Tuesday, August 22, 2006

the greater jihad: a muslim art of war

"Some troops came back from an expedition and went to see the Messenger of Allah (saaws). He said: "You have come for the best, from the smaller jihad (al-jihad al-asghar) to the greater jihad (al-jihad al-akbar)." Someone said, "What is the greater jihad?" He said: "The servant's struggle against his lust" (mujahadat al-`abdi hawah).

For a long time now I've had an idea for a book. And I still might try to complete this project at a future date but I also think it is a good enough idea that on some level (especially in the current political climate) I would be happy if someone else "stole" the idea and did it first as long as it was executed well. My idea is to put together a Muslim version of the Art of War. Another work in the same ballpark would be the Hagakure which describes the code and values of the Samurai and which was prominently featured in the film Ghost Dog (A great film staring Forest Whitaker as a modern-day black Samurai/hitman in New Jersey)

What do I mean by a "Muslim Art of War"? I mean a compilation of Muslim reflection on struggle and warfare, starting with certain relevant passages of the Quran and examples from hadith, but also including the sayings of the companions and those who followed them, and possibly even writings from awliya who have participated in jihad through the centuries. Basically a spiritually-tinged Muslim guide to struggle, both physical and metaphysical.

I am bringing this idea up publically now because I recently found an anti-Islam site (which I won't do the honor of naming) where the author tried to discredit the above hadith and argue that co-existence with Muslims is impossible and that Islam were hell-bent on taking over the world. While it is true that there is a certain weakness in the isnad of the above hadith, one can still find ample support for its meaning in other more authentic texts. [1] [2]

Many of the ayat and hadith which would go into the kind of project I'm talking about should be unsurprising to many Muslims... for example:
A man asked: "What kind of jihad is better?"
The Prophet (saaws) replied: "A word of truth spoken in front of an oppressive ruler."


The Prophet (saaws) said: "The strong one is not the one who overcomes people, the strong one is he who overcomes his nafs [ego]."

But what might also be beneficial would be to look at some of the later texts which even Muslims might be less familiar with. For example, I'm Sunni but I still own a copy of Nahjul Balagha (or the Peak of Eloquence, a Shia collection of letters, sermons and sayings attributed to Imam Ali). I tend to suspend judgement about it's authenticity, but I'm not opposed to the idea that most of the text might actually trace back to Ali. In any case, if you look through it, you could find such gems as:

During civil disturbance adopt such an attitude that people do not attach any importance to you - they neither burden you with complicated affairs, nor try to derive any advantage out of you.
If you overpower your enemy, then pardon him by way of thankfulness to Allah, for being able to subdue him.
Silence will create respect and dignity; justice and fairplay will bring more friends; benevolence and charity will enhance prestige and position; courtesy will draw benevolence; service of mankind will secure leadership and good words will overcome powerful enemies.

In fact, many of the contents of Nahjul Balagha are presented as words from Ali either before or after a particular military/political action. In any case, I'm going to stop now and (inshaAllah) bring out more of this topic across a couple of posts.

Also check out S.H. Nasr: The Spiritual Significance of Jihad


DA said...

I love this idea. I am actually writing a piece right now contrasting the codes of warrior societies (mainly the Samurai) with the Muslim codes of futawaah. I'm planning to post the preliminary draft on my blog Friday inshallah, come by and check it out if you want.

Anonymous said...

Takbir! Allahu Akbar! This book idea sounds good, and I pray Allah give you the time and ideas to make it work. We nned a focus on both struggles, internal and external jihad. We currently suffer from an Ummah torn between those who focus either one or the other and those who ignore it altogether.
Internal jihad is ONLY the beginning so that our physical jihad won't lead us to the fire and be for the wrong reasons. Without internal jihad, outer jihad is for the wrong reasons, and without outer jihad, our internal jihad is worthless to the oppressed of the world and in general. We definitely need both so that we remover the tyrants and liberate the innocent and oppressed. And there is no deity but Allah.

Anonymous said...

As Salaam Alaykum wr wb!
Brother Abdul-Halim! I recommend you check islamic martial arts from far east. Expesially Silat Mubai which is result of excellent combination islamic thoughts and effectives, spiritualic martial arts. You could find there lots of material...

Abdul-Halim V. said...

wa alaikum salam wr wb,

that's a really good point. i've had a *little* bit of experience with silat and I agree that that would be another source to look at

Anonymous said...

Ps. Forgot to say, you have great blog!!
Will you upgrade to blogger beta?
Only problem wich annoys me is this I could not post my comments as blogger
JasonX Aka "Blogistanian"

Andalusian said...

Brother Halim, I've been busy with Uni. for quite a bit, and have been out of the blogging world for a while ( or should I say: having a temporary retreat ); I wish you do go ahead with this project.

I haven't gathered any material as such myself, but I'm presuming Khalid b. Walid, might have some sayings on the subject.

I can see, how this project would be slightly different from Sun Tsu's version (as in, quoting from multiple references), but still be tied by a uniform thread of being attributed to Muslim Sources.

If you want it to be a grand scale ( perhaps v 2.0 ), you might want to have it encompass Saladin, Ottomons, and others.


Anonymous said...

Did you ever get around to starting this project?


Abdul-Halim V. said...

Wow, thanks for asking. I've started to write and put some texts together. I'm not anywhere near finishing. Also at the moment I don't have access to the kind of library resources which would allow me to do the idea justice.