What is happening in Egypt and Pakistan these days (August 2013) is horrible. In Egypt it apparently seems to be a blatant act of double standards committed by the US and and her supporting countries who on the one hand keep lecturing everyone on the merits of democracy while on the other they conspire to undo democratically elected governments which don’t suit their ideological tastes.
In Pakistan there seems to be trouble everywhere, be it Karachi, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Kashmir border, or Wazirisitan. No day passes without news of killings in one place or another. There seems to be a proxy war going on between India and Pakistan which is taking innocent lives of people who had never been a part of the crimes for which they are getting punished.
While hypocrisy of the rulers of countries who are responsible for masterminding these atrocities is highly condemnable, one is troubled by the question as to what is the real cause behind all that is happening. Is it sheer madness, arrogance, sadistic pleasure, a grand Jewish conspiracy, a US plan to invade the globe, or some such other indefensible reason behind the designs of the aggressive states that is causing this mayhem to happen or is there something else behind these unending tragedies?
The fact of the matter is that the two sides of this highly immoral war are at odds with each other over an ideology. That ideology is the belief of some Muslims that their faith makes it incumbent upon them to ensure political dominance of Islam and its Shari’ah law over the entire globe militarily if peaceful means of doing it aren’t working.
Whether it is the establishment, intelligence agencies, and the think tanks of US, Israel, or India, they all are fearful of religious zealots who they believe would spare neither effort nor resources to crush the existing political system, culture, and freedom of the developed world which has helped in creating a civilization which has no parallel in the history of mankind. Many Muslim scholars and other religious activists don’t mince words in mentioning that the grand plan of dominating the entire globe is the most significant part of their faith. “The purpose of my life is the supremacy of Thy faith; I am a Muslim for this purpose only and a worshiper for this reason alone” says a popular couplet in Urdu. After all, if the US is against Islam, why should it not stop Christians and others converting to Islam in its own territory? Why shouldn’t India force Zakir Naik to discontinue his efforts to attract people towards Islam if the state hates Islam?
Is the ideology requiring forcible political dominance of Islam really Islamic? Many Muslim zealots are convinced that it indeed is. They believe its their religious duty to announce Jihad against all the Satanic forces which by their definition are all the regimes of the world, Muslim and non-Muslim, who don’t accept their demand of enforcing Islamic Shari’ah in their lands, liberate them, and enforce God’s law in the land. They present Qur’anic verses and statements of the prophet, alaihissalam, to vouch their stance. While common people are ideologically influenced by this view whenever it is presented forcefully, many members of the intelligentsia, both Muslim and non-Muslim, are scared of and drawn away from Islam, somehow convinced that what zealots are presenting is the true Islam. Both Jihadis and their faith are thus feared and abhorred.
The fact of the matter is that the ideology these religious extremists are presenting has nothing to do with the true Islam. The prophet of Islam was the last messenger of God. Like all messengers, God sent him with a mandate to implement His will in this world by punishing the enemies of His message either through natural calamities or military might of believers accompanying His messenger. Such action was taken because the enemies rejecting God’s message had received all evidences to make them believe that the message was from God. Rejecting the message in that case meant rejecting and challenging God Himself knowingly. The punishment inflicted on the enemy nations would in addition serve other multiple purposes through real life examples of the vanquished nations: that this world is being run by a mighty God, that He is bound to make humans accountable for their performance, and that His messengers have brought truth from Him. The episode of punishments mentioned in the divine scriptures thus were specific for those eras alone. The Qur’an has repeated the tales of those episodes in several passages to serve the above-mentioned purposes and to warn the immediate addressees that they too are in the range of God’s punishment if they don’t mend their ways. And the Qur’an also mentions the various stages of the manner God’s punishment was inflicted upon the enemies of the last messenger of God.
The description of the entire prophetic mission in its various stages until the climax has become a part of the eternally preserved text of the Qur’an that enables the reader to strengthen his faith in God, the life hereafter, and the last messenger. That part of the text has an eternal message but is era-specific as far as implementation of its practical details are concerned quite the same way as the declaration of the last messenger that he received divine revelation had a lasting impact on the faith of all believers but was not meant for others to emulate.
Many zealot Muslims claim strongly that the description of the messenger’s dominance over his enemies carries a message that is binding for all later Muslims to practically follow. The fact that what they are saying is clearly against the Qura’n can be shown through evidence in a decently held discussion. However zealots have the advantage of emotional rhetoric by their side that causes the common man to take their side.
The fact that the era-specificity of many Jihad-related verses has not been properly appreciated is to me without doubt the greatest tragedy of our times. It is the mother of many other tragedies that inevitably emerge from its womb.
It is a challenge for the intellectual honesty of all Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, to look at the two narratives and decide which of them is correct: the one that claims its basis on the verses mentioning fighting against the enemies and declares the message of them to be binding on Muslims for all times to come or the one that claims that many of these verses were era-specific in their application but universal in their underlying theme.
One potent propaganda line of the radicals that surprisingly influences many Muslims is their claim that the era-specificity of Jihad-urging verses is at best a timidly apologetic approach and at worst a ploy of the Jewish and other anti-Islam forces. The fact is that the understanding we are suggesting is accompanying our claim that it is coming directly from God. The Qur’an is not a vague book, using unfamiliar words and juxtaposing unrelated verses. Going by its own claim, the Qur’an is an absolutely clear book that has come to dominate the intellectual, spiritual, and ethical lives of believers. Its God-ordained arrangement has made the book remarkably coherent for the reader who is willing to ponder over its contents with an open mind. Let the book decide whether what we are saying is right or wrong.
Even though the outcome of the exercise of finding out as to which view makes more sense should be based on a dispassionately intellectual reading, it goes without saying that if the end result is in favour of the pro-Jihad stance, the end of the world, given the presence of nuclear weapons, will be imminent. In that case, however, we would conclude that God is planning for it to happen Himself. I am absolutely confident though that such conclusion is well-nigh impossible to be drawn.