Dr. Yusuf Qaradawi has just published a 1400 page, two volume Arabic text entitled Fiqh Al Jihad, The Correct Understanding of Jihad. He has been working on the book for the past eight years, and discussed its contents on two recent Al Jazeera programs of Shariah and Life. I would like to summarize what Dr. Qaradawi said during those programs, and then add my comments.
Jihad Al Qital, which is Jihad carried out by military means, is a Sunnat-Allah, one of God's principles. It falls under the rubric of Sunnat Al Defaa, the principle of self-defense or the defense of the weak.
Jihad was revealed to Muhammad in three stages. When Muslims were first persecuted in Mecca, Allah's instructions were to be patient, pray, and not retaliate (Quran 4: 77). After the first Muslims migrated to Medina, Muhammad was authorized to "fight against those who are fought against" (Quran 22:39). Jihad was allowed to defend not only Muslims but "the churches and synagogues that would otherwise be destroyed" (Quran 22:40). In the final stage, Muhammad was ordered to fight the unbelievers until there was no more Fitnah (Quran 2:193), defined by Qaradawi as persecution or oppression of the believers, and until Allah alone was worshipped (Quran 8:39).
The purpose of Jihad is not political, economic, or military gain, but to protect the weak who call out, "Oh Lord, protect us from the oppressors" (Quran 4:75). Although the enemies of Islam claim that Islam was spread by the sword, that is not true. "The sword may open a new territory, but it will never open a heart," said Dr. Qaradawi, and Islam spread peacefully throughout much of Africa and Asia by Arab traders and Sufi preachers who persuaded multitudes of its truth.
Muslims today adopt three attitudes towards Jihad. These are Tafrit (neglecting its true meaning), Ifrat (taking it to the extreme), and Wasat (the moderate and true meaning). Those guilty of Tafrit water down the true meaning of Jihad. They love to repeat a weak Hadith (meaning it is inauthentic) in which the Prophet allegedly informed his soldiers on their way home from a battle that they had completed Al Jihad Al Asrar, the lesser Jihad, and were now to perform Al Jihad Al Akbar, the struggle for holiness and spiritual purity.
Many of the Jihadist or Salafist groups go to the other extreme and are guilty of Ifrat. They want to fight everyone who is not Muslim throughout the entire world, but do not understand that Allah wants Muslims to live in peace with those willing to live in peace with them. Great Muslim theologians such as Ibn Taymiyya and Shaykh Qayyim argued that Muslims should live in Musalamah, peaceful coexistence, with peaceful non-Muslims.
The correct approach to Jihad, the Wasat, is between these two extremes. It recognizes that Jihad Al Qital is necessary to defend against aggression, but does not advocating attacking non-Muslims everywhere.
Muslim scholars have traditionally divided Jihad into two categories, Jihad Al Talab (offensive Jihad) and Jihad Al Defaa (defensive Jihad). In Jihad Al Talab, the Muslim is the invader. He attacks the enemy in his territory and fights him there. This is considered Fard Kifayah, meaning not everyone is obligated to go off to war as long as there are enough warriors willing to go.
Jihad Al Defaa is different. Here the Muslim is engaged in a war of resistance, fighting the enemy who has attacked, invaded, and occupied his country. This is Fard Ayn, meaning every single Muslim must be involved. Even the servant who cannot leave his field without permission of his master, and the woman who cannot leave her house without permission of her husband, are excused from seeking that permission when they are exercising Fard Ayn, involved in defensive Jihad to attack the enemy who has invaded them.
"Muslims," said Dr. Qaradawi, "Are never allowed to initiate hostilities." The Prophet never began a battle, but always sought peace with those willing to live in peace with him. Muhammad's Ghazawat, or raids, were never started by him. His first attacks against the Qafilat, the Quraysh caravans carrying foodstuffs back and forth between Mecca and Syria, were to recover the goods confiscated from the Muslims who had migrated with Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. The later raids, including the famous battles of Badr, Uhud, and Al Khandaqah (The Battle of the Trench), were all struggles of self-defense. Even the first battles against the Byzantine Empire were defensive. When the Prophet sent letters to Byzantine rulers inviting to them to "Islem wa Tuslem", accept Islam and live in peace, they responded by tearing up the letters and planning traps against him. His invasions of their country were only to defend the Muslims from their plots.
The Prophet was so peace-loving that he hated even the word Harb (war). When his son-in-law Ali announced he had named his first-born son Harb, Muhammad persuaded him to change the name to Hasan (good). When Ali announced he had given the same name, Harb, to his second son, the Prophet told him to change it to Hussayn (goodness). When the persistent Ali stated he would give another son who did not survive the same name, Muhammad told him to change it to Muhsin (better)!
1. We've all heard Muslims living in the West expound upon the "greater Jihad", the struggle for moral purity and spiritual self-improvement. It is significant that this so-called greater Jihad is given no significance by true Islamic scholars living in the Arab world.
2. Any military historian looking at a historical military figure, such as Napoleon Bonaparte or Rommel "The Desert Fox", has the freedom to examine both his successes and his failures. He can determine which moves were brilliant and led to victory, and which were misguided and resulted in failure. Only the Muslim historian is not allowed that freedom. He or she is obligated, literally under penalty of death, to do nothing that could be construed as museeat al-nabi, insulting or criticizing the Prophet.
For this reason, Dr. Qaradawi has to construe all of the Prophet's raids as defensive. He must find not only justification but also victory in some of Muhammad's failed battles, such as the raid of Mutah, in which Muslim armies were both out-manned and defeated by their non-Muslim enemies. I find it impossible to objectively read the earliest accounts of these battles and see them as defensive, much less always victorious, but Muslims scholars are not allowed that objectivity. They must defend their Prophet at all costs.
3. But that is only a small gripe with Yusuf Qaradawi's position; my second concern is much greater. Dr. Qaradawi arbitrarily draws the line, not based upon the Quran or the Hadith but simply upon his own Ijtihad, or personal conclusion, between which manifestations of Jihad are legitimate and which are not at the present time. He says that Jihad Al Defaa, or defensive Jihad, is permissible in Iraq and Afghanistan where the Mujahideen are fighting the American aggressors. At the same time, he argues that Jihad Al Talab, offensive Jihad, is not allowed at the present time meaning Muslim Jihadists are not allowed to attack Americans within the United States. But where is the basis of his argument? How is his position more defensible than that of Usama bin Ladin, Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, Anwar Al Awlaki, or Anjem Chaudary who argue that Jihad Al Talab is not only permissible but required at the present time and who encourage Muslims in America to engage in terrorist acts to kill Americans here? If Jihad Al Defaa is permissible against Americans in Afghanistan, why is not Jihad Al Talab allowed against Americans at home?
4. Dr. Qaradawi draws another arbitrary distinction between Israel and other non-Muslim countries. Although Muslim men are allowed to marry Christian and Jewish women, Qaradawi says no Muslim is permitted to marry an Israeli woman. Although he condemns suicide bombings in Europe, he encourages them in Israel. And although he tells Muslims they are not allowed to engage in Jihad Al Talab in America, he encourages them to do so in Israel. Again, why is the voice of the aging Qaradawi any more authoritative than those voices of younger, more radical Muslims who do call for offensive Jihad within the borders of not only the United States but also all other countries that do not follow Islam as they want it to be followed?
Is there an answer? I think there is. It is for individual Muslims, one by one, to give themselves the freedom to look at their Prophet critically and determine whether the actions he took, the beliefs he held, and the decisions he made were conducive with freedom for all in the 21st century. Some Muslims are taking that step, but many more need to come on board.