By Sikandar Azam

Last week, on October 20, while speaking at the launch of former Union Minister Mohsina Kidwai’s biography, Mohsina Kidwai – My Life in Indian Politics, senior Congress leader Shivraj Patil claimed that the concept of jihad was not just in Islam but also in Bhagavad Gita and in Christianity. “It is not just in Quran, but in Mahabharata also, the part in Gita, Shri Krishna also talks of jihad to Arjun and this thing is not just in Quran or Gita but also in Christianity,” Patil reportedly said in his remarks in Hindi. This uncalled-for remark made by the 87-year-old leader drew flak from both Hindutva and Congress camps.

Not quite unexpectedly, Shivraj Patil, facing bitter criticism, on October 21 sought to firefight the controversy, saying jihad is an act of killing anyone who speaks the truth. “If you kill Mahatma Gandhi, it is jihad. The act of killing him is jihad,” Patil was reported to have told news agency ANI, dismissing his alleged remark that Lord Krishna taught lessons of jihad. “Who killed Mahatma Gandhi?” he asked reporters. When asked if that person was a jihadi, he said the act of that murder was jihad.

Patil clarified that he was not the one to use the term jihad. “It is you who are calling it jihad. Would you call Krishna’s lessons to Arjun, Jihad? No, that is what I said,” news agency ANI quoted him as saying.

Jihad is an Arabic word that means struggle or strive to gain the pleasure of Allah. But, thanks to the powers that be who love to practise the Machiavellian theory of politics, it has become the most misunderstood and misinterpreted term. It is not restricted to fighting on a battlefield. Many good deeds are considered acts of Jihad. Taking care of orphans, struggling to achieve a higher standard of moral behaviour and serving one’s parents are acts of Jihad. A man asked the Prophet ﷺ: “Should I join Jihad?” The Prophet asked him: “Are your parents still alive?” The man said: “Yes!” The Prophet said: “Then strive by serving them.” (Bukhari) So, Jihad is not mandatory for each and every Muslim.

In the Islamic scheme of things, Jihad on a battlefield is the last resort and is subject to certain conditions. It must be launched by an Islamic government against the enemy who attacks Muslims. Islam forbids fighting against people who did not launch aggression or prepare to launch attack against them. The Qur’ān makes it clear that Allah does not love the aggressors. “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; Allah loves not transgressors.” (2:195)

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