MILESTONES – Sayyid Qutb
Islam is not a ‘theory’ based on ‘assumptions;’ rather it is a way of life’ working with ‘actuality,’ Thus it is first necessary that a Muslim community come into existence which believes that “There is no deity except God,” which commits itself to obey none but God, denying all other authority, and which challenges the legality of any law which is not based on this belief.
A person who bears witness that there is no deity except God and that Muhammad is God’s Messenger should cut off his relationship of loyalty from the jahili society, which he has forsaken, and from jahili leadership, whether it be in the guise of priests, magicians or astrologers, or in the form of political, social or economic leadership, as was the case of the Quraysh in the time of the Prophet-peace be on him. He will have to give his complete loyalty to the new Islamic movement and to the Muslim leadership.
Thus for thirteen years after the beginning of his risalah, he called people to God through preaching, without fighting or Jiziyah, [A tax levied by Muslims on non-Muslim men in areas governed by Muslims, in lieu of military service.] and was commanded to restrain himself and to practice patience and forbearance. Then he was commanded to migrate, and later permission was given to fight. Then he was commanded to fight those who fought him, and to restrain himself from those who did not make war with him.
Later he was commanded to fight the polytheists until God’s religion was fully established. After the command for Jihad came, the non-believers were divided into three categories: one, those with whom there was peace; two, the people with whom the Muslims were at war; and three, the Dhimmies. [Literally meaning responsibility, Dhimmies refers to the non-Muslim peoples residing in a Muslim state for whose protection and rights the Muslim government was responsible]. It was commanded that as long as the non-believers with whom he had a peace treaty met their obligations, he should fulfill the articles of the treaty, but if they broke this treaty, then they should be given notice of having broken it; until then, no war should be declared. If they persisted, then he should fight with them. When the chapter entitled Bara’ah was revealed, the details of treatment of these three kinds of non-believers were described. It was also explained that war should be declared against those from among the People of the Book [16 Christians and Jews] who declare open enmity, until they agree to pay Jiziyah or accept Islam. Concerning the polytheists and the hypocrites, it was commanded in this chapter that Jihad be declared against them and that they be treated harshly. The Prophet-peace be on him-carried on Jihad against the polytheists by fighting and against the hypocrites by preaching and argument.
This movement treats people as they actually are and uses resources which are in accordance with practical conditions. Since this movement comes into conflict with the Jahiliyyah which prevails over ideas and beliefs, and which has a practical system of life and a political and material authority behind it, the Islamic movement had to produce parallel resources to confront this Jahiliyyah. This movement uses the methods of preaching and persuasion for reforming ideas and beliefs and it uses physical power and Jihad for abolishing the organizations and authorities of the Jahili system which prevents people from reforming their ideas and beliefs but forces them to obey their erroneous ways and make them serve human lords instead of the Almighty Lord.
If through ‘preaching’ beliefs and ideas are confronted, through ‘the movement’ material obstacles are tackled. Foremost among these is that political power which rests on a complex yet interrelated ideological, racial, class, social and economic support. Thus these two-preaching and the movement – united, confront the human situation with all the necessary methods. For the achievement of the freedom of man on earth – of all mankind throughout the earth – it is necessary that these two methods should work side by side. This is a very important point and cannot be over- emphasized.
If the actual life of human beings is found to be different from this declaration of freedom, then it becomes incumbent upon Islam to enter the field with preaching as well as the movement, and to strike hard at all those political powers which force people to bow before them and which rule over them, unmindful of the commandments of God, and which prevent people from listening to the preaching and accepting the belief if they wish to do so. After annihilating the tyrannical force, whether it be in a political or a racial form, or in the form of class distinctions within the same race, Islam establishes a new social, economic and political system, in which the concept of the freedom of man is applied in practice.
It is not the intention of Islam to force its beliefs on people, but Islam is not merely ‘belief’. As we have pointed out, Islam is a declaration of the freedom of man from servitude to other men. Thus it strives from the beginning to abolish all those systems and governments which are based on the rule of man over men and the servitude of one human being to another.
Anyone who understands this particular character of this religion will also understand the place of Jihad bi al-sayf (striving through fighting), which is to clear the way for striving through preaching in the application of the Islamic movement. He will understand that Islam is not a defensive movement in the narrow sense which today is technically called a defensive war. This narrow meaning is ascribed to it by those who are under the pressure of circumstances and are defeated by the wily attacks of the orientalists, who distort the concept of Jihad. It was a movement to wipe out tyranny and to introduce true freedom to mankind, using resources according to the actual human situation, and it had definite stages, for each of which it utilized new methods. If we insist on calling Islamic Jihad a defensive movement, then we must change the meaning of the word ‘defense’ and mean by it ‘the defense of man’ against all those elements which limit his freedom. These elements take the form of beliefs and concepts, as well as of political systems, based on economic, racial or class distinctions. When Islam first came into existence, the world was full of such systems, and the present-day Jahiliyyah also has various kinds of such systems.
Since the objective of the message of Islam is a decisive declaration of man’s freedom, not merely on the philosophical plane but also in the actual conditions of life, it must employ Jihad. It is immaterial whether the homeland of Islam – in the true Islamic sense, Dar al-Islam – is in a condition of peace or whether it is threatened by its neighbors. When Islam strives for peace, its objective is not that superficial peace which requires that only that part of the earth where the followers of Islam are residing remain secure. The peace which Islam desires is that the religion (i.e. the Law of the society) be purified for God, that the obedience of all people be for God alone, and that some people should not be lords over others.
God held back Muslims from fighting in Mecca and in the early period of their migration to Madinah, and told them, “Restrain your hands, and establish regular prayers, and pay Zakah”. Next, they were permitted to fight: “Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they are oppressed, and God is able to help them. These are the people who were expelled from their homes without cause. The next stage came when the Muslims were commanded to fight those who fight them: “Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you.” And finally, war was declared against all the polytheists: “And fight against all the polytheists, as they all fight against you;” “Fight against those among the People of the Book who do not believe in God and the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, and who do not consider the true religion as their religion, until they are subdued and pay Jiziyah.” Thus, according to the explanation by Imam Ibn Qayyim, the Muslims were first restrained from fighting; then they were permitted to fight; then they were commanded to fight against the aggressors; and finally they were commanded to fight against all the polytheists.
The command to refrain from fighting during the Meccan period was a temporary stage in a long journey. The same reason was operative during the early days of Hijrah, but after these early stages, the reason for Jihad was not merely to defend Madinah. Indeed, its defense was necessary, but this was not the ultimate aim. The aim was to protect the resources and the center of the movement – the movement for freeing mankind and demolishing the obstacles which prevented mankind from attaining this freedom.
If this stage of the Islamic movement is viewed in proper perspective, then there is no room to say that the basic aim of the Islamic movement was ‘defensive’ in the narrow sense which some people ascribe to it today, defeated by the attacks of the treacherous orientalists! Those who look for causes of a defensive nature in the history of the expansion of Islam are caught by the aggressive attacks of the orientalists at a time when Muslims possess neither glory nor do they possess Islam. However, by God’s grace, there are those who are standing firm on the issue that Islam is a universal declaration of the freedom of man on the earth from every authority except God’s authority, and that the religion ought to be purified for God; and they keep writing concerning, the Islamic Jihad.
The reasons for Jihad which have been described in the above verses are these: to establish God’s authority in the earth; to arrange human affairs according to the true guidance provided by God; to abolish all the Satanic forces and Satanic systems of life; to end the lordship of one man over others since all men are creatures of God and no one has the authority to make them his servants or to make arbitrary laws for them. These reasons are sufficient for proclaiming Jihad. However, one should always keep in mind that there is no compulsion in religion; that is, once the people are free from the lordship of men, the law governing civil affairs will be purely that of God, while no one will be forced to change his beliefs and accept Islam. The Jihad of Islam is to secure complete freedom for every man throughout the world by releasing him from servitude to other human beings so that he may serve his God, Who IS One and Who has no associates. This is in itself a sufficient reason for Jihad. These were the only reasons in the hearts of Muslim warriors. If they had been asked the question “Why are you fighting?” none would have answered, “My country is in danger; I am fighting for its defense” or “The Persians and the Romans have come upon us”, or, “We want to extend our dominion and want more spoils. They would have answered the same as Rabat Ibn ‘Amir, Hudhayfah Ibn Muhsin and Mughira Ibn Shu`bah answered the Persian general Rustum when he asked them one by one during three successive days preceding the battle of Qadisiyyah, “For what purpose have you come?” Their answer was the same: “God has sent us to bring anyone who wishes from servitude to men into the service of God alone, from the narrowness of this world into the vastness of this world and the Here- after, and from the tyranny of religions into the justice of Islam. God raised a Messenger for this purpose to teach His creatures His way. If anyone accepts this way of life, we turn back and give his country back to him, and we fight with those who rebel until we are martyred or become victorious.” These are the reasons inherent in the very nature of this religion. Similarly, its proclamation of universal freedom, its practical way of combating actual human conditions with appropriate methods, its developing new resources at various stages, is also inherent in its message from the very beginning- and not because of any threat of aggression against Islamic lands or against the Muslims residing in them. The reason for Jihad exists in the nature of its message and in the actual conditions it finds in human societies, and not merely in the necessity for defense, which may be temporary and of limited extent. A Muslim fights with his wealth and his person “in the way of God” for the sake of these values in which neither personal gain nor greed is a motive for him.
Before a Muslim steps into the battlefield, he has already fought a great battle within himself against Satan-against his own desires and ambitions, his personal interests and inclinations, the interests of his family and of his nation; against which is not from Islam; against every obstacle which comes into the way of worshipping God and the implementation of the divine authority on earth, returning this authority to God and taking it away from the rebellious usurpers.
Those who say that Islamic Jihad was merely for the defense of the ‘homeland of Islam’ diminish the greatness of the Islamic way of life and consider it less important than their ‘homeland’. This is not the Islamic point of view, and their view is a creation of the modern age and is completely alien to Islamic consciousness. What is acceptable to Islamic consciousness is its belief, the way of life which this belief prescribes, and the society which lives according to this way of life. The soil of the homeland has in itself no value or weight. From the Islamic point of view, the only value which the soil can achieve is because on that soil God’s authority is established and God’s guidance is followed; and thus it becomes a fortress for the belief, a place for its way of life to be entitled the ‘homeland of Islam’, a center for the movement for the total freedom of man.
Of course, in that case the defense of the ‘homeland of Islam’ is the defense of the Islamic beliefs, the Islamic way of life, and the Islamic community. However, its defense is not the ultimate objective of the Islamic movement of Jihad but is a means of establishing the divine authority within it so that it becomes the headquarters for the movement of Islam, which is then to be carried throughout the earth to the whole of mankind, as the object of this religion is all humanity and its sphere of action is the whole earth.
As we have described earlier, there are many practical obstacles in establishing God’s rule on earth, such as the power of the state, the social system and traditions and, in general, the whole human environment. Islam uses force only to remove these obstacles so that there may not remain any wall between Islam and individual human beings, and so that it may address their hearts and minds after releasing them from these material obstacles, and then leave them free to choose to accept or reject it.
We ought not to be deceived or embarrassed by the attacks of the orientalists on the origin of Jihad, nor lose self- confidence under the pressure of present conditions and the weight of the great powers of the world to such an extent that we try to find reasons for Islamic Jihad outside the nature of this religion, and try to show that it was a defensive measure under temporary conditions. The need for Jihad remains, and will continue to remain, whether these conditions exist or not!
It may happen that the enemies of Islam may consider it expedient not to take any action against Islam, if Islam leaves them alone in their geographical boundaries to continue the lordship of some men over others and does not extend its message and its declaration of universal freedom within their domain. But Islam cannot agree to this unless they submit to its authority by paying Jiziyah, which will be a guarantee that they have opened their doors for the preaching of Islam and will not put any obstacle in its way through the power of the state.
Islam is not merely a belief, so that it is enough merely to preach it. Islam, which is a way of life, takes practical steps to organize a movement for freeing man. Other societies do not give it any opportunity to organize its followers according to its own method, andhence it is the duty of Islam to annihilate all such systems, as they are obstacles in the way of universal freedom. Only in this manner can the way of life be wholly dedicated to God, so that neither any human authority nor the question of servitude remains, as is the case in all other systems which are based on man’s servitude to man.
Those of our contemporary Muslim scholars who are defeated by the pressure of current conditions and the attacks of treacherous orientalists do not subscribe to this characteristic of Islam. The orientalists have painted a picture of Islam as a violent movement which imposed its belief upon people by the sword. These vicious orientalists know very well that this is not true, but by this method they try to distort the true motives of Islamic Jihad. But our Muslim scholars, these defeated people, search for reasons of defensive with which to negate this accusation. They are ignorant of the nature of Islam and of its function, and that it has a right to take the initiative for human freedom.
These research scholars, with their defeated mentality, have adopted the Western concept of ‘religion’, which is merely a name for ‘belief’ in the heart, having no relation to the practical affairs of life, and therefore they conceive of religious war as a war to impose belief on peoples’ hearts. But this is not the case with Islam, as Islam is the way of life ordained by God for all mankind, and this way establishes the Lordship of God alone-that is, the sovereignty of God – and orders practical life in all its daily details. Jihad in Islam is simply a name for striving to make this system of life dominant in the world. As far as belief is concerned, it clearly depends upon personal opinion, under the protection of a general system in which all obstacles to freedom of personal belief have been removed. Clearly this is an entirely different matter and throws a completely new light on the Islamic Jihad.
Thus, wherever an Islamic community exists which is a concrete example of the divinely-ordained system of life, it has a God-given right to step forward and take control of the political authority so that it may establish the divine system on earth, while it leaves the matter of belief to individual conscience. When God restrained Muslims from Jihad for a certain period, it was a question of strategy rather than of principle; this was a matter pertaining to the requirements of the movement and not to belief.
The jahili society is any society other than the Muslim society; and if we want a more specific definition, we may say that any society is a jahili society which does not dedicate itself to submission to God alone, in its beliefs and ideas in its observances of worship, and in its legal regulations.
Included among these is the communist society, first because it denies the existence of God Most High and believes that the universe was created by ‘matter’ or by ‘nature’, while all man’s activities and his history has been created by ‘economics or ‘the means of production’; second, because the way of life it adopts is based on submission to the Communist Party and not to God. A proof of this is that in all communist countries the Communist Party has full control and leadership Furthermore, the practical consequence of this ideology is that the basic needs of human beings are considered identical with those of animals, that is food and drink, clothing, shelter and sex. It deprives people of their spiritual needs, which differentiate human beings from animals. Foremost among these is belief in God and the freedom to adopt and to proclaim this faith. Similarly, it deprives people of their freedom to express individuality, which is a very special human characteristic. The individuality of a person is expressed in various ways, such as private property, the choice of work and the attainment of specialization in work, and expression in various art forms; and it distinguishes him from animals or from machines. The communist ideology and the communist system reduces the human being to the level of an animal or even to the level of a machine.
All idolatrous societies are also among the jahili societies. Such societies are found in India, Japan, the Philippines and Africa. Their Jahili character consists first of the fact that they believe in other gods besides God, in addition to Him or without Him; second, they have constructed an elaborate system of devotional acts to propitiate these deities. Similarly, the laws and regulations which they follow are derived from sources other than God and His Law, whether these sources be priests or astrologers or magicians, the elders of the nation, or the secular institutions which formulate laws without regard to the Law of God, and which attain absolute authority in the name of the nation or a party or on some other basis, while absolute authority belongs to God alone, and this can be brought into action only in the way shown to us by the Prophets of God.
All Jewish and Christian societies today are also jahili societies. They have distorted the original beliefs and ascribe certain attributes of God to other beings. This association with God has taken many forms, such as the fatherhood/giving birth of God or the Trinity, sometimes it is expressed in a concept of God which is remote from the true reality of God.
The Islamic society is, by its very nature, the only civilized society, and the jahili societies, in all their various forms, are backward societies.
The statement that “Culture is the human heritage” and that it has no country, nationality or religion is correct only in relation to science and technology-as long as we do not jump the boundary of these sciences and delve into metaphysical interpretations, and start explaining the purpose of man and his historical role in philosophical terms, even explaining away art and literature and human intuition philosophically. Beyond this limited meaning, this statement about culture is one of the tricks played by world Jewry, whose purpose is to eliminate all limitations, especially the limitations imposed by faith and religion, so that the Jews may penetrate into body politic of the whole world and then may be free to perpetuate their evil designs. At the top of the list of these activities is usury, the aim of which is that all the wealth of mankind end up in the hands of Jewish financial institutions which run on interest.