The topic of Just War is not new. A lot have been written and debated about this subject but then has war become ‘just’ since the first Just war theory? As an individual, I have come to believe that after all the conflicts and wars I have seen and heard during my conscious life, wars must be avoided and should be a last resort. The option of negotiations and mediations must be put to work in order to find solutions to any conflict. There are various examples today in the world of wars and conflicts with which I struggle and I am unable to rationalize or justify the reason of war. The most recent one’s are invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and a covert war against Pakistan. Hard to ‘make peace’ with these actions of a super power and one of the world’s biggest and open democracy who has taken this route to prove their imperialism and power. The comparison of Just War in Islam and Western concept of Just War and practice will be part of the narrative of this paper. Islam laid out rules for a ‘Just War’ more than 1400 years ago but the critics according to Dr. Joel Hayward, a professional military educator says, “...that although we westerners have a code of war based on restraint, chivalry and respect for civilians, the faith of Islam — from which “radical Islamists” gain their inspiration and permission, if not guidance — is more militant, aggressive and tolerant of violence” (Hayward) This propaganda against Islam and the word Jihad is part of the misunderstanding. The meaning of Jihad is very clearly described through the following verses of the Quran and its explanation. “Jihad is the opposite of qo’ood (to sit idly without making an effort). This makes it much clearer and gives its very meanings that jihad means to be active, to struggle, to strive and to endeavor.
“Those of the Believers who sit still, other than those who have a (disabling) hurt are not on equality with those who strive and struggle in the way of Allah with their wealth and lives. Allah has conferred on those who strive and struggle with their wealth and lives a rank above the sedentary. To each Allah has promised well, but He has bestowed on those who strive a great reward above the sedentary. (4:95)”
Just War Theory
According to dictionary.com, just war is a “ Military action that is justified as being permissible for legal or moral reasons; also called just war theory.” Many are credited to the tradition of just war theory like Augustine, Aquinas, Grotius, Suarez, Vattel, and Vitoria but Michael Walzer is the contemporary expert on the Just war theory. Just War Theory can be sliced into three sections, namely 1). jus ad bellum - entering into the war, 2). jus in bello - ethical conduct in war after the war has begun, 3). jus post bellum - concerns with justice after the war, its peace agreements and termination phase. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/war/). All these rules, Geneva convention, and human right laws are to discipline the barbaric human tendencies of attaching a weaker party. History is evident that desired and ideal moral and ethics during warfare and conflicts between the nations have a long way to go.
Illegal Invasion of Iraq
The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 by Bush administration and in a pursuit to find “weapons of mass destruction” was an amazing and convincing rhetoric given to the American nation who believed in the United States intelligence and supported the invasion. According to Shakir, (march 17th, 2006 - ThinkProgress) later to find that there were no weapons of mass destruction found. Former chief of U.N. weapons inspector declared invasion of Iraq illegal after about a year, Abu Ghuraib torture by U.S. soldiers was revealed, Duelfer Report confirming that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. It took so many more atrocities and when Iraq was brought down to ashes, then supposedly the war against terrorism was won. Who evaluated this outcome, only Western God must know. U.S. soldiers raped, bombed religious places, and the Iraqi nation was looted illegally of billions in their oil reserves. So, I wonder where were Just War rules during Iraq war? It has been extremely hard personally to not feel guilty as a Muslim and a citizen of United States. To realize that the people of this nation are unaware and would not allow such actions by their government if they knew the actual truth about unjust politics and foreign policies and its hypocrisy. Many times I live in a dilemma of loving and hating the countries I belong to by birth and by citizenry. In the words of former president of United States Jimmy Carter, “Our apparent determination to launch a war against Iraq, without international support, is a violation of these premises” (Carter, 2003). War should be the last resort was President Carter’s demand. At the eve of Iraq war former president Carter wrote, “As a Christian and as a president who was severely provoked by international crises, I became thoroughly familiar with the principles of a just war, and it is clear that a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet these standards.” These truthful and honest words of an ex-president could not penetrate the world’s biggest democracy. So saying one thing and doing another has been the norm for America in case of the wars against Muslim countries. In addition, the negative portrayal in the whole mass media in the West against Islam and the distorted meaning of Jihad often pains me greatly and that is why, I am out on Jihad to educate my fellow Americans about Islam and the meaning of Jihad.
Invasion of Afghanistan
The meaning of peace and just war seems to be perverted and opaque for the U.S. military, in my view, especially when we talk about invasion of Afghanistan. In November 2009, president of the United States Barak Hussain Obama sent 30,000 more troops so that he can start withdrawing American forces a year later (Weigel, 2009).
A few weeks later, the same president traveled to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The notion that the juxtaposition of these two events involves a “contradiction” ... a neat illustration of just how badly the just-war way of thinking has deteriorated in our culture, and just how attenuated the idea of the pursuit of peace has become. In the just-war tradition, as rightly interpreted, the justified use of proportionate and discriminate armed force was always understood to be in the pursuit of peace, which was the fruit of justice, security, and freedom. (Weigel, 2009).
It is amazing how the seduction of power, fame, and money can sway people like Barak Hussain Obama. The world was hoping this U.S. president to be less of a ‘Wild-West’ kind of leader and to be a combination of peace maker with dignity.
In the light of the above quote by Weigel, accounting for the actions of U.S. military during 2012 reflects how the U.S. foreign policy and the military crucially need to reflect and pay attention to their criminal and inhumane actions. And how the “mistakes” done in “error” were consecutive this year. In January 2012, images and videos of U.S. troops were found ‘urinating on dead Afghan bodies.’ (Bates & Moran, 2012). In February, U.S. soldiers burnt copies of the Quran at the Military base in Kabul, Afghanistan. (The Guardian Staff, 2012). And subsequently in March of 2012, headlines in Huffington Post read, “U.S. Soldiers Open Fire On Civilians In Afghanistan.” (Nadem & Haroon, 2012). These actions of the U.S. military were harder to justify and against Islamic morals and principals of humanity. They are even against the man made Western codes of Just War. Why have not the U.S. evaluated the war in Iraq and Afghanistan under the tenants of Just War Theory? Was it just to go into war to invade Iraq? (jus ad bellum) Did we fight a just war and were fair while in Iraq? (jus in bello). Was the cause just? Did we devastated the country? Did we use morally acceptable methods during the war in Iraq or Afghanistan? Is killing civilians, burning the book of faith of the invaded country, and peeing on dead people acceptable in Just War? Was firing at civilians and laughing at them part of the proportionality of jus ad bellum, jus in bellum, and jus post bellum? Was every effort exhausted in order to exercise proportionality at all three stages of Just War?
In the West, there is a crucial need to learn from the Islamic principles. Why? Because Islam is for the whole humanity and it is a way of life and it is a system not based on man made temporary values and law but based on permanent values ordained by the Creator of the whole universe. The scant and opaque knowledge about Islam and Muslims creates self created threats and enemies in the West. The distortion of facts and blowing things out of proportion has become a norm of the Western media which is causing suffering and no time to heal. This constant negative perception and stance against Muslims and Islam, creates a negative relationship between the Muslims and the non-Muslims in every aspect of life. Islam, especially after the famous 9/11, remains and is lumped with violence and the term Jihad has been taken totally out of context and to mean as, “...armed combat against non-Muslim,” in few simple words. (G. A. Parwez, 2008, p.9). “Jihad in the sense of terrorism has no place whatsoever in the Quranic perspective.” (Parwez, 2008, p.15).
I agree with the statement that, “Goebbelian truth, as we all know it to be, is based on the principle that a lie uttered a hundred times becomes gospel truth. How much this theory has been successful in varying fields is hard to measure, but it has certainly played a vital role in maligning Islam. A gloss over the pages of history furnishes ample evidence as to how Islam and its message have been distorted by propaganda.” (Parwez, 2008, p.19). That is true because anything done by one Muslim is answerable by the whole Muslim world to the rest of the non-Muslim world. Whereas, when a Christian or a Jew does anything atrocious it is that individual to be blamed, who is often found to be mentally unstable. Only his name appears in the mass news media. He is not recognized as a Christian or a Jew who attacked or is mentally unstable. “The Quran mentions in explicit terms that a faith that spreads evil and destruction on earth is unacceptable to Allah. When these people gain power then their entire effort is to spread chaos and mischief in the land. They destroy crops, cattle and human beings, but Allah does not like what they do. (2:205)” Manmade laws are relative not absolute. For example, looking at the history of the United States, in 1840s, 1920s, and 1930s, alcohol was prohibited but the prohibition law lost its strength and later alcohol was allowed. Man made laws change with space and time. (Parwez, 2008, p. 35). The laws of Allah, are immutable and based on the absolute truth.
The Quran repeatedly enjoins Muslims to whenever possible to forgive, to be patient, and to promote conciliation. I admire the following words of Esther Sakin Quinlan in Tikkun, a Jewish magazine, “Today, we must do more than read and study our sacred texts. We are in the grip of huge historical forces. In order to carry the Light in the Darkness of these times, we can do several things. We can refuse to accept a hate-filled reading of the Qur'anic concept of jihad and refuse to demonize Muslims” (Quinlan, 2002).
In Islam Jihad has various meanings at various stages. “The word jihad comes from the verb jahada: to struggle, to make an effort, and, by extension, to fight in defense of the faith” (Quinlan, 2002). Quinlan (2002), further explains what Jihad means. “The expression "struggle in God's way" has both an inner and an outer meaning. The struggle to be a good person and to draw near to God is the inner Jihad. Muhammad called it the greater jihad, the jihad al-akbar. The lesser jihad is actual combat. Terrorism is not jihad. Muslim jurists distinguish four ways to fulfill the duty to struggle: by the heart, by the tongue, by the hands, and by the sword” (2002).
I believe that if we honestly analyze our state of the world, all what human beings demand and deserve is respect and dignity. Dignity at individual level or at a state level. The purpose of Just War whether in West or in Islam is to save the dignity of human kind. Calhoun writes that Walzer’s Just War theory was created after the unexpected and horrible outcomes of Vietnam War. That influenced him and many others in his time to put out rules that must impose ‘moral constraints’ during the warfare (2005).
I have also learned and come to believe that when the morals and ethics of the people who are in a position and power start to compromise and fall for short term gains of worldly sparkle like money, and they stop the struggle of right or wrong within themselves and take the easy way out and give in, no law or just theory can fix the situation of any nation or state.
The basic human rights are clearly guaranteed by the laws laid out in the Quran. The Quran states:
You should fight your enemies until you have dissipated the mischief they have caused, and created an environment where no compulsion or oppression is exercised in matters of Deen (way of life). But when you see that your enemies have given up the mischief, you should cease to fight them (because the purpose of war is to prevent forces of oppression and lawlessness from spreading and once this purpose is achieved there is no need for further warfare) (2:193).
All we can strive for is to educate ourselves about other faiths, cultures, and people. To fight oppression and war is one form of oppression in current modern times. War should be discouraged and other means of conciliation must be acquired honestly and justly by the governments and states, especially the developed nations. “The Quran states that by ‘resisting evil with good’ even an enemy can become a friend” (Parwez, 2008, p. 53). This quote sounds familiar and matches what Abraham Lincoln said against war, “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” In the second edition (1978) of the ‘Qurani Qawaneen,’ Quranic Laws - “The difference between an Islamic State and a secular state is that in an Islamic State, affairs are conducted within limits laid down by the Quran. Nobody has the right to transgress these limits; in other words, the right to rule belongs to Allah alone. It is said in Surah Yusuf (12:40): "Remember! The command is for none but Allah"
Human being should live like one community, that is what I have understood from my faith.
Bates, Daniel & Moran, Lee. (2012, January 12). ‘Disgusting’ video is ‘recruitment tool for the Taliban’: Outrage across the world after footage emerges showing U.S. troops ‘urinating on dead Afghan bodies.’ Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/ article-2085378/US-troops-urinating-dead-Afghan-bodies-video-used-Taliban- recruitment-tool.html
Calhoun, Laurie (2005). Michael Walzer on Just War Theory’s Critical Edge. The Independence Review. 10 (2).
Carter, Jimmy. (2003, March 09). Just War -- or a Just War? The New York Times. Retrieved from http:// www.nytimes.com/2003/03/09/opinion/just-war-or-a-just-war.html?src=pm
Hayward, Joel. The Qur’an and War: Observations on Islamic Just War. Islam and War: Islam and Warfare. Retrieved from (http://www.islamandwar.com/)
Nadeem, Ahmad & Haroon, Ahmad. (2012, March 12). U.S. Soldiers Open Fire on Civilians in Afghanistan. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ 2012/03/11/soldier-shooting-afghanistan_n_1337406.html
Parwez, G. A. (2008). Jihad is Not Terrorism. London: Islamic Dawn Society.
Quinlan, Esther Sakinab. (2002, Sep/Oct). The Jihad Question. Retrieved from http:// www.tikkun.org/nextgen/the-jihad-question
Staff & Agencies. (2012, March, 3rd).
Walzer, Michael (2002). The Triumph of Just War Theory. Social Research. 69 (4). 925 - 944.
Weigel, George. (2009 ,Dec 12). The Just-War Tradition. National Review Online. Retrieved from