Our discussions have been about Islamic jihad. Tonight, there are three issues that I wish to speak about, one of which has a Quranic basis, the other, reason as a basis, and the third, has both a Quranic basis and a historical one.
The issue that has the Quranic basis is in connection with the Quranic verses about jihad. Before, we had said that some of the verses about jihad are unconditional while others are conditional. Unconditional verses are those where the command to fight the polytheists or the People of the Book has been issued without any conditions and conditional verses are those which have given the command accompanied by special conditions.
For example, it has been stated that we must fight them if they are fighting us, or if they are in a state of war with us, or if we have reason to fear an imminent attack from them. To the question as to which verses should be observed, the conditional or the unconditional, we say that in the view of the ulema, there exists no difference of opinion to leave us in doubt, for, if we are aware of the rule and we study both types of verses, we will realize that the conditional verses are explanations of the unconditional ones. So, according to this, we must get the meaning of jihad from what is explained by the conditional verses, which means that the Quranic verses do not recognize any verse about jihad as being obligatory.
Yet, some commentators have brought up this issue of abrogation. They agree that many verses of the Quran set conditions for fighting against the non-Muslims, but they say that other verses have been revealed that abrogate all those instructions and conditions. Thus, we come to abrogations, about that which abrogates and that which is abrogated. Some think that the first verse of Surah at-Tawba - which issues the complete command of jihad and immunity to the polytheists, fixing a period for them to stay in Mecca after which they had to leave and the Muslims were to besiege them in their fortifications and hiding places and kill them, and which, furthermore, was revealed in the ninth year of the Hejira - has in one blow abrogated all the instructions about jihad that were previously revealed. Is this the correct view?
No, this view is incorrect. Why? For two reasons. One is that we can only consider a verse to have abrogated another when it is incompatible with it. Imagine a verse being revealed commanding not to fight the polytheists at all followed by another allowing for fight. Good. This would mean that God has canceled the previous instruction. This is the meaning of abrogation, that the first instruction is annulled and replaced by another. So the second instruction must be such that it is fully incompatible with the first. However, if collectively, the contents of the first verse and the second one are compatible, so that one clarifies the other, then there is no further question of one being an abrogator and the other being abrogated.
The verses of Surah at-Tawba are not such that they can be said to have been revealed so as to nullify the previously revealed ones, which attached conditions to jihad. Why not? Because, when we consider all the verses of Surah at-Tawba collectively, we see that they tell us to fight the polytheists because they do not observe one of the essential principles of humanity - keeping one's promises - which one and all know, must be kept, even if the law of one's particular nation does not stress this duty or heed it at all. Thus the verses tell us to fight, because if we conclude an agreement with them. whenever they see the opportunity to violate it, they would do so and strive to destroy and annihilate us. Here, what does reason tell us? If we know for sure that a nation intends to destroy us on the first opportunity, does reason tell us to wait for them to do so before we do anything about it? If we wait, they will destroy us. In today's world, we may see a nation attacking another because of clear evidence that the other nation has made the decision to attack them, and when that nation attacks, the whole world will say that it is permissible, that they did the right thing. No one would say that although they knew and had clear evidence that, for example, the enemy had the intention of attacking on a certain day, yet they had no right to attack the enemy today, that they should have waited with folded arms for the enemy to attack and only then, should they have gone into action themselves.
The Quran in those same verses of Surah Bara'at, the most strict verses of the Quran, tells us:
"What! And if they prevail over you, not observing any relationship with you, nor treaty. They mollify you with their mouths while their hearts are adverse to you." (9:8)
It tells us that, if they find the opportunity, they observe no promise or treaty, and whatever they say comes only from their tongues, while their hearts are in opposition. So these verses are not so unconditional as has been thought. What they actually say is that, on sensing danger from the enemy, for us to fold our arms and delay would be a mistake. Thus we must not think that these verses are completely out of accord with the other verses and they should not be considered as abrogators. This is the first reason why these verses are not abrogative.
Adapted from the book: "Jihad; The Holy War of Islam and Its Legitimacy in the Quran" by: "Ayatullah Morteza Mutahhari"
Share this article