The True Jihad

An Excerpt from Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s Book The True Jihad: The Concepts of Peace, Tolerance and Non-Violence in Islam
This coming week at the 2nd annual Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies in Abu Dhabi, H.E. Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah will present Maulana Wahiduddin Khan and Sheikh Jawdat Said, with the ‘Sayyidina Imam Al Hassan Ibn Ali Award’ for their contributions to promoting peace. When Sheikh Jawdat Said learned that the award will be given by H.E Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, he remarked how unique it was for scholars to be giving awards to other scholars in such times. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan on accepting his participation remarked that he shares the same dream as Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah and looked forward to his trip to address over 350 Scholars and faith leaders on the topic of how we can bring peace to the turmoil we find ourselves in.
What Follows is the Preface to Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s book The True Jihad: The Concepts of Peace, Tolerance and Non-Violence in Islam
A perusal of the Qur’an followed by a study of latter-day Muslim history will reveal a blatant contradiction between the two — that of principle and practice. Where recent developments in some Muslim countries bespeak the culture of war, the Qur’an, on the contrary, is imbued with the spirit of tolerance. Its culture is not that of war, but of mercy.
At the very beginning of the Qur’an, the first invocation reads: “In the name of God, the most Merciful, the most Beneficent.” Throughout the Qur’an, God’s name is thus invoked no less than 113 times. Moreover, the Qur’an states that the prophets were sent to the world as a mercy to the people (21: 107).
The word ‘jihad’ has nowhere been used in the Qur’an to mean war in the sense of launching an offensive. It is used rather to mean ‘struggle’. The action most consistently called for in the Qur’an is the exercise of patience. Yet today, the ‘Muslim Mujahideen’ under unfavorable conditions have equated “God is Great” with “War is Great.” For them, the greatest reward is to be able to wield a Kalashnikov rifle.
In the light of on-going conflict, we must ask why so great a contradiction has arisen between the principles of Islam and the practices of Muslims. At least one root cause may be traced to historical exigency.
Since time immemorial, military commanders have been accorded positions of great eminence in the annals of history. It is a universal phenomenon that the hero is idolized even in peacetime and becomes a model for the people. It is this placing of heroism in the militaristic context which has been the greatest underlying factor in the undue stress laid on war in the latter phase of Islam’s history. With the automatic accord in Muslim society of a place of honor and importance to the heroes of the battlefield, annalists’ subsequent compilations of Islamic history have tended to read like an uninterrupted series of wars and conquests.
These early chronicles having set the example, subsequent writings on Islamic history have followed the same pattern of emphasis on militarism.
The Prophet’s biographies were called maghazi, that is, ‘The Battles Fought by the Prophet,’ yet the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, in fact did battle only three times in his entire life, and the period of his involvement in these battles did not total more than one and a half days.
He fought; let it be said, in self-defence, when hemmed in by aggressors, where he simply had no option. But historians — flying in the face of fact — have converted his whole life into one of confrontation and war. We must keep it in mind that the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, was born at a time when an atmosphere of militancy prevailed in Arab society, there being, in their view, no other path to justice. But the Prophet always opted for avoidance of conflict. For instance, in the campaign of Ahzab, the Prophet advised his Companions to dig a trench between them and the enemies, thus preventing a head-on clash.
Another well-known instance of the Prophet’s dislike for hostilities is the Hudaibiyyah peace treaty in which the Prophet accepted all the conditions of the enemy. In the case of the conquest of Makkah, he avoided a battle altogether by making a rapid entry into the city with ten thousand Muslims — a number large enough to awe his enemies into submission.
In this way, on all occasions, the Prophet endeavored to achieve his objectives by peaceful rather than by war-like means. It is, therefore, unconscionable that in later biographical writing, all the events of his life have been arranged under the heading of ‘battles’ (ghazawat). How he managed to avert the cataclysms of war has not been dealt with in any of the works which purportedly depict his life.
Ibn Khaldun, the celebrated 14th century historian, was the first to lay down definite rules for the study and writing of history and sociology. He followed the revolutionary course of attempting to present history as a chronicle of events centering on the common man rather than on kings, their generals and the battles they fought. But since war heroes were already entrenched as the idols of society, the caravan of writers and historians continued to follow the same well-worn path as had been trodden prior to Ibn Khaldun. When people have come to regard war heroes as the greatest of men, it is but natural that it is the events of the battlefield which will be given the greatest prominence in works of history. All other events will either be relegated to the background or omitted altogether.
In the past when the sword was the only weapon of war, militancy did not lead to the mass-scale loss of life and property such as modern warfare brings in its wake. In former times, fighting was confined to the battlefield; the only sufferers were those engaged in the battle. But today, the spear and sword have been replaced by mega bombs and devastating long-range missiles, so that killing and destruction take place on a horrendous scale. It is the entire human settlement which has now become the global arena of war. Even the air we breathe and the water we drink are left polluted in war’s aftermath.
Hence people in the West find Islam outdated and irrelevant precisely because of its militant interpretation. Demands for a reform in Islam are on the increase, as the ‘old’ version of Islam cannot apparently keep pace with the modern world.
But, in reality, it is not reformation which is urgent, but revival. What is needed is to discard as superficial and erroneous the militant and political interpretation of Islam, and to adopt the original, ‘old’ version of Islam based on peace, mercy and the love of mankind.
The so-called Muslim Mujahideen have been exhorting their coreligionists to do battle all over the world. But the Qur’an says: ‘ … and God calls to the home of peace’ (10: 25). It is up to right-thinking people everywhere to reject the militant version of Islam and to start seeing and accepting Islam as it is truly represented by the Qur’an.
Wahiduddin Khan — The Islamic Centre, New Delhi January 4, 2002
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (born 1 January 1925) is a noted Islamic scholar and peace activist.He has received, among others, the Demiurgus Peace International Award, under the patronage of the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev; the Padma Bhushan,in January 2000 India’s third highest civilian honour; the National Citizen’s Award, presented by Mother Teresa and the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award(2009). He has translated the Quran in simple and contemporary English and wrote a commentary on the Quran.
In March 2014 H.E. Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah founded this groundbreaking initiative as Chair and President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. The forum addresses the critical humanitarian crisis within the vast framework of the Islamic tradition and legal theory. In 2014 Over 250 of the world’s leading Islamic scholars from different persuasions, academics and thought leaders gathered to attend the opening of the Forum. The Forum is the first global gathering of scholars ever organized to form a unified front against the scourge of extremist ideologies, sectarianism, and terrorism that has afflicted the Muslim world for decades.
Since the opening of the Forum, delegations of experts, academics and scholars from the Forum have travelled to Africa to countries such as Senegal, Mauritania, and Morocco to engage with Governments, NGO’s and religious actors to gain insight on how to stop the increasing violence in Africa. These trips have resulted in the planning of two proposed reconciliation initiatives that will be held in April and June of 2015. These events’ encourage a multi-disciplinary participation, in order to develop mechanisms and support required for peace and reconciliation in Central Africa Republic (C.A.R) and Nigeria.
The 2nd Annual gathering of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies will take place April 26th — 30th in Abu Dhabi