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Jihad (English pronunciation: //; Arabic: جهاد ǧihād [dʒiˈhæːd]), an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". The word jihad appears in 23 Quranic verses. Within the context of the classical Islam, particularly the Shiahs beliefs, it refers to struggle against those who do not believe in the Abrahamic God (Allah). However, the word has even wider implications.
Jihad means "to struggle in the way of Allah". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God (al-jihad fi sabil Allah)". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is mujahideen. Jihad is an important religious duty for Muslims. A minority among the Sunni scholars sometimes refer to this duty as the sixth pillar of Islam, though it occupies no such official status. In Twelver Shi'a Islam, however, Jihad is one of the 10 Practices of the Religion. Ahmadi Muslims consider only defensive jihad to be permissible while rejecting offensive jihad.
There are two commonly accepted meanings of jihad: an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle. The "greater jihad" is the inner struggle by a believer to fulfill his religious duties. This non-violent meaning is stressed by both Muslim and non-Muslim authors. However, there is consensus amongst Islamic scholars that the concept of jihad will always include armed struggle against persecution and oppression.
The "lesser jihad" is the physical struggle against the enemies of Islam. This physical struggle can take a violent form or a non-violent form. The proponents of the violent form translate jihad as "holy war", although some Islamic studies scholars disagree. The Dictionary of Islam and British-American orientalist Bernard Lewis both argue jihad has a military meaning in the large majority of cases. Some scholars maintain non-violent ways to struggle against the enemies of Islam. An example of this is written debate, often characterized as "jihad of the pen".
According to the BBC, a third meaning of jihad is the struggle to build a good society. In a commentary of the hadith Sahih Muslim, entitled al-Minhaj, the medieval Islamic scholar Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi stated that "one of the collective duties of the community as a whole (fard kifaya) is to lodge a valid protest, to solve problems of religion, to have knowledge of Divine Law, to command what is right and forbid wrong conduct".
The beginnings of Jihad are traced back to the words and actions of Muhammad and the Quran. This encourages the use of Jihad against non-Muslims. The Quran, however, never uses the term Jihad for fighting and combat in the name of Allah; qital is used to mean “fighting.” Jihad in the Quran was originally intended for the nearby neighbors of the Muslims, but as time passed and more enemies arose, the Quranic statements supporting Jihad were updated for the new adversaries. The first documentation of the law of Jihad was written by 'Abd al-Rahman al-Awza'i and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani. The document grew out of debates that had surfaced ever since Muhammad's death.
Usage of the term
In Modern Standard Arabic, jihad is one of the correct terms for a struggle for any cause, violent or not, religious or secular (though كفاح kifāḥ is also used). For instance, Mahatma Gandhi's satyagraha struggle for Indian independence is called a "jihad" in Modern Standard Arabic (as well as many other dialects of Arabic); the terminology is also applied to the fight for women's liberation.
The term 'jihad' has accrued both violent and non-violent meanings. It can simply mean striving to live a moral and virtuous life, spreading and defending Islam as well as fighting injustice and oppression, among other things. The relative importance of these two forms of jihad is a matter of controversy. A poll by Gallup showed that a "significant majority" of Muslim Indonesians define the term to mean "sacrificing one's life for the sake of Islam/God/a just cause" or "fighting against the opponents of Islam". In Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, and Morocco, the majority used the term to mean "duty toward God", a "divine duty", or a "worship of God", with no militaristic connotations. Other responses referenced, in descending order of prevalence:
- "A commitment to hard work" and "achieving one's goals in life"
- "Struggling to achieve a noble cause"
- "Promoting peace, harmony or cooperation, and assisting others"
- "Living the principles of Islam"
Distinction of "greater" and "lesser" jihad
In his work, The History of Baghdad, Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, an 11th-century Islamic scholar, referenced a statement by the companion of Muhammad Jabir ibn Abd-Allah. The reference stated that Jabir said, "The Prophet... returned from one of his battles, and thereupon told us, 'You have arrived with an excellent arrival, you have come from the Lesser Jihad to the Greater Jihad—the striving of a servant (of Allah) against his desires (holy war)."[unreliable source?] This reference gave rise to the distinguishing of two forms of jihad: "greater" and "lesser". Some Islamic scholars dispute the authenticity of this reference and consider the meaning of jihad as a holy war to be more important.
According to the Muslim Jurist Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, the quote in which Muhammad is reported to have said that greater Jihad is the inner struggle, is from an unreliable source:
"This saying is widespread and it is a saying by Ibrahim ibn Ablah according to Nisa'i in al-Kuna. Ghazali mentions it in the Ihya' and al-`Iraqi said that Bayhaqi related it on the authority of Jabir and said: There is weakness in its chain of transmission." Hajar al Asqalani, Tasdid al-qaws, see also Kashf al-Khafaa’ (no.1362)
The best of jihad
During the Arab Spring, many peaceful demonstrations in the Arab world faced violence and gunfire by their government's regime. The gunfire encouraged the protesters and led them to revolutions, based on their strong faith in what is called "the best of jihad". The best of jihad was encouraged by their prophet, Muhammad, saying:
"The best Jihad is the word of Justice in front of the oppressive Sultan [ruler]."
Ibn Habbaan narrates: The Messenger of Allah was asked about
the best jihad. He said: "The best jihad is the one in which yourhorse is slain and your blood is spilled."
In a similarly worded Hadith to the one above, Ibn Nuhaas cited a hadith from Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, where it states that the highest kind of Jihad, is "The person who is killed whilst spilling the last of his blood."(Ahmed 4/144)
In modern times, Pakistani scholar and professor Fazlur Rahman Malik has used the term to describe the struggle to establish "just moral-social order", while President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia has used it to describe the struggle for economic development in that country.
Warfare (Jihad bil Saif)
Within classical Islamic jurisprudence—the development of which is to be dated into the first few centuries after the prophet's death—jihad is the only form of warfare permissible under Islamic law, and may consist in wars against unbelievers, apostates, rebels, highway robbers and dissenters renouncing the authority of Islam. The primary aim of jihad as warfare is not the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam by force, but rather the expansion and defense of the Islamic state. In later centuries, especially in the course of the colonization of large parts of the Muslim world, emphasis has been put on non-militant aspects of the jihad. Today, some Muslim authors only recognize wars with the aim of territorial defense as well as the defense of religious freedom as legitimate.
Whether the Quran sanctions defensive warfare only or commands an all out war against non-Muslims depends on the interpretation of the relevant passages. This is because it does not explicitly state the aims of the war Muslims are obliged to wage; the passages concerning jihad rather aim at promoting fighters for the Islamic cause and do not discuss military ethics.
In the classical manuals of Islamic jurisprudence, the rules associated with armed warfare are covered at great length. Such rules include not killing women, children and non-combatants, as well as not damaging cultivated or residential areas. More recently, modern Muslims have tried to re-interpret the Islamic sources, stressing that Jihad is essentially defensive warfare aimed at protecting Muslims and Islam. Although some Islamic scholars have differed on the implementation of Jihad, there is consensus amongst them that the concept of jihad will always include armed struggle against persecution and oppression.
Controversy has arisen over whether the usage of the term jihad without further explanation refers to military combat, and whether some have used confusion over the definition of the term to their advantage.
Middle East historian Bernard Lewis argues that "the overwhelming majority of classical theologians, jurists, and traditionalists (specialists in the hadith) understood the obligation of jihad in a military sense." Furthermore, Lewis maintains that for most of the recorded history of Islam, from the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad onward, the word jihad was used in a primarily military sense.
Resistance against globalization
Benjamin R. Barber used the term Jihad to point out the resistant movement against globalization (which he refers to as 'McWorld') as well as the modern-institutionalization of nation states. The forces of 'Jihad' come from fundamentalist ethnic groups who want to protect their traditions, heritage and identity from modernization and universalized markets. The resistance has led to fragmented, small-scale violent conflicts between cultures, peoples and tribes. Although 'Jihad' strengthens the solidarity within the resisting group, it obeys to hierarchy and cannot tolerate foreign influence, which discourages democracy.
Views of different Muslim groups
In Ahmadiyya Islam, jihad is primarily one's personal inner struggle and should not be used violently for political motives. Violence is the last option only to be used to protect religion and one's own life in extreme situations of persecution.
Quranists do not believe that the word jihad means holy war. They believe it means to struggle, or to strive. They believe it can incorporate both military and non-military aspects. When it refers to the military aspect, it is understood primarily as defensive warfare.
Jihad has been classified either as al-jihād al-akbar (the greater jihad), the struggle against one's ego or self (nafs), or al-jihād al-asghar (the lesser jihad), the external, physical effort, often implying fighting (this is similar to the shiite view of jihad as well).
Gibril Haddad has analyzed the basis for the belief that internal jihad is the "greater jihad", Jihad al-akbar. Haddad identifies the primary historical basis for this belief in a pair of similarly worded hadith, in which Mohammed is reported to have told warriors returning home that they had returned from the lesser jihad of struggle against non-Muslims to a greater jihad of struggle against lust. Although Haddad notes that the authenticity of both hadeeth is questionable, he nevertheless concludes that the underlying principle of the superiority of internal jihad does have a reliable basis in the Quran and other writings.
In contrast, the Hanbali scholar Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya did believe that "internal Jihad" is important but he suggests those hadith as weak which consider "Jihad of the heart/soul" to be more important than "Jihad by the sword". Contemporary Islamic scholar Abdullah Yusuf Azzam has argued the hadith is not just weak but "is in fact a false, fabricated hadith which has no basis. It is only a saying of Ibrahim Ibn Abi `Abalah, one of the Successors, and it contradicts textual evidence and reality."
Muslim jurists explained that there are four kinds of jihad fi sabilillah (struggle in the cause of God):
- Jihad of the heart (jihad bil qalb/nafs) is concerned with combatting the devil and in the attempt to escape his persuasion to evil. This type of Jihad was regarded as the greater jihad (al-jihad al-akbar).
- Jihad by the tongue (jihad bil lisan) is concerned with speaking the truth and spreading the word of Islam with one's tongue.
- Jihad by the hand (jihad bil yad) refers to choosing to do what is right and to combat injustice and what is wrong with action.
- Jihad by the sword (jihad bis saif) refers to qital fi sabilillah (armed fighting in the way of God, or holy war), the most common usage by Salafi Muslims and offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Sufic view classifies "Jihad" into two parts: the "Greater Jihad" and the "Lesser Jihad". Muhammad put the emphasis on the "Greater Jihad" by saying, "Holy is the warrior who is at war with himself". In this sense external wars and strife are seen as but a satanic counterfeit of the true "jihad", which can only be fought and won within. There is no salvation for man without his own efforts being added to the work of self-refinement. In this sense it is the western view of the Holy Grail which comes closest to the Sufic ideal, for to the Sufis, perfection is the Grail, and the Holy Grail is for those who, after they become perfect by giving all they have to the poor then go on to become "Abdal" or "changed ones" like Enoch, who was "taken" by God because he "walked with God" (Genesis:5:24). Here the "Holy Ones" gain the surname "Hadrat" or "The Presence".
Early Muslim conquests
Two years after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 632, Muslims under the leadership of caliph Umar began military campaigns against the Byzantine empire and the Sassanian empire. In the Battle of Yarmuk in 636, Muslims defeated the Byzantine army, forcing the empire to withdraw from Syria. The Byzantines surrendered near Cairo in 641. The conquest of Alexandria, then capital of Egypt, took longer. Muslims faced little resistance from the locals as they had suffered under Byzantine rule. In the Battle of al-Qadisiyya in 637 where the Persian army was defeated. In 642, Muslims defeated the Persians at the Battle of Nahāvand, opening up the plateau to Muslim conquest. Within 15 years Iran had been conquered. Muslims later pushed into central Asia.
Often called "the Great conquests", the role of Islam in them is debated. Medieval Arabic authors said that the conquests had been commanded by God. They were presented as orderly and disciplined, under the command of the caliph. Many modern explanations dispute the idea that jihad was a motivating force in the conquests. They hold that Arabs on the eve of the conquests were poor and desertification in the Arabian peninsula had reduced local resources. These explanations cite material causes as opposed to religion as the fundamental cause of the conquests. Some recent explanations cite both material and religious causes in the conquests.
In 1928, Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood, a rigidly conservative and highly secretive Egyptian-based organization dedicated to resurrecting a Muslim empire (Caliphate). According to al-Banna, "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet." The Muslim Brotherhood, also called Muslim Brethren (jamiat al-Ikhwan al-muslimun, literally Society of Muslim Brothers), opposes the secular tendencies of Islamic nations and wants a return to the precepts of the Quran and rejection of Western influences. Al-Banna was born out of the extreme Muslim right wing's desire to counter the ideology of modernization; the Brotherhood's platform included a strict interpretation of the Quran that glorified suicidal violence. Along with al-Banna, the grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj-al Amin Al-Husseini was also an enormously influential Muslim leader of the time. Together, the two created a powerful and popular Islamist party by classically appealing to fundamentalist Islamic principles while blaming the world's problems on the Jews. Al-Banna also gave the group the motto it still uses today: "Allah is our purpose, the Prophet our leader, the Quran our constitution, jihad our way and dying for God our supreme objective."
An important aspect of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology is the sanctioning of Jihad, such as the 2004 fatwa issued by Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi making it a religious obligation of Muslims to abduct and kill U.S. citizens in Iraq.
It advocated a war of Arabism and Islamic Jihad against the British and the Jews.
The BBC explains how the roots of Jihad and the origins of Bin Laden's concept of jihad can be traced back to two early 20th-century figures, who started powerful Islamic revivalist movements in response to colonialism and its aftermath. Al-Banna blamed the western idea of separation between religion and politics for Muslims' decline. In the 1950s Sayed Qutb, Muslim Brotherhood's prominent member, took the arguments of al-Banna even further. For Qutb, "all non-Muslims were infidels - even the so-called people of the book, the Christians and Jews." He also predicted an eventual clash of civilisations between Islam and the west. "Qutb inspired a whole generation of Islamists, including Ayatollah Khomeini." The Muslim world widely accepted his ideology after the Arabs' defeat in the 1967 war.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been involved in violent attacks. From its Islamic theme in its symbolism: on its flag a brown square frames a green circle with a white perimeter. Two swords cross inside the circle beneath a red Quran. The cover of the Quran says, "Truly, it is the Generous Quran." The Arabic beneath the sword handles translates as "Be prepared," a reference to a Quranic verse that talks of preparing to fight the enemies of God. It is among 17 groups categorized as "terrorist organizations" by the Russian government, as well as in Egypt, where they started to perform terrorist attacks, now banned by that government.
Contemporary Islamism holds that Islam is now under attack, and therefore, experts explain,
Jihad is now a war of defense, and as such has become not only a collective duty but an individual duty without restrictions or limitations. That is, to the Islamists, Jihad is a total, all-encompassing duty to be carried out by all Muslims – men and women, young and old. All infidels, without exception, are to be fought and annihilated, and no weapons or types of warfare are barred. Furthermore, according to them, current Muslim rulers allied with the West are considered apostates and infidels. One major ideological influence in Islamist thought was Sayyid Qutb. Qutb, an Egyptian, was the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. He was convicted of treason for plotting to assassinate Egyptian president Gamal Abd Al-Nasser and was executed in 1966. He wrote extensively on a wide range of Islamic issues. According to Qutb, "There are two parties in all the world: the Party of Allah and the Party of Satan – the Party of Allah, which stands under the banner of Allah and bears his insignia, and the Party of Satan, which includes every community, group, race, and individual that does not stand under the banner of Allah."
In the "Holy land foundation" case of the Palestinian Arab al-Arian's involvement in funding terror organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood's papers detailed a plan to seize the U.S. The group's takeover plot emerged when a handful of classified evidence was revealed detailing Islamist extremists' ambitious plans for a U.S. takeover.
Terrorism researchers said, "the memos and audiotapes, many translated from Arabic and containing detailed strategies by the international Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood, are proof that extremists have long sought to replace the Constitution with Shariah, or Islamic law", paving its way via a plot to form "a complex network of seemingly benign Muslim organizations whose real job, according to the (US) government, was to spread militant propaganda and raise money". The Muslim Brotherhood created some American Muslim groups and sought influence in others, many of which are listed as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land case, such as CAIR.
On a website devoted to Ramadhan, the Muslim Brotherhood posted a series of articles by Dr. Ahmad 'Abd Al-Khaleq about Al-Walaa Wa'l-Baraa, an Islamic doctrine which, in its fundamentalist interpretation, stipulates absolute allegiance to the community of Muslims and total rejection of non-Muslims and of Muslims who have strayed from the path of Islam. In his articles, the writer argues that according to this principle, a Muslim can come closer to Allah by hating all non-Muslims – Christians, Jews, atheists, or polytheists – and by waging jihad against them in every possible manner.
Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood is engaged in a long-standing war on the West. From 1948 until the 1970s it engaged in assassinations and terrorism in Egypt and has indoctrinated many who went on to commit acts of terror. Muslim Brotherhood's supreme guide issued the statement, Al Qaeda's "Bin Laden is a Jihad Fighter."
Warfare in Muslim societies
The major imperial Muslim dynasties of Ottoman Turkey (Sunni) and Persia (Shia) each established systems of authority around traditional Islamic institutions. In the Ottoman empire, the concept of ghaza was promulgated as a sister obligation to jihad. The Ottoman ruler Mehmed II is said to have insisted on the conquest of Constantinople (Christian Byzantium) by justifying ghaza as a basic duty. Later Ottoman rulers would apply ghaza to justify military campaigns against the Persian Safavid dynasty. Thus both rival empires established a tradition that a ruler was only considered truly in charge when his armies had been sent into the field in the name of the true faith, usually against giaurs or heretics — often meaning each other. The 'missionary' vocation of the Muslim dynasties was prestigious enough to be officially reflected in a formal title as part of a full ruler style: the Ottoman (many also had Ghazi as part of their name) Sultan Murad Khan II Khoja-Ghazi, 6th Sovereign of the House of Osman (1421–1451), literally used Sultan ul-Mujahidin.
The commands inculcated in the Quran (in five suras from the period after Muhammad had established his power) on Muslims to fight those who will neither embrace Islam nor pay a poll-tax (Jizya) were not interpreted as a general injunction on all Muslims constantly to make war on the infidels (originally only polytheists who claimed to be monotheists, not "People of the Book", Jesus is seen as the last of the precursors of the Prophet Muhammed; the word infidel had different historical uses, notably used by the Crusaders to refer to the Muslims they were fighting against). It was generally supposed that the order for a general war can only be given by the Caliph (an office that was claimed by the Ottoman sultans), but Muslims who did not acknowledge the spiritual authority of the Caliphate (which is vacant), such as non-Sunnis and non-Ottoman Muslim states, always looked to their own rulers for the proclamation of a jihad; there has been in fact no universal warfare by Muslims on non-believers since the early caliphate. Some proclaimed Jihad by claiming themselves as mahdi, e.g. the Sudanese Mahommed Ahmad in 1882.
The United States Department of Justice has used its own ad hoc definitions of jihad in indictments of individuals involved in terrorist activities:
- "As used in this First Superseding Indictment, 'Jihad' is the Arabic word meaning 'holy war'. In this context, jihad refers to the use of violence, including paramilitary action against persons, governments deemed to be enemies of the fundamentalist version of Islam."
- "As used in this Superseding Indictment, 'violent jihad' or 'jihad' include planning, preparing for, and engaging in, acts of physical violence, including murder, maiming, kidnapping, and hostage-taking." in the indictment against several individuals including José Padilla.
In her book Muhammad: a Biography of the Prophet, Karen Armstrong writes:
- "Fighting and warfare might sometimes be necessary, but it was only a minor part of the whole jihad or struggle."
In NATO countries, especially the United States, the term "jihadist" has been used in Western media as a synonym for mujahid, and frequently used to describe militant Islamic groups, including but not restricted to Islamic terrorism.
Non-Muslim opinions about Muslim opinions
David Cook, author of Understanding Jihad, said "In reading Muslim literature – both contemporary and classical – one can see that the evidence for the primacy of spiritual jihad is negligible. Today it is certain that no Muslim, writing in a non- Western language (such as Arabic, Persian, Urdu), would ever make claims that jihad is primarily nonviolent or has been superseded by the spiritual jihad. Such claims are made solely by Western scholars, primarily those who study Sufism and/or work in interfaith dialogue, and by Muslim apologists who are trying to present Islam in the most innocuous manner possible." Cook argued that "Presentations along these lines are ideological in tone and should be discounted for their bias and deliberate ignorance of the subject" and that "[i]t is no longer acceptable for Western scholars or Muslim apologists writing in non-Muslim languages to make flat, unsupported statements concerning the prevalence – either from a historical point of view or within contemporary Islam – of the spiritual jihad."
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- Nicola Melis, "A Hanafi treatise on rebellion and ğihād in the Ottoman age (XVII c.)", in Eurasian Studies, Istituto per l'Oriente/Newham College, Roma-Napoli-Cambridge, Volume II; Number 2 (December 2003), pp. 215–226.
- Rudolph Peters, Islam and Colonialism: The Doctrine of Jihad in Modern History, "Religion and Society", Mouton, The Hague 1979.
- Muhammad Hamidullah: Muslim Conduct of State
- Muhammad Hamidullah: Battlefields of the Prophet Muhammad
- John Kelsay: Just War and Jihad
- Reuven Firestone: Jihad. The Origin of Holy War in Islam
- Hadia Dajani-Shakeel and Ronald Messier: The Jihad and Its Times
- Majid Khadduri: War And Peace in the Law of Islam
- Hizb ut Tahrir: The Obligation of Jihad in Islam
- Hassan al-Banna: Jihad
- Sayyid Qutb: Milestones
- Bernard Lewis: The Political Language of Islam
- Suhas Majumdar: Jihad: The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War; New Delhi, July 1994
- Javed Ahmad Ghamidi: Mizan
- Zaid Shakir: Jihad is not Perpetual Warfare
- Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti, Tolleranza e guerra santa nell'Islam, "Scuola aperta", Sansoni, Firenze 1974
- J. Turner Johnson, The Holy War Idea in Western and Islamic Traditions, Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, Pa. 1997
- Malik, S. K. (1986). The Quranic Concept of War. Himalayan Books. ISBN 81-7002-020-4.
- Swarup, Ram (1982). Understanding Islam through Hadis. Voice of Dharma. ISBN 0-682-49948-X.
- Trifkovic, Serge (2006). Defeating Jihad. Regina Orthodox Press, USA. ISBN 1-928653-26-X.
- Phillips, Melanie (2006). Londonistan: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within. Encounter books. ISBN 1-59403-144-4.
- Masood Ashraf Raja (2009). "Jihad in Islam: Colonial Encounter, the Neoliberal Order, and the Muslim Subject of Resistance". The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 26 (4): 25.
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