“The Many Meanings of Jihad to 2 Prominent Muslims” in today’s Washington Post is part of their ongoing “On Faith” whitewash series, in which prominent Muslims retail pleasing platitudes about Islam and ignore the real issues. This segment is no exception: the paper’s introductory paragraph to the statements by Ali Gomaa and Ayatollah Fadlallah even acknowledges that Fadlallah is “known for his support of the armed Shiite movement Hezbollah” (not, you’ll notice, the “terrorist group Hezbollah”), although it doesn’t mention Ali Gomaa’s support for the same terrorist group.
Ali Gomaa’s bit is entitled “Jihad Is Not Just Armed Struggle.” The frequency with which Islamic apologists trot out this particular theme always surprises me. This is supposed to be reassuring to the potential and actual targets of armed jihad? I fail to see how the fact that jihad has multiple meanings, including interior spiritual struggle, somehow renders less lethal the AK’s and bombs with which other jihadists wage jihad.
After sketching out jihad’s pacific meanings, Gomaa says:
…In addition to these meanings, the term jihad refers to the defense of a nation or a just cause. These characteristics that amount to “in the way of God” are summed up in the Koran, “Fight in the way of God against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression — for, verily, God does not love aggressors.” (2:190) . . .
In saying this, Ali Gomaa does nothing to refute the jihadist contention that all non-Muslim belief constitutes aggression against the Muslims that allows the Muslims to fight back. Sayyid Qutb says that “aggression has been committed in the first place, against God’s Lordship of the universe and against other human beings who are forced to submit to deities other than God.” “Aggression,” then, is rebelling against God and submission to deities other than God: he sees the aggression simply as not believing in Islam. So does the British jihadist Anjem Chaudary, here.
Thus by emphasizing that Muslims must not be aggressors, Ali Gomaa has said something that non-Muslims will understand in one way, and jihadists in quite another. And his statement does nothing to show those jihadists in any way that what they are doing is wrong from an Islamic perspective.
Same thing with the rest of it:
As for suicide bombing, Islam forbids suicide, it forbids the taking of one’s own life. Attacking civilians, women, children and the elderly by blowing oneself up is absolutely forbidden in Islam. No excuse can be made for the crimes committed in New York, Spain and London, and anyone who tries to make excuses for these acts is ignorant of Islamic law (Sharia), and their excuses are a result of extremism and ignorance.
The bit about no excuses for New York, Spain, and London is good, but here again, what Ali Gomaa says will not convince any jihadists that they are on the wrong path, since they contend that suicide bombers are not committing suicide, they are seeking Islamic martyrdom (per Qur’an 9:111, which guarantees Paradise to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah), and thus the prohibition of suicide doesn’t apply to them. And they further contend that their targets are not civilians at all, but people who are aiding in the war against Islam, and thus are fair game.
If Ali Gomaa really wants to stand for reform in Islam, he needs to address and refute those contentions on Islamic grounds. But he doesn’t do that here.
Fadlallah is no better:
Jihad in Islam (the violent confrontation of the enemy) is the fighting movement that aims at preventing the enemy from forcing its hegemony over the land and the people by means of violence that confiscates freedom, kills the people, usurps the wealth and prevents the people’s rights in self-determination. Therefore, Jihad is confronting violence by means of violence and force by force, which makes it of a defensive nature at times and a preventive one at others.
And who is the enemy, and what constitutes its hegemony? Fadlallah has said nothing incompatible with the idea that Muslims must wage war until “religion is for Allah” (Qur’an 2:193) — that is, until the hegemony of Islamic law is established over the whole world.
He then goes on to explain that jihad is purely self-defense, which in light of Qutb’s and Chaudary’s contention about the aggressive nature of unbelief, gets us exactly nowhere once again.
As for those suicidal bombers who kill innocent people, as well those who accuse others of unbelief, just because they differ with them in some sectarian views even within the same religion, or those who explode car bombs, killing women, children, elderly and youth who have nothing to do with any war of aggression. To those we say that their inhuman brutal actions have nothing to do with Islam whatsoever, and that what they are doing will lead to God’s wrath and not His satisfaction.
The key word in that paragraph is “innocent.”