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UNDERSTANDING JIHAD

Jihad is nothing but terrorism in the name of God and Islamic history is a catalog of Jihads. Attempts to separate terrorism from Jihad are contradicted by both history and scriptural authority.

 N.S. Rajaram

 

Background: Jihad as Threat to Civilization

            From being a relatively obscure term in a little understood religion, the word Jihad (or Jehad) has come to occupy the center stage in world affairs. Recently, the dreaded terrorist Osama bin Laden has called for a Jihad against Jews and Christians. Earlier he had called for a Jihad against Hindus.  This does not leave  many people in the world free from the threat of Jihad.  During his recent trip to India, President Clinton told the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee that he would raise the issue of Jihad with General Musharaf of Pakistan who has called the Pakistani assault on Kashmir waged in Kargil last year a Jihad.  So it is obviously a subject of great concern to world leaders at the highest level.  People all over the world realize that the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden lives, is the hotbed of Jihad.  And yet there is a good deal of confusion about the meaning of Jihad, which is not helped by the fact that leaders like General Musharaf claim that Jihad is actually a tolerant and even a humanitarian concept. This suggests that the advocates of Jihad are not being truthful about its meaning.

            What we propose in this essay is to explain in simple terms the meaning of Jihad— both its theoretical or doctrinal basis and the method by which it is put in practice. This is best done by the manner in which Pakistan views it and has put it into practice. This is so for two reasons: first, following the failure of its Two-Nation Theory, Pakistan has come to define itself as a Jihad state. Second, we have authoritative sources that allow us to understand both its thinking and its implementation of Jihad. To follow this evolution however, one must first visit two historic episodes: the formation of Pakistan in 1947 based on the so-called ‘Two-Nation Theory’ of its founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and the transformation of Pakistan into a state defined by Jihad, following its massive defeat in the 1971-72 Bangladesh War. Jinnah’s Two-Nation Theory held that Hindus and Muslims formed two separate nations that could never live together in peace. So they demanded and obtained a separate country for Muslims called Pakistan. The ‘Two-Nation Theory’ went up in smoke in 1971 when East Pakistan broke away to become the state of Bangladesh. This led to the gradual ‘Talibanization’ of Pakistan. Talibanism is nothing but the ideology of Jihad in action.

 

The Jihad Manifesto

            Therefore it is of great importance for the world to understand what Taliban terror — or Jihad really represents in both political and military terms. Fortunately, we have a lucid manual on Talibanism written by one of its own. It is a book called The Quranic Concept of War. Its author is one S.K. Malik, a brigadier in the Pakistani Army. His patron was none other than General Zia-ul-Haq, late President of Pakistan, who may truly be called the Father of Talibanism. He wrote a laudatory Foreword to his protégé's book. It is essentially a manifesto of religious terror— the Taliban version of Hitler's Mein Kampf. (The Quranic Concept of War is published by The English Book Store, New Delhi.)

            According to this manifesto, the impoverished state of Pakistan sees itself as a theocratic imperial power driven by a mission to end oppression and bring its version of justice to the people of the world. To achieve this, it prescribes an ideology that is intended to turn Pakistan into an Islamic military machine drawing its inspiration from the Quran and early Islamic history. This was President Zia's program, continued by his successors including General Musharaf. (This also explains why Pakistan does not long tolerate a civilian government.) It has reached such a point that there is now no difference between Talibanism and Pakistan: Talibanism is to Pakistan what Nazism was to Hitler's Germany.

            General Zia commends the book The Quranic Concept of War to "both soldier and civilian alike." According to him, "JIHAD FI-SABILILLAH is not the exclusive domain of the professional soldier, nor is it restricted to the application of military force alone. The book brings out with simplicity, clarity and precision the Quranic philosophy on the application of the military force, within the context of the totality that is JEHAD." In other words, all the resources of the state must be subordinate to the Islamic military machine in pursuit of its cause. A careful study of the book reveals how closely Pakistan has been following the guidelines laid down by it, both military and diplomatic, down to the use of terrorism as an instrument of policy. Its present policy of sponsoring terrorist groups and activities will come as no surprise.

            The source of this ideology is the Quran, and the doctrine of total war that Brigadier Malik sees in his study of the military campaigns of the Prophet. "More than mere military campaigns and battles, the Holy Prophet's operations against the Pagans [pre-Islamic Arabs] are an integral and inseparable part of the divine message revealed to us in the Holy Quran... The war he planned and carried out was total to the infinite degree. It was waged on all fronts: internal and external, political and diplomatic, spiritual and psychological, economic and military." Here is Pakistan's grand strategy: to duplicate in India the Prophet's successes against the Pagan (pre-Islamic) Arabs in his time by adopting similar tactics.

            This doctrine of total war is what Pakistan has been trying to put into practice in India through the ISI and its infiltrators— and now the army. As a result, the Pakistani armed forces are no longer a professional military force, but a religious army in pursuit of a theocratic goal. It was General Zia who presided over this transformation. This was part of his program of 'Talibanization'— that is to say, of making Jihad the main instrument of policy. It is this policy that General Musharaf is trying to pass off as ‘tolerant’ and even ‘humanitarian’. He and his followers hope that the world will be fooled by his claim that Jihad is not the same as terrorism.

            The main instrument of this policy is Jihad— "the most glorious word in the vocabulary of Islam", which both the author and President Zia describe as total war. "Jehad is a continuous and never-ending struggle waged on all fronts," they tell us. Another point that Brigadier Malik makes is that the war should be carried out in the opponent's territory. "The aggressor was always met and destroyed in his own territory," he tells us. It is puzzling that he should call this a 'defensive war', until one recognizes the Orwellian sense in which it is used to mean aggression. And what is the goal of this aggression— or of 'defense' as the book calls it? In explaining it the author leaves no room for doubt: he tells us plainly that by ‘defensive war’ he means aggression to spread the word of Allah. In his words:

            "The central theme behind the causes of war as spelt out by the Holy Quran, was the cause of Allah...  In the pursuit of this cause, the Muslims were first permitted to fight but were later commanded to fight the Way of God as a matter of religious obligation and duty." As a result, those who resist it are the aggressors, and it becomes necessary to fight a defensive war to overcome them in their own territory!

            But this Jihad doctrine does not stop here; it goes on to encompass the whole world: "It was the cause of humanity in general and not just the Muslim community in particular," informs Brigadier Malik. It is a universal doctrine, to be applied to all of us, and not just the believers. So India is only a stepping stone in taking its campaign of 'justice and freedom from oppression' (the Taliban version) to the whole world.

 Terror: Both Means and End

            The principal tactical tool to be used in achieving this divinely ordained mission is terror. "The Quranic military strategy thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the heart of the enemy, known or hidden, while guarding ourselves from being terror-stricken by the enemy." It is not hard to see that Pakistan has put this terror doctrine into practice in its proxy war in Kashmir, as it did in Punjab earlier and in Afghanistan recently. Its atrocity during the Kargil War of returning the mutilated bodies of captured soldiers is part of the same strategy— of striking terror in the heart of the enemy. 

            But the terror doctrine does not stop here, for Brigadier Malik tells us: "Terror struck into the hearts of the enemy is not only a means, it is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent's heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved... Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon him.” That is to say, the enemy is to live in a state of perpetual terror. This is necessary in order to bring 'justice and freedom from oppression'— the Taliban version.

Diplomatic Duplicity

            Just as aggression is carried out in the name of defense, in the field of diplomacy also treaties and agreements are broken in the name of observance. Brigadier Malik begins with the solemn assertion that treaty obligations must be respected, but can be broken under certain circumstances. Under which circumstances? When one suspects possible treachery on the part of the other party; suspicion will do, no evidence is needed. In other words, a treaty may be broken at will. So the Lahore Declaration with Prime Minister Vajpayee, and the later Washington Accord with President Clinton can be violated under this doctrine— as indeed they were. So the main object in signing any treaty or agreement is to gain time so that it can be broken at an advantageous time.

 

Kashmir: A Case Study

            This being the case, it is worth examining the situation on the ground under the changed circumstances resulting from the Talibanization of Pakistan. The Line of Control — or the LOC — was first established as a cease fire line between two warring states in 1949. They were overrun twice — in 1965 and again in 1971 — but re-established in 1972 under the Shimla Agreement. But then, some ten years ago, the situation changed. Pakistan established a mechanism whereby it carried out a systematic campaign of terror that essentially obliterated the LOC along with its relevance. It was breached at will by irregular forces calling themselves Mujahadeen, until it culminated in the massive armed intrusion that we call the Kargil Conflict. Pakistan tried to maintain the pretense that it still honored the LOC but the Talibanized 'freedom fighters' did not. This way, Pakistan could have it both ways: violate the agreement at will while protesting that it is honoring it. More significantly it shows how its doctrine allows it to violate agreements and still claim compliance.

            This places the LOC in a different light. It has now become a protective shield for Pakistan’s Jihad establishment to export terror. This means: the LOC is now a line of terror. This calls for a redefinition of the LOC to reflect this changed reality. Any such redefinition has to be both strategic and ideological. Strategically, any LOC must be seen as the Line of Containment, a line that offers the best possible defense against terrorist expansion from a military point of view. Ideologically, it should be seen as the dividing line between terrorism and civilization. Since Pakistan sees itself as the instrument of God, whose mission is to spread its ideology through terror, this ideological frontier is now the first line of defense against barbarism. This is entirely a consequence of Jihad as the main instrument of policy.

 

The Role of Madrasas as Jihad Academies

The Kashmir experience demonstrates that Jihad is quite different from ordinary warfare. It begins with the establishment of a training network for indoctrinating young men in Jihad ideology. This consists of a network of Islamic seminaries called madrasas. This is an integral part of what we now call ‘Talibanization’. The Talibanization of Pakistan began as a student movement and has now taken on the aspect of a network of military schools steeped in Jihad ideology. The word 'Taliban' is the plural of Talib(-i-Ilm) or student. Here it means 'students' in a special sense, namely, students educated in madrasas— or Muslim seminaries. The verses on Jihad lie scattered in the Quran. But all Hadis collections carry detailed chapters based on Traditions of the Prophet who is supposed to have given practical shape to basic principles laid down in the Quran. The lessons learnt from the wars waged by the Prophet have also been included. These are part and parcel of prescribed textbooks in all madrasas, including those in India, so that a student is fully equipped with the theory of Jihad. What he needs is practical training in handling arms and waging Jihad, which also is now being provided by madrasas in Pakistan and Afghanistan. So many madrasas have become virtually military academies passing out cadets equipped with the theory and practice of waging religious wars.

It is worth noting that these madrasas have no educational function beyond imparting religious indoctrination and Jihad. Essentially they turn out religious warriors with a medieval mindset, capable of committing any atrocity in the name of God. Their only interest outside religion is acquisition and use of weapons of destruction. At this time, their armory consists mainly of small arms and shoulder-fired rockets— thanks to the US largesse during the Afghanistan War. But this could easily expand to include nuclear and biological weapons, as they slip of control of the crumbling Pakistan. Then, in addition to India, vital US installations in the Middle East, and ultimately, the US itself, would be vulnerable. Islamic warriors like bin Laden have made no secret of the fact that they see the US as their ultimate enemy.

Madrasas have multiplied very fast in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh with the help of petro-dollars, particularly from Saudi Arabia. Kashmir had a network of them before the uprising in 1989, which drove out the Pandits and almost snatched away the Valley from India. The lesson of this is that the spread of madrasas is soon followed by Jihad. Armies of the free world, especially the Indian Army, need to be equipped with this knowledge of Jihad as well as the functioning of madrasas in countries targeted for Jihad, particularly the brainwashing of youngsters by presenting Islam as the only true religion which is bound to triumph in the near future. Hindu scholars, who can draw on a wealth of historical experience on Jihad, have to come forward to tell their misinformed people that Jihad is the doctrine of permanent and total war to be waged, if need be, till the end of time. Hindus — or other victims of Jihad — should not treat it as an ordinary war. The example of Kashmir, where a network of madrasas preceded the Jihad that led to the religious cleansing of the Valley, serves as an object lesson in the implementation of Jihad as a military operation.

 

'Clash of Civilizations'

            Seen in this light, the Kashmir conflict is both a case study and a prototype for the implementation of Jihad. In this context, it is helpful to look at the ideas put forward by Professor Samuel Huntington in his well-known book Clash of Civilizations. His main contribution is the thesis that future struggles will be between civilizations, and not necessarily between political and national entities as in the past. He divides the world into several civilizations of which three are of particular interest: Western (secular-humanistic), Hindu and Islamic. And he sees the expansion of Islam, with its accompanying violence as a major threat to freedom in the world. He speaks candidly of "Islam's bloody frontiers". While he recognized Islam as a threat to civilization, he seems not to have seen Jihad as the main instrument of Islamic expansion. He saw the Islamic threat mainly in demographic terms.

            It is unlikely that there will ever be an ideological conflict between the West and India — the former rooted in secular humanism, the latter in a non-dogmatic spirituality. Both value freedom and tolerate pluralism. The real conflict is and will always be between freedom and terror — between civilization and barbarism. And the epitome of barbarism in our time is Talibanism — now in control of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the part of Kashmir under its illegal occupation — trying to extend its reach into the Indian part of Kashmir. Once it achieves its goal of Talibanizing all of Kashmir, it will try to spread into India and Central Asia. Its ideology makes it see the whole world as its domain. In all this, Jihad will be the main instrument.

            This places the LOC in its true perspective. It is no longer the cease-fire line agreed to by two sovereign states but the Line of Containment, which one side is trying desperately to breach to spread its doctrine of terror, with the other trying to turn it back. In order to defeat the goal of terrorists, it is clear that the LOC must not be an artificial line in the snow as it is today, but an easily defensible border. On this rests the security not just of India, but the world, of civilization itself. The 'Clash of Civilizations' that Professor Huntington wrote about has taken a somewhat different turn: it is now a struggle for civilization, with India trying to push back the forces of barbarism intent on spreading terror in the name of God. Like it or not, the whole world and not just India, now has a major stake in defeating the forces of terror masquerading as religion. India is the pivot, the main battlefield where the struggle for civilization will be won or lost.

            This highlights the following fundamental fact: where Huntington explained the facts behind the ‘Clash of Civilization’, Kashmir illustrates the manner in which it is being put into practice. The world must take serious notice of this. Ultimately this is what Jihad really means.

 The Scriptural Basis of Jihad

            There is much confusion all over the world regarding the scriptural authority for Jihad, whether the Islamic holy book Quran sanctions it at all. A widespread belief among non-Muslims is that Islam is a religion of peace but the Jihadists are acting against its teachings. This is further complicated by the fact that many ‘experts’ and academics — East and West — are the main spokesmen for this view. But a careful study of the Islamic scripture leaves no doubt that Jihad derives from the scripture of Islam itself. This is made clear by the important work The Calcutta Quran Petition written by a leading expert on Islam, Sita Ram Goel. (It is published by Voice of India, New Delhi.)

The first point about the Quran is that it does not stand alone. The Suras (verses) of the Quran were created in specific situations arising out of specific military, political and sometimes personal needs. They invariably reflect the convenience of the Prophet who found it expedient to invoke Allah as authority to have his own way with his people. Seeing this, his favorite wife A’sha once observed, “I find that Allah is prompt to proclaim commandments in accordance with your desire.” This means that the context in which a Sura was created is all-important. Taking Quranic passages out of context can lead to outlandish interpretations like Sir Abdullah Suhrawardy’s Sayings of Muhammad, which Mahatma Gandhi hailed in his Foreword as among the “treasures of mankind.”

            The context for interpreting the Suras (verses) of the Quran is provided by the Hadis. They may be described as the record of the activities of the Prophet. They are so detailed, that it is possible to obtain a more or less complete picture of the private and public life of the Prophet. It may fairly be said that the Hadis rather than the Quran form the basis for Islam, for without them the Quran becomes virtually incoherent. As Goel makes clear (Chapter 3) there is practically no difference between Allah and the Prophet; Allah does at the Prophet’s bidding. As Goel explains, this makes the Quran (the ‘Word of Allah’) and the Hadis (‘Acts of Muhammad’) interchangeable.

            In other words, the Hadis describe the Quran in action, meaning the acts of the Prophet. (Talibanism, as previously explained is Jihad in action.) These in turn became the model of behavior to be emulated for every true Muslim from the highest to the lowest. As Goel observes: “It is this fixed and frozen image of the Prophet which is meant when a Muslim proclaims his Din (fundamental faith). In fact the Prophet produced a ‘revelation’ (33.21) presenting himself as the perfect model for those who look forward (with hope) for the Day of Judgement. For a pious Muslim, human life is best lived when it conforms to Muhammad’s conduct even in minor matters such as defecating… cutting one’s beard to a specific size and so on. Islam leaves no room at all for individual initiative or judgement...  In case of doubt, a pious Muslim must go to a mufti (juri-consultant) and obtain a fatwa [ruling] about how the Prophet would have conducted himself in a situation which, according to all sources, the Prophet is not known to have faced.” Needless to say, this is not a climate conducive to progress or enlightenment in the modern world, whatever its effect might have been in medieval Arabia.

            This has led to a sinister development with far-reaching implications. Since the later part of the Prophet’s career is full of war and bloodshed in the name of Allah, religious war or Jihad is seen as the highest goal of Islam. What the world is faced with today — from Kashmir to Sudan — is Jihad (or religious war) to bring the whole world under the sway of Islam using terrorism as its main tool. This reality cannot be wished away as is done by liberal academics in East and West, by giving an abstract interpretation of Jihad. As Walter Laquer, an American expert on terrorism observed, “Both interpretations are true, but Islamic militants have rejected the spiritual explanation as dangerous heresy. …The Taliban in Afghanistan and many militants are not impressed …and this fact is what matters…” The fact of the matter is that most influential Muslim leaders see the violent version of Jihad as the only valid one. Jihad to them is “the most glorious word in the vocabulary of Islam,” and by this they don’t mean striving for inner perfection. Goel explains this vital fact with clarity and thoroughness with profuse illustrations from the history and scripture of Islam. As he points out, the Quran studied alongside the Hadis is nothing but a manual on Jihad — or religious war.

Just as the Prophet became the model for Muslim behavior, his blood soaked career became the model for a succession of Muslim leaders down to the present. Goel produces evidence from primary sources to demolish the claim of modern apologists that Jihad has any necessary spiritual meaning. This ‘spiritual’ interpretation becomes primary only when Muslims feel insecure — as in India today, or when faced with powerful opponents like the United States — to be buried again when conditions turn favorable. This means that the ‘spiritual meaning’ is little more than a smokescreen for concealing the true meaning and intent of Jihad.

            The Jihad in Kashmir is not unique in history, but only a chapter in the continuing saga of Islamic history. Goel’s Chapter 6 (‘Jihad in India’s History’) may be read as a practical demonstration of Islam in action. It is to be hoped that every policymaker in India as well as the West will read this capsule account of the ‘bloodiest story in history’ — as Will Durant called it — and learn its lessons. Indians in particular must face this historical truth and not seek escape in fantasies written by soothsayers calling themselves historians. This chapter should be made required reading for students in India, if mistakes of the past are not to be repeated. It is also a lesson for the West, still groping to understand the true meaning and scope of Jihad. 

Jihad may be compared to the Christian Crusades and Inquisitions that the West had to eliminate in order to develop along secular and scientific lines.  The problem is that the Islamic world is still in its Middle Ages and has not undergone the Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment of the West. With the military defeat of Islam, terrorism, rather than overt war has become its main method of attack, whether in Israel, India or the Philippines.  The pattern is clear.  No one is taking up the so-called spiritual Jihad anywhere. It is meant only to deceive the gullible.

            In summary, we have ample sources, of which I have presented two, that allow us to see Jihad in its true colors. They shed light also on the nature of Islam and its scripture. The most important lesson is that Islamic scripture easily lends itself as a manual on Jihad. Both history and scripture show that Jihad is a mask for terrorism in the name of God such as medieval monotheism has been prone to. No amount of sophistry can hide this basic truth.

Conclusion: The World at a Crossroads

            As the previous chapter showed, the power of Islam is more through subterfuge than through any real economic, military or intellectual strength. What power it has today derives from its capacity to camouflage its true intent and scope in religious language. In this chapter we have attempted to show it in its true colors by highlighting both its scripture and history against the background of Pakistan’s Jihad in Kashmir.

One may now see the problem confronting the world today, and the greatest threat to world peace, as Talibanism that uses Pakistan as its legitimate face. The state of Pakistan has been mortgaging large parts of the territory under its control to terrorist warlords like Osama Bin Laden. This includes the part of Kashmir under Pakistani occupation or the POK. Various terrorist organizations — including those controlled by Bin Laden — maintain bases in POK. They are exporting terror into India across the porous line known as the LOC; they are moving into Central Asia also.

            So the first step in ensuring the defeat of Talibanism is to push the LOC to a naturally defensible frontier — like the Indus River in the north. This has the merit of confining the terrorists and their warlords to a smaller and strategically less advantageous territory from which they can eventually be eliminated. Simply striking at a few terrorist bases — as the US did in Afghanistan — is unlikely to have any long-term results. The terrorists must be denied any base to operate from. Today, the part of Kashmir under Pakistani occupation, to which Pakistan has no legal claim, has become a springboard for terrorists. They must be driven out of this territory. With India in control of it, the terrorists will be denied any bases.

            Even this can only be the first campaign in the war against the spread of barbarism. India today has become the frontline state in the struggle for civilization. Terror and freedom cannot co-exist. As Abraham Lincoln once said (quoting the Bible): "A house divided against itself cannot stand. ... It will become all of one thing, or all of the other."

            The world now stands at a crossroads. It must decide, on which side, its future lies. The future of civilization rests on its decision today. This means eliminating Jihad root and branch. So far the West has tolerated Jihad outside the Middle East in order to divert it from vital oil resources. The West must realize that it must eliminate terrorist Jihad from the entire world or its threat must inevitably manifest in the Middle East, if not in the West itself. For this the West should ally with India to contain Jihad, whose central staging ground, by all accounts, is Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is also in the best interests of the Soviet Union, which has its own threat of Jihad that Chechnya so well demonstrates. Secular Islamic states, like Turkey, should join in this battle, if they wish to control fundamentalist Islam within their own borders; Iran too has a stake in eliminating this evil. Islamic Jihad is the main force pulling the world down today, starting with the Islamic countries themselves.

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