Mawlānā Wahid al-Dīn Khān's Views on Jihād
Question: In a video-clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-N4Wf_RR-0), Mawlānā Wahīd al-Dīn Khān has claimed that, since killing of non-combatants is not permissible in Islam, the scope of jihad has almost ended in the nuclear area as war can escalate into a situation where killing innocents may become inevitable. Also, he believes that only defensive warfare (in self-defence) is permissible and, that too, only at the level of the state. In an essay of his "Sabr kē us pār," he advises Muslims to suppress their desires and focus only on their responsibilities. What are your views in this regard?
Response: While it is true that any armed struggle without the authority of the collectivity in which a Muslim resides is prohibited in the opinion of most scholars from early to modern times, in Q.22:40, God explains why war is sometimes necessary to end oppression and persecution. If a State has the strength and moral authority to end persecution, it is the height of apathy to sit back without justifiable reason (Q.4:75-76). For example, if India deliberately persisted in pogroms against its Muslim citizens, and despite all other efforts to end this oppression, Muslim states with the strength to deal with this matter kept eulogizing peace, I wonder what benefits would emerge and how Muslim states would explain their stance vis-à-vis Q. 4:75-76.
The argument that conventional wars are not fought any more is hard to digest. How many wars going on right now have gone nuclear? The nuclear option is always a "them or us" last stage option, if it were to ever emerge. If such an option needed to be exercised, say, in the possibility of a nuclear attack by India on Pakistan, what should Pakistan say? "Please feel free to wipe out our entire population while we bask in Heaven in the glory of peace you'll have"? Ghazālī has pointed out in al-Mustasfá that if an enemy ship shields itself with Muslim women and children and there is danger of Muslim city (territory [with other innocent people]) being taken over, it would be permissible to shoot arrows even at the risk of hurting and killing Muslim non-combatants. The option of war itself has ended for Muslims because of nuclear capabilities today is a notion that is quite incredible.
When a state has the strength to end persecution and no other measures have worked, opting for peace is opting for cooperation with evil. The same principle applies at the individual level. Where you have the authority to end wrong and no other option is available to end persecution, opting for "peace" might even be lower than the lowest level of faith. "Peace" is the weapon of a dā'ī (one who calls others to truth), but a curse for those with the legal and moral authority and power to end wrong. War is often evil, yes; but oppression and persecution of a people is a greater evil (al-fitnah ashadd min al-qatl).
I am not sure what the points of stress are in the essay you have referred to, but, as far as suppressing desires is concerned, since religion is not poetry and is instead meant to have meaning in real life, it is important to have a sense of proportion. Perseverance has little or nothing to do with bearing with injustice; it has everything to do with continuity in the endeavour against it within the ambit of ethical and moral values and nobler ideals. The notion of equating suppression of desires and piety can be very damaging and debilitating psychologically. Where does the foundational text give us the impression that basic and inherent desires have to be suppressed? The emphasis is on not violating ethics and morality and on maintaining superior ideals in the fulfilment of hope and desires. General statements that might mix up ascetic ideas with perseverance in a reader's mind should be made rather carefully.
A healthy and prosperous society is based on justice, compassion, tolerance and sacrifice. These are all necessary and contingent factors. Emphasizing on just one in all situations can be catastrophic for society and the individual. Turning the other cheek is not always the panacea. Even Jesus (sws) did not suggest that.
We need to learn how to contain anger and negativity to attain what we desire; the oft-heard rant of suppressing desires and sentiments to contain anger seems to be some kind of yogic mantra that, in most cases of acquiescence, is likely to generate a chronic need for Prozac. A prayer of Cistercian Sisters is: "Lord, let us suffer as Jesus suffered." In the Qur'an, a prayer of Prophet Moses is: "Lord, I am in utmost need of whatever good you might choose to bestow." Let not our attempts at piety take away our humility.