Thursday, 10 October 2013

Islam a Religion of Peace? The development of Jihad

The development of Jihad; part 2.
Please read part1 first- find it ... how-can-islam-claim-to-be-religion-of-PEACE?

"VERILY, [O Muhammad,] We have laid open before you a manifest and clear victory" (S. Fath)

War is fought by men to fulfill specific purposes, that when achieved are called victorious.

The victory, termed by the God of the Qur'an in this verse as a clear and manifest one, was not achieved by War, nor the threat of War. Furthermore the following verse makes an example of it for all time, making it not a contextual victory but a resounding victory. A very real example of what Islam desires to this day.

That victory there refers to a Peace Treaty.

Specifically the treaty of Hudabiyyah that Muhammad (saw) entered into with Quraysh whilst all of his companions and helpers could only fathom the one-sidedness of it all. They saw from it only that the Muslims would garner further ill-treatment from Quraysh, their enemies of thirteen plus years, and yet Muhammad (saw) entered into it willingly with neither fear nor force brought to bear, and in order to secure Peace.

And it occurred when Muhammad (saw) ventured to make a peaceful pilgrimage to the Sacred City of Mecca. And from it stemmed a full year of Peace in the Arabian Peninsula until Quraysh broke armistice.

It is a remarkable story, so unbelievable in its detail as to make it absolutely convincingly true. And not just to the believer. *1 (the-coming-comforter-a-physical-proof!)

But what matters if you really want to understand Islam is not what, or how, other people interpret it but how the majority of well versed Muslim believers interpret it. *2 (What-are-cultural-truths?)

The claim that the Qur'an as a book promotes War, and is in essence evil, is based upon a non-contextual reading of its text and a cherry picking of its injunctions.

In fact such people are want to always accuse Muslims of hiding behind context.

However Muslims believe that the whole of the Qur'an is God's revelation sent down to Muhammad (saw) over a period of the 23 years of his mission.

Not only does that time span necessitate a contextual analysis but the Qur'an itself instructs us in that necessity. First by directly talking about those incidents during the Prophet's life and then by verses that refer to the primacy of seeking an understanding of its meaning. *3 (the-perfection-of-god's-favour-and-search-for-meaning.)

In fact the theme of constancy and perseverance that underpins the Muslim conception of a fight against injustice; Jihad; starts within the first 13 years of the Meccan period.
And during that time the first Muslims bore their persecution with patience. Their poor and helpless were martyred whilst they could not, and did not raise a hand to stop that.
Muhammad (saw) reminded those that complained of their inability to help their brothers with the example of the people before them who had their skin scraped from their backs, and some who were ripped in two, all because they said ALLAH is One. A reference to the Nasarene before them.

This persecution did not affect them psychologically and we see the merit of their religion in the way that they treated the Qurayshi captives after the battle of Badr. *4 (The-quality-of-the-badr-ee)

For Islam taught the lessons of perseverance and patience well.
That it is not piety to not feel injustices bitter bite, but it is piety to recognise injustice, feel it's loss and then still continue to be just and true. And so the first Muslims suffered the persecution of their brothers and sisters, not in silence, but with hope. The hope that in the end they would be free to live their faith without fear.

Much of the further development of Jihad follows on from an understanding of the mission of Muhammad (saw). And like the great Messengers before him, his mission was manifold.
*5 (The-many-missions-of-jesus-(may-GOD-be-pleased-with-him)

"And thus have We revealed to you an Arabic Quran, that you may warn the mother city and those around it, and that you may give warning of the day of gathering together wherein is no doubt", a verse of the Qur'an that reveals three of the recipients of the message of Muhammad (saw).

For he was sent to Quraysh, his people of Mecca, the mother of all cities, that belied him. And then to "those around it" being a reference to all the cities and people around Mecca and for whom the Mufassireen tell us is a reference to the whole of the World. And then the third referenced by GOD is in His reminding us that it is an Arabic Qur'an, is the Arab Nation, the Umiyoon, or unlettered people of the Arabian Peninsula. A people descended of Ismail, the son of Abraham, who had not received a messenger for themselves until that time. And for whom the Qur'an informs us that Abraham (as) supplicated that they be given one.

The import of the first mission can be seen in the fact that Muhammad (saw) delayed leaving Mecca until he had first gained permission from GOD, most High, for the emigration.

The persecution of the Muslims instead of abating with the thirteen long years of the Meccan period actually continued with equal vigour. And then God opened up the hearts of the people of another city, Yathrib. And after the two treaties of Aqaba were concluded the Muslims slowly and quietly emigrated, with Muhammad (saw) permission, to that peaceful oasis that later became known as The City, or Medina. In the year of grief, Muhammad (saw) suffered a two fold loss and his protection amongst Quraysh waivered. For before that time his grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, a great chief of Mecca kept him safe from the wiles of Quraysh and allowed him to continue the call, in safety, to ONE GOD. Once buried the mantle of chieftainship of Muhammad's tribe, Banu Hashim, passed to the Prophets uncle, Abu Lahab, so named because of his enmity and hatred towards Islam and his nephew. But no matter how much he might deride Muhammad (saw), he could not act openly against him because of the nature of Chieftaincy. His role in that position was one of protection of his tribe irrespective of how base they might descend. And furthermore Muhammad (saw) was of noble blood, being the orphan son of his younger brother Abdullah, of a hundred camels.

In the end Abu Lahab did consent for Quraysh to murder Muhammad (saw) on the proviso that each tribe be party to that heinous crime, so that he could then claim that he could not as he should, exact blood revenge against the whole of Quraysh.

And only with the plan of action did GOD release Muhammad (saw) from the first mission, and grant him permission to leave Mecca.

During that period the command to strive in the way GOD was one of by word, argument and example;
"So do not follow the unbelievers, and strive against them a mighty striving with it" (S. Furqan). The word for striving here is Jihad.

Examining the context above shows that this striving, or Jihad, was not one of against the self as is so often proposed nowadays by proponents who claim that an eschatological Sufism is the underlying thought within Islam.*6 (Was-there-ever-such-a-thing-as-islamic-sufism?)

Islam was eschatological and yet more importantly concerned with the here and now as a forerunner to that eventuality. It emphasised the unity of man whilst at the same time being confrontational in regards to the disparity it saw in the beliefs of men and their actions. It never was an inward path but always a means of ironing out the consequence of true belief, as opposed to the hypocrisy of false beliefs.

After the emigration to Medina the believers who had lost everything in that flight from oppression; their homes, livelihoods and sometimes even their families; were given permission to fight.

"Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them....." S. Hajj.

This is the last proof required to confirm that during the first 13 years of the nascent call to Islam in Mecca, the believers did not fight a physical Jihad, but a mental, psychological and confrontational "striving" against all that was wrong.

It also highlights the definition that God, most high, gives to war. For the Muslims referred to there had no standing army, and nor did they retaliate but still war was fought against them. Most definitely war occurs between two opposing sides, and this verse pertinently asks us as to how the Muslims opposed the Quraishi oppression; torture and vilification; they did so with fortitude, patience and a belief in the ultimacy of goodness (al-husna).

With the formation of that community at Medina, and the development of it into a distinct Nation (Ummah), Jihad became a struggle for the protection of that Nation and Community against exterior political forces. This was enacted by Muhammad (saw) in the Constitution of Medina which saw a universal protection extend to all Medinese irrespective of belief. And was emphasised in the Quranic injunctions that encouraged all to fight against oppression.

Surah Baqara, revealed within the early Medinan period, lays the foundation stone for the Islamic conception of what a Muslim Nation should look like:

"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors."

"Fight those who fight you" sounds nothing like an all out call to arms against everybody. The second verse in that series reads:

"And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith."

Contextually this refers to Mecca and to Quraish who threw the Muslims out of their homes. But obviously the injunction for fighting against oppression is made general by the verse that living under it is worse than death. This is not war-mongering but a very realistic political view that if oppression visits you then it is your duty to fight body and soul to remove it from yourselves and your people.
Rather than being a negative instruction, this is, when examined in detail, a call to primacy of freedom. That freedom is worth sacrificing for, and sacrificing the whole of you and all of your people, to that end is a need that must be. *7 (Ghandhi-jinna-and-the-pianist!)

Irrespective of how you read the second verse in this series, it is obviously an addendum to that first verse that defines war as being essentially defensive.

And then the next verses read:
"But if they cease, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression."

This then gives the limits referred to in the first verse above, the injunction "But do not transgress the limits" for when they cease fighting, you too incline to Peace.

Some Mufassireen do equate disbelief with oppression but this is from a theological point if view.
*8 (The-fallacy-of-disbelief!)

However when we read the life of the Prophet (saw) we see clear examples of him extending the hand of Peace and concluding Peace Treaties with Arab and non-Arab tribes even whilst they still disbelieved in him. Muhammad (saw) is known by Muslims to be the walking Quran and it is his example that explains the Quran in all aspects including this one.

(narrative *9)

And that was also the case with the Treaty of Hudabiyyah mentioned at the beginning. An occurrence that happened well after the revelation of S. Baqara above.

Muhammad (saw) as a man, leader and Messenger of GOD never did break any treaty and was always want to give easy terms in the conclusion of those treaties.

As a Muslim we are commanded to follow the example of Muhammad (saw).

Following the Quraish breaching the armistice, of Hudabiyyah, Muhammad (saw) marched on Mecca. He did so, not in revenge for the thirteen years of persecution that his followers suffered under Quraysh, but because the emissaries of the tribe, that had allied itself to Medina and then had suffered by Quraysh indiscretion of their unmet obligations, demanded the justice of retribution. Muhammad (saw) did not immediately rally the banners of war and conquest, so much so that his chief Qurayshi adversary went to Medina to plead the case that Peace should continue. But the demand to fulfil the obligation of treaty carried greater weight.

Mecca was his home of 53 years, thirteen of them sorrowed by Quraish's rejection of the best of their sons. The centre of the Muslim Universe, at whose centre lies the Kaba, a pure house, raised by Abraham (as) of old for the worship of the One True GOD.

Muhammad (saw) entered Mecca peacefully. Neither did he ride a war stead, nor did he captain any men; but he rode Qaswa the camel that brought him to Medina nine years earlier. He entered Mecca with bowed head, and cleansed the courtyard of all idolatry and forgave those who had trespassed against him.

All of Arabia fell completely under the influence of Islam.

But whilst idolatry had vanished from Mecca, it still remained the centre of pilgrimage for the whole of the Arabian Peninsula and there the idolatrous tribes were still allowed to practice those rites.
For one by one they had all entered into treaties of Peace with Muhammad (saw) and Medina.

Peace ruled in Arabia once again. And Muhammad (saw) received deputations from people outside of Arabia, notably the Christian Arab tribes of Syria.

And then GOD revealed At-Tauba.
A chapter of the Qur'an that lacks the customary dedication, known as the basmallah which reads: "In the name of GOD the most gracious, the most merciful".

This was a phenomenal event that even most Muslims to this day fail to contemplate. And is even left unexplained by most Seerah books.

It is a question that every student of the Prophet's (saw) life must and should ask: "Why is at-Tauba not prefaced with the BasmAllah?"

And it is a question that needs to be constantly revisited. *10.

One of the greatest reason for the lack of the BasmAllah is that by it GOD is emphasising that what followed, on from it, came directly from GOD and that Muhammad (saw) had no part in it.

Whilst everyone agrees that the BasmAllah is part of the Qur'an its prefixing of the Chapters is an indication that Muhammad (saw) spoke only what was revealed to him. That Muhammad (saw) was the proxy and GOD's representative on Earth.

Surah Tauba did something that Muhammad (saw) would never do, it signalled the end of treaties. And by the lack of that BasmAllah, GOD said this is from me directly. That HE who has absolute right over all things, directly broke all of their treaties.

When it was revealed Abu Bakr (as) was on his way to lead the Hajj at Mecca. Muhammad (saw) immediately sent Ali (ra) with the revelation that it might become known and declared to all Arabs. And he explained that his sending of Ali (ra) would be so that the people might know that the revelation had come from him.

Ali (ra) declared it to the people without the usual reminder of God's mercy. This incredible act meant that Muhammad (saw) was saved from compromising on his way (sunnah); that treaties once entered into must be honoured. Furthermore since it was Ali (ra) that declared it to the people the Christian application that "He shall not speak of himself" was maintained as being reserved for Muhammad (saw).

What followed were the verses of war. And the Arab tribes were given notice that all treaties and contracts with the Muslims would become null and void after a period of grace.

Contextually those verses refer to the third group of people to whom the Prophet (saw) was sent. And these were the Umiyoon, the unlettered Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula. We know this because the revelation itself specifies and talks directly to the tribes that were making pilgrimage to the Holy House.

Surah Tauba is after all an Arabic revelation to the Arab People of the Arabian Peninsula and NOT the Arab people of Sham or Egypt or elsewhere. And not to Muslims in general.

By it GOD sought to purify not just Mecca, but the whole of Arabia from idolatry.

The proof of this understanding is that whilst the treaties were broken with the Arab tribes, Muhammad (saw) maintained the treaties with the Arab tribes of Syria and no War was declared on them even after they failed to become Muslim, after the period of grace. There was no compulsion in religion for them.

The revelation of Tauba, of the Arabic Quran, was a direct challenge to the Arab Muslim tribes to cleanse Arabia of disbelief. Was this uncompromising view humanistic? No it was not.

However, it was to and for the Arab Nation to decide how to tackle that particular problem. They did so with eminence, fully backing the Islamic vision and thereby changed World history. And they are honoured allegorically in the heart of the Qur'an.

The importance in our understanding of the development of Jihad is that what followed on from the revelation of Tauba concerned the Arabian Peninsula only. That it was an Arabic revelation to the Arabian Peninsula's people only.

This was the understanding of all five of the great Imams of our religion.

That the normal rules of war that applied outside of the peninsula, and are espoused in Surah Baqara above, do not apply within that peninsula. And furthermore that this understanding and command is not for any non-peninsula Arab to act upon even that is in regard to the peninsula. Save only for those people ennobled by this direct message.

And this explains the following general verse of the Qur'an:

"Thus, have We made of you a justly balanced Nation, that ye might be witnesses over all the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves".

That the religion does not seek to overwhelm by force all other Nations. That the context of limitless war was bounded by its reference to the Arab tribes of the Arabian peninsula only.

And furthermore this was not the way of the one we were commanded to follow, Muhammad (saw) the Messenger of God, who forever will be blessed.

It was he (saw) who exactly one year after that declaration of war, and after all of the Arab tribes had formally entered Islam in Peace, reminded them on the great day of Hajj that...

"no Arab is superior to a non-Arab".

A hint that theirs was a duty sacred.
A universal message of Peace carried to the World by a people graced with the greatest of Messengers.

And a fulfilment of the third and greatest of the missions vested in Muhammad (saw), the Messenger of God, that he might warn all of the cities surrounding Mecca to the ends of the World.

And I bear witness that, by God's mighty grace, Muhammad (saw) has fulfilled that third and greatest of Missions and that I have believed in ALLAH t'ala, the One.

May God reward Muhammad (saw) and those who assisted him, and still do, in his task with untold blessings.
For there never was such a man, or such a time, Muhammad (saw) the proof of Merciful God. May he forever be blessed. *11 (A-celebration-of-prophet-in-poetry)

Disclaimer: this is my opinion and I am no Scholar. I write solely to stimulate your thought and then for you to investigate things for yourself and then to ask of Scholars.
Nor do I write to spoon feed.
Nor is this an explanation, or a justification, of what is sometimes wrongly presented as Jihad in this day.

Jihad ennobles you, and if it does not then it is not Jihad.

*1 -An appreciation of the apparent /gross contradiction present within the narrative (which can be explained) only serves as a proof of its authenticity. This also applies to the live of Jesus (as), the Messenger of God, see here:
The Coming Comforter; a Physical Proof

What are cultural truths and how can we justify them? Islam fulfils all of those requirements when it is considered that it was opposed from inception, and despite its opposition by the whole of Arabia, won through. The text of Islam, the Qur'an, details that opposition with clarity. And whilst today's truth might be at odds with the then Islamic truth it is not our interpretation of those truths that is the real yardstick in such matters.
See here for an explanation:
Cultural TRUTHS

*3- The proof that the life of the Messenger of GOD, Muhammad (saw), as being instrumental for understanding the Quran is found when we consider the verse "This day I have perfected my favour to you, o Mankind, and chosen for you Islam as your religion". See here for a fuller explanation:
The Perfection of GOD's Favour

*4 please see this blog for a fuller explanation of what happened on that day.

*5 see here for a complex appreciation of the message of Jesus (as):
The many missions of JESUS (as).

*6 see here for a refutation of Sufism being at all considered Islamic:
Was there ever such a thing as ISLAMIC SUFISM

And here to appreciate the Worldly nature of the Islamic Message:
Heaven and EARTH


There are no gods

*7 read to the end of the following blog to get to victimization:
Gandhi-jii Jinnah and the Pianist

The Fallacy of Polytheism and Atheism

*9 Intervening in the narrative of this blog are two fundamentally important events 1- The Battle of Uhud which reinforced the message of patience for a Muslim community exalted by belief, and furthermore that the victory is not for us, but for GOD. And we fight not to win but to be true. The interpretation of Uhud is fundamental for anyone who wants to know what Jihad is. 2- The establishment of community led to the development of a second hidden enemy who could not be fought but for whom the Muslims had to be constantly vigilant about, these were the hypocrites. How Muhammad (saw) dealt with these people is another lesson in the patient perseverance of what Jihad means.
These two aspects deserve a second blog.

*10 For the BasmAllah is potentially the greatest part of the religion that marks out Islam as being the modern religion, see the latter part of this blog:
The Fallacy of Polytheism and Atheism

*11 The life of the greatest of men in poetry:
A Celebration of the Prophet.

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