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"Jihad" (ǧihād جهاد) is an Arabic word which comes from the Arabic root word "jahada", which means "exerting utmost effort" or "to strive". The word connotes a wide range of meanings, from an inward spiritual struggle to attain perfect faith, to holy war.


As a general rule

During the period of Qur'anic formation and/or revelation while Muhammad was in Mecca (610-622), jihad had military, nonviolent, as well as "personal struggle" senses. The hadith refer to Muhammad saying, on his return from one of the last military campaigns he was part of that "we go now from the lesser jihad, to a greater one", which most Muslims interpret to mean that militant striving in a good cause is often necessary, but the personal and social struggle to better oneself and one's community and society are of a higher importance. Following his move from Mecca to Medina in 622, and the establishment of an Islamic state, fighting in self-defense was sanctioned by the Qur'an (22:39). The Qur'an began making distinctions between 'those who stay at home" and 'those who struggle in the cause of God with their wealth and their persons" (4:95). It also began incorporating the word qital (fighting or warfare), and two of the last verses revealed on the topic of military conflict (9:5, 29) suggest, to classical scholars such as Ibn Kathir, an ongoing war of conquest against unbeliever enemies. Among followers of liberal movements within Islam, however, the context of these late verses is that of a specific "war in progress" and not a universally binding set of instructions upon the faithful. These liberal Muslims have tended to promote an understanding of jihad that rejects or minimizes the identification of jihad with armed struggle, choosing instead to emphasize principles of non-violence. Such Muslims may cite the Qur'anic figure of Abel in support of the belief that someone who dies as a result of refusing to commit violence may attain forgiveness for sins. This is not the prevailing understanding of such matters among mainstream Muslims, however. Regardless of the later interpretations of these portions of the Qur'an, the passages in question, at the time, clearly emphasized the importance of self-defense in the Muslim community.

As a general struggle

Muslims often refer to two meanings of jihad by citing a hadith recorded by Imam Baihaqi and al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (even though its isnad is categorized as "weak"):

  • "lesser (outer) jihad" — a military struggle, i.e. a "holy war"
  • "greater (inner) jihad" — the struggle of personal self-improvement against the self's base desires

Other examples of actions that could be considered jihad (on the basis of hadiths with better isnad) include:

The more literal meaning of the word jihad is simply "a struggle", and so it is sometimes dubbed the "inner jihad". This "inner jihad" essentially refers to all the struggles that a Muslim could go through, in adhering to the religion. For example, a scholarly study of Islam is an intellectual struggle that some may refer to as "jihad", though it is not common for a scholar of Islam to refer to his studies as "engaging in jihad". In addition, there is a dimension to the "greater jihad" that includes overcoming selfish motives, desires, emotions, and the tendency to grant primacy to earthly pleasures and rewards.

The tradition identifying interior struggle as "greater" (that is, non-military) Jihad appears to have been profoundly influenced by Sufism, an ancient and diverse mystical movement within Islam.

Today, the word jihad is used in many circles as though it had an exclusively military dimension. Yet even though this is the most common popular understanding of jihad, it is worth noting that the word is not used in this narrow sense in the Qur'an, the holy text of Islam. It is also true, however, that the word is used in both military and non-military contexts in a number of hadiths. In English, the word "crusade" also is used for both military and "spiritual" struggles.

A discussion of the military dimensions of jihad within Islam follows below.

Warfare in Islam

Defensive Jihad

There are two types of armed religious warfare in Islam, namely the defensive jihad and the offensive jihad. Most Muslims consider armed struggle against foreign occupation or oppression by domestic government to be worthy of defensive jihad. Indeed, the Qur'an appears to require military defense of the besieged Islamic community.

In colonial times, Muslim populations often rose up against the colonial authorities under the banner of jihad (examples include Dagestan, Chechnya, the Indian Mutiny against Britain, and the Algerian War of Independence against France). In this sense, defensive jihad is no different from the right of armed resistance against occupation that is sanctioned under the UN and International Law.

Islamic tradition holds that when Muslims are attacked, then it becomes obligatory for all Muslims to defend against the attack; to participate in jihad. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the prominent militant Islamist, Dr. Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, issued a fatwa, Defense of the Muslim Lands, the First Obligation after Faith [1] (http://www.religioscope.com/info/doc/jihad/azzam_defence_1_table.htm), declaring that both the Afghan and Palestinian struggles were jihads in which military action against kuffar (unbelievers) was fard ayn (a personal obligation) for all Muslims. The edict was supported by Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti (highest religious scholar), Abd al-Aziz Bin Bazz. In his fatwa, Dr. Azzam explained:

... the Ulama [pious scholars] of the four Mathhabs (Maliki, Hanafi, Shaffie and Hanbali), the Muhadditheen, and the Tafseer commentators [classical Muslim commentators of the Qur'an], are agreed that in all Islamic ages, Jihad under this condition becomes Fard Ayn [personal religious obligation] upon the Muslims of the land which the Kuffar [infidels] have attacked and upon the Muslims close by, where the children will march forth without the permission of the parents, the wife without the permission of her husband and the debtor without the permission of the creditor. And, if the Muslims of this land cannot expel the Kuffar because of lack of forces, because they slacken, are indolent or simply do not act, then the Fard Ayn obligation spreads in the shape of a circle from the nearest to the next nearest. If they too slacken or there is again a shortage of manpower, then it is upon the people behind them, and on the people behind them, to march forward. This process continues until it becomes Fard Ayn [a personal religious obligation] upon the whole world. [2] (http://www.religioscope.com/info/doc/jihad/azzam_defence_3_chap1.htm)

Although such edicts from contemporary scholars can influence some communities of believers, the world's 1.2 billion Muslims are today so diverse that unified action on instructions like these is, as a practical matter, impossible to attain.

Among the objectives of some groups promoting Islamism is the re-establishment of a caliph with global political and military authority to implement (among other things) such large-scale military campaigns. The question of whether, when, and how to implement a military defense of an oppressed Muslim community remains an emotional and divisive one among Muslims.

Offensive Jihad

Offensive jihad is the waging of wars of aggression and conquest against non-Muslims in order to bring them and their territories under Islamic rule. According to the Encylopedia of the Orient, "offensive jihad, i.e. attacking, is fully permissible in Sunni Islam." [3] (http://i-cias.com/e.o/). An Islamic theologian considered the father of the modern Islamist movement, Dr. Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, declared in his fatwa, Defense of the Muslim Lands; the First Obligation after Faith that:

"Jihad Against the Kuffar is of two Types: Offensive Jihad (where the enemy is attacked in his own territory) ... [and] Defensive Jihad. This is expelling the Kuffar from our land, and it is Fard Ayn [personal religious obligation on Muslim individuals], a compulsory duty upon all...
Where the Kuffar [infidels] are not gathering to fight the Muslims, the fighting becomes Fard Kifaya [religious obligation on Muslim society] with the minimum requirement of appointing believers to guard borders, and the sending of an army at least once a year to terrorise the enemies of Allah. It is a duty of the Imam to assemble and send out an army unit into the land of war once or twice every year. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the Muslim population to assist him, and if he does not send an army he is in sin. - And the Ulama have mentioned that this type of jihad is for maintaining the payment of Jizya. The scholars of the principles of religion have also said: "Jihad is Daw'ah with a force, and is obligatory to perform with all available capabilities, until there remains only Muslims or people who submit to Islam." [4] (http://www.religioscope.com/info/doc/jihad/azzam_defence_3_chap1.htm)

Liberal Muslims who do not subscribe to this militant interpretation of Jihad dispute the necessity and obligation of the offensive Jihad in contemporary times. They argue that the traditional "land of war" referenced in Shaikh Azzam's fatwa refers to the hostile regimes and empires surrounding early Islamic communities. Under this interpretation, offensive Jihad was practiced only to preserve Islam from destruction and is now obsolete.

In support of this view, those who reject militant Islamism are likely to resist the claim that Islam as a whole is under hostile attack. While acknowledging both political turbulence and suffering, they point out that Muslim pilgrims come and go as they wish to the annual Hajj pilgrimage, that religious freedom for Muslims to practice their faith exists in most countries, and that sizeable Muslim communities have emerged in countries like the United States and England. They are also likely to emphasize Islamic traditions that endorse tolerance for other religious groups.

The militant interpretation of jihad, on the other hand, is likely to suggest a world-view in which hostile anti-Islamic forces are currently preventing Islam from realizing its full potential for peaceful global expansion--a world-view in which Islam will eventually be adopted by all mankind if these hostile forces are confronted socially and militarily.

Some argue that the conflict between these two points of view can itself be seen as a "struggle", or jihad, for the soul of contemporary Islam. Others argue that the modernizing forces among the non-religious in Muslim countries tend to be have a secular focus.

Who can authorize jihad?

"Offensive jihad" is, under classical Islamic law, a campaign that can only be declared by the lawful Islamic head of state, namely the Caliph. Tradition stipulates that while only the Caliph may declare an offensive jihad on another country, no authority is necessary for initiation of "defensive jihad" -- because, in this view, when Muslims are attacked, it automatically becomes obligatory for all Muslim men of military age, within a certain radius of the attack, to defend against any foreign attack (the size of the radius being determined by the military circumstances during the attack.)

The question of which Muslim authority, if any, may carry out duties such as declaring offensive and defensive jihad has been particularly problematic since March 3, 1924, when Kemal Atatrk abolished the Caliphate, which the Ottoman sultans had held since 1517. At this point in history, the prevailing "Islamic" empire collapsed into nearly 50 different nation-states divided along various racial, ethnic, linguistic, political, geographical and historical differences.

In the modern period, given the absence of a Caliph, the only remaining "de facto" Islamic political leaders would appear to be the governments of the modern nation-states in the Muslim world. However, very large numbers of Muslims perceive their own Muslim governments as being in grave violation of the laws of shariah. For example, several Muslim countries (such as Turkey and Pakistan) are governed (in part or in whole) by democratic systems of government in which secular political parties compete for power against Islamic political parties. Such a system of government is seen by many Muslims to be heretical. Even in Islamic theocratic monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia, continuing religious violence and religious turmoil is evidence that many in Muslim countries consider the authoritarian regimes ruling over them to be in violation to their religious beliefs. Such sentiments are often fueled by the willingness of countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to cooperate and form alliances with nations that are or have been involved in warfare against Muslim countries.

The modern period presents an exceptionally complex historical, legal, political and theological situation, one that has served to prevent anything resembling a uniform Muslim answer to the question "Who can authorize offensive jihad?"

Into this intellectual and political vacuum have stepped the leaders of various Islamist movements (such as Al Qaeda and Hamas), who have taken it upon themselves to seize the opportunity to declare jihad, bypassing the authority of the nation-state and employing their own interpretations of Islam. Similarly, some Muslims, (particularly takfirists), have declared jihad against specific governments that they perceive as corrupt, oppressive, and anti-Islamic. Because the governments of many Muslim majority states are relatively secular in their governing philosophies, state-appointed scholars in these states tend to condemn such jihad pronouncements by leaders of independent Islamist movements that are opposed to the government.

Historical Occurances of Jihad

By World War I, the Ottoman empire was the only remaining Muslim empire in the world. As a result of the war, the Islamic empire was dismantled and the newly formed state of Turkey came under the leadership of Kemal Atatrk who subsequently abolished the institution of the Caliphate. Militant Jihad became associated only with a number of rebel, insurgent and terrorist groups, dispersed throughout the world. In the view of many Muslims, the religious legitimacy of such groups became questionable. In the 19th and 20th centuries, almost all of the Muslim world was either a territory of some empire (either Western or Ottoman). Western imperialism has led many groups of Muslims to begin Jihad movements against the foreign occupiers. With the end of World War II and the subequent fall of Western imperialism, the Muslim world became seperated into a huge number of independant Muslim states. At the same time, Israel was founded as an independent Jewish state, which immediatly spawned an exceptionaly deadly conflict between Israel and its Muslim neighbours and inhabitants. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict, along with the Soviet invason of Afghanistan, French conduct in North Africa, and the plight of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, has inspired many Muslims around the world to engage in militant Jihad (including targeted attacks on innocent, non-combatant civilians) against Israel, the United States, European Union member states, and other non-Muslim states around the world. Furthermore, the establishment of various secular or dictatorial, independent Muslim states angered leaders of Islamist movements who felt that their states ought to be ruled by a more religious establishment. This caused Jihad movements in former colonies, that were once aimed against foreign Western occupiers, to be aimed against the local secular establishment. Notably, the tactics used by Jihad groups against Israel, the United States, and European Union member states, the Philippines, and non-Muslim persons in Muslims states suh as Egypt and Turkey, has not led to a large outcry against the religious legitimacy of such groups. A small but signifanct number of Muslim fundamentalists around the world continue to sympathize with and provide aid to groups that claim to be carrying out Jihad. As a result of the recent American invasion of Iraq, popular media has at times claimed that Jihad movements have become been revitalized with recruits and sympathizers as the Jihad insurgency momvement in Iraq is easily seen as a just cause by Muslims who believe that US is a foreign non-Muslim invader that must be fought against as a matter of religious duty. Nevertheless, it is not apparent that the opposition to the American invasion of Iraq is substantially different from the resistance of various groups in non-Muslim states to invasions by outside forces.

Some Muslims believe that a person who dies as a part of struggle against oppression as a shahid (religious martyr) is assured a place in Jannah (Paradise). Accounts in the hadith and the Qur'an of the exceptional rewards specifically awaiting martyrs, the 72 "fair women of Paradise" known as the Houris, may be taken literally or metaphorically depending on perference of interpretation. In regards to religious martyrdom, the Qur'an states, "And reckon not those who are killed in Allah's way as dead; nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord, rejoicing in what Allah has given them out of His grace and they rejoice for the sake of those who, (being left) behind them, have not yet joined them, that they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve. They rejoice on account of favor from Allah and (His) grace, and that Allah will not waste the reward of the believers." (Qur'an 3:169-171).

Even if the death of a martyr in a military operation is certain, many Muslims consider the act martyrdom rather than suicide. Although suicide (killing oneself for the cause of dying) is forbidden in Islamic law, dying for the cause of Islam is considered a great deed. If non-combatant Muslims perish in the course of an attack, militant Islamists consider such persons shahid who have also secured a place in paradise. Under this conception, only the enemy kaffir, or unbelievers, are harmed by martyrdom operations. Most Muslim scholars disagree with the militant Islamist approach to these matters, and have held that martyrdom operations are equivalent to the sin of suicide, that killing civilians is a sin, and that Islamic law permits neither. A study in 2005 found that "about 16 percent said they strongly supported suicide bombing, while 45 percent said they strongly opposed it." [5] (http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/news/news.php?article=9244)

Militant Islamist organizations do not constitute an autonomous state or de facto authority; they nevertheless consider economic targets to be military targets, citing as evidence Muhammad's numerous caravan raids (see Battle of Badr for a description of one such caravan raid and the war that it led to). However, Islamic tradition specifically forbids attacking women, children, elderly people, during a military campaign.

Treatment of Prisoners of War

The treatment of prisoners of war under Muhammad himself appears to have been notably more humane than that of later generations of Islamic leadership. According to accounts written by Muhammad and his followers, after the battle of Badr, some prisoners were executed for their earlier crimes in Mecca, but the rest were given options: They could convert to Islam and thus win their freedom; they could pay ransom and win their freedom; they could teach 10 Muslims to read and write and thus win their freedom. William Muir, a historian who is generally critical of Islam, wrote of this period:

"In pursuance of Mahomet's commands the citizens of Medina and such of the refugees as possessed houses received the prisoners and treated them with much consideration. 'Blessings be on the men of Medina', said one of these prisoners in later days, 'they made us ride while they themselves walked; they gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was little of it, contenting themselves with dates." [6] (http://www.al-islam.org/lifeprophet/14.htm)

Excerpts from the Qur'an on warfare

The Qur'an uses the term jihad only four times, none of which refer definitively to armed struggle. As such, the use of the word jihad, in reference to holy Islamic war, was a latter day invention of Muslims. However, the concept of holy Islamic war was not itself a latter day invention, and the Qur'an does contain passages that correlate to specific historic events ... and that may help to illuminate the theory, and practice of armed struggle (qi'tal) for Muslims. A few examples are as follows:

“Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors.” (2:190)
“And why should ye not fight in the cause of God and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?- Men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!"” (4:76)
“Strike terror (into the hearts of) the enemies of Allah and your enemies.; But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things).” (8:60-61)
“What! will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed at the expulsion of the Messenger, and they attacked you first; do you fear them? But Allah is most deserving that you should fear Him, if you are believers. Fight them, and Allah will punish (torment) them by your hands, cover them with shame.” (9:13-14)
“But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war) but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. And if one of the idolaters seek protection from you, grant him protection till he hears the word of Allah, then make him attain his place of safety; this is because they are a people who do not know.” (9:5-6)
“Fight those who believe not in Allah, nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (9:29)
"Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed ... those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah. "(22:39-40)
" O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom God has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makka) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her;- this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large); We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess;--in order that there should be no difficulty for thee. And God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (33:50)
"Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been God's Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the Way of God,- He will never let their deeds be lost." (47:4)

See also

There is also a CCG originally named Jyhad, since renamed to Vampire: The Eternal Struggle.

External links

Neutral sites

  • Jihad (http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/refpages/RefArticle.aspx?refid=761582255), Encarta Encyclopedia
  • Jihad (http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article?tocId=9368558), Encyclopedia Britannica

Islamic sites

Sites critical of Jihad

de:Dschihad eo:Ĝihado es:Yihad fr:Jihad it:Jihad nl:Jihad ja:ジハード no:Jihad pl:Dżihad ro:Jihad ru:Джихад sl:Džihad sv:Jihad zh:圣战


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