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Are Muslims Enemies of Peace? – Part 6

By Dr Javed Jamil, Director

International Centre for Applied Islamics, India


Let us now try to understand what the position of Islam is towards "terrorism".

Islam and Terrorism

As has already been explained, "peace" in Islam does not merely refer to the absence of war. It is a much more comprehensive term that includes peace at physical, mental, family and social (national and international) levels. This implies absence of all forms of diseases and weaknesses at individual level, and absence of all forms of mischief in society. The verses of the Holy Quran are full of messages that speak of tolerance, endurance and peace. Equally strong are messages against chaos, mischief, suppression and oppression. In fact when one goes through the Holy Book, one can easily feel the intensity with which Islam wants to achieve its aim of grand peace. True, in exceptional circumstances, it allows armed struggle, but it prefers to avoid violence. And whenever it allows violence, it is only aimed at preventing greater violence or widespread chaos. Let us examine the following verses:

·                                 "..but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression." (2:193)

·                                 "Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (Guarantees of) peace, then Allah hath opened no way for you (to war against them)." (4:90)

·                                 "But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah." (8:61)

·                                 "……………with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term: for Allah loveth the righteous." (9:4)

·                                 "If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge." (9:6)

·                                 "Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just. Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong." (60:8-9)

·                                 "Whenever two factions of believers fall out with one another, try to reconcile them. If one of them should oppress the other, then fight the one, which acts oppressively until they comply with God's command. If they should comply, then patch things up again between them in all justice, and act fairly. God loves those who act fairly." (49:9

·                                 "…and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety"(5:8)

·                                 "If they do come to thee, either judge between them, or decline to interfere. If thou decline, they cannot hurt thee in the least. If thou judge, judge in equity between them." (5:42)

·                                 "Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher."(21:92)

·                                 "Do no mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order…"(7:56)

·                                 "The blame is only against those who oppress men and wrong-doing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land…"(42:42)

·                                 "And fear tumult or oppression, which affecteth not in particular (only) those of you who do wrong…"(8:25)

·                                 "…………..if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people."(5:32)

The above verses clearly spell out the principles of Islam. Quran is categorical in its condemnation of those who directly or indirectly contribute to mischief, oppression and anarchy. These terms surely include terrorism. But at the same time they also include glorification and commercialisation of human weaknesses (commercialisation of sex, gambling, smoking and drinking) that lead to rise in the incidence of several diseases, disintegration of families, crimes and social tensions. Terrorism is to be defined in a way in which it includes all its ramifications. The world today tends to define it in a way that suits its interests. Terrorism must include anything that can lead to diseases, instability and chaos at individual, family and social level. The states that directly or indirectly support such activities are also to be confronted with. The punishment of such activities is in fact extremely severe in Islam:

"The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.." (5:33)


The term "Jihad" in Islam does not mean an armed fight, which at best is only a part of it. Jihad, in fact is an incessant struggle to spread what is good and uproot what is evil. The best Jihad, according to Islam is against one’s self. And when this definition is extended to a social level, it again means struggle against forces that exploit human weaknesses or oppress the weak and poor.

Islam is for peace. God clearly abhors mischief, and loves peace:

·                                 Every time they kindle the fire of war, Allah doth extinguish it; but they (ever) strive to do mischief on earth. And Allah loveth not those who do mischief. (5:64)

·                                 And We shall try you until We test those among you who strive their utmost and persevere in patience; and We shall try your reported (mettle). (47:31)

·                                 …verily Allah loves those who act aright. (3:76)

·                                 ..but do thou good, as Allah has been good to thee, and seek not (occasions for) mischief in the land: for Allah loves not those who do mischief. (28:77)

·                                 Those who believe, and suffer exile and strive with might and main, in Allah’s cause, with their goods and their persons, have the highest rank in the sight of Allah. they are the people who will achieve (salvation). Their Lord doth give them glad tidings of a Mercy from Himself, of His good pleasure, and of gardens for them, wherein are delights that endure.. (

Thus Islam has a perfect, yet pragmatic approach towards establishing a lasting peace in society. In an effort to prove that Islam is for peace, some scholars tend to totally disregard any form of armed struggle. Islam does not merely ask its followers to engage themselves in a few rituals; it prepares them to establish a system and protect it. Every ideology and system takes all the necessary measures to protect it from external and internal mischief and to consolidate it. Islam is no exception and it has greater right to work in that direction because it aims to establish the rule of God, not an oligarchy. All ongoing struggles in the world cannot be equated with terrorism. To fight against the occupation by external forces, usurpers of land, tyrannical rulers, exploiters, forces of evils and oppressors cannot be regarded terrorism. To sacrifice one’s life in a bid to harm the enemies for a justified cause cannot be condemned as "suicide attacks"; any bombing that is for a justified cause and is aimed at justified targets must be termed sacrificial bombing. There are some Islamic scholars who argue that Jihad can be undertaken only by an Islamic state. They are awfully mistaken, playing in the hands of those who want to reserve all military options open for them including pre-emptive strikes and at the same time want Muslims to forego their right to fight altogether. If Muslims can fight only under the command of a state, it means they cannot fight against an occupying force and against a tyrannical ruler. If the government of a state is corrupt, anti-Islamic or oppressive, nobody can deny the people the right to organise into groups and campaign against it. However, deliberate killing of innocents cannot be regarded desirable even if it is in response to killing of innocents by a country or a group. Though Quran allows Muslims to transgress against the enemy if it transgresses against them, this is surely the last and not the first option. Furthermore, state terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism are much more dangerous than the terrorism of splinter groups. The so-called Islamic terrorism has caused much less damage and has taken much fewer lives than the state terrorism of the US and Israel and state sponsored terrorism of some other countries. What is the US action in Iraq if not the worst form of terrorism? What are Israel’s actions against Palestinians if not terrorism of the most abominable kind?

Another allegation that is labelled against Islam is that Quran calls for killing all the unbelievers. The protagonists of this thesis base their arguments on the verses that call for killing the Unbelievers, forgetting that these verses are war-time-injunctions. "Unbelievers" in these verses means only the unbelievers engaged in the combat. Refer to the verses quoted above that speak against compulsion in the religion, Thus the Holy Book states:

·                                 "..but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression." (2:193

·                                 "Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (Guarantees of) peace, then Allah hath opened no way for you (to war against them)." (4:90)

·                                 "But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah." (8:61)

It is clear also that the injunctions of Quran are almost similar in the case of fights between factions of Muslims. It asks its true followers to also fight those Muslims who are unjust.

Jihad in Islam is obligatory. It is an important constituent of the Islamic mission of universal peace and justice. It is in fact incumbent on all the human beings to engage in this mission. But for Muslims it is a divine duty. Jihad is meant for protecting the weak against the mighty; for alerting the forces of evil that their sordid adventures will not go unchallenged; for giving the oppressed sections a voice and wrecking the nerve-centres of the tyrants; and for giving the exploiters sleepless nights. Jihad prepares a person to sacrifice his possessions including his life if required for the cause of God. But Mujahids must clearly know that the objective of Jihad is not to bring certain persons to power, nor to bring theocracies to the whole world through sheer use of force. "Deen", the system of God does not necessarily mean the establishment of a theocratic government through violent means; it means the rule of justice. Fighting is only the last but an open option in Jihad. If conditions are justifiable for fighting, it becomes obligatory; if conditions do not demand fighting, it becomes aggression. If its objectives are for the welfare of the masses it is desirable; if it is an excuse for selfish ends, it is an unparalleled sin. Jihad through peaceful means must always continue without halt; Jihad through arms must be an aberration. But once the aims are justifiable, fighting must see no sympathy for the enemy; it must be given a crushing below. Fighting against the wicked is no violence; it is an exercise aimed at minimising violence. Killing bacteria and viruses through antibiotics and antiviral drugs is essential to maintain a healthy life. If microbes are not killed, they will kill the very person who provides them the food for their sustenance.

Islam however does not accept that "all is fair in love and war". Even in war, all Islamic conditions must be followed in letter and spirit. As soon as the conditions are bright for an honourable settlement, fighting must be stopped without delay; for the ultimate objective is not the subjugation of the enemy but an end to mischief, anarchy, chaos and oppression. The powers that dominate do always try to take the right to fight away from others, so that they can continue to hold reins. They amass massive stocks of deadly weapons, but deny others the right to possess them. They do not hesitate a second to attack or invade the positions of their challengers, but make too much fuss of even the smallest acts of armed resistance. They kill innocents in big numbers and label it ascollateral damage’; and lambaste their opponents, through the weapons of words and war, if their actions cause the deaths of even a handful of innocents.

Several thinkers have tried to prove that the expansion of Islamic State after its establishment at Medina was achieved through the use of force. The hawks within the Islamic community present this as a ground for their aggressive intents; the hawks outside Islam use this as an evidence of the religion’s expansionist designs and support for violence. The countries were given the option, they argue, to either accept the supremacy of Islamic State or face war. This is true that several Muslim rulers used such tactics. But there was nothing extraordinary about this strategy, for it had been an inveterate practice throughout the world at that time, before and even for centuries after that. There were no clear injunctions in Quran directing Muslims to expand the borders of their empire. What the Caliphs did was only in keeping with the established norm. At that time there was no UN charter in force, and no international treaty bound the states to certain international obligations. All the powerful rulers in that era used to demand allegiance from the smaller states, and this had been happening throughout the ages in Europe, Asia and Africa. Britain, Russia, France and China—all had been using force to expand their influences, till very recently. Islamic rulers must however be credited for their humanistic approach to their political consolidation. They did not usually indulge in massacres. Moreover, they took practical steps to earn the favour of the masses. They gave them the right to practise their own religion, the right to refuse services in the military in return of a tax, the right to live as honourable citizens, the right to earn, the right to own properties and the right to follow their own family laws and laws of inheritance. Their life and honour were guaranteed full protection. Even in fighting, strict observance of certain principles was prescribed by Islam, which most of the rulers in general followed. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave clear guidelines regarding conduct during combat. He prohibited Muslim soldiers from killing women, children and the elderly, or cut a palm tree. He advised them, "… do not betray, do not be excessive, do not kill a new-born child." Another tradition of the Prophet states, "Whoever has killed a person having a treaty with Muslims shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise, though its fragrance is found for a span of forty years." Yet another tradition states, "The first cases to be adjudicated between people on the Day of Judgement will be those of bloodshed." Quran equated the killing of an innocent as the killing of the whole mankind. The Prophet also said, "Truly your blood, your property, and your honour are inviolable." And "There is a reward for kindness shown to every living animal or human."

The truth is that in most of the places conquered by Muslims the people took a sigh of relief at their arrival; they more often than not brought them out of the yoke of injustice and tyranny. This is why the masses thronged to accept Islam in most of the places, and even after the departure of their conquerors they mostly remained loyal to their new religion. In the conquered countries, Muslim caliphs often preferred to have local men in charge of the affairs. The rule of Muslims, with a few exceptions, proved to be far superior to that experienced by the masses before. It was this confidence in the new system that the Islamic caliphate, despite the fact that many of the caliphs were not as pious and upright as Islam would want them to be, was able to sustain itself for about a millennium. Even after the dismemberment of the caliphate, almost all the people of most of the Muslim countries have continued to be within the fold of Islam; some of them have emerged as its citadels. It is significant that an outstanding number of Islamic scholars in the current world hail from non-Arab countries like India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran and Turkey.

It should be made clear here however that the nations are now bound by the treaties of the UN that do not permit any country to conquer any other country for the expansion of ideology. Muslim as well as non-Muslim nations are parties to this agreement. So no Muslim or Non-Muslim nation can now be allowed to invade or threaten other nations for the export of its own ideology or for any other reason unless there are compelling reasons to do so and the majority of the members of the UN agree to it. However, people are free to propagate their beliefs, ideas and customs through peaceful means. But the world must be ready to ban all such substances and practices that lead to death and social problems at a big scale. In the name of freedom, the business of death cannot be allowed to prosper.

Excerpted from Dr Javed Jamil’s "Islam means Peace", to be released in November 2006 (Insha Allah)


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