The dark face of Islam was first
of all projected by an American ideologue, Samuel P. Huntington
in his well known, albeit controversial, book Clash of
Civilisations, which was an elaboration of his thesis first
published in the well-known journal Foreign Affairs in
July, 1993. In this thesis, Huntington treated the clash between
Islam and the West as fundamental and irreconcilable. It is a
clash between two world views, two civilisations. He found Islam
incompatible with democracy and modernity and treated it as a
threat to the pluralistic, democratic and liberative ethos of
Needless to say,
this is gross oversimplification, rather blatant distortion, a
tendency to see things in black and white. Formation of culture
and growth of civilisations is a complex phenomenon and cannot
be reduced to a set of stereotypes. Different civilisations
interact with one another and each one gets enriched in the
process. There is no in-built, inherent discord between two
civilisations. Islam has borrowed heavily from Greek, Indian and
other civilisations and, in the process, has contributed a lot
to humanity, including the West, in the fields of medicine,
geometry, algebra, music, architecture, theology, etc.
has been erroneously treated as synonymous with warfare, a
no-holds barred crusade against infidels, the non-believers. The
author quotes a well-known saying of Prophet Mohammed: "The
highest form of jehad is to speak the truth in the face
of an unjust ruler". The word ‘jehad’ simply
means ‘to exert’ and ijtihad is exertion of the
intellect and is a recognised source of Islamic law, the Sharia.
In spiritual terms, it is a battle against sin and forces of
evil in one’s life. This has been termed as "the greater jehad".
As applied to the worldly realm, it is the righteous warfare, a
struggle for justice and this has been called the "lesser Jehad".
As per a well-known Hadith, Prophet Mohammed attached
utmost importance to the ‘greater jehad’, mankind’s
spiritual struggle against evil. It is an internal struggle
aimed at overcoming one’s animal side and tendencies. The ‘lesser
jehad’ makes it incumbent on a Muslim to fight back in
case he is attacked. It is a fight in self-defence and every
religion permits it, including Islam. Compassion is an important
tenet of Islam. The Prophet has said that he is not a Muslim who
eats his fill when his neighbour goes hungry.
There is, however,
no place for compassion in the type of jehad being
indulged in by the financial fringe of the Muslim community the
world over. It is terrorism, plain and simple, that consumes the
lives of many innocent beings. Islam has been projected as a
religion of sword used for forcible conversions. However, an
important Koranic ordinance proclaims, "There shall
be no coercion in matters of faith", thus prohibiting
forcible conversions of non-believers. This humane face of Islam
has been obliterated by some Muslim rulers, concedes the author,
and their barbarous acts were legtimised by "the pen of a mufti
and the sword of a general". This distorted image of Islam,
as presented by Aurangzeb in case of India, is projected
deliberately as the true face of Islam by fanatics owing
allegiance to other religions like Hinduism, Judaism or
Christianity to serve their own ends.
Like jehad the
concept of fatwa has also been distorted. The author
makes it clear that a fatwa is not an edict issued by a
cleric, it is a mere legal opinion. The Encyclopaedia of Islam
defines fatwa as "a formal legal opinion given by a mufti".
Though Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman
Rushdie in 1989 was not upheld by several Islamic jurists of
repute, yet no one bothered about their opinion and Rushdie had
to lead a terror-stricken life for many years.
The book under
review is a concise and penetrating treaties on the concept of
jehad in Islam and it dispels many wrong notions. In our
present communally surcharged milieu such a book is all the more
welcome. There is an urgent need to present the true face of
every religion. The necessity is all the more pressing in case
of Hinduism since the Sangh Parivar blatantly claims to
be the sole repository of insights into Hinduism.