Center for Peace and Democracy (CPD)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Is this Jihad or Fratricidal Campaign Sacrilegious to Islam?

After the relocation of the Somali Transitional Federal Government without the deployment of foreign troops, the political polemic instigated by the controversy has abated significantly. The tension created by the conspiracy theory that Ethiopia has a sinister agenda to invade Somalia has also faded away; and despite the opposition of few stubborn warlords in Mogadishu, there is ample hope that the remaining political differences will be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

Amid the waning political storm, another disturbing phenomenon, “threats of Jihad (holy war) inimical to the government” has been resonant with the news from Somalia, as Mogadishu-based clerics who have accused the government as being secular, have vowed to fight it and prevent it from coming to the capital city. This article is to analyze the nature and justifiability of this bellicosity in the context of the pristine tenets of Islam. Is there any justifiable reason to fight or sabotage the fledgling government that is in the throes of restoring peace and serenity, or is this fratricidal campaign to cause more bigoted conflicts and mayhem so sacrilegious to Islam? Is this Jihad or exploitation of religion for providing legitimacy to clan hegemony?

To engage eclectic and theologically cogent analysis that gleans fair answers to the above questions, let us reflect on two salient issues – the historic conflicts that had devastated the early Muslim community, and the concept of Jihad with respect to communal stability and alleviation of oppression inflicted by heartless tyrants. The purpose of re-reading the Muslim history is to acknowledge the effectiveness with which Islam has corrected detrimental psychosocial behaviors (tribal honour and clan loyalty) inherited from the age of ignorance (Jahiliyya), and are ubiquitous in our contemporary society as they were in the Jahiliyya.

According to history records, the crises that have devastated the Muslim community have been precipitated by what is called “asabiya” (an Arabic word), which has close meaning of following terms: group or clan loyalty, group or clan solidarity, tribal honour. Although Islam has warned against the pitfalls of asabiya, it was the major problem that led the Muslim nation to droop and sag. The Qur’an addresses the issue with such eloquence – “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you” (Ch. 49: 13). The Prophetic teachings have also reprimanded the practice of asabiya: "Abandon it for it is rotten”. “The one who calls for asabiya is not one of us [i.e. not a follower of Islam], and the one who fights on the basis of asabiya is not one of us, and the one who dies on asabiya is not one of us”.

Emulating the resplendent character of the Prophet (pbuh), and adhering to his teachings, early Muslims made a paradigm shift from group or clan loyalty to the loyalty of Allah and his Messenger. And that is why asabiya has been quiescent during the epoch of the Prophet (pbuh) and continued to be so until the last years of Caliphate Othman’s tenure. Right after the death of the Prophet (pbuh), Ansaar & Muhajiriin (companions of the Prophet, pbuh) contested for his successor. Their rationale was morally and political correct as both groups based their legitimacy for the leadership on the merits of their positive roles in Islam and their allegiance to the Messenger of God, and not on clan supremacy. That mind set allowed them to hastily agree on the issue without any ill- feelings.

When asabiya reemerged, it permeated the social fabrics of the society – the differences between Umayyads and Abbasids, then the differences between Al-khawarij sect and the rest of the Muslims. The Al-Khawarij phenomenon is a pertinent case example. The tribes that embraced the estranged Khawarij dogma were mainly from Al-Rabii’ah, while Al-Mudar tribes rejected it. The hostilities between the two tribes were remote, way before Islam. Their hostilities totally hibernated with the advent of Islam and only resurfaced when the Ummah weakened in faith. As the weakness continued, the disintegration was unremitting until it reached to the current abysmal level.

The alienation of the estranged Al-khawarij dogma was basically due to their wrong interpretation of the holy Qur’an that led to chaos and conflicts within the Muslim society. They rebuked Caliphate Ali Ibn Abi-Talib for trying to come to terms with Mu’awiyah over the divisive issue of Caliphate Uthman’s assassination. Their obsession with asabiya has fueled deep hatred towards their Muslim brethren. They would admonish some of their followers for eating few dates fallen from a tree without the permission of the owner, and at the same time permit act of fratricide and the murder of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh). The Mogadishu phenomenon is quintessential of the Khawarijits’ attitude (opposition to peace and promotion of violence in the name of Islam).

The analogy here does not necessarily equate the Khawarijits to the bellicose Mogadishu clerics in every aspect, but the parallels I am trying to draw between the two groups is their obsession with asabiya and exploitation of religion for providing legitimacy to group or clan. The very first revelation in which the permission of Jihad against forces of evil has been decreed was to secure peace and alleviate oppression inflicted by heartless tyrants. “And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? - Men, women, and children whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!" (Ch. 4: 75).

“Permitted are those who are fought against, because they have been oppressed. And verily God is more Powerful for their aid. Those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they said: 'Our Lord is Allah, ' for had it not been for 'Allah's repelling someone by means of others, cloisters and churches and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft-mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down. Verily Allah helps one who helps Him. Lo! Allah is Strong. Almighty" (Ch.22: 39. 41).

The above verses clearly elucidate that the purpose to fight in Islam is not for the acquisition of territory, love of power or clan hegemony, but to stop oppression and alleviate the sufferings of the oppressed masses. What did this religious group do about the lawlessness and the rescue of the ill-treated masses in Mogadishu and southern regions? Did they wage war on the oppressors (the ruthless warlords and their militias)? Did they refrain from violence and embark on promoting peace and fraternity as done by other religious groups? Did they construct an alternative vision of Islam through meaningful political process?

Unfortunately, all they have inspired was dread and misery. Unlike any other Islamic militant group (past & present), this group has immorally collaborated with punitive warlords and supported them in their oppression of the poor masses overtly and covertly. They also forcefully claimed plenipotentiary powers in imposing oligarchy rulership in regions they have entered by force and without the consent of its inhabitants. Their holy war rhetoric can have only one objective, to reinforce the waning opposition of the warlords in a bid to fuel chaos and conflicts.

The Islamic State established by Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) did not come through compulsion or bellicosity. It came through establishing the kingdom of God first in the hearts of the people, and people’s self-determination of accepting Islam as a political as Well as social system. We are far from genuine Islamic state as long as we warship clan and clan loyalty has precedence over the loyalty of Allah.

Burhan Alas
The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "the Center for Peace and Democracy (CPD)"


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