Book Review

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Ayesha Jalal,Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.), $29.95.

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Madison (Wisc.)–With many contemporary books, I find myself merely skimming over the text.  (I think this comes from reading information over the computer.)  This book by Professor Jalal is too absorbing to do that, though. 

I was commissioned to do a scholarly a chapter on Jihadi websites here and in an abridged form in Orlando during early April.  I was encouraged to read Ayesha Jalal because it is the latest and most authoritative statement on Indian Jihadism.

Jalal goes into the fascinating South Asian history and theology of Jihad.  This is a challenging book to comprehend, but it is well worth it.

To a sincere traditional Jihadist, Shari a does not prohibit nationalist wars.  Therefore, a Jihad is not always a “physical” struggle for God (Allah [SWT]).  Still, some temporal rulers employ the concept against the “infidel” (both those who practice different forms of Islam and the non-Muslim), and, thus, in essence these rulers along with their militaristic entourages are imperialistic.  Still, there are those who believe that there is an intrinsic relationship between outward physical Jihad and violent resistance and faith in their concepts of religious concepts of personal and collective identity.

Nonetheless, Jihad has high ideals, but the tragic end to so many Jihadi fighters has led to a eulogistic and nostalgic fog concerning their actions.

Even such outstanding thinkers such as Muhammad Iqbal theorized on Jihad, but he saw Jihad in the original Arabic sense which denoted “a struggle within, or as he states in a poem:

“Jihad with death does not befit a warrior

One [who] has faith [is] alive and war[s] with himself.”

Iqbal’s originality gives elucidation to the love of God (i.e. Allah [SWT]).  Further, Muhammad Iqbal saw his poetry as an explication upon the Koran; consequently, therefore, he wrote upon his vision of inward Jihad “In…the ‘sword’ of men” which found expressed in his life, throughout.

Finally, in her study, Jalal brings Jihad into the contemporary period, and the perversion of the concept of Jihad amongst a minority of Muslims who have reinterpreted it as a violent struggle: “Equating Jihad with violence and terror makes a sheer tragedy of a concept… [that]… remains [at] the core of Islamic ethics.”

Dr. Jalal points to the lack of understanding by the counter-insurgent:  While The American-led [War on Terror until recently promoted] a military dictator in Pakistan [Musharraf] while seeking, at the same time, to spread democracy in the Middle East…”

Your critic considers Ayesha Jalal’s study to be an essential one on the subject.  It is important reading for all Muslims – especially here in the West – where one hears so much erroneous claims and counter-claims on Jihadism.  

Parisians of Allah is not only a book for education for Muslims, but the information presented can here help to explain the true nature of Islam to those outside the faith and to clarify the misrepresentation on many subjects to the non-Islamic world.

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Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

They Do Not Defend the Truth

During their time they spend in the midst of believers, hypocrites play an imitative role in order to blend in and not give themselves away. They seek to imitate religious observances, but never go near those that impinge on their earthly desires. For example, calling people to proper moral values and advising them of the truth are duties that they see as inconvenient. They are not willing to see others implementing this system that they won’t implement themselves. They are therefore careful to avoid defending the truth.

In any case, there is an inconsistency here: Clearly, anyone who avoids remembrance of Allah and who harbors a genuine hatred for religion and sincere believers can never properly communicate the stipulations of the Qur’an and the importance of living for Allah. Since such people do not live by proper moral values themselves, naturally they cannot explain these to others. And in any case, they have no wish to do so.

In addition, communicating the message—which Allah, in the Qur’an, commands as an important religious duty—is something they can never do. Recommending what is good and trying to prevent what is evil, and issuing reminders in the light of the Qur’an are observances that hypocrites can never perform. Since their true desire is to gain the approval of others, they never wish to offend anyone and never intervene in any errors they happen to see.

They Make Excuses to Lag Behind in the Struggle

We have already seen how, one of hypocrites’ main objectives—for so long as they remain in the midst of believers—is their own interests. Doubtless the one area that most conflicts with those interests are the times of struggle that have been written as obligatory for believers. Hypocrites can see no logic in striving for an objective that they doubt will give them any advantage in terms of their own interests, nor in which they don’t sincerely believe. In addition, due to their lack of comprehension, they think of this struggle as one in which lives and belongings will be lost, not for whose sake there will be a reward in the Hereafter. They cannot understand such superior virtues as making sacrifices for Allah or enduring difficulties.

Hypocrites in the time of the Prophet (s) began fleeing as soon as the order for war was issued, and resorted to various lies and excuses to cover up their crimes. Some of the verses on this subject are as follows:

. . . They were told, “Come and fight in the way of Allah or at least help defend us.” They said, “If we knew how to fight, we would certainly follow you.”

Ali ‘Imran: 167

If it had been a case of easy gains and a short journey, they would have followed you, but the distance was too great for them. They will swear by Allah: “Had we been able to, we would have gone out with you.” They are destroying their own selves. Allah knows that they are lying.

At-Tawba: 42

Those who were left behind were glad to stay behind the Messenger of Allah. They did not want to strive with their wealth and themselves in the way of Allah. They said, “Do not go out to fight in the heat.” Say: “The Fire of Hell is much hotter, if they only understood.”

At-Tawba: 81

When a sura is sent down, saying: “Believe in Allah and strive together with His Messenger,” those among them with wealth will ask you to excuse them, saying, “Let us remain with those who stay behind.”

At-Tawba: 86

And a group of them said, “People of Yathrib, Your position is untenable, so return!” some of them asked the Prophet to excuse them, saying, “Our houses are exposed,” when they were not exposed; it was merely that they wanted to run away.

Al-Ahzab: 13

This attitude, which becomes apparent in times of struggle, is important evidence of the hypocrites’ logic. They abandon their imitation of believers carried out up until then and reveal their true character. Before such times of struggle, however, they will also show evidence revealing their true natures.

Their lack of preparation towards future struggles is characteristic of their attitude. Since they have no such aim, they see no need to make ready. Yet at the same time, this is evidence of the activities they do plan. They deliberately fail to fulfill their religious observances and make none of those preparations for the future that are dependent upon believers. In one verse it is revealed that:

If they had really desired to go out, they would have made proper preparations for it, but Allah was averse to their setting out so He held them back and they were told: “Stay behind with those who stay behind.”

At-Tawba: 46

Their View of Believers

Hypocrites have declared war on the religion of Allah. They oppose His messenger and are unable to bear to listen to His verses. Therefore, one cannot expect them to feel any closeness to believers. That they adopt the requirements of a religion that hypocrites are opposed to, and that they abide by Allah’s verses are sufficient cause for hypocrites to feel enmity towards the believers.

Hypocrites will naturally conceal themselves. In order to do so, they will play a role among believers and say, despite what lies in their hearts, that they are believers too. Therefore at first glance, it may not be possible to grasp the anger that they harbor in their hearts toward believers. Inevitably, however, this anger will give itself away through various signs, which are given to us in the verses of the Qur’an.

In Their Hearts They Feel Hatred & Anger Toward Believers

. . . Hatred has appeared out of their mouths, but what their breasts hide is far worse. . . .

Ali ‘Imran: 118

Scrupulous adherence to the Qur’an and the proper moral values they take from it are an important element of believers’ love and respect, but this works in entirely the opposite way for hypocrites. Everything to do with proper moral values further increases their anger and hatred. That is because they expect degeneration when it comes to religion and morality. They wish to distance themselves from everything that religion regards as good and to implement the exact opposite. Remembrance of Allah, recollection of His verses, and the strengthening and improvement of believers represent the continuing growth of a system to which they are opposed, so all this increases the anger in their hearts.

This anger in their hearts manifests itself in various ways. The various oppressive methods they use, the plans they draw up against believers and the way they take the messenger as their target are some consequences. However, as revealed in the verses, the anger they hide in their hearts is no doubt greater than that which appears on the surface.

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Violent Jihadi Imagery

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Your author has been commissioned to write a chapter on Violent Jihadi websites for a book on security in South Asia. He gave his initial findings at a conference in Central Florida early last April out of which came an offer to put it on the web, and, also, to expand it into a chapter.  Your scribe shall be presenting his further findings at a meeting in the upper Midwest this coming October.  After that time, he shall be glad to send on the full exercise to anyone who will e-mail me a request via the Muslim Observer where I shall be publishing a series of journalistic articles based on the research over the next several months.

I was sent a remarkable semi-confidential website study entitled The Islamic Imagery Project published (“pasted”) by an academic Committee of the Combating Terrorism Center within the Social Science Department at West Point in March 2006.  The document is an e-book, and as a student of such things, there are assumptions that are questionable within while, at the same time, the report is quite enlightening. 

The Obama Administration is questioning the purpose and tactics of the struggle in the Middle East and South Asia with what we vulgarly term “terrorism.”  The study of this document can be of value in creating new, more effective approaches in confronting the irregular clashes that often target civilians.  On March 12 2009 Aljazeera and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that the new government in Washington had decided to drop the designations of the “War on Terror” and “enemy combatant.”  Vocabulary can tell us much on how this struggle is changing, and on how counter-terrorism (i.e., counter-insurgency) should and /or could be waged more effectively. 

Information on the modern imagery of politically violent radical Islamic groups – especially as it appears on “Jihadi” websites — is imperfect.   Those conversant in Arabic know that Jihad mostly translates as a spiritual struggle within.  Thus, in correct parlance a Jihadist is one who is in spiritual struggle to find an inner “Truth,” but in Wahhabi Islam, which was born and nurtured in Saudi Arabia, and spread to become a foundation to fight against the Colonial powers in the Nineteenth, Twentieth and now in the Twenty-first Centuries, Jihad has become a physical struggle.  Today it fiercely fights against (Western) Post-Modernism (as it opposes the majority of other diverse forms of Islam).  Therefore, Jihad, also, denotes in this context to resist against the “kafir,” or non- Muslims, in contemporary radical Islam.  The “non-Muslim” is too often considered by them as “hetero-orthodox” Islam — such as the Shiites — as well. 

On the other hand, in Shiite and increasingly in modern Sunni Islam, the closely related concept of Itijihad is gaining parlance.   Since September 11, 2001, Islam has been grossly misunderstood, and it is the duty to change this through Itijihad as the junior Pakistani academic Rana Eijaz Ahmad argues.  Itijihad is a non-violent struggle of enlightenment.

These violent Jihadi organizations have had a brief – so far — but prolific history in the production and distribution of visual “propaganda” as the Committee, who created The Islamic Imagery Project, oversimplifies these images  The web masters have created their own distinct genre of Internet-based Islamist imagery.  The understanding of this sort of embedded iconography is at an early stage; and, thus, there is much to be done by the practioneers of various disciplines.  Within this particular study, the visual “propaganda” (i.e., visual “speech”) is more than textual messages; rather, the visual communicates explicitly, as the written word does. The radical Jihadi imagery has become a prime vehicle for communications and the essential tool for the diffusion of Jihadist ideals to diverse scattered cells – not only in South Asia – but throughout the world, but the modern violent Jihadi Movement had arisen in Afghanistan and now,  also, resolutely resides in the Northwest Provinces of Pakistan, but, also, has spread worldwide operating in secretive detached cells much as the classic Communist did during the Second World War where one cell may not be aware of the make-up or placement of an adjacent grouping making it hard for the counter-terrorist (anti-insurgents) to break the structures up, thereby, to destroy the resistance.

In future essays we shall observe how select pictures keep and break Islamic injunction using both Islamic and Western sources.

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