Jihad and Traditional Islamic Consciousness – Part Two

S. Abdullah Schleifer

This debate, as well as other disagreements among the jurists of siyar were referred tothecanonichadith in which the Prophet instructs his commanders i to offer three alternatives: Islam ;as faith); jizyah (the status of a protected I” community under shari’a – in other v-ords, Islam as social order) or, the sword.“20”

As well as helping to establish the principle that truces are temporary in nature, this same hadith, referring specifically to idolaters or polytheists also clarified, for most of the jurists. the principle that aside from the Arabian ‘ pagans who possessed no sacred scripture, the status of a protected community could be offered to other religious communities, besides the Jews and Christians, assuming they too had sacred scripture which the Arabians lacked.“21”

But the jurists also tended to put this same hadith aside in favour of a
contradictory practice by the Prophet, whenever the hadith was cited as an argument that there must always be an offer of terms – a summons to Islam or jizyah – before an attack. The jurists decided by the Prophet’s example in combat (derived from still another hadith) that when terms have been clearly offered, the Muslims can subsequently attack in ambush, or by night, without having to offer terms in each specific engagement. The juridical principle here is that the Prophet’s actions at a later period carry more weight than his words in an earlier period.“22” 

This is but one of the general principles of Islamic jurisprudence. It is
worthy of mention here as an example of the painstaking application of Ili technical objective considerations such as chronology by the ‘ulama to determine intent, be it Divine or prophetic. in their single-minded dedication to devise an ethical code of scar for the N-Iuslim Army and its Commander along rigorous, unapologetic lines that did not hesitate to acknowledge and address problems of controversy and apparent contradictory texts.

That single-minded dedication or striving constitutes the overall jihad undertaken by the ‘ulama to Islamize society and state in which the juridicalpolitical doctrine of jihad was a signifiicant but not exclusive element. Significant not only because the ability to lead or direct jihad was, as noted earlier, one of the fundamental principles in the Islamic political theory of the Imamate or Caliphate, and perhaps one of the few to endure the transformations of this doctrine to that of Sultanate.“23” And significant because it dealt directly with the exercise of armed coercive power which is at the very heart of any state, and in particular, the Islamic state, as underrstood by traditional Islamic consciousness. “24”

The jurists acknowledged that armed coercive power is not only exercised beyond the border of dar-al-Islam, but as mentioned earlier, also within the borders – the internal jihad. And the same hadith literature that the jurists drew upon in determining these two clear dimensions of sacralized combat also touches upon the problem of the inevitable misuse by Muslims of this armed coercive power, injustice and tyranny.

The manner in which the ‘ulama were dealing with the state in general and jihad in particular, and still more particularly, with the internal jihad and the potential role within it for the struggle against tyranny and injustic within Muslim society, was influenced by the violent response to the same problem – how to Islamize state and society – of the first revolutionary ed sect in Islam. 

Khawaridj Model and Orthodox Response
The momentum of the wars of conquest in the first century of Islam propelled the earliest jurists to particularize the legal formulation of jihad as a code of military conduct and conditions of sacred warfare exercised by the state to the neglect of jihad in its capacity as al-amr bi’l ma’ruf, and applied by individual and collective consciousness to the government of the community.

It was precisely this capacity that was to be stressed at this moment in Islamic history by the khawaridj, the first “sect” to arise in Islam. Originating in the last few years of ‘Ali’s caliphate, the khawaridj insisted on the primacy of works over faith in defining who is a believer and on of puritanical egalitarianism in their understanding of the qualifications for leadership of the Muslims. 

Gibb and others tend to dismiss the khawaridj movement as a “tribalistic interpretation of Islam,” and the similar terrain – geographic as well as social – in which such doctrinally at odds revolutionary sects as the khawaridj, the Arabian Shia’. and the Nejdi ikhwan rose and fell suggests there is much to the argument of a Bedouin atavism ready to revive behind any banner that allows rebellion against central authority and the plundering of one’s religious brethren.
But the khawaridj also drew on a religious impulse of sufficient piety to be initially incorporated within the ranks of ‘Ali’s forces in the earliest phase of the civil war that would mark the end of the Rashidun caliphate; and significant numbers of ethically concerned `ulama, disturbed by pragmatic tendencies of the Umayyads, moved in at least similar currents of thought, as the khawaridj, if not in open alliance, until tribal anarchy and khawaridj atrocities drove almost all of them, however begrudgingly, into the Umayyad camp. “26”

And in contrast to the shia’, who emerge later in similar circumstances but whose unique political-spiritual doctrines of state and jihad have little direct relevance to sunni political thought, the khawaridj understanding of jihad as a revolutionary model for Islamizing the state and society has continued to haunt sunni Islam to the present day-.

The khawaridj were more in the nature of an explosive chain of sub-sects than a unified movement, periodically threatening large areas of Arabia and Iraq from the time of Imam ‘Ali’s rule (‘All was assassinated by the khawaridj), for the duration of Umayyad rule and on into the Abbasid caliphate.
In contrast to Sunni juridical thought, which insisted on Quraishi birth as a qualification for the caliphate, thekhawaridj taught that any Believer who is morally and religiously irreproachable could be elected by the
community as imam or amir al-mu’minin; but more significantly as it concerns jihad, they also believed in the right and duty of the community to depose the imam if he diverged from right conduct.“27”

The khawaridj responded to the worldly misuse of Islamic rule by raising jihad, in an exclusively outward,occasional,and violent sense as both banner for rebellion against wrong-doing imams (whether sunni or within their own community) and as a “sixth pillar” of absolute obligatory religious practice. Performing jihad was at least equivalent to that of pilgrimagezakatfastingprayer, and profession of faith (the sunni Five Pillars) if not more so in kharidji doctrine, as an obligatory practice required for salvation. At all times, and exclusively in its most outward form, jihad was fard’ayn.“28”All other dimensions of jihad were rejected. In the words of a kharidjipoet,

It is not the tongue, but the action of your hands that appease the heart.“29”

Courage in war is a paramount condition in the election of the kharidji imam, in contrast to its relegation as the sixth of seven conditions of capacity in typical Sunni theory.“30”

Some of the khawaridj sects based the right of a Believer to the position of imam upon the extent of his past participation in jihad, and a form of existential Imamate existed to allow any kharidji to initiate jihad by direct combat. The obligation to wage continuous jihad was so fundamental to the typical kharidji community-state that the khawaridj at times tolerated the existence of more than one imam, electing two – one to lead in war and the other to lead in prayer, whereas jihad constitutes but the fifth and sixth of ten duties assumed by one imam to safeguard the rights of the community in typical sunni theory. “31”
The sunni chronicles testify to kharidji courage and willingness to sacrifice, to their loyalty to the austere egalitarian life-style of the Muslim community in the time of the Prophet, to their intensely principled social political style, and particularly to the high moral standards they set for their own leadership. But rebellion against wrong-doing imams and therefore the to necessity to fight whomsoever fights on their behalf was given such positive content in kharidjidoctrine that jihad as armed struggle to preserve the community from the corruption of misrule became a jihadagainst the very body of the Muslim community. “32”Muslims who failed to recognize the imam of the khawaridjor to accept kharidji doctrine by invitation were generally classified as apostates and for this frequently put to the sword, women and children as well as men, non-combatants as well as combatants. 

The khawaridj way of takfir (to classify a Believer as an Unbeliever) was inevitable since shari’a forbids a Muslim from killing another except in three instances – the married person who commits adultery; revenge for murder, and apostasy.“33” Since the ethical standards of the shari’a were the very criteria for their armed rebellions, the khawaridj could only resolve what must have been an unbearable moral tension by declaring any Muslim they felt compelled to fight or wanted to kill, as apostate. The doctrine of takfir is central to the way of the khawaridj, and from the perspective of orthodox sunni Islam, the basis (when made operative in practice) of khawaridj heresy. The most extemist of the khawaridj argued that whoever apostacizes – either by mortal sin or refusal to repudiate the sunni caliphate and acknowledge the khawaridj imam – can never repent and must be killed without exception along with their wives and children.“34” 

This ferocious displacement of jihad as armed struggle into the domain of jihad as amr bi’l-m’ruf within the Muslim community is underscored by what appears to be a khawaridj indifference to jihad against Unbelievers. In doctrine the khawaridj preached an extraordinary tolerance; some of their schools recognized Jews and Christians as full equals to Muslims if they were prepared to pronounce a modified shahada: “Muhammad is the Apostle of God to the Arabs but not to us” – lends strength to the interpretation of khawaridj doctrine as a convenient banner for Arabian tribalism. Modern of scholarship does not call attention to any role played by khawaridj doctrine of isti’rad (religious murder), applied against non-khawaridj Muslims from the earliest uprisings, appears never to have been practiced against the Unbeliever. 

There is a grim irony to the way in which khawandj excess of ethical intent in attempting to Islamize the emerging Muslim state and society produced a 

doctrine capable of justifying atrocities clearly condemned by hadith and the otherwise far less ethically coloured political theory of the Sunni jurists.“35” The khawaridj threat to the unity of the community heightened Sunni juridical consciousness of the limits to jihad as an instrument for the purification of Muslim rule – limits described in the hadith calling upon the believer to fight whoever separates from the community or whoever rebels against the imam.“36” 

This internal jihad – armed struggle by the state against subversion (fitna), is divided into three separate categories by al-Mawardi in his juridico-political theory of the caliphate: the jihad against apostasy (al- ridda); against dissention (al-baghi), and the jihad against secession or rebellion (al-muharibun). Each of these categories of jihadwere the subject of extensive juridical debate in determining the proper nature of their conduct and termination. “37”

Not that the hadith avoid the issue of moral judgement of the imam or condemn its exercise; on the contrary, the Traditions reflect a profound pessimism about the quality of leadership that awaits the Muslim community after the passing of the Prophet and his companions. Condemnation by God and His Prophet of unjust, tyrannical and corrupt rule runs like a thread through the canonic literature and great punishment awaits on the Day of judgement the leader who misuses his command.“38”

The Muslim, however, must differentiate between his individual moral responsibility not to obey any order to directly disobey God even at personal risk, and his duty to otherwise obey a potentially if not inevitably corrupt leader exercising the responsibilities of an office that in itself is (relatively speaking) morally indifferent, a necessary (if not necessarily virtuous or just) instrument for the protection of the community and the preservation of its unity under shari’a. 
The necessary tension to this position is present in two canonic hadith which recapitulate the themes of dozens more: 

He who obeys me has obeyed God and he who disobeys me has disobeyed God; he who obeys the commander has obeyed me and he who disobeys the commander has disobeyed me. The imam is only a shield behind whom fighting is engaged in and by whom protection is sought; so if he commands piety and acts justly he will have a reward for that, but if he holds another view he will be held guilty.
Your best imams are those whom you like and who like you, on whom you evoke blessings and who invoke blessings on you; and your worst imams are those whom you hate and who hate you, whom you curse and who curse you. They asked God’s messenger whether in that event they should not depose them, but he replied, `No, as long as they observe the prayer among you. If anyone has a governor whom he sees doing anything which is an act of disobedience to God, he must disapprove of the disobedience to God which he commits, but must never withdraw from obedience and quote’.

 Ibn Rushd, in Peters, Jihad… pp. 21-25.
21) Sahih Muslim, Boook XVIII, Ch. DCCIV (4294), and disscussed by Hamidullah in Muslim Conduct of u State, p. 311.
22) Ibn Rushd, in Peters, Jihad…, pp. 24-25; Hamidullah, ibid., p. 311.
23) Ibin Rushd, in ibbid., pp. 19-20.
24) See list of al-Bagillani’s qualities of the Imam in Ibish, pp, 97-100. Two of the five conditions are directly ~ concerned with warfare. The same two conditions appear in al-Mawardi’s list of seven conditions. In additions. five of the ten itemss listed by al-Mawardi as things incumbent “upon the Imam as matter of interest” directly involve uses of armed coercive power. See selection from al-Mawardi, “The Governing Statutes,” in Williams, ed. (and trans.), Themes of Islamic Civilisation, pp. 85-887.
25) Gibb, “Religion and Politics…,” pp. 6-7.
26) Gibb, “An Interpretation…,” pp. 7-8.
27) SEI. s.v. “Khawarij.” The Quraish were the leading tribe of Mecca; the Prophet was of the Quraish and
I . he specified according to canonic hadith that the highest command in the community should remain with the Quraish. One of the reasons for this condition is that the Qur’an was transmitted in the dialect of the Quraish.
 Salem, Political Theory and Institutions of the Khawarij, pp. 82-83.
29) Ibid., p. 83.
30) AI-Mawardi, Droit public Musulman: le Droit du Califat, L. Ostrogog, trans. (Paris: Leroux, 1901), I, p. 87.
31) Salem, op. cit., pp. 55, 85; Ibish, The political Doctrine of al-Baqillani, pp. 94-95; AI-Mawardi, ibid., I, pp. 109-112.
32) The Khauxtrijconsistentlyrefused to be called al-marig (dissenters) because they meant to be reformers not merely schismatic.” Salem, op. cit., p. 26. 
 Based on canonic hadith transmitted by al-Bukhari and Muslim, cited by an-Nawawi, Forly Hadith, pp. 58-59.
34) SEI, s.v. “Khawarij” 
35) Salem, op. cit, pp. 90-91, for discussion of the doctrine of isti’rad.
36) Muslim, Mishkat, XVII,Ch.I
37) Khadduri, War and Peace…,p.74
38) Mishkat, XVIII,Ch.I

The Islamic Quarterly, London 
Fourth Quarter 1983