Jaish-e-Muhammad Tells Readers How to Spend Time During Ramadan
Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), which translates to “Army of Muhammad,” is a violent extremist group based in Pakistan and founded by the infamous Masood Azhar in 2000. The U.S. added JeM to its foreign terrorist organization list back in 2001 and Azhar was designated in late 2010. Azhar has made a long career targeting the United States and India. In a public speech in Karachi in 2000 he said, “I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed America and India.” Like many of its peer groups in Pakistan, JeM has shifted its focus from the Kashmiri insurgency to Afghanistan. In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department noted that, “JeM recruitment posters in Pakistan contained a call from Azhar for volunteers to join the fight in Afghanistan against Western forces.” JeM openly continues its activities – Azhar himself has been arrested and released multiple times by Pakistani authorities – part of which include a weekly, Urdu-language online publication, al-Qalam. (For more analysis on past issues and articles of al-Qalam check out Jihadica)
In the last week’s issue of al-Qalam, contributor Talha al-Saif wrote an article advising the magazine’s readers on acceptable behavior during the month of Ramadan. The article is divided into several subsections. I highlighted some of the more interesting passages below (NOTE: They are not word-for-word translations. They are summaries that touch on the points I found most interesting).
Summary of the Article
The article begins with a brief introduction that uses poetic language to describe Ramadan with several of the repeated themes throughout the article. These include descriptions of Ramadan as the month of the Quran, the Battle of Badr, jihad, and fasting.
“Save Yourself from the Wrong Jump”
Satan is man’s enemy and tries to lead him astray. The true meaning of Ramadan is sacrifice, for example eating less, drinking less, and performing jihad. Satan on the other hand has taught people that the meaning of Ramadan is eating, drinking, and sleeping in excess.
“Habits Recommended to Increase”
This section says that Ramadan is a very valuable month and that individuals should maximize time spent performing acts of worship. These acts include:
- Prayers – To include required prayers and the taraweeh (extra evening prayers performed only during Ramadan)
- Talawat – Recitation of the Quran
- Sadaqat – Charitable Donations. Individuals should donate food/iftaar materials to those who are fighting [e.g. mujahidin] the enemies of Islam head-on.
- Jihad – Ramadan is the month of jihad. The Battle of Badr was fought in this month and therefore one should remember it. Sacrificing life and money. Invitation to jihad.
- Reflecting Upon the Hereafter – We will not remain in this world. The true life is life in the hereafter.
“Habits Recommended to Eliminate”
- Television – Absolutely no television. Neither news, nor anything else.
- “Places of sin” – Stay away from places where there are immoral conversations such as lies and backbiting.
Last 10 Days of Ramadan
Last 10 days of Ramadan are quite valuable. New clothes are not necessary for Eid al-Fitr. Also, the happiness of Eid can be fulfilled even without a new pair of shoes. One should not waste the last 10 days of Ramadan in bazaars. One should not let the last 10 days of Ramadan go to waste, as it is possible that this Ramadan is our last.
“Beware of Iftaar Parties”
Iftaar parties are a wasteful act in which there is gluttony and useless conversation. One should not host such parties, nor go to them. If there is a religious gathering you should attend it. Also, one should send food for Iftaar and dinner to the poor, religious scholars, and the mujahidin.
In al-Saif’s article many of the recommendations (such as increased prayer and reflection and the heightened importance of the last ten days of Ramadan) are standard practice for Muslims during Ramadan and some others are not so standard (including the ban on all television watching and the warning against attending or hosting Iftaar parties). What is most interesting, however, is JeM’s attempt to capitalize on Ramadan as an opportunity to gain recruits and generate support for its mission. This is done in two ways: direct solicitation and generation of sympathy using religious imagery. First, the article directly tells its readers that Ramadan is a month of sacrifice and jihad, and that sacrifice can include the donation of money and food to those individuals fighting the enemies of Islam head-on. Next, the author’s multiple references to the Battle of Badr are important as they highlight a critical battle in Islam’s early history (also mentioned in the Quran) in which the Prophet Muhammad led his forces to an unlikely victory against the Meccans. Using this history and religious symbolism to draw a comparison to current wars may resonate with al-Qalam’s target audience.