Can an Indo-Pak war be called Ghazwa-e-Hind?

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“We are entering Ghazwa-e-Hind, the war which was prophesied by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).”

These are the words of Zaid Hamid, a self-proclaimed security analyst, and one of Pakistan’s well-known rightwing commentators. In a video posted to Facebook on August 31, he brandishes a Kalashnikov as if ready to march off to the ‘Great War between believers and non-believers in Hind’.

“After what Narendra Modi and the infidels of the India had done to Kashmir, no one should have any doubt that in the coming times,” he says. “The final battle of the Ghazwa-e-Hind will soon be fought between Muslims and infidels.”

This apocalyptic vision is not just Hamid’s or that of the 1.3 million people who viewed his video. Far from a fringe belief, it is a concept that many people in Pakistan and beyond ascribe to. Mentions of Ghazwa-e-Hind have surged since India revoked Kashmir’s special status.

Picture: Zaid Hamid (Screengrab)

On the floor of parliament, a Pakistani minister, Ali Muhammad Khan, declared Ghazwa-e-Hind will come, come what may. Pakistan didn’t make an atom bomb for “fun and games [khail tamasha]”, he thundered. “We will show you if it becomes necessary.”

Even celebrity Veena Malik, a Pakistani actor who has appeared in several Indian movies, has been tweeting Hadith. On September 1, she posted the one that mentions an attack on Hind. “If you look at history, Ghazwa-e-Hind is mentioned,” she said in a recent interview with SAMAA Digital. “It is also true that there comes a point when Muslims had to raise their swords and had to fight.”

But would a war between these two neighbours qualify as Ghazwa-e-Hind if one asked the experts?

To start with Maulana Tariq Masood, a Karachi-based cleric who has a significant following in the Deoband school of thought, says there is a highly authentic Hadith about Ghazwa-e-Hind narrated by Hazrat Subban (RA). The gist of the Hadith roughly translates into: The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that the fire of Hell has been declared haram on two groups from my Ummah: one that would fight in Hind and the other which would accompany Isa Ibn-e-Maryam (AS) (Al Nasai, 28:3, 4382).

However, he believes that it merits certain qualifications. “The most important thing that people don’t consider before explaining the Hadiths is that the word ‘Hind’ which was used in the era of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) … is not the present-day Hindustan,” he said. During the Prophet’s time, Hindustan included Bangladesh, Burma and Pakistan. They were all Arz-e-Hind or the Land of Hind. By that reasoning, if anyone attacked Pakistan, they would be technically attacking a part of Hind.

Maulana Masood said that people often end up sharing Hadiths on Facebook without giving the proper references—a dangerous practice. “You shouldn’t share Hadiths anywhere without authenticating it with an Aalim (religious scholar),” he added. He is all too familiar with the dissemination of this material as he is one of those few ulema who had successfully connected with the younger lot on social media. Video clips of his sermons are widely shared.

Knowing the reference is crucial as it goes to the authenticity of the Hadith. So, for example, Maulana Masood says, some people confuse this Hadith with another one that talks about an army which will rise from Khorasan, an area comprising parts of modern day Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. The army will carry black banners and will attack Hind, according to the Hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah (RA), said Maulana Masood.

Supporters of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam raise their hands and chant slogans during a ‘Azadi Kashmir March’ protest rally against India in Muzaffarabad on September 19, 2019. AFP

Some clerics believe that after putting the rulers of Hind in chains, the army will return to Syria where it will join Isa Ibn-e-Maryam (AS). But Maulana Masood cautions that this is a weak Hadith and ulema have a difference of opinion over it.

Such is the diversity of opinion that other clerics believe that Ghazwa-e-Hind has already taken place. One of them is Mufti Faisal Japanwala, a lecturer of Islamic Studies at Iqra University. He said that the attacks of Afghan conqueror Mehmood Ghaznavi and Arab commander Muhammad bin Qasim on Hindustan were part of Ghazwa-e-Hind.

And yet another expert, Dr Khalid Zaheer, an Islamic scholar who holds a PhD from the University of Wales, maintains that the timing of Ghazwa-e-Hind is not clearly written anywhere.

Exploiting scripture

Of course, the more open to interpretation a point on religion the easier it is for militant outfits too use such texts to justify their designs.

“There are multiple religious references about Ghazwa-e-Hind but the one which I heard the most is that the Muslims will attack Hind and the rulers of Hind will be chained,” said a counter-terrorism official. These references are used to influence people when there are tensions between Pakistan and India. “Banned outfits use it to recruit people,” he added.

Clerics point out, however, that a group or outfit cannot declare Jihad. Neither can individuals.

“If rulers decide [to wage Jihad] then their army will fight and we will support them,” explained Dr Khalid Zaheer. “I, you or any individual can’t take such a step.” Jihad fi Sabilillah or Jihad in the name of Allah can only be waged under a Muslim ruler and a Sipah-e-Salar or commander.

Pakistani supporters of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa shout slogans during a protest in Karachi on February 3, 2017. AFP

The truth is, however, that militant groups in the region are masterful in seeking endorsements from religious texts. According to Amir Rana, an independent analyst and the director of Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, “It has been going on for years… whenever things get bad in Kashmir you will hear it.”