The seemingly ceaseless strife in Pakistan is the result of an erroneous political interpretation of Islam. The Pakistani Government as well as the Taliban have promoted this sort of interpretation. One major damage of a political interpretation of Islam is that it projects Islam as something to be enforced or imposed, rather than willingly followed. It was this sort of interpretation that led to political extremism in the name of Islam in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In turn, this led to conflict and war, reflecting the wrong notion that Islamic laws could be imposed through force.
As I see it, the only solution to the grim situation facing both Pakistan and Afghanistan is what is called tauba or repentance in Islam. This would mean for all parties to the conflict to explicitly and clearly admit and repent for their mistakes, abandon the path of violence and adopt the path of peace. Just as in personal religious matters reform begins with repentance, so, too, in national and international affairs. Unless one accepts the mistakes of the past, success will continue to evade one in the future. This applies as much to individuals as to entire countries and their governments.
Recently, I came across a book penned by a Syeda Humaira Maududi, daughter of Maulana Syed Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of the Jama‘at-e Islami. She writes about her father thus:
‘My father used to tell us that if he had had the chance to take care of us properly, he would have made us ideal children, models for the rest of the world to emulate. But, he would say, because he could not give us adequate attention, he did not have the right to question us. He would say that he had sacrificed his time for religious activities and to uphold the supremacy of Islam, and that was why he had left us in God’s care.’
Following the Partition, Maulana Maududi shifted to Pakistan, where he worked for 32 long years. All those years he devoted just to one thin—to help make Pakistan an ‘Islamic State’. Yet, as the conditions of Pakistan today suggest, he was not successful in this endeavour at all. He did not register even one per cent success in this regard! Instead of this, perhaps he should have devoted his attention to making his own family a model Islamic one.
This is what I mean by wrong priorities. It was not possible for Maulana Maududi to gain any positive success in the political field, but, yet, he devoted his energies to this instead of to his family. This is what can be called ‘intellectual blindness’. Strangely enough, in today’s times almost all Muslim leaders suffer from this very same intellectual blindness that has caused such terrible damage to, and havoc with, Muslims themselves.
Jihad in Islam
The word jihad means to struggle. Contrary to what is generally believed, in Islam the major form of jihad is peaceful struggle or peaceful activism by inviting people to God’s path using the Quran. As the Quran says, ‘[…] so do not yield to those who deny the truth, but strive with the utmost strenuousness by means of this [Quran, to convey its message to them]’ (25:52). Now, as this verse clearly suggests, engaging in jihad with the help of the Quran definitely cannot mean physical war. The Quran is a book that invites people to listen to it, and so the above Quranic commandment to engage in jihad with the help of the Quran essentially means to exert oneself to the utmost in peacefully inviting people to God’s path. It is this jihad that a hadith report in the Sunan Abud Dawud says shall continue until the Day of Judgment.
One restricted meaning or form of jihad is qital, which involves physical warfare. The Quran suggests that this form of jihad is meant to be a temporary move, a rare exception, and a step undertaken in defence. It cannot be considered as a permanent and never-ending action, for this meaning is not reflected in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) himself. There were numerous occasions in the Prophet’s life when his enemies sought to wage war against him but he avoided the violent path. This was exemplified, for instance, in his migration to Madinah, the Battle of the Trench and the Treaty of Hudaibiyah which he signed with his Meccan foes.
A Basic Principle for Islamic Movements and Groups
A basic principle that should guide the work of Islamic movements and groups is to completely abstain from conflict and to engage in their mission using only peaceful means. This is a policy of what I would call ‘political status quoism’ and ‘non-political activism’. It entails staying aloof from political confrontation and fully using the opportunities available in the non-political field. This wise and sensible method was used by the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) throughout his life. And this is why he was able to achieve such great success. The advantage of this method is that one immediately gets a starting point to begin one’s work or mission, after which one can devote all one’s energies to it, using all available opportunities and in a peaceful manner for this purpose.
This method is a guarantor for positive thinking and for cleansing the mind from what I call the ‘protest mentality’. A person or community characterized by this way of thinking and acting considers every other human being, no matter what his or her religion, to be a brother. This is a method geared to gradual transformation, which is in accordance with Nature. It is an unassailable truth that in this world only the gradual method is successful. All other paths lead to nothing but destruction.
(Translated from Al-Risala, August 2009).
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