The Concept of War In Christianity and Islam
In this study we shall first of all consider what the Quran (Yusuf Ali's translation) and the Tafseer- e- Uthmani, one of the most respected, Sunni Muslim commentaries, have to say on the subject of Jihad, holy war. The latter has universally been acknowledged by the religious authorities of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Deob and and Nadwa (India) as the most concise and authentic commentary. It is in fact a cumulative efforts of many great scholars during 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, namely Shah Wali-u-Allah, Shah Abdul Qadir Dehlavi, Shaikh-ul-Hind Mahmood-ul-Hasan and Shaikh-ul-Islam of Pakistan Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani. The English rendering of the commentary and the meanings from Urdu has been carried out by Maulana Mohammad Ashfaq Ahmad and published by AALAMEEN Publications of Lahore, Pakistan 1992. Secondly, we shall study the Christian view of holy war, based on the Bible and its Christian interpretation.
"Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors."
Tafseer - e - Uthmani:
"From the time of Hazrat Ibraheem (Alayhissalaam) Makkah was the city of peace. No one would fight even with his enemy in Makkah. Similarly, the Four Holy Months (Ziqa'd, Zil Hajjah, Muharram and Rajab) were the months of peace. The whole Arabia was at peace during these months. In Zee Qa'ad 6 A.H., the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wassallam) intended to perform Umrah in Makkah with his followers. When he reached near Makkah the Idolaters gathered to fight and prevented the Muslims from going onward. At last an agreement was made according to which the Muslims were to recede without pilgrimage and come next year and perform the Umrah and stay in Makkah for three days in peace. Next year (Zee Qa'ad, 7 A.H.) when the Holy Prophet intended to start, the Followers were puzzled what to do if the Idolaters broke the agreement and prevented them from performing the Umrah and were prepared to fight. If they fought it would be a breach of the Holy Months and if they did not fight it was difficult to perform the Umrah.
Allah sent order if the Idolaters started fighting with them they should retort. But they should neither make the attack first, nor should transgress the limit while retorting the aggression of the Idolaters. They should not be cruel in fighting that they should start killing children, women and peaceful men.
The injunctions and laws of Jihad described at this place are connected with the situation arising from the Treaty of Hudaibeyah. The Muslims were not ordered to fight with the infidels if they kept peaceful according to the Treaty. They were ordered to fight only when they were attacked by the idolaters of Makkah. .
Note: Some of the pseudo-commentators, from this particular situation, have concluded that war is only permissible in self-defence. It is wrong as other verses clearly prove.
Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes:
'War is only permissible in self-defence; and under well- defined limits' (Note 204, The Holy Quran).
Arberry has given the following translation of verse 190:
Here 'aggress not' and 'aggressors' is a wrong translation and against the real spirit and reference of the verse. The Arabic denotes two separate senses. The first one restrains the Muslims from transgression of limits while fighting with the Infidels in answer to their aggression, because, the Idolaters were by treaty bound to be at peace while Muslims performed the Umrah . The second sense is related to the Treaty itself. I.e the Muslims were advised not to break the Treaty which demanded mutual peace and no-war. If the Muslims would have started fighting, it would have been a breach of contract. Consequently Muslims were instructed not to break the limits of justice and fair sense while fighting with the idolaters, nor break the terms of the Treaty by starting war against them.
Generally aggression means first attack. Aggression is generally used in a bad sense and an aggressor looked down and condemned from all sides, because aggression carries the sense of tyranny and cruelty. But the reason knows that first attack is not always bad and oppressive. Sometimes the circumstances demand that first attack should be made on a certain party. Islam permits the first attack for two major purposes:
(2) for the sake of subjugated people under oppression of a certain power, as said in the following verse:
"How is it with you that you do not fight in the way of Allah and for those who are under subjection -men, women and children- who say, "O! Our Lord bring us forth from this city that the people thereof are oppressors and make for us from Thee a supporter and make for us from Thee a helper" ?
'For the sake of Allah' includes the propagation of Islam, the survival of Islam, the extermination of those hindrances which impede the progress and expansion of Islam.
The first attack which is made for the first or the second purpose or for both is not aggression as spoken and used in modern International Law. Islam calls it Jihad. There is no proper equivalent to this word in English language or in any Modern System. If the Muslims fight for the sake of self-defence it is also Jihad. But the real Jihad is the former undertaken in the way of Allah or for the deliverance of the oppressed people in a certain country.
The Muslims, therefore, should not be misguided about Jihad. The Orientalists and the Perverted Muslims have tried to taboo the 'Real Jihad' and only allowed the self-defensive war. Even cats and dogs fight for the sake of self-defence. Islam wants to electrify the Muslims to exterminate Kufr(Infidelity) and Fasad(corruption) from the Earth and establish the system of Islam all over the world. Where Jihad by pen is fruitless there Jihad by sword is successful.
One thing, however, should be noted that some pseudo-Islamists advocating world peace say that Islam means peace. It is a very dangerous fallacy. All the forces which are directed against Islam and all the systems which are against Islam, are declared by the word of Fasad (corruption) in the Quran. The Muslims are ordered to eradicate Fasad (corruption) on Earth. The modern conception of peace leads to nothing but to the status quo of Fasad, while the right conception of Islam leads to the eradication of the very roots of corruption on Earth (Tr.)
'Do not wrong anyone' means that children, women and old men should not be killed intentionally during the war and fight should not be started first by the Muslims because they were bound to honour the Treaty."
"And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith."
Tafseer - e - Uthmani:
"'Wherever you find them' i.e. whether you find them within Harem or outside Harem. 'From where they expelled you' i.e. from Makkah.
"Fithna" here means deviation from Islam or apostasy from Islam, or barring other people from Islam. It also implies the efforts of subversion of religion itself.
Prevention from Islam is a far greater sin than slaughter in the holy month. The practice of idolatry and the practice of urging others to idolatry by the infidels is much more detestable than war within the Harem of Makkah. So the Muslims should not demur and answer tit for tat.
" Makkah", no doubt, is a place of peace; but when they started the fight and persecuted you and vexed enmity on your Islam (an action more heinous than slaughter), they lost security and peace. So kill them wherever you find them.
When Makkah was occupied the Holy Prophet had declared, 'Kill him who takes out his weapons' and all the rest were given security."
AL-TAWBA, AL-BARA'T 9:29:
"Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."
Tafseer - e - Uthmani:
"When the story of Polytheists was over, order was sent down to break down the power of the Jews and Christians so that they might not hinder the expansion of Islam. The Polytheists and Idolaters were primarily aimed to be totally exterminated from the soil of Arabia, but so far as the Jews and Christians were concerned the main policy in the beginning was to shatter their power against Islam and its expansion. So permission was granted that if they accepted obedience and paid Jizyah they could live in the Islamic State and their life and property shall be safe. If they did not accept obedience they would be dealt with like the Polytheists i.e. they would also be exiled or slain, because they do not also believe in Allah and the Messenger as must. They do not care about the orders and commands of Allah and His Messenger. They do not even sincerely and correctly follow the teachings of Moses and Jesus, whom they recognize their Prophets. They simply follow their desires and wishes. They do neither believe correctly in the Divine Religion brought by Jesus before, nor do they accept the Religion of Islam brought by the Last Prophet, Muhammad (SAS). On the other hand, they are always busy in their struggle against Islam and always thinking to extinguish the lamp lighted by Allah. If such treacherous fellows are left free there shall be a great corruption and mischief in the Islamic State because the flames of Kufr and disobedience shall be always burning."
AL-TAWBA, AL-BARA'T 9:41:
Go ye forth, (whether equipped) lightly or heavily, and strive and struggle, with your goods and your persons, in the cause of God. That is best for you, if ye (but) knew.
Tafseer - e - Uthmani:
"When there is general proclamation of Jihad no lame excuse is acceptable so all the able-bodied persons poor and rich, young and old, horsemen and foot-men, should come out for Jihad in all circumstances, because Jihad is better for them from the viewpoint of the World and the Hereafter."
"Truly God loves those who fight in His Cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure."
Tafseer - e - Uthmani:
"....It is said in the traditions that once some Muslims were assembled somewhere (in Medina) . They said, "If we come to know what is most pleasing to Allah, we well do the same." At this these verses were revealed i.e. they should be cautious of what they are saying. If they want to know what is most pleasing to Allah they should listen that Allah loves most those men who stand against the enemies of Allah in His way like an iron-wall, and in the battlefield they make ranks in such a lofty manner as if they form a wall, engineered, with lead, impervious to any break and disruption.
Now they should test themselves at this criterion. No doubt, there are many of you who have proved themselves perfectly true to the standard, but there may be some among you whose actions have falsified their oral claims."
In the light of the above quotations and the comments solely taken from Muslim sources a picture of Islam emerges which shocks both, moderate Muslims and the rest of the world. Especially so since it is based on the Quran. This truly Muslim understanding of war raises the following question:
How is the use of force to propagate Islam justifiable in the light of:
Surah 2, AL-BAQARA, 256:
"Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things."
This verse obviously discloses an internal contradiction of the Quran. According to its own standards this is proof that the book is not from God as we read in:
"Do they not consider the Qur'an (with care)? Had it been from other Than God, they would surely have found therein Much discrepancy.
Furthermore, the historical fact that Islam spread by force to Spain, France, Persia only to be finally stopped in Austria also puts doubts on the above mentioned Surah 2:256. Surely Muslims had nothing to defend themselves in those far away countries? The practice to kill all those in a conquered nation who are not willing to pay a poll tax imposed on citizens who refuse to become Muslims, further adds to the discrepancy. (See "Dictionary of Islam", by T.P. Hughes, Asia Publishing House London, 1988, page 243, under "Jihad")
The Christian view of Holy war:
The Christian approach to war and peace is found in the character of God. The Bible describes him as the 'God of peace' (Hebrews 13:20). But it also calls him a 'Warrior' (Exodus 15:3). How do we reconcile these two apparent opposites?
The answer is found when we identify the enemy with which God is at war - all forms of injustice, wrongdoing and sin. Instead of keeping himself immune from conflict, God is deeply immersed in battle against the forces of evil. The Old Testament illustrates this truth in many places with its interplay of divine grace and judgment. In it we find the story of how God, to whom the whole world belongs, at one stage in the history of redemption re-conquered a portion of the earth from the powers of this world that had claimed it for themselves. Those powers defended their claim by force of arms and reliance on false gods. The book of Joshua, for example, tells how God commissioned his people, under his servant Joshua, to take Canaan in his name out of the hands of the idolatrous and dissolute Canaanites. Their measure of sin was now full according to Genesis 15:16. "Just how sinful many of their religious practices were is now known from archaeological artifacts and from their own epic literature, discovered at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit) on the north Syrian coast beginning in 1929.....Their "worship" was polytheistic and included child sacrifice, idolatry, religious prostitution and divination (cf. Dt 18:9-12). God was patient in judgment, even with the wicked Canaanites." (N.I.V. Study Bible, Zondervan Bible Publishers, U.S.A., 1985, pages 28-29)
"Joshua is the story of the kingdom of God breaking into the world of nations at a time when national and political entities were viewed as the creation of the gods and living proofs of their power. Thus the Lord's triumph over the Canaanites testified to the world that the God of Israel is the one true and living God, whose claim on the world is absolute. It was also a warning to the nations that the irresistible advance of the kingdom of God would ultimately disinherit all those who opposed it, giving place in the earth only to those who acknowledge and serve the Lord. At once an act of redemption and of judgment, it gave notice of the outcome of history and anticipated the eschatolggical destiny of mankind and the creation.
The battles for Canaan were therefore the Lord's holy war, undertaken at a particular time in the program of redemption. God gave his people under Joshua no commission or licence to conquer the world with the sword but a particular, limited mission. The conquered land itself would not become Israel's national possession by right of conquest, but it belonged to the Lord. So the land had to be cleansed of all remnants of paganism. Its people and their wealth were not for Israel to seize as the booty of war from which to enrich themselves (as Achan tried to do, ch. 7) but were placed under God's ban (were to be devoted to God to dispense with as he pleased). On that land Israel was to establish a commonwealth faithful to the righteous rule of God and thus be a witness (and a blessing) to the nations. If she herself became unfaithful and conformed to Canaanite culture and practice, she would in turn lose her place in the Lord's land-as she almost did in the days of the judges, and as she did eventually in exile.
War is a terrible curse that the human race brings on itself as it seeks to possess the earth by its own unrighteous ways. But it pales before the curse that awaits all those who do not heed God's testimony to himself or his warnings-those who oppose the rule of God and reject his offer of grace. The God of the second Joshua (Jesus) is the God of the first Joshua also. Although now tor a time he reaches out to the whole world with the gospel (and commissions his people urgently to carry his offer of peace to all nations), the sword of his judgment waits in the wings-and his second Joshua will wield it (Rev. 19:11-16)."
(N.I.V. Study Bible, Zondervan Bible Publishers, U.S.A., 1985, page 290)
Since we still live in the time of grace where the Gospel is preached let us examine the ministry of Jesus to see what kind of warfare he modelled for his followers. In his works he was in conflict with the various disorders which imprison people; in his words he battled with sin,
especially the hypocrisy and practical godlessness of religious people. The final showdown came in his death when he met the full fury of evil and `made peace through the blood of his cross'. His first words to his disciples after his resurrection were `Peace be with you', signalling that his victory had brought harmony and reconciliation between God and humankind.
His followers too are involved in God's war. They need to be very disciplined like soldiers. (1 Timothy 1:18, 2 Timothy 2:3, 1 Peter 2:11, 5:9), Followers of Christ are part of God's army
fighting against all that opposes his rule. There will only ever be real peace when sin is defeated - sin in human relationships, sin in social life and sin in political structures. Just as Jesus was not slow to speak out against all that oppressed people, so his followers should not be afraid to oppose sin in whatever guise it comes.
Followers of Jesus use the weapons of peace, as he did: clear teaching which confronts hypocrisy and wrongdoing, a willingness to speak to our `enemies' and address them with love, understanding and respect; a desire to negotiate rather than drive people away. The Old Testament prophesied that one day only 'peace weapons' will remain, when swords are beaten into plough shares. (Isaiah 2:1-4)
When it comes to advancing the kingdom of God on this earth, war is now forbidden:
Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here."
(John 18:36, see also Matthew 26:52)
When it comes to maintaining law and order in this world force may be used as a last resource by the governing authorities:
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.
2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval;
4 for it is God's servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.
5 Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.
6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, busy with this very thing.
Members of the ruling authorities who became followers of God were not encouraged to leave their positions (e.g.: soldiers in Luke 3:14, commander in Acts 10) Those who became Christians in the early Church were discouraged to join the army mainly because of its involvement in the Roman camp cult religion, called Mithraism.
The statement in verse 3, "rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong," is describing the proper, ideal function of rulers. It does not mean that this will always be the case. When civil rulers overstep their proper function, followers of Jesus are to obey God rather than man as described in Acts 4:18-19:
So they (the rulers and elder of the people) called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in God's sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard."
This truth is confirmed in Acts 5:29-32:
"We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man's blood on us."
But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."
Violence will always be the last resort. When evil comes in its starkest forms which will not listen to the voice of reason, which refuse to negotiate, and which trample down the innocent and defenseless, then there may be cause for self defense. This argument is usually called the 'Just War' theory. It asserts that war is only ever justified when four conditions are met. The cause must be just; war must be absolutely the last resort, when all other
avenues to avoid conflict have failed; conflict must not involve noncombatants; war should be limited in its scope, avoiding unnecessary loss of life and destruction. It is a large question whether these last two conditions can ever be met in modern, especially nuclear, warfare.
But the Christian's primary commitment is, of course, to peace, and it should be our earnest desire to play a full part in God's battle against the visible and invisible forces which tear this planet apart. The good news is that God is going to have the last word. Sin, death and evil will be defeated and God's reign of peace in all its fullness will one day be a reality. That's worth working for!
After comparing the Christian and the Muslim view of war the reader is now left with having to make an awesome choice. His preference will determine whether or not he might have to go and murder in the name of Allah those who oppose Islam. Moreover, where he will spend his eternal life will also depend on it. I urge you in the light of these terrible consequences not to let this matter rest until you find true peace with God through Jesus Christ,
"For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all--this was attested at the right time." (1Timothy 2:5-6)
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