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Hartals and Jamaat Part 1: Caravan Raids

Written By: OooKhalid
15/08/2013 18:13 05/08/2013 2:30
Burning Issue


Bangladesh is a third-world country situated on the Ganges Plain in South Asia, flanked by India and the Bay of Bengal to the south. Approximately 90% of the population is Muslim, however secularism is a strongly held belief and Islam in the public sphere (e.g. politics, legislation and economics) has been slow to take off in Bangladesh. In some cases Islam has regressed in Bangladesh’s modern history, especially thanks to the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) led government, for legalization of prostitution as  a valid profession like any other business during its first term rule under its president Sheikh Hasina and  removed the Absolute belief and trust in Allah and putting all religions under equal footings.

Jamaat-e-Islam (JEI) was formed in 1941 as a counterweight to the secular Muslim League and is a pioneer in the Islamic movement in the South Asia region, since the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate. JEI has been a firm advocate of Islam over secularism and other European ideologies in the post-Colonial context and has boldly confronted every challenge in the defense of Islam from its enemies. The organic and creative nature of the JEI in its many confrontations is amply exhibited from its violent Mujahedeen wars against the Soviets in Afghanistan, to its peaceful social welfare role in Hindu majority India. The JEI has enjoyed more popular support in Bangladesh than in any other South Asian nation and is the largest party in terms of paid membership within Bangladesh. The present name of it is: Bangladesh Jamaat-e- Islami (BJI).

The following short thesis is a proposition on the permissibility of hartal as has been calling by BJI in the finite arena of Bangladesh from within the Islamic paradigm. The author will not presumptuously declare any one of the conclusion to the halal-haram dichotomy as the author isn’t remotely qualified, and is the least knowledgeable amongst all the brothers and sisters in the Islamic movement.

Importance of Jihad

Muslims have been commanded to fight the disbelievers and hypocrites if so needed (hypocrisy is the worst form of disbelief), until enmity is ended and Islam takes its grip. As regards fighting al-Quran says,

“And fight them until there is no more Fitnah and the religion will all be for Allah alone. But if they cease, then certainly Allah is All-Seer of what they do. [Quran, 8:39]

Allah’s Apostle said: “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle, and offer prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity; so if they perform that then they save their life and their property from me except where it is justified by law, and their affair rests with Allah.” (Sahih Bukhari, 1:2:24)

The Prophet said “A single endeavor (of fighting) in Allah’s cause in the forenoon or in the afternoon is better than the world and whatever is in it.” (Sahih Bukhari, 4:52:50).

Peace: A Misunderstood Word

Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. - Baruch Spinoza (1632-77)

Peace is not necessarily an absence of war, for wars are fought in order to achieve peace. Islam has never been established by peaceful means, however once Islam became victorious, peace reigned. No ideology or empire in the history of mankind has been established by peaceful means, and to claim for Islam such unrealistic ideals requires a stretch of imagination.

During Tariq Ramadan’s enlightening debate with Christopher Hitchens on the subject of “Is Islam a Religion of Peace”, Tariq Ramadan makes a poignant observation on the nature of Islam:
“Religion and Islam are all dealing with human beings. And if you deal with human beings, you deal with violence and you deal with peace. So for example coming from a religious viewpoint, I wouldn’t say Islam is a religion of peace. I say Islam is a religion for human beings. It deals with peace and it deals with violence; and it helps the people to go from violence towards peace. It is a way towards peace. But it is not a peaceful reality because we are not peaceful beings.”

Permissibility of unconventional warfare: The Caravan Raids

After Hegira, there were a series of raids on trade caravans belonging to the Meccans that the Prophet ordered and in a few instances, personally commanded. These trade caravans were the personal properties of Meccan citizens which had to travel through the vicinity of Medina, conveniently situated on the trade route connecting Syria to Mecca.

The first six raids returned empty-handed either because the caravan had taken a different route or the raiding party was too late. The seventh raid was the first successful raid, called the Nakhla Raid which was led by Abd-Allah ibn Jahsh, and achieved a fair amount of booty and 2 prisoners who were later freed on ransom. Unfortunately a member of the trade caravan was killed in the attack. The Quraish and their secret allies, the Jews, and the double-faced "Muslims" of Madinah, took it as a God-given opportunity to make strong propaganda and raise serious objections against the Believers which caused great pain in the Believer’s minds. It wasn’t so much the person killed as it was the sacred month of Rajab on which he was killed that raised such furor. They ironically remarked, "What a pious people they are! They do not hesitate to shed blood even in a prohibited month." Allah revealed a fitting reply to the critics[i]:

They ask you concerning warfare in the prohibited month. Say, "Fighting is a heinous offence in this month, but in the sight of Allah it is far worse to hinder people from the Way of Allah and to deny Him and to prevent His worshippers from visiting the Masjidal-Haram, and to expel the dwellers of the sacred place from it; and persecution is far worse than bloodshed. [Quran 2:217]

There are three very important points to note from this verse:
a) the raid is considered as legitimate warfare which is corroborated by the following hadith,
Narrated Qais: I heard Saad saying, "I was the first amongst the 'Arabs who shot an arrow for Allah's Cause. (Bukhari 5:57:74).
b) even though Allah considers fighting in the holy month heinous, He doesn’t censure the raiding party for killing  the non-combatant.
c) Allah doesn’t censure the raid because oppression is worse than bloodshed.

No doubt, bloodshed is a very bad thing but their objection is not reasonable, coming as it does from the mouths of those people who themselves had carried on for thirteen years the most cruel form of persecution against hundreds of their own brethren for no other reason than that they believed in one Allah and in the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh). They not only forced these brethren of their own to leave their beloved homes but also prevented them from paying a visit to the Ka`bah, although this sacred place was not the property of anyone. Their crime was all the more heinous because such a wicked antagonism had never existed during the previous two thousand years or so. Therefore, those workers of iniquity, the list of whose crimes were so black, had no right to raise objections on the basis of a trivial border incident. i

Part 2 Hartals and Jamaat: Similarities between Mohammad’s (pbuh) raids and BJI’s hartal

[i] Tafhim-ul-Quran, Surah Baqara, Footnote: 232

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