Troubling Interpretations of Jihad fi sabilillah

Special note: What follows is an online response to an e-mail that I received this morning. After reading the e-mail and briefly visiting the website connected to the association from whom the e-mail was sent, I felt compelled to respond to the ideas being promulgated in the name of Islam, for a couple of reasons.

First, the information is deeply flawed (and open to debate), and serves to reinforce the negative images being promulgated about Islam and Muslims via the malicious propaganda campaigns of our enemies. Secondly, such [misinformation greatly facilitates the TRAPS being set – especially those aimed at gullible young Muslims who are not firmly established in their deen.

El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan
Director of Operations
The Peace And Justice Foundation

Assalamu Alaikum:

This comes in response to an e-mail from you and your association, that promulgates a very strange interpretation of jihad fi sabililah (from my humble view). What makes this interpretation so troubling is that it is put forward as the “Islamic” position on the matter, while ignoring fundamental principles from Qur’an and Prophetic Sunnah which call this interpretation into question. I reference your three opening paragraphs to illustrate my point:

The Islamic state is unique in history; it is the only state that did not tax its population. Why did it not tax its population? It had income that came from Jizya, Kharaj [Tax on agricultural land], Ghaneemat, and Fay’[Fay’ is what is taken from the disbelievers without a fight. Such as the disbelievers fearing the Muslims and running away from their positions and they leave behind booty, or if they surrender without a fight, or they pay Jizyah]. The distribution of the fay’ is up to the Imam.. (Reported by Ahmad and At-Tabarani. Classified Saheeh. Saheeh Al-Jaami’ As-Sagheer No. 2828)

All of these are income that comes from Jihad; so the government does not have to tax the population anymore. But now that the Muslim Ummah is not doing Jihad fi Sabilillah, they end up taxing the population and Rasoolullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said ‘Taxes is haraam and the one who deals in any job related to taxes is cursed.’So the solution is right there it just needs people to wake up and read the simple hadith and follow its meanings.

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbal (rahimahullah) mentioned that one of the Salaf [Pious Predecessors] was asked ‘Why don’t you get yourself a farm for you and your family?’ He said ‘Allah ‘Azza wa Jal has sent me to kill the farmer and take his farm.’When ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiyallahu ‘anhu) had heard that the Sahaba were busy cultivating the very fertile land that they won through Ghaneemat [Spoils of War]from Jihad fi Sabilillah in Jordan, he waited until the time of harvest and then ordered that all of the farms be burned down to the ground. So some of the Sahabah came complaining and he said ‘This is the job of the people of the book; your job is to fight Jihad fi Sabilillah and spread the religion of Allah.’

To begin with, while arguing that the Islamic state “is the only state that did not tax its population,” you define Kharaj as “Tax on agricultural land,” and you fail to mention (or provide an adequate description of) one of the five foundational principles of Islam, ZAKAT, which would apply to a fixed percentage of one’s wealth (not simply the agricultural land that one may or may not have in his or her possession).

Would it not be more accurate to argue that the Islamic State (the truly Islamic State) was the only state in history wherein its citizens were not excessively (or oppressively) taxed, and wherein the taxes that were gathered were used for the betterment of the community and all of its citizenry (both Muslim and non-Muslim)? A state wherein the administrators of the state’s resources were held to a high standard of honesty and accountability (unlike what we see today throughout the global community)?

Secondly, I am deeply troubled by your description of the character of one of the “Salaf [Pious Predecessors]” – who you relate was reportedly asked, “Why don’t you get yourself a farm for you and your family?” And according to your sources, he replied: “Allah Azza wa Jal has sent me to kill the farmer and take his farm.”

Excuse me, but this does not sound like a “pious predecessor” – it sounds more like a common thief, or robber bandit, of any historical period (including the modern era). This was not the minhaj (the way, the example) of our beloved Prophet (may ALLAH have mercy on him and grant him peace), nor was it the example of the four Rashidun (Rightly Guided) Caliphs – Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (may ALLAH be pleased with them all).

I also briefly visited your website and read some of what you had to say concerning The Islamic Legitimacy of The “Martyrdom Operations” – and needless to say, I am compelled to disagree with your point of view on that matter as well. Among highly reputable “scholars,” both past and present, there are different points of view on this debate. You provide only one point of view, and only from those who you recognize as “scholars.”

The strongest disagreement that I have with your view on this matter, however, revolves around the present day application of your point-of-view. I am left to infer that your arguments on this matter apply to what is taking place in the Muslim world today – i.e., Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan, etc. Am I correct? If so, how could such operations be deemed Islamically permissible, when many (if not most) are conducted in a manner that CLEARLY and OPENLY violates Qur’an and Sunnah?!

(And for the moment we can leave aside what ALLAH Ta’Ala, thru His Prophet, saw, mandated concerning well defined classes of non-combatants from among the enemy’s population.)

In Sahih Muslim, Volume 3 (Kitab Al-Jihad Wa’l-Siyar), one can find the following unambiguous hadith from the Prophet (saw) himself:

“He who is killed under the banner of a man who is blind (to the cause for which he is fighting), who gets flared up with family pride and fights for his tribe, is not from my Ummah; and whosoever, from my followers, attacks my followers (indiscriminately), killing the righteous and the wicked among them, sparing not even those who are staunch in faith, and fulfilling not his promise made with those who have been given a pledge of security – he has nothing to do with me, and I have nothing to do with him!”

And then we have the following admonition from the FIRST SOURCE of guidance for committed Muslims the world over:

“If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein forever; the wrath and the curse of ALLAH are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him.”

Al-Qur’an (Surah Al-Nisa, 4:93)

I believe I’ve said enough to register my concern regarding your interpretive analysis on such a weighty issue. I sincerely believe that I am right, with the possibility I may be wrong; and I sincerely believe you are wrong, with the possibility you may be right. (Surely ALLAH knows best.)

What I do know, beyond any shadow of doubt, is that traps are being laid by the enemies of Islam and committed Muslims (both here and abroad) to target the community in very repressive ways – and this type of communication (especially when it reaches the hearts and minds of blind following, shallow thinking, naive and emotional young Muslims) greatly facilitates the effectiveness of our enemies’ intrigues.

May ALLAH, Subhanahu wa Ta’Ala, protect us from our enemies (from the enemies within, and from the enemies without). Ameen.