Plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose

Given the ongoing jihad that the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Jamaat Al Islami, Jamiat Ahli Al Hadith and other Islamic organizations have declared against the west it is interesting to note that nothing much has changed in respect of the beliefs, ideologies and actions of these contemporary holy warriors compared to their various antecedents.

The roots of this ideology goes back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad but the contemporary jihadi movement is most heavily influenced by the Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328) who rejected the idea that the so called greater Jihad referred to the interior moral struggle of believers.

Ibn Taymiyyah averred that this division of jihad into the lesser and greater jihad was not authentic and that it clearly contradicted the word of God as found in the Qur’an at Surah 2 verse 193: Fight them until there is no [more] fitnah and [until] worship is [acknowledged to be] for Allah . But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors.

and Surah 8 verse 39: And fight them until there is no fitnah and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah . And if they cease – then indeed, Allah is Seeing of what they do.

Ibn al-Atheer said: “Fitnah: trial or test… The word is often used to describe tests in which something disliked is eliminated. Later it was also often used in the sense of sin, kufr (disbelief), fighting, burning, removing and diverting.” (al-Nihaayah, 3/410. Ibn Hajar said something similar in al-Fath, 13/3).

Fitnah can also mean a civil disagreement or dispute within Islam.

As a result, Ibn Taymiyyah asserted that jihad was the struggle that compelled and bound all Muslims to expand the Dar al Islam against its enemies dwelling in the Dar al Harb; in other words, the rest of the world.

Ibn Taymiyyah heavily influenced the thinking of Muhammad ibn Abdel Wahhab (1703-1792) the founder of the Wahhabi movement which still holds sway in Saudi Arabia today. We know that Shah Waliullah, (1703-1762) born and died in Delhi and whose father founded the Madrasah-i-Rahimiyah studied in Medina together with Abdel Wahhab and influenced what was to become the Deobondi movement in India.

Shah Waliullah’s son Shah Abdel Aziz (1746-1824) in turn taught Syed Ahmed (1786-1831) , born Syed Ghullam Muhammad and also known as Syed Ahmed Barelvi. Syed Ahmed  attempted to create an Islamic State in the area of the Mahabun mountains northeast of Peshawar in what is today the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan. The State was proclaimed in 1826 and Syed Ahmed was given the title Amir Al Mumineen, the same title that Ibrahim Al Baghdadi of the Islamic State uses today.

As this article is titled, nothing has changed. The words of a disciple of Syed Ahmed, Shah Muhammad Ismail (1779-1831) also known as Shah Ismail Dehalvi in his Risala Jihad written at  the time could easily have been penned by a jihadi in our own day and age.

War against the Infidel is incumbent on all Musalmans; make provision for all things. He who from his heart gives one farthing to the cause, shall hereafter receive seven hundred fold from God. He who shall equip a warrior in this cause of God shall obtain a martyr’s reward; his children dread not the trouble of the grave, nor the last trump, nor the Day of Judgement. Cease to be cowards; join the divine leader, and smite the Infidel.

Syed Ahmed’s State did not last very long as it was extinguished along with his life by a Sikh army at the battle of Balakot in 1831. As the century progressed these jihadi movements continued to influence and affect the course of history in British ruled India. A belief developed among the Wahhabi adherents in India that British rule would last one hundred years. Looking back to the 12th century a prophecy known as the Ode of Niyamatulla contained the following lines:

Then the Nazarenes will take all Hindustan. They will reign for a hundred years. There will be great oppression in their reign. For their destruction there will be a King in the West. The King will proclaim a war against the Nazarenes. And in the war a great many people will be killed. The King of the West will be victorious by the force of the sword in a holy war. And the followers of Jesus will be defeated . . . In 570 AH (1174/5) this ode is composed. In 1270 AH (1853/4) the King in the West will appear.

A variation of this prophecy has been widely promulgated by the Islamic State and its adherents who have asserted that there would be a final apocalyptic battle between Muslims and Christians at the town of Dabiq in Syria.

This millenarian substrate within Islam has also found expression in the proclamation of various Mahdis or rightly guided ones, such as Muhammad Ahmad (1844-1885) who founded the Mahdist State in the Sudan in 1300 AH or Juhayman, who proclaimed himself Mahdi in Mecca in 1400 AH. These jihadi movements continued to trouble British India and reached their height in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.

Besides ongoing wars against a string of jihadis, particularly along the frontier with Afghanistan and in Afghanistan the British also sought to deal with the problem by exiling and interning Wahhabi leaders. They had their own version of Guantanamo Bay in the Andaman Islands, known as Kala Pani or The Black Water where they sent fomenters of rebellion.

Sir William Hunter asked the question in 1876 in an article entitled; Our Indian Mussulmans: are they Bound in Conscience to Rebel against the Queen?

Our Prison gates have closed upon batch after batch of unhappy misguided traitors; the Courts have sent one set of ring-leaders after another to lonely islands across the sea; yet the whole country continues to furnish money and men to the Forlorn Hope of Islam on our Frontier and persists in its blood-stained protest against Christian rule.

If anyone is in any doubt that what we are facing is a fundamental clash of civilizations let the words of Muhammad Jafar of Thanesar (1838- ?) who was imprisoned in the British Guantanamo speak for themselves. He published his autobiography in Delhi in 1884, entitled Kala Pani: Tarikh e Ajeeb (The Black Water: a Strange Story).

This (English) language is so closely connected with materialistic life that it is not only harmful but dangerous for the spiritual life. If a young man, before learning Quran and traditions of the holy Prophet in detail, learns English and reads English books of various types and different disciplines as I used to do, he will become an unreligious, uncultured person with excessively free ideas to such an extent that it would not only be difficult but impossible to reform him… Such knowledge will certainly make a person unreligious and atheist if he is not well acquainted with Islam. It will create doubts in his mind which will remain there throughout his life.