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Islamist Jihad in the 21st Century - Understanding Jihad
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Islamist Jihad in the 21st Century
Islamist Theoreticians
Islam: A Religion of Both Peace and War
The Islamic Law of War
Understanding Jihad
Radical Islam and Holy War
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Understanding Jihad

The word jihad, in English, literally means “struggle.” It is popularly translated as, “holy war, but that is only one of its derivative meanings. Kadduri philologically notes that the verbal form, jahada carries the meaning “exerted.“  “Its juridical-theological meaning is exertion of one‘s power in Allah‘s path, that is the spread of the belief in Allah and in making His word supreme over this world.”82 For the individual to sincerely make jihad is to be rewarded with Allah‘s salvation, the direct path to the Islamic paradise. Jihad is almost universally regarded by jurists as ‘a collective obligation of the whole Muslim community.’83

Believe in Allah and His Apostle and carry on warfare (jihad) in the path of Allah with your possession and your persons. That is better for you. If ye have knowledge, He will forgive your sins, and will place you in the Gardens beneath which the streams flow, and fine houses in the Gardens of Eden: that is the great gain. [Q.LXI, 10-13]

Islamic Jurists have recognized four different manners in which the true believer may accomplish the obligation for jihad. The greater jihad (identified as such by the Prophet Mohammed) is that spiritual path whereby the believer submits one‘s heart to the will of Allah. The second and third manner of jihad, submission of the tongue and hands, are for the support of society by enforcing justice and correction of evil. All of Islam recognizes great worth in these spiritual devotions, observation of personal piety and communal obedience to Allah. The lesser jihad is accomplished by the sword, or by the conduct of war that defends or enlarges Islam. The fourth form of jihad, the conduct of holy war, “is concerned with fighting the unbelievers and the enemies of the faith. The believers are under the obligation of sacrificing their ‘wealth and lives‘ (Q.LXI, 11) in the prosecution of war.”84

It is this lesser jihad, appropriately named “holy war,” that concerns the world community and is of primary concern to the Christian warrior both for the implications of that belief and for the real-world actions of Islamists. “In the words of Ibn Khaldun: ‘…the jihad is a religious duty because of the universalism of the Islamic mission and the obligation [to convert] everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.’”85

Muslims view Scripturaries, Jews and Christians, as people who responded to Allah‘s Prophets but tragically not to Mohammed. These “People of the Book” are subject to a limited jihad that renders three choices—convert to Islam; pay jizyah (the poll tax) and be allowed to live in the community as second-class citizens (dihimini); or receive the full consequence of jihad. The polytheists (a generic term for the remainder of the world‘s population) are given the choice either to convert or be subject to the sword. Any convert to Islam is granted full citizenship.86 Kadduri remarks that jihad is a sanction or a punishment against those at variance with Islam. “The jihad, therefore, may be defined as the litigation between Islam and polytheism; it is also a form of punishment to be inflicted upon Islam‘s enemies and the renegades from the faith.” He goes on to assert that jihad is bellum justum—a just war.87 Thus the jihad, reflecting the normal war relations existing between Muslims and non-Muslims, was the state‘s instrument for transforming the dar al-harb into the dar al-Islam.88

The practice of lesser jihad against believers was permitted by Al-Mawardi against those apostatizing from the faith (al-ridda); against Muslims creating dissension in the Islamic community (al-baghi); and against those fomenting secession from Islamic rule (al-muharibun). Some other jurists concluded that protecting the frontiers of Islam (al-ribat) was also permitted.89 378

Much legal reflection has gone into defining qualifications for a Muslim waging jihad (holy war). The Shafii School identified seven tests to determine if a person was under obligation to perform the lesser jihad. The Jihadist must be a (1) believer in Islam; (2) mature and of sound mind; (3) male; (4) economically independent; (5) receive his parent‘s permission; (6) be of good intention; (7) fulfill certain spiritual duties while serving as a jihadi.90

Jihad is divinely initiated war that is completely different from war initiated by humans for their own devices. Islamic nations or entities are fully convinced that they wage holy war at the instigation of God. “Islam, in its all-embracing creed, is imposed on the believers as a continuous process of warfare, psychological and political if not strictly military.”91 Kadduri notes that although jihad is the undeviating foundation for Islamic relations with its neighbors, it did not necessitate continual strife and that the jihad against Islam‘s neighbors could be accomplished by non-violent methods.92

James Turner Johnson describes characteristics of holy war that are common across the monotheistic religious continuum. Holy War is conducted at God‘s command by his commissioned leadership, but the primary warrior is God who wages war against unfaithfulness inside and outside the people of God. Holy war is conducted to protect and purify the faith of nation and its society, to bring about true devotion and punish disobedience. In the conduct of holy war, human warriors are seen as morally righteous even in killing that is necessary during battle. Holy war is both an aggressively violent and nonviolent struggle for the accomplishment of God‘s purposes managed by spiritual leaders resulting in divinely miraculous results.93

For the Islamic community, jihad “delivers a different set of virtues: a vibrant local identity, a sense of community, solidarity among kinsmen, neighbors, and countrymen, narrowly conceived.94 However, this worldview, which necessarily excludes all except coreligionists, results in a constricted and un-accepting culture made secure by an attitude of conflict against outsiders. This sort of solidarity “often means obedience to a hierarchy in governance, fanaticism in beliefs, and the obliteration of individual selves in the name of the group.”95 The principle of jihad is the basis of Islamic intolerance toward others and loyalty to the Umma. Jihad engenders “deference” to communal leadership and a corresponding suspicion about liberal-democratic values which teach that both men and women are “capable of governing themselves.”96

Muslims are promised divine rewards for faithful service to this communal duty. Traditionally recognized authorities gave extravagant promises to martyrs of “eternal life in paradise immediately and without trial on the resurrection and judgment day for those who die in Allah‘s path. Such martyr remains were not ceremonially washed but were buried where they fell on the battlefield.97

Who may legitimately declare jihad against others? Among the Sunna, the obligation for calling the faithful to war belongs to the state. “As a collective duty, the jihad is a state instrument; the imam, accordingly, as head or deputy head of the state, is charged with the duty of declaring it.”98 The Shii regard this authority as belonging to the Rightful Imam (who has disappeared) leaving that duty without a proper declaratory authority.

Opinion differed as to the capacity of the mujtahids to act in the name of the imam in fulfilling the jihad obligation; but since the duty of calling the believers to battle is a matter in which an infallible judgment is necessary – since the interest of the entire community would be at stake – only an imam is capable of fulfilling such a duty. Further, it is deemed impossible to combat evil during the absence of the imam; the jihad, accordingly, is regarded as inconsequential. Thus in the Shii legal theory, the jihad has entered into a dormant stage – it is in a state of suspension. In contrast to the Sunni doctrine which requires the revival of the dormant jihad when Muslim power is regained, the resumption of the jihad in the Shii doctrine would be dependent on the return of the imam from his ghayba (absence), in the capacity of a Mahdi, who will triumphantly combat evil and reestablish justice and righteousness.99

The Kharijis sect, distinct from both Sunna and Shii, holds that jihad is the sixth pillar of the Islamic faith and is compulsory for the entire community. Theirs is a jihad of compulsion by violence. Islam ought to be imposed on the unbeliever by the sword. “This is based on a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: ‘My fate is under the shadow of my spear.’”100

Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2013 18:55