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A Message Of Peace And Reconciliation Mercy Religion Essay

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1. Approximately fourteen hundred years ago, Prophet Muhammad, the last in the line of the prophets of Islam, received revelation from God known as the Qur'an, which is the Final Testament. He came with a message of peace and reconciliation, mercy and compassion. Yet, ever since the beginning of the call of Islam, its image and that of Muslims has been subject to distortion, misconceptions, and misinterpretations. This chapter aims at establishing the link between Quran and the distortions in its interpretation which has manifested itself in the form of jihad or the holy-war.

Quran and Sanction of Violence

2. The Quran permits violence as an act of defence waged to protect the Shariat in an Islamic community. The Shariat can be explained as a system of ordinances outlined in the Quran and Hadis [1] through which "God lays down for mankind the rules of conduct [2] ". The Shariat is the "guidance for all walks of life - individual and social, material and moral, economic and political, legal and cultural, national and international [3] ".

3. Muslims are advised to closely follow the Shariat to acquire the well being that God has envisioned for the Islamic community. Preservation of the Shariat is an "obligation of every able-bodied individual [4] ". "Oppression, despotism, injustice and criminal abuse of power [5] " of the Shariat by Muslims or non-Muslims [6] , must be punished.

Quran and Jihad

4. The Quran identifies three main kinds of Jihad that can be used for the punishment of oppression and injustice. These are: internal [7] , external [8] and inter-communal [9] . The Quran permits the use of violence as an optional method for all three forms of Jihad but it limits the use of violence in 'internal [10] ' and 'external' Jihad. It expands on its doctrine of Jihad and violence, mainly in the context of 'inter-communal' conflicts. In these cases, Muslims can individually determine the nature and extent of Jihad based on the 'freedom of interpretations', and the geopolitical conditions in which the conflict arises. However the most essential prerequisite in the Quran's discourse on violence is that, force should be used only when the Shariat has been violated and needs to be persevered as the "very work of God Himself' [11] ".

5. In Inter communal Jihad, Martial Jihad [12] should be used to protect and to promote the integrity of Islam and to defend the umma [community] against hostile unbelievers whether they are invading armies or un-Islamic internal despots [13] ". The use of forces in all other instances is "forbidden by God [14] ". Once cause for violent Jihad has been established on the basis of geopolitical circumstances and religious understandings of the same, the Quran advises Muslims to:-

"Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you but do not attack them first. God does not love aggressors. Slay them wherever you find them [15] ". It encourages violent Jihadis to muster "all the men and cavalry at your disposal… [and]…strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies [16] until God's religion [17] reigns supreme [18] ". Jihadis should use violence to "ward of external aggression, maintain internal orde and establish absolute justice for all citizens [19] ". Jihadis should "employ all means and media for the establishment of 'all that is right' and the elimination of 'all that is wrong' [20] ". If they do so then they will "dwell amidst garden and fountains and shall receive what their Lord will give them…for they have done good works [21] ".

6. Thus as seen above, through its affirmative discourse on the use of violence and its association with the Divine and martyrdom, the Quran encourages the popularity of violent Jihad as a legitimate tool for Muslims to overpower their adversaries. Through this association the Quran also projects the use of violence as a religious duty that demonstrates the utmost submission to God and deserves the highest rewards. This becomes more compelling because the Quran permits violence, in any instance where the Shariat has been violated.

7. A Muslim who foresees this violation as important is allowed by the Quran to adopt violent Jihad. The manner in which this process applies to each Muslim depends on individual interpretations of the Quran which extend themselves to the social realm as well. If adopted on the basis of individual will and sense of religious duty, then violent Jihad can be considered as an act of great patriotism in Islam. Conversely an act of violence that is not directed towards preserving the Shariat and the will of God is categorized as 'terrorism' in Islam. Such acts are a deviation from the path of God and the Quran states that "those that deny God's revelations shall be sternly punished; God is mighty and capable of revenge. Nothing on earth or in heaven is hidden from God [22] ". The Quran is extremely categorical in outlining the premise and course for Islamic violence so that it can deter nonreligious violence from occurring.

8. Quran implies that Muslims can apply their Quranic understandings to geopolitical conditions and present religious premise for violent Jihad. Once this is done, the intent and act of violence meets Quranic requirements consequently making violent Jihad a legitimate religious reaction. Most often, acts categorized as 'terrorism' in the non-Muslim world represent religious rather than non-religious violence executed within the Quran's discourse on violence. This is because the non-Muslim world's categorization of violence is not related to the Quran. In the non-Muslim world, the use of legitimate violence is defined as a state-oriented concept which must find just cause in domestic or international precepts. [23] However, in the Islamic world the Quran itself determines political, economic and social perceptions.

9. Violence in Islamic nations almost always has an essential religious rather than a purely political bias. The Quran states that any Muslim can be a 'warrior of God' rather than the 'state' based on his religious interpretations. The extent to which violence can be used in Islam for this purpose remains unstipulated by the Quran. It simply states that Jihadis should engage all means required to ensure that the enemy is defeated or accepts defeat. Thus even though violent Jihad can create aggression that amounts to 'terrorism' in the non-Muslim world, in Islam this is not perceived as such as long as it occurs within the guidelines on the use of violence, stipulated in the Quran. Contrary perceptions of violent Jihad persist in the non-Muslim world mainly because of the divergent perspectives from which the use of violence is defined.

10. Bin-Laden and some other extremists in the Islamic world contend that the 11 September 2001 attacks were a reaction to the hegemonic status that the United States (US) has established in the Middle-East, especially after the Afghan-Soviet War. This had political and economic implications that often violate the Shariat on governance and trade. These Muslims oppose power-politics played by the US in countries such as Iraq, Iran and Libya. They contend that these politics mainly further US economic interests in the Middle-East. The Quran states that Islamic resources should be used mainly for Islamic benefits and can be exchanged with non-Muslims through negotiations and agreements. However, it strongly condemns unsolicited involvement of non-Muslims in Muslim affairs. Thus, some Muslims also emphasize US oil-trade in the Middle East from this perspective. They also condemn power hungry leaders in the Islamic world who facilitate such economics and politics and prevent the downward filtration effects of these engagements, as recommended by the Quran. Thus, Bin-Laden and these Muslims believe that, despite their intensity, the 11 September 2001 attacks were a legitimate Quranic reaction to preserve the sanctity of Islamic values in the Middle East.

11. Extreme interpretations of the Quran's discourse on violence would legitimize this belief. Contrarily, perceptions of state oriented violence and war in the non-Muslim world would reject it. However, it is important to remember that in Islam, extreme as they maybe, acts of violence are legitimized by the Quran, as long as they are enacted to reserve the Shariat and executed within its discourse on violence.

Role of Quranic Interpretations in Justifying and Integrating Terrorism

12. Even though the various terrorists groups intone various ideologies of the Islamic religion, there are no set universal agendas for these groups. In the contemporary world the goal for groups like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Chechen rebels is "a nation of their own" with tactics reminiscent of the ethnic violence erupting after abandoned colonialism. On the other end of the spectrum are groups like Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and Al-Qaeda with its various offshoots, who indeed are looking to rearrange the global order, instigate the now-infamous clash of civilizations and create a Muslim caliphate that spans continents, all the while bringing the West to its knees. Their goals are vast and global. Somewhere in the middle of all this are groups at risk, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) in Pakistan and the separatist movements in the Philippines and Thailand. These groups are primarily motivated by state-centric goals, but all rest on the cusp of pan-territorial and far more dangerous agendas. Terrorist groups can largely be conceived as having two working parts: an identity and an ideology. When it comes to Islamic terrorism, that identity is based in religion, but sometimes the ideology is based in nationalism, while at other times in a more transient, pan-territorial agenda. This difference is most stark between more traditional "ethno-terrorist" movements and the far more globally oriented groups like Al-Qaeda [24] .

13. Since nationalist movements are focused on creating a state or political freedoms for one group, their strategies are focused on the nation-state from which they hope to gain concessions. Their violence is directed at those inside the state. Whether or not Islam provides the identity, their goals are not apocalyptic. In contrast, religious terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda engage in almost no domestic targeting. Their goals cross continents. They want to destroy corrupt regimes in the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, purge the Western presence in their lands and change the global power order [25] .

14. After having seen how the terrorists interpret the Quran in justifying their actions, we can surmise that the popularity of this kind of radical reaction in the Muslim world can be explained as a religious counter reaction to the rapid progress of modernization, which has often included a move away from traditional religious beliefs in societies. In some parts of the less-developed world, fundamentalists are counterattacking against the perceived threats to their societies posed by secularism and modernity, and some are blaming their societies' failures on the "godless West." Political Islam calls for a renewal of Islamic values in the personal and public life of Muslims. Its manifestations include strict religious observances, the rapid growth of religious publications and readings from the Koran on radio and in television programming, and demands for the implementation of Islamic law. Political Islam often includes growing numbers of Islamic schools, organizations, and activist movements and expressions of resentment against the Western world for exporting a secular "Coca-Cola" culture to the Islamic world [26] . Throughout the Arab world, Muslim militants and terrorists are often recruited from the legions of unemployed and dispirited young men in both urban and rural settings in seriously underdeveloped countries. In many nations in the Middle East, there is never a shortage of those who are willing to find attractive the idea of launching a holy war against the enemy.


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