Sir Syed and Jihad

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Sir Syed and Jihad

Prof. Mirza Asmer Beg

Sir Syed is usually known as the foremost advocate of modern education among Muslims in the 19th century. But few people are aware of his scholarship of Islam and his writing on the subject. He favoured the rational approach to understanding Islam; as the Quran itself emphasizes upon activating the faulty of reason, and this occurs in the Quran as many as 750 times. A frequency not found in any other scripture, for they stress upon intuitive future faculties rather than reason. Sir Syed emphasized that a true religion must be compatible with the law of nature and human nature. However, his views on some social laws of the Quran mere quite unorthodox and ran contrary to the traditional understanding of the Quran. His understanding of the nature of issues to be raised in modern times made him realise the importance of looking at them from the rational standpoint. His views on Jihad one of the most contentious issues in today’s world needs to be looked at closely, particularly when this concept has been misunderstood and misinterpreted in all possible ways.


Sir Syed took upon himself the task of defining the concept of Jihad in Islam when a section of the western scholars were bent upon distorting it. His articles on the subject appeared in his Maqalat-e-Sir Syed with the title Jihad Ka Qurani Falsafa. He has dealt with this subject in detail in his Tafsir-al-Quran.


While analyzing all battles fought during the Prophet’s time, he stresses that each of these wars were defensive in nature and were an attempt to establish peace. They were not intended at converting people to Islam by force, as is usually alleged. Forcible conversion is strictly prohibited in Islam. The Quran clearly says, “There shall be no compulsion in the matter of professing a religion”.


Sir Syed says that Islam does not allow deceit, anarchy, fraud or mutiny. It instructs Muslims to obey and feel obligated to those who have given them security and peace, whether they are Muslims or Non-Muslims. Moreover, all pacts or treaties either with Muslims or Non-Muslims are to be followed faithfully. Islam forbids Muslim from invading any country to conquer it and to forcibly spread Islam. Even a single person is not to be forced to convert to Islam.


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Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and the concept of Jihad

Prof. Mirza Asmer Beg

A certain section has always tried to cast all kinds of aspertions on Sir Syed. They have branded him as communal and obscurantist. However, the fact remains that he was one of the most enlightened visionaries of his time who towered over his contemporaries. He was the foremost advocate of modern education among Muslims in the 19th century. Few people are aware of his scholarship of Islam and his writings on the subject. He favoured the rational approach to understanding Islam; the Quran itself emphasizes upon activating the faculty of reason, and this occurs in the Quran as many as 750 times. A frequency not found in any other scripture, for they stress upon intuitive faculties rather than reason. Sir Syed emphasized that a true religion must be compatible with the law of nature and human nature. However, his views on some social laws of the Quran were quite unorthodox and ran contrary to the traditional understanding of the Quran. His understanding of the nature of issues to be raised in modern times made him realise the importance of looking at them from the rational standpoint. His views on Jihad, one of the most contentious issues in today’s world, needs to be looked at closely, particularly when this concept has been misunderstood and misinterpreted in all possible ways.


It is commonly understood that jihad is synonymous with terrorism. People have come to understand, that jihad which is an important tenet of Islam, is usually a religious war of aggression for the purpose of proselytizing or exacting tribute and exterminating the idolaters. Actually jihad does not classically or literally signify warfare or hostility and is never used in such a sense in the Quran. The Arabic terms for warfare and fighting on Harb and Qital. The Quran does not teach a war of aggression but has allowed a war of defence, clearly setting forth the grounds in its justification and strictly prohibiting offensive measures. It says, “fight for the sake of Allah those that fight against you but do not attack them first. Allah does not love the aggressors”.


The irresponsible linkage of an Islamic concept with militancy has led to the presentation of Islam as violent religion.
Sir Syed took upon himself the task of defining the concept of Jihad in Islam when a section of the western scholars were bent upon distorting it. He was particularly hurt by the writings of Sir Willium Muir, Governor of North west frontier province. He even persuaded his friend Maulvi Chirag Ali to write a book rebutting the mischievous writings on the subject of jihad. Sir Syed’s articles on the subject appeared in his Maqalat-e-Sir Syed, with the title Jihad Ka Qurani Falsafa. He has dealt with this subject in detail in his Tafsir-al-Quran. While analyzing all battles fought during the Prophet’s time, he stresses that each of these wars were defensive in nature and were an attempt to establish peace. They were not intended at converting people to Islam by force, as is usually alleged. Forcible conversion is strictly prohibited in Islam. The Quran clearly says, “There shall be no compulsion in the matter of professing a religion”.


Sir Syed says that Islam does not allow deceit, anarchy, fraud or mutiny. It instructs Muslims to obey and feel obligated to those who have given them security and peace, whether they are Muslims or Non-Muslims. Moreover, all pacts or treaties either with Muslims or Non-Muslims are to be followed faithfully. Islam forbids Muslim from invading any country to conquer it and to forcibly spread Islam. Even a single person is not to be forced to convert to Islam.
However, Sir Syed mentions that the Quran allows Muslims to resort to violence in certain circumstances. Islam steers a middle course between unqualified and unchecked violence on the one hand and slavish submissiveness on the other. It gives due consideration to forgiveness, pity and kindness, but it allows people to seek remedies for their grievances and wrongs.


Sir Syed argues that Islam allows Muslims to fight those, who fight with them, but calls upon them to refrain from any excess. He say that religious laws need to be practical and consistent with natural law and hence it is natural to defend oneself when attacked. According to Sir Syed, there are only two situations when ‘Jihad’ is allowed in Islam (1) when unbelievers, guided by their hatred for Islam and intending to destroy it, attack Muslims. Sir Syed clarifies that an attack on Muslims for mere territorial conquest does not come in this category, and therefore, does not justify ‘Jihad’, (2) when in a country, life and property of Muslims are under threat because of their being Muslims and they are not allowed to discharge their religion obligations. If they are the subjects of that State and had implicitly or explicitly agreed to live in peace, they have no right to rise in revolt against the state. The only legitimate course open to them is to migrate from there. Those not the subject of the State can, however, resort to arms to help their co-religionists to come out of this precarious condition. Even in times of war, Islam has prescribed certain rules, which are to be strictly followed. Children, women, old peoples, disabled, and non-combatants, are not to be killed. Burning or looting, desecrating sacred places and mutilating dead bodies are strictly forbidden. Prisoners of war are not to be enslaved, but released on ransom or granted grace. All efforts need to be made to enter into peace agreement. Jihad says Sir Syed, is not permissible for any other purpose, certainly not for worldly conquests or worldly goods.


Sir Syed’s purpose behind expressing his views on such a sensitive subject was not intended at undermining Islam. Having striven to spread education in the English sciences among Muslim youths, he thought, it was his duty now to do whatever was in his power, to rid the original luminous face of Islam of the black stains of irrationalities read into it or added to it. He believed that if this was not done, the ones educated by him would be disaffected towards Islam. He was convinced that the Quran was in conformity with nature, for him it was not surprising as the “word of God and the work of God” had to harmonize.


The author is a Professor, Department of Political Science, AMU, Aligarh
e-mail: asmer@rediffmail.com

Sir Syed and Jihad

It will go a long way towards steering the Muslim world towards tolerance and moderation if we make a massive effort to present Sir Syed not only as an enlightened educator but as a revolutionary religious thinker as well. His rationalistic approach to religion is exactly what is needed to meet the challenges of modern living in the twenty first century at which the traditional religious scholars have failed miserably because of their narrow vision.

Masood Haider
M.Sc (1959)
Ph.D Univ. of California Medical Center, SF
New Jersey

Faheem

Good Saying,fhm_zaidi@rediffmail.com


Sir Syed Bi-Centenary

Karwaan-e-Aligarh

Hamiduddin Farahi



Aligarians


Masarrat Ali