Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Of Dharma Yudh and Jihad

Here is an interesting article which was published in The Times of India. It is different and innovative. The writer deserves all praise for writing such a balanced article. The lines which appealed to me more than everything else is the one: "Planting a bomb surreptitiously to kill an innocent is not Jihad; so, too, burning a handicap person to death is not Dharma Yudh."

Let all those involved heed this sane advice. Let peace prevail. Let thousands of flowers bloom in this orchard. Congratulate this young writer and encourage him. He blogs here.
Salam Ishthiyaque bhai!

Of Dharma Yudh and Jihad

Sayyid Abdullah Tariq is a modern, educated Muslim from Rampur, U.P. He has devoted his life to studying the Quran and the Vedas and believes that the two Holy Scriptures were revealed to guide humanity. In October 2003, I invited him to deliver a lecture at the Hamdard University on "the commonalities between the Vedas and the Quran". During the lecture he, all of sudden, sought to know the communal composition of the audience. There were some 200 students and it was pleasing to note that about 60 per cent of them were Hindus. The speaker asked them if anyone had seen the Vedas; he was sure that none had read them. To our surprise no one gave an affirmative answer.

Until a few years ago,
Hamdard University used to organize lectures by eminent scholars to sensitize students about various cultures. Unfortunately, the lecture series has discontinued but its relevance cannot be undermined. In fact, in view of rising communal tensions, universities in the country need to organize such lectures to produce better-informed leaders.

Ever since I heard Mr. Tariq's lecture in 2003, I have wondered
if one's poor knowledge of his own religion is as dangerous for socio-communal harmony as our ignorance about other faiths. No one can deny that such ignorance has often been exploited by misguided elements to create cleavages in society. And, of late, elements of both —the Hindu and Muslim communities, as alleged by police and the media, have indulged in abominable acts of violence.

Both Hindu and Islamic scriptures have outlined their concepts of Dharma Yudh and Jihad. In essence, the two imply man's utmost effort, including war, to establish justice. They have not only explained their respective concepts of war but have also laid down principles which warring sides are required to observe.

Hindu scriptures have outlined the rules to be observed in the battlefield. The
Manusmriti has forbidden to smite one's foes with sharp weapons concealed in wood or with arrows mischievously barbed. It has also forbidden the use of poisoned arrows, or darts blazing with fire. Similarly, it urges a horseman not to attack the enemy alighted on the ground, or those who surrender. A warrior in sleep or without arms will not be attacked; noncombatants are also to be spared.

The Mahabharata has also outlined similar rules which warriors are required to observe. Among other things, it has forbidden to kill a weak or wounded man. The old, women of all ages, children and those fleeing from the battlefield should neither be attacked nor killed. By-standers and non-combatant citizens walking along roads should not be killed. Above all, gardens, temples and other places of public worship are not to be attacked or ransacked. Fighting at night or attacking the enemy under the cover of darkness is also not permitted. As in other religions, in Islam too, the most important teaching is man's right to live. And the power to establish justice that involves taking an individual's life is vested with the state.
Killing a man unjustly is like killing all of mankind, declares the Holy Quran.

Islam has permitted war on those who oppress mankind, unleash violence and drive people out of their homes just because they follow a different religion. But while permitting war, Islam has also laid down some principles of warfare which are to be strictly followed. These principles, like those of Hinduism, are regarding the rights of combatants and non-combatants, the rights of ambassadors, captives and those conquered. The combatant belligerents are those who take up arms and physically participate in a war. Like Hinduism, Islam has also urged not to kill the aged, women, children, the sick, the wounded, the blind, the handicap and wayfarers. War has to be fought justly for a just cause and recourse to violence is permitted only in unavoidable circumstances.

It would be appropriate to ask if people, Hindus and Muslims allegedly involved in acts of terrorism, have ever sought to understand the noble teachings of their respective faiths regarding the rights of innocents who often happen to be targets of their ferocious bombings and mob frenzy. Dharma Yudh and Jihad are noble concepts and the two are waged for attaining cherished ideals like establishing justice and ending oppression. They are also conducted chivalrously and within the moral limits prescribed by Holy Scriptures.
Planting a bomb surreptitiously to kill an innocent is not Jihad; so, too, burning a handicap person to death is not Dharma Yudh.
There is something seriously wrong with the understanding that terrorism is Jihad or Dharma Yudh. It is sad to note that the energy of so many young men is being misused to cause destruction. It is negative thinking which succeeds only in holding back development. Positive thinking, on the other hand, enables man to create a better and more prosperous tomorrow which is what India needs.

THIS ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN TIMES OF INDIA ON NOV 2th (But you cannot see it in TOI's website.)

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