A few days back, one of my colleagues delivered a lecture in an international conference in which he presented the understanding of our teacher, Mr Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, on Jihad and how Muslims are expected to behave with non-Muslims. He informed the audience that Jihad, according to Mr. Ghamidi was binding on Muslims only for them to eliminate oppression and religious persecution in the contemporary world. He also clarified that this view contends that the Jihad launched by the prophet, alaihissalaam, was specific to the times of the rusul (messengers) who came to ensure that their message dominates during their times and that their adversaries (kuffar) are annihilated. Such aggressive jihad was specific to their era alone and is no more applicable to our times, nor is the requirement that all non-Muslims should be considered enemies of Muslims and therefore should not be taken as friends.
At the end of the lecture, a Jordanian Muslim participant came complaining to the speaker that he had done a disservice to Islam. Explaining what he meant, he mentioned that what was described in the lecture was the Islam he had learnt about and believed in right from his childhood. That, he said, was the only true Islam. He lamented the fact that the extremist Muslims have hijacked the true Islam. One should present Islam, he said, not as a point of view presented by this scholar or that. One should state it confidently as the only true Islam.
My feeling is that what this Jordanian friend mentioned may not be the truth in the academic world of Muslim scholars. However, many common, intelligent Muslims do not resort to the world of Islamic scholars to learn what the correct interpretation of Islam is. The Islam learnt and believed in through the simple, objective reading of the Qur’an is very close to the real understanding of God’s word. What religious scholars say is quite often the reflection of the point of view they have already decided to follow, in many cases because of the madrassah (religious seminary) they were taught in. Since academic debate and critical examination of views in the light of Qur’an, sunnah, hadith, and common sense is lacking in our academic world and most scholars today sheepishly following what the earlier scholars have said, what people receive through these scholars is quite often contrary to what the true understanding of Islam is.
Ghamidi Sahib recently met a traditional scholar who told him that what he was presenting to the people was a new Islam. Mr Ghamidi responded to him by telling him that what he was presenting was the original, oldest Islam. He told the scholar that what he and his likes were presenting were versions of Islam that were three to seven hundred years’ old. “We are attempting to jump back to the times of the prophet to bring out what the original message of Islam is” he said. That Islam has to be based on the teachings of the Qur’an, sunnah, and hadith, all of which ought to be understood through the sincere and unrestricted use of intellect and not through the opinions of the scholars of the later days, which is what most of the Muslim scholars of today are doing.