Friday, 17 January 2014

Jihad and Metaphysics

Concept of Jihad: An Analysis of its Background Worldview
Islam’s concept of jihad is, like many other concepts of Islam, one of the most misunderstood concepts. I think this has occurred because we have not focused on its place in the overall context of Islamic spiritual and metaphysical tradition. It has generally been approached in isolation and not squared with other fundamental concepts or elements of Islam. What is Islam? What does it mean to believe? What is the metaphysical content of Kalima? To what end are all Islamic doctrines subservient? How does the concept of jihad – often designated as the sixth pillar of Islam, cohere with other five pillars of Islam? How does Islam encounter the other, especially the religious other? What does Kufr signify? Understood in the larger context of esoteric and metaphysical foundations of Islam what does jihad signify? It is not to ignore the historical developments in traditional understanding and conceptualizing of jihad. In fact it is the most traditional of approaches to understanding jihad that is advocated here. It is the problematic fundamentalist/ exoteric exclusivist theological or ideological approach to Islam that ignores Islam’s inner or spiritual and intellectual or metaphysical dimensions that has contributed to distortions in understanding jihad.
It is noteworthy that Islam is from the root word ‘slm' that means both peace and submission. If sufficient attention is paid to these key concepts of submission and peace and one is able to link all Islamic notions to these central conceptions the notion of jihad is put in proper perspective. Everything in Islam revolves around the central doctrine of Tawhid. Tawhid approached from mystical and metaphysical perspective forms the kernel of understanding Islam. How does jihad cohere with Tawhid? Understanding jihad without understanding what God signifies and what belief in God and His unity connotes at the deepest metaphysical level is quite distorting. Modern Muslim fundamentalism and its conception of jihad is based on ignorance or distorted reading of Islam, Islamic conception of God and Tawhid, Islam’s understanding of self-other relationship and Islam’s relationship with diverse religious, mystical and philosophical thought currents of the traditional world. Fundamentalism takes theological instead of metaphysical, exoteric instead of esoteric, exclusivist instead of inclusivist, literalist instead of symbolical approach and this constricts its understanding of everything Islamic, from ritual to dogma.
In light of normative inquiries into the basic conceptions of Tawhid, everything falls in perfect place. In this paper it is proposed to see the notion of jihad in light these inquiries into the meaning of Islam and its worldview. If jihad is launched to establish the reign of God’s religion or spread Islam or protect it against infidels, we must first understand what God’s religion is. When thus closely analyzed there occurs a shift in our understanding of jihad itself.
Our approach is to be distinguished from all such apologetic approaches that marginalize significance of jihad or reduce it to a minor auxiliary conception. Jihad is indeed the sixth pillar of Islam and in fact its spirit informs every other pillar of Islam. The martyr is indeed the great symbol of piety and devotion to Islam. Islam enjoins jihad and there can be no explaining away of it. But what is here intended is to attempt to understand it integrally and comprehensively and, most importantly, in light of centuries of developments in Islamic traditional thought in understanding and application of this seminal notion.
1, Jihad not a monolithic concept:
In the beginning let it be made clear that jihad is not a monolithic conception. It is multivalent. It signifies varied things at different levels. It is not to be reduced to purely spiritual or purely political terms. It is defining feature of Islamic civilization. Juridical uage of the term has been too much highlighted and this has resulted in marginalization of much more universal meaning in the Quran and Hadith. It translation in European languages as ‘holy war’ reflects this constriction in universal meaning.
The Meaning of Submission
The end of Islamic way of life is peace that passeth all understanding and this is obtained as a result of submission to God. What is submission? The Quran categorically states that God demands everything ours, our very soul, for the sake of heaven. We must submit to God with all our will, heart and mind. What is to be surrendered is separate will, the ego that separates man from Ultimate Reality. Only God is Real; all else has only derived reality. God alone truly exists. What is to be relinquished is the separating principle of ego and mind, all human interests, all that fortifies ego and separation and exclusion from larger environment, from the other. There can be no purely material or egotistic- individually and collectively or nationally – goal directed action. God is Reality in Sufistic-metaphysical scheme. All else has illusory reality if one sees things apart from God. Thus there should be absolutely no doubt that in Islam no endeavour which is exclusively this worldly, nothing that belongs to the illusory empire of ego – individual or collective ego, nothing merely political or ideological, nothing that seeks merely the kingdom of the world is endorsed. Jihad if fought for any motive other than proclaiming Truth and Justice is not Islamic practice.
Metaphysical Understanding of Shahadah
We now turn to the question what Islam is and what it takes to be the truth to which it invites everyone. Islam is Reality-centric and entertains no claim to autonomy of creatures or what is dependent on Reality. The kalima of Islam, metaphysically is translatable as ‘There is no truth but truth,’ ‘There is no reality but Reality.’ Islam invites everyone neither to a creed that it dogmatically asserts, nor to a proposition that could be doubted or approached in terms of truth / falsehood binary, nor to a belief that rational cum empirical inquiry could invalidate. Islam is not a totalistic or totalizing ideology or thought construct. To put in simple terms Islam is an invitation to take life seriously, to decipher its truth, to realize God or the ideals of truth, goodness and beauty, to be concerned with the ground of life, to enjoy life at the highest level or ananda. It asks to leave everything that obstructs our cognizance or perception of truth – the world of ego and slavery to passions that obfuscate heart’s eye that perceives the essences, the whatness of things. Islam asks to discover truth, the truth of life, of being and becoming and this truth can’t be attained as long as man is not willing to sacrifice everything including his soul for its sake. It demands transcendence of everything that stands in the way of truth – ego, desires and passions. Islam is not an ideology, a metanarrative, a system of creedal propositions but existential response to the mystery of being. Islam doesn’t proclaim any new truth or new message. In fact Islam has no message to convey because truth can’t be encoded in words as Lao Tzu has said. Whatever can be thought of, imagined, conceived, described or asserted is not God or truth. Laysa kamislihi Shayi (nothing is like Him). Truth has infinite faces – everywhere is the face of God so there could be no human appropriation of it to claim finality or absolute status. The Sufis characterize marifa as hairat or state of wonder or being lost The Sufis characterize marifa as hairat or state of wonder or being lost
Metaphysically understood Islam transcends even the theist/atheist binary not to speak of such binaries as Muslim/Christian, Muslim/ Hindu etc. Nasr has convincingly argued that in its most universal sense anyone who accepts a Divine revelation is a Muslim “be he a Muslim, Christian, Jew
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or Zorasterian. The Islamic point of view didn’t take into account the Indian religions until historic contact was made with them but this definition would refer to them as well, as Hinduism came to be called by certain later Muslim sages the ‘religion of Adam’”’1p.27
Islam’s Notion of God
God isn’t an epistemological problem at all for Islam or Sufism. But realization of our true theonomous nature is the issue and religion is meant to lead towards that goal. God from their perspective is Manifest Truth, our very breath and Light of the world. He is the inward and the outward. He is nearer to us than our jugular veins. He is reality (al- Haqq) itself. He encompasses or pervades all things. But His transcendence hasn’t been denied thereby. When mind is purified of all dross and becomes still and the realm of known ceases God dawns. God is the only knower. He is the Hearing and the Seeing, in according to the Quran.
What is God? Not a person conceived in anthropomorphic sense, not a being among other beings, not some cosmic policeman, not some being in the heavens but Existence in its totality, both transcendent and immanent in Sufistic and metaphysical view. He is Reality, Light, Truth and in fact all beautiful names describe him. He alone is. He is in every atom. Everything celebrates Him. The Beloved is everywhere for the lover. For the gnostic this world is charged with the grandeur of God. God is not an abstract essence only but everything existent proclaims Him by mere existing. There are no atheists in the absolute sense of the term. There is a tawhid of mulhids also according to Ibn Arabi though quite a narrow view of tawhid it is. There is no way of escaping God or denying Him inabsolute terms. God needs no human advocate to be proclaimed to the world. Jihad can’t be launched to teach people to subscribe to a particular view of tawhid. Even Buddhists have a sublime version of tawhid in their impersonal conception of divine as Isa Nuruddin, one of the greatest Sufi metaphysicians of the 20th century has argued
For mystics and Sufis nothing is so common place as experiencing God and nothing is so truly descriptive of human state. God is not a being among other beings, an object out there, that could to be perceived in some ecstatic state. God is a percept rather than a concept as Ibn Arabi said. God, in the Unitarian Sufistic perspective, is the essence of existence. He is the Isness of things. He is Existence in its totality. God constitutes all pervasive Environment (al-Muhit in the Quranic parlance) that normal man lives, moves and has his being in Him. Adam saw God, the essences before the Fall as the fog of passions and desires had not blurred his vision. Things are metaphysically transparent; only we need to possess the right view as the Buddha said. God is there so close and in fact the light of the eyes, the light with which everything is seen, and everything is illumined as Ghazali said. God is the Light of the world. If we see without blinkers, without the lenses of conceptual intellect we see God and nothing but God. Mystical discipline is simply for cleansing the perception. From a Unitarian perspective we are ever in God’s presence, ever breathing the fragrance of the Beloved. God in His immanence is the whole world of perception, the positivity of manifestation. This is the metaphysical meaning of phenomenon of Muhammad and his status as a messenger. The Son of Christian theology amounts to the same thing. The Father (Essence) is known through the Son. Metaphysically speaking to live truly is to live in God as God is Life, the Larger Life. The life of love is the life divine. God is love. The experience of love, of beauty, of goodness – all are experiences of God and for a gnostic all experiences are experiences of God. The finite can’t be outside the Divine Infinitude. So the world is necessarily in God or God’s visible Face. As the Quran says God is both the Manifest (form) and the Hidden (essence). Osho has put more emphasis on the immanent God. Experiencing God is experiencing life in its full splendour. Life is the only God for for all religions as C. R. Jain has argued in his provocative study on comparative religions titled Key to Knowledge. Vedantic ternary describing God as Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, is found elsewhere also. Life, larger or higher life, life divine, the life of Spirit, the life of Love, is indeed the promise of all religions and mysticisms. Evelyn Underhill’s classical presentation of mystical viewpoint also foregrounds this point. Moksha,
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Beatific vision, nirvana—all are symbols of richer or larger life. So nothing is simpler or more accessible than the experience of God. In fact God is the Environment, al-Muhit, in the Quranic phrase. The self builds an illusory boundary that demarcates or separates. The self is illusory. God is All-pervading. He alone exists. God alone is real; all else has derived existence but the essence is one. The Spirit is one. Jihad must lead to realization of higher values of life or it is not jihad.
A Mu’min, according to Sufism, is one who gets annihilated before the face of Truth. The Sufi is a watcher or pure witness. He allows existence or Reality or Truth (Real is equated with Truth in the East and Islam though not in the West and Truth isn’t reduced to property of propositions also in the East) to speak, having surrendered/transcended himself. He becomes a hollow bamboo, a flute on which God plays the notes. He has no ideas or thought constructs to impose on others. He preaches only the nothingness of himself. In silence is revealed the treasure that God is. This silence is because one can't speak with human tongue of the Ineffable, of the Unconditioned. The Sufi doesn’t talk about Reality or God but talks Reality or God. He transcends the realm of “about” unlike the theologian. That is why the Sufi doesn’t need to interpret and wrangle about the question of interpretation. He isn’t caught up in textual world at all. He lives truth, is truth. He doesn’t need mediation of language. He is pure awareness, prereflective prelinguistic awareness. He has become a mirror as mind and separating principle of thought has disappeared. Seer and seen has disappeared and only seeing is there. Language doesn’t enter. The Sufi is centered in God and thus in Nothingness or Void, God being not the name of a thing, a person, an entity and substance, a being, among other beings. God is Reality, Isness in wahdatul wajudi (which is not synonymous with pantheism as it emphasises transcendence of God unequivocally) perspective. He is Pure Consciousness. He eludes all apprehension. One can well say He is not because Nothing is naught, blank, void to the conceptual intellect. Nothing is like Him. He signifies, in a way, impossibility of all signification. A Sufi is one who has put duality away andss sees two worlds as one. One he seeks, knows, sees and calls as Rumi tells us. Even the binary of truth and falsehood, good and evil are transcended in Sufi vision. “Since I have known God, neither truth nor falsehood has entered my heart” as Abu Hafs Haddad said.7 This is because the Sufi is in a state where neither good nor evil entereth as BaYazid says.8 This metaethical transcendence of mystic has been misunderstood by its critics as implying rejection of law and ethics while as the fact is that mystics alone in the history of religion have shown exemplary moral character as they have transcended the desiring self or nafsi amara which incites one to evil . Only good comes from the mystic because he has transcended the plane of mind, of desiring self which chooses and is caught up in the net of time or desires. His hands have become God’s hands and God acts through him, so to speak.
Metaphysical understanding of God as Infinite and All-Possibility subsumes everything and transcends mere believing posture and theistic/atheistic binary. Osho’s identification of God with Existence, Isness or what is, to use Krishnamurti’s phrase, can’t be questioned by agnostic/atheistic scholarship.
Metaphysical Understanding of the Prophet
We now discuss metaphysical and Sufistic understanding of the Prophet of Islam (S.A.W) to show how the second clause of Islamic kalima is affirmed in a subtle way at deeper level in its universal sense by all normal men irrespective of their religious affiliations. Even the so-called atheists who nevertheless choose life instead of death and deny the God of theology in the name of truth that they think they are in possession of can’t but affirm, in their own way, the Prophet. For Ibn Arabi and Sufi metaphysicians, the Prophet is Logos, the Pole of existence, the principle of manifestation. Were it not for this principle things would still be in the abysmal darkness of void or ‘adm. Wajud is acquired or transition from unmanifest archetypes or ideas to manifest state of things is made possible because of
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the messenger who unveils or expresses Absolute, which would otherwise be unmanifest. God is a Hidden Treasure and the wish to get unveiled is what the idea of messengership expresses in its deepest sense. Seen in this light we can assert that life as it expresses itself in countless forms and in fact existence as such is by virtue of Muhammad. When life is blessed, as it is by God as otherwise it would cease to exist, it is in theological language, blessing Muhammad or reciting durood. Every flower that blooms, every bird that chips, every child that smiles, every blade of grass that grows proclaim the grandeur of God and manifests the Light of Muhammad. Life is a supreme value and so is freedom and the Prophet is the metaphysical ground of life and its essential transcendence, its freedom. All our endeavours, whether we know it or not, are ultimately directed to affirm and promote life and thus praise God. Our breathing, despite us, goes on and thus we go on blessing the Prophet who is the positivity of Manifestation. Wherever and in whatever form life dances and smiles there the Prophet is blessed. The prophet can’t be really mocked. Can the sun, the light, be mocked except by the blind? “The more they blaspheme against God, the more they praise God” said Meister Eckhart. The same can be said about the blasphemers. The Prophet symbolizes life, larger life, richer life, life glorified (that is deeper import of his name Muhammed which means the praised one). Who can condemn life without condemning himself at the very moment? The blasphemers are unaware of the ontological reality that the phenomenon of Muhammad designates and Muslims are rightly concerned to defend their hallowed symbols. When jihadi spirit unleashes against blasphemers this deeper metaphysical understanding shouldn’t be lost sight of.
The Prophet, existentially interpreted, is the ideal pole of man, the principle of transcendence and freedom of Spirit that makes authentic life possible. From the perspective of a lover he is the First and the Last as it is through him that our Origin and End, our God, speaks through us. This explains Iqbal’s famous verses “nigahi ishq-a-mast mai wahe awwal, wahe aakhr…wahi Quran, wahe furqan, wahe yaseen, wahi taha.” The great tradition of n’aat writing, practiced especially by Sufi poets is translatable in terms of profound metaphysical intuitions. The Prophet is the Word that was before the creation of the world and that Word was made the universe. Allah is the Light of the World but that Light is nowhere in the phenomenal world as He is transcendent. But it is the Prophet who brings this Light to the world and makes him manifest (Az-Zahir). The Perfect Man that the Prophet is appropriates or manifests all the attributes of God.
The Prophet stands for all that is noble, sublime, grand and great in life. He is the voice of freedom against all man-made shackles, against everything that enslaves man, his thought and his imagination. The Prophet stands for all that is noble, sublime, grand and great in life. He is the voice of freedom against all man-made shackles, against everything that enslaves man, his thought and his imagination. He is the envoy of God or transcendence and it is transcendence that makes man a bird of lamakaan, a free soul who is not just a creature determined from without but capable of transcending space and time and all the fetters that bind him.
In fact the world owes its existence to the Prophet. This is conceded by all religious traditions that are spiritually/idealistically oriented. Metaphysics and philosophy that give primacy to the Logos (that postmodernist deconstructionists fail to understand and wrongly equate with the mental faculty of reason) or Spirit ( all traditional philosophies, both Eastern and Western do so) could regard the Prophet understood as Logos as the pole of existence. All prophets, named or not named in the Quran who have founded civilizations partake of the reality of Muhammad (SAW). Thus Muhammed (SAW) even if not mentioned explicitly by other religious traditions, is nevertheless implicitly believed. Even the secular modernity can’t afford to disbelieve in the Prophet in toto as long as it upholds the values of beauty, goodness, truth and freedom. To be a man in the proper sense of the term is to affirm the
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Platonic triad of beauty, goodness and truth and thus to glorify the Prophet. Humans are humans in the proportion they actualize or appropriate these values. Blessing the Prophet means blessing existence and acceptance of positivity of manifestation, the joy and glory of life in all its forms.
One who blesses the Prophet blesses by implication “the world and the universal Spirit (El-Ruh), the Universe and the Intellect, both the Totality and the Centre” as Schuon says.2 Schuon further explains the metaphysical understanding of the ‘blessing’(durood) and the ‘salutation’ (salam) which are applied, not only to the Prophet, but also to his family and his companions
In the widest interpretation of this prayer the blessing corresponds to God, the name of the Prophet to the universal spirit, the Family to the beings who participate in God - through the Spirit - in a direct manner, and the Companions to those beings who participate in God indirectly but likewise thanks to the Spirit. This extreme limit can be defined in various ways according to whether we envisage the Moslem world, or the whole of humanity, or all creatures on earth, or even the whole universe. 3
For Islam it is the Light of Muhammad that is the principle of existence, otherwise things would never come from their archetypal abyss to the world of forms. Muhammad is “Mercy of the Worlds” according to the Quran. The world is the breath of the Compassionate; it is because of the ontological fact of Mercy that anything exists. It is by virtue of the Light of Muhammad that the sun shines, that rain comes, that we love and that life continues. It is this mercy that animates life in all its diversity. Life, larger and deeper life, life of joy and acceptance, life as benediction and celebration (ananda), life of harmony and goodwill, life lived under the tutelage of Holy Spirit, life that is glorified, life that never ends, life in God or the Divine Environment – all these are various meanings and implications of the Prayer on the Prophet. One could possibly deny transcendent invisible God but who could deny Muhammad because esoterically and metaphysically understood he is the principle of manifestation or existence and thus our very breathing. ‘I see none but zulfi yaar everywhere’ exclaims a Sufi. Who is not moved by beauty and it is Muhammad, the Sahibal Jamal that is attracting us in a beautiful object. That is why beauty has saving or liberating power and why God loves beauty. The Ptophet is life’s sweetness, its music, its rasa, its bliss and its celebration. He being that which manifests or unveils Essence is the green in the trees red in the roses and gold in the rays of the sun. He is this life in its positivity, in its totality. And he is the silence of the darkness. And he is the joy of light abounding life of the world. What ordinary people call life or existence or beauty the lovers of God call Muhammad. And let it be clear life is lived only by lovers in its fullness. God is love. God is ever blessing Muhammad according to the Quran. Understood in its deepest metaphysical sense this means God is blessing Life. That is why everything is said to be ever busy in glorifying God and in praising/blessing Muhammad. To be is to bless existence by very definition. So who can afford to deny Muhammad? Someone (such as atheists) could afford to be incredulous towards transcendent invisible Divinity but there can be no escape from the very air we breathe, the very sun that illumines our darkness, which are there because of God’s immanence in the world or because there is Muhammad, the Principle of Manifestation. The Quran identifies God as Al- Haqq or the Real. Truth has no face; it has infinite aspects. Whatever partakes of the Reality or truth is affirmed in Islamic shahadah which is translated by the Sufis and perennialists as "There is no reality but Reality." Islam means surrender to God, Truth and Reality, for God is Al- Haqq. It is too inclusive to be guilty of any exclusion which Foucault and others fear. The blasphemer is one who refuses to see the truth, the reality because of his ignorance or perverted will. He is a sick man or a criminal and deserves condemnation though he condemns himself and pollutes the sacred water of life when he blasphemes.
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Distinction between Religion and Metaphysics
We must keep in mind the distinction that is made between religious and metaphysical points of view and note that it is metaphysics as understood by the perennialists that lies at the heart of religion. As Guenon points out the metaphysical point of view is purely intellectual while as in the religious or theological point of view the presence of a sentimental element affects the doctrine itself, which doesn’t allow of it complete objectivity. he influence of sentimental element obviously impairs the intellectual purity of the doctrine. And it is not always possible to fully translate metaphysical doctrines in terms of theological dogmas. Only one example will suffice here. The immediate metaphysical truth “Being exists” gives rise to another proposition when expressed in the religious or theological mode “God exists.” But as Guenon says the two statements would not be strictly equivalent except on the double condition of conceiving God as Universal Being, which is far from always being the case in fact and of identifying existence with pure Being or what the Sufis call Zat or Essence which is metaphysically inexact. It is the inadequate or faulty metaphysical background that contributes a lot to controversies on either side of the debate on religious experience in modern discourses of philosophy of religion. Unlike purely metaphysical conceptions theological conceptions are not beyond the reach of individual variations Antimetaphysical anthropomorphism comes to the fore in this realm of individual variations. 4(Ibid., p.128-129). Jehadis must understand the truth of that which they advocate and it is metaphysics based on intellect rather than reason that expresses it best rather than theology or exoterism to which most often jehadi discourse is linked. If Islam is truth it is to be approached from metaphysical perspective and jihad could truly deliver its function if it is based on clear discernment between the real and the illusory. It is metaphysics that provides the furqan, the key to the inner meaning of all scripture.
Islam and Terrorism
The terrorist fundamentalist (not all fundamentalists are terrorists however) seeks his own kingdom and not the kingdom of God. Man must be noughted for God to be. And terrorist can’t consent to be noughted.. Terrorist believes in holier than thou attitude. And Islam exalts humility. The Quran asserts that above every knower is another knower. To know Truth is to know that one doesn’t know. God is the only Knower. A terrorist takes the prerogative of being God’s advocate even though the Quran expressly forbids even the Prophet to take such a position.
No mystic has ever been a terrorist and it is the mystic alone who tastes God, who sees divine realities. It is only those who claim to be personal secretaries of God who can coolly dismiss people to hell and reserve all the seats in heaven for themselves. None knows God – this is what Abu Bakr said. That is why the mystic is an extraordinarily ordinary person as he contemplates profound mystery of things and is drowned in the valley of perplexity.
It is only the inwardly satisfied and peaceful soul who gets access to heaven. The terrorist has yet to find the restful heart, the still point of existence as otherwise he could not dare to rob others of peace. Those who see God are stilled inwardly and all their actions are done by God. Islam, like other traditions, advocates actionless action by attributing all actions to unmoved Mover, to God. The Chinese called it wu wei and that is what the Christians mean by saying that everything should be done under the inspiration of Holy Spirit. A mujahid can’t act out of vengeance. His sole motive is to glorify God, to bear witness to Truth. As long as he operates for any merely humanly reason or motive he is not a mujahid. The greatest purpose for man is to find God – and the martyr gives witness by sacrificing his self and his life. Those who love and have been blessed to know love can’t be see any other in the world where God, the Beloved alone exists. How can he be a terrorist?
Islam has clearly rejected the option of coercion for achieving any end, even the supreme end of Islam. Terrorism involves sacrificing means for ends. Islam sharply differentiates itself from certain secularist ideologies that care only for ends and don’t care for the permissibility or righteousness of means.
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Islam has defined Mu’min in expressly antiterrorist terms. “The Mu’min is one from whose hands life and property of others is safe.” And what is a terrorist- the person from whose hands other’s life and property is not safe. For Islam nothing is holier than life and in fact God is Life. God is described as al-Hayy (Alive). In fact it is easy to see Life as the closest definition of God. God as Chit, as Self, as Knower, as “I am that I am” is Life. Terrorist puts his ideology above life. There can be no greater blasphemy.
Prophets come to establish peace and weed out fasad. In fact the Quran expressly declares that strife (fasad) is outlawed after Islam has established peace. Terrorism is another name for what the Quran calls fasad.
Religious Exclusivism and Terrorism
What fosters exclusivist thesis and contributes to the genesis of terrorist’s attempt to deny the other as other is commitment to an interpretation of Islam that asserts not only that Islam is the best of religions but the only religion approved by God and canceling or outlawing all other religions or labeling other religions as pagan, polytheistic or atheistic. This exclusivist interpretation further claims that other religions can’t coexist amicably with Islam. They have to be belittled and rejected as false as they are held to be untrue. What does it mean that Islam is the best of religions? This question is best understood in light of perennialist approach that defends both exclusivist character of religion at one plane and the inclusivist view at another plane without needing to reject one at the coast of the other.
Philology has been badly trumped by exoteric authoritries to argue for Islam’s exclusivism as Josepoh Lumbard has noted. One example is the interpretation of the word ”islam.’’ To quote Lumbard:
Today, as for the past 1200 years or more, the word “Islam” is taken to indicate a particular set of beliefs and practices adghered to by a certain segment of humanity. But when the Quran was first revealed what did the word mean? As Toshiko Izatsu has demonstrated in his masterful books God and Man in the Quran and Ethicio-Religious Concepts of the Quran, the original meaning of this word in pre-Islamic poetry is not only to “to submit,” but moreover to give over something that is particularly precious to oneself and which is painful to abandon, to somebody who demands it. So when the Prophet Muhammad first presented a “message” that claimed to be “islam”, the words would have been understood far differently than what we understand today. Moreover, the way this word is used in the Quran actually provides the raw material for a very eloquent understanding of religious pluralism, one wherein all revelations are seen as different ways of giving to God which is most difficult to give - our very selves.5
Many Quranic verses present Islam every previous revelation as a way of submitting, a way of life rather than a particular creedal system. Noah, Abrahasm and others declared themselves to be Musdlims. But once “islam becomes Islam, an institutional definition or conception is formed and such verses become more problematic.” 6 The majority of Muslim exegetes have not used philology to clarify institutional interpretation but. There are many such examples where institutional practice trumped over philology as Waled Saleh has also noted.
Fundamentalism practically denies the unity of revelation. For it the Quranic claim that God has decreed different ways of worship and has no room for only one religion or one community are hardly worth reckoning.
Islam stands for Justice and seeks to preserve the earthily reflection of Divine Justice. It may necessitate necessitates taking arms against those who wish to perpetrate fasad, who disturb peace, who terrorize people, who enslave men, who take sovereignty in their own hands, who believe that the other, whether it be nature or other men are an object to be manipulated at will, who pollute
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environment, who create obstacles in realizing or perusal of such values as truth and goodness – in short all forces that alienate men from themselves and from others.
The distorted sense of jihad as war against other religious communities pursued primarily to establish supremacy of certain religion formulations or a certain community follows from the ideology that is antitraditional, anti-intellectual, nonspiritual, literalist and exclusivist and must not be confounded with the universal and primordial religion of Islam.
Islam has censured everything that leads to terrorist mentality. It takes such a severe notice of such otherwise ignored evils as back biting and slandering. Where one can’t imagine criticizing others in absentia how is it possible to disturb the other’s private space by all kinds of terrorist activities? In Islam all ethical principles are aimed at transcending desiring self or ego and when the ego is transcended there can be basis for terrorist activity. At the root of terrorist action is assertion of ego, assertion of one’s viewpoint at the cost of others’. All religions advocate the ideals of love, selflessness, humility and no religion allows violence to men. Terrorism is incompatible with any religion whatsoever. In fact God consciousness by definition involves ego denying. One can’t be oneself and still think that he is glorifying God. In fact iman is a vital act that transports man out of himself. To be properly human one has to transcend the world of nasuut, the world of man. Man is not to be identified with the mind, with thoughts that are born in time. The Spirit transcends all the individualities of existence, all contingent or temporal things. The life of Spirit is not the life lived at the plane of mind. It is supramental. The heart that guides all activities of a lover of God doesn’t operate in terms of self/other dichotomy. It evaluates or judges not. Saints who truly realize Islam have not been terrorists. Mainstream Muslim scholarship largely agrees that saints are the best practioners of religion. They have truly born witness to God. If they have not been terrorists or die hard exclusivists the case for terrorism in Islam can’t be entertained.
Religion is in ultimate analysis love and charity. Jesus defined God as love. Sufism celebrates God as our Beloved. Surrender or transcendence of ego fructifies in life of self-sacrifice, in love and charity. Religion binds man to God – i.e. reality to Reality, self to Self, temporal to eternal. And what is eternal, what is unconditioned is love and not any temporal activity. No deed will save man. As long there is the consciousness of doer and one makes distinctions – of whatever kind (the Fall of Adam has bequeathed us this choosing self) Religion seeks to take man into a realm where distinctions don’t count. In God who is man’s origin and end there is no longer any distinction – all relative valuations, all affirmations and negations are transcended.
.Peace comes only when security seeking self disappears, when the root of conflict – desire – is given up, when the self surrenders all its claims to separate existence, to will its own will, to see itself as centre. Buddhism, Taoism and in fact all religions in their own ways state this central fact. Peace without is possible only when there is first peace within. ‘Seek God and all things will be added to you.’ Modern pacifism errs in primarily focusing on peace without. Only an enlightened person, the restful soul, the soul that has transcended all sorrow and conflict could radiate peace around. Religion brings peace to the world by virtue of these peaceful and peace-radiating souls. What is Boddhisatva? No better ideal of self sacrifice and foundation of universal peace could be conceived by man. The Prophet of Islam conceived as Shafee, as interceder for forgiving sins, is eschatological role of him as pacifist in the other or higher world. Boddhisatva too is a pacifist of a certain sort. How profound and deep is religion’s concern for peace- peace within and peace without, peace here and peace hereafter, peace at every plane is seen in these notions.
Jihad supposed to save souls of others is not entertained in Islam. Islam enjoins jihad to save one’s self. It is fat too difficult to save oneself as Islam envisages it than to die fighting others considered as
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enemies of God. Saving others is not a prerogative of peace keeping forces. Who has not saved himself can’t save others. Who can claim to have done everything possible to save his soul from corruption? Many would-be-martyrs believe that paradise awaits them if they are killed. If the kingdom of God were to be purchased with such a short cut it would make mockery of the great disciplinary regimen that all religions have suggested. Without first being a Muslim and Mu’min how can one become a martyr. Without greater jihad no salvation is possible. If one dies for the cause iof God or Truth one must know what that Truth is.
If based on one’s supposed supremacy in taqwa it can’t be jihad. Such self righteousness is alien to Islamic spirit. Ideally a Sufi who has transcended all personal motives is best fitted to be a Mujahid. As Ali’s famous encounter with his enemy shows in which he refused to kill him because the later had spitted and this had infuriated him and personal vengeance got mixed up with the purity of intention.
Islam is not an interpretation of truth but truth itself and that is why it rejects idolatry. Idolatry is belief in our representations, our conceptual schemes, our imaginings. Truth is ever transcendent. Religion celebrates the mystery of existence (realm of al-Gayyib). Idolatry is to reduce Islam to an ideology, to a system, a human construct and tie Islam to one’s understanding of truth. Islam doesn’t invite the world to its version of truth. It has no story or metanarrative to impose. Islam only invites to submit, to submit to truth. Islam only wishes man to awaken from the dream of forgetfulness.
The Quran asks us: Are you concerned with truth? Are you striving towards Truth?And this is jihad in its widest sense - striving in the way of God, the Good, the Beautiful. Jihad is synonymous with spiritual quest and all human activity done without the sense of personal agency.
The function of revelation is only to reintegrate man, to make him aware that he is in possession of great treasure, the Kingdom of God. But man is heedless according to the Quran. Greater Jihad summons men back to the lost paradise. A modern mystical thinker has well expressed human predicament: “We have not been thrown out of the Garden, but miss it because we are not aware; we have fallen in a dream-like trance state. The dream consists of one’s desire to reach somewhere else.”
Religion restores peace by making us feel homely in this world. Modern man feels exiled and stranger to earth. Nothing can reconcile him to the order of the world, to the incomprehensible design of it, to its necessity. There can be no lasting peace as long as man feels nausea on encountering the world and exalts rebellion as the only response worthy of man. Islam claims that this world is indeed a reflection of paradise, that if we transcend the desiring self and cleanse the doors of perception through greater jihad everything will appear to us in a new light. How diametrically opposite it is from the typical modernist scientific humanist or absurdist’s constructions of the world, its opacity, absurdity and what Camus calls density. Such key modern figures as Camus are opposed with all their might to the world and in fact he defines the world as something to which he is opposed. The world is the other. Its sight provokes nausea. We are thrown into it, says Heidegger. Far from being the enchanted Garden it is a place of torture where man pays for some unknown sin as Beckett would have us believe. Modern thought contests the notion that the world is our home, that we can be at peace with the world. The world simply is, a brute fact, an absurd reality and we suffer meaninglessly. There is no providence, no design, no sacred mystery, no soul-making, no higher destiny. How can trust and gratitude towards existence be developed in such a context? For the Quran gratitude and trust are key religious demands, in fact they define the religious attitude towards the environment. Jihad will have key role in restoring the lost equilibrium of the planet, in helping man to be careful towards nature. Striving towards God makes this world a garden. Reenchantment of the world so that we feel in it at home is what Jihad does. Modern civilization is in need of such a spiritual renewal and Jihad is seminally important concept in such a context. Restoring the sense of Absolute in the postmodern relativist nihilist setting is what bearing witness to God implies. Modes of jihad vary with the ages.
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Modern times necessitate a different modality to be adopted. Bearing witness to God would also involve exposing of all exploitative economic and domineering colonialist/neocolonialist strategies. A critique of existing exploitative power structures and an effort to redress the same is what Jihad is supposed to do. Wherever there is zulm jihad will have a role to play. Wherever people are denied their rights and injustice and disequilibrium prevail Islamic conscience keeper- the institution of Jihad- will be needed to come to rescue. Darul Islam could well be interpreted as the whole world and protecting it from all kinds of oppressors and forces (social, economic, political, etc.) which represent the Devil is what jihad aims at. Mujahideen are ideally the voluntary forces or an international NGO that are geared towards speaking for the marginalized, the dispossessed, the devoiced, the oppressed. Mujahideen are the conscience keepers of the world.
It is the self- other binary representing the exclusionary relationship between subjects who occupy opposite positions on centre/margin model of political and other power relations which is the basis of colonialist ideology. Jihad based on Unitarian perspective attempts to replace it by a different model of self-other relationship that negates colonialism.
Islam has lauded gratitude and prayer as defining features of Islamic belief. This gratitude towards God is to be understood as thanking Existence and loving it and encountering it in a prayerful spirit. TO quote a modern interpreter of Sufism:
God is found only in the heart of one who is utterly in praise of existence because it is so incredibly beautiful, so utterly valuable. We have not earned it, we are not worthy of it. To be is a gift. Life is a gift, love is a gift, and all that is, is a sheer gift from god. All that we can do is to praise him
That very praising is enough, because that praise becomes prayer – prayer is nothing else. Prayer is the heart in tremendous rejoicing, thankfulness, saying the existence is good
The statement that God is exalted and glorified (Allahu Akbar, Subh anallah) means that the whole existence is exalted, because God is not a person but another name for the totality of existence, as one contemporary mystic has put it. “God is the fragrance of existence.” Praising life, thanking the giver of life is what aaliyi kalimatullah and jihad imply.
Jihad aima at realizing God’s will on earth as it is realized in heaven. The question is what does conforming to the Divine Will mean? It is submission, decreation, consenting to Necessity, nonresentiment, blessing the other, relinquishing personal egotistic agenda in favour of the will of Cosmos or Totality or Nature. It also connotes appreciation of incomprehensible divine order that reigns in nature. It involves great yes-saying to life and its ordeals,. It connotes not complaining against suffering and pain that one encounters in fulfilling one’s destiny. It connotes forgetting I and becoming an instrument in the hands of God. It means denying will to power to manipulate the other. It implies cultivating great ethical discipline in encountering the other in infinite responsibility. IT is not merely enforcing certain juristic formulations in society. It means practizing all the commandments, moral and spiritual that we find in scriptures. All religion boils down to surrender of our will to Divine Will, to Cosmic Will, to Tao, to universal reason. It involves subjecting desiring self to the tutelage of the Spirit.
Religion, ultimately asks man to be natural, to be true to his nature, to be ordinary and as Nagarjuna puts it “Samsara is Nirvana.” Islam repeatedly emphasizes its natural – all too natural character. The Sage in Taoism is above all the wholly natural man. The aim of the Sage is to be in harmony with his own nature for through this harmony comes harmony with men and this harmony is itself the reflection of harmony. Aim of spiritual man is to contemplate nature and become one with it, to become ‘natural’. Religion is innocence of becoming. It is living moment by moment, finding eternity herenow, in this moment. It is “choiceless awareness.” It is seeing God everywhere, in the trees, in the
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moon, in the streams. Religion intends to de-alienate man, to help him to be himself. God has to be existentially experienced, discovered within the depth of our being or self. Eternity is to be found here and now. “We live and move and have our being in God” as St.Paul put it. Heaven is won only in and through this world. This world is the ground or soil on which the tree of hereafter grows. Nirvana must be won here, every moment. God has to be remembered with every breath.
Islam means surrender to God, Truth and Reality, for God is Al. Haqq. It is too inclusive to be guilty of any exclusion which Foucault and others fear. Religion can dispense with all binary oppositions because subject object duality and all laws of thought as formulated by Aristotle are transcended in communion with God or when one attains nirvana. Batil(untruth) doesn’t exist, it is only as illusion and Kufr (disbelief) consists in concealing of Truth. Only God exists. Everything is liable to be destroyed save the face of God ,as the Quran(55:26,27) puts it . Even “truth” isn’t privileged here because falsehood doesn’t exist at all.
The Quran describes itself as zikr , a remembrance. Man is only called to remember that he was and is in the heaven and that heaven is here now; salvation is in this moment- in surrender and acceptance of innocence of becoming. We have come from heaven and are in heaven; we only need to be conscious of this and for that only revelation interferes and proclaims man back to Eden, back to his Origin, to source, which is Void or God. Revelation is objective manifestation of the Intellect, the supraindividual and supramental faculty that bridges the gap between subject and object and perceives the heart of things, essences and in fact makes perception of phenomena possible. Revelation would not be needed if intelligence functioned correctly and had no obstruction such as passions to face. If man were not heedless or prone to forgetting what he is. We are asked to recall our Covenant with God made in pre-eternity. We just need to see within, to mediate and still our mind to see the proof of this metahistorical event.
Religion as I.R.Faruqi writes, includes everything, sacred and profane, religious and secular in its ambit, so bdefinition it is Universe.7 It excludes nothing because then it willn’t be equated with Reality or Truth. So it is none grand narrative among other possible grandnarratives ; it is, to use Marxism phrase, base because it synonymous with existence, life and being..
It has been remarked about Zen (and this appears to be applicable to Sufism and general religion also in a certain sense): “Zen has no teaching. Zen has no doctrine. Zen gives no guidance because it says there is no goal. It says you aren’t to move into a certain direction. It says you are already there…Getting it simply means getting the point that it is already there, that it is the nature of existence.” Though it may sound incredible this statement applies to Islam as well. S.H. Nasr says about Sufism: “In Sufism man is delivered by means of an inner transformation which takes place here and now within the framework of his normal life As a result he is enabled to hear the inward music of all being and above the noise of everyday life to listen to the music of the silence of Eternity.”8
There is no way of escaping from God, from becoming , from Isness and suchness of things, from nothingness, from life and from universe as we see it and all this is religion in its profoundest sense. It is absurd or pleonastic gesture to be incredulous towards the Real( Al Haqq) ( I am not talking of theologians representation of it). God is to be contemplated in phenomena as they are the signs of God. God speaks in and through anfus and Aafaq according to the Quran. We are asked to read correctly this script of ontological Quran, Qurani takweeni to be able to fulfill our great destiny. To know oneself is to know God. Metaphysical transparency of phenomena is itself enough to proclaim God’s glory. We are asked to be true to our original or primordial nature. By identifying itself with the Real, the truth and emphasizing unknowability or inscrutability of it also by calling it the transcendent, religion can’t allow freezing or fixing of signifiers of the unknown and unknowable signified. This signified appears as the totally other as in Levinas. The text of the Universe and life it considers as the
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sign- signifier of the unknown signified. Religion doesn’t define the truth or defines it only in negative terms (this is especially true about eastern religions where Nirgunna Brahman described in terms of or neti- neti (not this- not this) and nirvana (seen primarily in negative terms) are primary religious symbols. So whatever is the truth religion is that. Religion understood as pure metphysics is synonymous with truth. Beauty is truth and truth beauty. God is truth, beauty and goodness. Or to speak of goodness, truth and beauty is to speak of God. This is all what we need to know to be Muslims in the most basic sense of the term. This is the basic message of revelations. And Jihad is ideally for bringing home this message, for forcing us to take this message seriously.
I now quote a Muslim scholar, Ismail Raji al Faruqi, the great Muslim activist who ultimately got martyred for hconvictions, who doesn’t speak from the Sufistic perspective and represents the commonly upheld view of Islamamongst exoteric authorities and upholds the traditional conception of jihad in its most uncompromising form. Hwrites in ‘‘Towards a Critical World Theology’’ in Islamization of Disciplines, (IIIT Publication, 1984):
On the metaphysical level, ultimate reality is perceivedas the first cause or principle of sufficient reason, whicexplains all beings & all events. On the axiological level, it is perceived as the last end, or principle whicjustifies all beings and events. Its relevanceis therefore total. All aspects of reality and history are understood its effects and instruments of the activity of a being perceived in experience as ultimate reality.
Under these terms, likewise, religion is the very essence & core of culture. The content of the religion is thlens through which all understanding & thinking takes place: the realms of meditation & contemplation, admiration & adoration. It is the sublime aesthetic expression. Finally religion is the essence & core civilization, in that it is the foundation of all decisions and actions, the ultimate explanation of civilization wiall its inventions & artifacts, its social, political and economic systems, and its past or future promise in historReligion constitutes the spirit of which the facts of civilization are the concrete manifestations”. (p409-410)
Thus understood establishing Islam or the religion of God that jihad aims at also implies striving for everything that is grand and noble and sublime in all the domains of human culture, from sciences to arts.
The different attributes of God, the glorification of which form the refrain of the sacred texts, are translatable in the language of what the Quran calls signs of God. Nature and life are contents of positive divine and Sufi’s ecstatic celebration of life and becoming is a way of approaching this positive divine. Religion, as metaphysically understood, is not reducible to an ideology, a system, a metanarrative, a theology, and doesn’t invoke any possibly doconstructable or problematizable or challengeable propositions, theories, ideas, assumptions, ideologies or narratives. The unknowablity of God, His utter transcendence or otherness and mystery is no less emphatically stressed by the Quran. This vetoes all idolatries of thought and rational philosophy and scientism that have enslaved man in history. This gives firm foundation to freedom. In fact the Quran hails itself as untying the chains that have so far shackled human freedom. However true freedom which is not slavery to passions and whims is to be found by perfecting self discipline or control of lower self which is the raison deter of sharia and which Sufism perfects. God is Freedom and the ground of freedom. Wishing to be free outside God is illusion.
Can anyone be allowed to speak against truth, to vilify goodness, to disfigure beauty? Can anyone be allowed to cut one’s throat for no reason? Can we allow ourselves to be made hostages to man-made idols? Can anyone be allowed to destroy life? If not then it follows that jihad is something that is synonymous with struggle for life, striving for realization of higher values including justice and equilibrium. Jihad is quintessential human activity in which we are all involved. Let the spirit of jihad go and all search for beautification of life, all resistance to evil, all endeavour to perfection will be gone.
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Islam bases itself upon the idea of establishing equilibrium within the being of man, as well as in the human society. As Nasr says: “This equilibrium, which is the terrestrial reflection of Divine Justice and the necessary condition for peace in the human domain, is the basis upon which the soul takes flight towards that peace which, to use Christian terms, ‘passeth all understanding.’”9
Jihad is to be carried at every stage of life to keep this equilibrium. Both the individual and human collectivity are ever in danger of loss of equilibrium due to so many factors. So a continuous battle, at once both inward and outward is needed to combat the forces of disintegration.10
What are the different facets of lesser jihad or ‘holy war.’ There are far too many than usually recognized. To quite from Nasr again:
On more external level, the lesser jihad also applies in the socio-economic domain. IT implies the reassertion of justice in the external environment of human existence, starting with man himself. To defend one’s rights and reputation, to defend the honor of oneself and one’s family, is itself a jihad and a religious duty. So the strengthening of all those social bonds, from the family to the whole of the Muslim people (al-ummah) which the Shariah emphasizes
All the ‘pillars’ of Islam are related to jihad and that perhaps explains why it is the sixth pillar. In fact the kalima is a weapon for the practice of inner jihad. None of the pillars could be practized without the resources and arms; in fact all of them are forms of jihad. As Nasr further explicates: “To restrain the soul from dissipating itself outwardly as a result of its centrifugal tendencies and to bring it back to the centre, wherein reside Divine Peace” is a form of inner jihad. “To melt the hardened heart into a flowing stream of love which would embrace the whole of creation by virtue of love for God is” is the prerogative of jihad. “Through inner jihad, the spiritual man dies in this life in order to cease all dreaming, in order to awaken to that Reality which is the origin of all realities, in order to behold that Beauty of which all earthly beauty is bit a pale reflection, in order to attain that Peace which all men seek but which can in fact be found only through this practice.” 14
Modern man is quite misinformed about the nature of religion and metaphysics that grounds dogmas. He can’t but misunderstand and mistrust the theory and practice of jihad being poorly informed. It is another tragedy that many Muslims have quite a constricted and sometimes even distorted understanding of Jihad. To appropriate Aurobindo’s famous phrase “all life is yoga” one could say “all life is jihad”. There is a need to understand the universalistic perspective that the Quran adopts. Jihad is the only hope for countless number of oppressed people in the world. It is also, in its higher sense, soul’s adventure towards realizing the Absolute.
Goethe once remarked that “…if this is Islam he is also a Muslim.” The same can be asserted by every person concerned with establishing the Kingdom of Good fighting against all kinds of transgression and oppression and seeking justice at all levels that he too is a mujahid or wishes to be one. One wonders how can one resist the summons for such a God and such a prophet and such a noble endeavor.
References
1 Nasr, S.H., Ideas and Realities of Islam, Suhail Academy, Lahore,1993, p. 27
2 Schuon ,F., Understanding Islam, trans. D.M. Matheson, George Allen & UNwin LTd., London, 19963., p..99.
3 Ibid, p.101
4 Guenon,Rene, An Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, Delhi, 2000, pp.128-129
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5 Lumbard, Joseph, “Quranic Inclusivism in an Age of Globalization,” in Iqbal Review Apr-Oct.2005, pp101
6 Ibidp. 102.
7 Faruqi, I. R., This is argued in detail in his important work on Tawhid.,
8 Nasr, S.H., Islamic Art and Spirituality, SUNY, New York 1987, p.163.
9 Nasr, S.H.,Traditional Islam in the Modern World, KPI, London, 1987, p. 28.
10 Ibid., p. 28.
11 Ibid., p.31.
12 Ibid., 33.
13 Ibid., p.33.
Concept of Jihad: An Analysis of its Background Worldview
M Maroof Shah
marooof123@yahoo.com, 9419546538,9419016596
Dept. of Sheep HUsbandrty, Kashmir
c/o MA Shah, Dept. of Botany, Kashmir University
Islam’s concept of jihad is, like many other concepts of Islam, one of the most misunderstood concepts. I think this has occurred because we have not focused on its place in the overall context of Islamic spiritual and metaphysical tradition It has generally been approached in isolation and not squared with other fundamental concepts or elements of Islam. What is Islam? What does it mean to believe? What is the metaphysical content of kalima? To what end are all Islamic doctrines subservient? How does the concept of jihad – often designated as the sixth pillar of Islam, cohere with other five pillars of Islam? How does Islam encounter the other, especially the religious other? What does kufr signify? Understood in the larger context of esoteric and metaphysical foundations of Islam what does jihad signify? It is not to ignore the historical developments in traditional understanding and conceptualizing of jihad. In fact it is the most traditional of approaches to understanding jihad that is advocated here. It is the problematic fundamentalist/ exoteric exclusivist theological or ideological approach to Islam that ignores Islam’s inner or spiritual and intellectual or metaphysical dimensions that has contributed to distortions in understanding jihad.
It is noteworthy that Islam is from the root word ‘slm that means both peace and submission. If sufficient attention is paid to these key concepts of submission and peace and one is able to link all Islamic notions to these central conceptions the notion of jihad is put in proper perspective. Everything in Islam revolves around the central doctrine of tawhid. Tawhid approached from mystical and metaphysical perspective forms the kernel of understanding Islam. How does jihad cohere with tawhid? Understanding jihad without understanding what God signifies and what belief in God and His unity connotes at the deepest metaphysical level is quite distorting. Modern Muslim fundamentalism and its conception of jihad is based on ignorance or distorted reading of Islam, Islamic conception of God and tawhid, Islam’s understanding of self-other relationship and Islam’s relationship with diverse religious, mystical and philosophical thought currents of the traditional world. Fundamentalism takes theological instead of metaphysical, exoteric instead of esoteric, exclusivist instead of inclusivist, literalist instead of symbolical approach and this constricts its understanding of everything Islamic, from ritual to dogma.
In light of normative inquiries into the basic conceptions of tawhid everything falls in perfect place. In this paper it is proposed to see the notion of jihad in light these inquiries into the meaning of Islam and
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its worldview. If jihad is launched to estrablish the reign of God’s religion or spread Islam or protect it against infidels we must first understand what God’s religion is. When thus closely analyzed there occurs a shift in our understanding of jihad itself.
Our approach is to be distinguished from all such apologetic approaches that marginalize significance of jihad or reduce it to a minor auxiliary conception. Jihad is indeed the sixth pillar of Islam and in fact its spirit informs every other pillar of Islam. The martyr is indeed the great symbol of piety and devotion to Islam. Islam enjoins jihad and there can be no explaining away of it. But what is here intended is to attempt to understand it integrally and comprehensively and, most importantly, in light of centuries of developments in Islamic traditional thought in understanding and application of this seminal notion.
Jihad not a monolithic concept
In the beginning let it be made clear that jihad is not a monolithic conception. It is multivalent. It signifies varied things at different levels. It is not to be reduced to purely spiritual or purely political terms. It is defining feature of Islamic civilization. Juridical uage of the term has been too much highlighted and this has resulted in marginalization of much more universal meaning in the Quran and Hadith. It translation in European languages as ‘holy war’ reflects this constriction in universal meaning.
The Meaning of Submission
The end of Islamic way of life is peace that passeth all understanding and this is obtained as a result of submission to God. What is submission? The Quran categorically states that God demands everything ours, our very soul, for the sake of heaven. We must submit to God with all our will, heart and mind. What is to be surrendered is separate will, the ego that separates man from Ultimate Reality. Only God is Real; all else has only derived reality. God alone truly exists. What is to be relinquished is the separating principle of ego and mind, all human interests, all that fortifies ego and separation and exclusion from larger environment, from the other. There can be no purely material or egotistic- individually and collectively or nationally – goal directed action. God is Reality in Sufistic-metaphysical scheme. All else has illusory reality if one sees things apart from God. Thus there should be absolutely no doubt that in Islam no endeavour which is exclusively this worldly, nothing that belongs to the illusory empire of ego – individual or collective ego, nothing merely political or ideological, nothing that seeks merely the kingdom of the world is endorsed. Jihad if fought for any motive other than proclaiming Truth and Justice is not Islamic practice.
Metaphysical Understanding of Shahadah
We now turn to the question what Islam is and what it takes to be the truth to which it invites everyone. Islam is Reality-centric and entertains no claim to autonomy of creatures or what is dependent on Reality. The kalima of Islam, metaphysically is translatable as ‘There is no truth but truth,’ ‘There is no reality but Reality.’ Islam invites everyone neither to a creed that it dogmatically asserts, nor to a proposition that could be doubted or approached in terms of truth / falsehood binary, nor to a belief that rational cum empirical inquiry could invalidate. Islam is not a totalistic or totalizing ideology or thought construct. To put in simple terms Islam is an invitation to take life seriously, to decipher its truth, to realize God or the ideals of truth, goodness and beauty, to be concerned with the ground of life, to enjoy life at the highest level or ananda. It asks to leave everything that obstructs our cognizance or perception of truth – the world of ego and slavery to passions that obfuscate heart’s eye that perceives the essences, the whatness of things. Islam asks to discover truth, the truth of life, of being and becoming and this truth can’t be attained as long as man is not willing to sacrifice
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everything including his soul for its sake. It demands transcendence of everything that stands in the way of truth – ego, desires and passions. Islam is not an ideology, a metanarrative, a system of creedal propositions but existential response to the mystery of being. Islam doesn’t proclaim any new truth or new message. In fact Islam has no message to convey because truth can’t be encoded in words as Lao Tzu has said. Whatever can be thought of, imagined, conceived, described or asserted is not God or truth. Laysa kamislihi Shayi (nothing is like Him). Truth has infinite faces – everywhere is the face of God so there could be no human appropriation of it to claim finality or absolute status. The Sufis characterize marifa as hairat or state of wonder or being lost The Sufis characterize marifa as hairat or state of wonder or being lost
Metaphysically understood Islam transcends even the theist/atheist binary not to speak of such binaries as Muslim/Christian, Muslim/ Hindu etc. Nasr has convincingly argued that in its most universal sense anyone who accepts a Divine revelation is a Muslim “be he a Muslim, Christian, Jew or Zorasterian. The Islamic point of view didn’t take into account the Indian religions until historic contact was made with them but this definition would refer to them as well, as Hinduism came to be called by certain later Muslim sages the ‘religion of Adam’”’1p.27
Islam’s Notion of God
God isn’t an epistemological problem at all for Islam or Sufism. But realization of our true theonomous nature is the issue and religion is meant to lead towards that goal. God from their perspective is Manifest Truth, our very breath and Light of the world. He is the inward and the outward. He is nearer to us than our jugular veins. He is reality (al- Haqq) itself. He encompasses or pervades all things. But His transcendence hasn’t been denied thereby. When mind is purified of all dross and becomes still and the realm of known ceases God dawns. God is the only knower. He is the Hearing and the Seeing, in according to the Quran.
What is God? Not a person conceived in anthropomorphic sense, not a being among other beings, not some cosmic policeman, not some being in the heavens but Existence in its totality, both transcendent and immanent in Sufistic and metaphysical view. He is Reality, Light, Truth and in fact all beautiful names describe him. He alone is. He is in every atom. Everything celebrates Him. The Beloved is everywhere for the lover. For the gnostic this world is charged with the grandeur of God. God is not an abstract essence only but everything existent proclaims Him by mere existing. There are no atheists in the absolute sense of the term. There is a tawhid of mulhids also according to Ibn Arabi though quite a narrow view of tawhid it is. There is no way of escaping God or denying Him inabsolute terms. God needs no human advocate to be proclaimed to the world. Jihad can’t be launched to teach people to subscribe to a particular view of tawhid. Even Buddhists have a sublime version of tawhid in their impersonal conception of divine as Isa Nuruddin, one of the greatest Sufi metaphysicians of the 20th century has argued
For mystics and Sufis nothing is so common place as experiencing God and nothing is so truly descriptive of human state. God is not a being among other beings, an object out there, that could to be perceived in some ecstatic state. God is a percept rather than a concept as Ibn Arabi said. God, in the Unitarian Sufistic perspective, is the essence of existence. He is the Isness of things. He is Existence in its totality. God constitutes all pervasive Environment (al-Muhit in the Quranic parlance) that normal man lives, moves and has his being in Him. Adam saw God, the essences before the Fall as the fog of passions and desires had not blurred his vision. Things are metaphysically transparent; only we need to possess the right view as the Buddha said. God is there so close and in fact the light of the eyes, the light with which everything is seen, and everything is illumined as Ghazali said. God is the Light of the world. If we see without blinkers, without the lenses of conceptual intellect we see God and nothing but God. Mystical discipline is simply for cleansing the perception. From a Unitarian perspective we are ever in God’s presence, ever breathing the fragrance of the Beloved. God in His immanence is the whole world of perception, the positivity of manifestation. This is the metaphysical
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meaning of phenomenon of Muhammad and his status as a messenger. The Son of Christian theology amounts to the same thing. The Father (Essence) is known through the Son. Metaphysically speaking to live truly is to live in God as God is Life, the Larger Life. The life of love is the life divine. God is love. The experience of love, of beauty, of goodness – all are experiences of God and for a gnostic all experiences are experiences of God. The finite can’t be outside the Divine Infinitude. So the world is necessarily in God or God’s visible Face. As the Quran says God is both the Manifest (form) and the Hidden (essence). Osho has put more emphasis on the immanent God. Experiencing God is experiencing life in its full splendour. Life is the only God for for all religions as C. R. Jain has argued in his provocative study on comparative religions titled Key to Knowledge. Vedantic ternary describing God as Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, is found elsewhere also. Life, larger or higher life, life divine, the life of Spirit, the life of Love, is indeed the promise of all religions and mysticisms. Evelyn Underhill’s classical presentation of mystical viewpoint also foregrounds this point. Moksha, Beatific vision, nirvana—all are symbols of richer or larger life. So nothing is simpler or more accessible than the experience of God. In fact God is the Environment, al-Muhit, in the Quranic phrase. The self builds an illusory boundary that demarcates or separates. The self is illusory. God is All-pervading. He alone exists. God alone is real; all else has derived existence but the essence is one. The Spirit is one. Jihad must lead to realization of higher values of life or it is not jihad.
A Mu’min, according to Sufism, is one who gets annihilated before the face of Truth. The Sufi is a watcher or pure witness. He allows existence or Reality or Truth (Real is equated with Truth in the East and Islam though not in the West and Truth isn’t reduced to property of propositions also in the East) to speak, having surrendered/transcended himself. He becomes a hollow bamboo, a flute on which God plays the notes. He has no ideas or thought constructs to impose on others. He preaches only the nothingness of himself. In silence is revealed the treasure that God is. This silence is because one can't speak with human tongue of the Ineffable, of the Unconditioned. The Sufi doesn’t talk about Reality or God but talks Reality or God. He transcends the realm of “about” unlike the theologian. That is why the Sufi doesn’t need to interpret and wrangle about the question of interpretation. He isn’t caught up in textual world at all. He lives truth, is truth. He doesn’t need mediation of language. He is pure awareness, prereflective prelinguistic awareness. He has become a mirror as mind and separating principle of thought has disappeared. Seer and seen has disappeared and only seeing is there. Language doesn’t enter. The Sufi is centered in God and thus in Nothingness or Void, God being not the name of a thing, a person, an entity and substance, a being, among other beings. God is Reality, Isness in wahdatul wajudi (which is not synonymous with pantheism as it emphasises transcendence of God unequivocally) perspective. He is Pure Consciousness. He eludes all apprehension. One can well say He is not because Nothing is naught, blank, void to the conceptual intellect. Nothing is like Him. He signifies, in a way, impossibility of all signification. A Sufi is one who has put duality away andss sees two worlds as one. One he seeks, knows, sees and calls as Rumi tells us. Even the binary of truth and falsehood, good and evil are transcended in Sufi vision. “Since I have known God, neither truth nor falsehood has entered my heart” as Abu Hafs Haddad said.7 This is because the Sufi is in a state where neither good nor evil entereth as BaYazid says.8 This metaethical transcendence of mystic has been misunderstood by its critics as implying rejection of law and ethics while as the fact is that mystics alone in the history of religion have shown exemplary moral character as they have transcended the desiring self or nafsi amara which incites one to evil . Only good comes from the mystic because he has transcended the plane of mind, of desiring self which chooses and is caught up in the net of time or desires. His hands have become God’s hands and God acts through him, so to speak.
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Metaphysical understanding of God as Infinite and All-Possibility subsumes everything and transcends mere believing posture and theistic/atheistic binary. Osho’s identification of God with Existence, Isness or what is, to use Krishnamurti’s phrase, can’t be questioned by agnostic/atheistic scholarship.
Metaphysical Understanding of the Prophet
We now discuss metaphysical and Sufistic understanding of the Prophet of Islam (S.A.W) to show how the second clause of Islamic kalima is affirmed in a subtle way at deeper level in its universal sense by all normal men irrespective of their religious affiliations. Even the so-called atheists who nevertheless choose life instead of death and deny the God of theology in the name of truth that they think they are in possession of can’t but affirm, in their own way, the Prophet. For Ibn Arabi and Sufi metaphysicians, the Prophet is Logos, the Pole of existence, the principle of manifestation. Were it not for this principle things would still be in the abysmal darkness of void or ‘adm. Wajud is acquired or transition from unmanifest archetypes or ideas to manifest state of things is made possible because of the messenger who unveils or expresses Absolute, which would otherwise be unmanifest. God is a Hidden Treasure and the wish to get unveiled is what the idea of messengership expresses in its deepest sense. Seen in this light we can assert that life as it expresses itself in countless forms and in fact existence as such is by virtue of Muhammad. When life is blessed, as it is by God as otherwise it would cease to exist, it is in theological language, blessing Muhammad or reciting durood. Every flower that blooms, every bird that chips, every child that smiles, every blade of grass that grows proclaim the grandeur of God and manifests the Light of Muhammad. Life is a supreme value and so is freedom and the Prophet is the metaphysical ground of life and its essential transcendence, its freedom. All our endeavours, whether we know it or not, are ultimately directed to affirm and promote life and thus praise God. Our breathing, despite us, goes on and thus we go on blessing the Prophet who is the positivity of Manifestation. Wherever and in whatever form life dances and smiles there the Prophet is blessed. The prophet can’t be really mocked. Can the sun, the light, be mocked except by the blind? “The more they blaspheme against God, the more they praise God” said Meister Eckhart. The same can be said about the blasphemers. The Prophet symbolizes life, larger life, richer life, life glorified (that is deeper import of his name Muhammed which means the praised one). Who can condemn life without condemning himself at the very moment? The blasphemers are unaware of the ontological reality that the phenomenon of Muhammad designates and Muslims are rightly concerned to defend their hallowed symbols. When jihadi spirit unleashes against blasphemers this deeper metaphysical understanding shouldn’t be lost sight of.
The Prophet, existentially interpreted, is the ideal pole of man, the principle of transcendence and freedom of Spirit that makes authentic life possible. From the perspective of a lover he is the First and the Last as it is through him that our Origin and End, our God, speaks through us. This explains Iqbal’s famous verses “nigahi ishq-a-mast mai wahe awwal, wahe aakhr…wahi Quran, wahe furqan, wahe yaseen, wahi taha.” The great tradition of n’aat writing, practiced especially by Sufi poets is translatable in terms of profound metaphysical intuitions. The Prophet is the Word that was before the creation of the world and that Word was made the universe. Allah is the Light of the World but that Light is nowhere in the phenomenal world as He is transcendent. But it is the Prophet who brings this Light to the world and makes him manifest (Az-Zahir). The Perfect Man that the Prophet is appropriates or manifests all the attributes of God.
The Prophet stands for all that is noble, sublime, grand and great in life. He is the voice of freedom against all man-made shackles, against everything that enslaves man, his thought and his imagination. The Prophet stands for all that is noble, sublime, grand and great in life. He is the voice of freedom against all man-made shackles, against everything that enslaves man, his thought and his imagination. He is the envoy of God or transcendence and it is transcendence that makes man a bird of lamakaan, a
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free soul who is not just a creature determined from without but capable of transcending space and time and all the fetters that bind him.
In fact the world owes its existence to the Prophet. This is conceded by all religious traditions that are spiritually/idealistically oriented. Metaphysics and philosophy that give primacy to the Logos (that postmodernist deconstructionists fail to understand and wrongly equate with the mental faculty of reason) or Spirit ( all traditional philosophies, both Eastern and Western do so) could regard the Prophet understood as Logos as the pole of existence. All prophets, named or not named in the Quran who have founded civilizations partake of the reality of Muhammad (SAW). Thus Muhammed (SAW) even if not mentioned explicitly by other religious traditions, is nevertheless implicitly believed. Even the secular modernity can’t afford to disbelieve in the Prophet in toto as long as it upholds the values of beauty, goodness, truth and freedom. To be a man in the proper sense of the term is to affirm the Platonic triad of beauty, goodness and truth and thus to glorify the Prophet. Humans are humans in the proportion they actualize or appropriate these values. Blessing the Prophet means blessing existence and acceptance of positivity of manifestation, the joy and glory of life in all its forms.
One who blesses the Prophet blesses by implication “the world and the universal Spirit (El-Ruh), the Universe and the Intellect, both the Totality and the Centre” as Schuon says.2 Schuon further explains the metaphysical understanding of the ‘blessing’(durood) and the ‘salutation’ (salam) which are applied, not only to the Prophet, but also to his family and his companions
In the widest interpretation of this prayer the blessing corresponds to God, the name of the Prophet to the universal spirit, the Family to the beings who participate in God - through the Spirit - in a direct manner, and the Companions to those beings who participate in God indirectly but likewise thanks to the Spirit. This extreme limit can be defined in various ways according to whether we envisage the Moslem world, or the whole of humanity, or all creatures on earth, or even the whole universe. 3
For Islam it is the Light of Muhammad that is the principle of existence, otherwise things would never come from their archetypal abyss to the world of forms. Muhammad is “Mercy of the Worlds” according to the Quran. The world is the breath of the Compassionate; it is because of the ontological fact of Mercy that anything exists. It is by virtue of the Light of Muhammad that the sun shines, that rain comes, that we love and that life continues. It is this mercy that animates life in all its diversity. Life, larger and deeper life, life of joy and acceptance, life as benediction and celebration (ananda), life of harmony and goodwill, life lived under the tutelage of Holy Spirit, life that is glorified, life that never ends, life in God or the Divine Environment – all these are various meanings and implications of the Prayer on the Prophet. One could possibly deny transcendent invisible God but who could deny Muhammad because esoterically and metaphysically understood he is the principle of manifestation or existence and thus our very breathing. ‘I see none but zulfi yaar everywhere’ exclaims a Sufi. Who is not moved by beauty and it is Muhammad, the Sahibal Jamal that is attracting us in a beautiful object. That is why beauty has saving or liberating power and why God loves beauty. The Ptophet is life’s sweetness, its music, its rasa, its bliss and its celebration. He being that which manifests or unveils Essence is the green in the trees red in the roses and gold in the rays of the sun. He is this life in its positivity, in its totality. And he is the silence of the darkness. And he is the joy of light abounding life of the world. What ordinary people call life or existence or beauty the lovers of God call Muhammad. And let it be clear life is lived only by lovers in its fullness. God is love. God is ever blessing Muhammad according to the Quran. Understood in its deepest metaphysical sense this means God is
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blessing Life. That is why everything is said to be ever busy in glorifying God and in praising/blessing Muhammad. To be is to bless existence by very definition. So who can afford to deny Muhammad? Someone (such as atheists) could afford to be incredulous towards transcendent invisible Divinity but there can be no escape from the very air we breathe, the very sun that illumines our darkness, which are there because of God’s immanence in the world or because there is Muhammad, the Principle of Manifestation. The Quran identifies God as Al- Haqq or the Real. Truth has no face; it has infinite aspects. Whatever partakes of the Reality or truth is affirmed in Islamic shahadah which is translated by the Sufis and perennialists as "There is no reality but Reality." Islam means surrender to God, Truth and Reality, for God is Al- Haqq. It is too inclusive to be guilty of any exclusion which Foucault and others fear. The blasphemer is one who refuses to see the truth, the reality because of his ignorance or perverted will. He is a sick man or a criminal and deserves condemnation though he condemns himself and pollutes the sacred water of life when he blasphemes.
Distinction between Religion and Metaphysics
We must keep in mind the distinction that is made between religious and metaphysical points of view and note that it is metaphysics as understood by the perennialists that lies at the heart of religion. As Guenon points out the metaphysical point of view is purely intellectual while as in the religious or theological point of view the presence of a sentimental element affects the doctrine itself, which doesn’t allow of it complete objectivity. he influence of sentimental element obviously impairs the intellectual purity of the doctrine. And it is not always possible to fully translate metaphysical doctrines in terms of theological dogmas. Only one example will suffice here. The immediate metaphysical truth “Being exists” gives rise to another proposition when expressed in the religious or theological mode “God exists.” But as Guenon says the two statements would not be strictly equivalent except on the double condition of conceiving God as Universal Being, which is far from always being the case in fact and of identifying existence with pure Being or what the Sufis call Zat or Essence which is metaphysically inexact. It is the inadequate or faulty metaphysical background that contributes a lot to controversies on either side of the debate on religious experience in modern discourses of philosophy of religion. Unlike purely metaphysical conceptions theological conceptions are not beyond the reach of individual variations Antimetaphysical anthropomorphism comes to the fore in this realm of individual variations. 4(Ibid., p.128-129). Jehadis must understand the truth of that which they advocate and it is metaphysics based on intellect rather than reason that expresses it best rather than theology or exoterism to which most often jehadi discourse is linked. If Islam is truth it is to be approached from metaphysical perspective and jihad could truly deliver its function if it is based on clear discernment between the real and the illusory. It is metaphysics that provides the furqan, the key to the inner meaning of all scripture.
Islam and Terrorism
The terrorist fundamentalist (not all fundamentalists are terrorists however) seeks his own kingdom and not the kingdom of God. Man must be noughted for God to be. And terrorist can’t consent to be noughted.. Terrorist believes in holier than thou attitude. And Islam exalts humility. The Quran asserts that above every knower is another knower. To know Truth is to know that one doesn’t know. God is the only Knower. A terrorist takes the prerogative of being God’s advocate even though the Quran expressly forbids even the Prophet to take such a position.
No mystic has ever been a terrorist and it is the mystic alone who tastes God, who sees divine realities. It is only those who claim to be personal secretaries of God who can coolly dismiss people to hell and reserve all the seats in heaven for themselves. None knows God – this is what Abu Bakr said. That is why the mystic is an extraordinarily ordinary person as he contemplates profound mystery of things and is drowned in the valley of perplexity.
It is only the inwardly satisfied and peaceful soul who gets access to heaven. The terrorist has yet to find the restful heart, the still point of existence as otherwise he could not dare to rob others of peace. Those who see God are stilled inwardly and all their actions are done by God. Islam, like other
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traditions, advocates actionless action by attributing all actions to unmoved Mover, to God. The Chinese called it wu wei and that is what the Christians mean by saying that everything should be done under the inspiration of Holy Spirit. A mujahid can’t act out of vengeance. His sole motive is to glorify God, to bear witness to Truth. As long as he operates for any merely humanly reason or motive he is not a mujahid. The greatest purpose for man is to find God – and the martyr gives witness by sacrificing his self and his life. Those who love and have been blessed to know love can’t be see any other in the world where God, the Beloved alone exists. How can he be a terrorist?
Islam has clearly rejected the option of coercion for achieving any end, even the supreme end of Islam. Terrorism involves sacrificing means for ends. Islam sharply differentiates itself from certain secularist ideologies that care only for ends and don’t care for the permissibility or righteousness of means.
Islam has defined Mu’min in expressly antiterrorist terms. “The Mu’min is one from whose hands life and property of others is safe.” And what is a terrorist- the person from whose hands other’s life and property is not safe. For Islam nothing is holier than life and in fact God is Life. God is described as al-Hayy (Alive). In fact it is easy to see Life as the closest definition of God. God as Chit, as Self, as Knower, as “I am that I am” is Life. Terrorist puts his ideology above life. There can be no greater blasphemy.
Prophets come to establish peace and weed out fasad. In fact the Quran expressly declares that strife (fasad) is outlawed after Islam has established peace. Terrorism is another name for what the Quran calls fasad.
Religious Exclusivism and Terrorism
What fosters exclusivist thesis and contributes to the genesis of terrorist’s attempt to deny the other as other is commitment to an interpretation of Islam that asserts not only that Islam is the best of religions but the only religion approved by God and canceling or outlawing all other religions or labeling other religions as pagan, polytheistic or atheistic. This exclusivist interpretation further claims that other religions can’t coexist amicably with Islam. They have to be belittled and rejected as false as they are held to be untrue. What does it mean that Islam is the best of religions? This question is best understood in light of perennialist approach that defends both exclusivist character of religion at one plane and the inclusivist view at another plane without needing to reject one at the coast of the other.
Philology has been badly trumped by exoteric authoritries to argue for Islam’s exclusivism as Josepoh Lumbard has noted. One example is the interpretation of the word ”islam.’’ To quote Lumbard:
Today, as for the past 1200 years or more, the word “Islam” is taken to indicate a particular set of beliefs and practices adghered to by a certain segment of humanity. But when the Quran was first revealed what did the word mean? As Toshiko Izatsu has demonstrated in his masterful books God and Man in the Quran and Ethicio-Religious Concepts of the Quran, the original meaning of this word in pre-Islamic poetry is not only to “to submit,” but moreover to give over something that is particularly precious to oneself and which is painful to abandon, to somebody who demands it. So when the Prophet Muhammad first presented a “message” that claimed to be “islam”, the words would have been understood far differently than what we understand today. Moreover, the way this word is used in the Quran actually provides the raw material for a very eloquent understanding of religious pluralism, one wherein all revelations are seen as different ways of giving to God which is most difficult to give - our very selves.5
Many Quranic verses present Islam every previous revelation as a way of submitting, a way of life rather than a particular creedal system. Noah, Abrahasm and others declared themselves to be Musdlims. But once “islam becomes Islam, an institutional definition or conception is formed and
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such verses become more problematic.” 6 The majority of Muslim exegetes have not used philology to clarify institutional interpretation but. There are many such examples where institutional practice trumped over philology as Waled Saleh has also noted.
Fundamentalism practically denies the unity of revelation. For it the Quranic claim that God has decreed different ways of worship and has no room for only one religion or one community are hardly worth reckoning.
Islam stands for Justice and seeks to preserve the earthily reflection of Divine Justice. It may necessitate necessitates taking arms against those who wish to perpetrate fasad, who disturb peace, who terrorize people, who enslave men, who take sovereignty in their own hands, who believe that the other, whether it be nature or other men are an object to be manipulated at will, who pollute environment, who create obstacles in realizing or perusal of such values as truth and goodness – in short all forces that alienate men from themselves and from others.
The distorted sense of jihad as war against other religious communities pursued primarily to establish supremacy of certain religion formulations or a certain community follows from the ideology that is antitraditional, anti-intellectual, nonspiritual, literalist and exclusivist and must not be confounded with the universal and primordial religion of Islam.
Islam has censured everything that leads to terrorist mentality. It takes such a severe notice of such otherwise ignored evils as back biting and slandering. Where one can’t imagine criticizing others in absentia how is it possible to disturb the other’s private space by all kinds of terrorist activities? In Islam all ethical principles are aimed at transcending desiring self or ego and when the ego is transcended there can be basis for terrorist activity. At the root of terrorist action is assertion of ego, assertion of one’s viewpoint at the cost of others’. All religions advocate the ideals of love, selflessness, humility and no religion allows violence to men. Terrorism is incompatible with any religion whatsoever. In fact God consciousness by definition involves ego denying. One can’t be oneself and still think that he is glorifying God. In fact iman is a vital act that transports man out of himself. To be properly human one has to transcend the world of nasuut, the world of man. Man is not to be identified with the mind, with thoughts that are born in time. The Spirit transcends all the individualities of existence, all contingent or temporal things. The life of Spirit is not the life lived at the plane of mind. It is supramental. The heart that guides all activities of a lover of God doesn’t operate in terms of self/other dichotomy. It evaluates or judges not. Saints who truly realize Islam have not been terrorists. Mainstream Muslim scholarship largely agrees that saints are the best practioners of religion. They have truly born witness to God. If they have not been terrorists or die hard exclusivists the case for terrorism in Islam can’t be entertained.
Religion is in ultimate analysis love and charity. Jesus defined God as love. Sufism celebrates God as our Beloved. Surrender or transcendence of ego fructifies in life of self-sacrifice, in love and charity. Religion binds man to God – i.e. reality to Reality, self to Self, temporal to eternal. And what is eternal, what is unconditioned is love and not any temporal activity. No deed will save man. As long there is the consciousness of doer and one makes distinctions – of whatever kind (the Fall of Adam has bequeathed us this choosing self) Religion seeks to take man into a realm where distinctions don’t count. In God who is man’s origin and end there is no longer any distinction – all relative valuations, all affirmations and negations are transcended.
.Peace comes only when security seeking self disappears, when the root of conflict – desire – is given up, when the self surrenders all its claims to separate existence, to will its own will, to see itself as centre. Buddhism, Taoism and in fact all religions in their own ways state this central fact. Peace without is possible only when there is first peace within. ‘Seek God and all things will be added to
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you.’ Modern pacifism errs in primarily focusing on peace without. Only an enlightened person, the restful soul, the soul that has transcended all sorrow and conflict could radiate peace around. Religion brings peace to the world by virtue of these peaceful and peace-radiating souls. What is Boddhisatva? No better ideal of self sacrifice and foundation of universal peace could be conceived by man. The Prophet of Islam conceived as Shafee, as interceder for forgiving sins, is eschatological role of him as pacifist in the other or higher world. Boddhisatva too is a pacifist of a certain sort. How profound and deep is religion’s concern for peace- peace within and peace without, peace here and peace hereafter, peace at every plane is seen in these notions.
Jihad supposed to save souls of others is not entertained in Islam. Islam enjoins jihad to save one’s self. It is fat too difficult to save oneself as Islam envisages it than to die fighting others considered as enemies of God. Saving others is not a prerogative of peace keeping forces. Who has not saved himself can’t save others. Who can claim to have done everything possible to save his soul from corruption? Many would-be-martyrs believe that paradise awaits them if they are killed. If the kingdom of God were to be purchased with such a short cut it would make mockery of the great disciplinary regimen that all religions have suggested. Without first being a Muslim and Mu’min how can one become a martyr. Without greater jihad no salvation is possible. If one dies for the cause iof God or Truth one must know what that Truth is.
If based on one’s supposed supremacy in taqwa it can’t be jihad. Such self righteousness is alien to Islamic spirit. Ideally a Sufi who has transcended all personal motives is best fitted to be a Mujahid. As Ali’s famous encounter with his enemy shows in which he refused to kill him because the later had spitted and this had infuriated him and personal vengeance got mixed up with the purity of intention.
Islam is not an interpretation of truth but truth itself and that is why it rejects idolatry. Idolatry is belief in our representations, our conceptual schemes, our imaginings. Truth is ever transcendent. Religion celebrates the mystery of existence (realm of al-Gayyib). Idolatry is to reduce Islam to an ideology, to a system, a human construct and tie Islam to one’s understanding of truth. Islam doesn’t invite the world to its version of truth. It has no story or metanarrative to impose. Islam only invites to submit, to submit to truth. Islam only wishes man to awaken from the dream of forgetfulness.
The Quran asks us: Are you concerned with truth? Are you striving towards Truth?And this is jihad in its widest sense - striving in the way of God, the Good, the Beautiful. Jihad is synonymous with spiritual quest and all human activity done without the sense of personal agency.
The function of revelation is only to reintegrate man, to make him aware that he is in possession of great treasure, the Kingdom of God. But man is heedless according to the Quran. Greater Jihad summons men back to the lost paradise. A modern mystical thinker has well expressed human predicament: “We have not been thrown out of the Garden, but miss it because we are not aware; we have fallen in a dream-like trance state. The dream consists of one’s desire to reach somewhere else.”
Religion restores peace by making us feel homely in this world. Modern man feels exiled and stranger to earth. Nothing can reconcile him to the order of the world, to the incomprehensible design of it, to its necessity. There can be no lasting peace as long as man feels nausea on encountering the world and exalts rebellion as the only response worthy of man. Islam claims that this world is indeed a reflection of paradise, that if we transcend the desiring self and cleanse the doors of perception through greater jihad everything will appear to us in a new light. How diametrically opposite it is from the typical modernist scientific humanist or absurdist’s constructions of the world, its opacity, absurdity and what Camus calls density. Such key modern figures as Camus are opposed with all their might to the world and in fact he defines the world as something to which he is opposed. The world is the other. Its sight provokes nausea. We are thrown into it, says Heidegger. Far from being the enchanted Garden it is a place of torture where man pays for some unknown sin as Beckett would have us believe.
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Modern thought contests the notion that the world is our home, that we can be at peace with the world. The world simply is, a brute fact, an absurd reality and we suffer meaninglessly. There is no providence, no design, no sacred mystery, no soul-making, no higher destiny. How can trust and gratitude towards existence be developed in such a context? For the Quran gratitude and trust are key religious demands, in fact they define the religious attitude towards the environment. Jihad will have key role in restoring the lost equilibrium of the planet, in helping man to be careful towards nature. Striving towards God makes this world a garden. Reenchantment of the world so that we feel in it at home is what Jihad does. Modern civilization is in need of such a spiritual renewal and Jihad is seminally important concept in such a context. Restoring the sense of Absolute in the postmodern relativist nihilist setting is what bearing witness to God implies. Modes of jihad vary with the ages. Modern times necessitate a different modality to be adopted. Bearing witness to God would also involve exposing of all exploitative economic and domineering colonialist/neocolonialist strategies. A critique of existing exploitative power structures and an effort to redress the same is what Jihad is supposed to do. Wherever there is zulm jihad will have a role to play. Wherever people are denied their rights and injustice and disequilibrium prevail Islamic conscience keeper- the institution of Jihad- will be needed to come to rescue. Darul Islam could well be interpreted as the whole world and protecting it from all kinds of oppressors and forces (social, economic, political, etc.) which represent the Devil is what jihad aims at. Mujahideen are ideally the voluntary forces or an international NGO that are geared towards speaking for the marginalized, the dispossessed, the devoiced, the oppressed. Mujahideen are the conscience keepers of the world.
It is the self- other binary representing the exclusionary relationship between subjects who occupy opposite positions on centre/margin model of political and other power relations which is the basis of colonialist ideology. Jihad based on Unitarian perspective attempts to replace it by a different model of self-other relationship that negates colonialism.
Islam has lauded gratitude and prayer as defining features of Islamic belief. This gratitude towards God is to be understood as thanking Existence and loving it and encountering it in a prayerful spirit. TO quote a modern interpreter of Sufism:
God is found only in the heart of one who is utterly in praise of existence because it is so incredibly beautiful, so utterly valuable. We have not earned it, we are not worthy of it. To be is a gift. Life is a gift, love is a gift, and all that is, is a sheer gift from god. All that we can do is to praise him
That very praising is enough, because that praise becomes prayer – prayer is nothing else. Prayer is the heart in tremendous rejoicing, thankfulness, saying the existence is good
The statement that God is exalted and glorified (Allahu Akbar, Subh anallah) means that the whole existence is exalted, because God is not a person but another name for the totality of existence, as one contemporary mystic has put it. “God is the fragrance of existence.” Praising life, thanking the giver of life is what aaliyi kalimatullah and jihad imply.
Jihad aima at realizing God’s will on earth as it is realized in heaven. The question is what does conforming to the Divine Will mean? It is submission, decreation, consenting to Necessity, nonresentiment, blessing the other, relinquishing personal egotistic agenda in favour of the will of Cosmos or Totality or Nature. It also connotes appreciation of incomprehensible divine order that reigns in nature. It involves great yes-saying to life and its ordeals,. It connotes not complaining against suffering and pain that one encounters in fulfilling one’s destiny. It connotes forgetting I and becoming an instrument in the hands of God. It means denying will to power to manipulate the other. It implies cultivating great ethical discipline in encountering the other in infinite responsibility. IT is not merely enforcing certain juristic formulations in society. It means practizing all the
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commandments, moral and spiritual that we find in scriptures. All religion boils down to surrender of our will to Divine Will, to Cosmic Will, to Tao, to universal reason. It involves subjecting desiring self to the tutelage of the Spirit.
Religion, ultimately asks man to be natural, to be true to his nature, to be ordinary and as Nagarjuna puts it “Samsara is Nirvana.” Islam repeatedly emphasizes its natural – all too natural character. The Sage in Taoism is above all the wholly natural man. The aim of the Sage is to be in harmony with his own nature for through this harmony comes harmony with men and this harmony is itself the reflection of harmony. Aim of spiritual man is to contemplate nature and become one with it, to become ‘natural’. Religion is innocence of becoming. It is living moment by moment, finding eternity herenow, in this moment. It is “choiceless awareness.” It is seeing God everywhere, in the trees, in the moon, in the streams. Religion intends to de-alienate man, to help him to be himself. God has to be existentially experienced, discovered within the depth of our being or self. Eternity is to be found here and now. “We live and move and have our being in God” as St.Paul put it. Heaven is won only in and through this world. This world is the ground or soil on which the tree of hereafter grows. Nirvana must be won here, every moment. God has to be remembered with every breath.
Islam means surrender to God, Truth and Reality, for God is Al. Haqq. It is too inclusive to be guilty of any exclusion which Foucault and others fear. Religion can dispense with all binary oppositions because subject object duality and all laws of thought as formulated by Aristotle are transcended in communion with God or when one attains nirvana. Batil(untruth) doesn’t exist, it is only as illusion and Kufr (disbelief) consists in concealing of Truth. Only God exists. Everything is liable to be destroyed save the face of God ,as the Quran(55:26,27) puts it . Even “truth” isn’t privileged here because falsehood doesn’t exist at all.
The Quran describes itself as zikr , a remembrance. Man is only called to remember that he was and is in the heaven and that heaven is here now; salvation is in this moment- in surrender and acceptance of innocence of becoming. We have come from heaven and are in heaven; we only need to be conscious of this and for that only revelation interferes and proclaims man back to Eden, back to his Origin, to source, which is Void or God. Revelation is objective manifestation of the Intellect, the supraindividual and supramental faculty that bridges the gap between subject and object and perceives the heart of things, essences and in fact makes perception of phenomena possible. Revelation would not be needed if intelligence functioned correctly and had no obstruction such as passions to face. If man were not heedless or prone to forgetting what he is. We are asked to recall our Covenant with God made in pre-eternity. We just need to see within, to mediate and still our mind to see the proof of this metahistorical event.
Religion as I.R.Faruqi writes, includes everything, sacred and profane, religious and secular in its ambit, so bdefinition it is Universe.7 It excludes nothing because then it willn’t be equated with Reality or Truth. So it is none grand narrative among other possible grandnarratives ; it is, to use Marxism phrase, base because it synonymous with existence, life and being..
It has been remarked about Zen (and this appears to be applicable to Sufism and general religion also in a certain sense): “Zen has no teaching. Zen has no doctrine. Zen gives no guidance because it says there is no goal. It says you aren’t to move into a certain direction. It says you are already there…Getting it simply means getting the point that it is already there, that it is the nature of existence.” Though it may sound incredible this statement applies to Islam as well. S.H. Nasr says about Sufism: “In Sufism man is delivered by means of an inner transformation which takes place here and now within the framework of his normal life As a result he is enabled to hear the inward music of all being and above the noise of everyday life to listen to the music of the silence of Eternity.”8
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There is no way of escaping from God, from becoming , from Isness and suchness of things, from nothingness, from life and from universe as we see it and all this is religion in its profoundest sense. It is absurd or pleonastic gesture to be incredulous towards the Real( Al Haqq) ( I am not talking of theologians representation of it). God is to be contemplated in phenomena as they are the signs of God. God speaks in and through anfus and Aafaq according to the Quran. We are asked to read correctly this script of ontological Quran, Qurani takweeni to be able to fulfill our great destiny. To know oneself is to know God. Metaphysical transparency of phenomena is itself enough to proclaim God’s glory. We are asked to be true to our original or primordial nature. By identifying itself with the Real, the truth and emphasizing unknowability or inscrutability of it also by calling it the transcendent, religion can’t allow freezing or fixing of signifiers of the unknown and unknowable signified. This signified appears as the totally other as in Levinas. The text of the Universe and life it considers as the sign- signifier of the unknown signified. Religion doesn’t define the truth or defines it only in negative terms (this is especially true about eastern religions where Nirgunna Brahman described in terms of or neti- neti (not this- not this) and nirvana (seen primarily in negative terms) are primary religious symbols. So whatever is the truth religion is that. Religion understood as pure metphysics is synonymous with truth. Beauty is truth and truth beauty. God is truth, beauty and goodness. Or to speak of goodness, truth and beauty is to speak of God. This is all what we need to know to be Muslims in the most basic sense of the term. This is the basic message of revelations. And Jihad is ideally for bringing home this message, for forcing us to take this message seriously.
I now quote a Muslim scholar, Ismail Raji al Faruqi, the great Muslim activist who ultimately got martyred for hconvictions, who doesn’t speak from the Sufistic perspective and represents the commonly upheld view of Islamamongst exoteric authorities and upholds the traditional conception of jihad in its most uncompromising form. Hwrites in ‘‘Towards a Critical World Theology’’ in Islamization of Disciplines, (IIIT Publication, 1984):
On the metaphysical level, ultimate reality is perceivedas the first cause or principle of sufficient reason, whicexplains all beings & all events. On the axiological level, it is perceived as the last end, or principle whicjustifies all beings and events. Its relevance is therefore total. All aspects of reality and history are understood its effects and instruments of the activity of a being perceived in experience as ultimate reality.
Under these terms, likewise, religion is the very essence & core of culture. The content of the religion is thlens through which all understanding & thinking takes place: the realms of meditation & contemplation, admiration & adoration. It is the sublime aesthetic expression. Finally religion is the essence & core civilization, in that it is the foundation of all decisions and actions, the ultimate explanation of civilization wiall its inventions & artifacts, its social, political and economic systems, and its past or future promise in historReligion constitutes the spirit of which the facts of civilization are the concrete manifestations”. (p409-410)
Thus understood establishing Islam or the religion of God that jihad aims at also implies striving for everything that is grand and noble and sublime in all the domains of human culture, from sciences to arts.
The different attributes of God, the glorification of which form the refrain of the sacred texts, are translatable in the language of what the Quran calls signs of God. Nature and life are contents of positive divine and Sufi’s ecstatic celebration of life and becoming is a way of approaching this positive divine. Religion, as metaphysically understood, is not reducible to an ideology, a system, a metanarrative, a theology, and doesn’t invoke any possibly doconstructable or problematizable or challengeable propositions, theories, ideas, assumptions, ideologies or narratives. The unknowablity of God, His utter transcendence or otherness and mystery is no less emphatically stressed by the Quran. This vetoes all idolatries of thought and rational philosophy and scientism that have enslaved man in history. This gives firm foundation to freedom. In fact the Quran hails itself as untying the chains that have so far shackled human freedom. However true freedom which is not slavery to passions and whims is to be found by perfecting self discipline or control of lower self which is the raison deter of
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sharia and which Sufism perfects. God is Freedom and the ground of freedom. Wishing to be free outside God is illusion.
Can anyone be allowed to speak against truth, to vilify goodness, to disfigure beauty? Can anyone be allowed to cut one’s throat for no reason? Can we allow ourselves to be made hostages to man-made idols? Can anyone be allowed to destroy life? If not then it follows that jihad is something that is synonymous with struggle for life, striving for realization of higher values including justice and equilibrium. Jihad is quintessential human activity in which we are all involved. Let the spirit of jihad go and all search for beautification of life, all resistance to evil, all endeavour to perfection will be gone.
Islam bases itself upon the idea of establishing equilibrium within the being of man, as well as in the human society. As Nasr says: “This equilibrium, which is the terrestrial reflection of Divine Justice and the necessary condition for peace in the human domain, is the basis upon which the soul takes flight towards that peace which, to use Christian terms, ‘passeth all understanding.’”9
Jihad is to be carried at every stage of life to keep this equilibrium. Both the individual and human collectivity are ever in danger of loss of equilibrium due to so many factors. So a continuous battle, at once both inward and outward is needed to combat the forces of disintegration.10
What are the different facets of lesser jihad or ‘holy war.’ There are far too many than usually recognized. To quite from Nasr again:
On more external level, the lesser jihad also applies in the socio-economic domain. IT implies the reassertion of justice in the external environment of human existence, starting with man himself. To defend one’s rights and reputation, to defend the honor of oneself and one’s family, is itself a jihad and a religious duty. So the strengthening of all those social bonds, from the family to the whole of the Muslim people (al-ummah) which the Shariah emphasizes
All the ‘pillars’ of Islam are related to jihad and that perhaps explains why it is the sixth pillar. In fact the kalima is a weapon for the practice of inner jihad. None of the pillars could be practized without the resources and arms; in fact all of them are forms of jihad. As Nasr further explicates: “To restrain the soul from dissipating itself outwardly as a result of its centrifugal tendencies and to bring it back to the centre, wherein reside Divine Peace” is a form of inner jihad. “To melt the hardened heart into a flowing stream of love which would embrace the whole of creation by virtue of love for God is” is the prerogative of jihad. “Through inner jihad, the spiritual man dies in this life in order to cease all dreaming, in order to awaken to that Reality which is the origin of all realities, in order to behold that Beauty of which all earthly beauty is bit a pale reflection, in order to attain that Peace which all men seek but which can in fact be found only through this practice.” 14
Modern man is quite misinformed about the nature of religion and metaphysics that grounds dogmas. He can’t but misunderstand and mistrust the theory and practice of jihad being poorly informed. It is another tragedy that many Muslims have quite a constricted and sometimes even distorted understanding of Jihad. To appropriate Aurobindo’s famous phrase “all life is yoga” one could say “all life is jihad”. There is a need to understand the universalistic perspective that the Quran adopts. Jihad is the only hope for countless number of oppressed people in the world. It is also, in its higher sense, soul’s adventure towards realizing the Absolute.
Goethe once remarked that “…if this is Islam he is also a Muslim.” The same can be asserted by every person concerned with establishing the Kingdom of Good fighting against all kinds of transgression
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and oppression and seeking justice at all levels that he too is a mujahid or wishes to be one. One wonders how can one resist the summons for such a God and such a prophet and such a noble endeavor.
References
1 Nasr, S.H., Ideas and Realities of Islam, Suhail Academy, Lahore,1993, p. 27
2 Schuon ,F., Understanding Islam, trans. D.M. Matheson, George Allen & UNwin LTd., London, 19963., p..99.
3 Ibid, p.101
4 Guenon,Rene, An Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, Delhi, 2000, pp.128-129
5 Lumbard, Joseph, “Quranic Inclusivism in an Age of Globalization,” in Iqbal Review Apr-Oct.2005, pp101
6 Ibidp. 102.
14 Faruqi, I. R., This is argued in detail in his important work on Tawhid.,
15 Nasr, S.H., Islamic Art and Spirituality, SUNY, New York 1987, p.163.
16 Nasr, S.H.,Traditional Islam in the Modern World, KPI, London, 1987, p. 28.
17 Ibid., p. 28.
18 Ibid., p.31.
19 Ibid., 33.
20 Ibid., p.33.
Concept of Jihad: An Analysis of its Background Worldview
M Maroof Shah
marooof123@yahoo.com, 9419546538,9419016596
Dept. of Sheep HUsbandrty, Kashmir
c/o MA Shah, Dept. of Botany, Kashmir University
Islam’s concept of jihad is, like many other concepts of Islam, one of the most misunderstood concepts. I think this has occurred because we have not focused on its place in the overall context of Islamic spiritual and metaphysical tradition It has generally been approached in isolation and not squared with other fundamental concepts or elements of Islam. What is Islam? What does it mean to believe? What is the metaphysical content of kalima? To what end are all Islamic doctrines subservient? How does the concept of jihad – often designated as the sixth pillar of Islam, cohere with other five pillars of Islam? How does Islam encounter the other, especially the religious other? What does kufr signify? Understood in the larger context of esoteric and metaphysical foundations of Islam what does jihad signify? It is not to ignore the historical developments in traditional understanding and conceptualizing of jihad. In fact it is the most traditional of approaches to understanding jihad that is advocated here. It is the problematic fundamentalist/ exoteric exclusivist theological or ideological approach to Islam that ignores Islam’s inner or spiritual and intellectual or metaphysical dimensions that has contributed to distortions in understanding jihad.
It is noteworthy that Islam is from the root word ‘slm that means both peace and submission. If sufficient attention is paid to these key concepts of submission and peace and one is able to link all Islamic notions to these central conceptions the notion of jihad is put in proper perspective. Everything in Islam revolves around the central doctrine of tawhid. Tawhid approached from mystical and metaphysical perspective forms the kernel of understanding Islam. How does jihad cohere with
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tawhid? Understanding jihad without understanding what God signifies and what belief in God and His unity connotes at the deepest metaphysical level is quite distorting. Modern Muslim fundamentalism and its conception of jihad is based on ignorance or distorted reading of Islam, Islamic conception of God and tawhid, Islam’s understanding of self-other relationship and Islam’s relationship with diverse religious, mystical and philosophical thought currents of the traditional world. Fundamentalism takes theological instead of metaphysical, exoteric instead of esoteric, exclusivist instead of inclusivist, literalist instead of symbolical approach and this constricts its understanding of everything Islamic, from ritual to dogma.
In light of normative inquiries into the basic conceptions of tawhid everything falls in perfect place. In this paper it is proposed to see the notion of jihad in light these inquiries into the meaning of Islam and its worldview. If jihad is launched to estrablish the reign of God’s religion or spread Islam or protect it against infidels we must first understand what God’s religion is. When thus closely analyzed there occurs a shift in our understanding of jihad itself.
Our approach is to be distinguished from all such apologetic approaches that marginalize significance of jihad or reduce it to a minor auxiliary conception. Jihad is indeed the sixth pillar of Islam and in fact its spirit informs every other pillar of Islam. The martyr is indeed the great symbol of piety and devotion to Islam. Islam enjoins jihad and there can be no explaining away of it. But what is here intended is to attempt to understand it integrally and comprehensively and, most importantly, in light of centuries of developments in Islamic traditional thought in understanding and application of this seminal notion.
Jihad not a monolithic concept
In the beginning let it be made clear that jihad is not a monolithic conception. It is multivalent. It signifies varied things at different levels. It is not to be reduced to purely spiritual or purely political terms. It is defining feature of Islamic civilization. Juridical uage of the term has been too much highlighted and this has resulted in marginalization of much more universal meaning in the Quran and Hadith. It translation in European languages as ‘holy war’ reflects this constriction in universal meaning.
The Meaning of Submission
The end of Islamic way of life is peace that passeth all understanding and this is obtained as a result of submission to God. What is submission? The Quran categorically states that God demands everything ours, our very soul, for the sake of heaven. We must submit to God with all our will, heart and mind. What is to be surrendered is separate will, the ego that separates man from Ultimate Reality. Only God is Real; all else has only derived reality. God alone truly exists. What is to be relinquished is the separating principle of ego and mind, all human interests, all that fortifies ego and separation and exclusion from larger environment, from the other. There can be no purely material or egotistic- individually and collectively or nationally – goal directed action. God is Reality in Sufistic-metaphysical scheme. All else has illusory reality if one sees things apart from God. Thus there should be absolutely no doubt that in Islam no endeavour which is exclusively this worldly, nothing that belongs to the illusory empire of ego – individual or collective ego, nothing merely political or ideological, nothing that seeks merely the kingdom of the world is endorsed. Jihad if fought for any motive other than proclaiming Truth and Justice is not Islamic practice.
Metaphysical Understanding of Shahadah
We now turn to the question what Islam is and what it takes to be the truth to which it invites everyone. Islam is Reality-centric and entertains no claim to autonomy of creatures or what is
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dependent on Reality. The kalima of Islam, metaphysically is translatable as ‘There is no truth but truth,’ ‘There is no reality but Reality.’ Islam invites everyone neither to a creed that it dogmatically asserts, nor to a proposition that could be doubted or approached in terms of truth / falsehood binary, nor to a belief that rational cum empirical inquiry could invalidate. Islam is not a totalistic or totalizing ideology or thought construct. To put in simple terms Islam is an invitation to take life seriously, to decipher its truth, to realize God or the ideals of truth, goodness and beauty, to be concerned with the ground of life, to enjoy life at the highest level or ananda. It asks to leave everything that obstructs our cognizance or perception of truth – the world of ego and slavery to passions that obfuscate heart’s eye that perceives the essences, the whatness of things. Islam asks to discover truth, the truth of life, of being and becoming and this truth can’t be attained as long as man is not willing to sacrifice everything including his soul for its sake. It demands transcendence of everything that stands in the way of truth – ego, desires and passions. Islam is not an ideology, a metanarrative, a system of creedal propositions but existential response to the mystery of being. Islam doesn’t proclaim any new truth or new message. In fact Islam has no message to convey because truth can’t be encoded in words as Lao Tzu has said. Whatever can be thought of, imagined, conceived, described or asserted is not God or truth. Laysa kamislihi Shayi (nothing is like Him). Truth has infinite faces – everywhere is the face of God so there could be no human appropriation of it to claim finality or absolute status. The Sufis characterize marifa as hairat or state of wonder or being lost The Sufis characterize marifa as hairat or state of wonder or being lost
Metaphysically understood Islam transcends even the theist/atheist binary not to speak of such binaries as Muslim/Christian, Muslim/ Hindu etc. Nasr has convincingly argued that in its most universal sense anyone who accepts a Divine revelation is a Muslim “be he a Muslim, Christian, Jew or Zorasterian. The Islamic point of view didn’t take into account the Indian religions until historic contact was made with them but this definition would refer to them as well, as Hinduism came to be called by certain later Muslim sages the ‘religion of Adam’”’1p.27
Islam’s Notion of God
God isn’t an epistemological problem at all for Islam or Sufism. But realization of our true theonomous nature is the issue and religion is meant to lead towards that goal. God from their perspective is Manifest Truth, our very breath and Light of the world. He is the inward and the outward. He is nearer to us than our jugular veins. He is reality (al- Haqq) itself. He encompasses or pervades all things. But His transcendence hasn’t been denied thereby. When mind is purified of all dross and becomes still and the realm of known ceases God dawns. God is the only knower. He is the Hearing and the Seeing, in according to the Quran.
What is God? Not a person conceived in anthropomorphic sense, not a being among other beings, not some cosmic policeman, not some being in the heavens but Existence in its totality, both transcendent and immanent in Sufistic and metaphysical view. He is Reality, Light, Truth and in fact all beautiful names describe him. He alone is. He is in every atom. Everything celebrates Him. The Beloved is everywhere for the lover. For the gnostic this world is charged with the grandeur of God. God is not an abstract essence only but everything existent proclaims Him by mere existing. There are no atheists in the absolute sense of the term. There is a tawhid of mulhids also according to Ibn Arabi though quite a narrow view of tawhid it is. There is no way of escaping God or denying Him inabsolute terms. God needs no human advocate to be proclaimed to the world. Jihad can’t be launched to teach people to subscribe to a particular view of tawhid. Even Buddhists have a sublime version of tawhid in their impersonal conception of divine as Isa Nuruddin, one of the greatest Sufi metaphysicians of the 20th century has argued
For mystics and Sufis nothing is so common place as experiencing God and nothing is so truly descriptive of human state. God is not a being among other beings, an object out there, that could to be perceived in some ecstatic state. God is a percept rather than a concept as Ibn Arabi said. God, in the
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Unitarian Sufistic perspective, is the essence of existence. He is the Isness of things. He is Existence in its totality. God constitutes all pervasive Environment (al-Muhit in the Quranic parlance) that normal man lives, moves and has his being in Him. Adam saw God, the essences before the Fall as the fog of passions and desires had not blurred his vision. Things are metaphysically transparent; only we need to possess the right view as the Buddha said. God is there so close and in fact the light of the eyes, the light with which everything is seen, and everything is illumined as Ghazali said. God is the Light of the world. If we see without blinkers, without the lenses of conceptual intellect we see God and nothing but God. Mystical discipline is simply for cleansing the perception. From a Unitarian perspective we are ever in God’s presence, ever breathing the fragrance of the Beloved. God in His immanence is the whole world of perception, the positivity of manifestation. This is the metaphysical meaning of phenomenon of Muhammad and his status as a messenger. The Son of Christian theology amounts to the same thing. The Father (Essence) is known through the Son. Metaphysically speaking to live truly is to live in God as God is Life, the Larger Life. The life of love is the life divine. God is love. The experience of love, of beauty, of goodness – all are experiences of God and for a gnostic all experiences are experiences of God. The finite can’t be outside the Divine Infinitude. So the world is necessarily in God or God’s visible Face. As the Quran says God is both the Manifest (form) and the Hidden (essence). Osho has put more emphasis on the immanent God. Experiencing God is experiencing life in its full splendour. Life is the only God for for all religions as C. R. Jain has argued in his provocative study on comparative religions titled Key to Knowledge. Vedantic ternary describing God as Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, is found elsewhere also. Life, larger or higher life, life divine, the life of Spirit, the life of Love, is indeed the promise of all religions and mysticisms. Evelyn Underhill’s classical presentation of mystical viewpoint also foregrounds this point. Moksha, Beatific vision, nirvana—all are symbols of richer or larger life. So nothing is simpler or more accessible than the experience of God. In fact God is the Environment, al-Muhit, in the Quranic phrase. The self builds an illusory boundary that demarcates or separates. The self is illusory. God is All-pervading. He alone exists. God alone is real; all else has derived existence but the essence is one. The Spirit is one. Jihad must lead to realization of higher values of life or it is not jihad.
A Mu’min, according to Sufism, is one who gets annihilated before the face of Truth. The Sufi is a watcher or pure witness. He allows existence or Reality or Truth (Real is equated with Truth in the East and Islam though not in the West and Truth isn’t reduced to property of propositions also in the East) to speak, having surrendered/transcended himself. He becomes a hollow bamboo, a flute on which God plays the notes. He has no ideas or thought constructs to impose on others. He preaches only the nothingness of himself. In silence is revealed the treasure that God is. This silence is because one can't speak with human tongue of the Ineffable, of the Unconditioned. The Sufi doesn’t talk about Reality or God but talks Reality or God. He transcends the realm of “about” unlike the theologian. That is why the Sufi doesn’t need to interpret and wrangle about the question of interpretation. He isn’t caught up in textual world at all. He lives truth, is truth. He doesn’t need mediation of language. He is pure awareness, prereflective prelinguistic awareness. He has become a mirror as mind and separating principle of thought has disappeared. Seer and seen has disappeared and only seeing is there. Language doesn’t enter. The Sufi is centered in God and thus in Nothingness or Void, God being not the name of a thing, a person, an entity and substance, a being, among other beings. God is Reality, Isness in wahdatul wajudi (which is not synonymous with pantheism as it emphasises transcendence of God unequivocally) perspective. He is Pure Consciousness. He eludes all apprehension. One can well say He is not because Nothing is naught, blank, void to the conceptual intellect. Nothing is like Him. He signifies, in a way, impossibility of all signification. A Sufi is one
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who has put duality away andss sees two worlds as one. One he seeks, knows, sees and calls as Rumi tells us. Even the binary of truth and falsehood, good and evil are transcended in Sufi vision. “Since I have known God, neither truth nor falsehood has entered my heart” as Abu Hafs Haddad said.7 This is because the Sufi is in a state where neither good nor evil entereth as BaYazid says.8 This metaethical transcendence of mystic has been misunderstood by its critics as implying rejection of law and ethics while as the fact is that mystics alone in the history of religion have shown exemplary moral character as they have transcended the desiring self or nafsi amara which incites one to evil . Only good comes from the mystic because he has transcended the plane of mind, of desiring self which chooses and is caught up in the net of time or desires. His hands have become God’s hands and God acts through him, so to speak.
Metaphysical understanding of God as Infinite and All-Possibility subsumes everything and transcends mere believing posture and theistic/atheistic binary. Osho’s identification of God with Existence, Isness or what is, to use Krishnamurti’s phrase, can’t be questioned by agnostic/atheistic scholarship.
Metaphysical Understanding of the Prophet
We now discuss metaphysical and Sufistic understanding of the Prophet of Islam (S.A.W) to show how the second clause of Islamic kalima is affirmed in a subtle way at deeper level in its universal sense by all normal men irrespective of their religious affiliations. Even the so-called atheists who nevertheless choose life instead of death and deny the God of theology in the name of truth that they think they are in possession of can’t but affirm, in their own way, the Prophet. For Ibn Arabi and Sufi metaphysicians, the Prophet is Logos, the Pole of existence, the principle of manifestation. Were it not for this principle things would still be in the abysmal darkness of void or ‘adm. Wajud is acquired or transition from unmanifest archetypes or ideas to manifest state of things is made possible because of the messenger who unveils or expresses Absolute, which would otherwise be unmanifest. God is a Hidden Treasure and the wish to get unveiled is what the idea of messengership expresses in its deepest sense. Seen in this light we can assert that life as it expresses itself in countless forms and in fact existence as such is by virtue of Muhammad. When life is blessed, as it is by God as otherwise it would cease to exist, it is in theological language, blessing Muhammad or reciting durood. Every flower that blooms, every bird that chips, every child that smiles, every blade of grass that grows proclaim the grandeur of God and manifests the Light of Muhammad. Life is a supreme value and so is freedom and the Prophet is the metaphysical ground of life and its essential transcendence, its freedom. All our endeavours, whether we know it or not, are ultimately directed to affirm and promote life and thus praise God. Our breathing, despite us, goes on and thus we go on blessing the Prophet who is the positivity of Manifestation. Wherever and in whatever form life dances and smiles there the Prophet is blessed. The prophet can’t be really mocked. Can the sun, the light, be mocked except by the blind? “The more they blaspheme against God, the more they praise God” said Meister Eckhart. The same can be said about the blasphemers. The Prophet symbolizes life, larger life, richer life, life glorified (that is deeper import of his name Muhammed which means the praised one). Who can condemn life without condemning himself at the very moment? The blasphemers are unaware of the ontological reality that the phenomenon of Muhammad designates and Muslims are rightly concerned to defend their hallowed symbols. When jihadi spirit unleashes against blasphemers this deeper metaphysical understanding shouldn’t be lost sight of.
The Prophet, existentially interpreted, is the ideal pole of man, the principle of transcendence and freedom of Spirit that makes authentic life possible. From the perspective of a lover he is the First and the Last as it is through him that our Origin and End, our God, speaks through us. This explains Iqbal’s famous verses “nigahi ishq-a-mast mai wahe awwal, wahe aakhr…wahi Quran, wahe furqan, wahe yaseen, wahi taha.” The great tradition of n’aat writing, practiced especially by Sufi poets is
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translatable in terms of profound metaphysical intuitions. The Prophet is the Word that was before the creation of the world and that Word was made the universe. Allah is the Light of the World but that Light is nowhere in the phenomenal world as He is transcendent. But it is the Prophet who brings this Light to the world and makes him manifest (Az-Zahir). The Perfect Man that the Prophet is appropriates or manifests all the attributes of God.
The Prophet stands for all that is noble, sublime, grand and great in life. He is the voice of freedom against all man-made shackles, against everything that enslaves man, his thought and his imagination. The Prophet stands for all that is noble, sublime, grand and great in life. He is the voice of freedom against all man-made shackles, against everything that enslaves man, his thought and his imagination. He is the envoy of God or transcendence and it is transcendence that makes man a bird of lamakaan, a free soul who is not just a creature determined from without but capable of transcending space and time and all the fetters that bind him.
In fact the world owes its existence to the Prophet. This is conceded by all religious traditions that are spiritually/idealistically oriented. Metaphysics and philosophy that give primacy to the Logos (that postmodernist deconstructionists fail to understand and wrongly equate with the mental faculty of reason) or Spirit ( all traditional philosophies, both Eastern and Western do so) could regard the Prophet understood as Logos as the pole of existence. All prophets, named or not named in the Quran who have founded civilizations partake of the reality of Muhammad (SAW). Thus Muhammed (SAW) even if not mentioned explicitly by other religious traditions, is nevertheless implicitly believed. Even the secular modernity can’t afford to disbelieve in the Prophet in toto as long as it upholds the values of beauty, goodness, truth and freedom. To be a man in the proper sense of the term is to affirm the Platonic triad of beauty, goodness and truth and thus to glorify the Prophet. Humans are humans in the proportion they actualize or appropriate these values. Blessing the Prophet means blessing existence and acceptance of positivity of manifestation, the joy and glory of life in all its forms.
One who blesses the Prophet blesses by implication “the world and the universal Spirit (El-Ruh), the Universe and the Intellect, both the Totality and the Centre” as Schuon says.2 Schuon further explains the metaphysical understanding of the ‘blessing’(durood) and the ‘salutation’ (salam) which are applied, not only to the Prophet, but also to his family and his companions
In the widest interpretation of this prayer the blessing corresponds to God, the name of the Prophet to the universal spirit, the Family to the beings who participate in God - through the Spirit - in a direct manner, and the Companions to those beings who participate in God indirectly but likewise thanks to the Spirit. This extreme limit can be defined in various ways according to whether we envisage the Moslem world, or the whole of humanity, or all creatures on earth, or even the whole universe. 3
For Islam it is the Light of Muhammad that is the principle of existence, otherwise things would never come from their archetypal abyss to the world of forms. Muhammad is “Mercy of the Worlds” according to the Quran. The world is the breath of the Compassionate; it is because of the ontological fact of Mercy that anything exists. It is by virtue of the Light of Muhammad that the sun shines, that rain comes, that we love and that life continues. It is this mercy that animates life in all its diversity. Life, larger and deeper life, life of joy and acceptance, life as benediction and celebration (ananda), life of harmony and goodwill, life lived under the tutelage of Holy Spirit, life that is glorified, life that never ends, life in God or the Divine Environment – all these are various meanings and implications of the Prayer on the Prophet. One could possibly deny transcendent invisible God but who could deny
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Muhammad because esoterically and metaphysically understood he is the principle of manifestation or existence and thus our very breathing. ‘I see none but zulfi yaar everywhere’ exclaims a Sufi. Who is not moved by beauty and it is Muhammad, the Sahibal Jamal that is attracting us in a beautiful object. That is why beauty has saving or liberating power and why God loves beauty. The Ptophet is life’s sweetness, its music, its rasa, its bliss and its celebration. He being that which manifests or unveils Essence is the green in the trees red in the roses and gold in the rays of the sun. He is this life in its positivity, in its totality. And he is the silence of the darkness. And he is the joy of light abounding life of the world. What ordinary people call life or existence or beauty the lovers of God call Muhammad. And let it be clear life is lived only by lovers in its fullness. God is love. God is ever blessing Muhammad according to the Quran. Understood in its deepest metaphysical sense this means God is blessing Life. That is why everything is said to be ever busy in glorifying God and in praising/blessing Muhammad. To be is to bless existence by very definition. So who can afford to deny Muhammad? Someone (such as atheists) could afford to be incredulous towards transcendent invisible Divinity but there can be no escape from the very air we breathe, the very sun that illumines our darkness, which are there because of God’s immanence in the world or because there is Muhammad, the Principle of Manifestation. The Quran identifies God as Al- Haqq or the Real. Truth has no face; it has infinite aspects. Whatever partakes of the Reality or truth is affirmed in Islamic shahadah which is translated by the Sufis and perennialists as "There is no reality but Reality." Islam means surrender to God, Truth and Reality, for God is Al- Haqq. It is too inclusive to be guilty of any exclusion which Foucault and others fear. The blasphemer is one who refuses to see the truth, the reality because of his ignorance or perverted will. He is a sick man or a criminal and deserves condemnation though he condemns himself and pollutes the sacred water of life when he blasphemes.
Distinction between Religion and Metaphysics
We must keep in mind the distinction that is made between religious and metaphysical points of view and note that it is metaphysics as understood by the perennialists that lies at the heart of religion. As Guenon points out the metaphysical point of view is purely intellectual while as in the religious or theological point of view the presence of a sentimental element affects the doctrine itself, which doesn’t allow of it complete objectivity. he influence of sentimental element obviously impairs the intellectual purity of the doctrine. And it is not always possible to fully translate metaphysical doctrines in terms of theological dogmas. Only one example will suffice here. The immediate metaphysical truth “Being exists” gives rise to another proposition when expressed in the religious or theological mode “God exists.” But as Guenon says the two statements would not be strictly equivalent except on the double condition of conceiving God as Universal Being, which is far from always being the case in fact and of identifying existence with pure Being or what the Sufis call Zat or Essence which is metaphysically inexact. It is the inadequate or faulty metaphysical background that contributes a lot to controversies on either side of the debate on religious experience in modern discourses of philosophy of religion. Unlike purely metaphysical conceptions theological conceptions are not beyond the reach of individual variations Antimetaphysical anthropomorphism comes to the fore in this realm of individual variations. 4(Ibid., p.128-129). Jehadis must understand the truth of that which they advocate and it is metaphysics based on intellect rather than reason that expresses it best rather than theology or exoterism to which most often jehadi discourse is linked. If Islam is truth it is to be approached from metaphysical perspective and jihad could truly deliver its function if it is based on clear discernment between the real and the illusory. It is metaphysics that provides the furqan, the key to the inner meaning of all scripture.
Islam and Terrorism
The terrorist fundamentalist (not all fundamentalists are terrorists however) seeks his own kingdom and not the kingdom of God. Man must be noughted for God to be. And terrorist can’t consent to be noughted.. Terrorist believes in holier than thou attitude. And Islam exalts humility. The Quran asserts that above every knower is another knower. To know Truth is to know that one doesn’t know. God is
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the only Knower. A terrorist takes the prerogative of being God’s advocate even though the Quran expressly forbids even the Prophet to take such a position.
No mystic has ever been a terrorist and it is the mystic alone who tastes God, who sees divine realities. It is only those who claim to be personal secretaries of God who can coolly dismiss people to hell and reserve all the seats in heaven for themselves. None knows God – this is what Abu Bakr said. That is why the mystic is an extraordinarily ordinary person as he contemplates profound mystery of things and is drowned in the valley of perplexity.
It is only the inwardly satisfied and peaceful soul who gets access to heaven. The terrorist has yet to find the restful heart, the still point of existence as otherwise he could not dare to rob others of peace. Those who see God are stilled inwardly and all their actions are done by God. Islam, like other traditions, advocates actionless action by attributing all actions to unmoved Mover, to God. The Chinese called it wu wei and that is what the Christians mean by saying that everything should be done under the inspiration of Holy Spirit. A mujahid can’t act out of vengeance. His sole motive is to glorify God, to bear witness to Truth. As long as he operates for any merely humanly reason or motive he is not a mujahid. The greatest purpose for man is to find God – and the martyr gives witness by sacrificing his self and his life. Those who love and have been blessed to know love can’t be see any other in the world where God, the Beloved alone exists. How can he be a terrorist?
Islam has clearly rejected the option of coercion for achieving any end, even the supreme end of Islam. Terrorism involves sacrificing means for ends. Islam sharply differentiates itself from certain secularist ideologies that care only for ends and don’t care for the permissibility or righteousness of means.
Islam has defined Mu’min in expressly antiterrorist terms. “The Mu’min is one from whose hands life and property of others is safe.” And what is a terrorist- the person from whose hands other’s life and property is not safe. For Islam nothing is holier than life and in fact God is Life. God is described as al-Hayy (Alive). In fact it is easy to see Life as the closest definition of God. God as Chit, as Self, as Knower, as “I am that I am” is Life. Terrorist puts his ideology above life. There can be no greater blasphemy.
Prophets come to establish peace and weed out fasad. In fact the Quran expressly declares that strife (fasad) is outlawed after Islam has established peace. Terrorism is another name for what the Quran calls fasad.
Religious Exclusivism and Terrorism
What fosters exclusivist thesis and contributes to the genesis of terrorist’s attempt to deny the other as other is commitment to an interpretation of Islam that asserts not only that Islam is the best of religions but the only religion approved by God and canceling or outlawing all other religions or labeling other religions as pagan, polytheistic or atheistic. This exclusivist interpretation further claims that other religions can’t coexist amicably with Islam. They have to be belittled and rejected as false as they are held to be untrue. What does it mean that Islam is the best of religions? This question is best understood in light of perennialist approach that defends both exclusivist character of religion at one plane and the inclusivist view at another plane without needing to reject one at the coast of the other.
Philology has been badly trumped by exoteric authoritries to argue for Islam’s exclusivism as Josepoh Lumbard has noted. One example is the interpretation of the word ”islam.’’ To quote Lumbard:
Today, as for the past 1200 years or more, the word “Islam” is taken to indicate a particular set of beliefs and practices adghered to by a certain segment of humanity. But when the Quran was first revealed what did the word mean? As Toshiko Izatsu has demonstrated in his masterful books God and Man in the Quran and Ethicio-Religious Concepts of the Quran, the original meaning of this word in pre-Islamic poetry is not only to “to submit,” but moreover to give over something
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that is particularly precious to oneself and which is painful to abandon, to somebody who demands it. So when the Prophet Muhammad first presented a “message” that claimed to be “islam”, the words would have been understood far differently than what we understand today. Moreover, the way this word is used in the Quran actually provides the raw material for a very eloquent understanding of religious pluralism, one wherein all revelations are seen as different ways of giving to God which is most difficult to give - our very selves.5
Many Quranic verses present Islam every previous revelation as a way of submitting, a way of life rather than a particular creedal system. Noah, Abrahasm and others declared themselves to be Musdlims. But once “islam becomes Islam, an institutional definition or conception is formed and such verses become more problematic.” 6 The majority of Muslim exegetes have not used philology to clarify institutional interpretation but. There are many such examples where institutional practice trumped over philology as Waled Saleh has also noted.
Fundamentalism practically denies the unity of revelation. For it the Quranic claim that God has decreed different ways of worship and has no room for only one religion or one community are hardly worth reckoning.
Islam stands for Justice and seeks to preserve the earthily reflection of Divine Justice. It may necessitate necessitates taking arms against those who wish to perpetrate fasad, who disturb peace, who terrorize people, who enslave men, who take sovereignty in their own hands, who believe that the other, whether it be nature or other men are an object to be manipulated at will, who pollute environment, who create obstacles in realizing or perusal of such values as truth and goodness – in short all forces that alienate men from themselves and from others.
The distorted sense of jihad as war against other religious communities pursued primarily to establish supremacy of certain religion formulations or a certain community follows from the ideology that is antitraditional, anti-intellectual, nonspiritual, literalist and exclusivist and must not be confounded with the universal and primordial religion of Islam.
Islam has censured everything that leads to terrorist mentality. It takes such a severe notice of such otherwise ignored evils as back biting and slandering. Where one can’t imagine criticizing others in absentia how is it possible to disturb the other’s private space by all kinds of terrorist activities? In Islam all ethical principles are aimed at transcending desiring self or ego and when the ego is transcended there can be basis for terrorist activity. At the root of terrorist action is assertion of ego, assertion of one’s viewpoint at the cost of others’. All religions advocate the ideals of love, selflessness, humility and no religion allows violence to men. Terrorism is incompatible with any religion whatsoever. In fact God consciousness by definition involves ego denying. One can’t be oneself and still think that he is glorifying God. In fact iman is a vital act that transports man out of himself. To be properly human one has to transcend the world of nasuut, the world of man. Man is not to be identified with the mind, with thoughts that are born in time. The Spirit transcends all the individualities of existence, all contingent or temporal things. The life of Spirit is not the life lived at the plane of mind. It is supramental. The heart that guides all activities of a lover of God doesn’t operate in terms of self/other dichotomy. It evaluates or judges not. Saints who truly realize Islam have not been terrorists. Mainstream Muslim scholarship largely agrees that saints are the best practioners of religion. They have truly born witness to God. If they have not been terrorists or die hard exclusivists the case for terrorism in Islam can’t be entertained.
Religion is in ultimate analysis love and charity. Jesus defined God as love. Sufism celebrates God as our Beloved. Surrender or transcendence of ego fructifies in life of self-sacrifice, in love and charity. Religion binds man to God – i.e. reality to Reality, self to Self, temporal to eternal. And what is
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eternal, what is unconditioned is love and not any temporal activity. No deed will save man. As long there is the consciousness of doer and one makes distinctions – of whatever kind (the Fall of Adam has bequeathed us this choosing self) Religion seeks to take man into a realm where distinctions don’t count. In God who is man’s origin and end there is no longer any distinction – all relative valuations, all affirmations and negations are transcended.
.Peace comes only when security seeking self disappears, when the root of conflict – desire – is given up, when the self surrenders all its claims to separate existence, to will its own will, to see itself as centre. Buddhism, Taoism and in fact all religions in their own ways state this central fact. Peace without is possible only when there is first peace within. ‘Seek God and all things will be added to you.’ Modern pacifism errs in primarily focusing on peace without. Only an enlightened person, the restful soul, the soul that has transcended all sorrow and conflict could radiate peace around. Religion brings peace to the world by virtue of these peaceful and peace-radiating souls. What is Boddhisatva? No better ideal of self sacrifice and foundation of universal peace could be conceived by man. The Prophet of Islam conceived as Shafee, as interceder for forgiving sins, is eschatological role of him as pacifist in the other or higher world. Boddhisatva too is a pacifist of a certain sort. How profound and deep is religion’s concern for peace- peace within and peace without, peace here and peace hereafter, peace at every plane is seen in these notions.
Jihad supposed to save souls of others is not entertained in Islam. Islam enjoins jihad to save one’s self. It is fat too difficult to save oneself as Islam envisages it than to die fighting others considered as enemies of God. Saving others is not a prerogative of peace keeping forces. Who has not saved himself can’t save others. Who can claim to have done everything possible to save his soul from corruption? Many would-be-martyrs believe that paradise awaits them if they are killed. If the kingdom of God were to be purchased with such a short cut it would make mockery of the great disciplinary regimen that all religions have suggested. Without first being a Muslim and Mu’min how can one become a martyr. Without greater jihad no salvation is possible. If one dies for the cause iof God or Truth one must know what that Truth is.
If based on one’s supposed supremacy in taqwa it can’t be jihad. Such self righteousness is alien to Islamic spirit. Ideally a Sufi who has transcended all personal motives is best fitted to be a Mujahid. As Ali’s famous encounter with his enemy shows in which he refused to kill him because the later had spitted and this had infuriated him and personal vengeance got mixed up with the purity of intention.
Islam is not an interpretation of truth but truth itself and that is why it rejects idolatry. Idolatry is belief in our representations, our conceptual schemes, our imaginings. Truth is ever transcendent. Religion celebrates the mystery of existence (realm of al-Gayyib). Idolatry is to reduce Islam to an ideology, to a system, a human construct and tie Islam to one’s understanding of truth. Islam doesn’t invite the world to its version of truth. It has no story or metanarrative to impose. Islam only invites to submit, to submit to truth. Islam only wishes man to awaken from the dream of forgetfulness.
The Quran asks us: Are you concerned with truth? Are you striving towards Truth?And this is jihad in its widest sense - striving in the way of God, the Good, the Beautiful. Jihad is synonymous with spiritual quest and all human activity done without the sense of personal agency.
The function of revelation is only to reintegrate man, to make him aware that he is in possession of great treasure, the Kingdom of God. But man is heedless according to the Quran. Greater Jihad summons men back to the lost paradise. A modern mystical thinker has well expressed human predicament: “We have not been thrown out of the Garden, but miss it because we are not aware; we have fallen in a dream-like trance state. The dream consists of one’s desire to reach somewhere else.”
Religion restores peace by making us feel homely in this world. Modern man feels exiled and stranger to earth. Nothing can reconcile him to the order of the world, to the incomprehensible design
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of it, to its necessity. There can be no lasting peace as long as man feels nausea on encountering the world and exalts rebellion as the only response worthy of man. Islam claims that this world is indeed a reflection of paradise, that if we transcend the desiring self and cleanse the doors of perception through greater jihad everything will appear to us in a new light. How diametrically opposite it is from the typical modernist scientific humanist or absurdist’s constructions of the world, its opacity, absurdity and what Camus calls density. Such key modern figures as Camus are opposed with all their might to the world and in fact he defines the world as something to which he is opposed. The world is the other. Its sight provokes nausea. We are thrown into it, says Heidegger. Far from being the enchanted Garden it is a place of torture where man pays for some unknown sin as Beckett would have us believe. Modern thought contests the notion that the world is our home, that we can be at peace with the world. The world simply is, a brute fact, an absurd reality and we suffer meaninglessly. There is no providence, no design, no sacred mystery, no soul-making, no higher destiny. How can trust and gratitude towards existence be developed in such a context? For the Quran gratitude and trust are key religious demands, in fact they define the religious attitude towards the environment. Jihad will have key role in restoring the lost equilibrium of the planet, in helping man to be careful towards nature. Striving towards God makes this world a garden. Reenchantment of the world so that we feel in it at home is what Jihad does. Modern civilization is in need of such a spiritual renewal and Jihad is seminally important concept in such a context. Restoring the sense of Absolute in the postmodern relativist nihilist setting is what bearing witness to God implies. Modes of jihad vary with the ages. Modern times necessitate a different modality to be adopted. Bearing witness to God would also involve exposing of all exploitative economic and domineering colonialist/neocolonialist strategies. A critique of existing exploitative power structures and an effort to redress the same is what Jihad is supposed to do. Wherever there is zulm jihad will have a role to play. Wherever people are denied their rights and injustice and disequilibrium prevail Islamic conscience keeper- the institution of Jihad- will be needed to come to rescue. Darul Islam could well be interpreted as the whole world and protecting it from all kinds of oppressors and forces (social, economic, political, etc.) which represent the Devil is what jihad aims at. Mujahideen are ideally the voluntary forces or an international NGO that are geared towards speaking for the marginalized, the dispossessed, the devoiced, the oppressed. Mujahideen are the conscience keepers of the world.
It is the self- other binary representing the exclusionary relationship between subjects who occupy opposite positions on centre/margin model of political and other power relations which is the basis of colonialist ideology. Jihad based on Unitarian perspective attempts to replace it by a different model of self-other relationship that negates colonialism.
Islam has lauded gratitude and prayer as defining features of Islamic belief. This gratitude towards God is to be understood as thanking Existence and loving it and encountering it in a prayerful spirit. TO quote a modern interpreter of Sufism:
God is found only in the heart of one who is utterly in praise of existence because it is so incredibly beautiful, so utterly valuable. We have not earned it, we are not worthy of it. To be is a gift. Life is a gift, love is a gift, and all that is, is a sheer gift from god. All that we can do is to praise him
That very praising is enough, because that praise becomes prayer – prayer is nothing else. Prayer is the heart in tremendous rejoicing, thankfulness, saying the existence is good
The statement that God is exalted and glorified (Allahu Akbar, Subh anallah) means that the whole existence is exalted, because God is not a person but another name for the totality of existence, as one contemporary mystic has put it. “God is the fragrance of existence.” Praising life, thanking the giver of life is what aaliyi kalimatullah and jihad imply.
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Jihad aima at realizing God’s will on earth as it is realized in heaven. The question is what does conforming to the Divine Will mean? It is submission, decreation, consenting to Necessity, nonresentiment, blessing the other, relinquishing personal egotistic agenda in favour of the will of Cosmos or Totality or Nature. It also connotes appreciation of incomprehensible divine order that reigns in nature. It involves great yes-saying to life and its ordeals,. It connotes not complaining against suffering and pain that one encounters in fulfilling one’s destiny. It connotes forgetting I and becoming an instrument in the hands of God. It means denying will to power to manipulate the other. It implies cultivating great ethical discipline in encountering the other in infinite responsibility. IT is not merely enforcing certain juristic formulations in society. It means practizing all the commandments, moral and spiritual that we find in scriptures. All religion boils down to surrender of our will to Divine Will, to Cosmic Will, to Tao, to universal reason. It involves subjecting desiring self to the tutelage of the Spirit.
Religion, ultimately asks man to be natural, to be true to his nature, to be ordinary and as Nagarjuna puts it “Samsara is Nirvana.” Islam repeatedly emphasizes its natural – all too natural character. The Sage in Taoism is above all the wholly natural man. The aim of the Sage is to be in harmony with his own nature for through this harmony comes harmony with men and this harmony is itself the reflection of harmony. Aim of spiritual man is to contemplate nature and become one with it, to become ‘natural’. Religion is innocence of becoming. It is living moment by moment, finding eternity herenow, in this moment. It is “choiceless awareness.” It is seeing God everywhere, in the trees, in the moon, in the streams. Religion intends to de-alienate man, to help him to be himself. God has to be existentially experienced, discovered within the depth of our being or self. Eternity is to be found here and now. “We live and move and have our being in God” as St.Paul put it. Heaven is won only in and through this world. This world is the ground or soil on which the tree of hereafter grows. Nirvana must be won here, every moment. God has to be remembered with every breath.
Islam means surrender to God, Truth and Reality, for God is Al. Haqq. It is too inclusive to be guilty of any exclusion which Foucault and others fear. Religion can dispense with all binary oppositions because subject object duality and all laws of thought as formulated by Aristotle are transcended in communion with God or when one attains nirvana. Batil(untruth) doesn’t exist, it is only as illusion and Kufr (disbelief) consists in concealing of Truth. Only God exists. Everything is liable to be destroyed save the face of God ,as the Quran(55:26,27) puts it . Even “truth” isn’t privileged here because falsehood doesn’t exist at all.
The Quran describes itself as zikr , a remembrance. Man is only called to remember that he was and is in the heaven and that heaven is here now; salvation is in this moment- in surrender and acceptance of innocence of becoming. We have come from heaven and are in heaven; we only need to be conscious of this and for that only revelation interferes and proclaims man back to Eden, back to his Origin, to source, which is Void or God. Revelation is objective manifestation of the Intellect, the supraindividual and supramental faculty that bridges the gap between subject and object and perceives the heart of things, essences and in fact makes perception of phenomena possible. Revelation would not be needed if intelligence functioned correctly and had no obstruction such as passions to face. If man were not heedless or prone to forgetting what he is. We are asked to recall our Covenant with God made in pre-eternity. We just need to see within, to mediate and still our mind to see the proof of this metahistorical event.
Religion as I.R.Faruqi writes, includes everything, sacred and profane, religious and secular in its ambit, so bdefinition it is Universe.7 It excludes nothing because then it willn’t be equated with Reality or Truth. So it is none grand narrative among other possible grandnarratives ; it is, to use Marxism phrase, base because it synonymous with existence, life and being..
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It has been remarked about Zen (and this appears to be applicable to Sufism and general religion also in a certain sense): “Zen has no teaching. Zen has no doctrine. Zen gives no guidance because it says there is no goal. It says you aren’t to move into a certain direction. It says you are already there…Getting it simply means getting the point that it is already there, that it is the nature of existence.” Though it may sound incredible this statement applies to Islam as well. S.H. Nasr says about Sufism: “In Sufism man is delivered by means of an inner transformation which takes place here and now within the framework of his normal life As a result he is enabled to hear the inward music of all being and above the noise of everyday life to listen to the music of the silence of Eternity.”8
There is no way of escaping from God, from becoming , from Isness and suchness of things, from nothingness, from life and from universe as we see it and all this is religion in its profoundest sense. It is absurd or pleonastic gesture to be incredulous towards the Real( Al Haqq) ( I am not talking of theologians representation of it). God is to be contemplated in phenomena as they are the signs of God. God speaks in and through anfus and Aafaq according to the Quran. We are asked to read correctly this script of ontological Quran, Qurani takweeni to be able to fulfill our great destiny. To know oneself is to know God. Metaphysical transparency of phenomena is itself enough to proclaim God’s glory. We are asked to be true to our original or primordial nature. By identifying itself with the Real, the truth and emphasizing unknowability or inscrutability of it also by calling it the transcendent, religion can’t allow freezing or fixing of signifiers of the unknown and unknowable signified. This signified appears as the totally other as in Levinas. The text of the Universe and life it considers as the sign- signifier of the unknown signified. Religion doesn’t define the truth or defines it only in negative terms (this is especially true about eastern religions where Nirgunna Brahman described in terms of or neti- neti (not this- not this) and nirvana (seen primarily in negative terms) are primary religious symbols. So whatever is the truth religion is that. Religion understood as pure metphysics is synonymous with truth. Beauty is truth and truth beauty. God is truth, beauty and goodness. Or to speak of goodness, truth and beauty is to speak of God. This is all what we need to know to be Muslims in the most basic sense of the term. This is the basic message of revelations. And Jihad is ideally for bringing home this message, for forcing us to take this message seriously.
I now quote a Muslim scholar, Ismail Raji al Faruqi, the great Muslim activist who ultimately got martyred for hconvictions, who doesn’t speak from the Sufistic perspective and represents the commonly upheld view of Islamamongst exoteric authorities and upholds the traditional conception of jihad in its most uncompromising form. Hwrites in ‘‘Towards a Critical World Theology’’ in Islamization of Disciplines, (IIIT Publication, 1984):
On the metaphysical level, ultimate reality is perceivedas the first cause or principle of sufficient reason, whicexplains all beings & all events. On the axiological level, it is perceived as the last end, or principle whicjustifies all beings and events. Its relevanceis therefore total. All aspects of reality and history are understood its effects and instruments of the activity of a being perceived in experience as ultimate reality.
Under these terms, likewise, religion is the very essence & core of culture. The content of the religion is thlens through which all understanding & thinking takes place: the realms of meditation & contemplation, admiration & adoration. It is the sublime aesthetic expression. Finally religion is the essence & core civilization, in that it is the foundation of all decisions and actions, the ultimate explanation of civilization wiall its inventions & artifacts, its social, political and economic systems, and its past or future promise in historReligion constitutes the spirit of which the facts of civilization are the concrete manifestations”. (p409-410)
Thus understood establishing Islam or the religion of God that jihad aims at also implies striving for everything that is grand and noble and sublime in all the domains of human culture, from sciences to arts.
The different attributes of God, the glorification of which form the refrain of the sacred texts, are translatable in the language of what the Quran calls signs of God. Nature and life are contents of
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positive divine and Sufi’s ecstatic celebration of life and becoming is a way of approaching this positive divine. Religion, as metaphysically understood, is not reducible to an ideology, a system, a metanarrative, a theology, and doesn’t invoke any possibly doconstructable or problematizable or challengeable propositions, theories, ideas, assumptions, ideologies or narratives. The unknowablity of God, His utter transcendence or otherness and mystery is no less emphatically stressed by the Quran. This vetoes all idolatries of thought and rational philosophy and scientism that have enslaved man in history. This gives firm foundation to freedom. In fact the Quran hails itself as untying the chains that have so far shackled human freedom. However true freedom which is not slavery to passions and whims is to be found by perfecting self discipline or control of lower self which is the raison deter of sharia and which Sufism perfects. God is Freedom and the ground of freedom. Wishing to be free outside God is illusion.
Can anyone be allowed to speak against truth, to vilify goodness, to disfigure beauty? Can anyone be allowed to cut one’s throat for no reason? Can we allow ourselves to be made hostages to man-made idols? Can anyone be allowed to destroy life? If not then it follows that jihad is something that is synonymous with struggle for life, striving for realization of higher values including justice and equilibrium. Jihad is quintessential human activity in which we are all involved. Let the spirit of jihad go and all search for beautification of life, all resistance to evil, all endeavour to perfection will be gone.
Islam bases itself upon the idea of establishing equilibrium within the being of man, as well as in the human society. As Nasr says: “This equilibrium, which is the terrestrial reflection of Divine Justice and the necessary condition for peace in the human domain, is the basis upon which the soul takes flight towards that peace which, to use Christian terms, ‘passeth all understanding.’”9
Jihad is to be carried at every stage of life to keep this equilibrium. Both the individual and human collectivity are ever in danger of loss of equilibrium due to so many factors. So a continuous battle, at once both inward and outward is needed to combat the forces of disintegration.10
What are the different facets of lesser jihad or ‘holy war.’ There are far too many than usually recognized. To quite from Nasr again:
On more external level, the lesser jihad also applies in the socio-economic domain. IT implies the reassertion of justice in the external environment of human existence, starting with man himself. To defend one’s rights and reputation, to defend the honor of oneself and one’s family, is itself a jihad and a religious duty. So the strengthening of all those social bonds, from the family to the whole of the Muslim people (al-ummah) which the Shariah emphasizes
All the ‘pillars’ of Islam are related to jihad and that perhaps explains why it is the sixth pillar. In fact the kalima is a weapon for the practice of inner jihad. None of the pillars could be practized without the resources and arms; in fact all of them are forms of jihad. As Nasr further explicates: “To restrain the soul from dissipating itself outwardly as a result of its centrifugal tendencies and to bring it back to the centre, wherein reside Divine Peace” is a form of inner jihad. “To melt the hardened heart into a flowing stream of love which would embrace the whole of creation by virtue of love for God is” is the prerogative of jihad. “Through inner jihad, the spiritual man dies in this life in order to cease all dreaming, in order to awaken to that Reality which is the origin of all realities, in order to behold that Beauty of which all earthly beauty is bit a pale reflection, in order to attain that Peace which all men seek but which can in fact be found only through this practice.” 14
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Modern man is quite misinformed about the nature of religion and metaphysics that grounds dogmas. He can’t but misunderstand and mistrust the theory and practice of jihad being poorly informed. It is another tragedy that many Muslims have quite a constricted and sometimes even distorted understanding of Jihad. To appropriate Aurobindo’s famous phrase “all life is yoga” one could say “all life is jihad”. There is a need to understand the universalistic perspective that the Quran adopts. Jihad is the only hope for countless number of oppressed people in the world. It is also, in its higher sense, soul’s adventure towards realizing the Absolute.
Goethe once remarked that “…if this is Islam he is also a Muslim.” The same can be asserted by every person concerned with establishing the Kingdom of Good fighting against all kinds of transgression and oppression and seeking justice at all levels that he too is a mujahid or wishes to be one. One wonders how can one resist the summons for such a God and such a prophet and such a noble endeavor.
References
1 Nasr, S.H., Ideas and Realities of Islam, Suhail Academy, Lahore,1993, p. 27
2 Schuon ,F., Understanding Islam, trans. D.M. Matheson, George Allen & UNwin LTd., London, 19963., p..99.
3 Ibid, p.101
4 Guenon,Rene, An Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, Delhi, 2000, pp.128-129
5 Lumbard, Joseph, “Quranic Inclusivism in an Age of Globalization,” in Iqbal Review Apr-Oct.2005, pp101
6 Ibidp. 102.
21 Faruqi, I. R., This is argued in detail in his important work on Tawhid.,
22 Nasr, S.H., Islamic Art and Spirituality, SUNY, New York 1987, p.163.
23 Nasr, S.H.,Traditional Islam in the Modern World, KPI, London, 1987, p. 28.
24 Ibid., p. 28.
25 Ibid., p.31.
26 Ibid., 33.
27 Ibid., p.33.
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