Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Do Not Cast Yourselves to Perdition - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

In the midst of the tempestuous events in our region, in the midst of all these disagreements and confused views, we pray to Almighty God to give us assistance and guidance, especially as many people are trying to carry out tasks for which they are not suitable, including the task of carrying out jihad in the cause of God, a task that the splendid Islamic Shariaa explains in very clear terms.

The sanctified Shariaa provides for multiplying the benefits and reducing the losses, according to the well-known religious rule. A closely associated rule is to give preference to avoiding loss over making a gain. Based on this principle, Islamic Shariaa places the right to determine the people’s future solely in the hands of the country’s ruler, or the political leader. It emphasizes that in matters pertaining to the nation’s destiny, the ruler should carry out the task of averting harm to the people and enhancing their benefits by consulting with religious scholars and people known for giving wise counsel.

One of these matters is the issue of carrying out jihad in the cause of God, which is classified under two headings: jihad of conquest (jihad al-talab) and jihad of defense (jihad al-daf). Before jihad may be declared, Shariaa prescribes conditions and controls that should be observed to ensure that the Muslim nation can garner the greatest possible gains and avoid harm. In order to avert the greater harm, one may suffer a smaller loss. Consequently a condition of jihad is the possession of sufficient power to defeat the enemy, repulse its evil, and ensure the safety of the Muslim people’s lives, property, and honor and safeguard them from assault and loss, namely, the squandering of resources, violation of honor, and loss of lives.

Without the possession of sufficient military capability, anyone who declares jihad cannot be sure that he can avert the greater loss that overshadows the smaller gain. For this reason the Koran and the prophet’s Sunnah stressed this principle. God Almighty says: “O Messenger, rouse the believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred; if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the unbelievers, for these are a people without understanding. For the present, God hath lightened your task, for He knows that there is a weak spot in you; but even so, if there are a hundred of you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred, and if a thousand, they will vanquish two thousand, with the permission of God for God is with those who patiently persevere.”

Based on this mention of God lightening the task of the believers, a number of jurists, religious interpreters, and ulema deduced the rule that the Muslim fighters should flee the battle if the enemies are more than twice their number.

The prophet, may God’s peace and prayers be with him, illustrated this principle in word and deed. He implemented God’s instruction: “Cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands, and do good to others; surely God loves those who do good.”

This rule pertains to all instances of throwing oneself to perdition, as corroborated by Koranic interpreters Al-Alusi, Shaykh Bin-Sa’di, and others. God Almighty said: “Do not kill yourselves, for God is merciful to you.”

The prophet, may God’s peace and prayers be with him, approved of the flight from the Mu’atah battle by Khalid Bin-al-Walid and his troops because they were outnumbered by the enemy. The prophet’s companions at first thought this was a form of prohibited flight from battle but the prophet told them: “Yet, you are those who go forward in battle, and I am with you”.

Another example is when the prophet was not allowed during his early stay in Mecca to fight back against his persecutors nor to conduct jihad of defense because he lacked the power.

If we compare the situation of the prophet and his companions when they signed the Al-Hudaybiyah Truce with the idolaters and our Palestinian brothers’ current situation versus the Jews, we will find that the prophet and his companions’ situation was even more precarious. Hence if some people say today that because the Jews occupy Jerusalem, a truce is not permitted, this is not sufficient reason. The idolaters in the prophet’s day occupied the Kaaba itself, and the consensus of the Muslims is that Mecca’s Great Mosque is more venerable than Jerusalem. If those people say that the Jews are desecrating Jerusalem, our answer is that the idolaters in those days desecrated the Kaaba with their idols. If they say that the Jews are the most evil people and the biggest enemies of the Muslims, our answer is that the worshipers of idols are guilty of greater disbelief than the Jews. It is the consensus of the ulema that the People of the Book, and this includes the Jews, are closer to the Muslims than the idolaters. God Almighty laid down special rules to govern transactions between the Muslims and the People of the Book, but he excluded the idolaters from them. The Muslims are not allowed to intermarry with the idolaters or eat the flesh of the livestock they slaughter. There are other rules.

If it is said that the Palestinians are subject to persecution, injustice, and various forms of harm, our answer is that the Muslims in Mecca suffered more at the hands of the disbelievers. Some of them indeed were tempted to abandon their religion, tortured, lashed with the whip, imprisoned, killed, or hurt in other ways.

If we consider all this and compare the two situations, we will find that at this time we are required to make a truce with the Jews or seek peaceful political solutions on the grounds that the Muslims lack the requirement of sufficient military strength. This can continue until the time when the Muslims are prepared to regain their rights because they have sufficient power. In this way we will be obeying the prophet’s example in word and deed.

As a nation, we cannot succeed if we do not comply with God’s command “The Messenger of God has been a good example to all those who aspire to look on the face of God on the Day of Judgment.” We will also not succeed if we respond to frenzied, emotional appeals and immature and hasty sentiments. We will not attain our objectives. This is proven by Hezbollah’s actions in Lebanon when it monopolized the decision to make war without waiting for this decision to come from its natural source. It ignored the fact that there was no general agreement to declare war on the Jews. It disregarded the nation’s interests. The gain that it thought it was making by capturing two Jewish soldiers turned into an obvious calamity and harm to the nation. In exchange for that capture one of our countries was entirely destroyed, its infrastructure greatly damaged, its people dispersed, starved, or killed. By its action Hezbollah undermined the Muslims’ strength and created divisions among them as we saw. None of these actions are sanctioned by Islamic Shariaa. Indeed, they clash with the scriptural texts that we cited.

It is regrettable that members of the general public, who cannot understand the full implications, have started to interfere in these momentous matters which should be the sole prerogative of the rulers and senior commanders. Additionally, Muslim jurists have decided that the decision to fight should be left to the rulers. The prophet, may God’s peace and prayers be with him, did this in the course of his career. He did this in the Battle of the Trench although that battle was a jihad of defense not a jihad of plot, a jihad of conquest. He did not allow any of his army to fight a duel with any of the idolaters without his permission. This is what the Muslim jurists relied on in deducing the rule above. There are many other such examples but space does not allow us to recount them all.

Hence, my advice to my Muslim brothers is to leave fateful war and peace decisions to the nations’ rulers and commanders who consult with experienced, reputable religious scholars and people famous for their wise counsel before they decide what is best for the nation.

Let my brothers know that war in this age is unlike war in the past. Formerly war was generally confined to the troops facing each other on the battlefield. Today war causes general destruction, the sapping of nations’ resources, and the death of many people in cities and villages far from the battlefield. Additionally, infrastructure and economic installations costing billions and requiring a long time to rebuild are destroyed. War in these days is very different from the past. Even the victor appears defeated when the costs of war are counted, let alone the vanquished.

A reasonable man is one who takes the possible consequences into account. We pray to God to protect the Muslim countries from every harm.

Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al Obeikan

Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al Obeikan

Sheikh Abdul Mohsen bin Nasser Al Obeikan is a member of Saudi Arabia's Shura Council and a judiciary consultant for the Saudi Ministry of Justice. A writer and lecturer, Sheikh Al Obeikan is a prominent figure who actively defends Islam against the fundamental and militant ideologies of groups such as Al-Qaeda.

More Posts