So much is said about world peace and conflicts across the globe. This state of affair has given rise to fear and anxiety. The increasing threats of extremism and dark clouds of terrorism have engulfed many parts of the world.

Unfortunately, many blame Islam, claiming the religion promotes extremism, pointing out that, often, such activities are carried out by people who say they are Muslims.

Thus, I would like to shed some light on what lies behind such overwhelming militancy, particularly in countries with a Muslim majority.

In reality, the responsibility for such malicious acts actually rests with the so-called scholars of Islam and extremist organisations, who are gravely mistaken in their understanding of the issue of Jihad. They consider the unjustified killing of human beings “by the sword” as a religious duty.

These scholars have deliberately misinterpreted some of the verses of the Holy Quran and equated true Islamic Jihad to rebellion for their personal benefit and aims.

They teach their followers to fight unbelievers either until they either accept Islam or are killed. They also believe the punishment of apostasy is death.

So-called scholars of Islam and extremist organisations are gravely mistaken in their understanding of Jihad

In the last century, some organisations were formed with the aim of bringing reforms in the world, building welfare states and constituting fair societies. However, they proved to be ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ because they used religion to impose their extremist ideology on others.

Over the past year, one particular group viciously spread its network of terror and has become a cause of major concern for the world. It is commonly known as ISIS or IS.

The actions of this terrorist group are not only impacting Muslim countries because countries in Europe and further afield are also being affected by its brutalities. Such organisations are also found in different parts of the world.

A few days ago, Syed Munawar Hasan, former president of Jamaat-e-Islami, a politico-religious organisation in Pakistan, ruled out the resolution of issues through democratic disposition and called for promoting the culture of ‘Jihad’ to overcome present challenges.

He proposed waging Jihad and Qital fi sabilullah (armed fighting in the name of God) for the elimination of oppression and injustices from the world. He stressed that his message was addressed to the entire Muslim world.

The fish rots from the head and some leaders and so-called scholars of Islam exploit the innocence and ignorance of followers. They have misled people into believing that the keys to Paradise lie in practices that are oppressive, cruel and completely immoral.

Yet, freedom of conscience is a fundamental tenet of Islam.

It is never permissible, in any circumstance, to force another person to accept Islam or any religion. All people are free to believe or not to believe. The Holy Prophet Muhammad was only permitted to convey the message of Islam and nothing more. So how can the so-called Muslim leaders of today go beyond this and think they have more power, authority or rights than the Prophet of Islam?

Over a century ago, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community clearly explained the meaning of true Jihad and warned that any extremist ideology will lead to conflicts and wars.

He clearly explained that Islam does not allow Muslims to wage offensive wars but can only defend themselves if attacked.

He categorically condemned wars and the killing of innocent people.

He said: “Is it not shameful that a complete stranger should be unjustly killed while occupied in his daily affairs, thus widowing his wife, making his children orphans and turning his house into a funeral parlour?

“Which sayings of the Prophet Muhammad or verse of the Holy Quran authorises such behaviour? Is there any Maulawi [Islamic clerics] who can respond?

“Foolish people hear the word Jihad and make it an excuse for the fulfillment of their own selfish desires. Or, perhaps, it is sheer madness that inclines them towards bloodshed.”

He explained that true Jihad is the struggle for self-reformation, serving mankind, eradicating poverty and suffering, bringing mankind nearer to its Creator, preaching the message of God with love and compassion and extending peace and security to others.

“Be compassionate towards all for the sake of God so that you may be shown mercy in the heavens. Come and I will teach you a way that will cause your light to prevail over all other lights. Abandon all lowly spite and jealousy; be compassionate for mankind and lose yourselves in God,” he said.

If we are engaged in such a Jihad, it will ensure the freedom of religion, human rights, justice and equality for all. This Jihad will end all sorts of extremism and will pull down the walls of hatred and malice. It will spread the fragrance of love and affection throughout the world.

Laiq Ahmed Atif is president, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us