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2nd Quarter 2000

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Twisting Islam I
also appeared in
The Philippine Daily Inquirer May 5, 2000

Mindanao is Bleeding
Statements of Peace

Unleashing the Dogs of War
by Said Sadain, Jr.

The Abuja Islamic Education Trust
Islam Through E-Mail

What is Shariah?

written by
Raul Moldez
Rene Bernales


written by
Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr.
Mehol Sadain
Said Sadain, Jr.

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Growth Mindanao
The other faces of Mindanao

Manila Moods Online
Rasheed Abou-Alsamh, a Saudi-American journalist goes online with his Arab News column on everything Filipino

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Twisting Islam (Part I)
by Mehol K. Sadain
[The author is an assistant professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies, University of the Philippines. Islamic Law and Jurisprudence is his field of expertise]

THE PROLONGED hostilities between the government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the heart of Mindanao, the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping in Basilan and the subsequent kidnapping of tourists from a Malaysian island resort, have once again pushed Islam to the forefront of the news.

The MILF declares it is fighting for an independent Bangsa Moro Islamic state. The Abu Sayyaf uses the doctrine of jihad fi sabilillah (striving in the cause of Allah) and identifies with a resurgent global Islamic militancy and extremism purportedly in pursuit of a purist Islamic ummah. With alarming frequency, criminal acts are being committed in the name of dubious Islamic doctrinal interpretations. While Islam has been in the Southern Philippines for more than half a millennium now, it gave a radical face to the festering conflict in Mindanao only in the '80s.

The Spanish-Moro Wars and the American campaign in Muslim Mindanao serve as the historical backdrop of today's Mindanao conflict. A confluence of social, economic and political factors aggravate this conflict. And contemporary worldwide manifestations of religious extremism in Muslim communities endow it with ideological impetus, mainly tending toward armed engagement and acts of violence.

The doctrinal underpinning of the Moro struggle for self-determination began by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the early '70s is the waging of jihad.

The MNLF rode on the crest of its slogan, ''Victory or to the graveyard,'' in obvious reference to martyrdom in war.

And even after MNLF Chair Nur Misuari set aside the quest for Moro independence in favor of autonomy, beginning with the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 and culminating in the Peace Agreement in 1996, many MNLF warriors remained enchanted with the notion of jihad for an independent Moro homeland. Some of these mujahid found their way to the MILF and Abu Sayyaf camps after the signing of the Peace Agreement in 1996.

Salamat Hashim, erstwhile MNLF vice chair, gave a more categorical and immediate response as early as the '70s. He broke away from the MNLF and set up the MILF, in the process criticizing the MNLF's abandonment of jihad and acceptance of the Organization of Islamic Conference-brokered autonomy in lieu of the revolution's original goal of Moro independence. Hashim and his top echelon of Islamic scholars would steadfastly adhere to their quest for Shari'ah rule over Moroland, and over a period of two decades, patiently nurture the MILF from a fledgling rebel band to the well-armed military force that it is now. Why the MILF was ignored or given secondary attention by the Aquino and Ramos administrations when they were talking peace with the MNLF is not clear. But this certainly reveals government's lack of appreciation or understanding of the dynamics of the Moro rebellion, a situation obtaining until today.

The Abu Sayyaf, on the other hand, espouses an extreme view of jihad mainly based on its former leader's sermons and teachings. Middle East-trained Ustadh Abdurazak Janjalani started preaching a firebrand Islam in the '80s and brought it to fruition with the establishment of the Abu Sayyaf in the early '90s. When Janlalani died in 1998, his younger brother Khaddafi took over and now presides over a more violent and virulent Abu Sayyaf which calls itself Al-Harakatu I-Islamiyya in an obvious attempt to link with the international chain of Islamic extremists.

In all these recent developments, the Islamic concepts of jihad, the Islamic ummah (or community) and Shari'ah (or Islamic law) play pivotal roles as ideological moorings for the Bangsa Moro struggle for self-determination. As such these concepts, rooted as they are on the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah or tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, must be viewed and understood in their original context instead of what self-serving ideologues make them to be.

The focal doctrine of the Mindanao conflict, at least from the viewpoint of the Muslims, is the concept of jihad. The word comes from the verbal root jahada, which means to strive to the utmost in an undertaking.

The Holy Qur'an speaks of jihad in the following general manner:

''O you who believe! Shall I show you a commerce that will save you from the painful doom? You should believe in Allah and His Messenger, and should strive in the Cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is better for you if you but know.'' (61:10-11)

The verse does not directly talk of violence in relation to jihad. It merely exhorts the Muslim faithful to be ready to sacrifice their wealth and lives in striving for the cause of Allah, which is the preservation and propagation of Islam. Jihad, therefore, is any form of man's struggle to enrich himself spiritually as a Muslim, and to promote and spread the message of Islam. It can be a jihad against the self (jihad un-nafs) or a jihad with one's wealth (jihad li-infaaqi l-maal) or jihad by physically fighting against the enemy (jihad li muqaatalatil ada'e). Physical fighting is in fact considered as the lesser jihad, while the jihad against the self is treated as the greater jihad, just to underscore the emphasis Islam gives to the peaceful jihad waged against the excesses of the nafs or the self.

The Qur'anic verses which are said to refer to jihad as holy war do not even mention jihad or any derivative of jahada, and instead use the root verb qatala (to kill) when referring to the force that the Muslims can inflict on the enemy. Chapter 2 of the Qur'an contains the following verses:

''And fight in the way of Allah (qatilu fi sabilillah) those who fight you but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not the transgressors. And slay them whenever you catch them, and turn them out where they have turned you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter.'' (2:190-191)

''Go on fighting with them (qatiluhum) until there is no more state of tribulation, oppression and persecution and Allah's Way is established instead. But if they cease to resist, let there be no hostility except on those who are wrongdoers and aggressors.'' (2:193)

Revealed when the young Muslim community was struggling for survival in Madina, the verses command the Muslims to fight those who fight, oppress and persecute them. Such fighting must continue until the conditions of tribulation, oppression and persecution (collectively termed as fitnah) cease, or the enemies themselves desist from further aggression. Jihad is, therefore, a collective Muslim response against violence, oppression and persecution perpetuated on them by their enemies. Absent these conditions of fitnah, the call for jihad as holy war is not justified.

<Twisting Islam, Part II>



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