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by R. K. Ohri



"The main goal of the future is to stop violence.
The world is addicted to it."
- Bill Cosby

Apart from the five well known fundamentals, the conceptual framework of Islam enjoins on its followers a sixth condition as well - and a controversial one at that. It is the obligation placed on all Muslims to wage a holy war called 'jihad' against non-believers and infidels for spreading the message of prophet Muhammad to four corners of the world.

The literal meaning of the word 'jihad' is "to strive or to make an effort". But in the context of the doctrine of jihad propounded in the Quran and further exemplified in Hadith, it means to fight or strive in the cause of Islam, as ordained by Allah. Therefore the technical expression used in the Quran is Jihad fi Sabilillah, that is, to strive or fight in the way of Allah.

The concept of jihad has been enunciated quite lucidly in the eighth surah (chapter) of the Quran, i.e., the Surah Anfal, and the ninth surah titled Taubah, although jihad has been enjoined on the faithful in many other chapters as well.The most significant verse on the subject is 8.39 the meaning of which is similar to verse 2.193. Both these verses exhort the faithful to"fight them (the infidels) until persecution is no more and religion is all for Allah." These verses exhort the faithful to carry out perpetual jihad for the abolition of all non-Islamic religions the world over. N.J. Dawood's rendering of the same verse, "Make war on them until idolatory is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme" brings out the meaning more explicitly.(1)

The Quran chides those Muslims who shy away from jihad and exhorts them to fight in way of Allah. Ever since the birth of Islam, throughout history the Muslim warriors have remained busy battling with their neighbours and even with people living far away. As explained in the Publisher's note of the widely read commentary captioned Jihad in the Quran and Sunnah authored by Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid (ex Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia), Jihad is regarded as the best thing one can offer voluntarily. It is considered superior to non obligatory prayers, fasting, Zakat, Umra and Hajj, as mentioned in the Quran and the Ahadith. The benefits of Jihad are deemed to be of great value to Muslims, while its effects are widespread and far reaching for the cause of Islam. For an individual Muslim, Jihad includes all acts of worship and all aspects of belief, thus bringing him greatest reward and vast blessings. And for the Muslim nation, Jihad provides all kinds of successes in respect of prosperity and dignity, victory and glory — thus bringing magnificence and splendour.(2) In the aforesaid exposition, the Islamic scholar has emphasized that Allah has ordained Al-jihad (the holy fighting in Allah's Cause) to be carried out by the following three means:

With the heart (intentions or feelings),
With the hand (weapons, etc.),
With the tongue (speeches, etc., in the Cause of Allah).

It has been ordained that Allah will reward all those who perform jihad with lofty dwellings in the Gardens of Paradise.

Waging holy war or jihad against the infidels as ordained by the Quran has been the time-honoured tradition of most Muslim rulers as well as the commoners. Verses 47:4, 47.5 and 47.6 of the Quran say "So when you meet (in fight ... Jihad in Allah's Cause) those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives). Thereafter (is the time) either for generosity (i.e., free them without ransom) or ransom according to what benefits Islam), until the war lays down its burden. Thus you are ordered by Allah to continue in carrying out Jihad against the disbelievers till they embrace Islam (i.e. are saved from the punishment in the Hell fire) or at least come under your protection] but if it had been Allah's Will He Himself could certainly have punished them (without you). But (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost. He will guide them and set right their state. And admit them to Paradise which He has made known to them.(3) The foregoing text underlines the importance of jihad in the Islamic scheme of world order and shows that it is an integral part of the Islamic theology, having been ordained by the Prophet himself. That jihad is the greatest duty of a Muslim has been described in the Hadith without any scope for ambiguity. As stated in Imam Muslim, it has been confirmed in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah an important companion of the Messenger of Allah, the prophet had said that a Muslim who died but did not fight in the way of Allah, nor did express any desire or determination for Jihad died the death of a hypocrite.(3) Further it has been reiterated on the authority of Abu Said Khudri that the Messenger of Allah had told him that whoever cheerfully accepts Allah as his Lord, Islam as his religion and Muhammad as his Apostle, is necessarily entitled to enter Paradise. But there is another act which elevates the position of a man in Paradise to a grade one hundred times higher and the elevation between one grade and the other is equal to the height of the heaven from the earth. Abu Said asked: "What is that act? He replied: Jihad in the way of Allah! Jihad in the way of Allah".(5)

Every Muslim while receiving lessons in the Quran during his childhood years is taught to swear by jihad, and knows that it is obligatory for him to fight in the way of Allah. Osama bin Laden while referring to the Afghan war in an interview on television (CNN), aired on May 10, 1997, had grandly proclaimed, "the acme of this religion is Jihad". Osama bin Laden has been a great admirer of Taqi al Din Ibn Taymiyah, a well known Islamic scholar and famed mujahid of Sham, i.e., the present Syria, who was responsible for training several mujahideen groups to wage holy war against heathen Tartars in the medieval times. Ibn Taymiyah eulogised the mujahideen and extolled the virtues of jihad waged for Allah's sake. He explained that jihad will continue till the day of judgment, by using the following authentic Hadith as proof:

"There will always remain a group of people from my nation who will establish the truth. They will never be agonised by those who let them down nor by those who disagree with them till the day of judgment".(6)

Thus for Muslims 'jihad' is continuum; it is a holy war to be waged throughout the ages till the Day of Judgment. Prophet Muhammad himself had undertaken nearly twenty six jihads which were called Ghazwahs. In Arabic tradition, a jihad to destroy the infidels, personally led by the prophet was called 'Ghazwah' — a word etymologically related to the title 'Ghazi' which means a victorious "kafir slaying soldier" of Islam. To be a 'ghazi' is therefore the religious ambition of every devout Muslim because it bestows on him prestige in this world and assures his entry into heaven in the after-life. After Akbar's victory in the second battle of Panipat in November 1556, when Hemu was brought before him in an injured condition, Bairam Khan prompted Akbar to earn the covetted title of Ghazi by killing Hemu. Referring to the slaying of Hemu by Akbar, Will Durant writes: "Like a good Turk, he had no effeminate distaste of human blood; when at the age of fourteen, he was invited to win the title of Ghazi — Slayer of the Infidel — by killing Hindu prisoner, he cut off the man's head at once with his scimitar."(7) That was how, Akbar, one of the most illustrious and cultured Mughal kings began his royal career. The commonly accepted story that young Akbar had exhibited a chivalrous unwillingness to strike a wounded prisoner is not true; it is a subsequent courtly invention. (8)

The same centuries-old Islamic tradition of holy war and commitment of the faithful to jihad is now being emulated and carried forward into the twenty first century by the Islamists. The importance of jihad has also been highlighted by the well known journalist and author, M.J. Akbar, in his book The Shade of Swords where he has reiterated in the Introduction itself that jihad is "the signature tune of Islamic history". Elaborating the concept he points out that although the Prophet insisted that a greater jihad was the struggle to cleanse impurity within, that does not detract from the fact that it was the lesser jihad which had inspired the spirit that once powered the armies of Islam and made them all conquering.(9) For Muslims, jihad is not merely a question of cleansing the inner spirit; it is also a call for holy war regularly heard since the beginning of Islam. There is a saying by the Prophet: "Paradise comes under the shade of swords."(10) A call for jihad has always evoked prompt response from Muslims across the world. The Quranic doctrine of 'paradise comes under the shade of swords' has been exemplified by Abu Musa, another prominent companion of the Prophet, in hadith No. 4549 of Mishkat. According to Abu Musa, Allah's Messenger had said that the portals of heaven lie under the shadow of the swords. On hearing this a lean and emaciated man stood up and asked Abu Musa whether the latter had heard this hadith with his own ears? As soon as Abu Musa replied in the affirmative, the emaciated man went to his companions and bid them salaam. Soon the man broke the sheath of his sword and proceeded towards the enemies. He killed many enemies and ultimately attained martyrdom. (11)

Another important aspect of Jihad is the justification flowing from Verse 8:67 of the Quran for "slaughter in the land" meaning thereby that during jihad the infidels are to be put to slaughter. A typical example of "slaughter in the land' was the treatment meted out by the Prophet himself to the Jews of Banu Kuraizah, a tribe of Medina, after the battle of Ditch in 627 A.D. Although the Jews of Banu Kuraizah did not participate in the battle of Ditch, they were supposed to be hostile to the Prophet and suspected to be conspiring against him. After victory in the battle of Ditch, the Prophet's army laid seige to the stronghold of Banu Kuraizah till they were starved into submission. The Jews offered to go into exile, but were not allowed. They appealed for mediation by the Arab tribe of Aus, of which they were clients, which request was granted by the Prophet. The Ausite chief, Sa'd bin Mua'z, pronounced his judgement in the name of Allah whereby all male members of the Kuraizah, barring children, were to be put to death, while their women and children were to be sold into slavery. The Prophet praised Sa'd for having adjudged the case with the judgment of God, the Exalted and Glorified one.(12) Then a big pit was dug in the market of Medina, and 800 Jews (as estimated by William Muir) were brought down, chained and manacled, and were beheaded. The slaughter was presided over by the Prophet himself. A woman whose husband had just been beheaded, admitted to having killed a Muslim by throwing a big stone during the Kuraizah seige, but refused the gift of life being granted to the enslaved womenfolk, was promptly executed at her own request. Her smiling face, as she stepped forward for execution was said to have haunted the Prophet's favourite wife, Ayesha, to the end of her days.(13)

In recent years the concept of jihad has gained enormous popularity among Muslim youth and the clergy. As pointed out by Afsir Karim, the last two decades of the twentieth century have witnessed the emergence of a most dangerous form of international terrorism. It has been led by the self-styled Islamic mullahs whose aim is to target Christian, Jewish and Hindu communities and non-conformist Muslims around the globe. The political agenda of this violent jihadi movement is to establish an Islamic order in various parts of the world (Nizam-e-Mustafa — an order propagated by the Prophet during his time — as interpreted by the fundamentalists and their mentors).(14)

The Islamic fundamentalists believe that Jihad by force (bil saif) is justified to annihilate enemies of Islam. Many fundamentalist leaders advocated violent jihad against all unbelievers and called it the suppressed sixth pillar of Islam.(15) Palestinian Jihadi leader, Abdullah Azzam (1941-1989) who joined the Afghan resistance against the Soviet army and was also considered Bin Laden's mentor, claimed that Jihad is a forgotten obligation of every Muslim, as infidels today occupy Muslim lands in Palestine, Afghanistan (1980s) and Kashmir.(16) It is remarkable that a large number of Muslim scholars and intellectuals, ranging from Maulvis to authors and journalists, are in broad agreement with bin Laden's views about the importance of jihad in Islamic theology, as spelt out during his interview to the television channel CNN in May 1997. No wonder the idealogue of Pakistan, Allama Iqbal, too, in one of his widely read pan-Islamic poem, captioned 'Tarana' which is a favourite song of Pakistan-based Islamic terrorists operating in Kashmir, had referred to the Muslim warriors being brought up under the shade of swords and claimed that 'halali dagger', i.e. the butcher's knife, was the representative symbol of Islam when he sang "Teghon ke saye mein ham pal kar jawan huey hain, khanjar halal ka hai qaumi nishan hamara". Translated in English it means that we, Muslims, have been brought up under "the shade of swords" and Iqbal further announced that the 'killer dagger' was the symbol of the Nation of Islam.

Clearly there is much more to the concept of jihad and the consequential militancy which it has spawned than what some of the present day Muslim theologians have been trying to explain.

It must be understood that so long as the twin ideals of jihad and the lure of paradise under the shade of swords continue to fire the imagination of young Muslims, it would be well nigh impossible to avoid the impending clash of civilizations prophesied by Samuel Huntington. The so-called superiority of jihad-e-akbar (i.e.,the higher jihad aimed at spiritual improvement of one's self) over the so-called jihad-e-asghar (i.e., the lesser jihad involving taking up arms in the cause of Islam) is being presented largely as an excuse, just to pacify the angry millions outraged all across the globe by the bombings of the WTC and Pentagon in America which resulted in the death of thousands of innocent men and women and the subsequent relentless terror strikes, both prior to and after 9/11, mounted by Islamists against the civil society across the globe.

It is interesting to note that lately it is being increasingly argued that jihad is a struggle within one's soul to become a better human being. Perhaps this hair splitting is being done by some Muslim scholars and intellectuals to mollify the indignant public opinion alarmed by the prospects of Islamists taking up arms to wage a holy war — as indeed is being done presently in a number of countries, including those where Muslims are in minority. Frankly, the term "jihad '' as expounded in the Quran and the Hadith and more importantly as practised by Muslims rulers and clergy for centuries and as commonly understood both by Muslims and non-Muslims stands for waging war against the so-called infidels (read non-Muslims) to convert them and spread the message of prophet Muhammad worldwide.

Jihads personally waged by Prophet Muhammad were called "Ghazwahs". It has been recorded by some historians that in his lifetime prophet Muhammad himself had approved more than 82 jihads, or holy wars against the infidels and in at least 26 jihads (called Ghazawahs) he himself led the warriors, while the remaining jihads were waged by his lieutenants. Some of the important Ghazawahs personally led by the Prophet were the battle of Nakhla in 623 A.D., the battle of Badr in 624 A.D., the battle against Banu Kainuka in 624 A.D. (Banu Kainukas were the first tribe of Jews to be banished from Medina), the battle of Uhud in 625 A.D. against the Koreish tribe of Mecca, the battle against Banu Nazir in 625 A.D. who were the second Jewish tribe to be expelled from Medina, the battle against Banu Mustalik in 626-627 A.D. (the Mustalik were a non-Muslim Arabic tribe hostile to the Prophet), the battle of the Ditch in 627 A.D. which is also called the battle of Ahzab in which the beseiging Koreish army was repulsed from Medina, the jihad against the Jewish tribe of Banu Kuraizah in 627 A.D. (which resulted in the slaughter of all menfolk of Kuraizah Jewish clan), the expedition of Hudaibiyah in 628 A.D. against the Koreish ruler who did not allow the Prophet and his army to enter Mecca, the battle of Khaibar in 628 A.D. in which the non-Medinese Jews of Khaibar were reduced to the status of 'kharajguzars' and jiziya was imposed on them (the Jews of Khaibar were the first non-Muslim group to be subjected to Jiziya), the battle of Mecca in 630 A.D. in which the Koreish clan was defeated, the battle of Hunain in 630 A.D. which led to the seige of Taif, and the battle of Tabuk which was the last Ghazwah led by the Prophet.

Although historically innumerable jihads were waged in India by Muslim invaders against Hindus, labelled as the infidels, in modern times too there have been at least three well known instances of jihads in India.

The first jihad was launched in 1824 by one Said Ahmed, a Wahabi leader, who regularly preached holy war or jihad against infidels. Said Ahmed had begun his life as a Sawar,or horseman, under Ameer Khan Pindary. Originally Pindaries were thugs and highway robbers who used to waylay and loot the common travellers. He had accompanied Ameer Khan Pindary in many freebooting raids in Malwa, but after quitting his service Said Ahmed became a disciple of Shah Abdul Aziz, a fundamentalist Sunni cleric of Delhi, who believed in the puritan Wahabi Islam of Saudi Arabia. Soon thereafter, Said Ahmed became an exponent of the Wahabi doctrine and launched the Wahabi movement in northern India. His first disciples were two close relations of Shah Abdul Aziz, one his nephew Maulvi Mahomed Ismael, and the other his son-in-law, Maulvi Abdul Haye. Accompanied by them Said Ahmed proceeded to Calcutta (now Kolkata) but took up a circuitous route first northwards to Saharanpur, and then westward to Rampur — the seat of a large and turbulent body of Pathans.(17) In this journey he successfully preached Islam and won new followers among the Mulims of Bengal by spreading his Wahabi doctrine. Soon he acquired a large number of followers or 'murids' in Kolkota, then called Calcutta, and certain parts of Bengal, Bihar and U.P., at that time known as the Western Provinces. Originally the Wahabi sect had been created by one Muhammad, son of Abdul Wahab who was born at Najad in Arabia in 1691.The basic Wahabi doctrine rests on the principle that there is only one God, that is Allah, and that Muhammad was his Messenger. Wahabis repudiate all thosm rituals and ceremonies which are not sanctioned by the Quran and Hadith, and strictly forbid any belief in holy men, i.e., pirs, walis and saints. They denounced illumination of the shrines of pirs and maintained that visits to such places and paying obedience to pirs was was forbidden by Islam.

Wahabis strongly support the duty of jihad or holy war, against the infidels. They repose absolute faith in the Quran and Hadith and felt that lessons taught by Hadith were being neglected by the Muslims in general and for this reason they also came to be addressed as 'Ahl-e-Hadith'. In 1824 Said Ahmed travelled through Kandhar and Kabul, which at that time happened to be under the suzerainty of the famous Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab and reached among the Yusufzai tribes on the Peshawar border. He made an alliance with the Barakzai Sardars and proclaimed a religious war against the Sikhs.(18) The call for jihad against Sikhs was issued by Said Ahmed through a proclamation titled "Targhib-ul Jihad" which stated that the Sikhs had been in power for a long time in Lahore and other adjoining places, and that during their oppressive rule thousands of Muslims were killed and disgraced, so much so that even the Azan, or summons to their prayer, and the slaughter of cows had been banned. As their tyranny could no longer be tolerated, Said Ahmed accompanied by thousands of believers, proceeded in the direction of Kabul, and asked the faithful to tread the path of God's service and on 20th Jumadi-ul-Sani 1242 'Hijree (21st December 1826) declared Jihad against the 'Kafir' Sikhs.(19)

The progress of this jihad launched by Said Ahmed was watched with interest by the Muslims of North India. Many Muslim residents of the Western Provinces (U.P.) proceeded in groups to join the holy war under the banner of the self-styled "Ameer-ul-Momineen", or leader of the faithful, a title which he had now assumed.(20) Ultimately Said Ahmed and his mujahideen, known as the "Hindustanis", were defeated by the Sikh army and he fled to Surat. He again returned to the area north of Kabul in 1828 and succeeded in extending his influence over the area north of the Kabul river and in 1829 he managed to seize the Peshawar valley. Soon he started taking strong measures for enforcing the Islamic law as interpreted by Wahabis and abolished many local customary laws which were in conflict with the spirit of Islam.

The local population neither liked the rigid Wahabi doctrine nor did they approve of the high-handed manner in which they were being treated by Said Ahmed. Discontent spread all over the tribal area rapidly and soon Pathans came to the conclusion that no useful purpose would be served by replacing the Sikhs with Said Ahmed and his followers. They decided to kill Said Ahmed and his Wahabi soldiers, known as 'Hindustani Fanatics'. On the appointed night they murdered all followers of Said Ahmed. Luckily Said Ahmed was away to Panj Tar on that fateful night, along with a band of his devoted soldiers. He decided to turn back with his soldiers and while crossing the river Indus, he was met by a Sikh force under the renowned Sikh general, Hari Singh Nalwa. He joined the battle against Sikhs but his mujahideen warriors were defeated by the Sikh force under Hari Singh Nalwa near Phulera on the right bank of Siran river, west of Mansehra. In 1830 he again tried to confront the Sikhs in Hazara district and paid for his folly with his life in the battle of Balakot.(21) Thus the first jihad proclaimed by the Wahabi leader Said Ahmed against Sikh rulers of Punjab and North Western Frontier Province ended on a tragic note.

After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and annexation of Punjab by the British, Wahabi jihad came to be directed against the British rulers. The struggle was kept up by a handful of Said Ahmed's followers known as mujahideen who believed that soon the former will reappear as Imam Mahdi and off and on they continued to fight the British rulers. The Government of India had to send a number of punitive expeditions to the Frontier Province and Afghanistan to crush the Wahabi movement. The Wahabis or mujahideen, also known as Hindustani Fanatics, lied low from 1898 to 1914 and did not give much trouble to the British. But in 1914 when Britain declared war on Turkey, they became active once again and renewed the call for jihad against the British. In the year 1915 at the instance of Maulana Mahmud-ul-Hasan of Deoband, one Fazl-e-Walid, son of Faiz Ahmad Haji Khel Mohammed, Pirzada of Turangzai (popularly known as the Haji of Turangzai) in North Western Frontier Province raised the standard of "jihad" against the British but failed to achieve any success.(22) At that time there was a feeling of outrage against the British government among the Muslims of India. Several attempts were made by some disaffected Muslim leaders of Punjab and North Western Frontier Province, like Maulvi Fazal Elahi and Maulvi Abdul Rahim of Chiniyawala mosque in Lahore, who went to Kabul, accompanied by some students of the Medical and Law Colleges of Lahore, to seek help of the Amir of Afghanistan. The latter did start a war in the year 1919 against the British but nothing much happened and finally the challenge of the Wahabi jihad petered out.The first jihad in India during the modern times thus ended in a fiasco.

The second declaration of jihad was made by the Khilafat Committee and several Muslim groups in 1920s when the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished, consequent upon the defeat of Turkey in 1918 by the British and French armies resulting in the seizure of Constantinople, the capital of Turkey. This call for jihad was given by the Khilafat Committee comprising the Ali brothers, Mohammed Ali and Shaukat Ali, who were joined by Hasrat Mohani, and even Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Beginning with the year 1920 there occurred in that year in Malabar, now in Kerala, what is notoriously known as the Moplah rebellion. It resulted from the agitation carried out by two Muslim organizations, the Khuddam-i-Kaaba (servants of the Mecca Shrine) and the Central Khilafat Committee.

Agitators preached the doctrine that India under the British rule was Dar-ul-Harab and therefore the Muslims must fight against it and if they could not, they must carry out the alternative principle of Hijrat. (23) The latter alternative (i.e. Hijrat) meant that Muslims should migrate en masse out of British India. The idea was mooted that, if the British failed to do justice to Sultan of Turkey, the Khalifah, all Muslims should migrate to the nearest Dar-ul-Islam, Afghanistan. This fantastic suggestion was taken up.(24) About 18,000 Muslims sold whatever they had with the resolve to migrate and many more might have joined the Hijrat if the Afghan government had not imposed restrictions on the entry of immigrants. This campaign of Hijrat was nothing short of ruin for the 18,000 families.

Later on although the protagonists of Khilafat did try to mitigate the sufferings of those who survived and returned to their homes. The faux pas did not serve as a reminder that religious ardour should be tempered with sober thought.(25) Needless to mention that the second option of 'Hijrat', or migration from India, exercised by 18,000 families was quite absurd and failed miserably.

The Khilafat movement was a disaster in more than one way. The Moplahs of Malabar were suddenly carried off their feet by this proclamation of jihad by the Khilafat Committee. They resorted to large scale violence which was supposed to be a rebellion against the British Government who were considered responsible for the abolition of the Caliphate.

The aim of the so-called jihad was to establish the kingdom of Islam in Malabar by overthrowing the British Government. Swords and spears were secretly manufactured, and bands of desperadoes collected for an attack on the British authorities. On August 20,1920, an encounter took place between the Moplah jihadis and the British forces at Pirunangadi. Roads were blocked, telegraph lines cut, and the railway tracks destroyed in a number of places. As soon as the administration collapsed, the Moplahs declared that they had become independent. One Ali Musaliar was made the ruler and the flag of Khilafat was unfurled. Ernad and Wallurnad districts were declared Khilafat kingdoms.

As a rebellion against the British Government the jihad could be understandable but what shocked most people was the horrid treatment meted out by the Moplahs to the Hindus of Malabar. Many of them were massacred, their homes plundered and womenfolk subjected to foul outrages and brutal indignities. Many temples were desecrated and there were instances of forcible conversions to Islam. The brutalities continued till the troops could reach the interior of Malabar to restore law and order. The exact number of Hindus killed, wounded or converted to Islam could not be known. But the number must have been enormous.(26)

Although this so-called jihad was finally put down by the British Government, its consequences were very ugly and far reaching. It further widened the growing chasm between the Muslims and the Hindus and the latter started questioning the bonafides of Muslims for their senseless targeting of Hindus and their religious places. While the anger of Muslims against the British was somewhat understandable, no one could explain the rationale of their fiery hostility towards Hindus. In this infamous jihad the worst victims of the atrocities of Moplah jihadis were not the British but the hapless Hindus of Malabar who were in no way responsible for the defeat of Turkey and abolition of the Ottoman caliphate. But then, reason has never been a strong point of the religious bigots.

The third jihad was declared by the All India Muslim League in 1946 for creation of Pakistan as an independent homeland for Muslims of the sub-continent when the separatist movement was at its peak. At that time the Muslim League was in power in Bengal and as Minister in charge of Law and Order, H.S. Suhrawardy, cleverly managed to transfer most of the Hindu police officers from key posts. Muslim League declared 16th August 1946 as 'the Direct Action Day' to press forward the demand for Pakistan. Although Calcutta (now Kolkata) was a Hindu majority city, on the day of 'Direct Action', August 16 1946, Muslim police officers were in charge of twenty-two police stations out of a total of twenty-four, and the remaining two were controlled by Anglo-Indians.(27) A detailed programme for direct action on the fateful day was drawn up by the Muslim League which was given wide publicity in the Muslim Press. The programme called for a total hartal, i.e. strike, and cessation of all business in the city. A mass rally and meeting were to be held at the foot of the Ochterlony Monument from 3 p.m. onwards over which Suhrawardy was to preside. The Mayor of Calcutta, Mohammed Usman, wanted a million Muslims to congregate in the maidan as a demonstration of their strength. A leaflet was issued bearing the title "Manifesto" which exhorted the Muslims to reach out to the people of their "Illaqa, mohalla, in mosques, in schools, colleges, clubs, tea-stalls and hotels" and asking them to "awake, arise, and unite under the banner of Muslim League and make the hartal a success". They were directed to reach the Ochterlony Monument in processions with the accompaniment of bands at 3 p.m., and "lead the procession with such strength and enthusiasm that even the blind, deaf and dumb can appreciate their strength and determination".(28) Another leaflet issued by the Calcutta Mayor, Mohammed Usman, captioned "Munajat for Jihad", containing the proclamation of jihad and a prayer for its success is worth quoting in full:

"Munajat for the Jihad"
(To be said at every mosque after the Jumma prayer)

"It was in this month of Ramzan that the Holy Quran was revealed! It was in this month of Ramzan that 313 Muslims were victorious through the grace of God over the Kafers in the battle of Badr and the Jehad of the Muslims commenced! It was in this month that ten thousand Muslims marched to Mecca and were conquerors and thus there was the establishment of the Kingdom of Islam. By the grace of God we are ten crores in India but through bad luck we have become slaves of the Hindus and the British. We are starting a Jehad in Your Name in this very month of Ramzan. We promise You that we entirely depend on You. Pray make us strong in body and mind — give Your helping hand in all our actions — make us victorious over the Kafers — enable us to establish the Kingdom of Islam in India and make proper sacrifices for this Jehad — by the grace of God may we build up in India the greatest Islamic Kingdom in the world. The Muslims in China, Manchuria, Mongolia, Malaya, Java and Sumatra are all fighting for their freedom — pray Your Grace they may succeed. May You bring freedom to the Muslims of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Albania, Arabia, Egypt and the Sudan and also to the Muslims of Tunis, Algiers, Morocco, Africa. May God help us so that Muslims of the world may be able to build up a very strong Islamic Kingdom in this world." (29)

And then followed some Arabic quotations from the Quran and Hadis. Below the above proclamation of jihad was a footnote saying that this prayer should be kept with care — must not be touched with foot or dishonoured in any way.

It is believed that before the Direct Action Day, hundreds of bad characters who were in detention during the World War II had been released by the Bengal Government. A large number of Muslims armed themselves with lathis, spears and daggers which created enormous panic among the Hindus — it may be recalled that at that time Calcutta was a Hindu majority city. In the morning of August 16, 1946, several groups of storm troopers of the Muslim League, armed with spears, daggers and lathis, and some allegedly carrying guns roamed the streets of Calcutta, forcing the Hindus to close their shops and business establishments. By the afternoon all hell broke loose and there was large scale rioting and arson all around, aimed at the Hindus. Hundreds were being killed but the Army was not called out to control the rampaging mobs and extensive rioting. For a day and a half Muslim rioters held their own. On the third day the tide began to turn and the Hindus and the Sikhs began to retaliate and hit back in anger.

Only when this change began to spell disaster for the marauders did the government requisition services of the army for assistance in riot control.(30) Hundreds of dead bodies rotted in the streets of Calcutta and their disposal by cremation and burying became a huge problem. Finally by August 27, 1946,(i.e. 13 days after the butchery had started on the Direct Action Day) all dead bodies could be disposed of. According to a rough assessment given by Gopal Das Khosla, in 'Stern Reckoning', a total of 3,173 dead bodies were collected and disposed of by different organisations.(31) The actual number of persons killed was much larger. Many had been burnt alive in their houses, while many more bodies were thrown into the river and went down into the sea. The Hindus suffered grievously both in life and property — their loss of property was colossal and much more than that of the Muslims. If the hospital figures were accepted as a basis for determining the ratio of Muslims and Hindu casualties, it appeared that the Muslims fared almost as badly as the Hindus. But Calcutta killings set the tone for outbreak of large scale rioting and communal clashes all over the country from August 1946 onwards till August 1947 when the partition of India was announced — riots continued for several months even thereafter. After seeing what had happened in Calcutta on the Direct Action Day it was crystal clear that the division of the sub-continent would lead to a massive bloodbath and butchery because of the call for jihad.

Unfortunately nothing was done to devise a mechanism for preventing that foreseeable mammoth holocaust — neither by the British Government, nor by the Congress leadership. Only if the British and the Congress leadership had cared to read the history of various jihads waged in the past in India and glanced at the colossal loss of life and property during the previous years of communal rioting which had ravaged the sub-continent, they would have been wiser and could have saved lakhs of lives. But alas, they neither had the vision nor the wisdom to prevent the impending holocaust in which lakhs of innocent lives were lost.

An analysis of the Calcutta Killings organised by the Muslim League, with the tacit support of the British bureaucracy, showed that once again the centuries old time-tested battle cry of jihad was used as the medium for mobilizing the Muslim masses to take recourse to violence. But the British Government remained an indifferent silent spectator to the jihad launched by the Muslim League which resulted in large scale killings.

The most important futuristic underpinning of the proclamation of jihad made by Muslim League on the eve of the Direct Action Day was the reference to the miserable plight of Muslims of China, Mongolia, Malaya, Java, Sumatra and several Arab and African countries who were fighting for freedom and establishment of a "very strong Islamic kingdom in this world". With the benefit of hindsight, now one can say that these words turned out to be almost prophetic at the end of the twentieth century.

The unequivocal pronouncements made by the Muslim League for the establishment of a very strong Islamic kingdom in this world could not have left anyone in doubt about the futuristic ambitions of the protagonists of Pakistan — even as early as the year 1947! And the creation of Pakistan was surely the first step forward in that direction, as later developments eventually proved.

For the students of Indian history the call for jihad made in 1947 was not something new because there had been many jihads earlier. In the history of medieval India, starting with Mohammed bin Qasim and Mahmud of Ghazni, throughout the Muslim rule there were innumerable jihads — the aim of every successive jihad being to convert the Hindu infidels to Islam. One of these was by the notorious Taimur, who claimed to have killed more than one hundred thousand idolater Hindus,and who, in his memoirs, explained that his object in the invasion of India was to lead a campaign against the infidels,"to convert them to the true faith according to the command of Muhammad [...] to purify the land from the defilement of misbelief and polytheism, and overthrow the temples and idols, whereby we shall be Ghazis and Mujahids, companions and soldiers of the faith before God".(32)

While referring to the Muslim invasions of India, Dr. Ambedkar has pointed out that these were not undertaken merely out of lust for loot or conquest. There was another objective behind them. For instance, the expedition against Sind by Mohammed bin Qasim was apparently of a punitive character mainy undertaken to punish Raja Dahir of Sind who refused to make restitution for the seizure of an Arab ship at Debal, a seaport town of Sind. There is, however, no doubt that striking a blow at the idolatry of Hindus and establishing Islam in India were also the aims of that expedition.(33) According to Dr. Titus, in a despatch to the Hajaj, the Caliph of Islam, Mahommad bin Qasim had said that the nephew of Raja Dahir, his warriors and principal officers had been dispatched and the infidels converted to Islam. In place of temples, mosques had been built, the Khutbah was read, the call to prayers raised, so that devotions are performed at stated hours. "The Takbir and praise to the Almighty God are offered every morning and evening." (34) In reply the Hajjaj reminded Mohammed bin Qasim of God's commandment: "Give no quarter to infidels but cut their throats. Then know that this is the command of the great God. You shall not be too ready to grant protection, because it will prolong your work".(35)

Thus the ongoing jihad in Jammu & Kashmir, sponsored by Pakistan and backed by thousands of holy warriors from more than twenty countries, is by no stretch of imagination the first jihad launched against the Indian civilization. There have been a series of such jihads earlier, too; three of which, stated above, having taken place in the modern times. And at least one of these modern day jihads, namely the one waged for the creation of Pakistan, was a thumping success. Perhaps that is what makes the Pakistan Army and the ISI consider the annexation of Kashmir as part of their left over agenda of partition — a task, they feel, left unfulfilled since 1947, which should be completed now, as quickly as possible.

Closely associated with Islamic jihad are two more concepts.

First, the practice of 'Ghanima' or plunder, undertaken after vanquishing the enemy in the holy war, and second the imposition of 'Jiziya' on the infidels, i.e., the Kafirs, as enunciated in the Quran and elaborated in the Hadith. When a mujahid attains martyrdom in jihad, he earns a place in the paradise and is rewarded with a number of virgin maidens, called houris — as many as seventy of them. But if he succeeds in the holy war and comes out victorious, what reward does he get? Well, that reward is ghanima, the 'war booty', or the spoils of war, i.e., everything which belonged to the vanquished infidel — his land, gold and silver, other goods, and even his wife and children.

Etymologically the word 'ghanima' is derived from the Arabic word 'ghanim" which means the enemy. In other words, the term ghanima means the property which has been seized from the enemy. The concept is explained in the eighth chapter of the Quran, captioned Anfil which means the "surplus earning" or 'bonus'. This chapter provides the justification for ghanima or plunder, after victory, and lays down some modalities for distribution of the booty obtained in jihad. For instance, verse 41 of Surah Anfal (i.e. Verse 8.41) says, "And know that whatever ye take spoils of war, lo! A fifth thereof is for Allah and His Messenger and for the kinsmen and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer." It empowers the mujahids to collect spoils of war as a right and further enjoins that one-fifth of the booty shall be earmarked for Allah and His Messenger. This one-fifth of the plunder is called the 'holy one-fifth' by Islamic scholars because this one-fifth share of plunder used to be sent to the Muslim king's treasury, when the Prophet was no more. Indirectly this verse provides some share for the mujahids also, perhaps the remaining four-fifths of the booty. The concept of enjoying the booty captured from the vanquished is clarified in Surah Anfal, through verse 8.69, which proclaims, "Eat ye the spoils of war. They are lawful and pure".(36) In other words, there is nothing improper about plunder and enjoying the spoils of war; it is a mujahid's prerogative. Similarly verse 4.24 asserts that "All married women are forbidden (to you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess."(37) The expression 'right hands possess' means those women who have been captured in jihad. In brief, the property of the infidel — his wealth, his women and children are lawful plunder for the mujahid.(38)

Possibly the practice of ghanima is a continuation of the tribal Bedouin tradition of plunder whereby after victory the male population was either killed or enslaved, their property seized as booty and women carried away for concubinage. Unfortunately the Quran appears to have pronounced the ghanima, or plunder, 'lawful' and 'pure' in clear language. Throughout the history of mankind the jihadis have made gross misuse of this scriptural approval.

The next question is, after attaining victory in jihad, what should the faithful do with the vanquished Kafirs?

The options are three:

first, their forcible conversion to Islam;

second, their mass slaughter (referred to as "slaughter in the land") followed by plunder (i.e. ghanima);

or the third option, namely the imposition of "jiziya" or poll tax.

The ultimate aim of jihad is to conquer the whole world and make the people everywhere conform to the Islamic doctrine, enunciated by the Prophet. Verse 9.29 of the Quran says: "Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His Messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low".(39) The actual requirement about the mode of payment of jiziya is that it should be paid by the Zimmi (also called 'dhimmi') in person, in a low abject posture of submission.The imposition of jiziya, or poll tax, is meant to make life more difficult for the infidels by subjecting them to grave financial strain.

Interestingly the levy of jiziya appears to be the only bloodless activity associated with jihad. Originally the option of being allowed to survive under Muslim rulers, by paying a poll tax, was meant only for the Jews and the Christians, i.e., the people of the Scriptures (Ahl-e-Kitab or the People of the Book whose prophets are mentioned in the Quran). All others namely the idolaters and polytheists were supposed to face 'slaughter in the land'. The extension of this facility of surviving by paying a tax to idolaters outside Arabia appears to be a latter day development. In essence the payment of jiziya is a mark of degradation for non-Muslims, and they are referred to as 'kharajgujars' that is the humble payers of poll tax who had to do so as a token of subjugation. The quantum or the scale of the levy has not been mentioned anywhere in Islamic laws.

The Jews of Khaibar were the first non-Muslims subjected to jiziya, and the tax imposed on them resulted in making them tenants in their own lands. The rate of tax, if Sir William Muir is to be believed, was half the produce of the land. But the Christian subjects of the Governor of Alia, whom the Prophet had defeated during his Tabuk campaign in 630 A.D., were called upon to pay a gold piece (dinar) per head per annum.(40) According to the Hidayah the capitation tax is a species of punishment inflicted upon the kafirs on account of their infidelity which means Jizyat. Therefore etymologically Jizya means a tax imposed by way of retribution. Lane Pool in his treatise, Medieval India, has stated that the Hindus were taxed to the extent of half the produce of their land, and had to pay jizya on all their buffaloes, goats and milch cattle. The tax was levied equally on the rich and the poor, at so much per bigha, so much per animal. Any collectors or officers taking bribes were summarily dismissed and heavily punished. The rules for the collection of jiziya were strictly carried out so that one revenue officer would string together 20 Hindu notables and enforce payment by blows.(41)

As explained by Sir Jadunath Sarkar in the History of Aurangzeb, the jiziya hit the poorest sections of the population the hardest. It could never be less than Rs 3. 1/3 on a man, which was the money for nine maunds of wheat flour at the average market price at the end of the 16th century. The ruler, therefore, at the lowest incidence of the tax, annually took away from the poorest man the full value of one year's food as the price of allowing him to practise his own religion.(42) In India, as surely as in many other countries, the ultimate objective of the imposition of jiziya by Muslim rulers was to speed up the pace of conversion to Islam, especially among the poor and the financially marginalised classes. And thus in most such countries very often the poor, and sometime the rich too, became converts to Islam — just to escape the clutches of the impost called 'Jiziya'.

Islam divides the world into two separate entities: one, the Dar-ul Islam ('the abode of peace') which is a pure Islamic state and where every citizen follows the tenets of Islam; and the second, the Dar-ul-Harb ('the land of conflict or war') where Islam is not the state religion and Muslims have to perforce live under adverse or hostile conditions. It is the religious duty of Muslims living in Dar-ul-Harb to continue their struggle for the supremacy of Islam and wherever necessary take recourse to jihad, as indeed was done by prophet Muhammad himself after his flight to Medina and by his followers on several subsequent occasions. It is incumbent on Muslims living in the countries labelled as Dar-ul-Harb to overcome adversity and reshape Dar-ul-Harb into Dar-ul-Islam, if necessary, by taking up arms.

The ultimate objective is to convert the entire world into 'the abode of peace', that is to remake it into an Islamic society. If that can be achieved by peaceful means, no violence may be necessary. But if there is a resistance to the advancement of Islam, the goal must be reached by taking up arms and waging jihad. That is precisely what the present day Islamic terrorists are trying to do. They have been launching successive suicide attacks against the civil society (read Dar-ul-Harb) ferociously and relentlessly. Hence the emphasis by the Islamic clerics and the scholars alike on finding paradise under the shade of swords.

For centuries holy war or Jihad has been the battle cry of Muslims ever since the small army of Muslims, about 313 strong, under the inspiring leadership of Prophet Muhammad, defeated the 1000 strong army of the Qureish in the famous battle of Badr on the 17th day of Ramdan. After victory, Muslim soldiers claimed that angels, in white turbans, came to help them in a battle in which they were heavily outnumbered. The believers to this day are convinced that they will receive Allah's help in the midst of battles. Stories of Badr are part of Islamic inspiration. (43) M. J. Akbar believes that the resonance of jihad comes from the nature of its strife. According to him "jihad is the holy war, the war of righteousness, the struggle against tyranny." It is a passion indifferent to the fate of battle because the jihadis will win either way: in the long run, the war will be won; and in the short run, death will bring martyrdom and paradise.(44)

While Akbar's advocacy tries to philosophically rationalize the faith and the commitment of Muslims of all shades and opinions to jihad, it leaves certain uncomfortable questions totaly unanswered. If jihad is a war waged in the cause of righteousness, then what is the moral justification for the concept of "slaughter in the land" which ordains killing of innocent men and women simply because they refuse to embrace Islam. By what logic can a war waged for promoting a certain religious belief be proclaimed as "righteous". The word "righteous" has a deep moral, almost sacred, connotation. It has an ethical dimension. Who is to adjudge what is right and moral and what is wrong and immoral? Is it expected that whatever Islamic scriptures, or Muslim theologians, say has to be accepted as the acid test of righteousness ? Further, how can the Islamic claim to purity of the spoils of war, called 'ghanima', flowing from victory in jihad, be considered as righteous? Similarly by what logic can the imposition of 'jiziya' sanctioned in the Quran, be considered as an act of righteousness?

During Muslim rule, many saintly people, almost godly people, were subjected to jiziya simply because they professed another faith — the faith of their forefathers. How could the imposition of a poll tax on a righteous, God fearing, man be deemed as an act of righteousness? Let us not forget that in imposing jiziya no distinction was ever made between the rich and the poor, nor was the capacity to pay of the 'zimmy' ever taken into account. Nor is any assessment made about the unfortunate infidel's capacity to pay the poll tax ordained by the Islamic scriptures. In the circumstances, to call jihad as a war waged in the cause righteousness is a highly questionable proposition. To put the seal of righteousness on the manner in which the jihadi warriors of Islam have conducted themselves for almost one thousand years and are acting even today would be an affront to the very concept of righteousness and morality.

On a rational analysis one finds that the doctrine of jihad is somewhat akin to the dreaded nihilist philosophy of destroying and overturning all prevalent societal institutions for inventing an altogether different world order of questionable civilizational values. Many of the orthodox Islamic values, flaunted by Jihadis, may not be acceptable to the majority of the population of a country or a continent — or even to the educated Muslim women of a fundamentalist country like Pakistan which is choc-a-bloc with Jihadis and prospective Ghazis! Suffice it to say that the concept of jihad is a total misfit in the context of today's politico-economic world order. It negates all modern civilizational values which lay special emphasis on humane, tolerant and pluralistic societal ethos.

It is unfortunate that even the professedly modern Islamic scholars refuse to accept this simple truth. For them jihad is an article of faith — a holy war ordained by their prophet. When such is their purblind, albeit religious, commitment to the necessity and infallibility of jihad, how can the civilizational conflict be prevented from further escalation? So shall we presume that the ongoing civilizational war will carry on merrily for decades — perhaps more sadly than merrily?


1. Suhas Majumdar, Jihad, The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War, ch.1, p.11.

2. Jihad in the Quran and Sunnah, Published by Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

3. Ibid, Source:

4. Suhas Majumdar, Jihad, The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War, p.20, ch. 2, Source: Sahih Muslim No. 4696 — Abu Hurairah was one of the most important companions of the Prophet.

5. Ibid, p.21, ch. 2, Source: Sahih Muslim, No. 4645.

6. Br. Muhammad El-Halaby, The Role of Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyah in Jihad Against the Tartars, published in 17th issue of Nid'ul Islam, Feb-March 1997.

7. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Part I. p. 465, ch. XVI.

8. The Oxford History of India by late Vincent A Smith, edited by Percival Sper, p. 338, book VI, ch. 3 (paperback).

9. M.J. Akbar, The Shade of Swords, Introduction, p. xvi.

10. Hannah Beech Shanghai, Voices of Islam, Time Asia, March 28, 2003.

11. Suhas Majumdar, Jihad, The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War, Ch.2, pp. 21-22.

12. Ibid, Ch. 7, p.43.

13. Ibid, ch. 7, pp. 43-44.

14. Afsir Karim, Trends in International Terrorism, India's National Security Review 2002, p. 133 (Editor-in-Chief, Satish Kumar), India Research Press.

15. Ibid, p. 136.

16. Abdullah Azzam, Defence of Muslim Lands (London: Azzam Publications, 1996), pp.7-17.

17. Home Judicial Proceeding Nos 70-4, 27th September, 1865, p.1502 : cited by Y.B. Mathur in Muslims and Changing India, p. 75.

18. Y.B. Mathur, Muslims and Changing India, ch. 3, p.76 : Source: Home Judicial Proceedings Nos 70-4 dated September 27, 1865, p.1503, para 1.

19. Ibid, Source: Home Judicial Proceedings Nos 70-4 dated September 27, 1865, p. 1503, para 2.

20. Y.B. Mathur, Muslims and Changing India, pp. 76-77, ch. 3.

21. Ibid : Source: Home Political Secret F. No. 101 of 1936, p.4,para 4.

22. Y.B. Mathur, Muslims and Changing India, ch. III, p.84 : Source: Home Political Secret F. No. 101 of 1936, p.6.

23. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, ch. VII, P. 153.

24. M. Mujeeb, The Indian Muslims, p. 400, ch. XVIII.

25. Ibid, pp. 400-401, Source: India in 1920, Superintendent, Govt. Printing, Calcutta, 1921. pp.51-3.

26. Ibid.

27. Gopal Das Khosla, Stern Reckoning, The Partition Omnibus, publishers Oxford University Press, 2002, p.49.

28. Ibid.

29. Gopal Das Khosla, Stern Reckoning, The Partition Omnibus, Oxford University Press, pp. 51-52.

30. Ibid, pp. 58-59.

31. Ibid, p. 65.

32. Lane Pool, Medieval India, p.153.

33. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, p.37.

34. Dr. Titus, Indian Islam, p.10.

35. Ibid, quoted by Titus.

36. Suhas Majumdar, Jihad, The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War, p.28, ch.3,Source: This rendering is by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, a Pakistani scholar.

37. Ibid, p.29, ch.3.

38. Ibid, p.29, ch.3.

39. Ibid, ch.1, p.14.

40. Suhas Majumdar, Jihad, The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War, Appendix-II, p.83.

41. Lane Pool, Medieval India, p. 104.

42. Suhas Majumdar, Jihad, The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War, Appendix-II, p.84.

43. M.J. Akbar, The Shade of Swords, p.24, ch.1.

44. Ibid.

Ram K. Ohri is a retired senior police officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS) and author of "Long March Of Islam: Future Imperfect" and "The Bell Tolls: Tomorrow's Truncated India."

This is Chapter 3 of Mr. Ohri's book, "Long March Of Islam: Future Imperfect". Chapter 1 was published in the September-October issue of Think-Israel. It is available here. Similarly, Chapter 2 is available in the November-December 2009 issue. The book was published by Manas Publications in New Delhi in 2004. Its ISBN # is 817049186X. It is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

Mr. Ohri writes that the book is "Dedicated to my sweet grand daughters, Saloni and Jaisal and my soulmate, Pushpa."


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