No. 666 - February 17, 2011
On August 8, 2010, during an appearance on Al-Jazeera TV's "Shari'a and Life" program, Al-'Odeh said, in response to a question on how the Koran defines the term "war," that the killing and war verses of the Koran – such as 47:4: "When you meet the unbelievers (in battle), smite their necks" – in no way refer to encountering infidels in the street or at home. Anyone who reads the Koran, he said, knows that the context is always "the day of the encounter" – that is, in wartime, on the battlefield.
Al-'Odeh stated that while war is a common part of human life, Islam does not yearn for it, but sees it as a situation that, while inevitable, is to be avoided as much as possible. He based his statements on the part of Koran verse 47:4 that says "until the war ends," saying that this is proof that wars would one day end, as would the situation of human suffering in which innocent people are killed. He noted that the Prophet Muhammad himself implemented this, when, at the beginning of his path, he stayed in Mecca for 13 years and was commanded by Allah to refrain from war, despite the plots against the Muslims; when he later emigrated to Al-Madina, his first battle was Badr. Four years later, he signed the Hudaybiyya treaty, a 10-year ceasefire, with the people of Mecca.
Giving another example of the Prophet's lack of zeal for war, Al-'Odeh stated that after three days of a siege of the city of Al-Taif, Muhammad left when his comrades were lightly wounded. From this, Al-'Odeh concludes that "there is no open-ended war in Islam."
Asked by the program host about defensive and offensive jihad, Al-'Odeh said that defensive jihad is natural and necessary, and that there is a consensus on this in all religions and in all human laws. He noted, however, that the terms "defensive jihad and offensive jihad came later, and do not appear in the Koran, the Sunna, or the sayings of the early imams. In any event, Al-'Odeh said, during the era of the Prophet and of the caliphs, there were no agreements among countries, and the strong triumphed over the weak – but, had there been stability, security, and pacts that were honored, Islam would have supported all these.
On August 28, 2010, on his website Islamtoday, Sheikh Salman Al-'Odeh discussed whether jihad today should include offensive jihad, or be limited strictly to defensive jihad. He first said that the question in this form did not appear in any book or in the Sunnah, and that its basis lay in the misconception that there are two and only two kinds of jihad: defensive and offensive.
With regard to defensive jihad, Al-'Odeh said that it was agreed by all Muslim clerics, and, in fact, by all Muslims and people, in general, that every man had the right to defend himself from attack and occupation. He said that the term "war" in Islam meant only defense of "the Islamic program," that is, of land, religion, and the Muslims, although sometimes defense might include a preemptive strike. Thus, for example, when a nation with no bilateral or international agreements or pacts with the Muslims plans to attack the Muslims, no Muslim should rule out the option of preemption – on the contrary, they must attack first, in order to defend themselves.
Al-'Odeh based his statements on the Koran, and said that Allah had permitted the Muslims to go out to war for several reasons, including:
- In response to aggression and oppression, as stated in Koran 22:39: "Permission (to fight) has been granted to those [believers], for they have been wronged."
- In response to an attack on their lands and homes, and in response to harm to their right to religious worship, as stated in the Koran 22:40: "Those who were unjustly expelled from their homes, for no other reason than their saying: 'Allah is Our Lord.'"
- To wage war on someone plotting against and fighting the Muslims, as stated in Koran 2:193: "Go on fighting with them till there is no more a state of tribulation and Allah's way is established instead. Then, if they desist from it, there should be no more hostility, except against those who had been guilty of cruelty and brutality."
Here Al-'Odeh noted that this verse supports the claim that war means defense of Islam, and stressed that it contains no intent to force Islam on anyone – but rather, that whoever fights the Muslims must be fought, in order to defend the Muslim populace from them.
Liberal Saudi Writer: Our Media Era Has No Room for Offensive Jihad – Because the Islamic Message Has Reached Everywhere, and Because There Should Be No Coercion in Religion
In this context, on August 16, 2010, the Saudi daily Al-Watan published an article by Khaled Al-Ghanami, a liberal Saudi writer, titled "The End of Offensive Jihad." In it, Al-Ghanami claimed that offensive jihad had had relevance when there was no way to spread the message of Islam, and many people in the world knew nothing about it. This, he said, is why Muslims were permitted to wage offensive jihad, in order to abolish tyranny from oppressed people who had never had a chance to choose their religion or way of life. Today, however, there are numerous ways to spread the message of Islam – and this message has already reached everyone, so that anyone who wants to believe may do so, and anyone who disbelieves may also do so, as "there is no compulsion of religion."
Al-Ghanami said that nowadays the idea of attack and conquest by force is not accepted, even by many who advocate the Islamic solution – particularly if they live in Europe, because they know that if these countries become Islamic, they will have less than one quarter of the civil rights they now enjoy.
Al-Ghanami noted sarcastically that the above view is not acceptable to everyone, and that some, though not many, maintain that all Muslim rulers must declare jihad against the whole world, so that the Muslims will mount their horses and camels and "use their swords to take over the Eiffel Tower and fix the Leaning Tower of Pisa." More, however, consider the Muslims to be in a state of weakness, and therefore maintain that they must keep a low profile until they regain strength, returning to their horses, swords, and conquests. Al-Ghanami added, "And if [all] this isn't hypocrisy, I don't know what is."
He added that even though in reality the world fears Muslims and Islam, the Muslims in favor of offensive jihad falsely believe that the world is not monitoring their written and verbal calls for killing and aggression. He said that their approach to jihad gravely damages Muslims worldwide.
Saudi Writer: Offensive Jihad in the Salafi Sense, in Today's Reality, Is Crazy
In a similar vein, on October 19, 2010, the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah published an article titled "Offensive Jihad – Like Slavery – Is Irrelevant in Our Time," by Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Latif Aal Al-Sheikh, the liberal son of Saudi Mufti 'Abd Al-Latif Aal Al-Shaikh. In it, Aal Al-Sheikh said that those who repeatedly claim that Islam obliges waging jihad until the Day of Judgment, basing their statements on Koranic verses, were narrow-minded simpletons with a mistaken grasp of reality.
He said that they had been so influenced by what they heard at home and in school, and from mosque preachers and the media, that they no longer had the capacity for judgment or discernment, or to ask questions.
Turning to Saudi educators, Aal Al-Sheikh said that if they felt compelled to teach middle and high school students about jihad, it would be best to explain to them about how today's balances of power in the world, nuclear weapons, and international pacts and agreements have changed the situation, such that attacking another country is forbidden by international law. They also need to explain that the world is in the grips of a nuclear arms race, and that the arms already in existence are more than sufficient to destroy the world a hundred times over – and that for these reasons, offensive jihad in the Salafi sense in today's reality is crazy.
Sheikh Al-Barrak: Everyone – Muslim or Infidel – Must Know That Jihad Will Continue until Judgment Day and Cannot Be Abolished, Neither By Tyranny Nor By International Agreements
On November 28, 2010, Sheikh 'Abd Al-Rahman bin Nasser Al-Barrak published an article on the website Islamlight titled "International Treaties Do Not Supersede the Law of Jihad in Islam," in response, inter alia, to the statements by Salman Al-'Odeh and Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh. He wrote that in contrast to Al-'Odeh's statements, the Koran commands Muslims to wage offensive jihad; he based his statements on Koranic verses and hadith.
He asks, referring to Koran 9:5 – "But when the sacred months expire, slay the polytheists wherever you find them; seize them, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them everywhere" – and Koran 9:29 – "Fight those who do not believe in Allah and Judgment Day, who do not hold to the true religion among those to whom were given the book, until they pay the jizya out of their own hands and are utterly subdued": "Can the doctor [i.e. Salman Al-'Odeh] state that these quotes deal with defensive jihad?"
Al-Barrak noted that it is known that the concept of offensive jihad is used by the Orientalist enemies of Islam and their ilk in order to attack Islam. He said: "Some ignoramuses and lickers of the plates of the infidels, from among those who [ostensibly] defend Islam, are now limiting the aim of jihad in Islam to defense alone, since no one can condemn the repelling of an attacker."
Al-Barrak also rejected Al-'Odeh's claim that today there is no room for wars, because of international agreements and pacts, and that if stability, security, and agreements honored by the signatories had been in place during the time of the Prophet, Islam would have welcomed them. He said that these statements mean that Islam welcomes international agreements drawn up by infidels in the framework of U.N. laws banning aggression, which included jihad. He said that making this claim is nothing but lying about Islam, since it means the abolition of jihad for the sake of Allah – which Islam demands – in favor of joining the crowds under the aegis of international law that prohibits Muslims from waging jihad.
In this context, Al-Barrak stated that Aal Al-Sheikh's statements mean that today's international pacts and agreements supersede the eternal laws of shari'a, and added that Aal Al-Sheikh believes that there is no need to teach schoolchildren about jihad at all. Al-Barrak stressed: "Everyone – Muslim or infidel – must know that jihad will continue until Judgment Day, and that [nothing] can abolish it – neither a despot's tyranny nor international agreements."
Further clarifying the concept of agreements in Islam, he noted that an agreement with Muslims always has a time limit, or is provisional upon the infidel's submission and acceptance of Muslim oversight.
He concluded by saying that conditions for agreements between Islamic and infidel countries were already in place, and are eternal, as far as Muslims are concerned; international law, he stressed, does not apply to agreements in Islam.
Liberal Saudi Writer: According to Al-Barrak, "As Muslims, We Must... Attack Non-Muslim Countries and Drown Them in Blood – Until China Submits to Us and the U.S. Administration Pays Us Jizya"
Following the sparring between Al-'Odeh and Al-Barrak, Khaled Al-Ghamani responded sarcastically to Al-Barrak, in a December 6, 2010 article titled "Between Al-Barrak and Salman Al-'Odeh" that was posted on the Islamist website Muslim.net: "Al-Barrak's statements show that, as Muslims, we must draw our swords, attack non-Muslim countries and drown them in blood, until China submits to us and the U.S. administration pays us jizya with its own hands, and is utterly subdued [see Koran 9:29, above]."
Al-Ghamani went on to say that this was utterly crazy, and that if those who held this view had any self-respect at all, they would themselves implement these verses – but they only propose doing so to young drug addicts who want to repent and purify themselves of their sins, and who, because no one tells them that Allah's mercy is great, carry out suicide attacks, leaving distraught mothers in their wake.
Is Offensive Jihad, like Slavery, Outmoded?
To further underline his statements ruling out the relevance of offensive jihad today, Al-'Odeh mentioned slavery as an example of a phenomenon that is no more. He said that while slavery was once common worldwide, and thus also among Muslims, Islam nevertheless enjoined masters to treat slaves humanely, to clothe them, not to overburden them, and not to harm them. It was very clear, he said, that Islam, in fact, sought the freeing of slaves, by any means under Islamic law; thus, Islam welcomes the freeing of slaves and the abolition of slavery in our time, as it is compatible with its spirit and values.
Al-Barrak countered Al-'Odeh's argument, calling slavery "one of the branches of jihad for Allah" and stating that slaves are one of the things that the mujahideen are entitled to take as booty. He said that slave laws appear in most books of Islamic law, and that these slave laws are absolute laws. He said, moreover, that anyone who opposes slavery opposes the Koran, the Sunnah, and the general consensus.
Al-'Ghanami, for his part, underlined that Al-Barrak's statements about slavery essentially mean that "there is no escape from returning from 'this exciting journey' [i.e. offensive jihad] with many blonde, blue-eyed women (French or perhaps Italian) for purposes of enjoyment, and then for selling at the slave market – which must be revived, because abolishing it means war on the Koran."