What is oppression and terrorism?
The unfortunate link made between Islam and terrorism in the contemporary world, is based upon a superficial interpretation of Islam by certain sections of both, the Muslim and non-Muslim society. Primarily, it is the misinterpretation of the term, ‘jihad’, which is in fact composed of at least fourteen aspects, none of them referring to the concept of holy war. The term jihad refers to struggle, which includes the struggle against the self, the struggle in the field of education to better oneself, the struggle to build a civilized society and the struggle regarding combative combat. On the subject of the struggle against the self, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said; “The Mujahid is the one who struggles against his self to obey Allah.” In addition to the Jihad against the self, there is also a Jihad regarding society at large, which includes a struggle to disseminate Allah’s message, starting from the people close to oneself and, then to the entire society, in order to build a moral and good Muslim civilization. Finally, the combative combat Jihad is recognized as a communal obligation, whereby, the Muslims wage a defensive war in order to protect their religion and society. However, as stated earlier, Jihad was never limited to armed struggle only, but refers to attempting to live in accordance with the will of Allah, may He be glorified and exalted; it means disseminating His message through education, eliminating all the obstacles between Allah and human beings, enjoining good and forbidding evil.
Jihad is not an offensive fight to destroy others. On the contrary, it is a defensive struggle, aiming to protect and defend the rights of the Muslims. Importantly, it is about upholding what is just and establishing the rule of law. Establishing justice and fairness can even sometimes be realized by the means of the pen and through words, without the need for any other form of ruthless force. However, there are times when a believer cannot continue his or her struggle through their property, their hands or their words; but that does not mean that they can wage Jihad by taking up arms and blindly attacking the enemy. Indiscriminate individual acts of violence are by no means considered Jihad. Certain violent activities seen in the recent years, such as, suicide bombings and terrorist attacks, cannot be associated with Jihad nor do such atrocious acts qualify as Jihad. Such killings perpetrated by people in the name of religion are by no means justifiable; they do not befit the cherished moral values and virtues of Islam. Such acts are horrible atrocities, and crimes against humanity. Whenever the Prophet set out to fight, he considered all options to establish peace, before he picked up arms for battle, he said; “Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy, (but) when you (have to) encounter them exercise patience.” With these words, he was clearly expressing that fighting was not something to be desired. The Prophet’s advice about keeping the peace reminds us of the following Qurʾanic verses; “If they incline towards peace, you [Prophet] must also incline towards it, and put your trust in Allah”, and, “But as for those who seek refuge with people with whom you have a treaty, or who come over to you because their hearts shrink from fighting against you or against their own people, Allah could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they withdraw and do not fight you, and offer you peace, then Allah gives you no way against them.” Keeping these commandments in mind, we should understand the parameters set down by Islam regarding the concept of Jihad.
In contemporary society, the declaration of a combative war is foremost, the duty of the legitimate authority of a Muslim nation state only. It is also important to note that this specific duty can never be delegated to a group(s), living in a nation state, who acts against the government by terrorizing and controlling innocent citizens. No individual Muslim or group, residing in a nation state, has the right, duty or the role to declare Jihad, nor are the ulama placed in such a position to issue a call for combative Jihad. It is reported that the Prophet sent the following message to his military leaders, who were setting forth in the way of Jihad to stop hostile advances and defend Muslim territories; “Advance in the name of Allah, with Allah, on the pattern of the Messenger of Allah. That means do not kill the elderly, infants or children and women. Do not exceed the proper bounds. Gather your spoils and make peace ‘and do good. Lo! God loves those who do good.’’’ The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), observed the laws of war even in the most upsetting conditions and times. He never approved of inhuman, savage and begrudging behaviors during war. It is clear that any form of terrorism, and terrorist acts, including any kind of suicide attacks that kill indiscriminately, are utterly unacceptable forms of combat in Islam.
Source: Islam For New Muslims An Educational Guide,Assoc. Prof. Amjad M. Hussain, Erkam Publications