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The Task Ahead

47The Review of Religions – October 2004 purpose although in itself it is not bad. I am not talking of those who waste even these opportunities. Leave them aside. But if he carries on his employment or occupation so that he may fulfil the purpose that God has appointed for him and this is the means of keeping himself alive; maintaining his family and bringing them up as true servants of God so that all of them by virtue of their relationship to one another and through the help of that relationship and the comfort that it brings, may be able to have the strength, vision and capacity to fulfil all required purposes backed by his example, i.e. if he might be able to lead himself and all others towards the establishment of communion with his Maker. This is the great need of his age of spiritual malaise and sickness, which has overtaken mankind today. I am not asking you that you become hermits and discard life on the hilltops pretending to be seekers after God in isolation. God has to be sought here and not on the hilltops. You may go to the summit of Mount Everest, to the bottom of the ocean or raise your hand until it becomes dry and useless in seeking God and guidance, but you are only destroying yourself. We have to seek Him and find Him through our ordinary daily occupations, but they must have that quality courage and stand which is given only to those who are true seekers after God and set their faces in His direction. If my yard-stick in life and my value is determined by my neighbours, by my fellow workers, by what the newspapers say, by what the television says or by radio broadcasts, then these are my gods… Wherever things stand in the way of our purpose we must discard them, overlook them and pass them by. As the result of all that, therefore, we should be walking examples of people who are devoted to that purpose. We should radiate it more strongly than any other radiation before we can help others in a godless world to worship and have communion with God. The Task Ahead 48 The Review of Religions – October 2004 The moment we are in the company of others, our principle desire should be to please the company in which we are. Let us not deceive ourselves by saying these things are little things. Look at it this way. A person who does not have the courage to change himself in little things, could he honestly say he would have the courage to change his life in big things which matter a great deal more? He who is not capable of small sacrifices, it is for you to think how he will make great sacrifices. Tr a i n yourselves to give a lot of everything for the sake of God and taking out only that much that God says. It is related of Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani who said he eats good food and wears good clothes, but he did not put a morsel of food into his mouth until God told him to eat. Nor did he put on a garment until he was told by God to wear it. That should be the standard and understanding in everything. Everything else should be discarded. That is the change which we must carry out in today’s distressful world, which is hurtling towards destruction every moment before your eyes. If we are to prove that factor which can save not only ourselves but the whole of mankind against the wrath of God and bring mankind’s allegiance back to Him and unless we illustrate it in our lives, all our preaching and announcements will be without result. We have to be living examples of those who experience God daily. Without that nobody today is going to believe in God. You cannot convince anybody through any kind of reasoning that God exists. He has so ordained it Himself that He must be sought through experience of Him and not through arguments about Him. He does not leave reason and arguments out of it. They are only adjuncts. They are not the essence but they only help you in that direction to see if there may be one but they will not bring you to God’s Presence with a capital ‘P’ which that experience alone can achieve. The Task Ahead 49The Review of Religions – October 2004 Unless we experience it con- stantly at every moment by being in His presence, all our other efforts will be without result. The first thing you need, therefore, is to have the courage that comes from certainty of faith. Nothing can overcome that. No one will be able to displace such a person from the stand he has taken in obedience to God. Every effort that is made will only evoke a pitiful endeavour and nothing more. Yet how many are there of us who are ninety percent of what we do and which we pursue just do so as a fashion? There is not much harm in following a fashion but that way must be God’s fashion and not man’s fashion. It must be the fashion of life and not the fashion of death. There is a revelation of the Promised Messiah( a s ) w h i c h points in this direction “zindigi ke fashion se dur ja pare” meaning keep far away from the fashion of this world. After all we do have a fashion. Fashion just means the fashion, which is pursued. We follow a fashion. We leave our beds and get up in the late hours of the night to offer prayers. Our fashion is to get up at that time to hold communion with God. That is our fashion. It is our fashion, irrespective of what time the sun rises, that an hour and a quarter before sunrise, even having got up an hour and a quarter before and then having washed and held communion with God in tahajjud prayers, we then say fajr (morning) prayers and further prayers through the day. This is our fashion; what we earn is not ours. It belongs to God. Out of that we should use only that much for ourselves and for our children which barely suffices for our needs and it is The Task Ahead WE S H O U L D B E C O M E T H E G R E AT E S T S O U R C E O F BENEFICENCE FOR THE COUNTRY IN WHICH WE LIVE, SOCIETY IN WHICH WE LIVE, FOR OUR NEIGHBOURHOOD IN WHICH WE DWELL AND FOR THE CHILDREN WHO COME IN CONTACT WITH OUR CHILDREN. 50 The Review of Religions – October 2004 our fashion that the rest is for the service of our follow creatures. There is nothing wrong in a fashion but what matters is what fashion. What are our young people worried about? Whether the side hair on their faces has grown down to here or there. How long they spend before the mirror I do not know because I do not do it myself but presuming it is five minutes wasted when the world is in a conflagration and the future of mankind is being consumed and burnt and when every moment of our time is needed for beneficent occupation. I have often mentioned that in the older days when the fares of the underground had not gone up I used to come to the mosque from the West End of London and alight at Putney Bridge station from where I would take either bus number 85 or 93. Everybody asked me why I do that. I said first of all the bus stop is a little nearer to the mosque than Putney station. Secondly because I saved a penny in fare. This is not a joke. Every penny, every cent, matters. Why? Because of the value that one attaches to the penny and the cent. It is God’s bounty and has to be put to the best possible use. I am not saying that this is the only thing that was necessary to do. I could easily have gone to East Putney or Southfields station and I might have saved a little more time which would other wise not have been employed for anything else and if I can save six pence then that is something. We have been endowed by God with all that is very valuable. Our thinking capacity, our physical frame all the wonderful incomprehendable machinery which is the human being; and it is still underestimated capacity which no one yet knows the end of. Each of us is a universe in himself if he will but realise it. We have to devote to that purpose everything connected with us. If we are not doing so, we are not only failing in our duty but we are cheating, we are The Task Ahead 51The Review of Religions – October 2004 embezzling and putting to use that which was given to us for use and a purpose quite different. We must therefore carry out a whole revolution in our lives. We must not be affected by what other people think. Someone has said a very simple and wise thing in a few words, ‘They say, what do they say, let them say’. That contains the whole philosophy of the matter. Did the companions of the Holy Prophet(sa), let alone himself, worry about what the people said? Would they have got anywhere if they had worried what people might say? To discard the fashion of others institute your own fashion external, internal, moral, spiritual and physical. We should not merely out of stubbornness and prejudice go against other people. In fact a righteous person is much more in accord with other people because he acts in a beneficent way. We should become the greatest source of beneficence for the country in which we live, society in which we live, for our neighbourhood in which we dwell and for the children who come in contact with our children. How should our being different make us unwelcome to anybody because we would then have to become a hundred percent beneficent whereas other people are normally only five or ten percent beneficent. If we want to make of our lives something that would be welcome to our Maker when we depart from this life, and this is the resolution that we must carry out, I am warning myself as well as warning you that the span of life passes faster than the fastest super-sonic plane which is now on the blue print and which has not yet been made. Use every moment while you have the opportunity to do so. Make up your mind and go forward with courage. The Task Ahead 52 The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Arabic word jihad literally means to ‘strive’ or ‘struggle’. It refers to a Muslim’s inner spiritual quest to vanquish evil inclinations in his or her heart. U l t i m a t e l y, j i h a d – e – a k b a r o r ‘great jihad’ is that of over- coming the self that incites evil and achieving nearness to God. The word jihad has also been used in the Qur’an in the physical context of war, how- ever such an act of force is strictly a defensive measure in Islam. A Muslim is entitled to self-defence only if he is denied forcibly his ability to practice his faith. We read: And fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not t r a n s g ress. Sure l y, Allah loves not the transgressors.1 (Ch.2: V.191) And: Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is The Concept of Jihad in Islam By Amjad Mahmood Khan – Boston, USA The concept of Jihad is often misrepresented both by Muslims and non-Muslims. True jihad remains a key force for good and one that promotes peace at all levels, yet today perhaps no other word generates more confusion than jihad, as it has been misused as a result of multiple erroneous translations. This article aims to unpack the notion of jihad as explained in the Holy Qur’an, and effectuated by Muhammad(sa). It further aims to dismiss some of the most prominent criticisms levelled against Islam that flow from a misinformed understanding of jihad, namely that Islam breeds religious intolerance and that Muhammad(sa), spread Islam with the sword. 53The Review of Religions – October 2004 made, because they have been wronged and Allah, indeed, has the power to help them. (Ch.22: V.40) These verses suggest that if an aggressor initiates the use of force for purposes of religious persecution, then and only then is forceful reaction of self- defence justifiable2. The use of force is contingent upon emergency conditions and only when a Muslim is morally3, rather than religiously, provoked to fight. The suggested limits to religious tolerance in Islam are founded upon the rational precept that self-defence of one’s own belief offsets an outward compulsion for another to believe. With this brief framework laid out, it is surprising, even terrifying, to observe how militant so-called Islamists have hijacked the concept of jihad for political ambition and self- aggrandisement. In their prop- aganda Jihad has lost its Q u r’anic meaning and has instead been wielded as a political weapon to justify territorial and ideological expansion. The sublime spiritual significance of the term that millions of Muslims cherish is tragically undermined by the whims and ambitions of zealots. Many Western scholars, however, refuse to accept that jihad has any deep spiritual significance or tolerant bent. Rather, they maintain, jihad has always constituted aggressive conversion and compulsion since the days of the Holy Prophet(sa). These scholars fail to glean the reality of Muslim history. Arabia before the time of M u h a m m a d( s a ) was in moral d i s a r r a y. Infanticide grew rampant in selected areas, and the dispossession of another was considered a birthright.4 At the age of forty, Muhammad( s a ) received the first Qur’ a n i c revelation, and this was the beginning of the formation of a moral code. Muhammad( s a ) preached a belief in one God – a The Concept of Jihad in Islam 54 The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Concept of Jihad in Islam revolutionary teaching in the polytheistic Arab world of the time. Within twenty years, the religion of Islam dominated Arabia, and Muhammad(sa) stood as a spiritual leader of an entire empire. It was in this historic setting that the Qur’anic verse was revealed: ‘There should be no compulsion in re l i g i o n’ (Ch.2: V.257). The sweeping verse was a strong reminder that force was not something God condoned in Islam. When placed in the context of the preceding and subsequent verses, however, it becomes part of a larg e r rational argument against compulsion. In the preceding verse, we read: Allah, there is no God but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that will intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His thro n e extends over the heavens and the earth; and the care of them wearies Him not; and He is the High, the Great. (Ch.2: V.256) Arab scholars label this verse ‘Ayat al-Kursi’ meaning the verse of divine power. Here, the only entity worthy of granting protection to man is God Himself. Man’s knowledge is limited, incomplete, and ineffe- ctive as opposed to the endless, full, and powerful knowledge of God. The verse hints at the folly of human presumption and the need for a constant reminder of G o d ’s absolute and exclusive capacity to judge man. The rest of verse 257 reads: S u re l y, right has become distinct from wrong; so whomsoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle 55The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Concept of Jihad in Islam which knows no bre a k i n g . And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Ch.2: V.257) Here, a distinction is drawn between those who believe, i.e., the Muslims, and those who transgress, namely the pagan Arabs of the time. Anticipating the possible use of force on the part of Muslims against non- Muslim Arabs, the verse makes it plain that God bestows on the Muslims sublime guidance, and that such guidance should not be regarded as humanly concocted. Thus, the believers should not compel others to their belief system, for they have no such Divine right. Moreover, truth is distinct from falsehood, so the believers need not force the issue; it is an absurd, illogical action. At another crucial place in the Qur’an, Chapter 109 entitled Al K a f i ru n ‘The Disbelievers’ fleshes out further the distinction described above: Say, ‘O ye disbelievers! I worship not that which you worship. Nor worship you what I worship. And I am not going to worship that which you worship. Nor will you worship what I worship. For you your religion, and for me my religion.’ (Ch.109: Vs. 1-7) Not only are believers enjoined not to employ force on a non- believer, but also they are urged to proclaim emphatically that they will not force another to believe what they believe. In direct terms, the chapter insists that believers declare their tolerance for non-believers: ‘For you your religion, and for me my re l i g i o n . ’ So here, Islam demands tolerance for people of other faiths and refrains from forced conversion. The Qur’an leaves no doubt in these and other passages that it regards idolaters as profoundly in error. However, a group of scholars including Adolph L. Wismar have misconstrued this