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Book Review: The Quranic Concept of War

Book Review: The Quranic Concept of War

Author: Sujit Das
Publication: Faithfreedom.org
Date: July 21, 2009
URL: http://www.faithfreedom.org/2009/07/21/book-review-the-qur'anic-concept-of-war/

Title: The Quranic Concept of War (Hardcover, 193 pages), 2008 edition
Author: Brigadier S.K Malik (Pakistani army)
Publisher: Adam Publishers & Distributors. New Delhi, India

In this book, a spiritual but violent subject (war and devastation approved by God) is discussed from the religious point of view of an Islamic confidence. The author, Brigadier S.K Malik attempted to analyze God's doctrine for war, i.e. Qur'an through the examples of Prophet Muhammad with unequalled insight.

Qur'an is believed to be the words of God as spoken through His chosen Prophet Muhammad. According to Islamic faith, warfare is controlled by one master desire, i.e., pleasing the Lord (Page iii) and since it is not a theory of war derived by man, but of the God of Islam, ie, Allah; the death and destruction caused in the name or Allah is Divine and without sin. Author believes that unlike manmade war philosophies, these Qur'anic concepts are universal in nature and not made especially for a given set of circumstances (Page 1). This is the mindset of the author and from this standpoint he wrote this excellent book exposing Allah's warfighting principles and commandments. Though controversial, his citations are accurately drawn from Islamic sources and confirm classical Islamic jurisprudence.

This book is also an historical as well as political text which discusses how battles were fought in the name of Islam including the Persian invasion of North Africa and Eastern with specific examination on the Qur'anic concepts and strategies used in these battles. But surprisingly; there is no reference to modern events like 9/11 terrorism, Islamic beheading, Afghan Taliban, suicide bombing etc, which the author had carefully omitted from the discussion. The descriptions of violence are written in a military context and the author had tried his best to soften them by giving a Divine touch.

The former President of Pakistan and Pakistani Army Chief of Staff General M. Zia-ul-haq opens (Foreword) the book where he pointed out, "The professional soldier in a Muslim army cannot become professional if in all his activities he does not take on 'the [true] color of Allah'". General Haq believes that the concept of war in Islam is not simply the duty of the Muslim soldier but the common Muslim folks also. He also confirmed that because of this sincere work, the author will be suitably rewarded by Allah.

In the 'Preface' (written by Allah Bukhsh K. Brohi) the concept of Jihad is elaborated even further, "… in Islam war is waged to establish the supremacy of Lord only when every other argument has failed to convince those who reject His will…" (Page V). On the very next page Brohi continues, "Islam views the world as though it were bipolarized in two opposing camps - Darus-Salam facing Darul-Harb". This thirteen page long preface is indeed very strong and lays the foundation for ten chapters of this book.
Brohi accepts the fact that many western critics believe that Islam is in a state of perpetual struggle with the non-Muslim world, but he dismissed this western thought explaining that man is the slave of God and as per Qur'an defying God is treason. Comparing all nonbelievers with "cancerous malformation", Brohi wants them to be killed - "It thus necessary to remove the cancerous malformation even if it be by surgical means."(Page vii).

Brohi advised that Muslims should "invite non-believers to the fold of Islam" by using "persuasion" and "beautiful methods." He continues, "the first duty" of a Muslim is dawa, a proclamation to conversion to Islam by "handsome ways." It is only after the nonbelievers refuse dawa and the invitation to Islam, as Brohi specified "believers have no option but in self-defense to wage a war against those threatening aggression."(Page vii).

Throughout the book, the author has left his mark of thorough understanding of the role Qur'an plays in application of military force within the context of the totality that is 'Jihad'. Jihad is an Arabic word, whose literal meaning is 'endeavor', but as an Islamic doctrine, it implies fighting in the way of Allah. By refuting the centuries old Muslims' claim that 'Islam is a religion of peace', author declared,

1. … the Divine instruction by the Holy Prophet forms an inseparable part of the Qur'anic concept of war (Page 5).

1. The cause of war is the cause of Allah. (Page 38). A victory in Islam is a victory for the cause of Islam (Page 50).

1. Faith is the main and ultimate strength of a fighting force (Page 146). During war Muslims should resort to prayers more often than in times of peace (Page 71).

The Divinity and Spirituality attached to Islam is exposed with the above that may stun the readers. I appreciate the author for being outspoken. He is amazingly honest. In spite of being a Muslim and hailing from an orthodox Muslim nation like Pakistan (a nation trapped between Allah and Army), he has the courage to tell the truth about Qur'an, Muhammad and Islam but in doing so, (probably unknowingly) he had exposed the true colour of Allah and Islam.

Qur'an (2:216) says "Fighting is prescribed for you… and you dislike it but it is possible that you dislike a thing that is good for you and you love a thing that is bad for you. But Allah knows and you know not". According to author, this injunction adds new aspects and depths to the concept of total war. Author calls all the Muslims to take arms and fight saying "A Muslim citizen is answerable to Allah in the fulfillment of Divine obligation" (Page 38).

The author discussed on ten general categories inherent in the conduct of Islamic warfare. One of which is 'Selection of objectives'. Here the author had given several clues on how to kill the enemy soldiers. Qur'an (8:12) says, "Strike them above the necks, smite their finger tips." Though the author is coming from military background, I doubt if he is at all aware of the modern ethics of war which is embodied in the Geneva Convention, 1864. One of the basic principles of this convention is 'Humanity'. Despite this convention, the author by citing the above Qur'anic verse, advised the Muslims, "The most sensitive parts of the Human body lie above the neck. An effective strike in these parts can finish of the opponent totally… In battle, therefore, we should first identify and strike at the most sensitive and vulnerable points of our adversary and aim at finishing him off completely" (Page 64).

Author had glorified death in the cause of Allah and mentioned, "… supreme achievement lies in supreme sacrifice… The reward of sacrifice is a life of honor in this world and salvation in the hereafter" (Page 68). Qur'an (3: 169-170) says, "Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. . . . Nay, they live finding their sustenance in the Presence of the Lord. They rejoice in the bounty of Allah." By citing this Qur'anic verse, author advised Muslims not to fear death and wrote, "… death in this world, no doubt inevitable, was nevertheless not to be the end of life. Another life awaited us in the hereafter, and out ultimate return was to our lord… it is Allah that gives life and death, and Allah sees well all that ye do" (Page 42).

Terrorism, war and devastation are integral parts of Qur'anic instruction. The author is very specific on this when he openly concluded, "The Qur'anic military strategy enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies, known or hidden, while guarding ourselves from being terror -stricken by the enemies" (Page 58). Terrorism is Allah's will and hence Divine. Author concluded, "When God wishes to impose His will upon his enemies He chooses to do so by casting terror into their hearts" (Page 57) and again, "Terror struck in the hearts of the enemies is not only a means; it is the end in itself … Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon them" (Page 59).

Author also believes in forced conversion after the Muslim army subdues the enemy. He advised to his ideological brothers, "Terror cannot be struck in the hearts of an enemy… [so easily, because]… it is basically related to the strength or weakness of the human soul", author continued, "It [terror] can be instilled only if the opponent's faith is destroyed. Psychological dislocation is temporary; spiritual dislocation is permanent. Psychological dislocation can be produced by a physical act but this does not hold good of the spiritual dislocation. To instill terror into the hearts of the enemy, it is essential in the ultimate analysis, to dislocate his faith". (Page 60).

Author also talked about peace time preparation for war which is not only the part of the war but in fact "vastly more important than the active war" (Page 58). This particular assertion cannot be taken lightly. It means that Muslims are in a perpetual state of war while peace can only be defined as the absence of active war when Muslim armies wait for the resources and opportunities.

This book has many ambiguities. Author wrote that Qur'an makes repeated appeals to mankind to use intellect and reason in its understanding and interpretation (Page ii). But the Qur'anic verses 5:101 and 5:102 clearly prohibit any criticism of Qur'an. The author should tell us, how to use 'intellect' and 'reason' to understand Qur'an if criticism is prohibited.

There is another point which needs clarification. According to author Islam did not spread by sword. Neither Qur'an nor Muhammad did allow the use of force for conversion (Page 49). But then how did he recommend 'dislocation of faith' after terror struck in the hearts of the nonbelievers? On this issue Brohi is much more honest. At least he openly compared non-Muslims with 'cancerous malformation' and call for their death, 'removal by surgical means'.

Though it is a gross insult to the concept of God who needs followers by forced conversion, but several Qur'anic verses (9:29, 9:5, 9:11, 2:193) and Ahadith (Sahih Muslim1:33, 19:4294, 19:4366, 31:5917 and Bukhari 1:387, 1:24, 4:392, 5:643) confirms Allah's approval for forced conversion. This needs to be corrected in the next edition.

Also, it is difficult to understand, when two different sects of Islam are at war with each other (as example, Shia-Sunni violent clash) in the name of Islam, how to make out which side is following true Qur'anic concept of war.

Perhaps the most devastating confusion is, how I know that it is God's will that Muslims should call for Jihad, death and destruction on nonbelievers. How do I know that death and destruction really pleases God? All the Qur'anic chapters starts with the phrase 'In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful' (except chapter 9 Al-Tauba- Repentance), but throughout author's scholarly work I never find anything which supports the view that Allah is merciful. Why Allah does not want Muslims to live peacefully with the non-Muslims? Why Allah likes death and destruction to be committed in His name but at the same time likes to be called 'the Compassionate, the Merciful'? This book gives us no clue on this.

With due regard to the author, I would like to conclude that the violent topics discussed in this book may prove to be harmful to some readers. Sadly, this text has neither any positive thought nor any constructive potential to Humanity. Amongst Muslims, this book will promote fundamentalism, hate, religious bigotry and fanaticism. But the author cannot be blamed for this, because his work is basically a reflection of the Allah's thought recorded in the Qur'an. Hence this book is bound to be violent because Qur'an is violent. So unless Qur'an is banned universally, this book also should not be banned.

This book should not be banned for another reason. To counteract Islamic terrorism, we must understand its philosophy and the logic of the opponent. After all, if Muslim terrorists are so bloodthirsty and ready to destroy themselves to kill innocents by suicide terrorism, there must be some powerful, evil and destructive force which is motivating them. Those who value freedom and are determined to preserve it must recognize this evil force. Islamic apologists and mainstream media often portray a deceptively rosy picture of Islam. This had successfully misled many third-rated thinkers. But the original and independent thinkers need a treatise that can be reviewed and understood in such a way so that they can get a true picture of the whole problem. In this respect this is the book that stands out from many others.

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