“Those who claim that the greater jihad is the jihad of the self are apologists,” said one of the many fear-wagon websites pronouncing a pox on the house of Islam after the Boston Marathon bombings.
This sound Prophetic tradition, which records the Prophet (SAW) saying after a battle that the Muslims were proceeding from the lesser jihad to the greater one, is always a log in the road for the Islamophobes convinced of our bloodthirstiness.
So it’s a case of if the stereotype doesn’t fit, then just fit the stereotype. I’m sure that uber-Muslim-haters such as Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and Fox’s Bob Beckel would have been happy.
But obsession, says a sage, has only one eye. Ignorance is its light and confusion its friend. Those fixated on slandering Islam – like the blessed Prophet’s uncle, Abu Lahab, and the Gellers of our world – will carry their prejudices with them to their graves.
However, bigots and scoundrels are not really my concern here. These people will always be throwing trash on us from the sidelines, and once we realise it, we should just move on. That, at least, was my response to the question of arguing that the primary jihad is of the nafs (our undesirable traits).
But it did get me thinking. For a small group of extremists in our midst, a military jihad against what they regard as an unbelieving non-Muslim world is the sixth pillar of Islam. In other words, this group – ironically like the Islamophobes – would also have regarded me as an ‘apologist’.
This innovation of jihad being the sixth pillar of Islam was the view of the Egyptian polemicist, Sayyid Qutb, who was hung by Nasser in 1966. Qutb saw the west entirely at odds with Islam, and his writing influenced a whole post-colonial generation.
I believe it was his analysis that inspired elements in the Egyptian ikhwan such as Ayman al-Zahawiri, Usama Bin Laden’s mentor. This, in turn, has led to one toxic extreme feeding off the other toxic extreme – a vocal minority in the US and Europe mischievously portraying the fringes of Islam as its centre.
In so doing, tremendous damage has been done to the original Prophetic concept of jihad, and the fact that according to Shari’ah – and international law – Muslim communities do have the right to defend themselves.
It’s ground requiring strict Shari’ conditions (which I shall not traverse due to space constraints). But suffice it to say that the brand ‘extremism’ has been used to marginalise legitimate strivings against injustice.
One thing that I must mention, though, is the famous Mardin fatwa of the 12th century scholar, Ibn Taimiyyah. It sets out that Muslim minorities are fully obliged to obey just non-Muslim governments.
Scholars also urge that in these societies Muslims should contribute positively to civic life. This was mooted at the recent Paris colloquium hosted by the World for All Foundation and the International Union of Muslim Scholars.
Jihad – seen in the context of a globalised, multi-creedal world – is a complex issue. Planet jihad cannot be expressed in absolute terms. This is why the Palestinians, who are predominantly Muslim, have so wisely called their struggle an ‘intifadah’, or a ‘shaking-off’.
Interestingly, what I’ve found in the Muslim street since the 1990’s have not been aspirations of jihad and messianic Caliphates (as the Geller’s would have us believe) but rather a deep anxiety about poverty, and frustration at the plundering of state assets by unaccountable elites – hence the Arab uprisings.
People’s primary concerns in the Muslim world have been socio-economic, these being followed closely by a deep-seated suspicion of Zionist agendas, multi-national corporations and the machinations of the major powers.
In hundreds – if not thousands – of interviews I’ve conducted from Cairo to Karachi, the word jihad has hardly cropped up. In fact, if the truth be told, I’ve heard the word jihad mentioned more by non-Muslim commentators! The average Muslim is just not fixated by jihad.
And even where people have been in ‘jihadi situations’, there has never been a mention of internationalising their cause – another false flag flown by the super-bloggers and neo-con grizzlies, who see the crescent as a scythe threatening to mow down civilisation.
Not once has a spokesman from Hamas or Islamic Jihad ever told me – or any other journalist – that they wanted to export the Palestinian intifadah. Not once has a representative from any other credible movement suggested they wanted to deal with any conflict other than their own.
In fact, I believe the internationalisation of jihad can be laid at the feet of US President Ronald Reagan, whose CIA officers in the 1970’s trained Salafi-Wahhabi militants from Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Lauded as being reminiscent of America’s ‘founding fathers’ by Reagan, they were set loose with their skewed beliefs and Sam missiles. These are the fighters who became the famous data-base (or Al-Qaeda). These are the people who became the face of jihad.
They are also the genies that the west (and Saudi Arabia) let out of the bottle in 1989. These men – representing less than 1% of the world’s 2 billion Muslims – have internationalised a project that they call jihad, and with easy access to petro-dollars and impressionable young minds, have blighted us all.
Usama Bin Laden, the bête noire of 9/11, was a creature of the Cold War too. The US had wished for a Saudi prince to join the international force in Afghanistan to give it some credibility. When, predictably, not one prince had desired to abandon his indolent life, Usama Bin Laden – a son of one of Saudi’s wealthiest families –had become the next best bet.
Bin Laden’s mistake was to issue a press statement declaring war on the US in 1996. But if conspiracies are to be believed, he had his iconic uses alive – until President Barak Obama shut him down in 2011. Robert Fisk – who’d met Bin Laden – commented that his jihad to convert the world had been a failure, and that he’d been outstripped by history.