5: Are you advocating the discarding of jihad

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Q. 5: Jawdat Sa'eed is a great promoter of the repudiation of violence. He goes so far as to call for the discarding of the sword and all weaponry; he likens the purchase of arms to the purchase of idols. His doctrine of the 'Way of Adam's Son' is inseparable from Jawdat Sa'eed's name, since that way was put forth in the title of his first book. So the question would naturally arise: Is Jawdat Sa'eed upholding the annulment of 'jihad', an established Islamic obligation, even when all its conditions are met? Is he calling for disobeying Allah's command, "Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power," (the Qur'an, 8:60)? Is it right in his point of view that we be passive spectators while the Zionist enemy is amassing its huge arsenal? Is he calling for terminating the resistance movements in the face of destructive powers?

Interview with "Current Islamic Issues"
1: The major stages in the intellectual progress
3: The main features Jawdat's project
4: Two sources of knowledge
5: Are you advocating the discarding of jihad
6: The basic tenets of Iqbal's project
7: The challenge of globalization
8: Patriarchal-glorification-and-infallibility
9: Is the Islamic mind in a crisis?
10: The present Arabic cultural scene
11: Muhammad Arkoun's attitude
12: Interpretation of the holy texts
*Download the full Interview

A. 5: You are trying to provoke me, Abdul-Jabbar, in this longest of your questions. But you are right to require that I should make things most evident, to say all that is to say concerning the use of violence.

When I published my book, The Way of Adam's Better Son, more than thirty years ago, I was concerned with bringing out my idea, just to announce it. I did not hope then to convince people of the presented ideas; and that is why I said in the preface that the book was for announcement and not for persuasion. Many people wrote to me that I had to try to persuade people, and to write with that intention, not just to declare my ideas. All that shows you how difficult that topic is. Many doubts were raised concerning it. But I assure you that once we understand the topic, we will wonder how it was unclear to us. It is something like when people for many centuries could not understand that it is not the sun that goes round us, but it is we who go round the sun.

This shows me in what darkness we still live! We need to explore the prevalent concepts which impede the way to understanding, what blocks people's hearing and vision. This is something that is given great attention in the Qur'an, when it says: "Deaf, dumb, and blind, they will not return to the path;" (2:18) and when it says: "Has he made the gods all into one God? Truly this is a wonderful thing! … We never heard the like of this among the people of these latter days;" (38:5-7) That the Qur'an is in our hands avails us nothing. Do not you see how the Jews and the Christians have the Bible, but it avails them nothing? And science and all fields of knowledge are there, but they do not help us. The tragic condition of the Muslim World is glaringly obvious to any observer, and that should be a great motive for people to inquire and look for the facts: What makes Muslims the greatest losers in the whole world? That was my point of departure, when I started my work; and I had confidence in persuading the human mind, not in subduing it.

This brings me to your question. Unless we admit that man will give on the basis of persuasion more than he will give on the basis of intimidation and compulsion, then we have not started to understand man or even God. So let us look at three points. The First Thing is Allah: We think that we know about Allah, but we really do not; just as the verses of the Qur'an describe this situation: "But this thought of yours which ye did entertain concerning your Lord, hath brought you to destruction, and now have ye become of those utterly lost!" (41:23) This must be a reminder to us that our understanding of God does not have to be right. I here remember Ali Shari'ati, a giant of a thinker, a sociologist who specialized in comparative religions: When I read his book Man and Islam I felt that he was like a first-class athlete moving among crippled people; that is because he has eyes that can see, ears that can hear, and a mind that functions most effectively. He can strike fire in the hearts of those who read well, and he is a man of great faith. Ali Shari'ati says: "Every society makes up its god to match its light;" which is very true, for if we want to know God, we have no way of knowing Him except through His creation. The Second Thing to know is God's creation, this universe. We need to know it; and when we learn the facts of the universe, we shall find that God created it to work on the basis of firm sunan, laws; sunan that are firm but that leave room for development; I mean that God creates new things, that God as the Qur'an says: "adds to creation as He pleases;" (35:1). The Third Thing to know is man, and we have to deal with man as a separate entity, as different from other living beings, because of the nervous system; it is through the nervous system that man is enabled to reflect and to discover the laws.

All three need to be taken together. For when you focus on the universe, you find all it constituents point to Allah, and we know God through the universe. It is by observing the universe that we discover how the camels, the mountains, and societies were created. It is because the universe is based on laws that man can control it: by understanding the ways of the world man can control it. That is about discovering the laws and acting on them. When we come to how men deal with men, we find that they hasten to employ muscles rather than understanding. When God says in the Qur'an: "Mankind was one single nation, and God sent messengers with glad tidings and warnings;" (2:213) I find that mankind was one nation and is still so. They think alike: they everywhere still resort to exercising physical strength to subjugate the others. It was so in the past, and it is still so at present. What Pharaoh said, 'I am your lord, most high;' is still used most widely; and the Pharaoh of our time, America, still says what the ancient Pharaoh used to say.

As long as might is right then it is the jungle law that is predominant, and mankind is still one nation, that is, they are like-minded. Men worshipped power, and still worship power, and worship the one who has the power. This is then the source of discord in the life of man: since man has a nervous system that is capable of understanding, and of controlling his life through understanding, then he should not be dominated by another human being like him. This is my life mission that I raised long ago, and that I am still working on. Only last year I published a book entitled Be Like Adam's Son; and I hope to publish another entitled Break Your Bow.

When I say that purchasing weapons is not unlike the purchasing of idols, I say that to shock the Muslim, to really shock the Muslim and the non-Muslim. I am really saying: Mankind! You can really communicate in harmony, and you cannot go on living on the basis of the jungle law. You need to lay concepts and principles and laws for a common harmonious life. Man will not be man until and unless he accepts the way of Adam's better son. When can we understand this, and help Muslims and all human beings to understand this? We need here to refer to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, for without him we shall not be able to understand this issue, especially in our present conditions. I say the Prophet, peace be upon him, because he represents all prophets, and he it is that testifies to their messages, as the Qur'an says: "Truly We have sent thee as a witness, a bearer of glad tidings, and a warner, and as one who invites to God's grace by his leave, and as a lamp spreading light;" (33:45-56) All the prophets' religion is one, the core being belief in One God, not taking associates with God. As for the rituals, they vary from one prophet's time to another. As for dealing among people, it develops with time, but must never violate the cardinal principle of justice. Indeed the belief in One God is manifested in justice, for injustice is the worst form of polytheism, and polytheism is the worst injustice.

To establish justice among people is to establish monotheism, the common terms between different parties, "that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than God;" (3:64) What we have in the above verse is the principle of fairness, that I grant you the same right as I expect you to grant me; that I forbid you what I forbid myself. No principle can be superior to that, when you grant the other the same as you allow yourself. One merit of this principle is that you do not have to wait for the other to accept the principle. One adopts the principle, and does not wait for the other's consent.

How can one be a Muslim if he does not accept the way of Adam's son? The Messenger, peace be upon him, adhered to this way, when he called people to the faith, compelling no one and dictating no one to accept the faith. Those who accepted the faith were subjected to torture by the Quraysh tribe; the unbelievers tried all they could to compel the believers to revert to disbelief, and when the Messenger, peace be upon him, saw one of the tortured families, he said: "Have patience, Abu Yaser's family; let our meeting place be in Paradise;" not calling them to rise against their tormenters; he only urged them to adhere to the faith, not to give in to their adversaries. The Qur'an itself taught believers: "hold back your hands from fight but establish regular prayers;" (4:77). In the very first sura (chapter) revealed to the Prophet, peace be upon him, the Qur'an taught the believers to adhere to their worship and to disobey the trespasser who insisted on imposing his opinion with force: "Seest thou one who forbids a votary when he turns to pray? … heed him not; but bow down in adoration;" (96:9-19). In another location we recite: "And they ill-treated them for no other reason than that they believed in God, Exalted in power;" (85:8). The Prophet, peace be upon him, did not defend himself; and in this we see how working for Islam, from the first moment, started with patience and enduring injury.

We have ample evidence in the Qur'an about that. In one location we have in general terms how the prophets dealt with injury: " Has not the story reached you, (O people!), of those who (went) before you? - of the people of Noah, and 'Ad, and Thamud? - And of those who (came) after them? None knows them but Allah. To them came apostles with Clear (Signs); but they put their hands up to their mouths, and said: "We do deny (the mission) on which ye have been sent, and we are really in suspicious (disquieting) doubt as to that to which ye invite us." Their apostles said: "Is there a doubt about Allah, The Creator of the heavens and the earth? It is He Who invites you, in order that He may forgive you your sins and give you respite for a term appointed!" They said: "Ah! ye are no more than human, like ourselves! Ye wish to turn us away from the (gods) our fathers used to worship: then bring us some clear authority." Their apostles said to them: "True, we are human like yourselves, but Allah doth grant His grace to such of his servants as He pleases. It is not for us to bring you an authority except as Allah permits. And on Allah let all men of faith put their trust. No reason have we why we should not put our trust on Allah. Indeed He hath guided us to the Ways we (follow). We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us. For those who put their trust should put their trust in Allah." And the Unbelievers said to their apostles: "Be sure we shall drive you out of our land, or ye shall return to our religion." But their Lord inspired (this Message) to them: "Verily We shall cause the wrong-doers to perish! "And verily We shall cause you to abide in the land, and succeed them. This for such as fear the Time when they shall stand before My tribunal,- such as fear the punishment denounced." (14:9-14)

What we have above is a debate not of one particular prophet, but a generic one; and it represents the various peoples. Of course, in other locations the Qur'an handles single situations, but it is the same theme and the same purport of debate: on the prophets' side, it is a call to the way of truth; on the side of the peoples, it is inflicting hurt, banishing, and using compulsion in the hope of bringing a convert back into the people's dogma. It is evidently worth our while to analyze this scenario, to see how the prophets dealt with this situation. They indeed chose to deal with their peoples on an equal footing, on common terms that apply to both parties in an equal measure. The principle of the prophets was: We bring forth our call, and you bring forth your call; neither party will resort to coercion or hurt; no one will be turned out of their home. So let him believe who chooses, and let him disbelieve who chooses: "Let there be no compulsion in religion;" (2:256) "Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject the faith;" (18:29). There is no room for compulsion in religion, in opinion or in beliefs. So let there be competition in persuasion, and let there be no resorting to violence or compulsion; but if the opposing party resorts to such ways, we ourselves must not do the same; "We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us;" (14:12) until people are convinced of the views of either party. In this way, the prophets laid down a general law for dealing with others in the sphere of ideas: that violence should be neutralized; that there should be no compulsion, in religion, opinions, or in politics; that both parties (or we, if they do not agree to do the same) use only persuasion. Only wisdom should be used and a beautiful tone and language; debate and dispute in the best and most gracious way; until change takes place in society. That is the way adopted by Muhammad, peace be upon him, the model for the upright people who will not initiate aggression, and will never resort to compulsion.

Even after the others inflict hurt and use compulsive ways, we may not retaliate with hurt or compulsion, in our endeavor to establish a community that embraces in general the upright way (of no compulsion). After the society has converted to the upright condition, then it may protect people's thoughts and beliefs from aggression: and that right of protecting people's thoughts and beliefs is to be applied to believers in the same way as it is to be applied to unbelievers. The others have the same right as believers do in calling people to their ideas, in a peaceful way, disputing in a gracious way. Not many Muslims at present tolerate to grant others the right to call to their ideas, in an equal degree as they (Muslims) believe they are privileged to have. The reason is that they do not have enough confidence in ideas, or in the religion they hold. But no! They have really to grant others the same right they wish to have in calling to what they believe, banning to others only what they ban to themselves. Indeed, things will be like this by and by, despite anyone's resistance. What will settle down is the law of "the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth;" (the Qur'an, 13:17).

In the same way, if society begins to decline and decay, a Muslim may not resort to any way other than addressing people and directing them to what is right. Should the community accept his call, and after people are converted to it, then that society has the right to protect everybody's right to talk and remonstrate. Those who refuse and insist on employing force, rather than debating in peace, then they are reverting to the law of the jungle; in this case the prophets, one and all, adopted the same attitude, that of Adam's better son; "We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us;" (14:12). In this way the prophets set the principle of genuine democracy. The mistake of modern democracies is that they permit attacking and killing a tyrant or oppressor. This is not the right way; the right way is rather to work peacefully until the society is converted without compulsion.

Muslims at present do not accept the principles of modern democracies, and do not accept human rights. The human rights as put forth by the prophets are predominantly not 'rights' but 'duties'. It is our duty to bring into being the right society and to protect it, all through debate and persuasion, never through compulsion. Those who use compulsion are virtually calling others to use compulsion; in this case, both the victor and the defeated will be applying the jungle law; both, as the prophets teach us, merit to be punished in hell: it is so because both parties are holding up force as a deity. This is a stumbling block for so many people, and it very often hampers understanding. The prophets did not resort to self defense when the representative of society hurt them on account of the idea they held. So, we have to endure the hurt and to keep exhorting the society to develop itself into a nation in which people are not hurt for their beliefs or ideas.

That is why we read the following in the Qur'an about the threat on the part of a certain people, and their prophet's reply: "The leaders, the arrogant party among his people, said: "O Shu'aib! we shall certainly drive thee out of our city - (thee) and those who believe with thee; or else ye (thou and they) shall have to return to our ways and religion." He said: "What! even though we do detest (them)? "We should indeed invent a lie against Allah, if we returned to your ways after Allah hath rescued us therefrom; nor could we by any manner of means return thereto unless it be as in the will and plan of Allah, Our Lord. Our Lord can reach out to the utmost recesses of things by His knowledge." (7:88-89) You have here the principle of building up a people, 'millah, in Qur'anic terms, as people perceive it, and we have a totally different principle of building up a 'millah' as the prophets perceive it. As you see in the above report, the prophets' conception is utterly different from the conception commonly held by others, for the prophets would not have compulsion in any way determining the acceptance of principles. That is why when I quoted above the verse about people being one nation in the past, I added that people are still the same one nation, meaning that their principle for the structure a nation is definitely not that of the prophets. People are still the same because they believe in changing others' beliefs and ideas by force; but God sent His prophets to protect people's beliefs and ideas. Anyone who adopts this way may call others to accept his ideas on terms of equality, never using compulsion; no one may take any other as an associate to God by surrendering to compulsion; we should help people to get over the worshipping of men, and to worship none but the Lord of men.

The Muslim World is, with all its constituent nations, intrigued by physical force. Maybe only very lately they began to grope, quite tentatively and with little certainty, towards an alternative to violence. We need to build on that and exhort people to give up violence altogether in the dissemination of ideas, to denounce a politician who assumes his office through force. But how should this denunciation be shown? Not by assassinating a politician, nor by assaulting him physically: it is by disobeying him whenever he commands that which contradicts God's commands, by making it clear that we do not subscribe to a reversion to the jungle law. People work under the illusion that if they refuse to obey they will be put to death: this is an illusion because the bigger the number of people who accept this way of producing change, the more it is difficult for the oppressor to kill even one individual, let alone a whole society. This then is the smooth and merciful way of change, merciful for all parties. It is the least costly way and the most beneficial. It is unfortunate that we remain unaware of this way, nor do we adopt it or awaken people to its blessings. For those who know about this, they are guilty of a heinous sin: the sin of suppressing God's Signs (ref. to the Qur'an, 2:174). If we can drive into people's consciousness this way, children, women and the elderly can take part in using it; we do not just need 'able-bodied' athletic young men; we do not need heaps of money and weaponry. On the contrary, we reject all that, and we say: 'we insist on announcing this and calling to it; if you like to put us to death on that charge, go ahead.' This is what we were taught by Noah, the father of prophets, peace be upon him, as the Qur'an reports: "Relate to them the story of Noah. Behold! He said to his people: 'O my people, if it be hard on your mind that I should stay with you and commemorate the Signs of God, yet I put my trust in God. Get ye then an agreement about your plan and among your partners, so your plan be not to you dark and dubious. Then pass your sentence on me, and give me no respite;" (10:71)

I must be clear and say: I am not annulling jihad; I am merely showing that the jihad of the Messenger, peace be upon him, is not the same as that of the 'kharijites, the schismatics.' Just after the era of the Upright Caliphs, from the era of the Umayyads, all Muslims adopted the way of the kharijites, the schismatics. This may be easily understood if we remember that a government that is created by force is not a lawful government, nor is it an upright government; it is a government of aberration and aggression. When you have a society properly constructed, any one who falls out of it, disrupting its system, then the way to deal with such people is as the Qur'an directs us: "If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them; but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight ye against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of God; but if it complies, then make peace between them with justice, and be fair: for God loves those who are fair and just;" (49:9)

This is when a person who rules on the basis of persuading people has to face a transgressor. But if a transgressor has to face another transgressor, then it is just the confrontation of two blind, misguided powers. When the situation is like that, the Messenger, peace be upon him, commands one to avoid siding with any of the disputing groups. A number of traditions of the Prophet direct a Muslim to distance himself from the chaotic clashes; we are commanded to break our sword; a Muslim is directed then to stay at home, and even if the aggressor enters one's home, he is to reply with the words of Adam's son [a ref. to the parable in the Qur'an, in which Adam's son says to his killing-intent brother: 'If thou stretch thy hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee;' (5:28)]. The Prophet went so far as to urge the Muslim, if the glitter of the assailant's sword is too dazzling to bear, let him throw his shirt over his eyes.

This must show you that I feel no contradiction, nor do I feel that I have annulled jihad; I feel quite in harmony with the traditions of the Messenger, peace be upon him, and indeed with the conduct of all the prophets. Of course, the Messenger, peace be upon him, was not contradicting himself when he said, side by side with the above traditions urging a Muslim to hold back his hand: "An arrow shot in the cause of God will intercede for three men to enter Paradise: its maker, its sharpener, and its thrower." Nor do I feel that this last tradition contradicts the Messenger's saying in another tradition: "Break your bow, blunt it, and snap its chord; strike with your sword at a rock until it is blunted;" and his saying in another tradition: "Let him who has a flock [at a time of political turmoil] take his flock to a far-away hill; let him who has some camels go and take care of his camels; let him who has a piece of land cultivate his land [to distance himself from the chaotic agitation;]" and when someone asked him what if one who has nothing of the above, he said: "Let him stay at his home, and do as Adam's Son did." Indeed, the problem of the kharijites, the schismatics, has not yet been analyzed: the kharijites are people who were intent on establishing a society on the basis of compulsion. It has been reported that Ali, may God give him grace, said: "Do not fight the kharijites after me." If he did say that, it is not in the sense that the kharijites' way was legitimated, but because all the groups would accept the their way. This is quite true, and until today the issue has not been clarified. In all the studies and analyses I have come across about the legality of war, the state and the nation, eastern or western, I have never seen anything clearer, more manifest and more practicable than the prophets' way, whose method I have tried to present above. I wish I could present it better; but I am sure that the theorizers and thinkers of the future, Muslim or non-Muslim, will be more able to clarify this and make it plain for everyone to understand, so that no one would be at a loss or desperate how to get out of the jungle law. God has indeed taught the prophets the best 'sunan, law'. I feel a great peace at my heart with this: I feel that with the prophets' way I can face the whole world: Their way was the way of perfect equality, the way of justice and piety, as the Lord says of the believers: "made them stick close to the command of self-restraint; and well were they entitled to it and worthy of it;" (48:26).

I take the chance here to call on the whole world, the world's philosophers, and all advocates of human rights to join arms to abolish the Veto Right: it is indeed the major mischief in the world; its arrogant spirit descends from the Romans; it is not a natural product of modernity. The Veto Right stunts the world's progress and it is a major hurdle in its way. It is an indication that the petty taghoots of the world are protected by the major taghoot. Is it conceivable that the advocates of human rights pass by that most enormous mischief, the worst violation of human rights, without campaigning for its removal? Are they not ashamed of claiming to be advocates of human rights and believers in democracy? The Veto Right, which is condoned by the whole world, is antithetical to democracy, utterly incompatible with democracy; it is against humankind itself, and it frustrates any attempt of progress in the world. Why is it, one wonders, that those big powers see the straw in the eye of others, and do not see the trunk in their own eyes? But why should we ourselves keep silent, accepting this political situation as if it were for granted? I do realize that the whole world is like this at present, but it does not have to continue to be so.

No, Abdul-Jabbar, I am not rebellious against God or His Book; but when big fortunes in the Muslim World are spent on purchasing weapons, weapons whose producers know they do not threaten their interests, it is incumbent on me to speak. If this is what we take to be preparing to defeat our enemy; if this is what we take to be the right response to God's command: "Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power;" (8:60); then really we are mocking God's command, we show our ignorance of our enemy; and, above all, we are exposing our blindness to the way things go in this world. When the Americans were dismissed from Lebanon, it had no army and no government, and even its people were killing each other. But the Americans and the French were dismissed, and Israel withdrew from besieging Beirut. This was accomplished by this ethnically ravaged, disunited country. Somalia, too, was in a miserable condition, starving and naked, but it dismissed the Americans and the United Nations, without regular army, and with almost no weapons. Japan was also liberated without war, without even killing the Americans. This must show everyone that physical power no longer does any part but creating illusions.

One can learn further by looking at Iraq, a country that is much greater than either Lebanon or Somalia, but it is being subjected to inspection from home to home, not for any practical purpose, but to be humiliated. This happens just because Iraq has a government, a regular army, and sophisticated or half-sophisticated, weapons. Is not this a ridiculous hoax? It further shows how there is a system which is obsolete, but some people cling to it. Maybe this is too abstruse for us to comprehend, so let us think of something that is within our comprehension. When the second Gulf war raged, the Arabs forgot about Israel, and turned to fight Iraq! Was that a problem of weapons? No, of course! It was a problem of ideas, concepts and relationships among the Arabs themselves. Can we understand this? How we keep complaining about Israel's destructive arsenal, but when Iraq does succeed in having its weapons, we insist that it is Iraq's weaponry which should be destroyed, as if it poses a greater danger for us than Israel!

So, what dense darkness impedes our discerning all these issues? Do they not fall within the sphere of Islamic issues? If they are at the heart of Islamic issues, what prevents us from discussing them in earnest and in depth? There must be some preconceptions that prevent us from handling these issues; and what price that costs us, and how long precious time we waste!

Well, when you ask me: 'Are you upholding the annulling of 'jihad', an established Islamic duty, even when all its conditions are met?' I can say, thank God that Muslims begin to recognize that there are conditions for carrying out jihad; though they may dispute about the specific conditions. So let it be noted here that when God says: Let there be no compulsion in religion, He is putting very strict restrictions on jihad; He leaves a very narrow occasion for jihad. The above verse is stating that a difference in religion is no reason for attacking the other; it is merely the fact that someone exercises compulsion in religion. The truth at present is that if one were to look for a people who meet the conditions for waging jihad against, he may find it is the Muslim World, where the conditions are met with more than anywhere else. More than any other part of the world do Muslims exercise compulsion; and more than any part of the world are Muslims ruled by taghoots , transgressors beyond all bounds, who rule by compulsion. But it seems that people are not anxious to see compulsion lifted, but may be to see more compulsion imposed.

The real thing about supporting religion is not by having stronger muscles, and more destructive weapons: it is rather by having better-guided minds, and by helping people lift the persecution and compulsion. So when you raise in my face the Qur'anic verse: "Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies;" (8:60) with the implication that I am rebelling against God and His Scripture, do you not agree that if we do not work for having more horses to fight with, we are not disobeying God, as horses are things of the past? Now, from here we can go on to say that Muslims' clinging tightly to physical strength is blocking their understanding. When God says: Let there be no compulsion in religion, He is ruling out the use of force; He is neutralizing and excluding it in connection with winning people into the faith or driving some idea into their minds. Let me remind you of the fourth issue of your journal, Current Islamic Issues, for the year 1997, when you convened a seminar on the effect of time and place on the process of carrying out Islamic jurisprudence. In that issue, there were legal views put forth by distinguished scholars concerning, among other matters, the weight of a female witness's testimony, and the scholars put forth unconventional views in that connection: so should we say in that case that they were rebelling against God or His Book? And when scholars say that slavery, with all the legislations connected with it is abrogated, will they be contradicting God's commandments? The same may be said when scholars took up the legislation concerning a woman's conduct after her husband's death, and they had unconventional things to say in that connection.

But it is in fact in the political domain in the Muslim World that we need to put most of our legislative effort; we need to earnestly fathom all affairs related to rule and government. Our move from the middle ages to the modern age is not an abandonment of the Qur'an: it is with the Qur'an in our hands that we must cross over to the present. Therefore, it is not irrelevant that Muhammad Arkoun mocks, as you point out in Question 11, those who cite the Qur'an in supporting a view, for, as he says, by doing so, they stir all the problems of the move from the mythical era to the scientific era. This thing has to do with something that is often mentioned in the Qur'an, that people may be in a state when they are unable to benefit from their vision and hearing, that men can come to a state when they are no better than animals. The Qur'an says about a certain group of people, "if thou callest them to guidance, even then, will they never accept guidance;" (18:57) it says: "Shall I tell you of those who lost most in respect of their deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works;" (18:103-104) Do you see how present-day Muslims have slogans like: "Democracy is a heresy;" on posters, while they accept to be ruled by taghoots, and crave to be themselves taghoots, to dictate to people what they should believe?

Therefore one may say that what Arkoun has said is not without basis. We, Muslims, have not yet comprehended the changes that have come over the world concerning the taghoot, and the taghoot-worship. People have denounced the taghoot, as Iqbal says, but they have not yet believed in Allah. This means that inside the developed countries, people no longer tolerate to be ruled by a taghoot, they have rid themselves of that; but it remains for them to help others get rid of their taghoots. The West does not wish to see this take place; it rather dreads to see the others denounce their taghoots.

Well, Abdul-Jabbar, that we are controlled by others does not happen without reason. Our comprehension has deteriorated to a pitiful degree, and it tempts other nations to deride us. Indeed, the others do not deal with us as rational people, but as mythical people: When they sell us weapons that are no longer of any use does that not prove that we still live in a mythical epoch? When one does not appreciate the value of persuading man, of teaching people what happened in the world, does it not show that such a person lives in a mythical epoch?

God's law is realized in the predominance of justice; not merely justice at the personal level, but at the social level. We need to see how man loses the ability of understanding. In the preface to one of Arkoun's books, Islamic Thought: A Scientific Perspective, Hashim Saleh, the translator, presents a certain research concerning the orthodox conception and the dogmatic mind-set. This is a good example of modern research that focuses on the condition of man when he loses the ability to comprehend and analyze. We need to understand the orthodox and dogmatic mind, for we are dealing, in the Muslim World, with people who adhere to what they inherited from their ancestors and think nothing of reality and history. A dogmatic mind is that of a person who, when the objective circumstances call for a change in attitude, he fails to make that change. And that is exactly what happens to us in the Muslim World. This dogmatic or orthodox mental attitude is what Muhammad Iqbal meant by the condition of people in the pre-scientific epoch, and what Malek Bennabi meant when he said that a man who is ignorant of what the twentieth century added to the human mind will only arouse derision whenever he opens his mouth to utter a word. It is very true, then, that the Muslim World is afflicted with cultural malaise, in the full sense of the word, but that does not mean it is incurable.

It is the mythical mentality that kills people in Algeria and Afghanistan. It is relevant to mention here that Sultan Abdul-Hamid once said to Jamal al-Din al-Afghani: "Why do not you go to Japan and work for the spread of Islam there?" And he retorted: "But what shall I reply if they say: 'Go back to your people, for they need Islam more than we do!'" Yes, the Japanese have adapted well to the modern world, while we still purchase the industrial world's outdated weapons; for even the atomic bomb is no longer of any use in modern life. It is worth our while to imagine how those who sell us weapons think of us; they actually think of us in the same way as a seller of blue beads thinks of the primitive tribesmen who buy his merchandise to use it as a talisman.

Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union in the sixties of last century, once said to President Nixon of the United States of that period: "Your grandchildren will be communists!" And Nixon retorted: "If they do, it will not by force, but through persuasion!" That is true, because America is open to us, to our persuasion; the open minds are there. It is only our ignorance that makes us believe it is not possible to get to the Americans except by force. So again we have to find ways of liberating the Muslim's mind, for he is intellectually crippled. He attaches no importance to thought, and it is our task to find the ways of entering his consciousness, and helping him enter the world of ideas. We do not at present have people who can address the world in a logical and scientific way! Can you imagine that? I do not find the words to express how deplorable our conditions are. We in fact do not dare to announce our denunciation of the idols; we fear the idols. O how deep and dark a chasm have we fallen in!

Even the Iranians, who have accomplished their miraculous revolution cannot export their popular and peaceful revolution outside their borders. No one could have been able to object to Iran's exporting its revolution in the peaceful way that the Iranians had won their victory over the Shah, facing the guns with flowers. The Iranians have not been able to advocate their way of winning victory, as if what they had accomplished were not unique, as if winning a victory in a peaceful way were a thing to be ashamed of! No, we must have the resolution and pride not to bow to the arrogant powers. When Iran is diffident about its great revolution, its foes will exploit that to charge Iran of supporting terrorism, or exporting terrorism. As things stand at the moment, neither does Iran speak out to bring its revolution to the attention of the world, nor do the others take the trouble to understand what the Iranians had achieved. It is a tragic thing how the Iranian revolution is shown to be: It is in reality a revolution of the people, a revolution of the intellect; it is also a revolution of the woman. Even the word revolution does not do justice to what happened, for the word revolution is a term that is foreign to us – we should really call it a revival of the prophets' action, a resurrection of the prophets' struggle. Let no one imagine that this unprecedented event will be forgotten. It is in fact a harbinger of the Islamic revolution.

Our failing to understand the Iranian revolution, a revolution in the prophets' tradition, proves that our mind-set is still a mythical miracle-oriented one. Many people view the Iranian event as peculiar to Iran and the Shiites, as if the Shiites are not human beings, while the Qur'an teaches us: "Ye are but men, of the men He hath created;" (5:18) laws that apply to the Iranians apply to all mankind.

How long will it take the Muslims to learn the meaning of the most honorable of martyrs (a reference to a tradition: The most nobly killed of martyrs … is that who stands for a tyrannical ruler to tell him the truth about his tyranny, and is put to death as a result)? How long will it take people to understand the Iranian event? They did not set fire to buildings and shops; they merely challenged the curfew, in perfect resolution. Who will teach people the struggle of the prophets, where one does not set fire, nor rob; where one is trusted not to hurt and is known to be safe.

Is it not justifiable for Arkoun to say here that those who cite a verse from the Qur'an are really stirring all the problems of the mythical era? Is it not justifiable for him to say that when some will cite here the Qur'an's saying: "It is not fitting for an Apostle that he should have prisoners of war until he hath thoroughly subdued the land;" (8:67) to go ahead and kill prisoners of war? That which is stated in the above verse was once fair dealing, but is it still the right legislation? God's shari'ah, Divine law, has justice at its core, and whenever something nearer to justice comes into being, it has to supersede the previous legislation. Those who have enough learning and expertise must keep on the look out for what realizes more good for men to choose it as the right ruling; and even then, they must be alert to any facts that come to surface, and to see if that changes the ruling. Muslims will go on blundering until they understand the movement of history, that new things happen which were not there. I am sure that later generations will come up with better methods and techniques to solve problems like this without feeling that they are challenging God, His Book, and his Prophet, peace be upon him; instead of feeling that they are vitiating Allah's Scripture, they will feel that they are honoring it. They will feel great peace and they will feel they have broken the fetters that bind them.

As for the question about terminating resistance against the Zionists, I do not say we should stop it, but I say if there arises a way more beneficial and effective, less costly and securing more good, then we have to choose that which realizes what is good to our ummah, the Muslim nation, in general. It will be a great thing if Arabs and Muslims join arms in doing good, without anyone of them losing anything, and with everyone winning rather than losing. Why cannot they boycott the enemy, and anyone who allies with the enemy? Why cannot we for instance manipulate the siege against Libya? Why cannot we say that Libya's position is just and fair: it is only requesting that the two convicts should have trial in a neutral country? Why cannot we say that the siege on Libya must be stopped; that we challenge that siege. Measures like these work most effectively, over the head of all the big powers. But we still work under great illusion, a charm is petrifying us. Why this unbelievable stupor? Why are we unable to sort out what is possible from what is impossible? Am I mad? Maybe. But I find these things within our capacity, and our nations will accept willingly and with pleasure the price of resolutions like this. America tried often to besiege Iran, but it failed, as it could not have enough states rallying to the boycott. So why should we work for building an atomic bomb, when we have the Tigris and the Euphrates? Why should we think we would starve if we decided to do without the American or Canadian or European food and medicine? It is great nonsense that we are made to swallow! My mind cannot accept the Muslims' attitude to their enemies, so let people call me what they like. I do agree with Arkoun when he says that we still live in the age of myth and wonders. Why do not we choose to solve a problem in peaceful ways when it can be solved like that? Why do not we put to use our human resources and our faith? Why do we insist on the only way that our enemy wants us to use? Why did Iraq invade and occupy Kuwait rather than strike and destroy the Israeli reactor? The Israelis did not hesitate to strike the Iraqi reactor. Had Iraq bombarded the Israeli reactor, it would have had all the Arabs behind it. What is the use of those missiles if we do not use them for our benefit? Where are those who can think? Where are the thinkers? If just one country would rise to the level of the time, and think on the basis of the science now available to everybody, it would attract all the Arabs and Muslims around it. This is not to be achieved with the ridiculous weapons that are being used, weapons that keep us in the mythical past. It is rather by saying to the neighbor: Here is my country if you wish to have it. A country which has risen to the scientific level of the world, and to the democratic consciousness of the world, cannot be ruled by a dictator.

I feel what Iqbal felt when he said:

Had my madness been potent enough I would have moved you!

by which he meant that had his madness been strong enough it would have been contracted by the others, but it is not. And I feel that there must be something lacking in me that I do not move other Muslims. There are things that we are unable to think about, but which, as long as we fail to take into consideration, we shall be, as Garoudi says, offering our enemy, on a gold dish, what he wants us to do.

A popular legend tells that a guardian had custody of an orphan's money; he managed it and submitted his account at intervals. One day, the orphan noticed an item in the accounts about shoes for the camels. So he inquired of the guardian: 'Do camels wear shoes, the same as horses?' And the guardian replied: 'Well, my son! If you are old enough to understand that camels do not wear shoes, then take custody of your money, for you are now a grown-up.' I recall this legend because the Muslim World has not become a grown-up. It still thinks that it needs horses to do jihad. We are still far behind the world in which we live! Why do not we think of the European Union? Its realization is an unprecedented event in the world. Europe did not unite by military invasions, for that kind of unification is something of the past. And now you find some Arabs begging to be members in that Union! The European Union did not happen as a result of mythical thinking; it happened with science and knowledge. But we do not understand that; we do not work for spreading science and knowledge. If we spent on spreading science and knowledge the amount that we spend on the purchase of weapons, we would be in a far better position. What an ironical situation we live! But who can really reveal the Islamic malaise? During the First World War, they used to call the Ottoman Empire 'the sick man of Europe'; and the war was waged for distributing the legacy of the sick man. So there you are! Do you sense how dense the darkness is in which we live? Do you see the demons and ghouls which torment us? Do you sense the charm we live in? To break out of this charm no war is needed, and no war can avail. All we need is more knowledge. But how can I transmit the knowledge about the modern world and about adapting to it? The Soviet Union did not fall because of the lack of weapons, but because of the lack of knowledge and understanding.

Maybe it is in order to mention here an anecdote, to shed some light on the difficulty of raising people to the desired level. In the mid-fifties of last century, I had a friend, a shari'ah (Islamic law) judge from an Arab country. We exchanged some kind of intellectual dialogue. But he startled me one day with a sudden question, when we were alone in the mosque. "What do you think, brother, of those unbelievers who claim that the earth orbits the sun? Cannot they see with their eyes that it is the sun that goes round us?" It was stunning, but I managed to control myself, and I said: "Well, can you expect unbelievers to have better minds?" I said that because I imagined the wilderness I had to carry him through to grasp the idea of the present world.

There is another anecdote, mentioned by Ibn Khaldoun (1332-1406 A.D.), in his Muqaddimah, about a minister and his little son. The minister had to spend several years in prison, and he had his little son with him. The son had seen nothing of the outside world. Of animals, he only saw rats. One day, the minister was telling his son about his experiences in the outside world, and he had to mention the horse. The son naturally asked what a horse was like. So the minister started describing the horse: its size, head, ears, body, tail, etc. After listening to his father's long representation of the horse, the boy said, in all innocence: "Is it not like a rat, dad?" Every time the father described the horse, the child's response was the same: "Is it not like a rat, dad?" And he was right, for he had never seen a horse. And we often have to give up in despair and to respond to the ignorant inquirer: Yes, it is like a rat, son.

I may say now that Israel is a myth, a scarecrow, placed there to scare Arabs and Muslims, as long as they live in their myth and the age of wonders. Indeed, an idol has no strength, except in so far as people believe in it. A mythical faith is so tightly built, that it is the most difficult thing to pull apart or penetrate. If it were not so, if our way of understanding were not mythical, how can we explain that in the second Gulf war we forgot Israel and totally ignored it, and felt that the problems among the Arabs were much more urgent than the Israeli ghost? Indeed, the problems that keep Arabs and Muslims disunited are mythical: every party believes in physical strength, and that blocks our way to any understanding; it makes us incapable of seeing or hearing. When people are in that state, then to invade Kuwait is quite logical to their mind. Wherever we turn, we have to face the same reality: We need to understand how Arabs and Muslims can go on clinging to their mythical way of understanding. What Arkoun said about our clinging to myths is not different from Iqbal's saying that Islam chronologically belonged to the pre-scientific era, but it laid the basis for the scientific era. But we Muslims have not entered the world to which we chronologically belong. We have no sense of facts and figures, but our imagination is full of ghosts and myths.

When will someone come and diagnose our disease? Who can discover the germ which makes of us what we are? You are not the first to ask me about violence. Your question about violence is the longest, and so my answer is the longest one. Some people used to say: How can you believe in non-violence when you know that even when the Islamists in Algeria succeeded by a democratic vote, democracy was aborted there to prevent them from ruling; What else can they do but to resort to violence? And I reply: Why do not you remember Iran? The revolution did not succeed there with ballot boxes, but they succeeded by facing the soldiers with flowers. Can someone come up with a comparison and contrast between what happened in Algeria and what happened in Iran? Is the utmost we can come up with is to say that Iran's event may not be explained according to laws or science, that it was just a miracle? And you see what violence is doing to Algeria at present? While one saw what flowers did to the soldiers, not just to show them love, but to show that non-violence was mightier than violence. The Iranians did not go out to boast about what they had accomplished, but that is not enough. Jesus Christ once said: "Who of you would kindle a light and then place it under a cover? No, you should place it on high, so that all people may see it." The Iranians should have showed their non-violent way, like a light, on a high place, so that everyone might see it. But they put it under a cover. We need to look for it in its dark niche, and to bring it out into light so that the ordinary person might perceive it. I have been quite put out that this creative, futuristic, scientific achievement should be ignored like that! Indeed, it should come out with all the necessary pictures and comments; it should be broadcast with all the multimedia it merits: no man or woman should be left ignorant of that event. Like all the great deeds of the Muslim World, the Iranian revolution remains neglected, since it is the acts of physical power that fascinate the Muslim World. Malek Bennabi meant this when he said: "The morbid adoration in the Muslim World for physical force has hindered its appreciation of knowledge and the power of ideas, that ideas are the real resource of people." He pointed out what happened to Germany, which lost all it had, as far as material things are concerned, but it had all its treasure of ideas, and so in no time it was able to reconstruct its material world. The Muslim World, on the other hand, has a barren intellect, and so it lives in the material stage, and has not yet entered the intellectual era.

So, when Mr. al-Rifa'ee asks me: Is Jawdat Sa'eed upholding the annulling of 'jihad', an established Islamic duty, even when all its conditions are met? I reply by reversing this question and I ask him: Will Mr. al-Rifa'ee start fighting if all things could be solved without fighting? What is the meaning of uprightness in the Qur'an? What is the meaning of democracy? Is it not that all parties agree not to solve political problems by violence? Democracy will not enter a country whose population believe in or legitimate the assuming of authority through violence. As I said above belief that is realized through compulsion is not belief, nor is disbelief that is realized through compulsion disbelief.

It is useful to note that the world of big powers, or, the evil powers according to Khomeini, cannot solve their problems through violence: this is a vital fact of the modern world, but the Muslim World seems not to understand that. The other fact is that nor can the world of the weaklings solve their problems with violence. For evidence one can just refer to the two Gulf wars: no benefits accrued through them, none whatsoever, for any of the disputing parties. It is only the big powers that reaped the gains of the war, in a most dishonest way. Can we learn the lesson then, and never carry out such belligerence, calling it jihad, and claiming that all the conditions for jihad have been met?

I may go from here to claim that though America cannot be conquered by war, it can be conquered by ideas. In the course of a discussion, someone asked about America, and I said: "America is saying: 'Convince me and possess me!'" But how can we convince America? Should we say: "See our leaders! Why not adopt their ways?" Anyone can see how Islam is reaching more and more people, despite all our unfavorable conditions; so why go out and discourage people from the way of Allah? Malek Bennabi, may his soul rest in peace, used to say: Water irrigates not by running uphill, but by running downhill. So if we occupy a petty place in the world, with no ideas, with no solutions for the world's problems; if it is the other world which gives the solutions, resorting to science, and not to myths and miracles, why should people listen to us?" As the situation stands at the moment, it is he who has better thought that can sway the world; the miracle that we seek is sound thought – not muscles and not missiles. It is man who will defeat the idols.

Let the kharijites be jubilant in their graves, seeing that the whole Muslim World has converted to their way; that the 'conditions for lawful jihad' of the other Muslims are no better than those of the kharijites': Is it not enough that one believes that he is in the right and the other is in the wrong to fight him? Is it not on this basis that Ali bin Abu Taleb was assassinated? But it appears that we are still in need of more wars, the spilling of more blood and more pain to believe! It is history that teaches people the lesson: but some are so dull that they will not learn until the catastrophe hits them; while the brighter ones will learn through observing what befell the others; and most people are at present of the first category. If we go by the Qur'an, we find so many peoples perishing by not learning the lessons of history; on the other hand, it is just the people of Jonah that are described as having learned without having to undergo the same catastrophe that befell the others. Eventually, however, the accumulation of painful events will drive the lesson home: events like the two Gulf wars should have been enough, and I hope no third war should be necessary to learn. It is so because when the past history does not teach people, then its lessons go unheeded, and more disasters prove to be necessary. About that we have in the Qur'an: "Such is the chastisement of thy Lord when He chastises communities in the midst of their wrong: grievous, indeed, and severe is His chastisement." (11:102) "They will not believe in it until they see the grievous penalty;" (26:201)

Let me own here that the discourse of people like me is not at present compelling enough; we do not so far have the words equal to the topic; therefore, I should not blame those who do not respond; I should blame myself first of all. But many Muslims' minds are by now primed for the vital facts; they have matured through the painful experiences we have undergone.