The Minor Dispute
Here then is the nature of the dispute about jihad; not a major dispute but a minor one. The dispute is not about whether jihad is only lawful in defense or is also lawful for defense. The dispute is over the definition of defense. This minor dispute is about whether the meaning of defense is limited to self- defense, at most the defense of one's nation, or whether the defense of humanity also comes into this category?
Some say, and they are right, that the defense of humanity is also a legitimate defense, so that the cause of those who rise to "command that which is recognized and forbid what is rejected" is a holy one. It is possible that someone's actual being is not transgressed, he may even be highly respected and all the facilities of life may be available to him and the same may apply to the material rights of his nation. But, from the point of view of human ideals, a basic human right is being transgressed. Meaning that within his society, although neither the material rights of that society nor his own individual rights have been transgressed, yet there exists a task awaiting to be performed in the best interest of humanity. Namely, when good and evil exist in society, the former must be enjoined, and become the order while the latter must be uprooted. Now, under these conditions, if such a person sees that the good, the recognized, the accepted, has been relegated to the place of the bad, the rejected, and that the rejected has taken the place of the recognized, and he stands up for the sake of commanding what is recognized and prohibiting what is rejected, then what is he defending? His own personal rights? No. Is it the rights, i.e. the material rights of his society? Again no. His defense is not related to material rights. What he is defending is a spiritual right that belongs to no single person or nation; a spiritual right related to all the world's human beings. Are we to condemn the jihad of that man, or are we to consider it sacred? Obviously we are to consider it sacred, for it is in the defense of a right of humanity.
On the question of freedom, you see today that the very people who are combating freedom, in order to give themselves an air of respectability, claim to be the defenders of freedom, for they know that defense of freedom is tacitly understood as being sacred. If they were really fighting for the defense of freedom, this would be valid, but they are giving the name of defense of freedom to their own transgression. Yet in this is their acknowledgment of the fact that the rights of humanity are worthy of defense, and that war for the sake of those rights is legitimate and beneficial.
Adapted from the book: "Jihad; The Holy War of Islam and Its Legitimacy in the Quran" by: "Ayatullah Morteza Mutahhari"
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