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Jehad in the absence of an organised political state

By: admin

Question

Please clarify my following doubt:

Consider a Non-Muslim country, though the country as a whole is not oppressing Muslims but there are large organizations backed by government top authorities oppressing Muslims including killing, blaspheming etc. In order to stop the atrocities by those organizations and its supporters, If a group of Muslims in that country organize, arm themselves and target only that organization and its supporters and not the innocents. Will it not be a Jihad for a true cause? If a group of Muslim should devote to the study of Islam, why not a group be there to protect the Muslims?

You are limiting the scope of the addressee of the Qur’anic verse 4: 75 to Islamic state and its people. But that verse actually addresses every able and strong Muslims irrespective of whether they live in Islamic or non-Muslim countries.

Regards

Answer

It is quite clear from the placement of the directives relating to Jihad that these directives are strictly restricted to an organized collectivity of the Muslims, which has established a rule over a piece of land. There are indications in the Qur’an that without such a rule, Jihad is, in fact, prohibited. Thus, we see that it was after the establishment of a free rule at Medinah, that the ‘prohibition’ Jihad was removed. The revelation of the directives relating to Jihad, quite apparently started with the following verse (Al-Hajj 22: 39):

Permission [of fighting] is [now] granted to those, who are fought against, as they have been wronged…

It is clear from the cited verse that before this time, it was ‘not permitted’ for the Muslims to fight.

Furthermore, it is also obvious that the humankind has hardly witnessed any incident of persecution at the hands of oppressors, which could be considered more severe than what was faced by the prophets of God. Nevertheless, the prophets were never allowed to raise their swords against their oppressors until the time that they established a rule over a piece of land. Imagine the oppression and the horrible persecution faced by Moses (pbuh) and his followers at the hands of the Egyptians. Yet, not once did Moses (pbuh) try to organize an army of his followers to give the Egyptians a taste of their own medicine. He only pleaded them to steadfastly persevere against all oppression and to rest assured that in return of their perseverance, they shall be granted the everlasting blessings of the life hereafter. Consider the example of Muhammad (pbuh). Who can imagine the persecution and oppression faced by his followers, at the hands of their own kith and kin? Yet, not once did the Prophet allow a collective retaliation of the pain inflicted on them, until the time that God bestowed upon the believers the rule in Medinah. During this time, many of the believers had to flee from their homes and take refuge in far off lands just to save themselves from the severest of circumstances, yet the Prophet (pbuh) did not allow any collective action to be taken against the oppressors. Thus, it is clear from the history of all the Prophets of God – given in the Qur’an as well as the Torah – that Jihad was allowed only after the establishment of a political state(1).

It should also be borne in mind that if “Jihad” is not organized under the declared auspices of an established political state, it would invariably take the shape of ‘terrorism’. When individuals, who are not acting on behalf of a political state, strike their adversaries, their adversaries do not have a clear target at which they can strike back. This state of affairs can have extremely severe moral and socio-moral repercussions. Innocent people generally become the target of any retaliatory actions of the adversaries and women and children, who cannot hide and run from the scene, are left to face the brunt of such retaliatory steps taken by the adversaries. This state of affairs provides a moral and legal ground for the adversaries to increase and expand the scope of their persecution and oppression.

In the light of the preceding explanation, we are of the opinion that under no circumstances should a group of Muslims consider it allowed for themselves to declare a ‘war’ against their adversaries, irrespective of the oppression that they may face, except where such aggression is organized and implemented under the declared auspices of an established political state and is in keeping with all the other directives relating to such aggression, as stipulated in the IslamicShari`ah.

If seen in the light of the history of the prophets of God, as given in the Qur’an, the following options are available to the Muslims, when faced with a situation, in which they have to live under a non-Muslim rule:

  1. Where the rule does not persecute or hinder the Muslims from practicing their religion: In such a situation, fighting against the non-Muslim rule is not a requirement of the Shari`ah(2)

  2. Where the rule persecutes the Muslims and does not allow them the freedom to practice their religion: Under such circumstances, any of the following two options may be available to the Muslims:

    • Where the Muslims can migrate to another land, which allows them protection of their lives and property and freedom to practice their religion: In such a situation, Muslims are directed by the Qur’an to migrate from the land of oppression(3)

    • Where the Muslims cannot migrate to another land: In case it is not possible for the Muslims to migrate to another land, then they should call upon another established Muslim state to help in protecting them from persecution and living their lives in conjunction with the teachings of Islam. In such a situation, it is the obligation of the Muslim state to help the oppressed Muslims, if that state is in a position to do so and if it is not bound by an existing no-war pact with the oppressing state against which help is being sought(4). Finally, if there is no Muslim state, which can be called for help or which is in a position to extend any help to the Muslims, then the Qur’an directs the believers to steadfastly persevere till the time that God grants them freedom from the oppression(5).

In view of the foregoing explanation, we do not consider it allowed for anyone besides an organized Muslim state to undertake an armed aggression against anyone, even under oppressive circumstances.

You write:

You are limiting the scope of the addressee of the Qur’anic verse 4: 75 to Islamic state and its people. But that verse actually addresses every able and strong Muslims irrespective of whether they live in Islamic or non-Muslim countries.

As we have stated earlier, all the verses relating to collective issues (including Jihad) are addressed to the organized collectivity of the Muslims. This fact is clearly substantiated by the fact that all these verses were revealed only after the establishment of the political state of the Muslims in Medinah. Just as the directives relating to the implementation of punishments is not addressed to the individuals, other directives relating to the collectivity are also not addressed to the individuals.

Furthermore, if the purpose of Al-Nisaa 4: 75 were to prompt individuals to declare a ‘war’ against oppression, then, obviously, the best time for its revelation was when the Prophet (pbuh) himself and his most sincere followers were facing the severest of persecutions in Mekkah. Moreover, in such a case, the verse would not have prompted the Muslims (of Medinah) to help the believers, who were facing persecution at the hands of the rejecters, but would, in fact, have directed them to organise a ‘war’ against their oppressors. Finally, the referred verse is a part of the overall verses relating to Jihad, which was only permitted after the establishment of an organized political state.

In view of these facts, it is quite apparent that the referred verse primarily addresses the Muslim state.

We hope this helps.

Regards,

UIUK team

  1. The prophet Moses (pbuh) established a state in the Sinai dessert after which the directive of Jihad was given to him and his followers, while the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) established a state in Yathrib after which the directive entailed in the cited verse was revealed.
  2. As is apparent from the life of Jesus Christ (pbuh).
  3. Al-Nisaa 4: 97. Such a migration was undertaken by the Moses (pbuh) and Muhammad (pbuh) and their followers.
  4. Al-Anfaal 8: 72 and Al-Nisaa 4: 75.
  5. Al-Aa`raaf 7: 87.
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