Why Violence? : Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
November 17, 2019
Why do Muslims perpetrate violence? An answer to this is in the Hadith. The Prophet said: “If the sword enters my community once, it will not be raised again until the Day of Judgment.” ‘Sword’ here indicates the tendency or attitude of violence. I have been thinking deeply on this matter and have realized that our ulema, or religious scholars, could not do ijtihad here. It would be wrong to say that the doors to ijtihad have been closed. This can never happen ever. In the later period of Muslim history, one of the issues that arose was that in the Quran and the Hadith, there are some commandments (ahkam) which were temporary or restricted to a certain age, however, they were considered as eternal. One such commandment is jihad bil-sayf, or armed jihad. This jihad bil-sayf was a temporary ruling in Islam. This is because Islam came in the tribal age, the seventh century. This is why the Quran contained certain verses on war or qital, but these were temporary in nature. It is strange that other such commandments were recognized as temporary and were suspended, but not jihad bil-sayf.
For example, in Surah Hajj it is said that Prophet Abraham made the Kabah. It has been commanded in this Surah that Muslims from all over the world should come to Kabah on camels. But today it has been accepted without any declaration that one can go to Kabah on aeroplanes and such means of conveyance other than the camel. But a similar analysis could not be done of jihad bil-sayf. In the time of the Prophet Abraham the available means of transport was the camel, but today it is the aeroplane. This change in the available means of transport required ijtihad in this matter and people realized that they need to change their mode of transport.
The same could not happen in the case of jihad bil-sayf. Muslims needed to abandon violence, as others had done in this modern age. But they realized that they needed to do ijtihad in the matter of travel to Kabah, but could not do the same here. There is no need today of jihad bil-sayf. After WW-II, two atom bombs were dropped on the cities of Japan. This totally destroyed the economy of Japan, leading to the development of a new term: ‘weapons of mass destruction’. This new age made people realize that now war leads to mutual killing and destruction, not merely the elimination of the enemy. Killing others leads to harm to one’s own side as well. Later the formation of the United Nations made countries reach the consensus that now the war was to be abandoned and only peaceful negotiation was the way for the solution to differences and disputes. No nation took the risk of using atomic bombs even though they faced controversial matters with others, because it was now a matter of bilateral destruction. WW-II changed the course of history. This was a kind of nuclear shock, which changed people’s way of thinking from war to peace.
However, Muslims are still living with the thinking of war and violence. Other nations had not made their war a matter of religion, but Muslims made their jihad sacred, by referring to it as jihad fi sabilillah, etc. This is why Muslims could not understand that the age of violence was over, now armed jihad was redundant as everything could be gained through peaceful methods. Now to achieve any higher goal, war or battle was not required at all.
In a previous age, many empires were formed based on wars and battles between nations. Today American holds the position of superpower but hasn’t gained this stature through war rather through peaceful means. Thus in this age, any new goal can be achieved without resorting to violence. Muslims, however, could not understand that the age of jihad bil-sayf is over; they believe that they need to fight, become martyrs and reach heaven. Today we are not living in an age of stone pelting or wielding the sword. In the present age, an exchange of ideas can lead to change.
We at Centre for Peace and Spirituality are reaching out to people through peaceful communication of our ideas.
Muslims need to declare that the era of jihad bil-sayf is over, now we are living in an age of peaceful jihad, or doing jihad through peace. Just as camels are not used to travel to Makkah to perform the Hajj, similarly, violence need not be used anymore for the achievement of any goal.
I used to continually engage in a process of rethinking. This made me realize that jihad bil-sayf was no more needed, rather it was an age of peaceful planning. Members of CPS are doing distribution of the Quran throughout the world. How is this happening? It is through peace and utilization of peaceful resources. The ghazawat which happened in the prophetic period was not for war. In the tribal age, the culture of sword was prevalent. The Prophet’s companions used to visit other tribes for conveying the message of Islam. But the tribal culture used to lead to confrontation between two sides, so the Prophet’s companions would keep swords for defence and their protection. But in today’s age, this task of conveying the message of Islam and every other work can be achieved through peaceful struggle.
In recent history, Muslims faced two big issues but they did not wage a war. First was the revocation of the status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and the second was the recent Supreme Court’s verdict on Babri Masjid. Muslims did not give a violent reaction because in today’s age there is no need for going against peace. The age of violence is practically over. I know of a businessman in earlier times. Once some thieves entered his house and while they were stuffing the notes in a bag, the owner of the house called the police. When the police have entered the house, the thieves began to throw away the notes on the policemen’s car. Therefore, the police got busy in appropriating the notes instead of running after the thieves. The thieves then escaped. This incident is representative of the opportunities available in the modern age. Today there are innumerable scopes in various fields and people are busy utilizing them and making them competent. There is no need any more to engage in war or violence, as that is a distraction from the opportunities that people are surrounded by. This is the reason why people are no more engaging in the movements of Babri Masjid or giving violent reactions in Kashmir.
We need to put an end to the attitude of provocation and the thinking of war and violence.
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