By Hassan Jafar Zaidi
(The author delivered his lecture on the same subject in Conway Hall, London on January 7, 2007)
God did not create state. Man evolved and created state in the shapes and forms suited to him according to growth of means of production and the level of organization required to manage the relationships of production and maintain equilibrium in a particular society. The state has not existed from all eternity. There have been societies, which have managed without it, which had no notion of the state or state power. At a definite stage of economic development, which necessarily involved the cleavage of society into classes, the state became a necessity because of this cleavage. Religions, whether evolved terrestrially, or descended heavenly, never evolved a political system or created a state structure though they had close cultural association, in one form or the other, with this institution of keeping balance in the society, called state. And this has been true for all religions and for all forms and shapes of states evolved so far.
History took a historical turn on 9/11/2001. A discriminatory stigma was associated with Muslims in terms of their religion and their states, as if they were the only creatures on the face of this earth that combined their faith with governmental system. Western powers and their media portrayed Muslims and their countries as source of terror. Protagonists of so-called “War on terror” created an Islamophobia by making a case against them on the grounds that:
- Muslims believe in unity of religion and state i.e. a theocratic state
- If Muslims were given a free hand, they would impose a “Taliban” like religious extremist state authority on the entire “civilized” world
Interestingly enough, during the cold-war era the same protagonists
- Patronised the ideology of unity of state & religion in Islam as bulwark for the containment of “anti-God” communism: the concept of “Islamistan” was propounded by Anglo-American Imperialism that culminated in Baghdad pact (CENTO)
- Patronised monarchs, despots & dictators who used the same ideology to consolidate their rule.
- Patronised whole host of religious extremist / terrorist organisations to promote the same ideology and crushed liberal/progressive democratic forces in the name of Islamic Revivalism
- Patronised Islamic Jihad, Pan-Islamism & Model Islamic State of their brand
At the same time, many of the innocent Muslims, especially the educated lower middle classes fell prey to these revivalists in believing that
Muslims could outgrow their problems if they could revive the following as existed in their glorious past;
- Islamic System of Government
- Islamic Unity or Pan-Islamism
- Islamic Jihad
- Islamic Character of Medieval Muslims
Let us look at the history and see if the image portrayed by the West or the urge of revivalism amongst some sections of Muslims bear historical testimony or it is just a fallacy.
Before the advent of Islam, there existed two political orders in the human societies across the entire globe.
One: the dynastic monarchy in the areas where agrarian revolution had successfully taken roots, especially in the river valleys, and advance means of production generated ample surplus wealth that needed higher order of organization of state authority.
Two: the tribal political order in the deficit areas, barren deserts or jungles with backward means of production capable of producing just enough to keep themselves and their community, and did not produce any significant surplus, so there was little room for exploitation or a royal authority or a state authority; so practically there existed no state except that they had a loose tribal confederacy.
One was advanced compared to the second in terms of level of organization, civilization and wealth. Both the systems were product of socio-economic evolution of mankind on this planet, and were never derived from any scripture or a holy book.
The societies living under the same type of socio-economic order, yet in different parts of the world, practiced and believed in different faiths. The god-kings of Nile valley, the Pharaohs; and the god-kings of Ganges valley, the Ramah and the Krishna; the god-kings of Euphrates valley, the Assyria; and the prophet-kings of biblical Palestine; all formed different sets of beliefs, yet the political order they followed was hereditary dynastic monarchy. The cults worshipped in China, South-East Asia, Iran, Assyria, Greece, and Roman Empire regions were different, but the political order practiced in these societies was again, a dynastic monarchical order. The conclusion is very simple: the believers in different religions and cults, living under similar stage of socio-economic development of agrarian based economy and trade, had employed similar tools of governance to keep a balance in that socio-economic order. It further leads us to a very important corollary that any political order or system that could be supra religion or creed or faith, would be termed as secular system. Therefore the prevalent political order of ancient and medieval era, the system of dynastic monarchy running the different kingdoms and empires, was a secular system independent of religion, creed and faith. However, the office of clergy, again irrespective of religion, was part of the administrative structure with varying degree of power, yet subservient to the king or emperor.
For the second type i.e. the tribal political order, we find that statehood was not evolved yet. There the tribe was a State, and tribal chiefs and elders would run their affairs. Inter-tribe agreements or disagreements and fights were just like what would transpire between the states. A loose tribal confederacy provided a functional arrangement between the tribes to maintain a balance in that society which was based on deficit or subsistent socio-economic order. Some of such societies were known to or surrounded by the so-called civilized world and had some kind of interaction with it. More commonly known were the Arabs, yet confined within the peninsula, North African Berbers or moors, Mongols of Gobi desert, and Tartars and Afghans of central Asia. However many of them were still not known to the civilized world i.e. those in Americas, Australia and Sub-Saharan Africa. But interestingly the political system was run by similar traditions of inter-tribal pacts, tribal assemblies (named Jirga in Afghans). The tribesmen in Americas or sub-Saharan Kalahari Desert would believe in different cults yet they shared the commonality in the manners of running their political affairs. The cults worshipped by Arabs, Mongols, Australians, Tartars and Afghans were entirely different and unknown to each other, but their political traits were quite common. We again draw the same conclusion, that the second prevailing political order of that era, the tribal order, was also independent of beliefs and faiths in cults, thus secular in nature, and rooted in the socio-economic stage of development.
In early 7th century AD, when Prophet Muhammad proclaimed his prophet-hood in Makkah, the political order in the Arabian Peninsula was predominantly of the second type i.e. the tribal order based on deficit underdeveloped economy with little agriculture due to lack of water resources and scattered population in the vast arid desert. There existed no state or states except some small ones on the periphery of peninsula mainly on its coastline. The oldest and the well known amongst them was in Yemen, owing to some agriculture and maritime trade. Some Yemeni tribes, as a result of trade between Yemen and Syria, got settled in the Northern end of peninsula bordering Iraq, and established two principalities called Heera and Ghassan. These were sort of buffer states between Byzantine and Iran. Another small principality was recently established by Kinda tribe on the Eastern coastline. The rest of the mainland Arabia was without any state authority; the cities of Makkah, Madinah (Yathrib) and Taif had no kings or rulers nor had allegiance to any neighboring empire to have their governors there.
Arab peninsula was divided into two regions, the arid area of the north and the rain-fed area of the south: north was Bedouine and South (called Yemen) was settled state under Jews, Christians and Iranians. In the 6th century, with the outbreak of international wars between Byzantine and Iran and the weakening of major powers that controlled the south, the region began to disintegrate and experienced a breakdown of its political and economic structure. At the same time, Makkah emerged as a new economic and social force in Arabia. Its geographical position on the spice route, halfway between Yathrib (Madinah) and Najran, the strongholds of Judaism and Christianity, respectively, made Makkah a caravan station and a holy city at the same time. The house constructed by Abraham and Ismail, enjoyed great following and sanctity amongst Arab tribes. The religious life was based on idolatry and polytheism; the object of worship was a trio of goddesses, al-Lat, al- Uzza, and Manat, considered to be daughters of Allah and placed around the sacred house of Allah.
There was no state:
Tribal customs prevailed with following features: Jirga sort of a consultation; inter-tribe agreements; Bayiat (Bayiah) i.e. striking hand on hand to confirm the commitment either for trade or resolution of political or social issues, it could be compared with the tradition of manumission in Europe, a secular tradition having its roots in the primitive body language. These prevalent customs and traditions were known as Urf. Engels used a term of “gentile constitution” for similar set of traditions that prevailed before the origins of statehood.
Some instances of the kind of political constitution that existed in and around Makkah can be traced from the sources of early Muslim historians like Ibn-i-Hisham who based his source mainly on Ibn-i-Is’haq. Regarding the early inhabitants of Makkah we find that in one part lived Bani Jurham the descendants of Prophet Ismail (Bani Ismail) and in the other lived Bani Qatoora. The Jurham would collect the10th part (Ushar) from those who would enter from their side and the Qatoora the same from their side. Once fight broke out between the two tribes and Bani Qatoora were defeated, yet all branches of the two tribes held an assembly (Jirga) and the supremacy of Bani Jurham was recognized. The management of affairs of house of God (Kaaba) was acceded to them. The tradition or Urf of tribal assembly (Jirga) settled this issue.
After sometimes, in-house fighting got rampant between Bani Jurham on tributes collected for Kaaba; another tribe Bani Khoza’a took advantage of the situation, attacked on Bani Jurham, defeated and ousted them from Makkah. The management of Kaaba went under Khoza’a. The decision in this case came by fighting.
Some time past and Qussiy Bin Kulaab of Quraish, son-in-law of Bani Khoza’a claimed inheritance after the death of his father-in-law; the dispute resulted in fight between Quraish and Khoza’a; then a moderator (Hakam) was appointed; the decision was taken in favor of Qussiye, the founder of Quraish supremacy on the management of Kaabah (Tawwalliyat), including the services of water and food for pilgrims (Siqayyah and Rifadah), organizing consultation (Nadawah) and the flag (Liwa) bearing. Qussiy built a room near Kaaba called Nadwah for consultations.
During 6th century AD, Hashim and Umayyiah, both descendants of Qussiye, stood up head-on against each other; the decision through moderator (Hakam) resolved the issue in favor of Hashim. Sometimes later, conflict irrupted again between Abdul Muttalib-bin-Hashim and Harab-bin-Umayyiah; decision again by a moderator (Hakam) was in favor of Abdul Muttalib.
Until early 7th century AD same tribal traditions held sway. State could not be evolved because means of production did not develop much; Abbas Bin Abdul Muttalib was Muttawalli (custodian) of Kaaba at the time of prophet’s declaration of prophet-hood. There was no ruler of Makkah or Madinah or that of Taif or Arabian Peninsula.
The system of inter-tribe pacts or agreements was in place. Some instances of such pacts entered between the tribes of Makkah at the advent of 7th century were: pact of Muteebiyn between the branches of Bani Abd-i- Munaf against Bani Abd Aldar; and a similar treaty between Bani Abd Aldar against Bani Abd Munaf; another famous treaty called Half-al-Fazool to help any oppressed against the oppressor and redress the grievances. At the time of reconstruction of Kaaba, the dispute as to who would fix the sacred black stone Hajar Al Aswad was resolved by consultation between tribal elders of Quraish and the decision was made by the Prophet Muhammed.
During his own lifetime, the Prophet followed the existent norms ‘Urf’ of tribal order in his day-to-day politics. During his earlier period in Makkah, he made secret pacts Bayiat Aqaba 1st and 2nd with tribal elders of Madinah who were inviting him to migrate to Madinah. Then after migration (Hijra) to
Madinah, when Islam was going to grasp strong roots, he made a pact Mithaq-i-Madinah with the Jews & the tribes, irrespective of Muslims and non-Muslims, living around Madinah which, in fact, was a united front of most of the forces concentrated in and around Madinah, against Quraish of Makkah It was secular in essence wherein Muslims, Jews and other non-Muslims had a political binding only; no religious binding.
He conducted Bayiat-i- Ridhwan, an oath of allegiance, before the peace agreement of Hudaibiya. After the victory of Makkah and Taif, most of Hijaz responded to his call for Islam, yet the Prophet did not establish any state or state institutions, neither in Madinah, nor in Hijaz. Only a kind of central authority emerged in the person of Prophet which was a sort of transition from primitive tribal order to sort of chiefdom. Sometimes there was an advisory council as well, but there was no bureaucracy of professional administrators. The government was essentially just the person of Prophet with his team of counselors i.e. the companions (Sahabas).
The real revolution that Prophet brought in, was unification of the Arab tribes around him despite great diversity between them, and he could achieve it by his great quality of liberal, pragmatic and magnanimous attitude, having no narrow prejudices, reflected in the pact with non-Muslims in Madinah (Mithaq Madinah); pact for peace at Hudaibia; general amnesty to all his adversaries at the time of the conquest of Makkah and later-on, his magnanimous distribution of booty to the family of Abu Sufiyan after the victory of battle of Hunain.
Death of Prophet raised the issue of succession; according to broader belief he did not appoint his successor and left the matter to prevailing ‘Urf’ i.e. the prevailing tradition or constitution of gentile, whereas one section i.e. the Shiites believe that he nominated Ali as his successor, which again was a tribal norm. However his close companion Abu Baker succeeded him through
consultation of tribal elders and Bayiat in Saqifah was conducted under the prevailing tradition and customs (Urf). Succession of Abu Baker by Omar through nomination was also another prevailing tradition. Succession of Omar by Othman through a committee (Shura) of six senior chiefs was also one of the prevailing tribal traditions. Finally the succession of Othman by Ali was the result of an armed rebellion, a tribal tradition of settling matters by force and siege.
The conflict between Ali and Muawiya led to bloody battles of Jamal and Siffin, which ultimately culminated into appointing moderators (Hakam): Musa – Ashari and Amr-bin Aas on behalf of each respectively. Resolving matters through moderators (Hakam) was also a tribal tradition that was in practice amongst Arab tribes since centuries. The initial period of Puritan Successors (Khilafat-e-Rashida), considered as the role model by Muslims, did not define a new and definite political system that presumably could be understood as derived from Islamic scriptures, rather the system of tribal constitution ‘Urf’ that prevailed for centuries amongst Arabs was followed. This tribal political constitution was secular in nature in the sense that it had common traits with those tribal societies, which were passing through the similar stage of socio-economic development in other parts of the world. The Prophet of Islam and his immediate successors did not introduce a religious or theocratic state authority.
During the era of immediate successors, one decisive factor that laid down the basis of qualitative change was the conquest of vast areas spread over thousands of miles from North Africa to Central Asia, comprising of very rich and fertile river valleys having accumulated the surplus wealth of many centuries, in some cases thousands of years; where the people had lived under dynastic monarchies for several centuries e.g. Egypt, Byzantine and Iran. The occupation of these areas and the induction of surplus wealth collected from there upset the socio-economic balance of tribal society
which led to political disorder. Struggle between the two lines erupted; one in favor of prevalent tribal order of equality and simplicity: the other to adopt monarchy of Byzantine & Iran. This contradiction crystallized during Othman era that led to armed rebellion and martyrdom of Othman, who failed to resolve this contradiction either way. The rebels pursued the first line: that of retaining the prevalent tribal order of equality and simplicity.
The succession of Ali under pressure of rebels precipitated the crisis that caused great divide resulting into the bloody battles of Jamal and Siffin between Ali and Muawiya: the former was supported by the rebels whereas the later pursued the second line of going in for the monarchical order. When Ali entered into political dialogue with Muawiya, through moderators, the extremist element of the upholders of first-line, hitherto gathered around Ali, also turned against him; they were given the name Khawarij i.e. the rebels. Ali had to fight against them in the battle of Nehrawan and defeated them, but later on, they plotted against him and assassinated him. After that, Amir Muawiya consolidated monarchy and nominated his son Yezid as his crown prince. The tragedy of Kerbala, the martyrdom of Hussain, son of Ali, at the hands of armies of Yezid led to the final sway of monarchical order in the Muslim society. The foundations of Ummaiyad dynasty, the first of its kind in Muslims were laid down. The center of power shifted from Madinah, the center of the first line of political order, to Damascus, the winter capital of Byzantine Empire and then to Baghdad, the areas that remained under monarchies for the last many centuries.
The transition from tribal political order, having no state structure, to the prevalent monarchical state system, both secular in nature, has been described lucidly by a medieval Muslim sociologist, thinker and historian, Abdul Rehman Ibn-e-Khaldoon, coming from Tunisia in 15th century AD. In his renowned Epilogue to History, he writes about the caliphate of Puritans (Rashidah); “Its function was just to bind the people to abide by the Shariyah (religious laws) and they could never imagine about the kind of government that existed in the countries of infidels at that time…Those senior Caliphs had nothing to do with the kind of that royal type of government. One reason was their piety and religion; and secondly their Arabic Bedouinism kept them away from the luxury because the Arabs of those times were far away from luxury and worldly pleasures”. He further says,” After them, from Muawiya on words, the chauvinism (Asabiyah) of the Arabs reached its final goal, royal authority. The restraining influence of religion had weakened. The restraining influence of government and group was needed.” (The Prologue)
Ibn-e-Khaldoon at another place in the same Prologue elaborates on this issue further: “During the reign of Caliph Omer, Amir Muawiya was governor of Syria and he lived in the palace of emperor of Byzantine in Damascus; their winter capital. Also he would wear precious royal robes and dine in the golden crockery. It was brought to the notice of Caliph Omer who censured Muawiya on his life style. But Muawiya defended on the grounds that the province he has been given to govern had remained under royal rule for centuries and could only be controlled if he would live like Romans. He also needed to show his grandeur to the neighbouring Byzantine Empire to overawe them and subjugate them. Omer accepted the argument.” (The Prologue)
On adopting hereditary monarchy by Umayyad, Ibn-e-Khaldoon says,” They cannot be blamed because they gave preference to their own sons and brothers, in that respect departing from the Sunnah (tradition) of the first four caliphs. Their situation was different from that of the (four) caliphs, who lived in a time when royal authority as such did not yet exist, and the (sole) restraining influence was religion. Thus, everybody had his restraining influence in himself. (The Prologue)
On the transition of Arabs into royal order, he elucidates, “The Arabs, then, enslaved the people of the former dynasties and employed them in their occupations and their household needs. From among them, they selected skilled masters of the various crafts and were in turn taught by them to handle, master and develop them for themselves. In addition, the circumstances of the Arabs’ life widened and became more diversified. Thus, they reached the limit in this respect. They entered the stage of urban culture of luxury and refinement in food, drink, clothing, building, weapons, bedding (carpets), household goods, music, and all other commodities and furnishings. The same (perfection they showed) on their gala days, banquets, and wedding nights. In this respect, they surpassed the limit.” (The Prologue)
Once Arabs adopted the system new to them, they transformed their customs accordingly. Ibn-e-Khaldoon says, ’’
The oath of allegiance that is common at present is the royal Persian custom of greeting kings by kissing the earth (in front of them), or their hand, their foot, or the lower hem of their garment….it has become so general that it has become customary and has replaced the handshake which was originally used, because shaking hands with everybody meant that the ruler lowered himself and made himself cheap, things that are detrimental to leadership and the dignity of the royal position. (The Prologue)
Thus the Muslims adapted to the contemporary state structure available at that juncture of human history, that was practiced all over the world by followers of different religions and creeds. Muslim dynasties prevailed for about 1300 years over an area spread from Spain to Bengal irrespective of sectarian cleavage of Sunni, Shia, Wahabi, Ashaari, Motazzilaite etc., the well known amongst them are: the Ummayyiads, the Abbasids, the Ummayyiads in Spain, the Fatamids, the Mamaleek of Egypt, the Ottoman Turks, the Safawids and the Qachars of Iran, the Sultans and the Mughal of India.
No Faqih (interpreter of religious code), Muhaddis (interpreter of traditions), Mufassir (interpreter of The Quran) or any religious scholar, in the heydays, ever declared monarchy as un-Islamic; they accepted it as the prevailing system of governance, recited the ruler’s name in the holy sermon (Khutba), who would succeed by force or by will. Until the fall of Ottoman Empire (Khilafat-i-Osmania), the monarchies prevailed and still exist to-date in some Muslim states.
In the pyramid of authority, the religious scholars had no control or authority upon the kings or emperors. The religious scholars were appointed at lower ladder of bureaucracy as Judge (Qadhi or Mufti) and Teacher (Mudarris) to teach the sons of royal family or nobility. The king or royal family was not answerable to Qadhi for any killings or wrong doings he would commit during power struggle or for consolidation of power. Qadhi would recite the name in the sermons (Khutba) of whosoever would get success in capturing the power at the time of power struggle, without considering the character of the ruler whether he was Islamic or practicing all religious rites or not.
The mystic saints kept themselves away from the royal courts; they had mass base and the doors of their monasteries (khanqah) were always open to everybody without considering his/her religion, cast, colour or creed.
Two religious currents prevailed amongst the religious leaders (1) Tariqat or Tariqah (mystic way) of Soofi saints, (2) Shariah (religious law) of Mullahs.
The mainstream Muslims were followers of saints rather than Mullahs. Since the ruler was Muslim, the Muslims were privileged over the non-Muslims; yet most of the successful and stable rulers were those who gave share to non-Muslims in power. Akber the great Mughal emperor of India and many more like him can be counted in that genre. Mullahs would play instrumental role sometimes on behalf of one faction or the other in the power struggle when the non-Muslims or Muslims of opposite sects were given share in the power. Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi stood up on behalf of Sunni Turks (Tooranis) against Akber who employed Iranian Shiites and local Hindus in his administration.
The separation of state and religion in two compartments is reflected by medieval Muslim historians too, who never looked at their history as “Islamic History”. To them it was the history of kings and emperors like any other king or emperor. They never ascribe any of their compilation to the synonym of “Islamic History” or “History of Islam”? Allama Mohammad Bin Jareer Al-Tabri, a great name among the historians of early periods and known as Imam-ul Mowarikheen, named his voluminous compilation as “Tarikh-ul-Ummam- wal-Mulook” meaning “the history of the nations and the kings”. Though he covered about three hundred years of the history of only the Muslims yet he did not name it as ‘Islamic History”, given the fact that he was also the interpreter (Mufassir) of The Quran and he compiled his interpretation (Tafsir) as a separate book. The name he attributed to his history book indicates that, to his mind, the Muslims were not one nation but comprised of a number of nations bearing their identity based on their tribe, race or region; similarly the Muslim kings and emperors were just “the rulers (Mulooks)” identical to the other rulers of the world belonging to different religions.
Another great name, Al-Baladhari, who compiled all the expansions and conquests of Muslims on the vast lands from Spain to Sindh during early three centuries, entitled his compilation as “Futuh-ul-Buldan” which means “conquests of the lands”; he did not choose to put it as “Futuh-ul-Islam” i.e. the conquests of Islam. Mullah Mohammad Umar Al-Waqidi, a very prominent name among the renowned early Muslim historians, labeled all his compilations after the names of the lands conquered or the persoanalities; some of the names are “Futuhat-ul-Iraq”, “Futuhat-ul-Shaam” and “Kitab-ul-Maghazi-Al-Nabbawiyyah” etc. His secretary Mohammad Ibn Saad compiled all his works under the title of “Tabaqat-al-Kabeer” or “Tabaqat-al-Kubra” which earned the fame later on as “Tabaqaat Ibn Saad”. In Arabic, Tabaqaat means classifications or categories; as Ibn Saad portrayed the historical figures under different categories or classes, hence the name. Another great historian, Al-Masoodi, titled his famous compilation of history as “Murooj-ul-Zahab-wal-Muaadin-ul-Jawahir-fi-Tarikh” meaning “the meadows of gold, and mines of gems in the history”: what a secular beautiful name. Another famous historian Ibn Athir compiled his multi volume works on history of Muslims under a very simple name “Al-Kamil-fi-Tarikh”,that means “the complete history”. Abdul Rehman Ibn Khaldoon, a great historian and first known sociologist of the world, not only compiled the history but also formulated the philosophy of history in his famous prologue (Muqaddimah) of his compilation, entitled his works as “Kitab-ul-Iber-wa-Diwan-ul-Mubtada-wal-Khabar-fi-Ayyam-il-Arab-wal-Ajam-wal-Berber” which can be translated as “the book of narration and compilation of subjects and predicates of the periods of Arabs, Ajems (non-Arabs) and Berbers (north Africans)”: more down to earth to describe the tribal, racial, and regional nature of the history of Muslims. Another prominent name is that of Abul Fida Ibn Kathir, famous not only for his work on history but also for his interpretation (Tafsir) of The Quran; he named his book on history as “Al-Bidayya-wal-Nihayya” that is “the beginning and the end”: a simple secular name. Jalal-ud-Din Al-Siyuti labeled his works as “Tarikh-ul-Khulafaa”, meaning “the history of Caliphs”, yet did not qualify them as caliphs of Islam.
A famous historiographer of North Africa and Spain, Alllama Al-Maqqari, entitled his compilation as “Nafha-ul-Teeb” that is “the breeze of fragrance”: yet a beautiful secular name. Another rich source of history is Ahmad Ali-Al-Khatib’s “Tarikh-i-Baghdad” i.e. “the history of Baghdad”. Similarly a huge source of information is provided in the multi volume works of Ibn Asaaker who named his compilation as “Tarikh al-Kabir” or “Tarikh Damishq al-Kabir” meaning “a large history of Damascus”. Another interesting name comes from Ibn-i- Miskweh, who titled his famous source on history as “Tajaareeb ul-Ummem” meaning “the experiences of nations”, which speaks of itself how secular his approach was towards the history. Ibn-i-Khalikaan, an authentic and very rich source on history in general and literary history in particular, termed his compilation as “Wifiyat-ul-Aaiyyaan” which means “obituaries of the renowned”. The nomenclature of these titles is a very strong indicative of the fact that, in their glorious medieval period, religion and state never overlapped. In fact religion was a private affair; and state or monarchy was a secular institution.
There is lot of confusion and intellectual chaos created by the Western media regarding Islamic Jihad. All Muslim conquests of the areas under the so called infidels were led by the political heads of states or emerging states and those expeditions were similar to such conquests as of any stronger rulers or adventurers invading neighboring weaker states. It was never just the religion that acted as the driving force for these invasions. Ibn-e-Khaldoon formulates that there had been the three motivating forces behind these invasions: religion, booty and tribal chauvinism. The expeditions in the name of Jihad organized and led by stray groups like Al-Qaedah was never a feature of medieval Muslim history. The concept of Holy War against infidels or such Muslims dubbed as infidels on sectarian grounds launched by a section or faction of Muslims recruited from all over the world, never existed during so-called glorious Muslim history except for two instances; Khawarij and Qaramtah.
The Khawarij claimed Khurooj-Fi-Sabeel-Allah (rebellion in the name of Allah) as their creed and considered all of their opponents as infidels and believed that their murder was legitimate; they had no state; they failed and gradually become extinct by the 9th century AD, but after inflicting lot of damages to Muslims at large. The Qaramtah had similar traits as of Khawarij; they emerged by the beginning of 10th century AD and succeeded in establishing temporary governments in Bahrain, Yemen, Multan and Sind; they also met ultimate failure having done lots of damages to Muslims and were extinct by the 13th century AD. Both Khawarij and Qaramtah were never approved by the mainstream Muslims.
Ibn Khaldoon’s formulation about those who launched movements in the name of religion to capture power during medieval era was: “They are mentally deranged people…cannot get power by ordinary means. So they try it through religion and cannot assess the damage and loss of lives they ultimately face in the end”. (The Prologue)
In the entire medieval Muslim history, there could be only two occasions, when some kind of so-called Jihad might have been justified. First; when hordes of Crusaders’ from Europe launched invasions on Palestine, Syria and Egypt, that lasted for about two hundred years i.e. 12th and 13th century AD. Yet we find that though, to the Crusaders it was a religious Holy War, but to the Muslims it was a simple war, and they defended against it like an ordinary invasion by outsiders. The war could be qualified as Jihad only if the Caliph declared it as Jihad and issued a general decree (Fatwa) to the Muslims to participate in it. The Abbasid Caliph sitting in Baghdad, the backyard of battle fields of Crusades, never issued a call for Jihad to the Muslim world to stand up against the Crusades. He neither himself participated nor sent any armies to take part in the defence or liberation of Jerusalem. Even the Muslim historians, who recorded the chronicles of Crusades later on, never described them as Jihad. Three great historians, Ibn-e-Khaldoon, Ibn-i-Athir and Abul- Fida-Ibn-i-Kathir, in their chronicles use the term Haroob-Ul-Afrang meaning as “wars with Europeans”. The defending Muslim rulers of Egypt, Syria and Palestine, initially Fatamids, then Zangis and Ayubids and finally Mamaleek, fought against Crusaders as an ordinary defensive ‘war’ against invaders, and not as Jihad.
The second event was the thrust of Tartar hordes under Gengiz Khan on Central Asia in the 13th century AD. The role of Caliph in Baghdad was partisan; he, instead of issuing call for Jihad, actually invited Gengiz Khan to invade upon Muhammad Khawarizm Shah the emperor of the biggest Central Asian Muslim state of that time. None of the rulers of other Muslim states sided with Khawarizm Shah, and no call for Jihad against Tartars was issued from any quarter. Sectarian conflict was rampant in every city under invasion. No Muslim Sultan including Altatmash of Delhi or Nasiruddin Qibacha of Multan, supported Jalal-ud-Din Khawarizm Shah against the armies of Gengiz. Most of the Muslim states of Central Asia and Middle East and all major cities including Baghdad were decimated by Tartars.
The revivalist movements in 19th and 20th century resulted in reaction to the occupation, and direct or indirect control of vast lands of Muslim populations by the Western colonialists. During cold war era, the same Western imperialists exploited these revivalist movements and patronized them to encircle Communism; and after its fall in 1991, they abandoned them and started to use them as a bogey of danger to West and Western civilization, to push forward their agenda of occupation of Middle East and Central Asia; the areas that are rich in energy resources and enjoy strategic positions to establish hegemony on the world at large.
From this analysis, we can draw the following conclusions:
- State, political system and system of government is a product of socio-economic evolution of mankind and has never been based on religion
- Muslims: so long as they remained in Arabian peninsula followed prevailing tribal norms so far as state and politics was concerned. These tribal norms were not peculiar to Arabs; these existed wherever in the world there were and still are tribal societies and backward means of production.
- In religious domain a new dynamic religion emerged that united all the Arab pagans under the concept of one God and it expanded very fast in vast areas of the world of medieval times.
- When Muslims conquered those areas where empires existed for the last two to three thousand years, they adopted the same system of state that existed there and then remained in that system even after the Bourgeois Industrial Revolution
- Muslim rulers and masses did not do anything different than what the rulers and masses of followers of other religions did in their history.
- As their history goes, the Muslims have been adoptive to the changing realities all along their history and they would like to go with the current systems of states and governance and have no religious inhibition in their way
- Muslims always had a softer face in their practice of religion; it was hardened by world imperialists by patronizing extremist elements during cold war period.
- World imperialism kept most of the Muslim lands under their colonial regimes, and have developed such an imperialist order that Muslim masses might be prevented to adopt modern democratic states
- World imperialists are patronizing all dictators and reactionary forces to hinder the road of democracy for Muslims.