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chapter six

The Ethics Of Force

A razor can cut the throat; electricity will kill a man; fire burns down houses and cities; water destroys whole tracts of inhabited and cultivated land; and winds uproot fruit-bearing trees and blow away the shelter-giving thatches of the poor. But we can hardly do without razors, electricity, or fire today, while life would certainly be impossible without water and air. Energy and force, of whatsoever kind, are not bad in themselves; it is their use which makes them productive or destructive. It is the glory of man that he rules over blind forces of nature and uses them to his advantage; and it is owing to this control over force that the world has made such a wonderful progress in science and civilization.

But God has given some energy to the human body as well. He would be a crank who would ask us to let this energy rust owing to disuse. All the capabilities of men are to be tapped and used to his advantage. And physical force is no exception. Gone are the days indeed when some people could look with approbation upon monks drying themselves with thirst or starving themselves to death. Humanity now recognizes what a great gift of God is this body to us, and therefore it is looked after with greater care, and the development of physical force is receiving plenty of consideration.

This force should not be a mere ornamental superficiality; it is a reality and should be counted as such. God has given us strength not only to enable us to earn our livelihood, but to save our lives from destruction as well. Fighting in self-defense can be no sin. If it is a sin to destroy our body by committing suicide, it can be no virtue to give ones life without a blow. It is, on the other hand, certainly a deadly sin to fall a victim to a tyrant without opposition.

Those who condemn all kinds of violence cannot face its logical consequences. What shall I do if a snake, or say, a wolf attacks me? Shall I stand silent and motionless, and do nothing to save myself? What shall I do when a mad dog attacks an innocent child? What is my duty if a defenseless woman is attacked by rogues and stands in the danger of being violated? Shall I not save a weak man from being robbed? Should I not fight a cruel robber who has respect neither for property nor for life? What shall I do with a thief who is not courteous enough to betake himself to the police station at my humble request ?

And we must not forget that there are individual thieves and nation-thieves, that there are individuals who rob and there are nations who rob. Similarly there are individuals who are robbed or beaten or killed, and there are nations which are maltreated. History shows us that an enduring, patient people corrupts both itself and its persecutors. What shall it, then, do? I think it is far better to repel force by force and die in the attempt than to yield to servitude and become worse than beasts!

There is one thing more which we cannot forget: that the ultimate appeal is always to force. This is no place to discuss principles of Political Science; but one would be in good company if one were to say that the state is based upon force. At least this cannot be denied: that force is one of the most essential characteristics of the state; without force no state can exist. If the malefactor against society cannot be punished, what is the use of a state? The individual agrees to submit to the authority of the state, only because by giving up some of his rights he gains protection. A state without force cannot protect, and, therefore, it will not command obedience or submission.

But the protection that the state with some force at its command can give to individuals is unknown to nations; so far as they are concerned, there exists even today, in spite of the League of Nations and other international organizations, a state of anarchy in the world. For them existence is impossible without the possession of force. And it is due to this that in spite of doctrines to the contrary preached by different religions, it has not been possible for any nation organized into a state to ignore force. Even now it is difficult to foresee a time when force will be no longer necessary to defend a people's integrity. If there ever dawns that millennium upon the Earth when the days of war and aggression will be gone, then the doctrine of jihad will automatically fall into disuse, for the doctrine of jihad is nothing but the doctrine of self preservation. But that day seems to be as far off as ever, though Islam is as enthusiastic in bringing it about as any other religion.

I have said above that the ultimate appeal is always to force. It may or may not be the right method of settling affairs- very probably it is not- yet humanity knows nothing better. Your law courts would be useless if the force of the state were not behind them. This does not mean that human nature is essentially depraved and would hear no argument except that of force; but there are mentalities and mentalities. No one can deny that there is a considerable percentage of humanity whose minds are constitutionally unable to see the use of following the right path. This may be due to mental diseases, bad training, heredity, or all of these; but the fact remains that there are such natures, and it is necessary to keep them in control. While there exists the temptation of reaching the goal of wealth and power by the shortcut of treachery, theft, or aggression, there are minds which will fall a prey to it. It is this characteristic of the human mind which makes an appeal to force necessary.

Now there is something which makes this appeal to force obnoxious: it is the idea that the wrong side may win. If the wrong-doer were always to be punished, if the right were always to triumph, then this method of settling disputes would be as correct and unblamable as the resort to a court of law. There are ever present chances of a wrong judgment in a court of law as well, but the stakes are not so tremendous, nor are the chances of miscarriage of justice so great as in an appeal to force. What would justify the latter can be only some contrivance by which this possibility of a wrong judgment shall be eliminated.

This would be possible not by prohibiting force altogether, but allowing its use only when ones cause is just. A total prohibition of force will naturally result in disobedience, because what can the oppressed do, if not fight, in the last resort? When a doctrine is found to conflict with the law of existence, it will not be obeyed. And what is more, it will result in a general disregard for moderation, and even law. Therefore the right thing would be to preach that force is to be considered a divine gift, and as such, a sacred trust to be used only for the sake of justice. It should never be prostituted for aggression or injustice. It is a weapon for protection, not destruction. And more than this, it is too sacred a weapon to be used without thought. If used at all, it should be used only in the last resort. When all other attempts have failed and some great injustice is still crying for redress, then, and then only, is it to be used.

What has been said so far will now have shown, I hope, that force in itself is not bad, and those religions which have condemned it wholesale have condemned something which is not only useful, but even necessary in life. It was unnatural to expect humanity to eschew all force, therefore no religion has ever succeeded in inducing its followers to give up the use of force. The function of all codes of ethics should be to regularize and control the use of force for the good of humanity, for upon force depends the peace of the world. But because an appeal to force is a dangerous thing, therefore it must be made in the last resort, and only by people whose cause is just. To fight for justice or the protection of the weak and the oppressed can be no sin; on the other hand it is commendable. It is no sound argument to say that force should be discarded because it can be misused. There are so many good things that can be misused. The golden rule is not to eschew them, but to learn their correct use, for God has not created them in vain.

If this much be granted, it is not difficult for me to show that the Islamic jihad is the soundest use of force in international relations while there remains the necessity of using force in them. If force falls into disuse, it will be obvious that jihad itself will become unnecessary, though any one knowing the most elementary Psychology will see that this is impossible.