In summing up the contents of this book one must remember that its aim is the exposition of the theoretical aspects of jihad, and as such its subject is Islamic tenets rather than Islamic history. This remark applies with equal force to the brief historical accounts of the Prophet’s own jihads which this book mentions. These are intended as accounts of the Prophet’s Sunnah or practice which is part and parcel of theoretical Islam as distinct from the Islam of history. The distinction is fundamental if only because not everything in the Prophet’s own history is considered his Sunnah. His bloodless conquest of Mecca, for example, does not constitute a body of Sunnah, whereas his destruction of the Jewish clan of Kuraizah very much does so. This is because the latter act conforms to the Koranic injunction of ‘making slaughter in the land’ while the former has no such scriptural backing. To put the whole matter in a nutshell: the Koran as the word of Allah supplies the injunction; the Hadis in the language of the Prophet confirms it; and the Sunnah gives a practical demonstration of the same and thereby acts as an exemplar to future performers of the hallowed exercise called jihad.
One thing regarding the present discussion requires particular emphasis. The reader must not suppose that my citations from the Koran are by any means full or exhaustive. I have discussed only those verses which seemed relevant to the subject. And as regards the Hadis, my citations have been fewer still. It is not even true that I have selected the most sanguinary verses in order to bring out the true nature of jihad. All through, my aim has
been to highlight as many aspects of the subject as possible, and for this reason I have not confined my attention to any single aspect, nor overburdened my analysis with innumerable citations. This is why I have not dilated on the speculations of the various schools of Shariat but referred to only those conclusions which confirm the scriptural injunctions or fix them with greater clarity. On the other hand, as my subject has been primarily Islamic jihad as expounded in the canonical literature, I have not referred to the concept of jihad as understood by the Sufis, the proponents of Islamic mysticism. But for the sake of completeness, I should mention that, according to some Sufis, the canonical jihad is Jihad al-Asghar or the Lesser Jihad whereas the war against one’s sensual proclivities is Jihad al-Akbar or the Greater Jihad. In a word, the Sufis emphasize self-control rather than war against infidels in their conception of jihad. But whatever merit such a conception may possess, it is not known that Sufis in any country under Islam have made the slightest impact on their co-religionists in unsettling the deep-seated convictions regarding the bloodthirsty business that is jihad. For this reason, I take note of the Sufi conception of jihad for what it is worth, but do not find it necessary to discuss it at length.
If one were to summarise the contents of this book, the point that would need the uttermost emphasis is that jihad is a bloody confrontation with unbelievers; it is a war informed by the greatest possible spirit of aggression; and, more often than not, it is a war of deception and subterfuge. ‘War is stratagem’ says the Prophet (Sahih Muslim, No. 4311) - a hadis to which Aurangzeb was particularly addicted. But it would be wrong to suppose that the Koran nowhere mentions jihad as a species of war in self-defence. According to verses 2/190-92 of the Koran:
‘Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.
‘And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out And fight them not at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you, then slay them But if they desist then lo! Allah is Forgiving Merciful.’
These verses clearly preach war in self-defence alone. Although they are sanguinary enough, it is astonishing how they attempt to combine some sort of humanity in a counsel of reckless bloodshed. On the face of it, they do not indeed advocate aggressive warfare, so much so that they forbid excesses committed even in self-defence. But what lurks behind that seemingly benevolent face does not appear all that benevolent. This is a matter on which we need not go by these verses alone. Very many verses of the Koran and the whole of the Hadis literature breathe the spirit of unqualified aggression. We need refer to the Immunity Verses alone (K 9/1-12) to have a feel of that spirit. As regards the Sunnah, not a single ghazwah (=war led by the Prophet in person) of the Prophet, barring that of Uhud (AD 625) and Ahzab (AD 627), can by any stretch of imagination be reckoned defensive war. In other words, 24 out of the 26 ghazwahs of the Prophet were aggressive in intent as well as execution. It has been argued that these aggressive confrontations were necessary if only to make Islam survive under uncongenial surroundings. This is at best dubious reasoning if we remember that, at Medina, Islam had found a haven of safety and security. But even if we accept this reasoning as valid, the aggressive nature of the ghazwahs of the Prophet can hardly be wished away. What, however, is more to the purpose is the fact that whatever justification we can plead in favour of these wars of early Islam, their status as a body of canonical Sunnah, to be emulated till the end of the world, can hardly be dismissed as a relic of the past. The Koran itself does not always conceal the world-conquering mission of Islam behind ambiguous verbiage. ‘O ye who believe! What aileth you when it is said unto you: Go forth in the way of Allah, ye are bowed to the ground with heaviness? If ye go not forth He will afflict you with a painful doom, and will choose instead of you a folk other than you’ (K 9/38, 39). It is this strain which is the informing note of most of the jihad verses of the Koran, the verses of self-defence being only a streak of pacifism that is both specious and unconvincing.
(2) A second point of importance arising out of the present discussion is this: the aim and the fruits of jihad have all been spelled out in a manner which is in perfect consonance with its overwhelmingly aggressive design and intent. This is why although the conversion of unbelievers to Islam is recognised as the supreme aim of jihad, the call for such conversion has not been made a compulsory pre-requisite for mounting a jihadic offensive. This again is the reason why this supreme aim has, in the Koran as well as the Hadis, generally been made subservient to the comparatively minor aims of plunder, jizyah, and slaughter. ‘Eat ye the spoils of war. They are lawful and pure’ (K 8/69) - such pronouncements have often been made in a louder and loftier voice than the call for spreading Islam. A hadis in the collection by Tirmizi contains the singular exhortation: ‘Spread ye salam (the Islamic mode of salutation); feed ye the people that go without food; and strike ye down the heads of unbelievers.’ Tirmizi himself considers this hadis as gharib, that is to say, poor in authenticity. But it can hardly be denied that the keynote of the jihadic injunctions of the Koran and the Hadis is the assumption of the most intimate relationship between such expressions of Islamic deportment as salam and such Islamic achievements as striking down the heads of unbelievers. It must also be remembered that even the recommendation for concubinage with captured kafir women does not occur in the Koran in only one verse and in an involuntary fit of divinely inspired lasciviousness, so to say. Its repetition in so many verses cannot but raise in our mind the question: could not the repetition of such pronouncements be avoided in what is supposed to be the Holy Book of Islam? Small wonder that religious riots are invariably marked by violation of infidel women, even when loss of life is minimal.