Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fasadi, not jihadi

Fasadi, not Jihadi
10 Aug 2008, 0043 hrs IST,TNN

It is safe to assume that the Indian Mujahideen, which prides itself on being a terrorist organization, killed innocents in Gujarat, uses a logo displaying guns on either side of the Holy Book, sends threatening email signed by a split personality (both "Al Arbi" and "Al Hindi"), would like to be judged by Quranic law.

I presume they would not suggest the application of Sharia to non-Muslims. We Indians are unique in many ways: include among them the depressing fact that we have had terrorists from four major faiths - Muslims in Kashmir, Christians in Nagaland, Sikhs in Punjab and Hindus in Assam’s ULFA. Terror has been a constant weapon of Maoists and Naxalites, none of them waving a green banner.

The Quran makes a very clear distinction between legitimate war, a jihad, and illegitimate violence that spreads havoc among the innocent, a fasad. A fasadi is one who "spreads mischief through the land". The Quranic word entered our language and is used commonly for a communal riot. The Urdu-English dictionary in my office lists some of its meanings as "disturbance, trouble, outbreak of rebellion, dissension, mischief...."

It appears in the Quran, in Verse 32 of Surah 5, in the context of the first murder, when Cain killed Abel, his brother, who had done no harm. The verse is a powerful indictment of anyone who kills innocents: "That if anyone slew a person (through fasad) it would be as if he slew the whole people. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people." An innocent’s death kills something in the whole community; protecting an innocent individual is akin to saving the whole. The worst mischief is, in the words of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, "treason against the state, combined with treason against Allah, as shown by overt crimes." For this crime, "four alternative punishments are mentioned, any one of which is to be applied according to circumstances, viz., execution, crucifixion, maiming or exile". I have used Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation and notes because they are accepted internationally. The message is supplemented by other verses (as for instance Surah 30:41).

It is instructive to note how the two most Islamic states, Saudi Arabia and Iran, one Sunni and the other Shia, punish Muslim terrorists. Saudi toughness is now exemplary to those who believe in tough methods. On Tuesday, August 5, Iran executed Yaghoob Mirnehad in the city of Zahedan because he was found guilty of involvement in Jundallah, an armed group operating along the Iran-Pakistan border along Baluchistan. Afzal Guru would not stand much of a chance in either Saudi Arabia or Iran.

When a fasadi calls himself a jihadi, it is an attempt to gain legitimacy among Muslims. The intermittent use of Quranic verses by the Indian Mujahideen is designed to reinforce the impression of Quranic sanction. Even a cursory examination shows how this terrorist group has snatched text out of context. Take the deliberately provocative quotation in one of their emails: "We are guiltless of you and whatever you worship besides Allah: we have rejected you and there has arisen between us and you enmity and hatred forever - unless you believe in Allah and Him alone." The idea clearly is to establish a Quranic sanction for hatred and enmity between Hindus and Muslims. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to reach this conclusion.

They have arbitrarily plucked out lines from a much longer verse about the great patriarch Abraham, who left home after his father began to worship many gods instead of the One Allah. But the "hatred" is for apostasy, not the person. Where the Indian Mujahideen have put a full stop, there is only a colon in the original. Abraham also says that he will pray for his father. He does not threaten to murder his father in the name of Allah, which the Indian Mujahideen seem to believe is their wanton right.

The Quran insists that that while there are differences among faiths, it is up to Allah, and not man, to be the judge. For man, there is a clear principle (Surah 2:256): "La iqra fi al deen (Let there be no compulsion in religion)." (This instruction, incidentally, comes just after Ayat ul Kursi, a magnificent evocation to the power of Allah and his protection of man.) A second principle is equally unambiguous: "Lakum deen-e kum wal ya deen (Your religion for you and my religion for me)." It was not an accident that Ottoman Sultans gave shelter to Spanish Jews after they were driven out by the Catholic Inquisition.

Every jihad is a war fought by a Muslim, but every war fought by a Muslim is not a jihad. Yusuf Ali explains in his note on Surah 9:20: "It may require fighting in Allah’s cause, as a form of self-sacrifice. But its (jihad’s) essence consists in a true and sincere Faith, which so fixes its gaze on Allah, that all selfish or worldly motives seem paltry and fade away...Mere brutal fighting is opposed to the whole spirit of jihad, while the sincere scholar’s pen or preacher’s voice or wealthy man’s contributions may be the most valuable forms of jihad." The Jihad-e-Akbar, or the greater jihad is a struggle to cleanse oneself; war is only the Jihad-e-Asghar, or the lesser jihad.

However, if jihad were only an internal struggle for purification, we would not be discussing it. Islam sanctions war, but with very strict rules. The call for a jihad cannot be given by a maverick. The killing of innocents, women and children is strictly forbidden. The first Caliph, Abu Bakr, laid down the rules when he sent the first armies out to battle:

a jihadi could not betray a trust, misappropriate booty, mutilate a body, kill the old, women or children; he could not even destroy trees or slaughter an animal except for food. Terrorism has no place in jihad.

There is one justification, in Islamic law, for jihad: when a nation becomes a Dar ul Harb (House of War) rather than a Dar ul Islam (House of Islam). Can India be declared a Dar ul Harb?

A Big 19th Century Question has seeped into the 21st.

The collapse of the Mughals from around 1720 witnessed the rise of regional powers, and substantial Muslim populations began living under the rule of Marathas and Rajputs. In 1803, the British broke through Maratha resistance and reached Delhi, where the wobbly Mughals became a protected species. That year, Shah Abdul Aziz, heir of Shah Waliullah and the most respected theologian of his time, declared India a Dar ul Harb because British law would prevail over the law of Islam. This inspired a jihad by his disciples (principally Ahmad Saeed Barelvi and his successors) that lasted till the last quarter of the century; 1857 was only one episode in a long war.

The interesting point is that there had never been a similar fatwa against any Hindu ruler of India, and the Barelvis sought and received help from the Marathas. Muslims never considered living under Hindu rulers a cause for jihad because Hindu rulers respected their right to practise their faith as they wished.

As late as in 1871, Sir William Hunter, the famous ICS officer, was attempting to answer the question, "Are the Indian Mussalmans bound by their Religion to rebel against the Queen?" He recorded the considered views of a number of alim. The answer, in essence, was that if a Muslim was permitted to live by his own law, the Raj could be considered a House of Islam. Muslim personal law was incorporated into the Raj code. Free India, through Constitutional statute and practice, permits Indian Muslims full rights to the exercise of their faith. You may not be able to hear the amplified azaan in London or Washington, but you can in Delhi.

Aberrations like riots do not change this fundamental reality. If that were so, Pakistani Shias would be entitled to declare a jihad against Pakistan since they have repeatedly suffered from communal violence.

Justice and equality are the heart and soul of the Quran, and the Holy Book knows what justice would do to a fasadi.

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