The Interface of ‘Love’ and ‘Jihad’ Is a False Indian Articulation

The majority of the verses in the Quran on jihad are not related to the issue of either war or violence.

Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis declared on August 5, the state government’s intention of enacting a law against ‘love jihad’ to stop the luring of innocent Hindu girls by Muslims into wedlock and then converting them to Islam.  

The phrase love jihad appeared first time as a conspiracy theory in 2009 by the Sanatan Prabhat and the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and was later picked up by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. It became a central agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments in various states after 2014. Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana are among the prominent states that have such a law. Assam’s marriage law mandates couples to declare religion and income. While occasional media reports bring out such marriages and the controversy they go through, there is no precise figure on the number of such cases. Hindu vigilante groups on prowl coupled with a biased and partisan police ensure that there are arrests as well.

Since ‘jihad’ is an Islamic concept, love jihad obviously securitizes marriage between a Muslim male and women of Hindu (primarily) and other religions as jihad. Apparently, the motive behind coining this term, which is a part of the larger patriarchal and majoritarian Hindutva project, is to declare jihad as an aggressive ongoing struggle for both superiority and conversion.  Joined with ‘love’, it is being portrayed as a religio-cultural and demographic offensive against Hinduism.

However, a look at the concept of jihad in the holy Quran does not convey force, offensive, aggression or violence. Since there are approximately 41 verses out of total 6,236 that mention jihad and its derivatives in the holy book, its multiple uses, implications and polysemy are apparent. There are also differences in Mecca and Medina verses. The Mecca verses emphasise, in fourteen verses, on a general sense of a lifelong discipline to be adopted much more according to Islamic traditions. The Medina verses stress upon a sense of fighting. For example, the holy book says, ‘The believers are only the ones who have believed in Allah and His Messenger and then doubt not but strive with their properties and their lives in the cause of Allah. It is those who are the truthful’ (Quran, 49:15).

Also read: Lies, Insistence and Disregard for Evidence: The Journey of ‘Love Jihad’ Laws

The majority of the verses on jihad are not related to the issue of either war or violence. The technical word used for fighting is qital. Jihad in its general meaning refers to the obligation on all Muslims to follow and realise God’s will to lead a life of virtue and to expand the teachings of Islam through preaching, education, example, writing, etc. Jihad also includes the right and the obligation, to defend Islam and the community from aggression. Yet, it is true that the indiscriminate use of the term by Muslim extremists and some Muslim nations, that have displayed aggressive intentions and politics, have created the impression for common non-Muslim people of the world that jihad is a war. It is in this sense that the Hindutva forces have used and projected jihad to the common gullible people, who know little beyond a ritualistic meaning about their own religion. The fear is thus easy to spawn. The Muslim militants have not helped the cause of their own religion. No wonder reactions to interfaith marriage between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy are sharp and violent.

The sociological significance of love jihad is in its patriarchal manifestation. For, ‘love’ is prefixed with jihad only when the bride is a Hindu and groom a Muslim. This concept is not used in a reverse situation, whether or not the bride changes her faith. In case of a bride converting to Hinduism, it is termed as ‘ghar wapasi’ (home coming). 

Obviously, in the frenzy and zeal to ‘protect’ Hindu girls from the evil prowling Muslim eyes, not only the vigilante justice, but the full force of the state is turned on them, going beyond even the limits of the law. Perhaps because women are considered ‘property’ in the traditional Hindu household. Most feminists within the Hindutva fold have never raised this point as patriarchy surrounding families takes upon itself the role of being the guardian. Both, the family and the society, arrogate to themselves the right to decide matches and what is good for a girl in matrimonial alliance.’Love jihad’ is seen and spoken about as a conspiracy in which conversion is the ultimate aim of Muslim men. This bogey also assumes that Hindu girls are victims because they have been coerced into converting. The same dynamics and logic work in the case of marriage between an ‘upper’ caste girl and a Dalit man.

Constitutionally, no Indian citizen can be prevented from exercising her/his matrimonial choice. Since the framers of the constitution did not foresee a situation of inter-faith marriages being objected to, and jihad being invoked in case of a Hindu-Muslim marriage, there is no specific clause dealing with it. However, Articles 15, Article 25 and others relating to free practice of religion provide guarantees to women and men of any religion to seek inter-faith alliance. 

Also read: On Paper and At Odds With ‘Love Jihad’ Law, Uttarakhand’s Interfaith Marriage Scheme Still Exists

This brings under question the anti-love jihad laws passed by states. The twist of the regimes, mostly headed by the BJP, lies in ‘fraudulent’, ‘forced’ and ‘by lure’ conversions. Even though such charges are not easy to prove, local courts have been pliant towards the government and their police. While a large number of conversions have not been reported, UP has seen conviction under love-jihad laws. This violates a citizen’s right to personal autonomy guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.

The silver lining is that the apex judiciary is not impressed with the concept of love jihad and the laws passed against it. A major test was in Shafin Jahan v. Ashokan K.M., a case in which the Supreme Court reversed a ruling in favour of love jihad issued by the Kerala high court in 2018. In 2021, a Gujarat high court bench of Justice Vikram Nath and Biren Vaishnav ruled that, ‘Prima-facie inter-faith marriages between two consenting adults by operation of the provisions of Section 3 of the 2003 Act interferes with the intricacies of marriage including the right to the choice of an individual, thereby infringing Article 21 of the Constitution of India.’

Even though the Supreme Court has not taken a strict view of the matter nor suo motu cognizance of the unconstitutionality of the love jihad laws and declared any such law by any state ultra vires, the states must desist. Neither the number of inter-faith marriages, nor India’s demography indicate any danger from such matrimonial alliances. This ‘otherisation’ of India’s largest minority must stop.

The author is a political scientist. He was Atal Bihari Vajpayee Senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, 2019-21 and Principal, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Evening College, Delhi University (2018).