Jihad and Human Rights
There exists the question, however, of whether the things we are allowed to defend are only these, i.e. individual, group and national rights, or whether it is legitimate for us to defend other things as well. Do there exist things, the defense of which is necessary and obligatory, that do not pertain merely to the rights of the individual, tribe or nation but pertain literally to the rights of humanity as a whole? If somewhere a right of humanity is somehow encroached upon, is it legitimate to fight it? Is war fought for the sake of humanity lawful or not?
Perhaps someone will ask: "What does fighting for the sake of humanity mean?" "I do not have to fight for any rights except my own personal rights, or, at the most, the rights of my nation." "What have I to do with the rights of humanity?" This mode of thinking, however, is in no way valid.
There exists certain things that are superior to the rights of the individual or nation. Certain things more holy, more sacred, the defense of which in accordance to the human conscience is higher than the defense of individual rights. And these are the sacred values of humanity. In other words, the sacredness of fighting in defense lies not in defending one's self, but in defending "the right." When the cause and criteria is "the right," what difference does it make whether it is an individual right or a general right of humanity? In fact, defense of the rights of humanity is holier, and although no one says so, it is freely admitted in actions.
For example, freedom is reckoned as one of the sacred values of humanity. Freedom is not limited to an individual or a nation. Now, if it is not our freedom and not the freedom of our country, but freedom in another corner of the world that pertains to the right of humanity which is being infringed upon, is the defense of that right of humanity, simply for the sake of defending a human right, lawful for us or not? If it is lawful, then defense is not limited to the actual individual whose freedom is in danger, but it is lawful, even obligatory for other individuals and other nations to rush to the aid of freedom, and fight against the negator and repressor of freedom. Now, what is your answer? I do not think anyone has any doubt that the holiest form of jihad and the holiest form of war is that which is fought in defense of humanity and humanity's rights.
When the Algerians were at war with the French colonialists, a group of Europeans helped them in the war - either in the form of actually fighting alongside the Algerians, or in other ways. Do you think that only the fighting of the Algerians was lawful because their rights were transgressed, and that the people who came from the farthest corners of Europe to take part in thebattle to help the Algerian nation were no more than oppressor aggressors, who should have been told: "Stop your interference, what business is it of yours? No one has transgressed your rights, why are you fighting here?" Or is it that the jihad of such people was holier than the jihad of the Algerians, because the Algerians were defending the cause of their own rights, while the cause of the others was more ethical and more sacred than that of the Algerians. Obviously what holds valid is the second assumption.
Freedom lovers - both those who are in reality freedom lovers, and those who only pretend to be - have earned general respect; a respect from the different nations, due to their having presented themselves as defenders of human rights, not the defenders of their own individual rights or the rights of their own nation or even their own continent. If they were ever to go beyond the use of the tongue, the pen, letters and lectures, and actually go to the battlefield and fight, for the Palestinians for example, or the Viet Cong, then the world would consider them to be even more holy. It would not attack them saying: "Why are you interfering? It is none of your business. No one is interfering in your affairs."
The world considers war, whenever it is for the sake of defense to be holy. If it is in self-defense, it is holy. If it is for the defense of one's nation, it is more holy, for the cause has grown from a personal one to a national one, and the individual is not simply defending himself but is also defending the other individuals that make up his society. And if the defense shifts from a national to a humanitarian cause, it again becomes a degree more holy.
Adapted from the book: "Jihad; The Holy War of Islam and Its Legitimacy in the Quran" by: "Ayatullah Morteza Mutahhari"
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