For Syria Jihadists, or Criminals?

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Presentation1“Once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from a defeat.” Jean-Paul Sartre

The first time Muslims were allowed to take arms and fight was after Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had migrated to Medina.It wasn’t a command to fight the disbelievers as many have misconstrued what Jihad is about. In fact, it wasn’t even a command at all. It was a permission:

{Permission (to fight) is given to those against whom fighting is launched, because they have been oppressed, and God is powerful to give them victory} Quran 22:39

The placement of this verse in the Quran illustrates a point about the Quran, and by extension the Islamic Tradition as a whole. In spite of being the first verse revealed with regards to fighting, one would have to get through more than half of the Quran to get to it. It’s placed in the 17th part out of the 30 parts the Quran is divided into, in the 22nd chapter out of the 144 that are in the Quran, and exactly in the middle of the chapter that it’s in as the 39th verse out of 78 verses in Surah Al Hajj. This lack of chronological presentation of verses related to fighting is followed throughout the Quran. Examples of this include Badr, the first major battle, being alluded to in Al Imran, chapter 3, but mentioned in more detail in Al Anfal, chapter 8. On the other hand we have Uhud, the second major battle, is presented in Al Imran. The Trenches, the third battle, is mentioned in Al Ahzab, chapter 33, whereas Tabuk, the last Muslim led incursion going against the Romans is all the way up in At Taubah, chapter 9.

Some Orientalist scholars complain about the Quran being an incoherent book because of such lack of chronology as the case is with these battles. If one is looking for a Book of Genesis to Book of Revelations linearity, they’re bound to have trouble reading the Quran. It’s interesting to note that the beginning and end of the Quran as it’s presented in a bound book format is artificially imposed. The very last letter in Surah An Nas, chapter 114, has a diacritical mark over it that indicates continuity with something else. In this case the continuity is with the first letter from Surah Al Fatiha, chapter 1. In other words, the Quran is not a linear book – it’s a circular one. Unlike a line that has a beginning and an end, the Quran is an infinite circle. If a line is divided it gives more lines that are just smaller in length without changing their collective property of being lines. If a circle is divided it doesn’t give smaller circles. It turns into curves that can be bent into sharper or wider curves, or straightened into lines. But the overall property of being a circle disappears.

Another interesting aspect of the Quran is the stories it relates about previous nations and peoples, the most-mentioned of which are the Children of Israel. These stories are not to pass time with. They’re also not meant to garner some self-righteous attitudes by pointing at how others failed to keep the Covenant with God. Stories in the Quran are to warn against the pitfalls humans keep falling into. Arrogance due to knowledge, wealth, or perceived righteousness, sectarianism, misuse of power, tests and tribulations, etc., are among the major themes surrounding these stories. When it comes to the Children of Israel, one can easily see why of all other people God mentions them so much in the Quran. All one has to do is think of Muslims while reading these verses instead of thinking they’re about the Children of Israel. Here’s an example of this:

{When We took a pledge from you: “You shall not shed the blood of one another, and you shall not drive one another out of your homes.” Then you agreed, being yourselves the witnesses. Yet, here you are, killing one another, and driving a group of your own people out of their homes, supporting each other against them in sin and aggression – and if they come to you as prisoners, you would ransom them, while their very expulsion was unlawful to you! Do you, then, believe in some parts of the Book, and disbelieve in others? So, what can be the punishment of those among you who do that, except disgrace in present life? And, on the Day of Judgement, they shall be turned to the most severe punishment. And God is not unaware of what you do.} Quran 2:84-85

These are verse 84-85 from Surah Al Baqara, the second chapter in the Quran. They describe what the Jewish tribes in Medina were doing at the time as they were taking sides in civil strife between the two Arab tribes and engaging with them in battles against each other. When prisoners of war were gained from the opposing side they would apply rulings they had in the Torah with regards to their ransom. However, they were not permitted to fight each other in the first place. Hence, the rebuke we have in this verse for the hypocrisy of adhering to some of the Law and negating the rest. To make the warning more direct for Muslims, Umar Ibn Al Khattab RA said about this verse, “This is for you O’ Muslims!

If this verse describes anyone today, it describes the criminals flocking over to Syria under the guise of Jihad. It is an undeniable fact that if forced to take the Quran as a whole, as it should be, they would have absolutely no religious leg to stand on. Jihad, which in the military sense means the struggle for justice and against oppression, the support of the weak and downtrodden, and sacrificing oneself for the sake of another is an honorable concept that no two people, regardless of their belief/non-belief position, would reject. But the religiously illiterate, dogmatically inspired, and intellectually shallow have unfortunately taken this beautiful Islamic principle and bastardized it through their twisted justifications.

Criminal activity is now adorned with out-of-context verses from the Quran and half-quotes from Hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, all coupled with more out of context statements of Muslim scholars. To make matters worse, because of what Syrians are going through, one takes a risk of being ostracized for speaking out against those claiming to be performing Jihad for Syria. We’re told not to speak ill of our brothers who risk their lives in Jihad and some might even call doing so a cowardly act from one living in the comforts of their home in the West while Syrians are dying. It might’ve been Jihad at the very beginning when the two sides of the oppressor and those fighting for the oppressed were clearly identifiable. But now it’s one group showing up after another, each claiming to be on Jihad, each claiming their dead as martyrs guaranteed Paradise, and each claiming to establish Islam. In reality they do nothing but murder and mayhem against each other, while at the same time bringing about more suffering for innocent Syrians.

At some point we must get past the religious rhetoric and look at what the result of these groups’ activities have been. Syrians were first suffering at the hands of Bashar Al Asad. They didn’t realize that by rising up he became only one tyrannical source of their oppression among others.