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Ghazee & Shaheed: A Just Adjustment?

Dr Tariq Rahman – a Pakistani academic who has authored the book ‘Interpretations of Jihad in South Asia: An Intellectual History’ – believes that jihad (a struggle or fight against the enemies of Islam) is a mix of three ideologies especially in South Asia!
In an article published recently in an Indian web portal, Rahman wrote that traditional (classical), modernist and radical Islamists in the region consider jihad not only a moral struggle, but also a war for a just and peaceful society (or an Islamic world order). However, there are also some differences in their views, despite the fact that all of them have interpreted jihad on the basis of the Quran and exegetical literature. That’s why traditional or classical Sunni views on jihad are different from those of the modernists (or apologists and progressives) and radical Islamists.


Dr Tariq Rahman

While traditional Muslims follow classical models (such as Shah Abdul Qadir and the exegetes of Deoband), the modernists interpret the foundational texts of Islam (the Quran and the Hadith) to back liberal humanist values. For modernists, jihad is a defensive mechanism and aggressive warfare is not at all justified. They are against armed aggression against the rulers (Muslim or non-Muslim) who do not stop the practice of Islam. They are also against suicide attacks, the use of non-state actors in guerrilla warfare and attacks on non-combatants.
However, the Islamist radicals justify armed struggle against perceived Western domination by interpreting Quran in a different way, as their main aim is to create an Islamic society and state. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the Pakistani national and co-founder of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terror outfit, and Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), are considered as radical Islamists.

According to Rahman, the radicals believe that the Muslim world is already subjected to warfare by the West and also by India (in the case of Kashmir). They are of the opinion that if Muslim leaders fail to take up the cause of the subjugated masses, then non-state actors take the charge. They further back guerrilla warfare and suicide attacks during the war against powerful enemies. The radicals oppose the classical view that jihad can only be ordered by a Muslim ruler. They argue that if Muslim rulers are subservient to Western powers, then non-state actors should initiate and continue jihad.
Rahman has explained that Islamists interpret the Quran and Hadith on the basis of semantic expansion or manipulation, abrogation (Naskh), reasons or circumstances of revelation, specification, privileging principle over particulars, ideological imperatives, emphases and selection. As a result, the traditional Muslims, modernists and radicals express different views on many verses of the Quran.

The radicals opine that the Verse 9:5 or the sword verse is from a chapter that is the last in the order of revelation. They argue that the verse abrogates the peaceful verses mentioned earlier. Others say that the verse is general in nature and still relevant in the contemporary world. According to modernists, the verse is specific to the Arab polytheists who had triggered a war against the nascent Muslim community. Modernists say that Verse 9:5 is not to be acted upon as polytheists no longer exist.
Similarly, the Islamist thinkers express different opinions about fitnah as mentioned in Verses 2:193 and 8:39. These two verses discuss about the duties of the Muslims during the rule of non-Muslims over God’s world or the presence of moral evil in such forms of governance. Verses 2:193 and 8:39 allow Muslims to take up warfare to cleanse the world and institute a just government. Meanwhile, the modernists claim that fitnah refers to the difficulty in practising Islam that resulted in the expulsion of Muslims from their homes and aggression against them. As it is no longer happening (at least in South Asia), fighting is not valid in the modern world, argue the modernists.


Religious students attend a lesson at Darul Uloom Haqqania, an Islamic seminary & the alma

After discussing different aspects of the concept of jihad, Rahman has come to the conclusion that we could easily link jihad to the state of Muslim military power. When the military power played a dominant role, jihad was expansionist. And when the military power was subservient to colonial dominance, thinkers interpreted jihad as the right of self-defence. (Now) in the post-colonial era, jihad is widely considered as the right to resist Western hegemony through unconventional and guerrilla tactics, said the Pakistani academic.
The global community has failed to get rid of jihad even in the 21st century. Defence strategists warn that the worldwide jihadist menace is more dangerous than ever!

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