3. The Quranic Concept of War’s content: Foreword, Preface, and Author’s Note
The book starts off with a brief foreword written by then-president of Pakistan, general Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (1924-1988). Barely one page long, it is essentially an endorsement of the book’s reflection of the Quranic philosophy of war, its understanding of jihad, and the fact that, as maintained by Malik, the fulfillment of the Will of Allah is the only valid reason for war. While having been envisioned as a secular state by its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, after its creation in 1947 as a homeland for India’s Muslim population, and Jinnah’s death in 1948, Pakistan underwent a progressive process of Islamization under the influence of its mullas. In 1956 it subscribed a new constitution, making it an Islamic republic by right. When Zia-ul-Haq took over power in 1977 by means of a military coup, he declared that the process of Islamization was not being carried out fast enough. He promptly
“imposed martial law, total press censorship, and began creating a theocratic state, believing that Pakistan ought to have ‘the spirit of Islam’. He banned women from athletic contests and even enforced the Muslim fast during the month of Ramadan at gunpoint. He openly admitted that there was a contradiction between Islam and democracy. Zia introduced Islamic laws that discriminated against women. The most notorious of these laws were the Zina and Hudud Ordinances that called for the Islamic punishments of the amputation of hands for stealing and stoning to death for married people found guilty of illicit sex” (Warraq, 2003 , p. 323).
He died in a plane crash in 1988, while flying with several Pakistani as well as foreign government officials, and was put to rest in a custom-made white marble tomb, adjacent to Islamabad’s Shah Faisal Mosque.
Allah Bukhsh Karim Brohi’s preface, which is more extensive—thirteen pages—deserves deeper scrutiny, since it lays the grounds for many of the most important points of Malik’s exposition in the ten ensuing chapters. An eminent jurist and the mentor of famous Indian Lawyer Ram Jethmalani, he was the the High commissioner for Pakistan in India from 1 February 1960 to 31 March 1961, and at the time of his death, in 1987, he was the dean of the Islamic University of Islamabad.
Bukhsh Brohi’s starting assumption sets the tone with a typically paranoid structure: he implies that the harmony that goes with the purpose of life on earth is primary, and has been lost due to the action of persecuting forces of evil. Thus, man’s task as ordained by God is that of fighting those forces that prevent man from achieving the harmonious state he is entitled to and which had once materialized on earth under the guidance of Muhammad and the righteously guided caliphs. The force of evil which is seen as preventing the fulfillment of man’s purpose of his life on earth is, itself, considered an act of war: “Seen in the Quranic setting, man’s role here below is one of ‘struggle’, or striving and energetically combating forces of evil or what may be called, ‘counter-initiatory’ forces which are at war with the harmony and the purpose of his life on earth” (p. i). This theme will be going through the whole concept of jihad laid bare in the book. The forces opposing the propagation of Islam are evil because they impede the fulfillment of a manifest destiny ordained by God. The purpose of man on Earth is “to introduce order and [to] reform, in the light of Heavenly mandate, what has been deformed by Satanic forces” (p. ii), and “any one who attempts to obstruct the progress of those who are taking their path to God will be dealt with sternly—for that is the only way in which to restore and to rehabilitate the authority of God on Earth” (p. v). He voices nostalgia for a time that has been and is no more, a mythical perfect point of origin of Islam, not much different from the banishing of man from the Garden of Eden. Ulph (2012) speaks of “the call for ‘authenticity’ and the restoration of vigor”, affirming that
“the impulse is entirely one of ‘re-authentication’, that is, a drive towards regaining the formula that once brought Muslims their divinely ordained primacy but which now has been withdrawn from them, causing them to lose their vigor. The winning ‘formula’ is explicitly described as the Prophetic template in all its facets: that is, the Prophet’s opinions, his words, his acts and the historical emergence of the early Muslim community—since all of these are physical manifestations of God’s favor and purpose” (pp. 64-64).
The first period of Islam, from its origins until the rule of Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 661), is referred to as salaaf, and salafists consider it to be the time of a perfect society on earth, ruled by the Prophet himself and the “Rightly Guided Caliphs” (Rashidun). This ideal unity of Islam crumbles with the assassination of the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, in 656. His death and the fights that followed constitute the “primal catastrophe” (Berger, 2010, p. 57) of Islamic history. Islamists strive to reinstate the mythical unity prior to the fragmentation of Islam, and the blueprint they adopt to do so is the example of Muhammad as transmitted through the Quran and the Sunnah, abiding to Quran 33:21: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad SAW) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much”. Many other Quranic verses incite the taking on of Muhammad as the best possible role model to be emulated for all time, to obey “Allah and his Prophet”— an injunction carried out with ritualistic obsession by devout Muslims.
Man’s fight against these “Satanic forces” that spoiled the purity of Islam’s origin is what constitutes the essence of jihad. What becomes apparent is the strongly held belief in a Paradise Lost; in how it has been corrupted and is being perpetually denied by an external evil, a persecutory object which is perceived as inherently malevolent and destructive. Following this logic of original purity and completeness to which the followers of the Word of God are entitled and which they have the duty to propagate,
“all striving must be for the sake of God and for the purposes of up-holding His majesty, Authority and the sanctity of His Holy Name. The wars in the theory of Islam are in the nature of an undertaking to advance God’s purpose on earth, and invariably they are defensive in character. It is a duty of a believer to carry forward the Message of God and to bring it to the notice of his fellow-men in handsome ways. But if someone attempts to obstruct him from doing so he is entitled, as a measure of defence, to retaliate” (p. iii).
In other words, the believer has the duty to spread the Word of God—which, Bukhsh Brohi reminds us, implies an “absolute identity of law and religion” (p.xii)—“in handsome ways”, i.e. by means of persuasion. If, however, the other rejects the Word of God with the obligations it implies, this very rejection is seen as an act of war against the fulfillment of God’s Will, hence providing the believer with a valid reason to “retaliate”. The conditions for the waging of war being subjected to Divine regulations, the individual’s motivations such as lust for power and fame are irrelevant. Was matters is the “one master desire, namely…pleasing the Lord” (p. iii). War as a whole “is a highly controlled affair; indeed, it is totally regulated by law” (íbid.), and war is to be waged “to establish the supremacy of the Lord only when every other argument has failed to convince those who reject His Will and work against the very purpose of the creation of mankind” (p. v). The “beautiful methods in extending the invitation … to accept Islam” (p. vii), in other words, are an offer that can’t be refused, since it comes backed up by the explicit threat of violence.
The invitation to Islam, called dawa, is “the first duty in Islam” (p. vii). Refuting the invitation to join Islam causes “the believers [to] have no option but in sheer self-defence to wage a war against those who are threatening aggression—since that is the ultimate court of appeal in which the issue between right and wrong can be finally decided” (pp. vii-viii). The argument behind this reasoning is, essentially, that the outcome of war will show on whose side God is on. The cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker (1924-1974) thought of culture systems as man’s “immortality project”, whose potentially eternal symbolic nature would make up for man’s fear of death: man aims to transcend his own finitude and the anxiety it awakens by narcissistically investing “culturally standardized systems and symbols” (Becker E. , 1975, p. xvii) which, as an expansion of his ego, may live on after the individual’s physiological life comes to an end. Seen from this perspective, history is a succession of immortality ideologies, each containing the symbolic capital entrusted with the task of carrying the group’s striving for eternal life. A similar point is expressed by Hoffer (1951/2010) when he addresses the factors promoting self-sacrifice for the sake of a collective whole: “The fully assimilated individual … has no purpose, worth and destiny apart from his collective body; and as long as that body lives he cannot really die” (p. 62). This raises the question of what happens when two different cultural systems believe, whether consciously or not, that they are the ones with the rightful claim to eternal transcendence. The question of the ultimate source of power, of supreme Truth, becomes a most urgent matter of survival—not just for the individual, but for the particular immortality project as a whole. War, in this sense, serves as the ultimate test for the validity of one’s beliefs about the primal source of power and the question of Truth, since by playing out the ultimate battle over eternal life and death, it answers the ominous question about which belief system has the power of the absolute, the master will, on its side. “War was a test of the will of the gods, to see if they favored you; it forced a revelation of destiny and so it was a holy cause and a sacred duty, a kind of divination” (Becker E. , 1975, p. 105). Hillman (2004) sums it up: “War brings its god to life” (p. 185).
Bukhsh Brohi then goes on to affirm that the “spirit of moderation and humanitarian approach of the law of Islam” (p. iv), particularly as exemplified by Muhammad’s successor, Abu Bakr, is a substantial component of war. This portrayed “humanization of the ethos of the combatants in war” (p. v), however, remains quite vague and undefined. It appeals repeatedly to the notion that the function of Islamic Law is to “promote [sic] ideal of justice” (íbid.) and ending the oppression of tyranny, yet it seems to constitute more of a cosmetic argument aimed at providing a sense of self-righteous aesthetics to the reasons as well as the ways of war advocated by Islam. It is true, however, that at the time of Muhammad the desert of Arabia was characterized by violent disputes between clans and tribes that wasted no thought whatsoever on the issue of what today we would call “war ethics”. Although the regulatory benefits of Islamic war doctrine at the time and place of the life of Muhammad can surely be appreciated, it seems a stretch to portray them in such a positive light as Bukhsh Brohi does when they are applied to the 20th century, claiming that “the fundamental postulates of the Muslim ‘law of war’ are…going beyond the norms decreed by the rules of the Hague and the Geneva Conventions” (p. xii).
The worldview presented by Bukhsh Brohi reflects Islam’s notion that the world is “bipolarised in two opposing camps—Darus-Salam facing Darul-Harb” (p.vi), which are usually translated as the “House of Islam” and the “House of War”. The obligation to wage jihad in the light of the division of the other in terms of pertaining to the House of Islam or the House of War, as Bernard Lewis explains, stems from the
“universality of the Muslim revelation. God’s word and God’s message are for all mankind; it is the duty of those who accepted them to strive (jahada) unceasingly to convert or at least to subjugate those who have not. This obligation is without limit of time or space. It must continue until the whole world has either accepted the Islamic faith or submitted to the power of the Islamic state. Until that happens, the world is divided into two: the House of Islam (dar al-Islam), where Muslims rule and the law of Islam prevails; and the House of War (dar al-Harb), comprising the rest of the world. … According to the law books, this state of war could be interrupted, when expedient, by an armistice or truce of limited duration. It could not be terminated by a peace, but only by a final victory” (Lewis, 1988, p. 73).
This foundational Manichean split lays an important base and limitation for the possible relationships with members of Islam’s out-group i.e. the unbelievers. It constitutes a “morally necessary, legally and religiously obligatory state of war, until the final and inevitable triumph of Islam over unbelief “ (Lewis, 1988, p. 73). Elias Canetti describes how, according to Islam, in the Day of Judgement all the dead since the dawn of creation will rise from their grave and constitute two opposed crowds awaiting to be judged by God, the faithful on one side, and the unbelievers on the other. “The bi-partition of the crowd in Islam is unconditional. The faithful and the unbelieving are fated to be separate for ever and to fight each other. The War of Religion is a sacred duty and thus, though in a less comprehensive form, the double crowd of the Last Judgement is prefigured in every earthly battle” (Canetti, 1984 , p. 142). The overlapping of the terrenal and the celestial dimensions—we might say, between the reality principle, and the space of illusion influenced by a certain degree of narcissistic omnipotence—provides, in this case, clear insight into the organization that underlies a basic structure of Islamic doctrine. Since the objective of Islamic fundamentalism is to “make this natural world into a man-made reality” (Rank, 1941/1958, pp. 58-59), trying to materialize on this earth an ideology “pertaining to a better beyond” (p. 41) by means of what Popper (1945/2011) called “Utopian social engineering”, the deep split between good and bad partial objects translates into a radical categorization of the other in terms of “us” and “them”; between believers and unbelievers, and is visibly projected, almost like a grandiose drama, on the grand stage of reality. How far the consequences of this structural bipolarity may go becomes apparent in B. Brohi’s following statement:
“Many Western Scholars have pointed their accusing fingers at some of the … verses in the Qur’an to be able to contend that world of Islam is in a state of perpetual struggle against the non-Muslims. As to them it is sufficient answer to make, if one were to point out, that the defiance of God’s authority by one who is His slave exposes that slave to the risk of being held guilty of treason and such a one, in the perspective of Islamic law, is indeed to be treated as a sort of that cancerous growth on that organism of humanity, which has been created ‘Kanafsin Wahidatin’ that is, like one, single, indivisible self. It thus becomes necessary to remove the cancerous malformation even if it be by surgical means (if it would not respond to other treatment), in order to save the rest of Humanity” (p. xix).
The reasoning expressed by the above quote constitutes a textbook example of the dynamics of dehumanization, scapegoating and purification. Although the seemingly inescapable human tendency to classify others in terms of enemies or allies reflects a developmentally grounded psychological operation which is vital to the first stages of early infancy and throughout the whole lifespan (Volkan, 1988), what is desirable is a progressive integration of the good and bad idealized images attributed to others and introjected as parts of one’s self. When, however, the split between “good” and “bad” other is excessively deep and reinforced by traumatic experiences, feelings of shame and humiliation, and familiar and socio-cultural customs such as religious or political ideology, this leads to a radical devaluation of those who are considered as outsiders. In its most extreme forms the process can go as far as dehumanization, whose “dual deprivations”, according to Kelman & Hamilton, consist firstly in “depriving victims of their identity by defining them entirely by a category to which they belong”, and secondly, in “excluding this category from the community of the human family. Once exclusion from the human family is obtained, exclusion from the moral universe of obligation easily follows. … The body of the dehumanized victim possesses no meaning. It is waste, and its removal is a matter of sanitation. There is no moral or empathic context through which the perpetrator can relate to the victim” (Waller, 2002, p. 207). Linguistic dehumanization of others is a crucial step towards the perpetration of large-scale violence. Leading up to the Holocaust and while it was carried out, “Nazis redefined Jews as ‘bacilli’, ‘parasites’, ‘vermin’, ‘demons’, ‘syphilis’, ‘cancer’, ‘excrement’, ‘filth’, ‘tuberculosis’, and ‘plague’. In the camps, male inmates were never to be called ‘men’ but Häftlinge (prisoners), and when they ate the verb used to describe it was fressen, the word used for animals eating” (p. 208). Similar portrayals of the other perceived as destructive, malevolent, and the cause of all of society’s ills found their way into common-use language in Rwanda leading up to the genocide of 1994, where Hutus called Tutsis “cockroaches”, or “insects”; in Pol Pot’s attempt to violently create a classless society; in the Soviet propaganda paving the way to the purges; or in any other violent upsurge harboring the ambition of being a total purification of society, a “final solution”. The pattern of dehumanization through language is a constant prelude to acts of extreme evil perpetrated by large groups. The reasoning behind it is, in a nutshell, the preservation of the sense of purity and goodness of one’s self and one’s own large-group by projecting one’s unwanted “bad” aspects on the radically “other”, making them all-bad, and destroying those unwanted aspects through the destruction of the outsider they are projected into—the mechanism of scapegoating. Buksh Brohi calling those who refuse to submit to the Law of Allah “cancerous growth” or a “cancerous malformation” which has to be removed by “surgical means” in order to “save the rest of Humanity”, is a prime example of the linguistic dehumanization I’ve been describing.
Next, Bukhsh Bohi addresses the issue of territoriality. He categorically rejects the modern notion of sovereignty in terms of nation-state because “In Islam…no nation is sovereign since God alone is the only sovereign in Whom all authority vests” (Malik, 1979/1992, p. x). He further maintains that “The idea of Ummah of Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam, is incapable of being realised within the frame-work of territorial states much less made an enduring basis of viewing the world as having been polarised between the world of Islam and the world of war” (Malik, 1979/1992, p. viii). Muslim states are to be considered only “as an interim measure since these are later on to be incorporated into commonwealth of Muslim states” (íbid.). The Ummah refers, broadly speaking, to the “community of believers” (Inamdar, 2001, p. 189), and more specifically to “The polity or community over which [the] sovereign rules…, the single universal community embracing all the lands in which Muslim rule is established and the Islamic law prevails” (Lewis, 1988, p. 32). Starting out as the community of Muhammad’s followers, under his spiritual as well as political leadership it quickly became a state, and went on to expand with staggering speed until becoming an empire. The root word from which the word Ummah derives means “mother”, which reflects the containing and supporting function that the early Muslim community fulfilled for Muhammad himself, as well as for its other members. The Ummah absorbed and progressively integrated different tribes under the common banner of Islam, to the point that the tribal allegiances which made up the most essential fabric of the heterogeneous Arab society were gradually replaced by a “new supertribe, a religious ‘tribe’” in which Muhammad “From the beginning held both civil and religious authority” (Inamdar, 2001, p. 227). Religion became the state itself, and it “replaced blood as the defining social bond” (p. 226). What holds the Ummah together is, in last instance, the introjection by its members of Muhammad as the shared ego-ideal: “no believer can inherit anything from [Muhammad] except the Message he brought and the model of exemplary conduct that he has left behind. [Muhammad] becomes for all time to come the spiritual guide of the whole of mankind” (Malik, 1979/1992, p. ix). The injunction to emulate the example of Muhammad and obey his will in its prophetic capacity is a fundamental tenet of Islam, based on numerous calls to do so in Islamic scripture—most notably Quran 33:21.
The enterprise of unifying mankind under the Law of Islam is, as Bukhsh Brohi explains, “a principle which is supra-national, supra-racial, supra-linguistic and supraterritorial” (p. x). In other words, the sole variable determining difference or sameness; belonging or being foreign; the feature which determines if someone is an enemy or an ally, is the submission to the ideology articulated by the Word of God as it was voiced by his Prophet, Muhammad. Bukhsh Brohi goes on to elucidate the dialectic between Ummah and believer using the metaphor of the relationship between a mother and her child: man, and all those who join him in his way to God, “draw their nourishment from that spiritual reservoir of the milk of humanity of the kind which only a spiritual mother is capable of supplying her infant children” (p. x). The dependent relationship to the group representing an idealized nourishing mother is made quite evident. Muhammad’s undisputed authority in spiritual, legislative, and executive matters within the Ummah led to the “representational world” of the Ummah being “almost entirely defined by Muhammad” (Inamdar, 2001, p. 228). This means that Muhammad had an almost godlike influence over the Ummah’s symbolic structure of meaning. He was not only the enforcer of the Law, but also its source, due to him being the channel chosen by the Divine to made itself heard by mankind. Through his privileged and exclusive direct relationship with God, Muhammad invested himself with a divine authority which his companions accepted and subjected to, and devout Muslims worship to this day. The power over meaning which Muhammad held during his lifetime is hard to fathom, especially considering how strong it still is some fourteen centuries after his death. The Ummah, first through Muhammad’s direct influence and later by the transgenerational transmission of himself as ego-ideal, became to a large extent a container of Muhammad’s symbolic world. In this sense, the “spiritual reservoir of the milk of humanity” necessary to undertake the path to God, can be understood as nothing less than the symbolic nourishment of Islamic ideology in whose framework the Muslim believer strives for the fulfilling of his ideal within the parameters imposed by the reigning symbolic Law. The Ummah becomes the container of the means to attain the ideal, as well as the potential ideal itself. When by the ultimate triumph of Dar al-Islam over Dar al-Harb the whole of mankind will experience the real unified Ummah in its completeness and purity, as the last supraorganic body standing, Islam will achieve the ultimate triumph of the Islamic immortality system over all others which will, by their very demise, be proven to have been wrong, once and for all.
iii) Author’s Note
Malik’s note introducing his book extends over two pages, in which he profusely praises the Quran as “a source of eternal guidance for mankind…a complete Code of life…[whose] Guidance…is based on solid divine foundations and has the brightest prospects and potential of producing results” (Malik, 1979/1992, p. i). He stresses that “Man, by his very nature, is mortal and fallible; and the Book, undoubtedly sublime and perfect” (íbid.). Malik displays the extreme idealization of the Quran and his content: “It is complete, perfect, comprehensive, balanced, practical, and effective” (p. ii), leaving no doubt about how strongly he is convinced of his Divine authorship.
To understand the degree of devotion evoked by this Holy Text, it is crucial to take into account the divine nature ascribed to the Quran, its basic structure, and how it fits into the whole context of Islamic theological doctrine. Written in classical Arabic, it is divided into 114 suras, or chapters, which are made up of between 6200 and 6240 verses, depending on their subdivision. Its order is not chronological, in the sense that the succession of suras doesn’t coincide with the order in which they were putatively revealed to Muhammad. Rather, they are ordered by extension, with the longer ones at the beginning (with the exception of sura 1), and the shorter ones towards the end. The correct chronological order of Muhammad’s revelations becomes of the utmost importance when we take into account the Islamic doctrine of abrogation (naskh), which, based on Quranic verses (e.g. 2:106; 16:101; 13:39; and 17:86) as well as various hadiths (e.g. Sahih Muslim, book 003, no. 0675: “the Messenger of God abrogated some of his commands by others, just as the Qur’an abrogates some part of it with the other”), solves the issue of contradictory injunctions within the Quran, or between Quranic verses and the sunna, by considering as binding the latest revelation over the older one (for an overview on abrogation, see Bukay, 2007; Ibrahim, 2014; Warraq, 2003 , pp. 114-115). One of the consequences this entails is that “the violent verses of the ninth sura, including the Verse of the Sword: (9:5) ‘slay the unbelievers wherever you find them,’ abrogate the peaceful verses, because they were revealed later in Muhammad’s prophetic career: in fact, most Muslim authorities agree that the ninth sura was the very last section of the Qur’an revealed to Muhammad” (Spencer, 2007). These debates set aside, “For the average, unphilosophical Muslim of today”, as Ibn Warraq explains,
“the Koran remains the infallible word of God, the immediate word of God sent down, through the intermediary of a ‘spirit’ or ‘holy spirit’ or Gabriel, to Muhammad in perfect, pure Arabic; and every thing contained therein is eternal and uncreated. The original text is in heaven (the mother of the book, 43.3; a concealed book, 55.77; a well-guarded tablet, 85.22). The angel dictated the revelation to the Prophet, who repeated it after him, and then revealed it to the world. Modern Muslims also claim that these revelations have been preserved exactly as revealed to Muhammad, without any change, addition, or loss whatsoever” (Warraq, 2003 , p. 105).
Along with many other scholars through history, Warraq exercises an extensive critique of many of the characteristics attributed to the Quran with regards to his content, origins, linguistics, and other inconsistencies such as interpolations, emendations and blatant contradictions (Warraq, 2002). More recently, computational linguistics have also been used as a tool to analyze and organize the Quran, and Islamic scripture in general, in search for different grammatical, lexical, and semantic patterns which seem to indicate an authorship and origin of the Quran much more complex and heterogeneous than what is upheld by traditional Islamic doctrine. However, as I already have argued above, this shouldn’t be taken as a reason to adopt a relativistic attitude towards the Quran. While undoubtedly an interesting approach if one is interested in Quranic philology, the rationalist historical critique of the Quran has no relevance whatsoever when it comes to the study of religious devotion in general, and Islamic fundamentalism in particular. What matters is not what displays the highest logical likelihood of being true, but rather what is believed, and perhaps even more importantly, how it is believed. I’ll have a chance to expand on this issue later on, when discussing the notion of religious fundamentalism.
All matters considered, we may conclude that the Quran is a highly idealized object within Islam, and constitutes the channel connecting the believer with the beyond, the earthly with the divine, reality with illusion, through the Word of God. It fulfills, in this sense, the function of a religious “transitional object” (Winnicott, 1971/1980b). On the matter of idealization and religious experience, James W. Jones addresses the potentially positive transformational effect of religious idealization: “if the relationship with the beloved, religious, or interpersonal object allows its shortcomings to be acknowledged, its failures recognized, and its limitations supportively worked through – something few religious institutions seem to be able to do – then there is the possibility for genuine transformation…[away from] an infantile, object-hungry and addictive state…[and towards] genuine transformation towards maturity” (Jones, 2014, Loc 1264). If, however, “a religious institution insists it is pure and without error; if expositors insist that a text is infallible; if a teacher or master insists that he or she is perfect, then the devotees will be kept in a state of developmental arrest… This insistence on perfection and infallibility can contribute to splitting and the maintenance of object-hunger and immature dependencies” (Loc. 1274-1279). Malik’s description of the Quran and his message, which reflects a total adherence to the doctrinal tenets of Islam, definitely points to this latter form of idealization.
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