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|Twisting Islam (Part II)
by Mehol K. Sadain
[The author is an assistant professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies, UP. Islamic Law and Jurisprudence is his field of expertise]
THE FIGHTING in jihad is subject to certain limits or rules that the Muslims must not transgress. When the Prophet Muhammad led his men on military raids or prepared to do battle, he advised them ''never to kill women, infants, debilitated old persons, monks, nor to burn or destroy houses and crops or uproot trees." The Prophet also said, "attack in the Cause of Allah. Fight those who reject faith; but never transgress limits, or take your enemy by surprise or perfidy or inflict severities or mutilation or kill infants." These instructions were repeated by the first Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr As-siddiq when he issued his famous instructions of war to his military commander Usamah, a namesake of the notorious and alleged terrorist leader and financier Osama bin Laden.
Captives or prisoners of war were not to be killed, injured, tortured and degraded, according to the Prophet Muhammad. After the famous Battle of Badr, the first major military victory of the Muslims, Quraish captives who used to ruthlessly persecute the Muslims, including the Prophet, were ordered released by Prophet Muhammad.
In short, under the rules of engagement for a real jihad, only combatants are to be targeted in war. And if these combatants are captured, they must be treated well and must not be killed. The foregoing, Qur'anic verses and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, reveal that the Abu Sayyaf's acts of terrorizing non-Muslim communities by kidnapping children and women, beheading captives who are non-combatants and exploding bombs in civilian areas find no basis in the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad which teach a more humane treatment of enemies and war prisoners. No matter how one searches for a basis in the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, one cannot find teachings of jihad by kidnapping innocent women, children and even men who are not connected in any way to the war. Neither is it justifiable to kill male hostages just because the kidnappers' demands have not been met by government negotiators.
By insisting on TV that the kidnapping and killing of innocent civilians are sanctioned by the Holy Qur'an, the Abu Sayyaf merely demonstrates its complete misreading of Qur'anic injunctions. What its former leader Abdulrazak Janjalani merely twisted to legitimize his call to violence, the present Abu Sayyaf is now mangling beyond recognition to the damage of orthodox Islamic beliefs.
That this twisted view of certain Islamic doctrines has managed to attract followers is not a testimony to its correctness, but more a result of the prevailing serious problems of poverty and lack of empowerment in many areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Given the economic depression of the Muslim-dominated provinces in Mindanao, the lack or utter absence of livelihood and employment opportunities, the attraction of possessing guns and power, and a promise of spiritual bliss through martyrdom, some Muslim youth of Basilan and Sulu, their backs against the wall, were drawn to the Abu Sayyaf.
The MILF case, however, presents a different story. While the Abu Sayyaf's insistence on jihad resembles a thin veil that cannot adequately cover its acts of criminality, the more mature and learned leaders of the MILF have managed to shape an ideological jihad foundation for the establishment of a Muslim state or community under the rule of Shari'ah. The goal is something that the ordinary Muslim can identify with. The means, which is jihad, is slowly taking legitimate shape because the conditions of jihad are gradually being established through the unabated attacks by the military against MILF camps and clearing operations in Muslim civilian centers, thereby creating a situation approaching the level of fitnah.
It is worthwhile to note that while the MILF leadership has always been quick to point out that it will not harm civilians and does not engage in terrorist acts, government military forces, in spite of pending negotiations, seem to have forgotten when they are supposed to have established their strength to justify a suspension of the offensive and the start of earnest negotiation. The military operations simply continue as if, contrary to the lessons of history, the war can be won by military might alone and government resources will not dissipate in the long haul. To effectively counteract the potentials of today's Muslim rebel groups like the MILF, the government must realize that it can never wipe out an ideologically motivated group that has the capability of resorting to guerilla warfare.
The complexity of the present Mindanao conflict, driven as it is by resurgent Islam, renders it more dangerous than ever, and should compel government to be more circumspect, rational and intelligent in its approach. As it is, a cause with an ideology is potent; and an ideology based on religion is even more powerful because religion fuses the physical with the emotional, the material with the spiritual, each drawing strength from the other.
In the case of Islam, the fundamental doctrine of tawhid or unity arising from the Qur'anic concept of the Oneness of God, has the additional function of making the spiritual indistinguishable from the secular. Both must harmoniously blend in a Muslim's life, imbuing the range of man's material concerns with religious significance. To a mujahid or holy warrior, with whom the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf, rightly or wrongly identify, the act of war and its attendant violence is a form of supreme devotion. Such spiritual conviction is a force that is stronger than, and can outlast, the loyalty and courage of the sturdiest soldier in the military.
There should be more creative and effective ways to resolve the Mindanao conflict, and they all begin with a clear understanding of basic Islamic concepts that have been twisted by certain people to suit their needs.
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