Countering Pakistani terrorists’ anti-India propaganda

By Maulana Waris Mazhari,

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

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For almost two decades now, self-styled jihadist outfits based in Pakistan have been engaged in a war against India in Kashmir. This war of theirs has no sanction in Islam, which does not allow for proxy war, and that too one declared by non-state actors. It is an explicit violation of all Islamic principles. These outfits, which have considerable support inside Pakistan, see the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir as a religious struggle, and they wrongly describe it as a jihad. They regard their role in Kashmir as but the first step in a grand, though completely fanciful, plan to annex India into Pakistan and convert it into what they style as dar- ul-islam, the Abode of Islam. But what they finally dream of establishing, or so they boast, is Muslim hegemony throughout the entire world.

I have used the term ‘hegemony’ here deliberately, for radical Muslim groups in Pakistan and in the Arab world have been indelibly influenced and shaped by the hegemonic designs of European colonialism in the past and Western imperialism today, and, in some senses, are a reaction to this hegemonic project. They seek to counter Western political supremacy and replace it by what they conceive of as Islamic political supremacy. In my view, this approach is in sharp contradistinction to Islamic teachings. The term ghalba-e islam, the establishment of the supremacy of Islam, used in the context of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet (Hadith), refers not to any political project of Muslim domination, but, rather, to the establishment of the superiority of Islam’s ideological and spiritual message. This, in fact, was the basic crux of the mission of the Prophet Muhammad. However, the term has been distorted at the hands of the self-styled jihadists, who present it as a project to establish Muslim or Islamic political domination over the entire world.

War against India

Today, as the case of the Pakistani self-styled jihadists so tragically illustrates, many of those who claim to be struggling in the cause of Islam themselves work against Islamic teachings by deliberately or otherwise misinterpreting them. This is the case with their misuse of the term jihad in the context of Kashmir in order to win mass support for themselves. Needless to add, this is a major cause for growing anti-Islamic sentiments among many non-Muslims.

The dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir has been lingering for more than half a century. A major hurdle in the resolution of this conflict is the self-styled jihadists based in Pakistan, who insist that the conflict over Kashmir is an Islamic jihad and that, therefore, war is the only solution. They claim that participation in this so-called jihad has become a farz-e ayn, a duty binding on all Muslims, and some of them, most prominently the dreaded Lashkar-e Tayyeba, even go so far as to claim that the war in Kashmir is nothing but the ghazwat ul-hind, the ‘war against India’ which is mentioned in a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. By this they want to suggest that waging war against India is an Islamic duty, something prophesied by the Prophet Muhammad himself.

What is the actual meaning and implication of the statement attributed to the Prophet regarding the ghazwat ul-hind, which the Pakistan-based self-styled jihadists regularly refer to, and grossly misinterpret, in order to whip up anti-Indian sentiments and seek what they wrongly claim is Islamic sanction for their deadly terror attacks against India, in Kashmir and beyond? Before I discuss that, I must point out that the statement attributed to the Prophet regarding the ghazwat ul-hind is found in only one of the sihah sitta, the six collections of Hadith reports of the Sunni Muslims—in the collection by al-Nasai. This statement was narrated by Abu Hurairah, a companion of the Prophet. According to him, the Prophet prophesied a battle against India. If he (Abu Hurairah) got the chance to participate in this battle, Abu Hurairah said, he would do so, sacrificing his wealth and life. If he died in this battle, he said, he would be counted among the exalted martyrs. According to another narration, related by the Prophet’s freed slave Thoban, the Prophet once declared that there were two groups among the Muslims whom God had saved from the fires of Hell. The first would be a group that invaded India. The other group would be those Muslims who accompanied Jesus (after he returned to the world). A similar narration is contained in the collections of Hadith by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Baihaqi and Tabrani.


Because this hadith about the ghazwat ul-hind mentions India, and is marshaled by self-styled Pakistan-based jihadists active in Kashmir, it marks the Kashmir conflict out as clearly distinct from other conflicts elsewhere in the world between Muslims and others. These self-styled jihadists regularly invoke this hadith, trapping people in their net by claiming that if they were to die fighting the Indians in Kashmir they would be saved from hell and would earn a place in heaven. This claim, false though it is, is regularly and constantly repeated, as is evident from a host of Pakistani websites and periodicals.

Let me quote a revealing instance in this regard. Recently, I came across the August 2003 issue of ‘Muhaddith’, an Urdu magazine published from Lahore, Pakistan. It contains a 20-page article on the ghazwat ul-hind, written by a certain Dr. Asmatullah, Assistant Professor at the Islamic Research Academy of the International Islamic University, Islamabad. The article represents a pathetic effort to project the ongoing conflict in Kashmir as precisely the same ghazwat ul-hind that the Prophet is said to have predicted. And it is on the basis of this reported hadith of the Prophet that ultra-radical Islamists in Pakistan talk about unleashing a so-called jihad, extending out of Kashmir and to consume the whole of India. This is no longer limited to just fiery rhetoric alone, but, in fact, is also now accompanied by deadly terror attacks in different parts of India, which Pakistan-based radicals wrongly style as a jihad or even as the ghawzat ul-hind reportedly prophesied by the Prophet. It is striking to note in this connection that in the above-mentioned article, the editors of ‘Muhadith’ disagree with the views of the author, expressing their differences in the form of a footnote. Yet, this counter-view, as expressed by the editors of the magazine, is hardly ever discussed or even referred to in Pakistani so-called jihadist literature, indicating, therefore, that the rhetoric of the self-styled jihadists is based less on proper scholarly analysis of the Islamic textual tradition than on strident, heated emotionalism and a deep-rooted hatred and feeling of revenge. This applies not just in the Pakistani case. Rather, is a phenomenon common to almost all so-called jihadist movements throughout the rest of the world.

The Pakistani self-styled jihadists, it would appear, have made the hadith about the ghazwat ul-hind into a plaything in their hands in order to entrap innocent people. It is quite possible that the Pakistani youth who were involved in the recent deadly terrorist attack on Mumbai were fed on this sort of poisonous propaganda and led into believing that they might go straight to heaven if they waged war against India. In India, the banned Students Islamic Movement of India appeared to have backed the same wholly erroneous and unwarranted interpretation of the hadith about the ghazwat ul-hind, following in the footsteps of Pakistani radical groups. Mercifully, as far as I know, no other Indian Muslim group or scholar worthy of mention has adopted the ‘Pakistani interpretation’ of this particular hadith report.

Tragically, the concept of jihad has been subjected to considerable abuse and made to serve extremist ends by self-styled jihadists. This started in the very first century of Islam itself, when intra-Muslim wars were sought to be christened by competing groups as jihads. And because of the distorted understanding of jihad championed by many Muslims themselves, they labeled any and every controversy and conflict with non-Muslims, even if it had nothing at all to do with religion but everything to do with politics, as a jihad, as the case of Kashmir well exemplifies. Another facet of the distorted understanding of jihad by some Muslims are suicide-bombings, in which innocent civilians are killed. Yet another is proxy war by non-state actors, such as armed self-styled jihadist groups, which actually has no legitimacy in Islam at all.


Coming back to the question of the hadith about the ghazwat ul-hind, some aspects of the report deserve particular scrutiny. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, this report is mentioned only in the collection of al-Nasai from among the six collections of Hadith which most Sunnis regard, to varying degrees, as canonical. However, considering the merits or rewards of the ghazwat ul-hind that it talks about, it ought, one might think, to have been narrated by many more companions of the Prophet. But that, as it curiously happens, is not the case.

Secondly, and this follows from above, it is possible that this hadith report is not genuine and that it might have been manufactured in the period of the Ummayad Caliphs to suit and justify their own political purposes and expansionist deigns. On the other hand, if this hadith report is indeed genuine—which it might well be—in my view, the battle against India that it predicted was fulfilled in the early Islamic period itself, and is not something that will happen in the future. This, in fact, is the opinion of the majority of the ulema, qualified Islamic scholars. And this view accords with reason as well. It is quite likely that the ghazwat ul-hind that this report predicted took the form of the attack by an Arab Muslim force on Thana and Bharuch, in coastal western India, in the 15th year of the Islamic calendar in the reign of the Caliph Umar. Equally possibly, it could have been fulfilled in the form of the missionary efforts of some of the Prophet’s companions soon after, in the reign of the Caliphs Uthman and Ali, in Sindh and Gujarat. Some other ulema consider this hadith to have been fulfilled in the form of the attack and occupation of Sindh by Arab Muslims led by Muhammad bin Qasim in the 93rd year of the Islamic calendar, which then facilitated the spread of Islam in the country. This might well be the case, for the hadith report about the ghazwat ul-hind contained in the Masnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, a well-known collection of Hadith narratives attributed to the Prophet, mentions that the Muslim army that would attack India would be sent in the direction of Sindh and Hind.

Thirdly, this hadith mentions only a single or particular battle (ghazwa), and not a series of continuing battles, unlike what the author of the article in the ‘Muhaddith’, referred to above, echoing the arguments of Pakistani self-styled jihadists, claims.

Fourthly, one must raise the very pertinent question of how it is at possible that, in the face of the numerous attacks on India by Arab and other Muslims over the last one thousand years, the more than six hundred rule of Muslim dynasties that controlled most of India and the rapid spread of Islam in the country in the period when they ruled, any scope could be left to consider India a target of jihad in the future. Furthermore, today India and Pakistan have diplomatic relations and are bound by treaty relations. Hence, the proxy war engaged in by Kashmir by powerful forces in Pakistan in the guise of a so-called jihad is nothing but deceit, which is a complete contravention of, indeed a revolt against, accepted Islamic teachings.

Fifthly, it must be remembered that it would have been very easy for Muslim conquerors of India in the past, men like Mahmud of Ghazni, Shihabuddin Ghori, Timur, Nadir Shah and so on, to present the hadith about the ghazwat ul-hind and wield it as a weapon to justify their attacks on the country. The corrupt ulema associated with their courts could well have suggested this to them had they wished. However, no such mention is made about this in history books. In the eighteenth century, the well-known Islamic scholar Shah Waliullah of Delhi invited the Afghan warlord Ahmad Shah Abdali to invade India and dispel the Marathas, which he accepted, but yet Shah Waliullah, too, did not use this hadith as a pretext for this.

Indian ulema

It is also pertinent to examine how some well-known contemporary Indian ulema look at this hadith report. Maulana Abdul Hamid Numani, a leading figure of the Jamiat ul-Ulema-i Hind, opines that this hadith was fulfilled at the time of the ‘Four Righteous Caliphs’ of the Sunnis, soon after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad, when several companions of the Prophet came to India, mainly in order to spread Islam. Mufti Sajid Qasmi, who teaches at the Dar ul-Uloom in Deoband, is also of the same opinion, although he believes that it might also refer to the invasion of Sindh by the Arabs under Muhammad bin Qasim in the eighth century. On the other hand, Maulana Mufti Mushtaq Tijarvi of the Jamaat-i Islami Hind believes that it is possible that this hadith report is not genuine at all and that it might have been fabricated at the time of Muhammad bin Qasim’s invasion of Sindh in order to justify it.

Whatever the case might be, the misuse by radical groups of this hadith report to spearhead war in Kashmir in the name of so-called jihad and to foment conflict between India and Pakistan is tragic, to say the least. It is nothing sort of a crime against God and the Prophet. In their worldviews and in their actions as well, the self-styled jihadist outfits seem to have gone the way of the Khawarij, a group that emerged in the early period of Islam and who were rejected by other Muslims. The Khawarij believed that they alone were Muslims and that all others, including those who called themselves Muslims, were infidels and fit to be killed. With reference to the Khawarij, the Prophet predicted that they would depart from Islam in the same way as an arrow flies out of a bow. About the Khawarij the Caliph Ali mentioned that they take the word of truth and turn it into falsehood (kalimatu haqqin urida beha al-batil). This he said in the context of the Khawarij misinterpreting the Quran and claiming that Ali and his followers were infidels who deserved to be killed.

It is imperative, and extremely urgent, for Muslim scholars, particularly the ulema, to take strict notice of, and stridently oppose the radical self-styled jihadists, who are distorting and misunderstandings Islamic teachings, following in the footsteps of the Khawarij of the past, and spreading death and destruction in the name of Islam. Jihad, properly understood, is a struggle to put an end to strife and conflict, not to create or foment it, as is being done today. The general public, particularly Muslims themselves, should be made aware of the dangerous deviation of the self-styled jihadists and the horrendous implications of their acts and views. In this regard, a major responsibility rests with the ulema of India and Pakistan. These days, ulema groups in India are very actively involved in organizing conferences and holding rallies seeking to defend themselves and Islam from the charges terrorism leveled against them. This is a very welcome thing. However, they must also stridently speak out against and clearly and unambiguously expose and denounce the self-styled soldiers of Islam who are promoting terrorism in the name of Islam. At the same time, it is also urgent to promote re-thinking of some medieval notions of jihad, such as that of offensive jihad, which does not actually have any Islamic legitimacy. This is essential for Muslims to live in today’s times and to come to terms with democracy and pluralism. Simply verbally defending Muslims and Islam from the charges of terrorism is, clearly, not enough. Nor is it adequate to simply condemn terrorism in very general terms. The truth is, and this cannot be disputed, that today there is also a pressing need to unleash a ‘jihad’ against the self-styled jihadist outfits themselves. And in this jihad, undoubtedly, the ulema and Muslim intellectuals have a central role to play and a major responsibility to shoulder.


Maulana Waris Mazhari, a graduate of the Dar ul-Uloom at Deoband, is the editor of the Delhi-based ‘Tarjuman Dar ul-Uloom’, the official organ of the Deoband Graduates’ Association. He can be contacted on [email protected]