The Sharī‘ah of Jihād
Peace and freedom are two essential requirements of a society. Just as various penal measures help in protecting a society from the evils and excesses committed by an individual, resorting to armed offensives sometimes becomes essential to curb the evils perpetrated by countries and nations. As long as diplomatic relations and negotiations can be used to resolve matters, no one would endorse the use of force for settling affairs. However, if a nation threatens to disrupt the peace and freedom of the world and its arrogance and haughtiness exceed all bounds, and it no longer remains possible to bring it back on track through counsel and advice, it becomes the inalienable right of humankind to forcibly stop its subversive activities until peace and freedom of the world are restored. The Qur’ān asserts that if the use of force had not been allowed in such cases, the disruption and disorder caused by insurgent nations would have reached the extent that the places of worship where the name of God is taken day and night would have become deserted and forsaken, not to mention the disruption of the society itself.
It is for this purpose that jihād is undertaken in the Islamic sharī‘ah.1 It must not be undertaken to gratify one’s whims nor to obtain wealth or riches. It must also not be undertaken to conquer territories and rule them or to acquire fame or to appease the emotions of communal support, partisanship and animosity. Jihād cannot be undertaken for a person’s selfish motives nor to satisfy his ego. This is the war of the Almighty that His servants undertake at His behest according to the guidelines provided by Him for His cause. They themselves act as mere agents and instruments of the will of God. They have no objective of their own before them in this undertaking; rather they have to fulfill the objectives of the Almighty. Consequently, they cannot deviate in the least from this capacity:
Following is the sharī‘ah of jihād:
1. Directive of Jihād
The directive of using force is given to Muslims in their collective capacity. All verses of the Qur’ān which mention this directive do not address Muslims in their individual capacity. Like the verses which mention punishments, these verses too address the Muslims as a community. Thus any step which is to be taken for use of force must originate for their collective system. No person or group among them has the right to take a step on its own in this regard on behalf of the Muslims.
2. Objective of Jihād
According to the Qur’ān, jihād is carried out primarily to root out persecution (to force and oppress a person to give up his religion). All forms of oppression against the life and wealth as well as freedom of opinion and expression of Muslims – should be considered under it in various degrees. Consequently, it can be launched to curb oppression and injustice whatever be their forms.
3. When does Jihād become Obligatory?
Jihād does not become obligatory on Muslims unless their military might reaches a certain extent in relation to that of their enemies. Thus it is essential that in order to fulfill this obligation of jihād not only should Muslims develop their moral fibre, they should also increase their military might which in the times of the Prophet keeping in view the circumstances of those times was regarded by the Qur’ān to be 1:2 between Muslims and their enemies.
4. Participation in Jihād
Only in that case will a person be sinning in not participating in jihād when he does not respond to the appeal of a Muslim state when it calls out to every Muslim to participate in it. In such situations, it indeed becomes a sin as great as hypocrisy. In the absence of this situation, taking part in jihād indeed is a means of earning great reward the desire of which should be in the heart of every Muslim; however, it does not become an obligation ignoring which can make him a sinner.
5. Running away from the Battlefield
Deserting the battlefield of jihād because of cowardice is totally forbidden. No believer should show such feebleness. It is tantamount to showing distrust in Allah, giving priority to this world over the next and trying to make life and death dependent upon one’s own strategy – all of which cannot exist with true faith.
6. Moral Limits
War cannot be waged in the way of Allah by disregarding ethical limits. Moral values have to be given priority over everything in all circumstances, and, even in circumstances of war, the Almighty has not given any person the permission to breach ethical principles. The most important directive that has been spelled out in this regard in the Qur’ān is the fulfillment of promises. Breaking a promise is a great sin in the eyes of the Almighty. Consequently, even if a nation, with which Muslims are under obligation of a contract, is guilty of oppressing the Muslims in matters of their religion, the Islamic state does not have the right to help these Muslims if this amounts to a breach of contract made with that nation. Similarly, people who want to remain neutral in war should be left alone and not be troubled in any way.
A display of pomp and arrogance should be avoided when an army sets out for a battle. Vanity and conceit are not befitting for the believers. Whether in the battlefield or outside it, the humility of servitude to the Almighty should always be their hallmark.
7. Divine Help
Muslims indeed wage such war by reposing their trust in the Almighty; however, the Qur’ān has made it clear that what entitles people to Divine Help is perseverance and resolution. No group of Muslims becomes entitled to it unless it has this quality in it.
8. Prisoners of War
Muslims can set free prisoners of war, and also take ransom to set them free; however, according to the Qur’ān, they can neither kill them nor keep them as slaves come what may..
9. Spoils of War
The spoils of war are essentially reserved for the collective requirements of the Muslims. The combatants of the Muslim army have not been granted any eternal share in the spoils of war by the Almighty. In this regard, a state has discretionary powers which it can exercise keeping in view their circumstances and the society they live in.
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