Contrary to common belief, gaining political power is not the main objective of Muslims. This is a misconception.
When the Quran says, “And religion is wholly for God” it portrays the most important aspect of the change of times. This change has reduced the status of political power to the point where it is no longer necessary for believers to wage a war for its acquisition, as it is no longer needed to secure the desired benefits. Non-political institutions serve this purpose equally well.
In modern time those nations who have understood this have achieved success even without having political power. Some have become established and excelled in the field of education, while others have set up empires in industry, communications or finance. The last in the list of these non-governmental empires is that of computers. This has given man the opportunity to keep his finger on the pulse of human activity not only at the national level, but also at the international level.
This mission was undertaken and brought to a successful conclusion at the internal level within Arabia during the life of the Prophet. Later, during the pious caliphate, the Sassanid and Byzantine empires were dismantled with special divine succour. Consequently, intellectual oppression at the international level was replaced by intellectual freedom.
In this connection those traditions are worth noting which are enshrined in Sahih al-Bukhari. When, after the fourth Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib, political conflict ensued between Abdullah ibn Zubayr and the Umayyads, Abdullah ibn Umar, one of the senior-most companions of the Prophet, held himself aloof from the battle. People approached him and, quoting the verse of qital-al-fitna, asked him why he was not joining in the battle. Abdullah ibn Umar replied that ‘fitna’ as mentioned in the Qur’an did not refer to political infighting, but rather to the religious coercive system, that had already been put an end to by them. (Fathul Bari, 8/60)
From this we learn that the war against fitna was a war of limited duration, temporary in nature, meant to be engaged in only until its specific purpose had been served.
Invoking the Qur’anic exhortation to do battle against fitna in order to validate acts of war, which had quite other aims, is highly improper. This verse could be cited only if the same state of affairs as existed at the time of its revelation, were to prevail once again.
The biographers of the Prophet Muhammad have put the number of ghazwah (battle) at more than 80. This gives the impression that the Prophet Muhammad pbuh in his 23-year prophetic career waged about four battles in a year. But this impression is entirely baseless. The truth is that the Prophet Muhammad in his entire prophetic life, engaged in war only on three occasions. All the other incidents described as ghazwat were in actual fact examples of avoidance of war and not instances of involvement in battle.
For instance, in the books of Seerah, the incident of Al-Ahzab is called a ghazwah (battle), whereas the truth is that on this occasion the armed tribes of Arabia, twelve thousand in number, reached the borders of Madinah with all intentions of waging war, but the Prophet and his companions dug a deep trench between them, thus successfully preventing a battle from taking place. The same is the case with all the other incidents called ghazwah. The opponents of the Prophet repeatedly tried to embroil him in war, but on all such occasions, he managed to resort to some such strategy as averted the war, thus defusing the situation.
There were only three instances of Muslims really entering the field of battle—Badr, Uhud and Hunayn. But on all these occasions, war had become inevitable, so that the Prophet was compelled to encounter the aggressors in self-defence. Furthermore, these battles lasted only for half a day, each beginning at noon and ending with the setting of the sun. Thus it would be proper to say that the Prophet in his entire life span had actively engaged in war for a total of a day and a half. That is to say, the Prophet had observed the principle of non-violence throughout his 23-year prophetic career, except for one and a half days.
The Islamic method, being based totally on the principle of non-violence, makes it unlawful for believers to initiate hostilities. Except in cases where self-defence has become inevitable, the Qur’an in no circumstance gives permission for violence.
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