Friday, December 6, 2019

‘Jihad’: The Views of Imam Al-Mahdi

Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian, the man who claimed under Divine revelations that he is the long- awaited Messiah of the Latter Days and the Mujaddid and Imam Mahdi’ of the 14th century of Islam, lived his life at a very significant period in world history (1835-1908 AD; 1250-1326 AH). The times witnessed a great political transition in India and elsewhere, with the decline and fall of the mighty Mughal Empire (1526-1857) and the simultaneous rise and rise of the British colonial suzerainty over the whole subcontinent (1857-1947) as well as other regions/nations around the world. As it happened, the Christian-missionary activities among the Muslim peoples became yet another front in the larger battle of the European imperial powers in Asia and Africa for land, riches and souls. Hence, the world of religious debates also became a battle field, with Islam coming under relentless attack at the hands of an ascendant Christianity. Hence, along with the political flux, also came profound questions of spiritual doctrine and of practical significance for the Muslims of the day. 

The debate around the doctrine of Jihad in Islam is fairly representative of the kind of issues and concerns that characterized the Muslim-Christian encounter in the colonial era in India. Against the backdrop of the anti-Muslim rhetoric by the Christian missionaries in India, there were incidents of violence involving such preachers, and those who attacked them were apparently motivated by religious hate. There are searing ironies in the whole episode: the Christian missionaries, in their zeal for tarnishing the fair name and image of Islam, propagated a false doctrine of Jihad among the ignorant masses, whereby they claimed that it is obligatory for Muslims to kill disbelievers/enemies. Certain Muslim divines, without a deeper examination of all issues, also agreed with this false notion of Jihad that legitimated extreme intolerance and indiscriminate violence against all non-Muslims. The expressions of bigotry and senseless acts of violence against innocent victims is often directly linked to the myth-making around Jihad.

Several learned Muslim scholars during the period wrote treatises against the widespread distortions and grave misunderstandings that characterized the popular concept of ‘Jihad’. For instance, Maulvi Chiragh Ali of Hyderabad (1844-1895) wrote the classic ‘A Critical Exposition of the Popular Jihad’, setting forth the historic/persecuted circumstances of the early Muslim community forming the actual context of the Qur’anic verses concerning Jihad. He wrote: 

...A cruel or revengeful tyrant may not be justified in taking up arms in his own defence, or in seeking to redress his personal wrongs and private injuries; but the whole Muslim community at Makkah was outraged, persecuted and expelled- and the entire Muhammadan commonwealth at Madina was attacked, injured and wronged- their natural rights and privileges were disregarded- after such miseries the Muslims took up arms to protect themselves from the hostilities of their enemies and to repel force by force; and were justified by every law and justice’. (A Critical Exposition of the Popular Jihad, p. xxiv-xxv, Delhi: Idarah-i-Adabiyati Dilli, written in 1885; reprint 1984)

Likewise, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), the illustrious founder of the Aligarh Muslim University and a towering Muslim personality of the age, also wrote extensively to elucidate the true concept of Jihad in Islam. He emphatically asserted that ‘as long as the Muslims can affirm their faith in One God and preach it in peace, the religion does not permit them to rise against the rulers irrespective of their faith or race’. 

Further, he avers that ‘Islam admits no scope for mischief, treachery, mutiny or rebellion. In fact, whosoever guarantees peace and security, he be a believer or disbeliever, is entitled to Muslim gratitude and obedience’.

Following in this great tradition of Islamic scholarship in India, Al Imam Al Mahdi Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) explained the true conception of Jihad in numerous writings, including the profound mistakes that have crept into a proper appreciation of it in popular mindset. Speaking about the history and philosophy of Jihad with the Sword, the Promised Messiah (as) writes:

The philosophy of Jihad and its true significance is so recondite and profound a matter that the people of this age and those of the middle ages have committed grave mistakes on account of their failure to understand it, which has rendered the teachings of Islam open to the criticism of its opponents, whereas Islam is a holy religion which is a mirror of the law of nature and manifests the glory of God.

The root of the Arabic word Jihad means striving and has been metaphorically applied to fighting in the cause of religion….

Why did Islam have to resort to fighting and what is the purpose of Jihad? With the very birth of Islam it was confronted with great difficulties and all peoples conceived enmity against it. It has always been the case that on the advent of a Prophet or a Messenger his opponents, perceiving that his followers are a company of earnest, righteous and courageous people who are likely to march forward quickly, begin to entertain rancour and jealousy against them. More particularly is that the case with the divines and leaders of every religion.... They begin to devise projects to harm the new faith. Very often they feel in their hearts that by persecuting a righteous one of God they have become subject to God’s wrath and their wrongful conduct also betrays that their hearts feel guilty, yet the fierce fire of jealousy drives them into the pits of enmity. These were the causes which not only prevented the leaders of the polytheists and the Jews and the Christians from accepting the truth, but also incited them to bitter enmity and they began to consider means of wiping out Islam from the face of the earth.

As in the beginning the number of Muslims was small, their opponents, out of the natural arrogance which inspires the minds of people who consider themselves superior to the followers of the new faith in respect of wealth, numbers, esteem and rank, treated the Muslims with bitter hostility as they did not desire that Islam, the heavenly plant, should take root upon the earth. They put forth their utmost effort to destroy the righteous and left out no means of causing them hurt. They were afraid lest the new religion should become firmly established and its progress might ruin their own religion and culture. Out of this fear, which terrified their hearts, they had recourse to every type of coercion and cruelty in the attempt to destroy Islam. They killed Muslims savagely and during a long period which extended over thirteen years, they persisted in this form of persecution.

The swords of these wild beasts cut to pieces most cruelly the faithful servants of God who were the pride of mankind; and orphan children and weak and humble women were slaughtered in the streets of Mecca. Throughout this period it was the Divine command that evil should not be opposed and the righteous ones carried out the command in every case. The streets became red with their blood but they raised no cry. They were slaughtered like sacrificial lambs but they breathed no sigh. The Holy Messenger of God, upon whom be the endless peace of heaven and earth, was repeatedly made the target of stones that drew his blood; yet that mountain of truth and steadfastness bore all these torments with a cheerful and loving heart. This attitude of humility and steadfastness encouraged their enemies to intensify their persecution and they made this holy community their quarry. Then God who does not permit that cruelty and mercilessness should exceed all bounds turned with compassion towards His persecuted servants and His wrath was kindled against the wicked, and He informed His servants through the Holy Qur’an that He was a witness to everything that had been inflicted upon them and that He now gave them permission to oppose their opponents and that He was Mighty and would not leave the wrongdoers unpunished. This was the commandment which was designated Jihad. The original text of this commandment is there in the Holy Qur’an, which is as follows:

Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged—and Allah indeed has the power to help them. Those who have been driven out of their homes unjustly…’Al-Hajj, 22:40-41. 

---[Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Government Angrezi Aur Jihad, pp. 3-6, written in 1900. ]

'The Holy Qur’an clearly forbids the use of force for the spread of the faith and directs its propagation through its inherent qualities and the good example of the Muslims. Do not be misled by the notion that in the beginning the Muslims were commanded to take up the sword. That sword was not taken up for the spread of the faith, but in self-defence against the enemies of Islam and for the purpose of establishing peace and security. It was no part of the purpose of taking it up to have recourse to coercion in the matter of faith'(Sitarah Qaisariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 15, p. 120-121, 1899)

Taking Up Arms Against a Just Non-Muslim Government is not Permitted

'It should also be remembered that Islam permits the taking up of the sword only in opposition to people who themselves take it up first, and it permits the slaughter only of those who embark upon slaughter first. It does not lay down that the Muslims while they are the subjects of a non-Muslim sovereign who deals with them with justice and equity should take up arms against him as rebels. According to the Holy Qur’an this is the way of the wicked and not of the righteous. But the Torah has not made this distinction clear at any place. This shows that the Holy Qur’an in all its commandments, whether of majesty or of beauty, adheres to the straight line of equity, justice, mercy and beneficence and is unique in this respect also among all the scriptures'. [Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Anjam-e-Atham, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 11, p. 37]

In a poem, Hadhrat Ahmad (as) speaks about the futility of force in the Way of the Divine: 

My dear! The way to support faith is quite different!
Not that you draw the sword if someone disagrees!
Why do you need to draw the sword to support your faith;
What survives on bloodshed cannot be faith.

(Tiryaq-ul-Qulub, Ruhani Khaza’in,vol. 15, p. 132, 1902)