The fact that the “Here to Remain and Expand” culture underlying the principles of Daesh [ISIS] does not find a large susceptible Muslim audience, but represents the rhetorical verbalization used only by the organization’s followers and adherents, notwithstanding; one must admit that, at a deeper level, it also resonates with the same rhetoric all of us learned at school. We all were told glorious tales of the ghazis [conquerors] riding astride their horses across their realm stretching from the Sindh in the east to Al-Andalus in the west, wielding their sword, on a quest to to destroy the infidels and raise the banner of monotheism high. There we were, we were told, offering the conquered peoples and nations an option out of three: Islam, paying tribute, or the sword—mind you, a trilogy of options being offered the Ahl al-Kitab [the people of the book] alone. Others, under the old doctrine—particularly under the Hanbali school of thought—are afforded only one of two options: Islam or the sword.
Today’s new generations are taught religion through the prism of polytheisms, apostasy, and heresy. Other religions are not considered sources of light or wisdom, as there is no other true religion—save for Islam. Particular derision is reserved for those Eastern religions not mentioned in the Quran, which are reduced to no more than polytheism and cow-worship—the very impurity for the eradication and purification of which Islam was sent from the Heavens to earth. Their adherents are offered either Islam or the sword; almost verbatim the stipulations of both the Shafi'i and Hanbali schools of thoughts, according to most sources.
In an attempt to confirm this fact, [Islamic] jurists laid the foundation for a bilateral division of jihad—the jihad al-Daf’ [defensive jihad], and the jihad al-Talab [or offensive jihad]. As evidenced from its wording, jihad al-Daf’ was instituted to protect the state and the people from external aggression; whereas the jihad al-Talab denotes the fighting of peoples with the aim of admitting them into the one true religion. This type of jihad is given its moral justification on the basis that it does not aim to coerce people into Islam; rather only removing tyrants and idols and, thereby, enabling people to freely choose which religion they want to follow.
I, for one, have no doubt that i was the defensive jihad that had been ordered by the Quran: (Fight in the cause of God those who fight you—but do not transgress; Allah loveth not aggressors) [Quran, 2:190]. It is a Jihad which every modern state in the world—in effect—respects and practices; the very essence of national security of all countries in the world.
I do not believe that jihad al-Talab has ever formed a true or integral part of religion; it rather has been a vehicle created and adopted by politics and warfare in an era when power and force were glorified, when the principle of “victors’ rights” prevailed. We would be overburdening history with an excess of arbitrariness in order to attempt to justify what occurred under the banner of jihad al-Talab. Muslims, in fact, were not at an exception from what was the prevalent rule—victors’ rights—the world over, in that era. Islamic values did, however help in somewhat alleviating the evils of war; to extent of prompting a respected and gentlemanly orientalist such as Gustave Le Bon to make his now famous statement: History has known no more just conqueror as the Arabs. I also always conclude my debates on this issue with the expression: “It may be justifiable, but not to be duplicated.”
The question today is, however, whether one can justify jihad al-Talab in the past as being directed to face up to rulers who prevent their people from embracing Islam or who prevent the proselytization of the Da’wa [the call, religion]. For would such an effort not call for a deep and thorough review of jihad al-Talab itself? World governments today without exception are flinging their doors open to any inflowing culture based on the precepts of human rights laws; which explicitly provide for the right of humans to choose their religion and belief. It is a right that has become integrated into these countries’ constitutions. There is not a single modern constitution which does not have in its preamble the Quranic command: (There shall be no compulsion in religion) [Quran, 2:256]. It has become a legal fact protected by laws, policies, and—most importantly—consciences.
To confirm this fact, one need no more than make one reference to what is published daily about the building of mosques and Islamic schools everywhere in the world. This month for example, as in every month, one may observe two pronouncements: Firstly, the construction of the largest mosque in Russia opened in the Eid prayer in the presence of tens of thousands of Muslims, as well as full participation by the government. It will serve as a religious sciences, advocacy, and worship center, in according to the highest requirements, and addressing all the needs of male and female worshipers. The second is the Paris municipality donating a huge building to France’s Muslims in France for the exercise of their worship, religious sciences, and advocacy—as acceptable to Muslims, without any conditions or diktats.
The question which we now address to our colleagues in religious education, is: Has the time not come for us to clearly state that jihad al-Talab—to assume that it had been justified in the past—no longer enjoys any justification in the present? And that the call to God requires neither gargantuan armies nor invading conquerors, nor suicide pilots striking the Manhattan towers, or the London or Madrid tube trains; but that it, rather, requires Islamic scientific, media, and social experiences—ones that are both balanced and reconciled to the latest developments of human civilization; ones that take advantage of the human horizon available, that carries in its rhetoric a healthy respect for the [rest of the] world, and helps introduce an additional light and wisdom,which Islam can provide.
Instead of a condescending discourse that sees in [other] religions nothing but rubble of gentile, the duty is to study the world's religions and cultures with respect a rump of polytheisms; our duty is to study the world’s religions and cultures in their capacities—as the Quran told us—as being sources of wisdom and light; and not abominations and idolatry: (Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which there was guidance and light) [Quran 5:44] (And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein) [Quran 5:47] (And [We sent] messengers about whom We have related [their stories] to you before and messengers about whom We have not related to you.) [Quran 4:164].
I personally demand a return to the guidance of the Quran in these clear and guiding texts. They are the essence of the Islamic message; one of understanding, that is wholly incompatible with or incomparable to the logic of “Here to Stay and Expand”—through war.
* Opinion articles published do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Rozana.