Excerpts from a critical lecture on Islam by a prominent Indian Muslim journalist, on his his latest book Jihadist Threat to India: The Case for Islamic Reformation by an Indian Muslim
A key problem of understanding in modern times has been the inability of non-Muslims to grasp the point that religion and politics cannot be separated in Islam
As a movement of ideas, Islam began in the 7th Century from Mecca as a consequence of which there are no Jews in Saudi Arabia today and there are no synagogues or churches. Later, this movement of ideas travelled to Iran, as a result of which there are no Zoroastrians left in Iran. This movement of ideas arrived on the Indian Subcontinent in the 8th Century, as a result of which there are no Hindus in Balochistan, there are no Hindus in Afghanistan, there are no Hindus in Pakistan and there are no Sikhs in Lahore — originally a Sikh metropolis
Islamism introduces exhibitionist religiosity in people’s lives. There is no issue if a woman wears a burqa, but the problem is the body of ideas that makes her choose such a dress. Subsequently, these ideas strike at the roots of women’s freedom, rights of non-Muslims, individual liberty and the free press. So, Islamism is the methodology by which Islam achieves its goals. And, jihadism is the weaponised version of Islamism. Once, Osama bin Laden had compared the US with an octopus, saying it has grabbed the world in its tentacles. So, let me first apologise to the inhabitants of the animal world and say that Islamism is an amoeba that reproduces itself by replicating itself
The objective of both Islamism and jihadism is to introduce Shari’a-based tenets into our societies, to convert non-Muslims, to prescribe a dress code for women, to close Hindu-owned restaurants during Ramzan — notably in Malappuram, to impair our decision-making capabilities by giving birth to political correctness, or to use elections to grab power
One, terms like “Islamic” or “jihadi” are used by Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State themselves to describe their actions. They do not say that (Jamaat-e-Islami founder) Maulana Maududi or (Egyptian theologian) Syed Qutb started jihad. They cite the Quranic verses and Hadiths (sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad) to justify their actions. These groups reject democracy and advocate imposition of Shari’a in non-Muslim and Muslim countries. They are therefore called jihadis or Islamists
Two, not all Muslim fighters are called jihadis. In Pakistan itself, Muslim rebels fighting for the independence of Balochistan are not called Islamists or jihadis because they do not stand for Shari’a. In Northern Ireland, the Protestant and the Catholic groups were not called Christian terrorists, because they were not advocating Christian rule. In Sri Lanka, LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) fighters were not called Hindu terrorists, because they were fighting for freedom of the Tamil people, not for Hindu rule
Let’s take up some key arguments concerning jihad and examine how jihadis are responding.
Argument 1: Islam is a peaceful religion
But, the reality is otherwise. After Prophet Muhammad died, a war for succession began that later divided Muslims into two sects: Sunni and Shia. Except for the first caliph Abu Bakr, all three succeeding caliphs and twelve Shia imams were murdered. In fact, the Battle of Karbala was so bloody that after it most Shia imams were poisoned. Prophet Muhammad himself took part in 27 wars. Jihadi forces like the Islamic State were born in the times of early Islam itself, for example when the first caliph Abu Bakr took out his sword and threatened jihad against those Muslims who did not pay zakat (tax).
A major argument by apologists of Islamism is that the prophet ordered amnesty for everyone on the day of the Victory of Mecca. Al-Qaeda militant Ustad Farooq pointed out that this is historically incorrect. On that day, the prophet was informed that there were around 10 people, including women, who had committed blasphemy against him. He ordered that even if they were found hanging by the curtains of the Kaaba, they deserve no respect and should be killed. And they were indeed killed.
This is called Islam’s blasphemy law
Argument 2: Jihad means personally striving to become a pious Muslim
It is true that jihad also means striving, but in popular Muslim imagination it carries only one meaning: Military fighting. Jihadi videos cite the Quranic verse 8:39: “Fight them until no corruption (fitna) exists and all worship is for Allah alone.”
There are many such verses in the Quran.
Verse 9:14 states: “Fight against them. Allah will torment them at your hands and will humiliate them, and will help you against them, and will heal the breasts of Muslims.”
Verse 2:251 says: “And if Allah did not check one set of people by means of another, the Earth would indeed be full of mischief…”
Argument 3: Room to criticise Islam
Critics of Islamism are told to shut up by supporters of everyday Islamism who argue that Islam promotes co-existence and pluralism. They cite the verse 109:6, “To you your religion, and to me mine.” But this verse was revealed not to promote pluralism, but to ensure that the Islamic lifestyle didn’t mix with non-Muslims of Mecca. Prophet Muhammad rejected an offer from the kuffar (infidels) of Mecca to share in power, saying: To you your religion, and to me mine.
Jihadis argue that Islam must prevail over all other systems of government, which means that Islam does not imagine a situation in which non-Muslims can be shareholders in power. Verse 2:190 says: “Whoever comes in the way of this system (of government), do qital (fight to kill) against them…”
Argument 5: Islam protects minorities
Yes, Islam does protect minorities, but in order to enjoy the protection of Islam, minorities must live under the Shari’a rule and pay jizya — a tax on non-Muslims. In other words, non-Muslims cannot be rulers. This is the precise jihadi reason due to which Pakistan’sConstitution formally bars non-Muslim Pakistani citizens from becoming the head of the Pakistani state. Jizya also means that a non-Muslim does not have right to life under Islamic rule, and therefore he or she must pay tax to buy that right annually
In present times, here in Hyderabad, Brother Imran — who is the younger version of Zakir Naik — delivers speeches that radicalise Muslims. Brother Imran, whose real name is Mujtaba Hussain Siddiqui, is the president of the Islamic Research and Educational Foundation based in Hyderabad. In March this year, he told Muslims: “Some people say that when Islam took up the sword, it was meant for defence. This is the response of the less knowledgeable.” He then went on to discuss two types of jihad mandated by Allah, the offensive and defensive forms of Jihad bis Saif (jihad by the sword). At another event, he told Muslims: “Do not be on the back foot when talking about Tawheed (Islamic monotheism). If we die for this Tawheed, there should be no remorse because we were born for this. There is no better death than our sacrifice of life for Allah.”
On 23 June, a number of Urdu dailies such as Roznama Sangam of Patna, Roznama Sahafat of Lucknow and Roznama Inquilab of Mumbai published editorials and articles to celebrate Ghazwa-e-Badr, the first war of Islam against Kufr (non-belief) led by Prophet Muhammad. When the controversy about ghar wapsi (reconversion of Muslims) was raging in 2014, Mumbai-based Roznama Urdu Times published a long article in which it quoted Prophet Muhammad, the first four Caliphs of Islam as well as the prophet’s wife Hazrat Ayesha as saying that any Muslim leaving Islam must be beheaded. It added: “The first interpreter of the Quran, Prophet Muhammad, has clearly ordered the killing of a person becoming apostate.”