to be borne in mind that not a single instance is recorded in the whole of the Prophet’s history showing the conversion of an unbeliever under the pressure of the sword, not a single instance is recorded of an expedition being undertaken to convert a people. If ever in the world’s history a people were compelled to fight in defence of a grand cause, no nobler instance of it could be given than that of the Prophet Muhammad with his few faithful followers braving the whole of Arabia in the midst of enemies, who had taken the sword to annihilate them for no other reason than that they were holders of the cause of the Unity of God. The injunction upon Muslims to fight is but an injunction to fight to end persecution and to establish religious freedom and to save the houses of worship of every true religion from being ruined. This noble object is made quite clear by verse 40 of Chapter XXII, of which the following is a rendering:


    Those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause except that they say: ‘Our Lord is Allah’. Certainly there would have been destroyed cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques where Allah’s name is much remembered should God had not enjoined upon the believers defensive war against the persecution of aggressive people and surely will Allah grant victory to those who defend His cause. Most surely God is Mighty and Powerful.”


    This verse ought to remind those foreign malignant critics who charge Islam of being a religion of fanaticism that the religious freedom which was established by Islam in a country like idolatrous Arabia over fourteen hundred years ago has not yet been surpassed by the most civilized and tolerant of nations. It is noticeable that the lives of believers are to be sacrificed not only to stop their own persecution by their opponents and to save their own mosques, but to save churches, synagogues and cloisters as well; in fact, to establish religious freedom against any persecution or oppression by infidels and idolaters. No other religious teacher had taught that noble principle. Muslims closely followed these directions, and every commander of any army had express orders to respect all houses where God was worshipped and even the cloisters of monks, along with their inmates.


    In Chapter IX, verse 29, we read the following interpreted injunction:

    Fight those who believe not in God, nor in the day of judgment, nor do they prohibit what God and His Apostle have prohibited nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, among those who were given the Scriptures (Jews and Christians)until they pay the jizia with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.”


    jizia”  in Arabic stands for a poll-tax levied from those who were vanquished by the Muslim defensive forces and yet did not accept to embrace Islam, but were willing to live under the protection of the Muslims, and were thus tacitly willing to submit to the rulings of the Muslim state, saving only their personal liberty of conscience as regarded themselves. There was no account fixed for the jizia, and in any case it was merely a symbol, an acknowledgement that those whose religion was tolerated would in their turn not interfere with the preaching and progress of Islam.

    Imam Shaf’i suggests one dinar a year for the poll-tax, about half a sovereign. The tax, however, varied in amount and there were exemptions for the poor, for females and children and for slaves, if any, and for monks and hermits. The jizia, being a tax on able-bodied males of military age, it was in a sense a commutation for military service. It was partly symbolic and partly a commutation for military service, but as the amount was insignificant and the exemptions numerous, in symbolic character predominated.


    As to the directions given to the Muslims to fight the followers of the scriptures, the subject requires some explanation.


    The last word on the wars with idolaters of Arabia having been said, the verse under consideration introduces the subject of fighting with the followers of the Book. Though the Jews had for a long time assisted the idolaters in their struggle to uproot Islam, the great Christian power of the Roman Empire had only just mobilized its forces for the subjection of the new religion, and the Tabouk expedition followed, which constitutes the subject-matter of a large portion of what follows in this Chapter IX of the Koran. The object of this Christian mobilization was simply the subjection of the Muslims. The Koran neither required the idolaters to be forced to accept Islam, nor did it require the Muslims to compel the Christians to embrace the new religion. They, on the other hand, had determined to compel the Muslims to give up Islam and to bring  them under subjection. Therefore, the orders given to the Muslims to fight the people of the Scriptures as mentioned in the above verse was merely given with a view to save the religion from the threatening oppression of the Christian forces and to repel the latter. The followers of the Scripture are described in the verse as not believing in God and the day of resurrection as long as they do not follow the religion of Truth , because they do not attribute to Allah the perfect attribute of His Unity by ascribing to Him a son, and do not understand the real nature of life after death when every soul will be punished for any evil deed committed in this world. It may also be added that the permission  or order to fight, as given to the Muslims, is subject always to the condition that the enemy should first take up the sword, “Fight for the cause of God with those who fight with you” (II-190)The Prophet never overstepped this limit. He fought against the Arabs when they took up the sword to destroy the Muslims, and he led an expedition against the Christian when the Roman Empire  had first mobilized its forces with the object of subjugating the Muslims. And so scrupulous was he that when he found that the enemy had not yet taken the initiative but desisted, he did not attack the Roman forces, but returned with his expedition without fighting.


    The following verse throws further light on the conviction that the Islamic Institution of religious wars is exclusively defensive, with the object of repelling any aggression, persecution and encroachment carried by the parties of unbelievers. Thus verse 39 – VIII instructs the Muslims as follows:


    “ And fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion of Allah shall have been solely established. But if they – the persecutors – desist from fighting the Muslims you must also desist, for God rewards men according to their deeds, for He regards and knows all that is being done.”


    Now we have to quote a few traditions of the Prophet on the subject of Jihad on which a whole chapter is dedicated in the authentic books of Hadith, especially those collections of the Devine Imams Al-Bukhari and Muslim.


    The Prophet is recorded to have said:

    “ God is sponsor for him who goes forth to fight  in defence  of the cause of God. If he be not killed, he shall return home with honours and rewards and booty, but if he be killed in the battle he shall be taken to paradise.”

    “ I swear by God I should like to be killed in battle in defence of the cause of God and be again brought to life, then be killed and brought to life again, then be killed again and brought to life,  so that I may obtain new rewards from God every time.”


     “He who assists another with arms to fight in defence of the cause of God is as a champion and is sharer of God’s rewards. And he who stays behind (being physically or otherwise unable to take active part in battle) to take charge of the family of the warrior is even as a champion in war.”


    “This religion (of Islam) will ever be established, even to the day of resurrection, as long as Muslims do fight in defence of it.”

    “Being killed in defence of the cause of God covers all sins excepting the sin of debt if deliberately not refunded.”

    “He who dies and has not even said in his heart: “Would to God I were a champion that could die while defending the cause of God,’ is even as a hypocrite” (i.e. not an earnest believer).

    “Guarding the frontiers of Islam for even one day is exceedingly meritorious with God.”

    “The hell fire shall not touch the legs of him who shall be covered with the dust of battle-filed while fighting for the cause of God” ([2])

    “Religious war is permanently established until the day of judgment (meaning the ordinance respecting Jihad)”([3])


    Observance of Jihad

    The sacred injunction concerning religious war “jihad is sufficiently observed when it is carried on by any one party or tribe of Muslims, and it is then no longer of any force with respect to the rest. The observance in the degree above mentioned suffices, because war is not a positive injunction, as it is in its nature murderous and destructive, and is enjoined only for the purpose of repelling aggression or persecution started by non-believers against the due advancement of Islam or for crushing its message; and when this end of defending the cause is answered by any single tribe or party of Muslims making war, the obligation is no longer binding upon the rest, in the same manner as the prayers for the dead, when answered by some Muslims, they are no longer binding on the rest. If, however, no Muslims were to make war in defence of actual oppression against the cause of God, the whole of the Muslim community would incure the criminality of neglecting it.


    [1]) ) Vide Wherry’s Commentary.

    ([2]) “Hidaya” Book of Traditions, Chapter on “Jihad”.

    ([3]) Vide “Authentic Collections of Traditions”, by Divine Imams Al-Bukhari, Muslim, etc., in Chapter on “Jihad”.

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