Mar 302008
 
This article is from the second edition of Jihad in the Qur’an: The Truth from the Source. The book is now in its third edition.

 
Another progeny of misunderstanding the concept of fighting in the way of Allah is illustrated in the way some Muslims react to aggression, falling in the trap of responding to evil with evil. It is an undeniable fact that in modern times Muslims have constituted the vast majority of victims of persecution where the persecutors and the victims belong to different religions. Many major accidents of genocide in the last century have seen Muslims forced to play the victims. If the suffering of the Muslim population in many countries at the hand of their European colonists is now history, the grand scale massacring of Muslims in places such as Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Bosnia, Chechnya, and Kosovo is very much today’s news. Some of the crimes against masses of Muslims have been going on for decades now under the watchful eyes of the world. Of course, there are always sickening excuses to justify those mass murders and acts of genocide; man can find justifications even for the worst and most evil acts.
 
This is not the right place to discuss how masses of Muslims were and are being victimized. These facts are well documented, though not necessarily equally known. The importance of studying those painful events cannot be exaggerated, but let’s focus here on the response of Muslims to some of those atrocities.
 
The term “jihad” has been used by Muslim individuals and groups to describe their equally atrocious vengeful retaliations to atrocities committed against them or other Muslims. From the Qur’anic perspective, such reactions violate clear Qur’anic commands that prohibit the Muslims from responding to unjust aggression with the same. I have already cited in §4.4 a number of such verses including this one:
 

O you who believe! Stand firm for Allah, [as] witnesses with justice. And let not hatred of a people cause you not to act equitably; act equitably; that is nearer to dutifulness. And act dutifully toward Allah; surely, Allah is aware of what you do (5.8).

Crimes against Muslims must not be allowed to turn Muslims into criminals. Jihad, and ultimately Islam itself, is here to control the drives to commit evil actions, even if they were reactions to evil crimes. While atrocious, non-Islamic responses to crimes against Muslims are themselves crimes in equal measure, calling those evil acts “jihad” is a crime against Islam. The Muslims who behave in this way are far from serving Islam. They do the name of Islam a big disservice while serving only their lower selves.

Muslims must protect fellow Muslims, and for that matter any victims, against aggression. They must also try to bring the aggressors to justice. What Muslims must never do, however, is allow those criminals to turn them into similar criminals. If Muslims fail to adhere to the principles of the Qur’an when reacting to the victimization of Muslims, they would simply help their enemies in achieving their goals. In fact, they would be joining their enemies against themselves.  

          

Copyright © 2004 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Mar 112008
 

This article is from Purification of the Mind (Jila’ Al-Khatir)

* Woe to you! You are unceasingly busy accumulating one gold coin on top of another. These will be scorpions and snakes that will bite you. The gold coin is the house of fire and the silver coin is the house of cares. This world is an abode of engagements and the hereafter is an abode of terrors, and the servant is between them until he is finally made to settle, either in Paradise or in the Fire. O young man, do not consume that whose branch and root you do not know, for the consumption of prohibited things darkens the heart. How could the impatient person consume what is lawful? The person who consumes only lawful things is one who has patience to fight his lower self, passion, and devil. It is the patient warrior who consumes lawful things only. O Allah, grant us what is lawful and keep us away from the unlawful! Grant us from Your favor, good, and nearness, and grant our hearts, innermost beings, and limbs and senses from the same. Amen.

* The wealth that you have is not yours but it is rather a deposit that has been entrusted to you. It is to be shared between yourselves and the poor. Do not appropriate the deposit, otherwise its Owner will take it from you. When one of you cooks a pot of food, he must not eat from it alone; he must feed from it his neighbor, the beggar who comes to his door, and the guest who asks for hospitality. Do not turn away the beggars when you are capable of giving them, for turning them away results in the removal of the favors. The Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him) is reported to have said: “When someone turns a beggar away from his door without an acceptable excuse, the guardian angels will not come close to his door for forty mornings.” You have made it common practice for your tongues to say the following when beggars come: “May Allah ease your hardship. May Allah help you!” You turn him away despite your ability to give him. What makes you certain that Allah would not enrich him and impoverish you? Woe to you! Were not you poor without a single atom then Allah enriched you, removed your poverty, and increased your benefits and sustenance beyond your expectations? Then, He sent to you a poor person, someone whom He referred to you, to console him with something of what He has given you, yet you turn him away in disappointment and do not accept His assignment. He will soon re possess all that He has given you, return you to your poverty and beggary, cast hardness toward you in the hearts of the creatures, and at the same time leave you with little patience. O Allah, grant us wakefulness before death, repentance before death, guidance before death, knowingness before death, doing business with You before death, returning to Your door before death, and entering to the abode of Your nearness before death! Amen.

* O slaves of this world, O slaves of the hereafter! You are ignorant of Allah (mighty and glorified is He); of this world, which is His; and of the hereafter, which is His! You are walls. As for you, this world is your idol; and as for you, the hereafter is your idol. In your case, lustful desires and pleasures are your idol; and in yours, praise, commendation, and people’s acceptance of you are your idol. Everything other than Allah is an idol. The people of Allah wish for His face. Woe to you! The Resurrection is close to you. It is merely a nap followed by a wake up. It is a retreat followed by an advance: “Is not the morning nigh?” (from 11.81).

The Day of Resurrection is the day of the pious, the day of the victory of the pious, the day of happiness of the pious. The pious are those who are so in both their private and public lives, in affliction and adversity, and in what they love and hate. They are the servants of Allah (mighty and glorified is He) and His brave men. They are the brave men and the heroes. They are the masters and the chiefs. They have the foundation of faith and its edifice. They avert attributing partners to Allah and hypocrisy, outwardly and inwardly. They renounce this world and the creatures. They do not satisfy the needs of their lower selves.
You will not attain nearness to Allah (mighty and glorified is He) until you leave everyone other than Him. How can you obtain what is in the presence of Allah when you love this world and work hard for it? When you donate some of your worldly possessions, you donate the worst of what you have! When fine food was brought to anyone of the righteous predecessors, he used to say to his servant: “Take this food to the house of the poor so and so.” Do not you feel ashamed? When you have to pay obligatory alms, you produce the worst gold you have! You produce bad coins instead of good ones, silver instead of jewels. When you have something that is worth a gold coin, you evaluate it at half its real value in order to understate the obligatory alms that you must pay to the poor. And when you have in your possession some food, you donate what is unsavory and eat the tasty. You worship your lower self and you are unable to disagree with it. You are a follower of your passion, devil, and evil companions. The pious are free of any attachments to their families or relatives. They are one in a million. Do not exert any effort as Allah (mighty and glorified is He) will not accept from you other than what is pure. He will not give a seat at His table to someone unless he is clean. He does not allow on His table any meat other than what has been slaughtered by the hand of the person who will eat from that plate. He does not accept the meat of the dead. The seeker of the creatures and this world is a rotten, dead corpse. Attributing creatures and means to Allah is a filthy thing. Our Lord does not accept other than what is offered for the sake of His face. He does not take a share of anything that is not offered to Him exclusively. He relieves the partners attributed to Him from all obligations of this partnership.

* You have made your only concern to work hard and secure your allotted shares in this world and protect them. You have forgotten death and what is after it. You have forgotten Allah and the fact that He can change things and left Him behind your backs. You have turned away from Him and accompanied this world, the creatures, and the means. Most of you worship the gold coin and the silver coin and neglect worshipping the Creator, the Provider. All these calamities are the product of your lower selves, so you have to imprison them in the jail of strife and you have to cut off their supplies and prevent them from acquiring what they like. Cut off their supplies so that all that they wish for will be a slice of dried bread and a drink of water. This will then come to be all that they long for. If you fatten them by satisfying all sorts of lustful desires, they will devour you. As one righteous person has said: “If you fatten your dog, it will devour you.” What good is to be expected from them when Allah (high is He) has said about them: “surely the lower self commands committing evil, except such as my Lord bestows mercy on; my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful” (from 12.53)?

* Woe to you! O servant of this world, O servant of the creatures, the cloak, the turban, the gold coin, the silver coin, praise, and dispraise! Woe to you! The whole of you is dedicated to this world, the whole of you is dedicated to things other than your Lord (mighty and glorified is He). Where is His share of you in your private and public lives? He has created you only to worship Him. Everyone who has reason, intelligence, and proper thinking worships his Lord (mighty and glorified is He) and consults Him in his affairs, whereas one who is reasonless does not do this, and his heart is metamorphosed because of his interest in the creatures and his love for this world.

Many people lay claim to Islam by their outward, yet they say as the disbelievers say: “There is nothing but our life in this world; we die and live, and nothing destroys us but time” (from 45.24). The disbelievers have said this and many of you say it but try to conceal it. They say it through the actions they commit, hence they are worthless in my eyes and they do not carry the weight of a gnat’s wing; so what weight would they have the sight of the True One (mighty and glorified is He)? They have no reason and no faculty to distinguish between harm and benefit.

O servants of Allah, remember death and what is after it! Remember the True One (mighty and glorified is He) and His management of His creatures. Reflect on His Lordliness and greatness. Reflect on that when you have withdrawn from the company of your families and when the other eyes have gone to sleep. Once the heart has become suitable for Allah (mighty and glorified is He), He will not allow it to remain involved in buying and selling and relying on the means. He will distinguish it, save it, raise it up from its fallen state, give it a seat at His door, and let it sleep on the lap of His subtle kindness. O you who have turned away from your Lord (mighty and glorified is He), you will see when the dust has cleared! You will soon see the destruction of your house and the strike of the True One (mighty and glorified is He) against you if you do not back down from your wrongdoing, pay heed, and take notice.

Woe to you! The robe of your practice of Islam is shredded, the robe of your faith is unclean. Your faith has no substance, your heart is not open to Islam, your innermost being is impure, your breast is not expanded for Islam, and your inward is in ruins although your outward is prospering. The pages of your record are full, this world of yours which you love so much is leaving, and the grave and the hereafter are approaching you. Pay attention to your affairs and what you will be soon facing, for your death may come today, or even this very hour, and you will be separated from your hopes. The person who really knows what he is seeking sees whatever he has to do as insignificant. The person who is truthful about love does not sit with other than His Beloved. Someone may ask: “I have heard about Paradise and the bliss it contains through His (mighty and glorified is He) following words: ‘And in it is all that the souls desire and the eyes find sweet’ (from 43.71), so what is its price?” We would answer: “Allah (mighty and glorified is He) has said: ‘Allah has bought from the believers their lives and their wealth for the Paradise they are to have’” (from 9.111). Hand over the soul and wealth and then Paradise will be yours.

* O young man, there is no Paradise before this world and no getting close to Paradise. The servant comes near this world and wishes to possess it. Then once its shortcomings have become visible to him, he will renounce it and come to be content from it with a single palm date and what is indispensable. He will take that from it with the hand of the Law, piety, and pious restraint. He will take that with the hand of the heart not the hand of the lower self, passion, and the Devil. When all this has happened to him, Paradise will come to him, because renouncing this world is the price that must be paid for Paradise and the key to it. So, when his heart has entered it and his feet have settled there, he will be able to walk, and its affairs will become easy for him. While he is in this state he will see the men of the True One (mighty and glorified is He) walking toward Him. He will ask them: “Where are you going?” They will say: “To the door of the King.” They will fill him with yearning for Him, draw his attention to Him, urge him to renounce Paradise and what he has, and say to him: “We are among those about whom Allah (mighty and glorified is He) has said: ‘They seek His face’” (from 6.52). The land of Paradise will become too strait for him despite its spaciousness, and he will seek to leave it, pleading to it: “Show me the door so that I can go out. I have become like a bird in a cage. My heart is imprisoned in your jail, for the previous world is the prison of the believer, whereas you are the prison of the knower.” He will then leave it running and catch up with the people who “seek His face.” This is the way of the seekers. As for the way of those who are attracted, the lightening flash of nearness will snatch them at the first step not gradually and without means. O Allah, attract our hearts to You and “give us good in this world and good in the hereafter and protect us from the torment of the Fire.”

* No one can benefit from poverty other than the patient believer who practices pious restraint. How could he not be patient with it when this world is his prison? Have you ever seen a prisoner seek joy in his jail? The believer wishes to leave this world, wishes to escape from it. There is an enmity between himself and his lower self. He wishes for it enduring hunger, thirst, deprivation of clothing, and humiliation so that it can help him be obedient. Poverty is useful for him and he is able to endure it with patience. O traders of dates! Look after your dates and you will succeed!

Woe to you! You claim that you obey me, yet you travel away from me! You claim that you obey me; where are you going then? You are building walls. You work without sincerity, you start things but you never finish them, you are an outward with no inward, you are all about creatures with no Creator, you are full of this world with no hereafter, and you worship with no knowledge.

* O young man, why do you care about this world? When it gives you things, it keeps you busy, and when it deprives you of things, it fills you with sighs of disappointment. If you have too little of this world you become weak, and if you have too much of it you feel too heavy. While any of you is in the midst of things that he loves, diseases, illnesses, grieves, and cares attack him. There is no benefit in it for anyone other than the person who spends it in obeying Allah (mighty and glorified is He).

* O people, empty yourselves of the cares of this world as much as you can! Do not wish for something that will depart you soon. If the believer could renounce his food, drink, clothes, and wife, he would do. If he could rid himself of his lower self, natural inclination, and passion so that he would not seek anything other than his Lord (mighty and glorified is He), he would do. Prevent your tongues from talking about things that do not concern you. Increase your remembrance of your Lord (mighty and glorified is He). Stay at home and go out only when necessary and to attend the Friday prayer, collective prayers, and sessions of remembrance. If any of you can work from home, let him do so.

* Every heart that is full of this world, lustful desires, and pleasures is a shell that is only suitable for the Fire. If you find in your heart anything from this world, you should know that you will be punished. Allah (high is He) has said: “I have not created the jinn and the human beings but to worship Me. I do not seek sustenance from them or ask them to feed Me. Allah is the Provider, the Powerful One, the Strong One” (51.56 58). Most of you are under an illusion — laying claim to Islam, yet possessing nothing of what Islam is about. Woe to you! The mere name of Islam will bring you no benefits. You rush to meet its requirements outwardly but not inwardly. Therefore, your work is worthless. Your outward is in the miḥrāb,1 but your inward is indulgent in dissimulation and hypocrisy. Your outward is the outward of a hermit, whereas your inward is full of unlawful things and you have a mistress at home! The Law will not call to your punishment outwardly because you have not shown any infringement. However, Knowledge will condemn you to hatred and castigation inwardly. Suppose that you escaped the punishment today, who would save you tomorrow [at the Resurrection]?

* Respond to the Messenger, the Messenger of Allah (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him), when he calls you to what revives you. What can a dead heart hear? How can it see? As for the heart that is dead because of its love for this world, love for the creatures, and pinning hopes on them, how can it hear or see?

Know this world and then you will renounce it. Know the lower self and then you will disobey it. Know the creatures and then you will renounce them. O you who are dead at heart because of seeking this world, wishing for it, and loving it! As for you, O ascetics, your quest for Paradise has constrained you from attaining to your Lord (mighty and glorified is He)! Woe to you! You have missed the way. Get the neighbor before the house, and the companion before the way.

* If you glorify this world’s tyrants, Pharaohs, kings, and rich yet forget Allah (mighty and glorified is He) and do not glorify Him, the verdict on you will be as the verdict on the idol worshipper. Those whom you glorify will become your idols. Worship the Creator of the idols and then the idols will humble themselves to you. Draw near to Allah (mighty and glorified is He) and then the creatures will come near to you. As much as you glorify Allah (mighty and glorified is He), His creatures glorify you. As much as you love the Creator, the creatures love you. As much as you fear Him, His creatures fear you. As much as you honor His commandments and prohibitions, His creatures honor you.

* O seekers of this world, O lovers of this world, is it other than a temporary maidservant in comparison with Paradise? Paradise is the resident female slave. Paradise is the lady. Aḥmad bin Ḥanbal (may Allah, high is He, show mercy to him) used to say: “I feel sorry for hearts that have been corrupted by the love of this world although they have memorized the Qur’an.”

* You earn instead of religion worldly status and you amass rents, gold coins, clothes, houses, maidservants, horses, and servants. All these things will soon be separated from you. Return to your Lord. Reverse your actions in order to succeed. Give up falsehood, confusion, and madness. What is the point in collecting something that you will have to leave for others to inherit while you will alone face the reckoning and interrogation about it? You will not benefit even a single atom from what you accumulate. Nothing of it will fall into your hand, yet it is you who will have to face the reckoning, punishment, loss, and regret. You have no reason. Buy reason from me. Sit in front of me and listen to the good advice that I offer you. I know what you do not know and I see of the hereafter what you cannot see. Woe to you! It is righteous works that protect you from the torment when you are in your graves. The Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him) is reported to have said: “When the believer is taken down into his grave, the charitable alms [that he gave] will sit at his head, his prayer to his right, his fasting to his left, and patience at his feet. The torment will then approach him near his head, so the charitable alms will say: ‘There is no way for you from my side.’ Then it will approach him from the right, so prayer will say: ‘There is no way for you from my side.’ It will then approach him from the left, so fasting will say: ‘There is no way for you from my side.’ Then patience will say [to the charitable alms, prayer, and fasting]: ‘I am at the ready, if you need me I will help you’”.

* Be in this world with renouncing hearts. Do not settle in it as if it is the homeland, for it is not the homeland or the abode of permanent residence. There is another homeland. This abode is the prison of the believer in comparison with the abode of the hereafter. Therefore, the Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him) has said: “This world is the believer’s prison and the disbeliever’s Paradise.” It remains his prison even if he lives a thousand years in it, enjoying its bliss, whereas the hereafter is his salvation, happiness, Paradise, bliss, reward, empire, authority, and wealth. As for the practicing, truthful knower, his reward will be available in this world before the hereafter, which is nearness to his Lord (mighty and glorified is He). He wishes that Paradise will never be created. He sees the Resurrection and paradise too crowded. He can see that the Resurrection will result in the disclosure of his secret because on that Day the innermost beings will show on the faces. He can see that he will be raised from his grave covered with jewels and dressed up in fine clothes and will be received by processions and youths of Paradise, yet his heart is ever renouncing all that. He hates crowdedness for he feels completely satisfied with his Lord (mighty and glorified is He). He loves the Benefactor not the benefits. He loves to enter into the presence of the King from the door of the innermost being not in processions. He dislikes crossing Paradise because he has given up everything other than Him. He wishes not to see Paradise so that he will not become attached to it, he will not be changed by it, his footsteps will not end before reaching his Lord (mighty and glorified is He), and he will not be occupied with anything other than Him. What a loser is one who does not come to know Allah (mighty and glorified is He) in this world before the hereafter, smell the breeze of His nearness, eat from His food and His grace, and quench his thirst by the drink of His intimacy.

* The Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him) is reported to have said: “Woe to the person who leaves his dependents behind him with good things but come to meet his Lord with bad things!” I find that this is what the majority of you do. They amass silver and gold coins with a hand that is not the hand of pious restraint and leave them to their families and children to inherit. The reckoning will be for them to face, whereas it will be for others to enjoy the wealth they left. Sorrow will be for them to suffer, whereas joy will be for others. O you who will leave this world to others to inherit, listen to the words of your Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him)! Do not leave for them what is unlawful and come to meet Allah (mighty and glorified is He) in the company of evil and torment. The hypocrite entrusts his children to the wealth that he leaves for them to inherit, whereas the believer entrusts his children to his Lord (mighty and glorified is He). Even if he were to leave for them this entire world with all that it has, he would not entrust them to it. He is experienced and well aware that many people placed their children in the care of the wealth they left for them, yet their children were humiliated and impoverished and begged from people. The blessing was taken away from the wealth they left for them. The blessing disappeared from it because it was not collected by the hand of pious restraint and because they relied on it, placed their children in its care, and forgot their Lord (mighty and glorified is He).

The hypocrites are slaves of the creatures, the silver and gold coins, authority, power, and earnings, and they are slaves of the wealthy, kings, and sultans, while they are enemies of the person who calls them to their Lord (mighty and glorified is He), guides them to Him, and shows them the ugliness of what they are involved in. The believers are always with their Lord (mighty and glorified is He), in affliction and in adversity, in hardship and in prosperity, at times of being given and at times of having things withheld from him, in good health and in sickness, in poverty and in affluence, when people gather around them and when people keep away from them, and under all circumstances. Their hearts do not leave Him, not even for a single moment. They are Muslims, submissive, obedient, satisfied, and compliant. They have given up disputation. They are unconscious and nothing awakens them other than the commandments and prohibitions.

* The hour of courage is an hour of patience. Repent all of you this moment, with all of your hearts. Remember death and what is after it. The Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him) used to say: “Remember frequently the destroyer of pleasures, for whenever it is remembered, when there is little of something, it increases it, and when there is excess of something, it decreases it.” Remembering death is a remedy for the disease of the lower selves and food and benefits for the hearts. Forgetting death hardens the heart and makes it too lazy to exercise obedience, whereas being concerned with the creatures and seeing them as the source of harm and benefit drive it into disbelief, darken it, and screen it off from its Lord (mighty and glorified is He). Reliance on the means decreases faith, puts out the light of certitude, screens off the heart from its Lord (mighty and glorified is He), invokes His hatred, causes it to fall from His grace, and locks up the door of His nearness.

Alas for you, how can you be prepared to die when you are in the state you are in now, with your hearts being empty of faith, certitude, belief in the oneness of God, sincerity, and knowingness of your Lord (mighty and glorified is He)? How great your objection to your Lord (mighty and glorified is He) is! Woe to you! Who do you think you are? How impertinent you are! You have made objecting to your Lord (mighty and glorified is He) by the night and day your only business. The person who objects to His Lord will not find the breeze of nearness — not even a single atom of it. Give up objecting to your Lord (mighty and glorified is He), O you whose hearts are impoverished, O you who have turned your backs to faith! O Allah, gather us together with those whom You love, separate us from those whom You hate, and “give us good in this world and good in the hereafter and protect us from the torment of the Fire.”

* O seekers of this world, as long as you are seeking her, you will remain in tiredness! She seeks anyone who runs away from her. She tests the person who escapes from her by running after him. If he looks back at her, she takes this as an indication that he is a liar. She will catch him, put him at her service, and then kill him. But if he does not look back at her, she will conclude that he is truthful and put herself at his service. The person can benefit from her only after renouncing her and running away from her. Run away from her, for she is a murderer, cheat, and witch. Leave her with your hearts before she leaves you. Renounce her before she renounces you. Do not marry her, but if you marry her do not let your religion be her dowry. She marries then gets divorced. How fast she marries and gets divorced! If you seek her by means of your religion then your religion will be her dowry, for the religion of the hypocrite is the dowry of this world, the blood of the martyred believer is the dowry of the hereafter, and the blood of the lover is the dowry of the nearness to the Master.

Woe to you! As long as you serve this world, she will harm you and will not do you any good. But if she comes to serve you, she will be beneficial to you and will not harm you. Evict her from your heart and then you will see her good, service, and humility. She appears to the believer’s heart in the best form, wearing all kinds of ornaments. He asks her: “Who are you?” She answers: “I am this world.” Then he turns away from her, and immediately her flaws become visible and its beauty turns into ugliness. Woe to you! You lay claim to renunciation of this world, yet you love the gold and silver coins, run after them, and humiliate yourself to the kings and wealthy people for their sake. You have lied in your claim to renunciation! One of the righteous people (may Allah show mercy to him) is reported to have said: “Once I saw in a dream a beautiful, attractive woman, so I asked her: ‘who are you?’ She replied: ‘I am this world.’ I said to her: ‘I seek refuge in Allah from you and your evil.’ She replied: ‘Dislike the gold and silver coins and then you will be protected from my evil’”.

O liars, one of the essential attributes of the person who is truthful in obeying the will of his Lord (mighty and glorified is He) is that he hates anything other than Him in both the inward and outward realms! The outward realm is represented by this world, its lustful desires, its sons and their possessions, the praise and commendation of creatures, and their welcoming attitude and acceptance. The inward realm is represented by Paradise and its bliss. Anyone who meets these requirements will be truly obeying the will of Allah. His heart will draw near to his Lord (mighty and glorified is He) and he will sit near to Him and be His guest. At this point, this world and its plate and the hereafter and its plate will both come. The former will come with its ornaments and the latter will come with its modesty. They will both become maidservants for him. Their plates will be for the lower self not for the heart. The food of this world and the hereafter is for the lower self, whereas the food of nearness is for the heart. What I am calling to is what Allah (mighty and glorified is He) wants His creatures to do, not what you call to.

O hypocrites, the sensible person is one who reflects on the ultimate consequences and is not deceived by how things appear at first. The sensible person is one who carefully reviews this world and the hereafter, both of which are maidservants for the people of Allah — serve them and obey their orders. He listens to this world describing itself, and the hereafter speaks to him, so he buys from it what is useful to him. He renounces this world because it is ephemeral and turns away from the hereafter because it is not eternal but a created thing and because it screens off from its Lord (mighty and glorified is He) anyone who binds himself to it and wishes for it instead of Him. This world will say to him: “Do not seek me and do not marry me for I keep moving from one house to another, from one king to another. Whenever I get married to someone, I kill him and seize his wealth. Beware of me for I change husbands continuously and I am murderous and perfidious. I do not keep my word with the person that I make a covenant with.” The hereafter will say to him: “I am marked for buying and selling, as my Lord (mighty and glorified is He) has said: ‘Allah has bought from the believers their lives and their wealth for the Paradise they are to have’ (from 9.111). I can see on your face the mark of nearness, so do not buy me, for Allah (mighty and glorified is He) will not let you stay with me.” So if he achieves this, abandons them, and distances himself from them seeking his Lord (mighty and glorified is He), He will send this world back to him so he will get his allotted shares thereof, without him doing that out of necessity, and He will return the hereafter to him to be his housekeeper.

O seekers of this and that, listen to me! O you who are ill with this and that! What I have explained to you is a medicine, so use it. When the person renounces something, that thing starts to seek him. Renounce the creatures so that the Creator will love you. The likeness of the beloved who is in the presence of Allah (high is He) is as the likeness of a patient on the lap of a gracious physician who personally attends to him.

O people, listen to my words and renounce this world for your desire for and love of it screen you off from the hereafter and from the nearness to your Lord (mighty and glorified is He) and blind the eyes of your hearts. Your stay with this world screens you off from the hereafter and your stay with the lower self screens you off from the True One (mighty and glorified is He). O ignorant ones, do not seek this world at the expense of your quest for the hereafter so you lose in the end! The hereafter is a mistress, whereas this world is her female slave; the slave follows the owner. This world is inferior and the hereafter is superior; the inferior one follows the superior. Do not eat the food of this world before taking the antidote which is the renunciation of this world and the departure from it with your heart, from the sea of wisdom to the sea of divine providence, from the medicine to the physician who teaches you how to differentiate between its poison and meat. Have you not heard and seen that the snake charmer seizes the snake, slaughters it, cooks it, extracts its poison, and then eats its meat? The True One (mighty and glorified is He) assigns the poison of this world to the disbelievers, those who are arrogant to Him, and those who forget Him. He assigns its meat from which poison has been removed to those who believe in Him, who are humble to Him, who remember Him, and who forget everyone else. How would not He prepare pure meat for them when they are His guests? He treats them as the lover treats the beloved. He extracts for them the sweet from the midst of the bitter and purity from the midst of impurity. As for those who are sought after, food, drink, clothes and all that they need are purified for them.

The would be ascetic is someone who tries his best to make the right judgment about things — so sometimes he purifies things and sometimes he does not, sometimes he stands and sometimes he sits. As for the ascetic, most things have become clear. His right decisions are more than the wrong ones. For the knower, however, everything has become totally clear. He recognizes the difference between the pure and the contaminated. What is pure calls on him, revealing itself, and what is impure does likewise.

The people of Allah have had all their directions united, so that only one direction is left for them. The directions of the creatures have become too narrow for them, whereas the direction of the True One (mighty and glorified is He) has become wide-open for them. They have blocked the directions of the creatures by the hands of their truthfulness and opened the directions of the Creator by the hands of their hearts. No wonder, their hearts have expanded, grown, and become great, and protection has stood at the doors of their hearts preventing anyone from entering into them except their Owner and Creator. Every one of these people is like the sun and the moon in this world. They are its two sources of light. Their faces are turned toward the True One (mighty and glorified is He), whereas their backs face the creatures. If their faces would turn to this world, everything that grows on it would burn.

You are dead walking on the face of the earth. Be sensible. You have no reason. You are not one of the men of Allah. The men of Allah know the men of Allah. The men of Allah are not interested in knowing the chiefs and heads of the creatures.

Your words reveal what is in your heart. The tongue is the speaker of the heart. If you find that you love one person and hate another, do not love the former and hate the latter because of your lower self and your natural inclination, but scrutinize them both by the Book and the Sunna. If they approve of the one whom you love, continue to love him, and if they disapprove of him, discontinue your love. And if they approve of the one whom you hate, abandon your hatred to him, and if they disapprove of him, continue to hate him. Woe to you! You hate me because I speak the truth and take you to task. No one hates me and is ignorant of me other than one who is ignorant of Allah (mighty and glorified is He), given to much talk but little work. No one loves me but one who is knowledgeable of Allah (mighty and glorified is He), given to much work but little talk. Nearness to the True One has left me in no need of anything. There is plenty of water all around me and I am like a frog, so I cannot speak of what I know. I wait for the water to seep away and then I speak. Then, you hear the news about you and about others. 

Footnotes

1 A niche in a mosque showing the direction of Mecca.

Copyright © 2008 Shetha Al-Dargazelli & Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Mar 112008
 

This article is from Purification of the Mind (Jila’ Al-Khatir)

* The Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him) is reported to have said: “Gabriel has said to me: ‘Allah will not treat mercifully anyone who does not show mercy to people’”. Allah treats with mercy His merciful servants. Treat with mercy those who are on earth so that those who are in heaven treat you mercifully. O you who wish for mercy from Allah (mighty and glorified is He), weigh up its price and you will then get it. Its price is nothing other than showing mercy to His creatures, being compassionate with them, and treating them with good intention. You would like to get something for nothing, so you will get nothing. Pay the price first and then take the priced thing. Woe to you! You lay claim to knowingness of Allah (mighty and glorified is He), yet you show no mercy to His creatures! You have made a false claim. The knower treats with mercy every creature from the point of view of Knowledge, and he shows mercy to some people and not others from the viewpoint of the Law. The Law differentiates, whereas Knowledge unites. Allah (high is He) has said: “And enter the houses by their doors” (from 2.189).

The truthful, sincere, practicing shaikhs are the doors to the True One (mighty and glorified is He) and His ways to His nearness. They are the heirs and deputies of the prophets and messengers (prayer and peace be on them). They are the individuals whom the True One (mighty and glorified is He) has singled out and the ones who call to Him. They are ambassadors between Him and the creatures. They are the physicians of religion and the teachers of the creatures. Accept from them and serve them. Surrender your ignorant lower selves to their commandments and prohibitions.

All forms of sustenance are in the hand of Allah (mighty and glorified is He): the sustenance of the bodies, the sustenance of the hearts, and the sustenance of the innermost beings. So request them from Him not from someone else. The sustenance of the bodies is food and drink, the sustenance of the hearts is the belief in the oneness of Allah, and the sustenance of the innermost beings is the private remembrance [of Allah].

Show mercy to your lower selves by striving against them, instructing them to observe the commandments and prohibitions, and training them. Be merciful to the creatures by commanding them to do what is right, forbidding them from committing what is wrong, offering them truthful advice, and taking them by the hand to the door of their Lord (mighty and glorified is He). Mercy is one of the attributes of the believers, whereas harshness is one of the attributes of the disbelievers.

Maintain a connection with the person who cuts you off, give to the person who deprives you, and pardon the person who wrongs you. If you do this, your rope will be connected to the rope of Allah (high is He) and what you have will be connected to what He has, because these morals are among the morals of Allah (mighty and glorified is He). Respond to the call of the muezzins who call you to the mosques, which are the home of hospitality, the home of private conversation. Answer their call for you will find salvation and satisfaction in them. If you respond to the call of His caller, He will admit you to His house, answer your prayers, draw you near, teach you knowingness and Knowledge, show you what He has, teach your limbs and senses the proper conduct, clean your hearts, purify your innermost beings, confer on you guiding inspiration, place you in His presence, lead your hearts to the abode of His nearness, and give them permission to enter into His presence. He is generous. If you respond to His call and do not underestimate it, He will answer your prayers, treat you kindly, and confer favors on you. The Invincible One has said: “Is the reward of goodness anything but goodness?” (55.60). If you act properly, He will give you good rewards. The Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him) has said: “As you treat others, you will be treated. As your state of affairs is, those who have authority over you will be. It is either in your favor or against you.”

* The Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him) has said: “Keep to good manners in your social relationships with people so that when you are dead they pray for Allah to show mercy to you and when you are alive they yearn for you.” Heed to this good advice. Tie it to your hearts and do not forget it. It points out to you an easy work that carries much reward. How good fine manners are! They are a source of comfort to the person who has them and to others. How detestable are bad manners! They are a source of fatigue to the person who has them and a source of harm to others.

     

Copyright © 2008 Shetha Al-Dargazelli & Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Dec 172007
 
This article is from the second edition of Jihad in the Qur’an: The Truth from the Source. The book is now in its third edition.

 
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
All Rights Reserved

May 052006
 
This article is from the second edition of Jihad in the Qur’an: The Truth from the Source. The book is now in its third edition.

 
Contrary to what many believe, armed jihad is not meant to force non-Muslims into Islam. There are many Qur’anic verses, some of which we have already studied, that order Muslims to live in peace with any peaceful people, whether Muslims or not. This is clear, for instance, in the following verses:

Allah does not forbid you [O you who believe!] from being kind and just to those who have not waged war against you because of your religion and have not driven you out of your homes. Surely Allah loves those who are just (60.8). He only forbids you from making friends with those who have waged war against you because of your religion, have driven you out of your homes, and have supported others in driving you out. And whoever makes friends with them, these are the wrongdoers (60.9).

Note how Allah identifies the enemies of the Muslims. The enemies are not simply those who are not Muslims, but rather those who have waged war against the Muslims and driven them out of their homes for embracing Islam. Significantly, Allah orders the Muslims to be “kind” and “just” to the non-Muslims who did not take part in violence against them. The two verses above remove any possible ambiguity and misunderstanding as to how Muslims should treat non-Muslims who are willing to live in peace with them, and how to identify and treat their enemies.

Allah has explicitly prohibited coercing people to accept religion saying: “there is no compulsion in religion” (from 2.256). Elsewhere in the Qur’an, Allah mentions this complaint of the Prophet to Him: “O my Lord! Surely they are a people who do not believe” (from 43.88), before revealing His reply to the Messenger: “So turn away from them and say ‘Peace,’ for they shall come to know” (43.89). Allah instructed the Prophet to turn away from the disbelievers on peaceful terms, reminding him that they will come to know one day that what they rejected is the truth.

I have cited below more verses that instruct the Prophet to turn away from the disbelievers who are not interested in his Message. Clearly, forcing people to adopt Islam was never an option:

Follow [O Muhammad!] what has been revealed to you from your Lord; there is no god but He; and turn away from the polytheists (6.106).

 Therefore turn away [O Muhammad!] from him who turns aside from Our Reminder [the Qur’an] and does not desire anything but this world’s life (53.29). That is as much knowledge as they will get. Surely your Lord knows best those who have gone astray from His path, and He knows best the guided ones (53.30).

Therefore declare [O Muhammad!] openly what you are commanded, and turn away from the polytheists (15.94). Surely, We will suffice you against the scoffers (15.95). Those who set another god with Allah; so they shall come to know (15.96). And surely We know that your heart is distressed at what they say (15.97). Therefore celebrate the praise of your Lord, and be of those who make prostration (to Him) (15.98).

There are so many verses that make it clear that the role of the Prophet was simply to deliver the divine Message, that is the Qur’an, to people. The Prophet warned the disbelievers of hell and brought good news to the believers. He was not a “controller” or “keeper” over people, and he was not to answer for their disbelief. These are some of the relevant verses:

And those who disbelieve say: “If only a sign had been sent down upon him [Muhammad] from his Lord.” You are not [O Muhammad!] but a warner, and for every people a guide (13.7).

Surely We have sent you [O Muhammad!] with truth, as a bearer of good news and a warner; and you shall not be called upon to answer for the people of hell (2.119).

Surely We have revealed to you [O Muhammad!] the Book for the people with truth; so whoever follows the right way, it is for his own soul, and whoever goes astray, he goes astray only to its detriment; and you have not been put in charge of them (39.41).

Had Allah willed, they [the disbelievers] would not have associated gods with Allah. And We have not appointed you [O Muhammad!] a keeper over them, and you have not been put in charge of them (6.107).

Whoever obeys the Messenger, he has indeed obeyed Allah; and as for he who turns away, We have not sent you [O Muhammad!] as a keeper over them (4.80).

Therefore do [O Muhammad!] remind [with the Message that We revealed to you], for you are only a reminder (88.21). You are not a controller over them (88.22).

We know best what they say [about Our revelation to you, O Muhammad!], and you are not to be a dictator over them. Therefore, remind by the Qur’an he who fears My threat (50.45).

But if they turn away, then We have not sent you [O Muhammad!] as a keeper over them; only deliverance [of the Message] is your duty (from 42.48).

And if you [O disbelievers!] deny [the truth], then nations before you did indeed deny [the truth]; and nothing is incumbent on the Messenger other than plain deliverance [of the Message] (29.18).

And whether We show you [O Muhammad!] part of what We threaten them (the disbelievers) with or cause you to die, [only] deliverance [of the Message] is your duty, while calling [the disbelievers] to account is Our business (13.40).

The Qur’an teaches that attracting people to Islam must occur through good-mannered preaching and discussion:

Call [O Muhammad!] to the way of your Lord with Wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the best manner; surely your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He best knows those who follow the right way (16.125).

Obviously peaceful rather than armed jihad is the Qur’anic way of calling people to Islam. I will talk about this more in the next chapter.

As well as prohibiting forcing people to embrace Islam, the Qur’an has also made it absolutely clear that other religions can coexist with Islam. This Meccan chapter carries clear instructions to Prophet Muhammad to seek peaceful coexistence with the polytheistic Qurayshites:

Say [O Muhammad!]: “O disbelievers! (109.1) I do not worship that which you worship (109.2). Nor do you worship that which I worship (109.3). Nor I shall worship that which you worship (109.4). Nor do you worship that which I worship (109.5). You have your religion, and I have my religion” (109.6).

The situation in al-Madina was similar. Muslims sought peaceful coexistence with the People of the Book. There are many verses that show various theological discussions and debates that were taking place between Muslims and followers of other religions. The Qur’an promised paradise to all those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous deeds, whether Jews, Christians, Sabians, or Muslims:

Surely those who believe, the Jews, the Sabians, the Christians – whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous deeds – they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve (5.69).

Relations between the Muslims and the People of the Book in al-Madina deteriorated only when the later got involved in the Qurayshites’ wars and conspiracies against the Muslims. Muslims had to fight against the People of the Book for the same reasons that they had to fight the polytheistic Meccans: defending their right to choose Islam as their religion.

History of Jews, Christians, and believers of other faiths who lived under Islam reflects the tolerance of the Qur’an. Karen Armstrong notes the following:

After Muhammad’s death, Jews and Christians were never required to convert to Islam but were allowed to practice their religions freely in the Islamic empire. Later Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs were also counted among the People of the Book. It has never been a problem for Muslims to coexist with people of other religions. The Islamic empire was able to play host to Christians and Jews for centuries; but Western Europe has found it almost impossible to tolerate Muslims and Jews in Christian territory.

This Qur’anic tolerance toward other religions, which history tells us Muslims applied wherever they ruled, is in complete contradiction with the extremely intolerant image of Islam in the West today.

          

Copyright © 2004 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Jan 012006
 
This article is from the second edition of Jihad in the Qur’an: The Truth from the Source. The book is now in its third edition.

 
As we have seen in the articles about The Measured and Proportionate Retaliation of Jihad and Jihad and the Prohibition of Aggression and Enjoinment of Forgiveness, Allah has warned, in general terms, Muslims against abusing the permission He granted them to defend themselves. He has also referred to particular cases of abuse that may happen and warned against them, as in the following verse:
 
O you who believe! When you travel in the way of Allah, investigate and do not say to someone who offers you peace: “You are not a believer,” seeking riches of this world, for with Allah there are abundant spoils. You too were such before, then Allah conferred favors on you. Therefore, investigate. Allah is aware of what you do (4.94).
 

 Muslims who would travel inside or outside the Arabian Peninsula in the cause of Allah would come across non-Muslim people previously unknown to them. Some of these non-Muslims would be potential enemies who would raise their arms in the faces of Muslims once they realize that they were Muslims. Others would be interested in peaceful co-existence with Muslims.

Verse 4.94 urges Muslims to investigate whether the people they come across are potential enemies or not. It then goes on to warn against a particular evil temptation that some of those who embrace Islam may be susceptible to. Some of the strangers that Muslims would meet while traveling would offer peace. Some Muslims, however, may be tempted to reject that offer on the basis that it came from non-Muslims, treat them as enemies, kill them, and take their belongings as spoils of war. Those who would commit this aggression would portray it as something they did for the sake of Allah, which is the implication of their words to the victim: “You are not a believer.” Allah, however, exposes this claim as a false pretext and reveals that the real drive behind this act of aggression is “seeking riches of this world.” He reminds those Muslims that they should seek the eternal riches that He has prepared for the righteous people in the hereafter, not those wrongfully obtained worldly riches.

By saying to the non-Muslim “You are not a believer,” those Muslims imply that they are better. In rejecting this attitude, Allah reminds the Muslims that they also were disbelievers in the past and that it is due to His favor they are now Muslims: “You too were such before, then Allah conferred favors on you.” In other words, had Allah not guided the Muslims to Islam, they would have remained disbelievers.

Allah also implies in His reply that He did not give permission to anyone to kill the now Muslims before they embraced Islam, so how could they justify killing non-Muslims simply for not embracing Islam? Additionally, how can they ascertain that today’s disbelievers won’t become Muslims in the future, as happened with them?

To stress the message, Allah reminds the Muslims again near the end of the verse that they must investigate carefully the state of the strangers they come across before taking any action. Finally, there is a reminder that Allah knows everything that people do, meaning that Muslims must not forget that He is aware of the way they behave in any situation including that described in the verse. Trying to deceive Allah is not an option.

Note the fairness and impartiality of the Qur’an as it highlights a temptation that some Muslims may fall victim to. Qur’anic justice is based on well-defined standards which are applied equally. The Qur’an does not compromise on principles, regardless of the parties involved. It contains no form of favoritism. It criticizes errant Muslims as it does with the disbelievers.

In fact, the Book goes even further than that. While it calls those who don’t embrace Islam “disbelievers,” it describes Muslims who embrace Islam in name only “hypocrites,” where the latter are considered far worse than the disbelievers. The disbelievers are promised hell, whereas the hypocrites are destined to the lowest places in hell: 

Surely the hypocrites will be in the lowest depth of the Fire, and you shall not find a helper for them (4.145).
 

Copyright © 2004 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Sep 172005
 
This article is from the second edition of Jihad in the Qur’an: The Truth from the Source. The book is now in its third edition.

 
While granted permission from Allah to fight back those who attack them, Muslims are reminded in many verses that they should never commit aggression even toward their sworn enemies. Their response must not be disproportionate or go beyond the limits of the permission for armed jihad:
 
And let not hatred of a people, having prevented you [O you who believe!] from visiting the al-Haram1 mosque, cause you to commit transgression. And help one another in [practicing] righteousness and dutifulness, and do not help one another in [committing] sin and transgression. And act dutifully toward Allah. Surely, Allah is severe in punishment (from 5.2).
 
O you who believe! Stand firm for Allah, [as] witnesses with justice. And let not hatred of a people cause you not to act equitably; act equitably; that is nearer to dutifulness. And act dutifully toward Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do (5.8).
 
And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you [O you who believe!], and do not transgress. Surely, Allah does not love the aggressors (2.190). And kill them wherever you find them and drive them out whence they drove you out; persecution is severer than killing. And do not fight them at the al-Haram mosque until they fight you in it, but if they do fight you, then kill them. Such is the reward of the disbelievers (2.191). But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (2.192). And fight them until there is no persecution and religion is Allah’s. But if they desist, then there should be no hostility, except against the wrongdoers (2.193).
 

 Verse 2.190 reiterates the fact that Muslims were granted permission to resort to armed jihad against those who attack them. Muslims were simply defending themselves. The verses above make it totally clear that it was the disbelievers who started all forms of hostilities, and that stopping the aggression was in their hands. Muslims were only responding to the aggressors, and doing so in a measured way.

Note also how verse 2.192 stresses that Allah remains forgiving and willing to offer mercy to the disbelievers if they quit their hostilities. This is not only a message to the disbelievers encouraging them to resort to peace, but it is also a clear instruction to the Muslims that the end of hostilities means no lingering grudges or seeking of revenge. Given that Allah offers forgiveness and mercy to the sinful when they repent, Muslims must certainly respond to the ceasing of hostilities with forgiveness and mercy toward their enemy.

Let’s look at another relevant set of verses. Addressing the believers, verse 42.36 belittles whatever can be earned in this world, and encourages the believers to aspire more toward the rewards of the hereafter: “So whatever you are given, that is only a provision of this world’s life; and what is with Allah is better and more lasting for those who believe and rely on their Lord” (42.36). Allah then goes on to talk about qualities of the believers and give them more instructions: 

And who avoid the greater sins and indecencies, and when they get angry they forgive (42.37). And who respond to [the call of] their Lord, keep up prayer, manage their affairs by mutual consultation, and spend out of what We bestow on them (42.38). And who, when wronged, help each other [against the aggressor] (42.39). And the recompense of an act of aggression is a similar act, so whoever forgives and makes reconciliation then he will have his rewards from Allah. Surely He does not love the wrongdoers (42.40). As for those who help each other [against the aggressor] after they have been oppressed, Allah has not made a case against them (42.41). The case is rather against those who wrong people and practice oppression unjustly on earth; those shall have a painful punishment (42.42). And as for showing patience and forgiveness, these are surely actions of determination (42.43).

 The fact that Muslims got involved in wars because they were oppressed is made clear in verse 42.39. Allah stresses in verse 42.41 that defending one’s self against oppression is not a sin. The sinful people, verse 42.42 states, are those who wrong and oppress other people. Note how this set of verses starts and ends with instructions urging Muslims to forgive. In other words, Allah’s message to the Muslims is to fight back when war is waged against them, but to stop all hostilities and forgive their past enemies when peace is attained.

Contrary to its popular image among those who have not studied it, the Qur’an always enjoins Muslims to forgive. It also states that when patience and forgiveness are an option, they are better than retaliation. The following verses order the Muslims to forgive the People of the Book who were as hostile to the new religion as the Qurayshites, and in fact established with the latter a war alliance against the Muslims at some point: 

But because of their [the Children of Israel] breaking their covenant2 We cursed them and made their hearts hard. They alter [divine] words from their context, and they forgot a part of what they were reminded of. And you [O Muhammad!] will continue to discover treachery from them, save a few of them; so forgive them and overlook [their misdeeds]; surely Allah loves the doers of good (5.13). Many of the People of the Book wish that they could turn you [O you who believe!] back into disbelievers after you have believed, out of envy from themselves, [even] after the truth has become manifest to them. So, forgive and overlook [their misdeeds] until Allah brings about His judgment; surely Allah has power over all things (2.109).

 Allah’s command to the Muslims not to transgress – which is stated explicitly in 5.2, 5.8, 2.190, 2.193, 42.40, and other verses – stresses a number of points. First, Muslims must not fight someone who has not chosen to fight them. Second, when they respond to aggressors, their response must be in line with the rules that govern armed jihad. For instance, if the aggressors genuinely decided at some point to opt for peace, Muslims must take the route of peace immediately. Third, the Muslims’ response to any hostility must be proportionate and measured. Any failure to apply this would result in the once victims becoming, according to the Qur’an, aggressors themselves. Let’s study the third point in more detail. 

Notes

1 The al-Haram mosque embraces the Ka’ba in Mecca.
2 The Qur’anic concept of “covenant with Allah” is very different from its Biblical counterpart. It is not restricted to one ethnic group of people, as Allah made a covenant with every people to whom he sent a Prophet, including the later generations of those people. It refers to His Message and commandments to people, and to His promise to reward the obedient and punish the disbeliever. For instance, the following verses refer to some aspects of Allah’s covenant with the Children of Israel: 

And when We made a covenant with the Children of Israel: “You shall not worship other than Allah; and you shall do good to your parents, the near of kin, the orphans, and the needy; and speak to people good words; and keep up prayer; and pay the obligatory alms.” Then you turned back in rejection, except a few of you (2.83). And when We made a covenant with you [O Children of Israel!]: “You shall not shed your blood and you shall not drive your people out of your cities”; then you ratified and bore witness to it” (2.84).

 The following verse refers to Allah’s covenant with the followers of Prophet Muhammad: 

And remember the favor of Allah on you [O you who believer!] and His covenant with which He bound you, when you said: ‘We have heard, and we obey’; and be dutiful toward Allah; surely Allah knows what is in the breasts of people. (5.7). 

 

          

Copyright © 2004 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Jun 302005
 
This article is from the second edition of Jihad in the Qur’an: The Truth from the Source. The book is now in its third edition.

 
The Qur’an is a Book of facts in which there is no room for false and unreal idealism. Note how the Qur’an makes it absolutely clear that while peace should be the ultimate aim of man, peace cannot be the only weapon to impose peace. It is just preposterous to claim that peace can be achieved and maintained by peaceful means only. There are many circumstances where violence and war are the only route to peace. This is something that the Qur’an explains in its typical extraordinary honesty and frankness. The Qur’an’s realism sets it apart from unrealistic religions and philosophies whose followers find themselves breaking the inapplicable teachings of their faiths almost all the time.
 
Christianity, for instance, is promoted as a totally peaceful religion that categorically rejects all forms of violence. Its commitment to peaceful methods, it is claimed, is unconditional and uncompromising. In support of this image, reference is often made to an injunction that the New Testament attributes to Prophet Jesus instructing the Christian to turn his left cheek to the person who strikes him on his right cheek.1 This image is used to present Christianity as being more peaceful than, hence superior to, other religions, such as Islam, that accommodate the use of violence in some circumstances.
 
However, the Christian faith is not based on the New Testament only, but on the Old Testament as well. Christians believe in the Prophets2 of the Old Testament. Unlike the life of Jesus in the New Testament,3 the lives of the Old Testament’s Prophets contained a great deal of violence. A number of those Prophets are portrayed as warriors who fought many battles. For instance, the Old Testament states that Abraham led an army and “defeated” his enemy (Genesis 14:15). King David is described as someone who “spilled a great deal of blood” and “fought many battles”:
 

David said to Solomon: “My son, I really wanted to build a temple to honor the Lord my God. But the Lord said to me: ‘You have spilled a great deal of blood and fought many battles. You must not build a temple to honor me, for you have spilled a great deal of blood on the ground before me. Look, you will have a son, who will be a peaceful man. I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. Indeed, Solomon will be his name; I will give Israel peace and quiet during his reign'”.

Therefore, it is rather misleading to claim that Christianity gives special prominence to peace. It cannot have more of a claim to peace than the Old Testament. The latter is anything but a book of peace.

Not only the Old Testament, which Christianity considers to be the Word of God, but other aspects of Christian thought also undermine the positioning of Christianity as thereligion of peace. Christians have always known all too well that responding to violence with peace only is unrealistic, unwise, and impractical. This fact was openly and formally acknowledged as early as four centuries after Jesus Christ by St. Augustine (354-430 CE), one of the most influential Christian thinkers of all time. He introduced the concept of “just war” to complement the “peaceful” nature of Christianity. This has allowed Christianity the convenience of claiming to be a totally peaceful religion, while at the same time permitting its followers to resort to war when they deem it just and necessary!

Compare this opportunistic, misleading, and contradictory presentation of the alleged special status of peace in Christianity with the principled, honest, consistent, and realistic approach to the concepts of peace and war in the Qur’an.

History of Christianity, like the Old Testament and other bases of Christian thought, rejects the claim that Christianity is particularly associated with peace. The attitude of Christianity, or more accurately some of its representatives, toward peace and war, cannot be properly assessed without referring to the crusades. These were certainly religious wars that were instigated and supported by Popes and clerics, and carried out under the name of Jesus and Christianity. Pope Urban II (1088-1099 CE), whose speech at the Council of Clermont in November of 1095 effectively launched the first crusade and set in action this deadly chain of religious wars, promised the immediate remission of all sins of anyone who took part in the crusade. Although the crusaders were supposed to target Muslims, their very long list of victims included at the end many thousands of Jews, and even non-Catholic Christians.

Nothing in the history of Christianity and Christians suggests that they were more peaceful than other religions and people. It clearly rejects Huntington’s false claim that “Muslims fight each other and fight non-Muslims far more often than do peoples of other civilizations.”4 The two biggest wars in the history of humanity, World War I and II, which resulted in tens of millions of deaths were started by the Christian world. While, unlike the crusades, these two wars, and the many other wars that Christians were involved in, were not religious, they show clearly that the history of Christians is far from being one of peace, certainly not one of responding to aggression with peace. In the real world, a real slap on a real cheek, even of a Christian person, is very unlikely to produce a New Testament kind of response.

Verses 22.39-40 show clearly that armed jihad is a defensive rather than offensive form of struggle: 

Surely, Allah defends those who believe. Surely, Allah does not love any one who is unfaithful, ungrateful (22.38). Permission [to fight] has been granted to those against whom war is waged, because they are oppressed; and surely, Allah is well capable of assisting them [to victory] (22.39). [The permission is to] those who have been driven out of their homes without a just cause, only because they say: “Our Lord is Allah.” Had it not been for Allah repelling some people by others, then certainly cloisters, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered would have been pulled down. And surely Allah will help him who helps His cause; surely, Allah is Mighty, Invincible (22.40).

It is about defending one’s self, property and freedom against aggression that targets them. This is emphasized in so many verses throughout the Qur’an. It is well illustrated in the fact that Muslims are not permitted to fight anyone who is willing to offer them peace. Let’s look, for example, at what Allah says about the renegades who embraced Islam but later reverted to their old religion: 

They [the hypocrites] desire that you [O you who believe!] disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be all alike; therefore, do not take from among them close friends until they immigrate in the way of Allah; but if they turn away, then seize and kill them wherever you find them, and do not take from among them a close friend or a helper (4.89). Except those who have a connection with a people between whom and you there is a treaty [of peace], or who come to you with hearts shrinking from fighting you or fighting their own people; had Allah wanted, He would have sent them on you, so that they would have fought you. Therefore, if they withdraw so they do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a case [to wage war] against them (4.90). You will find others who wish to have security from you and security from their own people, yet whenever tempted back to mischief they get plunged into it. Therefore, if they do not withdraw, offer you peace, and restrain their hands, then seize and kill them wherever you get hold of them; it is against these that We have given you a clear authority [to fight] (4.91).

Allah commands the Muslims here to fight, in addition to the disbelievers who have declared war against them, the hypocrites who rejoined the forces of disbelievers and fought against the Muslims after having a spell with them. Significantly, He excludes two groups from among those hypocrites.

The first group consists of those who had some relation with a people with whom Muslims had made peace. In other words, Muslims are disallowed to fight not only the people they have signed a peace treaty with, but also peoples who are connected to the signatories to peace. This shows the extent to which the Qur’an promotes and encourages the adoption of peace.

The second group of hypocrites includes those who decline to take side in the war between their people and the Muslims. Allah commands the Muslims not to fight those who withdraw, do not fight them, and offer them peace. As for those who side with their people against the Muslims, don’t offer peace, and don’t restrain their hands, Allah has given the Muslims a clear authority to fight them. It is absolutely clear that armed jihad is defensive reaction rather than offensive action.

There are so many references in the Qur’an instructing the Prophet and the Muslims to establish peace with any enemy once that enemy became interested in peace. Let’s have a look at another set of verses:

Surely, the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are those who are ungrateful as they would not believe (8.55). Those with whom you [O Muhammad!] have made a covenant, yet they break their covenant every time and do not act dutifully (8.56). Therefore, should you get hold of them in the war, make of them an example that would disperse [the gathering army of] those who are behind them that they may be mindful (8.57). And if you fear treachery from a people, then throw back to them [their treaty] on equal terms. Surely, Allah does not love the treacherous (8.58). And let not those who disbelieve think that they can outstrip [Us]. Surely, they are not immune (8.59). And prepare [O you who believe!] for them what you can of force and horses tethered, to frighten thereby Allah’s and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know but Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the way of Allah will be paid back to you in full and you shall not be wronged (8.60). And if they incline to peace then incline [O Muhammad!] to it, and rely on Allah. Surely, He is the Hearing, the Knowing (8.61). And if they intend to deceive you, then surely Allah is sufficient for you. It is He who supported you with His help and with the believers (8.62).

Note that verse 8.56 talks about those who repeatedly violated their peace treaty with the Muslims. This does not only show the untrustworthiness and treacherousness of the people that Muslims had to make peace with, but it also evinces the keenness of the Muslims on peace. Prophet Muhammad was willing to reinstate the peace he had with other people even though the latter had breached it a number of times. If that violation of the peace treaty continued, the Prophet is given in verse 8.58 the permission not to abide by what had effectively become an abolished and worthless treaty.

Allah’s enjoinment on Muslims to make of the enemy an example that would disperse the gathered armies of other disbelievers emphasizes the fact that armed jihad is used as a means to avert more wars and aggression. This is also embodied in Allah’s command to Muslims in verse 8.60 to prepare for their enemies what they can “of force and horses tethered” in order to frighten with those enemies they knew and others they didn’t.

After highlighting the untrustworthiness and treacherousness of the disbelievers, Allah goes on to give the following amazing command to the Muslims: “And if they incline to peace then incline to it, and trust in Allah.” Despite those peoples’ history of savage aggression against Muslims, the latter are ordered to opt for peace should their enemies become interested in peace. This divine command teaches a kind of commitment to peace that is extraordinary by any standards. The Prophet would have felt apprehensive about agreeing peace with people who had repeatedly broken their word. This is why Allah commands the Prophet to rely on Him and reminds him that He hears and knows everything. He then continues to reassure the Prophet in the next verse that He is on his side should those people resort to deception: “And if they intend to deceive you, then surely Allah is sufficient for you.” Allah then reminds His Messenger how He supported him with “His help and with the believers.” Clearly, armed jihad in Islam is not about vengeance. It is the kind of armed struggle that can be truly and fairly described as a war for peace.

At the time of the events above, vengeance was, and is largely still today, a major drive for war and acts of aggression. Those early Muslims were born and brought up in an environment where lengthy, full-blown wars would be started for the most trivial of reasons. Tribes and individuals used to inherit and pass vengeances and grudges from one generation to another. For instance, the killing of a she-camel started the war of “al-Basus” between the clans of Taghlib and Bakr which lasted for 40 years (494-534 CE)! The clans of ‘Abs and Dhubyan fought another famous war that lasted for four decades. This time, the bloody war was started by a disagreement on a race between two horses, “Dahis” and “al-Ghabra‘,” after which the war was named! This shows how difficult and challenging was the above divine command of refraining from seeking revenge.

One remarkable example is the Muslim’s peaceful conquest of Mecca eight years after the Prophet and Muslims were forced out of it, escaping death and torture, and losing in doing so all their properties. In those eight years, the Qurayshites did not stop their persecution of the Muslims, keeping them in almost a continuous state of war. Nevertheless, when the Muslim army entered Mecca truly non-violently, the Prophet issued an amnesty for all its people, regardless of what they had done to Muslims over the years. Seventeen persons were excluded from the amnesty, but most of them were later pardoned. Only four were killed for their particularly heinous crimes. Most probably, the killing of those four reflects the fact that, had they been left alive, they would have caused the shedding of further blood.

The Prophet didn’t seek revenge even from the most evil people, some of whom had caused great pain and suffering to him personally. One such person was a woman called “Hind bint ‘Utba.” A few years earlier, she hired a slave to kill the Prophet’s uncle and one of his closest companions, “Hamza.” Her hatred for the Prophet and Muslims was such that she cannibalized Hamza’s liver and was involved in mutilating Muslim martyrs. When Hind bint ‘Utba came to visit the Prophet after the conquest of Mecca to declare her embracement of Islam, he couldn’t even look at her face, as that reminded him of her crimes which were still painful to him. Even this woman escaped any punishment.

These are great lessons in obeying Allah’s command of forgiveness. This is how the Prophet taught peaceful jihad by example not only word.

Let’s study another set of verses that shed light on the causes of the conflict between the Muslims and the disbelievers: 

And if anyone of the polytheists seeks your protection [O Muhammad!], then protect him so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and escort him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who know not (9.6). How can there be a treaty with Allah and with His Messenger for the polytheists, save those with whom you [O you who believe!] made a treaty with at the al-Haram mosque? So long as they are true to you, be true to them. Surely Allah loves the dutiful (9.7). How [can there be any treaty for the others] when, if they get an advantage over you, they do not honor any relation or treaty with you? They satisfy you with their mouths, while their hearts refuse. And most of them are backsliders (9.8). They have purchased with the verses of Allah a little gain, so they turned away from His way. Surely, evil is what they do (9.9). They do not honor any relation or treaty with a believer; and these are the transgressors (9.10). But if they repent, establish regular prayers, and pay the obligatory alms, then they are your brethren in religion. And We detail Our verses for the people of knowledge (9.11). And if they break their oaths after their treaty [with you] and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief. Surely they have no binding oaths, so that they may desist (9.12). Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths, and set out to drive out the Messenger, and they attacked you first? Do you fear them? Allah has more right that you should fear Him, if you are believers (9.13).

The first verse shows that Islam does not consider a peaceful disbeliever an enemy. In fact, the Qur’an commanded the Prophet to give protection to any polytheist who sought his help.

Verse 9.7 commands the Muslims to honor their treaty with the polytheists as long as the latter honored it. Allah considers this to be an act of dutifulness toward Him: “Allah loves the dutiful.” He reminds the Muslims in verses 9.8-10 that the polytheists used to break their peace treaties whenever they felt they had the upper hand over the Muslims, and that they showed a similar disregard for their relations with the Muslims. He explains that the polytheists made peace with their mouths, but did not embrace it with their hearts.

Muslims were commanded to forgive the polytheists and live with them in peace if the latter honored peace, and to forgive and consider them their brothers if they converted to Islam, as stated in verse 9.11. Allah then emphasizes in verse 9.12 that the aim of fighting the heads of disbelief is that “they may desist” and establish peace.

Finally, verse 9.13 urges the Muslims to fight aggression, reminding them of the background of the conflict with the disbelievers. First, it was the polytheists who broke the treaty they had with the Muslims. Second, like the Meccans who forced the Prophet to immigrate to al-Madina, the polytheists were trying to expel him from al-Madina. Third, it was the polytheists who attacked the Muslims first.

I would like to cite one more verse that shows the keen interest of Muslims on establishing peace with non-Muslims and honoring that peace:

Surely those who believed, immigrated, and jahadu [did jihad] with their properties and selves in the way of Allah, and those who gave shelter [to the immigrants] and helped them, these [the immigrants and the helpers] are close friends of each other. Those who believed but did not immigrate, you [O you who believe!] have no duty of close friendship toward them until they immigrate; and if they seek help from you for the purpose of religion, then help is incumbent on you, except [helping them] against a people between whom and you there is a treaty; and Allah sees what you do (8.72).

Muslims emigrated from Mecca to al-Madina. They were well received by the Muslims of al-Madina who gave them shelter and shared their belongings with them. In the verse above, Allah makes a clear distinction between those immigrant Muslims and others elsewhere who did not respond to the divine command to immigrate to al-Madina. The verse tells the Muslims in al-Madina that they are close friends to each other, but not to those Muslims who had not emigrated to join them in al-Madina. What is particularly relevant to our current discussion is Allah’s order in the second half of the verse. The Muslims who did not emigrate could be attacked because of their religion, in which case they might well ask for help from their brothers in al-Madina. However, that help would come only if the aggressors had no peace treaty with the Prophet. If those non-Muslims were in peace with the Prophet, the Muslims of al-Madina would not attack them and the call for help from the non-immigrant Muslims would go unheeded. There are two important points to highlight here.

First, note the way Muslims honor their peace pacts. Obviously, those who attack Muslims because of their religion are by no means friendly to Islam, let alone believers in its cause. This enmity, however, would not prevent Muslims from seeking peace with those people. This means that Muslims never forced Islam on anyone and they were completely honest and truthful in their efforts to seek and live in peace even with those who disliked their religion. They resorted to war only when the other party showed no interest in peace and insisted on aggression.

Second, the above verse leaves no doubt whatsoever that the Qur’an doesn’t permit the involvement in a war that can be averted. The war against those non-immigrant Muslims was not unavoidable. Had those Muslims immigrated to al-Madina, they would have been spared the aggression they suffered, because their persecutors had already agreed peace with the Muslims of al-Madina. There was a way to avoid war, which is to immigrate to al-Madina, hence the intervention of the Muslims of al-Madina was not forthcoming. However, if the non-immigrant Muslims had asked for help against aggressors who had not agreed peace with the Muslims of al-Madina, the latter would have responded, because that would have been an unavoidable war. If the aggressors had any interest in peace, they would have agreed peace with the Muslims of al-Madina.

Notes

 1 While the most is made of this injunction (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29) to emphasize the alleged unconditional peace of Christianity, the following relevant statement, which is also attributed to Jesus, is hardly cited: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” (Matthew 10:34-36).

2 Note that there is a major difference between the use of the term “Prophet” in the Qur’an and the Bible. Prophethood in the Qur’an refers to the state of receiving revelations from Allah and acting as His Messenger to teach people the true religion. Biblical Prophethood, on the other hand, is associated with prophecies. A Qur’anic Prophet, such as David, might be described as a “man of God” in the Bible (II Chronicles 8:14).

3 Jamal Badawi makes a very interesting point about the prominence of peace in the life of Prophets Muhammad and Jesus. He notes that scholars agree that the ministry of Jesus lasted for about three years only. In other words, we have evidence of Jesus Christ following a completely peaceful policy for three years. Badawi stresses that Prophet Muhammad’s policy was also completely peaceful not only for the first three years of his mission, but for the following eleven as well! As I have already pointed out, Prophet Muhammad and his followers had to deal peacefully with all forms of persecution they were subjected to for fourteen years before they were granted permission to fight back.

4 Samuel Huntington, “The Age of Muslim Wars,” Newsweek, January 2002

          

Copyright © 2004 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Apr 212005
 
This article is from the second edition of Jihad in the Qur’an: The Truth from the Source. The book is now in its third edition.

 
This is one verse that teaches the Muslims to be measured in their response to aggression: 

The [violation of ] al-Haram month is for [the violation of] the al-Haram month, and the violation of anything is retaliated to with the same. So, whoever commits a hostility against you [O you who believe!], respond to him with a similar hostility. And act dutifully toward Allah, and know that Allah is with the dutiful (2.194).
 
The Arabs before Islam used to observe total peace in four months of the year known as the al-Haram months. The word “al-Haram” means “the prohibited,” referring to the fact that fighting in those months is forbidden. If enemies of Islam violate one of the al-Haram months and attack Muslims, the verse above instructs the Muslims to retaliate within that month only. Muslims must not continue hostilities into another al-Haram month unless their enemies start new hostilities in that month. The verse states that all retaliatory acts by Muslims must be characterized by measuredness and proportionality.

We can see a similar example in the verse 2.191: 

And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you [O you who believe!], and do not transgress. Surely, Allah does not love the aggressors (2.190). And kill them wherever you find them and drive them out whence they drove you out; persecution is severer than killing. And do not fight them at the al-Haram mosque until they fight you in it, but if they do fight you, then kill them. Such is the reward of the disbelievers (2.191). But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (2.192). And fight them until there is no persecution and religion is Allah’s. But if they desist, then there should be no hostility, except against the wrongdoers (2.193).

Because the al-Haram mosque is a place in which fighting is prohibited, Muslims were not allowed to attack there enemies with whom they were at war. They were permitted to fight at the al-Haram mosque only if their enemies extended the fighting to that place. Once the enemies have stopped hostilities in the al-Haram mosque, the Muslims must cease fighting there immediately. Allah’s commands aim at containing hostilities and limiting them.

Like verses 2.192 and 2.193 above, the following verse, in addition to commanding Muslims to be measured in their responses to aggression, encourages people to forgive and seek reconciliation: 

And the recompense of an act of aggression is a similar act, so whoever forgives and makes reconciliation then he will have his rewards from Allah. Surely He does not love the wrongdoers (42.40).

This is another verse that orders the Muslims to respond to aggression proportionately, and it also encourages them to forgive, stating that showing patience instead of retaliating — when this is an option — is a better response: 

And if you chastise [O you who believe!], then chastise with the like of that with which you were afflicted. And if you show patience, then it is better for those who are patient (16.126).

Again, put these divine instructions in their historical context and you will be able to see a unique form of justice. This fascinating divine justice is one aspect of the beauty of the Qur’an and its Lord, Allah.

Its genuine measuredness and proportionality make the military response in Islam in complete contrast to modern wars. Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of human casualties in modern wars are not intended targets. This is the result of the use of mass destruction weapons which are becoming increasingly deadlier. Those mass killers are not restricted, as their manufactures and users would have us believe, to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Any weapon that cannot be used effectively to select its intended target is a blind, mass killing piece of weaponry. A classical bomb or rocket, therefore, is effectively a mass destruction weapon despite it not being labeled as such.

As if these blind and deadly weapons, which are launched far from their intended targets and which kill numerous invisible people, are not satisfying enough, a new clean and neat mass killing weapon called “economic sanctions” has been commissioned. This weapon has proved particularly successful in murdering children, the elderly, the ill, and the poor.

There is a fundamental difference between the disciplined retaliation that the Qur’an permits and the emotive, irrational, and random revenge that can be seen in various conflicts around the world.

          

Copyright © 2004 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Jan 042004
 
This article is from the second edition of Jihad in the Qur’an: The Truth from the Source. The book is now in its third edition.

 
In 1995, the British newspaper Todaypublished on its front page the heart-breaking picture of a fireman carrying the charred remains of a dead infant from the wreckage of a mighty explosion. That picture was accompanied by the sensational headline: “In the name of Islam.” The other sad side of this piece of news is that the picture was taken from the tragic scene of the Oklahoma City bombing in the United States on April 19, which neither Muslims nor Islam had anything to do with. Nevertheless, they were presumed guilty.
 
Islam has been the subject of a great deal of misunderstanding and misrepresentation. It is not uncommon to see this religion being portrayed in the media, explicitly and implicitly, as an enemy of modern good values such as democracy, liberty, and tolerance. Writing in the London newspaper The Times, Conor Cruise O’Brien stated that the Muslim society “looks profoundly repulsive…. It looks repulsive because it is repulsive…. Arab society is sick…. A Westerner who claims to admire Muslim society, while still adhering to Western values, is either a hypocrite or an ignoramus or a bit of both.”1 O’Brien is not only adamant that Islamic and Western values are incompatible, but he is equally hostile to Westerners who disagree with his extreme view.
 
The alleged irreconcilability of Islamic and Western values, meaning the inferiority of the former to the latter, is not a view advocated by maverick journalists only. Similar views expressed by influential people appear all the time in Western media. After the sad events of September 11, 2001, as prominent and responsible a figure as the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made the following statement to reporters: “We must be aware of the superiority of our civilization, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and – in contrast with Islamic countries – respect for religious and political rights, a system that has as its values understanding of diversity and tolerance …” He went on to say that the West “will continue to conquer peoples, like it conquered communism,” even if that means confronting “another civilization, the Islamic one, stuck where it was 1,400 years ago.”2 The statement caused a furor which forced Mr Berlusconi to apologize two days later. He claimed to have been misquoted, though the reality is probably that he was simply being too open. The Italian Prime Minister also happens to be a powerful media tycoon.
 
Accusing Islam of being incompatible with an age and its values is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, the West continued to see Islam in negative images that reflected what was considered to be bad and evil at the time. The inferiority of Islam was always considered a fact, though its supposed proof changed with time. Author Karen Armstrong cites a couple of modern stereotypical images of Islam:
 

We constantly produce new prototypes to express our apparently ingrained hatred of “Islam.” In the 1970s we were haunted by the image of the immensely rich oil sheikh; in the 1980s by the fanatical ayatollah; since the Salman Rushdie affair, “Islam” has become a religion that spells death to creativity and artistic freedom. But none of these images reflects the reality, which is infinitely more complex. Yet this does not stop people from making sweeping and inaccurate judgements.3

Islam also gets a great deal of association with violence. In a Newsweek article expressively titled “The Age of Muslim Wars,” professor Samuel Huntington, advocate of the controversial “Clash of Civilizations” theory, made the following sweeping statement:
 

Contemporary global politics is the age of Muslim wars. Muslims fight each other and fight non-Muslims far more often than do peoples of other civilizations. Muslim wars have replaced the cold war as the principal form of international conflict. These wars include wars of terrorism, guerrilla wars, civil wars and interstate conflicts. These instances of Muslim violence could congeal into one major clash of civilizations between Islam and the West or between Islam and the Rest.4

The perception of Islam as a political, religious, economic, and social threat reflects ignorance of this religion. It is ignorance of the reality of Islam that has provided the fertile land for the growth of unfounded phobia of this religion. Even worse, people seem to be ignorant of this ignorance.
 
In a Roper poll conducted in 1998, well before the attack on the World Trade Center, more than half of the respondents described Islam as inherently anti-American, anti-Western or supportive of terrorism. Significantly, only 5% said that they had much contact with Muslims!5
 
Contrary to what many believe, misunderstanding and misrepresenting Islam are not associated with non-Muslims only. People who are Muslims in name yet almost totally ignorant of their religion have been major contributors to the painting of the widespread distorted image of Islam. Under the name of Islam, some individuals and groups have adopted ideas and taken actions that have nothing to do with Islam. These non-Islamic concepts and actions then get unfairly associated with Islam. Misunderstanding of Islam and phobic reactions to this religion, thus, become an inevitable outcome.
 
One infamous example of such actions took place after author Salman Rushdie published his notorious book The Satanic Verses in London in September 1988. This novel, which contains extraordinary derogation of Islam, the character of Prophet Muhammad, and other historical Islamic figures, caused outrage among Muslims everywhere. Many Muslims dealt with this vicious attack on their religion in a peaceful, rational way, expressing their views on the publication of a book which does not seem to achieve much beyond attacking the religion of Islam and offending its followers. A minority of Muslims, unfortunately, had other ideas about how this matter should be handled. They decided that Rushdie must be punished for what he did. This culminated in the notorious fatwa6 of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini on February 14, 1989, which sentenced Rushdie to death.
 
Understandably, this death sentence outraged many in the West. Reactions that followed were rather easy to predict. Two days after the Iranian Shiite cleric had passed his sentence on Rushdie, and copies of the novel were burned by angry protestors in the city of Bradford, Anthony Burgess published in the British newspaper The Independent an article entitled “Islam’s Gangster Tactics” in which he wrote:
 

I gain the impression that few of the protesting Muslims in Britain know directly what they are protesting against. Their Imams have told them that Mr Rushdie has published a blasphemous book and must be punished. They respond with sheeplike docility and wolflike aggression. They forgot what Nazis did to books … they shame a free country by denying free expression through the vindictive agency of bonfires… If they do not like secular society, they must fly to the arms of the Ayatollah or some other self-righteous guardian of strict Islamic morality.7

One fatwa, from a religious leader of a minority of Muslims, followed by a reaction by some Muslims, was enough for all Muslims to be branded “intolerant” and even likened to the “Nazis.” The many Muslim voices of reason and peace went unheard for the murmur of an old cleric in Iran. It is true that Khomeini had a large following of Shiites, but then most Muslims did not acknowledge this Shiite leader as a Muslim scholar of any standing in the first place, let alone follow him. Shiism represents a smaller branch of Islam, and the Shiites of Iran are yet one, though the largest, branch of Shiism.
 
Additionally, Rushdie was not the first one to be sentenced to death by Khomeini. Other, Muslim, political opponents in Iran were even less fortunate than Rushdie, as they had to face their death sentences. These sentences, and the sentence against Rushdie, were Khomeini’s. Islam had nothing to do with them.
 
The outrageously disproportionate coverage of Khomeini’s action is one instance of the attitude to publicize Muslim individuals and groups far more than their representation warrants. This attitude, which is widespread in the West, has played a major role in misinforming the public about Islam and Muslims. Let me cite another example which is much less known outside Britain, but is even closer to the subject of this book.
 
Since the vicious attack of September 11, the British TV, Radio, electronic, and printed media have been educating their tens of millions of British audience on the explosive and repulsive views on Jihad and Muslims’ relations with the West of a self-appointed, Egyptian-born Muslim cleric known as Abu Hamza. What is particularly amazing about the excessive prime time coverage of the views of this man is that he is known to a very small number of people. His following is probably restricted to some of the people who attend the same mosque where he preaches.
 
This cleric would have needed to spend many millions of pounds to achieve some of the publicity that the British media have offered him for free. Thanks to their decision to turn him into a public figure, his name and views are now known to millions of people. On December 17, 2002, he was guest on the BBC 2 night news bulletin.8 Abu Hamza was given the opportunity to educate the nation on concepts and practices that he labeled as “Islamic.” One bizarre, as well as criminal, concept that he mentioned was “shoot and loot.” This, the cleric explained, denotes the right of Muslims to shoot and loot banks; the latter are considered non-Islamic, evil institutes!
 
After a rather tense and aggressive exchanges, the presenter of the program, Jeremy Paxman, rejected a claim by Abu Hamza that he spoke for other Muslims. He confronted him with the fact that the cleric was so shunned by other Muslims that he was even not allowed into any mosque other than his. Unsurprisingly, the unintelligent man rejected the accusation. He claimed to represent the sincere Muslims, implying that the overwhelming majority of Muslims who opposed his views were not sincere to their religion.
 
The cleric missed a great opportunity to embarrass Paxman who is well known for his aggressive interviewing tactics. He could have rebuffed the presenter’s provocative claim by pointing out that had he been as isolated and rejected as Paxman claimed, he would not have been invited to talk about his views on that news bulletin and on many other programs; would he?
 
I should not end this short story before mentioning another revealing fact about this darling of the British media. Abu Hamza took part in the Afghan war against the Soviets, when he lost an eye and had both arms blown off by a landmine. This is a war in which Western intelligence agencies and governments were fully involved, supporting the Muslim fighters against the old cold war enemy. This is the war that produced terrorist individuals and groups, such as Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban, that Islam is being held accountable for.
 
Accusing Islam and Muslims for what an individual does under the name of Islam is not the only aspect of unfairness of the attitude of the Western media toward Islam. Ancient and modern history provides so many examples of political and religious leaders, representing various political persuasions and religious beliefs, inciting violence against their opponents and those who did not share their beliefs. However, not all those political beliefs and religions get tarnished because of what individuals who believed in them did or said. Christianity is one case in point.
 
It is telling that the long, bloody history of Christian crusades never managed to convince the Western media to accuse Christianity of being a violent religion, as they accuse Islam. Commenting on a massacre which took place at the end of the first crusade, Karen Armstrong wrote:
 

On July 15 1099, the crusaders from western Europe conquered Jerusalem, falling upon its Jewish and Muslim inhabitants like the avenging angels from the Apocalypse. In a massacre that makes September 11 look puny in comparison, some 40,000 people were slaughtered in two days. A thriving, populous city had been transformed into a stinking charnel house. Yet in Europe scholar monks hailed this crime against humanity as the greatest event in world history since the crucifixion of Christ.9

In vivid, grisly details that defy belief and send a shiver down the spine, J. Arthur McFall described in an article in the Military History magazine what happened in that massacre and how it was perceived by religious clerics:
 

The Crusaders spent at least that night and the next day killing Muslims, including all of those in the al-Aqsa Mosque, where Tancred’s banner should have protected them.10 Not even women and children were spared. The city’s Jews sought refuge in their synagogue, only to be burned alive within it by the Crusaders. Raymond of Aguilers11 reported that he saw “piles of heads, hands and feet” on a walk through the holy city. Men trotted across the bodies and body fragments as if they were a carpet for their convenience. The Europeans also destroyed the monuments to Orthodox Christian saints and the tomb of Abraham.

There were no recorded instances of rape. The massacre was not insanity but policy, as stated by Fulcher of Chartres12: “They desired that this place, so long contaminated by the superstition of the pagan inhabitants, should be cleansed from their contagion.” The Crusaders intended Jerusalem to be a Christian city–and strictly a Latin Christian city. “This is a day the Lord made,” wrote Raymond of Aguilers. “We shall rejoice and be glad in it.”13

The Crusaders cut open the stomachs of the dead because someone said that the Muslims sometimes swallowed their gold to hide it. Later, when the corpses were burned, Crusaders kept watch for the melted gold that they expected to see flowing onto the ground. While the slaughter was still going on, many churchmen and princes assembled for a holy procession. Barefoot, chanting and singing, they walked to the shrine of the Holy Sepulchre through the blood flowing around their feet. Reports that the blood was waist deep are believed to have come from a later misreading of a Bible passage. However, in the official letter “To Lord Paschal, Pope Of The Roman Church, to all the bishops and to the whole Christian people” from “the Archbishop of Pisa, Duke Godfrey, now by the grace of God Defender of the Holy Sepulchre, Raymond, Count of St. Gilles,14 and the whole army of God,” the Crusaders recorded that “in Solomon’s Portico and in his Temple our men rode in the blood of the Saracens [Muslims] up to the knees of their horses.”15

The crusades resulted in massacres on the largest scales. Although these religious wars were blessed, and even instigated, by many high ranking clerics, including Popes, the Western media do not associate these acts of genocide with Christianity. Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie and actions by other Muslim individuals, on the other hand, are attributed to Islam. Recent conflicts in Europe — in places such as Serbia, Kosovo, and Chechnya— provide many examples of massacres of Muslims by Christians, sometimes involving the support or consent of the Church. None of these are interpreted as meaning that Christianity is a violent religion. The ongoing bloody conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland is never attributed to Christianity. Such violent conflicts and crimes, unlike ones where the wrongdoers are Muslims, never yield media terms such as “Christian terror,” “Christian terrorists,” “Christian terrorism,” and “militant Christianity.” As noted by Angela Stephens in The Progressive:
 

After the Oklahoma City bombing, the media rushed to spread rumors of Middle Eastern-looking suspects, only to learn later that the bomber was a fair-haired soldier and decorated Gulf War veteran. We never labeled him a “Christian terrorist,” though one might argue that is what he was.16

It would be wrong to ascribe such violence to the religion of Christianity. But it is equally wrong to associate Islam with violence for the misdemeanor of a minority of its followers. The Khomeini/Rushdie affair, the story of Abu Hamza, and similar cases point a finger of accusation at the Western media, while show at the same time the damage that some Muslims have done to the image of Islam.
 
A follower of a religion is not necessarily a true representative of that religion. This is particularly true with a religion that has both sophistication of thought and popularity of following, which is the case with Islam. Islam, whose followers are estimated today to be more than one billion, is a far deeper thought than commonly believed. While it is not a religion for the intellectual elite only, it does require some interest in learning. For the intellectual, Islam has unlimited horizons of knowledge. This is why the Qur’an emphasizes throughout the value of knowledge, encourages Muslims — and people in general — to seek knowledge, and dispraises ignorance:
 

And We [Allah]17 have sent among you [O people!] a Messenger [Muhammad] from among you who recites Our verses to you, purifies you, teaches you the Book and Wisdom, and teaches you that which you did not know (2.151).

How different from the ungrateful person is he who worships in obedience during hours of the night — prostrate and standing — bewares of the hereafter, and hopes for the mercy of his Lord! Say [O Muhammad!]: “Are those who know equal with those who know not?” Only the men of understanding pay heed [to Our words] (39.9).

It is the knowledgeable ones from among Allah’s servants who fear Him (from 35.28).

The status that the Qur’an gives to knowledge is well demonstrated in its labeling of pre-Islamic times in the Arabian Peninsula as “jáhiliyyah,” which means “the age of ignorance,” implying that the advent of Islam marks the beginning of an age of knowledge, awareness, and enlightenment. These are two of the four verses in which the above term occurs (the other two verses are 3.154 and 33.33):
 

Is it then the judgment of jahiliyyah (the age of ignorance) that they [the disbelievers] desire? And who is better than Allah a judge for a people who have certainty [in their belief]? (5.50).

When the disbelievers harbored in their hearts zealotry, the zealotry of jáhiliyyah (the age of ignorance). But Allah sent down His tranquility on His Messenger and on the believers, and made them keep the word of dutifulness [and not submit to zealotry], and well were they entitled to it and worthy of it; and Allah is aware of all things (48.26).

There are also many sayings attributed to Prophet Muhammad that urge the Muslim to seek knowledge, such as the following:
 

The best among you is he who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.18

Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.

Seek knowledge even if it was in [as far as] China.

He who goes out in search of knowledge is [considered to have gone] in the service of Allah until he returns.19

The search for knowledge is an obligation laid on every Muslim.20

The history of Islam attests to the special status given to knowledge by this religion. Islam was revealed in an illiterate, highly ignorant society. Within decades, however, the Islamic world started to become the scientific center of the world, and produced great scientists and thinkers. There is a clear, direct correlation between the embracement of Islam by the ignorant Arabs and their subsequent development of a great civilization. There is no other religion that had such a direct and fast positive effect on science and human civilization. The attitude of Islam toward science and knowledge is strikingly different to that of the Christian Church. The scientific revolution in the Christian West started only when the authority of the Church started to decline.
 
Islam is the religion of knowledge, so keenness on acquiring knowledge is one main duty of the Muslim. Ignorant Muslims can cause damage to both themselves and the name of Islam.
 
It is important to make a distinction between the effect of the ignorance of an ordinary Muslim and that of one who takes an active yet pseudo educational role in society. The latter creates a much wider audience, possibly of non-Muslims as well as Muslims, for his distorted version of Islamic teachings. This problem is made worse by the fact that so many Muslims inherit and accept a passive attitude toward self-education, relying uncritically and almost entirely on the teachings of whatever past or contemporary clerics or scholars they happen to know or learn about. As is the case with any learning process, it is essential for the seeker of knowledge to have a teacher, but it is equally important that the teacher is a genuine one. As stated earlier, Islam requires the Muslim to proactively seek knowledge. This certainly involves more than total and uncritical reliance on the opinions of a couple of scholars.
 
All of this is best illustrated in this Prophetic saying:
 

He who initiates a good practice will earn a reward for that, and a reward equal to the rewards of those who follow it, without the latter’s rewards being reduced. He who initiates a bad practice will earn a sin for that, and a sin equal to the sins of those who follow it, without the latter’s sins being reduced.21

This saying emphasizes the big responsibility of the teacher and the effect that he can have on society. At the same time, this saying does not take away the responsibility from those who follow pseudo teachers. A real seeker of knowledge would carefully examine any claim to truth made by a book, teacher, or any source of information. Commitment to seeking knowledge is a genuine part of Islam. One aspect of this commitment is the careful examination of the verity of the available sources of information.
 
The saying above, which differentiates between those who initiate good practices and those who start bad ones, makes clear that the Prophet’s words “the best among you is he who learns the Qur’an and teaches it” refer to real teachers of the Qur’an.
 
The reality about Islam is that it is the religion for spiritual development. Islam teaches obeying and satisfying Allah, and living in peace with people, Muslim or not. It is about attaining peace in this world and in the hereafter. Nothing is further from Islam than violence and aggression. Islam is a threat only to evil as it aims to eradicate it and save humanity. We all, Muslims and non-Muslims, harbor inside us some evil which spills over and contaminates the world. Islam is the peaceful war against that evil. Islam is about every action that we take to replace the evil inside us with good and become better servants of Allah and, consequently, better human individuals and members of a human society.
 
One sad truth about Islam is that there is widespread ignorance of just about every aspect of it. In fact, misunderstanding Islam seems to know no limit. As already pointed out, this ignorance is more of a continuation of an ignorance of old than a modern phenomenon. Ill-informed views of Islam started to develop in the Christian West since the early days of Islam, and continued to be based on myths and fantasies to this day. One striking example on this ignorant hostility to Islam is mentioned by Karen Armstrong:
 

The Song of Roland, which was composed at the time of the First Crusade, shows a revealing ignorance of the essential nature of the Islamic faith. The Muslims enemies of Charlemagne and Roland are depicted as idol-worshippers, bowing down before a trinity of the “gods” Apollo, Tervagant, and Mahomet.22

The West may have been rather careless when developing distorted images of Islam. But it has certainly been very careful in maintaining those myths and fantasies and making them deep-rooted in the Western mind. Those mythical and fantasized images changed only when new ones were developed. This is what R. W. Southern says in Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages:
 

There can be little doubt that at the moment of their formation these legends and fantasies were taken to represent a more or less truthful account of what they purported to describe. But as soon as they were produced they took on a literary life of their own. At the level of popular poetry, the picture of Mahomet and his Saracens changed very little from generation to generation. Like well-loved characters of fiction, they were expected to display certain characteristics, and authors faithfully reproduced them for hundreds of years.23

It is no surprise, therefore, to find an Islamic concept such as “jihad” the subject of such phenomenal misunderstanding and misrepresentation.
 
“Jihad” has become one of the most popular Islamic terms in the media. It is often used in Islamophobic contexts where it is presented as meaning the killing of innocent people, often non-Muslims, by Muslims. An additional slant occasionally put on this ridiculous distortion makes this killing the fate of those who resist being forced into embracing Islam. The great influence of the media over people combined with highly sophisticated brainwashing techniques have caused this misrepresentation of “jihad” to become deeply rooted in the minds of the masses.
 
The common false representation of the concept of “jihad” was and is being fueled by Muslim individuals and groups whose deeds and actions reflect more or less that same misunderstanding. The fact that those individuals show immense emotion and enthusiasm but little knowledge and intelligence never deterred the media from using them to educate the masses about the sophisticated thought of Islam. There must be something cynical when media with presumably educational functions — such as newspapers, television, and radio — make evidently ignorant individuals their sources of information.
 
Recently, self-declared expert on Islam, Daniel Pipes, wrote an article called “Jihad and Professors.” He reported the following findings of his survey of the opinions of more than two dozens of academic experts in American Universities on the meaning of “jihad”:
 

David Little, a Harvard professor of religion and international affairs, had stated after the attacks of September 11, 2001, that jihad “is not a license to kill,” while to David Mitten, a professor of classical art and archaeology as well as faculty adviser to the Harvard Islamic Society, true jihad is “the constant struggle of Muslims to conquer their inner base instincts, to follow the path to God, and to do good in society.” In a similar vein, history professor Roy Mottahedeh asserted that “a majority of learned Muslim thinkers, drawing on impeccable scholarship, insist that jihad must be understood as a struggle without arms.”

Nor are Harvard’s scholars exceptional in this regard. The truth is that anyone seeking guidance on the all-important Islamic concept of jihad would get almost identical instruction from members of the professoriate across the United States. As I discovered through an examination of media statements by such university-based specialists, they tend to portray the phenomenon of jihad in a remarkably similar fashion.

Pipes was not impressed by what he heard from the informed professors, declaring that this “portrait [of jihad] happens to be false.” He then makes of himself an example of how the media and journalists treat jihad and Islam as he prefers other sources for information on jihad: “But of course it is bin Laden, Islamic Jihad, and the jihadists worldwide who define the term, not a covey of academic apologists.”24Preferring the opinion of Bin Laden to that of the American professors is a choice that carries the hallmark of a typical media expert on Islam.
 
This keenness on maintaining a particular distorted image of Islam is not uncommon. Recently, the University of North Carolina required its incoming students to read a book entitled Approaching the Koran by Michael Sells, a professor of religion at Pennsylvania. However, teaching an academic book on the Qur’an was just too much for many, not the least Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox News popular program the O’Reilly Factor. Arguing vehemently with the University of North Carolina professor of English who selected the reading, O’Reilly explained to his academic guest the problem he was having with his decision:
 

I’m for academic freedom. I want all the students in universities and colleges across the country to be as well versed as possible. But I don’t know what this serves to take a look at our enemy’s religion.

The presenter continued to make his argument against teaching the book of the religion of his “enemies,” then he made this extraordinary statement: “If I were going to UNC in 1941, and you, professor, said, Read “Mein Kampf,” I would have said, Hey, professor, with all due respect, shove it. I ain’t reading it”!25 Later O’Reilly wrote on that interview on his web site:
 

The professor in charge told me that knowing about the Koran is relevant and highly necessary after 9/11. I understand that point of view but don’t completely buy it. I believe Americans don’t need to read the Koran to understand that fanatical Islamic killers are a threat!26

O’Reilly was not alone in his position. The decision of the University upset a number of conservative religious organizations who filed a lawsuit to prevent teaching the book. They argued that the university acted unconstitutionally by forcing students to study a pro-Islamic book, but the court dismissed the case.
 
This is an amazing instance of insisting to wrap Islam in an apron of misinformation, maintain the feelings of enmity toward it, and protect the public from better understanding of this religion.
 
As stated earlier, the real image of jihad, and Islam in general, is inarguably best examined by studying the Qur’an, which is the undisputed authority on Islam. This is the approach taken by this book in exploring the concept of jihad.
 

NOTES

1 Conor Cruise O’Brien, The Times, May 11, 1989.

2 The statement was made on September 26, 2001, during a press conference in Berlin.

3 Karen Armstrong, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet (London: Phoenix Press, 2001), p. 43.

4 Samuel Huntington, “The Age of Muslim Wars,” Newsweek, January 2002.

5 Jonah Blank, “The Muslim mainstream: Islam is Growing Fast in America, and Its Members Defy Stereotype,” U.S. News, July 20, 1998.

6 The word “fatwa” has earned bad connotations in the West because of Khomeini’s fatwa on Rushdie. However, the word itself means “ruling,” and is used for various religious rulings. It has no particular association with “violence.”

7 Anthony Burgess, “Islam’s Gangster Tactics,” The Independent, February 1989.

8 “Newsnight,” presented by Jeremy Paxman, BBC 2, December 17, 2002.

9 Karen Armstrong, “The curse of the infidel: A century ago Muslim intellectuals admired the west. Why did we lose their goodwill?” The Guardian, June 20, 2002.

10 After retreating to the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Muslims surrendered and offered a large ransom to Tancred, who gave them his banner to display over the mosque so that they would not be killed.

11 Raymond of Aguilers was a historian.

12 Fulcher of Chartres is a French chaplain and chronicler of the first crusade.

13 Raymond of Aguilers is here celebrating the massacre with a quote from the Bible (Psalms 118:24)!

14 Daimbert, Archbishop of Pisa, led the Pisan fleet of the campaign. Duke Godfrey, another leader of the crusade, became the first Latin ruler in Palestine after the capture of Jerusalem. He refused the title of “king” preferring to be called “Defender of the Holy Sepulchre.” Raymond of Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse, was the oldest and most prominent of the crusading princes.

15 J. Arthur McFall, “Climax of the First Crusade,” Military History, June 1999.

16 Angela Stephens, “Terror in East Africa: fundamentally un-Islamic,” The Progressive, September 1998.

17 Allah sometimes refers to Himself in the singular, by name or by use of a pronoun, and sometimes in the plural. The plural refers to the respect and honor he deserves. He never refers to Himself in the dual because it refers to a specific number. It is common use in Arabic to show respect to a person by referring to him in the plural.

18 Sahih al-Bukhari, saying 5079.

19 Sunan at-Tarmadhi, saying 2859.

20 Sunan Ibn Maja, saying 229.

21 Musnad Ahmad, saying 19719.

22 Karen Armstrong, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet (London: Phoenix Press, 2001), p. 25.

23 R. W. Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages, (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1978), p. 29.

24 Daniel Pipes, “Jihad and the Professors,” www.danielpipes.org, November 2002.

25 Bill O’Reilly, “The O’Reilly Factor,” Fox News, July 12, 2002.

26 www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,60020,00.html, August 9, 2002.

          

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