12 July 2010

The Jahiliyya Factor?:
Fighting Muslims' Cultural Resistance to Nonviolence*

Chaiwat Satha-Anand
Peace Information Center, Foundation for Democracy and Development Studies
Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University
Bangkok 10200, Thailand []
A paper prepared for the Nonviolence Commission, IPRA
Sopron, Hungary, July 5-8, 2004
[Revised: August 2006]
Presented as the Otago University Chaplaincy and Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group Annual Peace Lecture at Otago University 12th July 2010


This paper is an attempt to argue that Muslim societies are presently facing a new kind of jahiliya (ignorance) regarding the Muslims' reluctance to employ the language of nonviolence in characterizing their own actions due to an inadequate understanding of both the concepts of power and nonviolent actions, the lack of nonviolent language to identify most present-day fighting against injustice , and the bypassing of Muslims' own legacy of nonviolence. To redress this jahiliya factor means, among other things, to overcome such conceptual misunderstanding about nonviolence, a lack of adequate language to characterize Muslims' present day struggle, and the historical absence of Muslims' legacy of nonviolence, which would be possible in the process of rediscovering the original meanings of the jahiliya conducive to nonviolence in Islam.

On April 28, 2004, a group of Muslims, many of them younger than twenty, armed primarily with machetes, attacked police posts and stations in ten different places in three Muslim-dominated Southernmost provinces of Thailand. A group of some thirty armed men occupied the ancient Kru-Ze mosque in the town of Pattani and fought pitched battle with the Thai security forces. In the early afternoon, the military decided to storm the mosque and all 32 men inside it were killed. At the end of the day, there were 106 dead attackers, 9 suspects were arrested and 5 policemen killed in the incident. Some local Muslim leaders said that the dead militants were jihad warriors, and most relatives of the dead attackers chose not to wash the bodies before burial, a sign indicating that local people considered their deaths as shahid (battle deaths in defence of Islam at the hands of non-Muslims) which requires no washing nor praying before burial . Earlier the militants themselves were said to say through the mosque's loudspeakers that they were doing God's work and they would sacrifice their lives in the path of jihad (struggle in the path of God, commonly misused as holy war). A Thai field officer fighting at Kru-Ze told the press that they would never surrender but fight to the end of their lives for God. They also said if they died they did not want their blood washed off because they had given their lives to God. i Families of fifteen people aged 17 to 25 who were all killed in front of the sub-district office in Yala were asking why their children, healthy and good students, chose to die with violence. ii Though their motives in choosing violence and preparing to die are difficult to ascertain, it is important to understand why deadly violence has become a preferred choice to other alternatives among some Muslims?

Elsewhere I have argued that there are indeed strong religious ground to substantiate the Islamic imperatives for Muslims to fight injustice with nonviolent actions based on Qur'anic injunctions as well as values emanated from the Prophet's examples.iii It could then be asked at this point, if there are such injunctions and examples for Muslims' nonviolent actions, why are these Islamic imperatives for nonviolence ignored, or generally relegated to marginal importance?

This question could be best addressed by exploring justifications used by some Muslims in their use of terror to realize their objectives, especially their understanding of the historical moment of jahiliyya(ignorance) which provided contexts for their struggles. I would argue that there is a need to reconceptualize this jahiliyya in terms of a lack of knowledge, particularly about nonviolent alternatives as a preferred method of struggle for Muslim. This paper begins with a discussion of how some Muslim militants justify terror as their instruments in righting the wrongs they perceived in terms of fighting at a time of jahiliyya (ignorance). Then the notion of jahiliyya itself will be problematized with emphases on an inadequate understanding of both the concept of power and nonviolent actions, which contributes to a virtual bypassing of Muslims' own historical legacy of nonviolent pasts. Finally, a return to the original meaning of “jahiliyya” conducive to nonviolent alternatives as stipulated in both Al-Qur'an and the Prophet's practice will be advanced.

The Absent Precept and the Struggle against Jahiliyya

Less than ten days after the April 28 incident in Southern Thailand , Thai authorities announced that 'New'version of the Koran (was) found.iv Subsequently, the press reported that a 34-page book was found by the body of a dead militant . Written in Malay, the booklet titled Ber Jihad di Patani (The Jihad of Patani) urged jihad warriors to form troops to fight those outside the religion for their religion , Allah and the glory of Pattani state, annexed by Siam at the turn of the twentieth century. Chapter 3 of the book tells the warriors to kill all opponents , even their own parents, and to sacrifice their lives to be in heaven with Allah. According to a news report: Chapter 7 quotes Chapter 123 of the Koran as saying that: You must kill all of them, so they will know you, who have faith, are strong as well.v The Thai prime minister commented on the booklet found by saying : It's an adapted version of the Koran being used to deceive Muslims....The Yawi version (in Malay) has much more violent content. Those reading it for seven days in a row could go crazy because it is completely It goes without saying that for most Muslims, belief in the sacredness of Al-Qur'an is an article of faith (Iman) and therefore a revision or alteration of the Book is unthinkable. It should also be noted that though the holy book is much longer than 34 pages, there are only 114 Surah (chapters) with 6,666 Ayahs (verses).

Seen as a call to use violence against those regarded as oppressors, this small book found in Southern Thailand is not unlike another written two decades ago in the ancient land thousands of miles away when President Sadat of Egypt was assassinated on October 6, 1981. It has been suggested that the major ideological statement of Sadat 's assassins is to be found in a book entitled The Absent Precept (Al Farida Al-Gha'eba), originally printed in a clandestine edition of five hundred copies, written by 'Abd al-Salam Faraj, a twenty-seven year old engineer.vii He was later tried and executed in 1982. He argued that the Muslims should first fight against their own rulers who were seen as turning against Islam because : Fighting the near enemy is more important than fighting the distant enemy....The cause of the existence of imperialism in the lands of Islam lies in these self-same rulers. To begin the struggle against imperialism would be…a waste of time.... There can be no doubt that the first battlefield of the jihad is the extirpation of these infidel leaderships...viii Against these enemies, violence is justified, and in fact, prescribed as jihad becomes incumbent upon all Muslims. Faraj writes,

Despite its crucial importance for the future of our Faith, the jihad has been neglected, maybe even ignored, by men of religion of our age. They know, however, that jihad is the only way to reestablish and reenhance the power and the glory of Islam, which every true believer desires wholeheartedly. There is no doubt the idols upon earth will not be destroyed but by the sword and thus establish the Islamic state and restore the caliphate. This is the command of God and each and every Muslim should, hence, do his utmost to accomplish this precept, having recourse to force if necessary.ix

When asked to explain his motive, Khalid al-Islambouli, an officer who was the instigator and executor of the Sadat assassination, stated in the Egyptian investigation file record that : I did what I did, because the Shari'a (Islamic law) was not applied, because of the peace treaty with the Jews and because of the arrest of Muslim ‘Ulamaa (religious scholars) without justification.x It could be said that the killing of President Sadat was perceived by the extremists as a necessity because he was a heretic since he did not rule in accordance with traditions and laws of the Prophet ; a traitor because he made peace with the enemy; and an unjust ruler because he arrested Islamic scholars unjustly.xi

It is also interesting to note that for Faraj, following the thoughts of Ibn Taymiyya (1268-1328-dead in Damascus jail) and Sayyid Qutb(1906-1966-executed in Egypt), Sadat's Egypt had become something analogous to the Mongols who professed to be Muslims, yet failed to observe the Shari'a (Islamic rules based on law-like understanding of Al-Qur'an and the Prophetic traditions) concerning human behaviors in societies, both at the individual and collective levels.xii Failing to observe the rules of Islam in regulating human life in society means that something else other than God were obeyed. In Islam, it is ignorance (Jahiliyya) if a person serves not God but other things. Al-Qur'an says, “Say: Is it some one other than God that ye order me to worship, O ye Ignorant ones?” xiii It is through the return to pristine Islam which would allow Muslims to realize their destined task in trying to put an end to the domination of humans by others seen as responsible for the corrupted order of the world. Influenced by Maudoodi's theory of modern Jahiliyya (Modern Ignorance) developed in India since 1939 , it could be argued that the influential Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian modernist literary critic turned Muslim Brotherhood activist, considered the concept of jahiliyya central to his theory, since his aim was to show the wide gap between the rule of God and “that of ignorance”, to explain the consequences of such refusal to comply with God's law, and to establish “an Islamic presence in the midst of Ignorant surroundings which are hostile to Islam…”xiv He wrote In the Shadow of the Koran, outlining the danger of ignorance in the following words:

Jahiliyya signifies the domination (hakimiyya) of man over man, or rather the subservience to man rather than to Allah. It denotes rejection of the divinity of God and the adulation of mortals. In this sense, jahilliyya is not just a specific historical period (referring to the era preceding the advent of Islam), but a state of affairs. Such as state of human affairs existed in the past, exists today, and may exist in the future, taking the form of jahilliyya, that mirror-image and sworn enemy of Islam. In any time and place human beings face that clear-cut choice: either to observe the Law of Allah in its entirety, or to apply laws laid down by man of one sort or another. In the latter case, they are in a state of Jahilliyya. Man is at the crossroads and that is the choice: Islam or jahilliyya. Modern-style jahilliyya in the industrialized societies of Europe and America is essentially similar to the old-time jahilliyya in pagan and nomadic Arabia. For in both systems, man is under the dominion of man rather than of Allah.xv

What Qutb has done was to redefine the notion of jahiliyya commonly understood as a historical moment which existed before the rise of Islam in Arabia into “a state of human affairs” freed from the chain of time, which is antithetical to the Way of God. Therefore Muslims everywhere need to choose between these two ways: Islam or jahiliyya. It goes without saying that the latter choice is un-Islamic. Muslims, therefore have to choose Islam and then fight “the sworn enemy of Islam” to change the world in accordance with Islam. xvi In this sense, “ignorance” becomes a malady that needs to be overcome because the choice was “wrongly made” without the capacity to distinguish “the True” from the false, or “the Right” from the wrongs when the human thoughts were elevated to the status of a God. Such a state of affairs need to be changed, with violence if necessary as in the case of Faraj and some other advocates.

Philosophically, ignorance is taken to mean an absence or a lack of knowledge. In The Republic, Plato explicitly discusses the nature of ignorance (agnoia). He establishes that “that which is” is the object of knowledge, “that which is becoming” is the object of opinion, and “that which is not” is the object of ignorance.xvii For Descartes, the emphasis is on the concept of “error” when knowledge claim was made beyond the limit of understanding. Yet for David Hume, “misperception” assumes paramount significance when a confused idea of the impression is imprinted on the mind.xviii In Islamic ethical teachings, jahl (folly or ignorance), characterized by irascible temper or hasty and passionate anger when provoked (hidda), is antithetical to ‘aql (intelligence), wisdom in the sense of moral self-restraint and harmonious conduct in a social communal context. Ignorance, in this sense, signifies “all that is perverse and discordant in the person leading to inner blindness” responsible for social disorder and violence. To cultivate nonviolence in terms of character development from Islamic ethical practice, therefore, means to fight ignorance by strengthening intelligence with “the moral transformation of the personality” through “a process of grooming”.xix

Taken together, it can be seen that ignorance occurs when something is understood for what it is not ; the world is misperceived ; and error takes place when knowledge claim ceases to care for its limit. All this could result from “an inner blindness”. Perhaps, an example of such blindness, or ignorance, in terms of nonviolent alternatives could be Faraj's assertion that There is no doubt the idols upon earth will not be destroyed but by the sword mentioned above. How then could this ignorance or blindness (jahiliyya) in the area of nonviolence be accounted for?

The Jahiliyya Factor:
Inadequate language, conceptual misunderstanding and historical absence

In a most groundbreaking book on nonviolence and Islam, Arab Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Middle East xx, Crow and Grant point out at least 6 reasons why nonviolent actions are seen with some degrees of skepticism among Muslims. They are seen as: preventing legitimate self-defense, an imperialist ploy to pacify Muslims; non-existent in Arab history; without any contribution to the psychological health of the oppressed; inefficient political projects; and cannot mobilize world opinion against oppression.xxi Almost a decade later at a conference on “Islam and Peace” held at the American University on February 14, 1997, many criticized nonviolence as an imported ideology lacking the requisite theological and cultural bases for true compatibility with Islam.xxii There seems to be a kind of cultural reluctance, if not resistance, to accept nonviolent actions as an alternative in pursuing the causes of justice among Muslims. This “blindness” or jahiliyya factor working against nonviolent alternatives is a result of a linguistic incompatibility when nonviolence is translated into Arabic, a lack of adequate understanding of the concept of nonviolence as power and fighting, and a refusal to accept an Islamic history of nonviolent actions.

Linguistic Incompatibility?

When the term “nonviolence” is directly translated into Arabic, the sacred language of Islam for Muslims around the world, it becomes la-unf, which means “no violence” or “no vehement irascibility”. The term is problematic for at least three reasons. First , since it was introduced into Arabic before the middle of this century in reference to Gandhi's method of nonviolence, the negative, or somewhat skeptical, ways in which Gandhi has been perceived by many in the Muslim world as someone who opposed the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan may contribute negatively to the acceptance of the term. Second, for those Muslims who are oppressed and believe that violence could both contribute to their psychological freedom from the yoke of oppression and political liberation, la-unf connotes a denial of the only way they believe exist to alter their conditions. Third, since la-unf mainly means “no violence”, and not nonviolence, the term denotes not only “no violence” but “no action”. As a result, for Muslims taught repeatedly by Al-Qur'an that “(tumult and) oppression are worse than slaughter”xxiii, to accept oppression without doing anything can be seen as un-Islamic. The notion of nonviolence is therefore generally considered negative and uninspiring. It is therefore not surprising to see that la-unf has become increasingly less popular among writers on nonviolence in Arabic. In fact, a scholar recently pointed out that the term is for the most past avoided, “due to cultural preconceptions among Arab Muslims that it connotes passivity, weakness and lack of courage”.xxiv

Yet upon reflection, nonviolence can be appreciated as a positive concept, necessary for transforming societies without violence. For violence as such, direct, structural, and cultural, is the limit of life in some forms.xxv Hence, it can be considered negative. The double negative form of the word thus renders “nonviolence” a positive concept. As a result, for those in search of alternatives to violence, several terms are now used to translate “nonviolence” into Arabic. They include: al nidal al silmi or “peaceful struggle”, al nidal al madani or “civilian struggle”, al-muqawamat al-madaniyyah or “civil resistance”, or even al-sabr or “long suffering perseverance”. In fact , one of the foremost Arab writers on the subject, Khalid al-Qishtayni who wrote Nahwa l-la unf (Towards Nonviolence) in 1984 has now been introducing the term al-jihad al madani or “civil jihad” in his new book published in 1998: Dalil al-muwatin li-l-jihad al-madani (The Citizen's Guide to Civil Jihad).xxviIt is interesting to note that, outside of these changing academic discourse, a political leader such as Sadiq al-Mahdi, since his release from prison in 1996 and subsequent exile, has been calling for “civil jihad” against the Bashir government of Sudan.xxvii

In addition, some Muslim scholars have argued that the terms “violence” and “nonviolence” are not Our'anic terms. In 1986 at the first international conference on Islam and Nonviolence held in Bali, Indonesia, the Egyptian theorist -Hasan Hanafi, for example, selected the term “coercion” (Ikrah) to be used as a vehicle for discussing the origin of violence in Islam. But there are at least two problems here. First, if a term cannot indeed be found in Al Our'an, can't it be seriously discussed ? I believe that the term “nuclear weapons” does not exist in Our'an and therefore not a “Our'anic” term. But it is a part of human reality with a dangerous potential which could annihilate the whole human race. Should the Muslims be left out of the present discourse for world peace seeking nuclear disarmament simply because of the literal absence of a word? Second, judging from a sociological standpoint, coercion and violence are two distinctive concepts working at different levels. Violence will always be coercive, yet coercion could be violent or nonviolent. xxviii This problem is a reflection of a lack of adequate understanding of the idea of nonviolence as power and fighting.

Conceptual Misunderstanding?

In The Absent Precept, Faraj maintained that “An Islamic state cannot be reestablished without the struggle of a believing minority…”, then he divided the methods of struggle into two kinds: jihad and propaganda. He argued that the “path” of propaganda, advocated by those who wanted to forsake the jihad, can not lead to the desired goal because “all means of communication are in the hands of the infidels, of the morally depraved, and of the enemies of the Faith?”xxix Since for Faraj, jihad means the path of “the sword” or violence as indicated above, the alternative he saw as “not violent” is, curiously enough: propaganda. Then due to the ways the media is controlled, this option turns out to be unavailable and the Muslims are left with no alternative, but violence. Faraj's juxtaposition is yet another example of how the path which is “not violent”(la unf ?) is conceived, and consequently led to the gross misunderstanding of nonviolence.

In a clever article written in the form of imaginary exchanging letters between Mahatma Gandhi and Osama bin Laden , Bhikhu Parekh had his bin Laden, presented not as the real man but as an intellectual construct and a metaphor referring to a more generic pro-terror radical Islamist, arguing that for him the struggle against the Soviets was a profound “spiritual experience” especially in reaffirming the confidence in the success of violent methods used. He argued that violence is the only way to achieve his goals of getting the Americans out of Muslim lands, among other things, because it is the only language the US understands. Moreover, for him, violence is not inherently evil but should be judged on the basis of its goals and the results it In other words, violence is a weapon of choice for these Muslims because of its general power to deliver the desired results. Nonviolence is considered without power because it is seen as a weak and ineffective instrument. Therefore, it is not the language that could “make the opponents understand”.

There is a conceptual problem with this understanding of the power of violence, however. In a speech at his trial in 1905, Trotsky pointed out that power has very little to do with violence because it resides not in the ability to kill others but in their readiness to die for something they believe.xxxi Following the theorist Hannah Arendt, I would maintain that violence and power are opposites. Where there is violence, power is absent. This is because power is not created when people are forced to act but when they take action willingly.xxxii Here John Stuart Mill's answer to the question he raised in Representative Government is instructive. He pointed out that martyrs are more powerful than the authorities who put them to death.xxxiii In an odd way, I believe that this reasoning would be easily understood by the likes of people like Faraj or bin Laden.

It would be interesting , however, to confront a Faraj or a bin Laden with accounts of changes in the world brought about by the power of nonviolence. For example, nonviolence has been crucial in the fights against dictatorship in Latin America when from 1931 to 1961, eleven presidents were forced to leave offices in the wake of civic strikes.xxxiv But it is Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall's A Force More Powerful which empirically addresses the myth of violence and power discussed above directly. They listed 12 significant cases of nonviolent conflicts during the twentieth century. Nonviolent conflicts were used in pursuit of power, as in 1905 Russia; to resist terror, as in the cases of Denmark and the Netherlands' resistance to the Nazis; and to fight for citizens' rights, as in the American South or people movement for democracy in the Philippines. Their study seeks to dispel “the greatest misconception about conflict ”which maintains that violence is power, and in fact, the ultimate form of power by showing that ordinary Russians, Indians, Poles, Danes, Salvadoreans, African Americans, Chileans, South Africans, and Southeast Asians have not allowed themselves to be foreclosed by their opponents' use of violence and instead rely on primarily nonviolent alternatives to bring about great political changes in the last century.xxxv

The jahiliyya factor responsible for the linguistic complexities and conceptual myths on nonviolence produce widely held beliefs about the absence of nonviolent resistance in Islam as well as in Arab history.xxxvi Sadly, due to this absence, much of nonviolent actions undertaken by the Muslims are not known, or accordingly labeled and thus impoverished the traditions of nonviolence among Muslims further.

Islamic history and culture of nonviolence?

The more than 600-page volume, Protest, Power and Change is an encyclopedia of nonviolent action from Act-up to Women's suffrage. There are 5 issues related to nonviolence and Muslims/Islam. But most examples of Muslim nonviolent actions from the encyclopedia are only those related to Gandhi, Abdul Ghaffar Khan and the subcontinent. An item on Bosnian Muslims merely indicates their demographic fact and another on Burmese Muslims carrying green banners during mass demonstration for democracy in Burma. Other Muslim nonviolent actions elsewhere in the world are sadly absent.xxxvii

In the volume Arab Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Middle East, Khalid Kishtainy's essay, used injunctions from the Holy Qur'an and the Hadiths (Traditions of the Prophet) to paint a picture of Islam in history that is extremely conducive to nonviolence. He argues that violence was neither entrenched in Arab nor Islamic culture(s) and that, like others, the Arabs only resorted to wars when they were forced to. It should be noted that most of the Arab “generals” in the beginning of the Islamic era were either merchants or poets. Perhaps, Khalid bin Walid is the only one who dedicated his life to “the arts of war”, and therefore an exception. Moreover, unlike the Japanese Samurai or the Greek Spartans, the Arabs did not develop a warring caste. Culturally, the Arab has no game of blood. They do not have bull fighting, nor cock fighting, nor boxing. Historically, the main contribution of the Arab Muslims to human civilization were in the field of arts, sciences and social sciences. They taught Europe the use of comfortable cushions and upholstered furniture instead of the hard, wooden chair, how to wear silk and dainty linen instead of coarse wool, and to drink from delicate glassware rather than heavy metal mugs. In fact, the world learns practically nothing from the Arabs in the field of warfare.xxxviii

Kishtainy supported his radical reading of history with numerous examples. Among other things, he points out that the spread of Islam in Arabia did not succeed through the use of force. But, “The Prophet applied skilful diplomacy and superb propaganda work in winning the tribes and villages. The bulk of Arabia was secured with peaceful negotiations and treaties, and not with the sword.”xxxix It should also be noted that especially in Southeast Asia, the conversion process to Islam took place in return for Muslims' bureaucratic, religious, and educational services. The advent of Islam in Southeast Asia was the story of Islam's continuity rather than conflict with previous cultures.xl Looking back at the history of Islamic expansion, it seems that the Muslims have lost much of what they have achieved through conquest and continue to retain most of what have been achieved with piety and by trade.

In addition to Kishtainy's works, there are many other examples of Muslims' nonviolent actions both in history and at present. For example, in 1375, the religious scholar Ibn Qunfundh recorded the remarkable nonviolent story of Lala Aziza of Seksawa, Morocco. The general Al-Hintati set out with 6,000 men to conquer Seksawa. Aziza walked to the Marrakesh plain and stood alone before him and his army. She faced the general with her words and his faith. Listening to Aziza's words of God's command of justice and the wrong of harming God's creation, the general was overwhelmed. He later told Ibn Qunfundh that “This one – is a wonder….She knew what was going on inside of me….I was not able to counter her argument, to reject her requests.”xli This is a clear case of the power of words, of courage, of a woman, and pershaps most importantly here : of nonviolence that could send back an army of a would be conqueror . During the partition of India in 1948, there are examples of Muslims in South Asia who sacrificed their lives defending Hindus from the rage of violent crowds.xlii In the last decade of the twentieth century, Kosovo Albanians, some 87% of Kosovo's 2 million residents in 1987 and most of whom are Muslims, used parallel institutions, a powerful form of nonviolent actions, to noncooperate with Serbian authorities. In terms of discipline, strategies and scale, a scholar argues that it is the largest campaign of nonviolence since Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights movement.xliii In contemporary Thailand, Muslim villagers in Songkhla have fought against the Thai-Malaysian Gas Pipeline Project using all kinds of nonviolent methods for the past six years. xliv These random examples are provided to make a simple point: there are much more Muslims' nonviolent actions around the world, both in history and at present. Once the jahiliyya factor is overcome, alternatives to linguistic impasses can be found, misconceptions about nonviolence and power will be demythologized, and more examples of Muslims' nonviolent actions will be seen.

Conclusion: Redefining Jahiliyya

The jahiliyya factor advocated by Faraz, inherited from Maududi and Qutb, among others, is based on an understanding that ignorance is a state of affairs and the present condition of the world is divided into two exclusive camps between Islam and ignorance, and that the Muslims need to make a choice, and then fight to destroy ignorance with violence, if needs be. In trying to overcome the jahiliyya factor, it may be useful to look back at the original meaning as appeared in Al-Qur'an and the Prophetic traditions.

The clearest case of Islam fighting against jahiliyya, defined as practices common among Arabs before the rise of Islam due to ignorance, is female infanticide. Al-Qur'an is crystal clear about the practices in the age of ignorance.

When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) a female (child) his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief!
With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on (sufferance and) contempt or bury it in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on! xlv

Taking the position of the innocent child, God asked in Al-Qur'an :

When the female (infant) Buried alive is questioned
For what crime she was killed; xlvi

There are several Hadiths against female infanticide. For example, Ibn Abbas reported God's messenger as saying, “If anyone has a female child and does not bury her alive, or slight her, or prefer his children (i.e. the male ones) to her, God will bring him to paradise.” (Abu Dawood)xlvii In another place, Anas and Abdallah reported God's messenger as saying, “All creatures are God's children, and those dearest to God are the ones who treat His children kindly.” (Baihaqi)xlviii

Taken together, the “authentic” Islamic tradition is saying that female infanticide is a violent practice, legitimized by accepted culture of the time of jahiliyya. The message of Islam is: stop killing the innocents and saving lives by getting rid of cultural violence. The case against female infanticide in Islam as overcoming the jahiliyya factor is instructive for many reasons. First, the Islamic cosmology does have a place for the innocents and they do have rights. Second, killing the innocents, those who are the weakest link in the chain of human family is categorically wrong. Third, cultural violence which exists to legitimize such an abominable act needs to be called into question and considered unacceptable. The choice between Islam or jahiliyya, reconceptualized in accordance with the moral and historical roles of Islam would be between killing and saving life, between violence and nonviolence. Using the injunctions against female infanticides as guidelines, choosing nonviolence is an Islamic imperative for the Muslims facing the increasing acceptance of violence against the innocents.


iBangkok Post. May 2, 2004 .

iiBangkok Post. May 1 , 2004.

iiiSee Chaiwat Satha-Anand, "The Nonviolent Crescent: Eight Theses on Muslim Nonviolent Action," in Abdul Aziz Said, Nathan C.Funk & Ayse S. Kadayifci (eds.) Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice (Lanham, New York and Oxford: University Press of America, 2001), pp. 195-211.

vi Bangkok Post. June 4, 2004. (Headline)

vBangkok Post. June 6, 2004.


vii>Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985), p. 103.

viiiQuoted in Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? : The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East. (New York: Perennial, 2002), pp. 107-108.

ixQuoted in Sivan, Radical Islam., p. 127. Emphasis added. It is interesting to note here that Ibn Taymiyyah is becoming increasingly popular among Muslims whereas a decade ago he would have been known to a relatively small circle of Muslim scholars. Compared to Imam Abu Hanifa, his position regarding non-Muslims is much less liberal.

xCited in Nemat Guenena, The 'Jihad': An 'Islamic Alternative' in Egypt. [Cairo Papers in Social Science. Vol. 9 Monograph 2 ( Summer 1986)] (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1986), p. 44.M.


12 Sivan, Radical Islam., p. 103, p. 127.

13 Al-Qur'an, 39: 64. All citations from Al-Qur'an are from A.Yusuf Ali's Translation, The Glorius Qur'an. (U.S. : Muslim Students Association, 1977).

14 Muhammad Qutb, “Introduction,” in Sayyid Qutb, In the Shade of the Qur'an.(Vol. 30) M.A.Salahi and A.A.Shamis (Trans.) ( New Delhi: Milat Book Centre, n.d.), pp. xv-xvi. Muhammad Qutb is Sayyid Qutb's brother who taught at King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia.

15 Quoted in Sivan, Radical Islam, pp. 25-26.

16 See for example Yvonne Y. Haddad, “Sayyid Qutb: Ideologue of Islamic Revival,” in John L. Esposito (ed.) Voices of Resurgent Islam. (New York and Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 67-98.

17 Plato, The Republic . Allan Bloom (Trans. ) ( New York: Basic Books, 1968), p. 159.

18 Suwanna Wongwaisayawan, The Buddhist Concept of Ignorance: With Special Reference to Dogen. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Philosophy, University of Hawaii, May 1983, p. 3.

19 Karim Douglas Crow, “Nonviolence, Ethics and Character Development in Islam,” in Abdul Aziz Said, Nathan C.Funk & Ayse S. Kadayifci (eds.) Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice. (Lanham, New York and Oxford: University Press of America, 2001), pp. 217-221. See also fn.24 on p. 225.

20 Ralph E.Crow , Philip Grant, and Saad E. Ibrahim (Eds.), Arab Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Middle East. (Boulder , Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1990). This book was widely reviewed in scholarly journals and regarded as a pioneering work in the fields of nonviolence in the Middle East. See for example, reviews by Anthony Bing in Middle East Journal. Vol. 45 No.3 (Summer 1991), pp. 511-512; and Sohail H. Hashmi in Journal of Third World Studies. Vol. VIII No.1 (Spring 1991), pp.346-348.

21 Ralph E. Crow and Philip Grant, “ Questions and Controversies About Nonviolent Struggle in the Middle East,” in Ibid., pp. 75-90. In this essay, the authors also try to argue against these 6 stereotypical reasons against nonviolence.

22 Karim Douglas Crow (ed.) Nonviolence in Islam: A round-table workshop held February 14th 1997 at the American University, Washington D.C. (Washington D.C.: Nonviolence International, 1999), p.10 and p.17.

23 Al-Qur'an, Surah II: 191; II: 217.

24 Karim Douglas Crow, “Nurturing Islamic Peace Discourse,” American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences. Vol. 17 No. 3 (Fall 2000), p. 62.

25 Johan Galtung, Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization. (Oslo: PRIO ; London: SAGE, 1996), pp. 29-34.

26 See Ibid., fn. 15, p. 69.

27 Ibid.

28 See Chaiwat Satha-Anand, “Introduction,” in Glenn D.Paige , Chaiwat Satha-Anand, and Sarah Gilliatt (eds.) Islam and Nonviolence . ( Honolulu: Center for Global Nonviolence Planning Project, Matsunaga Institute for Peace, University of Hawai'I, 1993), p. 5.

29 Quoted in Sivan, Radical Islam, p. 127.

30 Bhikhu Parekh, “Why Terror?” Prospect Magazine. (April 2004) . Originally a lecture delivered at Boston University, a longer version will appear in Anna Lannstrom (ed.), The Stranger's Religion: Fascination and Fear. (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, Forthcoming).

31 See Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence and the Will of the People. (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2003), p. 170.

32 Hannah Arendt , On Violence. ( New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1970), p. 56.

33 See Schell, The Unconquerable World, pp. 230-231.

34 Patricia Parkman , Insurrectionary Civic Strikes in Latin America 1931-1961. (Cambridge, Mass.: The Albert Einstein Institution, 1990) . These 11 presidents were from Chile (1931), Cuba (1933), El Salvador (1944), Guatemala (1944), Haiti (1946), Panama (1951), Haiti (3 presidents in1956-1957), Colombia (1957), Dominican Republic (1962).

35 Peter Ackerman and Jack Du Vall, A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000). The quote is on p.9.

36 Crow and Grant, “ Questions and Controversies About Nonviolent Struggle in the Middle East,” p. 76, p.78.

37 Roger S. Powers and William B. Vogele ( eds.) Protest, Power and Change: An Encyclopedia of Nonviiolent Action from ACT-UP to Women's Suffrage. (New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1997 ).

38 Khalid Kishtainy, “Violent and Nonviolent Struggle in Arab History,” in Crow , Grant, and Ibrahim (Eds.), Arab Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Middle East, pp.9-24.

39 Ibid., p.14.

40 Nehemia Levtzion (ed.) Conversion to Islam (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1979).

41 M.Elaine Combs-Schilling, “Sacred Refuge: the Power of a Muslim Female Saint,” Fellowship. Vol. 60 No.5-6 (May/June 1994) , p. 17.

42 See for example Chaiwat Satha-Anand, “Crossing the Enemy's Lines: Helping the Others in Violent Situations Through Nonviolent Action,” Peace Research. Vol. 33 No.2 (November 2001)

43 Michael Salla, “Kosovo, Non-violence and the Break-up of Yugoslavia,” Security Dialogue. Vol. 26 No.4 (1995), pp. 427-438.

44 Supara Janchitfah, The Nets of Resistance. (Bangkok: Campaign for Alternative Industry Network, 2004).

45 Al-Qur'an, 16: 58-59.

46 Al-Qur'an, 81: 8-9.

47 James Robson (Trans.) Mishkat al-Masabih (Vol.II) (Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1975), p.1036

48 Ibid., p. 1039.