Peaceful jihad is the approach, attitude, and practice that ensure that the Muslim is in continuous progress toward the ideal state of man: perfect servanthood to Allah. The failure to recognize peaceful jihad as the main, not only as one, form of jihad is bound to reflect negatively on the soul and character of the Muslim person and his spiritual progress. This failure effectively indicates the person’s willingness to cohabit with various bad qualities that he has.
The mere acceptance of Allah as the one Lord and Muhammad as His Messenger without trying to emulate the jihad of the Prophet would not be enough to purify the person spiritually. Those who are Muslims in name only can do considerably more damage to the public image of Islam than an outright enemy of Islam. It is true that no misbehavior of any number of Muslims can change the beautiful truth of Islam, but it is also true that many people develop ill-informed views of Islam when observing such misdeeds. If Muslims can be so ignorant about Islam, then it should come as no surprise that non-Muslims know more distorting myths than facts about this great religion, with Muslims being main suppliers of those myths.
The endemically widespread unawareness of peaceful jihad resulted in the Qur’anic concept of jihad being equated with fighting in the way of Allah. This misconception was precipitated by an equally important error of equating non-equals, this time including the terms “jihad” and “qital.” When this confusion is coupled with the Qur’anic fact that jihad is a permanent duty on the Muslim, it becomes inevitable to conclude that fighting in the way of Allah is a timeless duty. The consequences of this misguided conclusion are made even worse by the fact that the rules governing fighting in the way of Allah are also misunderstood. Jihad is erroneously reduced to fighting in the way of Allah, and the conditions under which such fighting becomes permissible are also misunderstood.
This compound recipe of confusion and misunderstanding is behind the rife abuse and interchangeable use of the concepts of jihad and fighting in the way of Allah. One form of the abuse of these concepts has been portraying them as the means to forcing an Islamic state. This view of jihad and fighting in the way of Allah has no foundations in the Qur’an. This particularly dangerous misconception has played in the hands of militant individuals and groups who dream of leading the sought after Islamic state. The name of Islam is then fully utilized to cater for personal ambitions. This approach of putting principles in the service of personal ambitions is no different from what politicians and militants of various backgrounds and affiliations did and do everywhere in the world.
Those who don’t know the true meaning of jihad, let alone practice it, can never create an Islamic state. Some of them may take control of a country and start applying what they consider to be Islamic law. That, contrary to what they believe, does not turn any country into an Islamic state. A leader who is ignorant of what jihad is may well fail even to rule with justice, never mind set up an Islamic state. An Islamic state is a state of the highest standards, which can be founded only by people of the highest standards who possess both knowledge and piety. Proper understanding and application of jihad are essential requirements for any Muslim who would like to provide genuine Islamic leadership.
One very important point that should be made clear here is that while jihad requires a degree of understanding of Islamic concepts and issues, scholarly study of Islam is no substitute for jihad. Islamic scholarship does not guarantee that a scholar is a true Muslim. An Islamic educational institute might graduate scholars in various fields of Islamic thought, but those graduates would not be by default mujahidin (those who do jihad) in the Qur’anic sense of jihad. Seeking knowledge is a major duty on the Muslim, as I already mentioned in Chapter 1, but putting that knowledge into practice is the ultimate aim.
A knowledgeable scholar who is short of jihad is like someone who worked hard to gain knowledge just to waste what he earned. The rulings of such a person are very likely to be influenced as much by his undisciplined and uncontrolled lower self as by his degree of knowledge. This scholar cannot provide sound and trusted leadership. If in any doubt, a quick look at the atrocities and injustice committed in supposedly Islamic states should remove those doubts. If still not totally convinced, one only needs to remember the numerous terrified Muslims who had to flee their supposedly Islamic states seeking refuge in non-Islamic states. This sad fact is certain to put to rest all lingering doubts.
There have been, and perhaps will always be, countries that claim to be “Islamic.” These are simply countries whose population is mostly Muslims and which apply a legal system that reflects a particular doctrinal interpretation of Islam. Rather than serving Islam, as these states claim, they did and do the most damage to the image Islam. Those who do not know much about Islam are likely to try to understand Islam through the examples set by those states. The reality is that there is no true Islamic state anywhere on this planet today.
Those who dream up an Islamic state often refer to the early history of Islam to validate their attempts. In the course of doing so, they overlook fundamental differences between the history they cite and the one they try to create. It is true, of course, that the Prophet did establish what can be described as an Islamic state. However, before hastening to draw conclusions from this, we need to remember a few very important facts.
First, it was the Prophet himself, the perfect Muslim, who founded the state. Second, the creation of that state was a byproduct of the evolvement of great Muslim individuals, not the other way around. It is very significant that the Meccan verses focused on what might be described as the process of developing the individual, whereas it was al-Madina that later witnessed the revelation of the relatively large number of verses that regulated the affairs of the emerging Islamic community.
Third, historical events cannot simply be copied to and recreated in a totally different era. Those who fail to recognize this simple fact are certainly incapable of creating and leading a state, Islamic or otherwise. They try to apply their misunderstanding of the Qur’an and Islamic history in a world they have also misunderstood.
Copyright © 2004 Louay Fatoohi
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