By Dr. Muhammad Razi-ul-Islam Nadvi

Translated by Shayma S

Ram Madhav, the foremost leader and ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India’s extremist Hindutva organisation, has recently proposed a three-point formula, which, if followed, can make it possible for Indian Muslims to live peacefully in the country. The formula can be summarised as follows:

(1) Muslims should not call non-Muslims (Hindus) kafir (disbelievers);

(2) They should cease to identify themselves as part of the global Muslim Ummah; and

(3) They should disassociate themselves from the ideology of jihad.

These demands present strikingly similar parallels to what the polytheists of the time of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to demand of him. When Prophet Muhammad ﷺ started inviting people to Islam, the polytheists used various tactics to prevent the success of this work. Initially, this opposition was mild but later intensified. Marginalised and socially oppressed Muslims were persecuted in various ways. Additionally, attempts were made to bargain with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. The bargain was proposed such that if Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was to accept some demands, some of his demands would be accepted in turn. However, in the clearest of words, he was told that in matters of faith and belief, there can be no hypocrisy or compromise. As revealed by way of the Qur’ān:

فَلَا تُطِعِ الۡمُكَذِّبِيۡنَ‏

وَدُّوۡا لَوۡ تُدۡهِنُ فَيُدۡهِنُوۡنَ

“Do not, then, yield to those who reject the Truth, decrying it as false; they would wish you to be pliant so that they too may be pliant.” (68:8-9)

In the following verses, the Qur’ān refers to the opponents of Islam and their enmity toward Muslims as well as their verbal and practical wrongdoings and ill-will. These verses expose the desires hidden away in their hearts:

اِنۡ يَّثۡقَفُوۡكُمۡ يَكُوۡنُوۡا لَـكُمۡ اَعۡدَآءً وَّيَبۡسُطُوۡۤا اِلَيۡكُمۡ اَيۡدِيَهُمۡ وَاَلۡسِنَتَهُمۡ بِالسُّوۡٓءِ وَوَدُّوۡا لَوۡ تَكۡفُرُوۡنَؕ‏

“If they could overcome you, they would act as your foes and would hurt you by their hands and tongues, and would love to see you become unbelievers.” (60:2);

وَدُّوۡا لَوۡ تَكۡفُرُوۡنَ كَمَا كَفَرُوۡا فَتَكُوۡنُوۡنَ سَوَآءً

“They wish that you should disbelieve just as they disbelieved so that you may all be alike.” (4:89)

The attitude of the present-day disbelievers mirrors what is quoted above. They want Muslims to give up on their distinct characteristics and disassociate themselves from the fundamental beliefs and concepts that make them unique from everyone else. The demands that are being made of Indian Muslims today have this essential characteristic and basis.

What follows below is an attempt to examine these demands from an Islamic perspective:

USE OF THE WORD ‘KAFIR’ FOR NON-MUSLIMS

In today’s time, the word kafir has been treated akin to a slur or insult. Therefore, when Muslims use it to describe people of other religions, they think that they are being abused and maligned. Therefore, he has expressed that “if Muslims want to live peacefully in this country, they should stop using this word for people of other religions.” However, since the reasoning behind it is not valid, so the demand too, has no significance per se.

Kafir is an Arabic word, derived from the root word kufr. In Arabic, the word kufr means to hide and cover up something. In all the words that have been derived subsequently from this root word, the meanings are more or less the same. That is why these associated words have been used to refer to things that cover something else, for example, the night, the sea, a valley, a river, dark clouds, farmers, armour, etc. Additionally, the quality of ingratitude has been associated with it. The word kufr has also been used as a term with qualities oppositional to Islam, i.e. ‘one who does not believe in Islam’. There are some foundational teachings of Islam. Some people believe in them, some do not. Islam does not force anyone. Irrespective of whether a person believes or not, he or she is still entitled to freedom. It is evident in the Qur’ān:

لَاۤ اِكۡرَاهَ فِى الدِّيۡنِ

قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشۡدُ مِنَ الۡغَىِّ

“There is no compulsion in religion. The Right Way stands clearly distinguished from the wrong.” (2:256)

Allah expressly forbade Prophet Muhammad ﷺ from forcing anyone against their will, particularly in matters of belief:

 وَلَوۡ شَآءَ رَبُّكَ لَاٰمَنَ مَنۡ فِى الۡاَرۡضِ كُلُّهُمۡ جَمِيۡعًا ؕ اَفَاَنۡتَ تُكۡرِهُ النَّاسَ حَتّٰى يَكُوۡنُوۡا مُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ‏

“Had your Lord so willed, all those who are on earth would have believed. Will you, then, force people into believing?” (10:99)

Islam is a religion of ideology; one where human beings have freedom and free will. If humans choose to believe in it, they may; if they choose to reject it, they may. For the former category, the Qur’ān uses the term mumin, i.e. ‘believer’ (literally, someone who has imaan), and for the latter category, the term used is kafir or ‘disbeliever’ or one who does not believe. This is merely a description of reality, with no aspect of condemnation or humiliation attached to it.

Muslims have been ordered that if the behaviour of other religions and their followers is not hostile, or based on an attitude of war-mongering and corruption, then they should maintain peaceful, equitable social relations with them, and treat them well with justice and fairness. It is only forbidden to have friendly and close relations with those who themselves express enmity and hostility, or those who are out to harm the lives and properties of Muslims. As it is revealed in the Qur’ān:

لَا يَنۡهٰٮكُمُ اللّٰهُ عَنِ الَّذِيۡنَ لَمۡ يُقَاتِلُوۡكُمۡ فِى الدِّيۡنِ وَلَمۡ يُخۡرِجُوۡكُمۡ مِّنۡ دِيَارِكُمۡ اَنۡ تَبَرُّوۡهُمۡ وَ تُقۡسِطُوۡۤا اِلَيۡهِماِنَّ اللّٰهَ يُحِبُّ الۡمُقۡسِطِيۡ

اِنَّمَا يَنۡهٰٮكُمُ اللّٰهُ عَنِ الَّذِيۡنَ قَاتَلُوۡكُمۡ فِى الدِّيۡنِ وَاَخۡرَجُوۡكُمۡ مِّنۡ دِيَارِكُمۡ وَظَاهَرُوۡا عَلٰٓى اِخۡرَاجِكُمۡ اَنۡ تَوَلَّوۡهُم وَمَنۡ يَّتَوَلَّهُمۡ فَاُولٰٓـئِكَ هُمُ الظّٰلِمُوۡنَ‏

“Allah does not forbid that you be kind and just to those who did not fight against you on account of religion, nor drove you out of your homes. Surely Allah loves those who are equitable. Allah only forbids you to be friends with those who have fought against you on account of religion and who have driven you out of your homes and have abetted in your expulsion. And any who make friends with them, they are the wrong-doers.” (60: 8-9)

MUSLIMS AS A PART OF THE GLOBAL UMMAH

Islam is the foremost flag-bearer of equality. In the Islamic perspective, all human beings in the world are equal. The believers are bound together in a relationship of brotherhood, which can even be more powerful than blood or kin networks. As found in the Qur’ān:

اِنَّمَا الۡمُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ اِخۡوَةٌ

“Surely the believers are none but brothers unto one another…” (49:10)

Those who embraced Islam and believed in the Prophethood of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ were persecuted in Makkah, until they were forced to migrate, first to Abyssinia and then to Madinah. These people are called the Muhajireen or refugees. The people of Madinah, who had already embraced Islam, went above and beyond in helping these vulnerable people. They were called the Ansar. Thus, within a few days of the migration to Madinah, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ ensured brotherhood between the Muhajireen and the Ansar. As a result, they developed an intimate, unshakeable bond. There is no equivalent for a bond as strong as this on the basis of faith in all of human history. It is also said in the Qur’ān that after entering into the brotherhood of believers, there is no separation or abyss left between human beings, but instead, they become one. Allah Ta’ala says: 

وَالَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا مِنۡۢ بَعۡدُ وَهَاجَرُوۡا وَجَاهَدُوۡا مَعَكُمۡ فَاُولٰۤـئِكَ مِنۡكُمۡؕ

“And those who believed afterwards and migrated and strove along with you: they belong to you.” (8:75)

Islam defines the believers as one Ummah, who have one faith, one ideological framework and among whom there is no disagreement of thought and ideology. It is in the Qur’ān:

اِنَّ هٰذِهٖۤ اُمَّتُكُمۡ اُمَّةً وَّاحِدَةً 

وَّاَنَا رَبُّكُمۡ فَاعۡبُدُوۡنِ‏ 

“Verily this community of yours is a single community, and I am your Lord; so, worship Me.” (21:92);

وَاِنَّ هٰذِهٖۤ اُمَّتُكُمۡ اُمَّةً وَّاحِدَةً وَّاَنَا رَبُّكُمۡ فَاتَّقُوۡنِ‏ 

“This community of yours is one community, and I am your Lord; so, hold Me alone in fear.” (23:52)

The present era is under a heady spell of nationalism and the dominance of a nation-state system. The world has effectively been divided into different countries. Every country has its individual interests, which the government of that country strives to fulfil at any cost and they pay little attention to the idea of right and wrong within this structure. There is no relationship between the citizens of one country with that of another. Even if a shadow of it remains, it is based on suspicion, hatred, and even outright enmity, rather than brotherhood, empathy and love. This is an outright jahili (pertaining to the period of ignorance before the advent of Islam) concept, which has merely been newly repackaged for a different era. The jahili poet Durayd ibn al-Simma wrote:

            وَ مَا أنا الاّ مِن غَزیّۃ اِن غَوَتْ

          غَوَیتُ ، واِن تَرشُدْ غَزِیّۃ أرشُد

“I am a member of the Ghaziya tribe. If he follows the wrong path, I will follow the same path, and if he follows the right path, I will follow him.”

Islam does not believe in this view. It declares all believers to be one body, irrespective of region, nation, colour, race, language, and social status. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ has explained this with immense eloquence:

مَثَلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ فِي تَوَادِّهِمْ وَتَرَاحُمِهِمْ وَتَعَاطُفِهِمْ مَثَلُ الْجَسَدِ إِذَا اشْتَكَى مِنْهُ عُضْوٌ تَدَاعَى لَهُ سَائِرُ الْجَسَدِ بِالسَّهَرِ وَالْحُمَّ

“The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” (Sahih Muslim 2586) 

It is evident from this that there is no overlap between Islam and nationalism. On the contrary, both are opposed to each other. Allama Muhammad Iqbal has rightly said:

“Among these new gods, the nation is the biggest one.

The attire it adorns is the coffin of religion.”

ISLAM’S IDEOLOGY OF JIHAD

Out of all the terminologies associated with the Islamic worldview and theology, it is possibly the term ‘jihad’ that has garnered the most controversy and opposition. The concept has been painted in such a fearsome light that the mere invocation of it appears to induce fear. This is precisely why Indian Muslims are called upon to give up on it. The commonsensical notion that has been propagated is that Muslims forced people to convert to Islam and conquered the country by the force of the sword and this is what led to the rise and spread of Islam.

It is a bizarre proposition that the very religion (Islam) which is the biggest advocate of freedom of thought and ideology and under the rule and governance of which minorities have been breathing the air of freedom in many countries is accused of oppression.

The basic fact is that Islam does not force its thoughts and ideas on anyone. It gives the freedom to human beings to ponder upon its essential beliefs and ideas, to understand it by keeping the windows of reason open, and then, to accept it if they wish and reject it otherwise. The positive results of accepting the truth and the consequences of the denial of the truth have been explained in fine detail, but no one is forced to convert to Islam. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was told to clearly state:

وَقُلِ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَّبِّكُمْ فَمَنْ شَاۗءَ فَلْيُؤْمِنْ وَّمَنْ شَاۗءَ فَلْيَكْفُر

“And proclaim: “This is the Truth from your Lord. Now let him who will, believe; and let him who will, disbelieve.”

According to Islamic belief, Allah has clearly stated the facts of both right and wrong in front of human beings, but at the same time He has bestowed them with free will and the freedom to exercise choice. By exercising this freedom, some people accept the truth and become obedient to Allah and some people do not accept it and continue in the way of disobedience. Forcing a person to convert to Islam is akin to curtailing the freedom with which Allah has blessed all human beings:

وَلَوۡ شَآءَ رَبُّكَ لَاٰمَنَ مَنۡ فِى الۡاَرۡضِ كُلُّهُمۡ جَمِيۡعًا ؕ اَفَاَنۡتَ تُكۡرِهُ النَّاسَ حَتّٰى يَكُوۡنُوۡا مُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ‏

“Had your Lord so willed, all those who are on the earth would have believed. Will you, then, force people into believing?” (10:99)

Islamic beliefs and ideas are backed by certain reasoning and the unshakeable belief that whoever ponders them with an open heart and mind will surely embrace the truth. This is why, there is an emphasis that no one should be forced in matters of religion:

لَاۤ اِكۡرَاهَ فِى الدِّيۡنِ

قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشۡدُ مِنَ الۡغَىِّ

“There is no compulsion in religion. The Right Way stands clearly distinguished from the wrong.” (2:256)

One of the fundamental aspects of Islam is to maintain a peaceful atmosphere, so that all people can think about Islam in an open environment, with complete freedom and without any pressure. It is understood that if there is a state of fitnah and corruption, anarchy, unrest and war, the path of understanding is narrowed even further than usual. Therefore, the Islamic principle is to try to avoid war as much as possible and to consent to it only if there is no other option left but to fight.

The extent to which Islam seeks peace and security can be understood from the imperative that if there is an offer of peace from the enemy during the war, it should be accepted at once, even if there is a suspicion of the enemy’s malice and deception. As Allah Ta’ala says:

وَاِنْ جَنَحُوْا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَہَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَي اللہ، اِنَّہٗ ہُوَالسَّمِيْعُ الْعَلِيْمُ، وَاِنْ يُّرِيْدُوْٓا اَنْ يَّخْدَعُوْكَ فَاِنَّ حَسْـبَكَ اللہُ

“If they incline to peace, incline you as well to it, and trust in Allah. Surely, He is All-Hearing. All-Knowing. And should they seek to deceive you, Allah is sufficient for you. He it is Who strengthened you with His succour and the believers.” (8:61-62)

In 6 A.H., the Messenger of Allah ﷺ along with his Companions left Madinah with the intention of performing ‘Umrah, but even before they could reach Makkah, the enemies stopped them and declared their intention of battle. On this occasion, the terms of the peace agreement prepared at Hudaibiyah were explicitly one-sided and on the face of it, led to retreat of the Muslims and boosted the sense of superiority of their enemies. Because of this, many Muslims were feeling uneasy and some of the Companions had run out of patience. But the Messenger of Allah ﷺ accepted all the conditions that in turn, led to a great opportunity for lasting peace and security. The days to come and the consequences that emerged proved that this decision was correct. In the name of peace, this apparent retreat proved to be a precursor to ‘manifest victory’. In the span of two years more people entered the fold of Islam than those who had done so in the six years preceding of the Medinian era.

But when a section of people start imposing their will on others, curtailing their freedoms, carrying out immeasurable oppression, and exerting force upon them, Islam is firmly on the side of the oppressed. It becomes necessary to stop such cruel and oppressive people who torture the servants of Allah and deny them freedom and peace while living on the very land that Allah has created. Allah Ta’ala asks of his believers in the Qur’ān:

وَمَا لَكُمْ لَا تُقَاتِلُوْنَ فِيْ سَبِيْلِ اللہِ وَالْمُسْتَضْعَفِيْنَ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ وَالنِّسَاۗءِ وَالْوِلْدَانِ الَّذِيْنَ يَقُوْلُوْنَ رَبَّنَآ اَخْرِجْنَا مِنْ ھٰذِہِ الْقَرْيَۃِ الظَّالِمِ اَہْلُھَا وَاجْعَلْ لَّنَا مِنْ لَّدُنْكَ وَلِيًّا وَّاجْعَلْ لَّنَا مِنْ لَّدُنْكَ نَصِيْرًا

“How is it that you do not fight in the way of Allah and in support of the helpless – men, women and children – who pray: ‘Our Lord, bring us out of this land whose people are oppressors and appoint for us from Yourself, a protector, and appoint for us from Yourself a helper’?” (4:75)

Similarly, Islam also commands Muslims to confront and fight those who take the lead in fighting them. Just as Islam does not permit others to be wronged, it does not permit a person or a community to silently suffer oppression.

This can be understood in the following context: the atrocities of the polytheists of Makkah crossed all foreseeable limits, the Muslims were forced to emigrate to Madinah to save their religion and faith, but the polytheists of Makkah did not allow the Muslims to live in peace here as well, and conspired against them and incited others against them. Finally, when all options were exhausted and their patience had been tested to its limits, the Muslims were also allowed to fight them:

لَّذِيۡنَ اُخۡرِجُوۡا مِنۡ دِيَارِهِمۡ بِغَيۡرِ حَقٍّ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡ يَّقُوۡلُوۡا رَبُّنَا اللّٰهُ ؕ وَلَوۡلَا دَ فۡعُ اللّٰهِ النَّاسَ بَعۡضَهُمۡ بِبَـعۡضٍ لَّهُدِّمَتۡ صَوَامِعُ وَبِيَعٌ وَّصَلٰوتٌ وَّمَسٰجِدُ يُذۡكَرُ فِيۡهَا اسۡمُ اللّٰهِ كَثِيۡرًا ؕ وَلَيَنۡصُرَنَّ اللّٰهُ مَنۡ يَّنۡصُرُهٗ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ لَقَوِىٌّ عَزِيۡزٌ‏

“Those who were unjustly expelled from their homes for no other reason than their saying: “Allah is Our Lord.” If Allah were not to repel some through others, monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques wherein the name of Allah is much mentioned, would certainly have been pulled down. Allah will most certainly help those who will help Him. Verily Allah is Immensely Strong, Overwhelmingly Mighty.” (22:40)

In Islam, it is commanded to spread what is ma’ruf – what is beneficial and well-accepted, and to put an end to munkar – what is evil and wrong; often translated as “enjoining what is good and forbidding the wrong.” Both are equally important and are mentioned together in the Qur’ān. But there is a slight difference between the two that is nevertheless significant. Islam invites all human beings to the former and encourages them to accept it, but does not force their acceptance.

However, it does not give them a free hand to commit and spread evil, but instead stops them and urges them to refrain from it. Islam says that those who commit injustice in the world, spread corruption and make evil commonplace, will nevertheless have to live in the world under the divine law of Allah. The rightful owners of power in this world will be those who establish the divine will and command of Allah on it and keep it free from disorder and corruption.

وَقَاتِلُوۡهُمۡ حَتّٰى لَا تَكُوۡنَ فِتۡنَةٌ وَّيَكُوۡنَ الدِّيۡنُ كُلُّهٗ لِلّٰهِۚ فَاِنِ انْـتَهَوۡا فَاِنَّ اللّٰهَ بِمَا يَعۡمَلُوۡنَ بَصِيۡرٌ

“And fight against them until the mischief ends and the way prescribed by Allah – the whole of it – prevail. Then, if they give up mischief, surely Allah sees what they do.” (8:39)

It is clear from this that the purpose of ‘Jihad’ in Islam is not to forcibly convert others to Islam, but its purpose is to break the back of ‘evil’, end moral disorder and corruption, and fight against those who have become the means of promoting corruption, oppression and evil in this world so that the servants of Allah are free and they may be able to exercise their choice of faith freely.

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