Question 13. Isn't there one particular variety of jihad that involves taking part in armed conflict? What is IONA's position regarding qital (battle) in the way of Allah (SWT)?
There is, of course, one form of jihad that does involve warfare. That sometimes war becomes an Islamic obligation is quite clear in the Qur'anic narrative, as well as in the Hadith and Sira of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW); it can be described as follows.
In the struggle to establish Islam as a concrete historical reality, the opposition one faces may increase to such an extent that it demands nothing less than a direct physical confrontation. In other words, as one strives to establish social, political, and economic justice in the world, the resistance of inertia from the vested interests may reach a point where its challenge appears in the form of warfare. To give up one's struggle at that stage is to surrender to the forces of tyranny, oppression, and injustice. It is in such circumstances that jihad takes the form of qital (battle). Both the Qur'an and the Hadith contain extensive discussions of this form of jihad, why it is necessary for the faithful to participate in such battles, and why running away from these confrontations is a sign of one's abandonment of Islam itself.
IONA adheres to this theoretical understanding of qital. In terms of its practical methodology, however, a very important qualification must be made at this point. IONA does not believe that warfare (or another form of bilaterally violent confrontation) is an inevitable and necessary component of contemporary struggles for Iqamatuddin, even though this was an important part of the struggle undertaken by Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
When the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) led the struggle for the establishment of Islam as a historical reality, he had to lead and participate in numerous battles. It was incumbent on all his followers to likewise risk their lives and limbs in such battles; those who tried to evade this duty were often called the “hypocrites.” For this reason, Islamic sources exalt the virtues of participating in battle for the sake of Allah (SWT).
However, IONA recognizes that we are now living in very different times. That the struggle for Iqamatuddin does not necessarily involve warfare, or armed conflict more generally, is today a sociological fact. This was certainly not true in the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), but it is becoming increasingly true of such struggles in the twenty-first century, the historical context most relevant to IONA. While the resistance of inertia would still have to be overcome, there are now available to us numerous nonviolent alternatives that must take precedence on both practical and ethical grounds. It must be emphasized; therefore, that “nonviolent struggle” is a very important and integral part of IONA's practical methodology.