Islamic Concept of War and ISLAMOPHOBIA
Islam being a religion of peace provides a complete code of life, covering both individual and collective aspects of human life under the sovereignty of Allah Almighty; the most Compassionate. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWW) was also sent as a mercy for all the creatures (Surah al-Anbia:107). Then, how can it be possible that such a religion of mercy could spread extremism and intolerance in the world? Misperceptions, propaganda for selling wars serving Western interests and some mistakes on the part of Muslims have led the world towards Islamophobic mindset. Taking the reader chronologically, while explaining Islamic concept of war, will substantiate my argument in the light of recent global developments.
Just war doctrine of Islam
Islamic law divides the world into three regions: Dar-ul-Harb, i.e. a region having no treaty of nonaggression with Muslims; Dar-ul-Ahd or Dar-ul-Sulh, i.e. a region which has signed a treaty of peace with Muslims; and Dar-ul-Islam, i.e. an area where Muslims can practice their religion as a ruling sect by following Islamic principles in their individual and collective lives. In the light of this division, war should always be defensive in nature—either fought for protection of ideology and moral environment suitable for practicing Islam, or for protection of Muslims and their nationhood; as given in Surah al-Infal verse 39 which ordains: “Fight against them until there is no more persecution (fitna), and religion be all of Allah alone.” Then Allah has said in Surah an-Nisa verse 75, “What is wrong with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women and children, whose cry is: ‘O our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose (affluent and influential) people are oppressors, and appoint for us some guardian from Your presence, and make someone our helper from Your presence’?”
The term used for war in Islam is Qitaal or Jihad fi Sabeelillah and it is referred to as a lower degree of jihad. Jihad bin-Nafs is Jihad-e-Akbar; the superlative degree of Jihad which is personal struggle in devotion to Islam involving spiritual discipline. This Islamic perspective also reflects tendency of avoiding war. Then, Holy Prophet (SAWW) usually adopted pacifist strategy in war. The only purpose to fight war was to remove evil, not to kill an enemy or seek expansion of the Islamic state. Moreover, Quran gives lesson of tolerance to Muslims by saying that Allah is with the patient. This was the reason that Hazrat Ali (RA) was fighting, in a holy war, with an opponent who then spitted on him. Harzat Ali (RA) stopped beating him while saying, “Priorly, I was fighting in the way of Allah and now matter has turned personal so, I will tolerate.” When this is the tolerance taught to Muslims, then how he can be an extremist while being a Muslim, at the same time. Man being born on the nature of Islam is tolerant and wants peace by spreading love and affection that is sine qua non for peaceful, mutual existence – supporting pluralism as seen in Misaaq-e-Madina (The Madina Charter).
Islamic Humanitarian law
- Islam prohibits Muslims from attacking in night or when the enemy is unaware of the attack that they could launch. This doesn’t mean to avoid surprise as a strategic tool. Hazrat Ans Bin Malik (RA) said that whenever the Holy Prophet (SAWW) reached at war destination in night, he (SAWW) didn’t attack till dawn.
- The Holy Prophet (SAWW) prohibited Muslims from throwing enemy in fire or setting their houses on fire by saying that no one can punish anyone with fire except Allah, the Creator of fire.
- The Holy prophet (SAWW) also prohibited tied-up killings.
- Islam prohibits looting or plundering the place under attack. The Holy Prophet (SAWW) has said that looted material is not better than dead ones.
- Islam also prohibits destruction of fields, crops, villages and other things of public use by denoting it as fasad.
- If any pact is being signed between parties, then violation of that pact is also prohibited, even in war times.
- Islam then directs Muslims to ensure diplomatic immunity to avoid entanglement of the issue.
- Protection of prisoners of war (PoWs) is also ensured in Islamic state.
- Muslims have been ordained that if an enemy wants peace, they must stop war and sign peace treaty at first instance.
These humanitarian principles are now adopted by the so-called civilized West which has fought two bloody world wars to reach this conclusion and still Islam to them is in ‘crisis’ spreading fear among people belonging to different nations of the world.
Jihad, terrorism and Islamophobic lens of the West
Historically, Islam supports pluralism by recognizing all religions, sanctifying their gods and promoting peaceful coexistence. Quran also acknowledges Ahl-e-Kitaab (People of the Book— the Christians, the Jews and the Zoroastrians). But this is not the case in other religions. More prominently, Christians and Jews see Muslims as their enemies. Holy wars between Muslims and non-Muslims were fought by Holy Prophet (SAWW) himself, and then by the Pious Caliphs. Later crusades and other religion-based wars were also fought. It is a historical fact that most of such wars were imposed on Muslims and they fought those in defensive mode. Main reason behind the conflict was the clash of ideologies between religions. Islam, as the only preserved revealed religion, is the reason of animosity of Christians and Jews. History shows that most of the Islamic states had protected the rights of non-Muslims. But such was not the case in non-Muslim states as they tried fully to annihilate Muslims and eradicate Islam from the face of the world but Quran says the command is from none but Allah.
The Islamophobia prevalent today has its roots in the creation of Israel as a state to keep a check on moves in the Middle East—a Muslim-majority region. Then, response of Muslim Ummah in case of Al-Aqsa Mosque attack in 1969 was propagandized to change perceptions of people about Islam and the Muslims. Western states, especially the United States, spread terrorism to keep intact its hegemony and secure its own national interests at the expense of image of Muslims and that of Islam. Middle East, which was a land of natural resources, remained prone to US double-edged policies—as evident in the case of Iraq war—for securing strategic stability to control this region. Then, Jihadists were created and used by US itself for supporting war in Afghanistan against the USSR. Isn’t it perplexing that the United States, which once used Muslims for its own cause, has now labelled them as terrorists in the whole world? Reaction to these moves was in the form of 9/11 attacks in 2001 which created fear across the globe and took USA with surprise—Many theorists believe that it was also a work of CIA. Nevertheless, it was the time for the US to harvest its self-sown crop of terror. This attack followed a series of suicide bombings in many public places the world over, creating fear even in Muslims, leading them to question the Muslimhood of the attackers. Many investigations revealed the fact that many non-Muslims are running this system. They use to kidnap Muslim youngsters and train them and use them to attack targeted place(s). These moves actually destroyed the image of Muslims and Islam in the whole world. Muslim governments had struggled to curtail such attacks and are successful, but perceptions usually take decades to change.
Furthermore, Muslims all over the world are oppressed now but still they are called oppressors and terrorists. It seems illogical. We have examples of Israeli Zionists’ plunder and destruction of Muslims in Palestine and Syria, genocide of Kashmiris at the hand of Hindus, wanton killings of Afghan Muslims at the hand of Christians, and so on.
States individually should promote their soft image abroad by enhancing cooperation, promoting peaceful coexistence and spreading tolerance in their societies. Establishing a TV channel, as was agreed to by Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia, for the promotion of peaceful Islamic doctrines and preaching religion in its true sense can also be a productive step to mould people’s stance. Moreover, Muslims need to rise as an Ummah and be in unison on a single decision at every matter for this noble cause of peace. Revival of Caliphate may prove a very productive step to counter such attacks and notions. It will establish a Muslim deterrence against the West as it would be difficult for a nation then to even think about attacking Muslims. Unity could also be achieved by strengthening and enhancing role of OIC and by resolving mutual issues within Muslim world.
The author is a student of law (final year) at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.