“And as for those who strive in Our path–We will surely guide them in Our ways. And verily Allah is with those who do good.”
Holy Qur’an 29:70
True Islam teaches that Jihad means to struggle for goodness. This generally means that we should personally struggle to become better people. In exceptional circumstances, Jihad can also mean to defend people of any faith or background when they are being threatened by tyrants. This military Jihad is known as the ‘lesser’ Jihad — the ‘greater’ Jihad is to strive for God through good deeds.
Given the controversy and misunderstanding around the concept of Jihad, we here present a speech by the present Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad. This discourse, published in The Review of Religions, was given to an audience of German natives in 2008, at the annual gathering of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Germany. In this single speech, all qualms will be removed, and all questions answered.
True Concept of Islamic Jihad
BY HAZRAT MIRZA MASROOR AHMAD
…Some people declare that through terrorism, Islam is destroying the peace of the world. It is most unfortunate that there is a group that has a poor understanding of the teachings of Islam, but is fanning the flames of this erroneous concept. Some educated non-Muslims have connected the concept of life after death and heaven and hell to Muslim extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers who believe, as if, there is somehow a shortcut to heaven for suicide bombers. So, the result is that the fatalist desire to enter paradise has awakened a peculiar concept of Jihad and of dying in the name of Allah, which has caused them to take up the sword and cause disorder in the world. These groups of today are in reality a by-product of this teaching and concept.
In any case, while I admit that the acts committed by certain ignorant and over-enthusiastic Muslims have no doubt given a totally wrong impression of the teachings of Islam, I must also point out that the literature that has been written against Islam, without a proper understanding of Islamic teachings, has presented the same erroneous concept about Islamic Jihad. However, I will try to present the true teachings of Islam as they have been expounded by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadpbuh, whom we believe is the Promised Messiah, according to his understanding of the Holy Qur’an, the Traditions of the Holy Prophetpbuh and the history of Islam.
First of all, I will explain the true concept of Jihad in the words of the Messiah of the timepbuh. It has been one hundred years since the Founder of the Ahmadiyya communitypbuh passed away. Therefore, no one can say that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community has made up a fanciful reply in response to the wrong impression created in the world today, and is now presenting something new. On the contrary, these are the very same teachings that are set out in the Holy Qur’an.
The Promised Messiah pbuh says:
‘The prevailing practice found amongst Muslims of attacking people of other religions, which they call “Jihad”, is not a lawful war; for it is clearly against the commandment of God and the Prophet Muhammadpbuh and constitutes a grave sin.’ (1)
Now see, what do the words “lawful Jihad” used by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya community mean?
In order to understand this, we have to very briefly glance at the conditions existing in that part of Arabia where the Founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammadpbuh, had proclaimed his divine mission and invited people to Islam.
Remember, those people were illiterate and uncivilised. Animosities were borne out of ridiculous and petty matters over which they would continue to kill each other for years. When the Holy Prophetpbuh made his claim and invited the Arabs towards the One and only God, the intelligent amongst them, some of whom were his relatives, poor people and slaves, embraced Islam.
When this movement grew, the disbelievers of Mecca increased their persecution. Their cruelty reached such heights that the believers were made to lie on the burning sands of Arabia. While baking-hot stones were placed on their chests, they were whipped; their limbs were tied to camels and the camels were then driven in opposite directions, rendering their bodies apart. The Holy Prophetpbuh and his group of believers were banished to a valley, and an embargo was placed on them; neither food nor water was allowed to be delivered to them. His Companions used to say that they would die in any case, so why not go down fighting? After all, these Muslims too came from among those who were ready to kill and cause bloodshed over the most trivial matters. But when anyone said: “Permit us to fight,” the Holy Prophetpbuh would say that he had not been commanded to fight, but to be patient.
This patience was not due to any weakness; indeed, history later proved that a few hundred believers managed to defeat a force of thousands. This patience was shown only because the Holy Prophetpbuh had not been commanded by Allah the Almighty to fight. At last, the Holy Prophetpbuh allowed some oppressed ones to migrate. And then, after some time, he too migrated to Medina. By that time there were some inhabitants of that town who had become Muslims. On his arrival, a large number of people embraced Islam.
The Holy Prophetpbuh entered into covenants with other tribes and faiths, and amongst them there were also some Jews. He established a State in which all subjects were granted freedom. If anyone was punished for some crime, that punishment was given according to his or her own religion or religious jurisprudence. Nevertheless, as subjects of the State, all of them held equal rights.
On one occasion a Jewish tribe was expelled due to their breach of an agreement. At that time there were some local Muslims of Medina, who had previously vowed before the birth of their next child to give the next born child to the Jews for its upbringing. As they had vowed, and now those children were of the Jewish faith, they were amongst the Jews being expelled. The local Muslims, who at that time had accepted Islam, tried to hold back such children, but the Holy Prophetpbuh would have none of it and said: “There is no compulsion in religion. Therefore, you cannot stop them.” This is how far he went in preserving the rights of the people.
Despite all this, the allegation levelled against the Holy Prophetpbuh is that, God forbid, he spread terror. The question is that when it is known that the Muslims were in such a condition of helplessness and were being so cruelly oppressed, why is such an allegation being made against the Prophet and the Muslims?
I have briefly mentioned the conditions which prevailed at that time. Even in such conditions when the Muslims migrated to Medina and began to live in relative peace, here also the Meccans hounded, pursued and attacked them. The first battle is known as the Battle of Badr. At that time, the Muslims were in such condition that they had neither the resources nor equipment for battle, whereas confronting them was a fully equipped army.
These circumstances are not hidden from anyone and are recorded in history. What could those unskilled and inexperienced people have done? Some of them were only teenagers.
When the enemy wanted to annihilate the Muslims, however, Allah the Almighty instructed them to fight back. The following verse of the Holy Qur’an was revealed, and this is the first commandment that deals with fighting according to historians. But I invite you to look at its beauty and the purpose for which the permission to fight was granted; Allah says:
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 from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’; and if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches, and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated. And Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah is indeed Powerful, Mighty.(Ch.22:Vs.40-41)
God says that if permission had not been given for defence, then the peace of society would have been destroyed. Even today, any sane person, irrespective of his or her religion, would say that this rationale is indeed valid and this decision is quite enough to justify.
The first reason is that if someone is attacked, he has a right to defend himself.
Secondly, if as a result of tyranny, a people are forced to migrate or they are driven out of their homes unjustly and even then they are hounded and not allowed to live in peace in a state governed by them, then it is quite reasonable that they be allowed to retaliate for the injury caused to them.
Thirdly, oppressors do not confine themselves to their first targets; indeed, their greed does and will continue to increase. Not caring about who belongs to which religion, they will try to subjugate and they will try to conquer other cities, towns and countries – so enough is enough. Thus, it becomes important to nip this evil in the bud in order to arrest the cruelty entailed thereby.
This permission for war was thus for defence and for securing peace.
Drawing attention to the people with whom you are allowed to fight, Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an:
“And fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Surely, Allah loves not the transgressors.”(Ch.2:V.191)
It is clearly expressed here that the commandment of Jihad was only against those people who fought in matters of faith and wanted to convert them by the sword, as had happened during the time in Mecca when the disbelievers of Mecca had attacked and tried to end Islam.
Now, the allegation that the Islamic concept of paradise has made Muslims hostile and aggressive and has incited them to perform Jihad is also unjust.
In the verse I have just quoted, Allah the Almighty has clearly said that He does not like transgressors. If Allah does not like a person, there can be no question of him entering paradise. The question arises; what are the standards of dealing with transgression? This also is a unique teaching that unless one believes in Allah the Almighty, and unless one has His fear in one’s heart, one cannot reach such high standards.
Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an:
“O ye who believe! Be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do.”(Ch.5:V.9)
This verse tells us that if you are true believers, then act on the commandments of God Almighty; be just and steadfast in them. What are the requirements of justice? Firstly, make your deeds in accordance with the teachings of Islam, and become role models for others. Can a terrorist be the role model or an exemplar for others? In this age, it is not only non-Muslims, but also a majority of Muslims, who do not like terrorists or suicide bombers. So, it is only good deeds which will attract others, and not evil deeds.
Also in this verse, amongst the many good deeds that a Muslim has been asked to do, one good deed towards which our attention has been drawn regards enemies.
I have briefly mentioned the conditions that prevailed before the migration, and then those that existed after it.
Now in that context, consider this commandment which states that a people’s enmity should not move you away from justice. One can see that Islamic teachings are meant for the establishment of justice.
If there are wars, they should conform to the law; for example, it is commanded that if you take prisoners, treat them kindly. If then the enemy lays down their arms, justice demands, and, moreover, it is necessary for the establishment of peace, that hostilities should cease immediately.
By contrast, in this civilised age we see that if two parties meet in view of ending the war between them, then at the last moment, one party strikes so much awe into the hearts of the other by a non-stop bombardment, that the stronger party are then able to force the weaker party to agree to all the conditions they impose.
Allah the Almighty guides the Muslims, declaring:
¨And if they incline towards peace, incline thou also towards it, and put thy trust in Allah. Surely, it is He Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”(Ch.8:V.62)
So, the teaching is that if the enemy is inclined towards peace, then you should also incline towards it.
The teaching is to put your trust in Allah, because it may well be that the enemy is extending his hand only to regain his strength, and is not doing so with good intentions; but despite this, you are ordered to extend your hand in peace and place your trust in Allah and to withdraw from war immediately. You are not allowed to give precedence to military strategy.
Hence, during the treaty of Hudaibiyyah – the agreement which was signed between Muslims and Meccans when they went for Hajj to Mecca – in spite of the insistence of his Companions and despite having the upper hand, the Holy Prophetpbuh agreed to the conditions of the disbelievers of Mecca. Even the invasion of Mecca occurred because the disbelievers had violated a treaty.
Despite the fact that the Muslims were now the victors, whosoever did not raise arms against them was allowed to live in peace as a disbeliever. Even the bitterest enemies were forgiven. These facts are not hidden; they have been witnessed by history. Even many of the Orientalists have mentioned this.
Alas! In spite of this, some Western media and politicians have not refrained from making Islam, the Qur’an, and the Holy Prophetpbuh their targets, such as the cartoons depicting the Holy Prophetpbuh in certain newspapers, and the statements made by an MP of Holland who made a film targeting the Qur’an and the Holy Prophetpbuh.
The Muslims consider any Prophet (peace be on them all) mentioned in any religious book, as a true Prophet. Therefore, no Muslim, and for that matter no Ahmadi Muslim who believes in the Promised Messiahpbuh of this age, can be expected to resort to insults or slander. We have been taught in the Holy Qur’an that as Prophets of God, all Prophets are equal. Furthermore, God says: “I have sent Prophets to all people.” Therefore, we accept any Prophet without hesitation who was sent to any nation that claims a Prophet came amongst them. Incidentally, according to us, this is the only way to maintain the peace in the world at the moment. The feelings and sentiments of every religion and people should be respected.
I have already told you in what situations and under what conditions war has been permitted. But the question is, are such religious wars permitted in this age? And if not, what is the significance of Jihad? And what is the interpretation of Jihad according to Ahmadis?
Before this, I want to say that the wars of the last few centuries were mainly political or geographical in nature, and were rarely waged because of religion. Moreover, during the last century, two world wars were fought, in which the Muslims played no major role, and these were exclusively because of political interests.
Before accusing Islam of being a religion of terrorism, justice requires that those who make allegations should also consider the cause of the wars in question in the previous two wars.
In any case, I want to briefly present the definition of Jihad, as given by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya communitypbuh and to say how one can engage in it in this present age.
In the developed world of our time, everybody has the right to practise, to preach and to profess his faith. In other words, the conditions for war that I had mentioned do not exist. Then what is this uproar about Jihad?
I therefore want to explain the kind of Jihad our community believes in, in the present age. More than a hundred years ago, in response to an objection related to Jihad, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim communitypbuh, while answering the critic stated:
‘This critic has mentioned the Jihad found in Islam and thinks that the Qur’an incites to Holy war unconditionally. There cannot be a bigger fabrication. The Qur’an only permits fighting against those who prevent the people of God from believing and entering His religion and from abiding by God’s commandments and from wor-shipping Him. And God permits fighting against those who fight Muslims without reason and who drive the believers from their homes and their lands; and who force God’s creation to enter into their religion; and who want to annihilate the religion of Islam, and prevent persons from becoming Muslims.’ (2)
Talking of the British Rule on the Subcontinent (India and Pakistan) the Promised Messiahpbuh says:
‘The fact of the matter is that the Government does not interfere with the religion of Islam and religious customs nor does it use the sword to promote their religion. According to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, it is unlawful to fight against such a government, because it does not engage in any religious war.’ (3)
The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim communitypbuh also declares:
‘Some wild and savage Muslims name the cruel shedding of blood Jihad, and they know not that to confront a just ruler is rebellion and not Jihad. Moreover, a person who breaks a promise, and who commits evil instead of doing a good deed, and who punishes the innocent is a tyrant, and not a victorious general.’ (4)
So, this is the true Islamic teaching explained to us by the Messiah of this agepbuh, who was to establish peace on a strong footing, and was to enrich the world with an atmosphere of love and affection.
Today there are suicide attacks done by so called ‘Jihadis’ only to inflict wounds on the enemy soldiers, but, in fact, fellow Muslims are also killed in these attacks. This is wrong. It is the responsibility of governments to secure the peace. Any act committed by a person who is not part of an army is not Jihad, but a rebellion.
The question I raised was the significance of Jihad, and the response is that, in this age, the Jihad accepted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is the reformation of one’s self. This is not a recent idea, it was mentioned 1400 years ago by the Founder of Islam upon his return from a battle, when he said that we are moving from a minor Jihad to a greater Jihad, and the greater Jihad is the Jihad of reforming one’s self, that is never-ending and forever. The state of war does not last forever.
True Jihad is the reformation of the evils which are borne in the times of relative peace and comfort. Serving mankind is a real Jihad, and the 120 years of our history, I mean the history of Ahmadiyya Movement, bears testimony to it. We are engaged in this Jihad.
We are trying to bring mankind nearer to its Creator. Our schools and hospitals, our plans for water wells and pumps in countries of Africa and Asia and in other poor countries in far-flung areas of the world are continuing. We are also helping those afflicted by natural disasters. Humanity First Germany has also done a tremendous and marvellous job in this regard by helping the poor and orphans, digging wells and providing electricity. Guiding us in this direction, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim communitypbuh says:
‘At this time I specifically instruct my Jama’at [Community], which accepts me as the Promised Messiah, that they should always stay from these foul habits. God has sent me as the Promised Messiah and has clothed me with the garment of the Messiahpbuh, son of Mary.
I therefore admonish you: refrain from evil and be truly compassionate towards mankind. Cleanse your hearts of malice and spite, for you will become like angels through this habit. It is a filthy and unholy religion that is devoid of sympathy for humanity, and polluted is the path riddled with a rancour based on selfish desires… Be compassionate towards all for the sake of God so that you may be shown mercy in the heavens. Come, and I will teach you a way that will cause your light to prevail over all other lights. Abandon all lowly spite and jealousy; be compassionate for mankind, and lose yourselves in God.’
‘I have come to you with an order: Jihad with the sword has ended from this time forward, but the Jihad of purifying your souls must continue. I do not say of this on my own accord. This is indeed the Will of God’.
Then he mentions the Tradition of the Holy Prophet of Islampbuh:
‘When the Messiah comes he will put an end to religious war.’
‘Accordingly, I command those who have joined my ranks to refrain from all such thoughts, to purify their hearts, to foster sympathy and to be compassionate towards the suffering. They should spread peace on earth, because that will cause their faith to spread in return.’ (5)
If we are engaged in such a Jihad without hindrance, it is because in this spiritual system we are linked as in a chain, the leadership of which is in the hand of the Khilafat of the Messiah of the age. The attachment that members of the Community have with Khilafat compels us to follow the teaching that had been brought by the Messiahpbuh of Muhammadpbuh.
That teaching is to honour and discharge the rights we owe to God Almighty and to His creation, to pull down the walls of hatred, and to spread the fragrance of love and affection.
Through the excerpts that I read before all of you sitting before me, you who are educated, now that I have made you aware to some extent of the true message of Islam, you should decide for yourselves whether Islam teaches terrorism or peace and security. It is neither right nor fair to condemn a religion merely because of the actions of a group or of a few individuals.
So, I request you to speak out for justice in your respective circles. That would also be a true Jihad on your part, but, of course, will not make you member of any “Jihadi”organisation.
I thank you for listening to me. Thank you.