There’s a phrase that Pakistani militant leaders have used against India for decades – Ghazwa-e-Hind or a holy raid of India. Ghazwa in Arabic implies a war that is guided by faith rather than materialistic or territorial gains and is widely attributed to an Islamic concept derived from the hadiths — a set of sayings by Prophet Mohammad. The phrase is used refer to Muslim warriors conquering the Indian subcontinent.
Both radical Islamists in Pakistan and Islam-haters like Tarek Fateh have propagated this meaning. It is also frequently used as a trope to put devout Indian Muslims on the defensive. Their loyalty is questioned – will they put religion first or India?
Now, ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ has made a noisy return among scholars, security analysts and rabble-rousers, especially after the Narendra Modi government’s action on Article 370 and Pakistan’s isolation in the international theatre.
But what has gone largely unnoticed is that the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a leading body of Muslims in India, has already called out the error in this popular interpretation. The group has supported the government’s decision on Kashmir.
Maulana Mufti Salman Mansoorpuri, a Jamiat scholar, insisted late last year that Pakistan has been erroneously and mischievously linking the term to their rift with India. Mahmood Madani revealed this at an Observer Research Foundation (ORF) conference last month, sparking renewed interest in the theological interpretation of the phrase.
Pakistan-based terror groups, notably Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), have been using Ghazwa-e-Hind as a Hadith to recruit, fund and justify its audacious terror strikes as a religious holy war against India. The Jaish and others falsely propagate that Jihad against India is considered holy in Islam and that those participating in it [the battle against “infidels”] will be granted an easy entry into paradise.
In a widely-circulated note by Jamia Qasmia Shahi of Moradabad, Maulana Mufti Salman Mansoorpuri had debunked the Jaish’s assertions and argued that prophecies and sayings of Prophet Mohammad should not be used for political or material gains.
Declaring war and claiming Virat Kohli
In a video posted on Facebook on 31 August by Zaid Hamid of Pakistan, a radical who fancies himself as a security analyst, said: “We are entering Ghazwa-e-Hind, the war which was prophesied by Prophet Muhammad.” The video shows him brandishing a Kalashnikov, as if ready to march off to the “Great War between believers and non-believers”.
He then added: “After what Narendra Modi and the infidels of India have done to Kashmir, no one should have any doubt that in the coming times. The final battle of the Ghazwa-e-Hind will soon be fought between Muslims and infidels.”
Zaid Hamid may be from the fringe, but his video has been watched by over 13 lakh viewers. More mainstream Pakistani individuals like minister of state for parliamentary affairs Ali Muhammad Khan, made a reference to Ghazwa-e-Hind while speaking in parliament and thundered: “Pakistan didn’t make an atom bomb for fun and games [khel tamasha]. We will show you if it becomes necessary.”
Zaid Hamid’s Twitter, Facebook and other social media contents are blocked in India.
Not to be left behind, actress Veena Malik also tweeted a Hadith on Ghazwa-e-Hind on 1 September. In a recent interview to Samaa TV she said: “If you look at history, Ghazwa-e-Hind is mentioned…. It is also true that there comes a point when Muslims had to raise their swords and had to fight.” After famously posing with a grenade and an ISI tattoo for an Indian magazine, Veena Malik is now a born-again Muslim.
Amir Rana, director of Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, told Samaa TV: “It has been going on for years… whenever things get bad in Kashmir you will hear it.”
Closer to home, our own TV studio warriors have been raising the bogey of Ghazwa-e-Hind. On 26 September, Times Now declared: “Ghazwa-e-Hind a new enemy of India, will Lutyens believe now?” In India Upfront, Times Now editor-anchor Rahul Shivshankar spent 34 minutes and eight seconds trying to prove #ModiRightOnIslamicTerror. The channel said: “Times Now has accessed a top-secret report that reveals that a new uncompromising hardline Islamic radical terror group has been founded in Pakistan with a specific aim of targeting India. The Ghazwa-e-Hind will be launched with immediate effect on India soil…”
On 5 September, Swarajya magazine ran a story on a propaganda video reportedly released by a Pakistani agency in which the filmmakers had preposterously predicted that the Islamist dream of Ghazwa-e-Hind will be realised by 2025. It even claimed that Virat Kolhi will then be a part of the Pakistani cricket team in World Cup matches against England.
Jamiat scholar Mansoorpuri has questioned these facile interpretations.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, firmly rooted in Islam, is a leading body of nationalist Muslims and clergy in India. It had opposed the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan, and since 2001, is effectively using renowned Islamic seminary Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband to issue comprehensive fatwas declaring terrorism as un-Islamic. Last month, it had adopted a resolution backing Narendra Modi government’s decision to abrogate the special status given to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Hadiths on Ghazwa-e-Hind, according to Mansurpoori, reads: “The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) said – ‘Allah has saved two groups of my Ummah from the hellfire; the group that will invade Al-Hind (the subcontinent) and the group that will be with Eesa (Jesus), the son of Mariam.’ Quoting the narration of Abu Hurairah [the narrator of over 5,000 hadiths] – ‘The Messenger of Allah promised us the conquest of Al-Hind (the subcontinent). If I am able to join it, I will spend on it my wealth and my life. If I am killed, I will be the best of martyrs and if I return, I will be Abu Hurairah, the freed one (i.e. from hellfire).’”
The Hadiths are a primary source of guidance in Islam. It is unanimously agreed by Muslims that the authority of the Hadith is second only to that of the Qur’an.
According to Mansoorpuri, there are several Hadiths mentioning Ghazwa-e-Hind and its virtues, but the chain of narrators is weak, confusing and relies upon persons who are little known in the authentic collection of Hadith.
The role of the narrator is key in how the Hadiths travelled down the centuries.
It is important to understand how Hadiths were collected and preserved. A Hadith consists of two parts – the matn (text) and the isnad (chain of the narrator). A text may seem logical and reasonable, but it needs an authentic isnad with reliable narrators to be acceptable. During the lifetime of the Prophet and after his death, his Companions used to refer to him when quoting his sayings. The Successors (Tabi’un) followed suit; some of them used to quote the Prophet through the Companions, while others would omit the intermediate authority – such a Hadith was known as mursal (loose).
Mansoorpuri’s rebuttal to propaganda
Mansoorpuri argues that apart from the faulty chain of narrators of the Ghazwa-e-Hind Hadith, it is also spoken in absolute form without any indication of specific timing for its occurrence. He says, there are three possibilities as to which war is being referred to:
(1) The battle that took place in the Indian sub-continent in the early and middle ages of Islam, which led Muslims to take hold of the country for a long time. Like the battles fought by Muhammad Bin Qasim and Mahmud Ghaznawi. This view is also supported by the narrations which, apart from Hindustan, also mentions the Sindh. One Hadith mentions the conquest of Sindh, which took place under the command of Muhammad Bin Qasim.
(2) The second possibility is that the word ‘Hind’ mentioned in the Hadith may not be a reference to India specifically. Instead, it may refer to the Indian region and surrounding areas, especially the Basrah and its neighbouring places, currently in Iraq. This view is supported by some statements of the blessed Companions who used to say: “We interpret Hind as Basrah.”
According to this explanation, Mansoorpuri adds, these Hadiths may be referring to the battles fought against Iran in the early periods of Islam.
(3) The third possibility is that the war to which these Hadiths refer to have not yet taken place. Instead, it will take place during the period of re-emergence of Isa and Mehdi as mentioned in Islamic traditions.
The return of Isa (Jesus) is a core Islamic belief. Mansoorpuri relies on several authentic narrations to reiterate some of the conditions that are mentioned, such as Muslims being restricted in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and the appearance of Dajjal (anti-Christ). When these happen, Muslims will get involved in a war and Isa will descend.
“The above detail makes it amply clear that encouraging the present-day Muslims in the Indian sub-continent for Jihad on the basis of the Hadiths concerning Ghazwa al-Hind is completely wrong. That is because the first two interpretation of these Hadiths do not leave any further possibility (of war) for them. The third interpretation is doubtful. But if we accept it, even then the signs of the Dooms Day after which Isa (as) will descend have not so far appeared,” concludes Mansoorpuri.
Mansoorpuri’s work offers a blunt rebuttal to Pakistan’s propaganda literature that urges Muslims to pick up arms to counter riots and discrimination.
The author is a visiting fellow at ORF and working on a book on Islam and Indian Nationalism. Views are personal.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.