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Jihad: War to the Knife

By Richard A. Gabriel 
Originally published by Military History magazine. Published Online: July 02, 2014 
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Present-day Middle Eastern leaders have invoked the concept of jihad, often incorrectly, to inflame Muslims — such as these Shia fighters during the Iran-Iraq War — to war against all "idolaters." (© Richard Hoffmann/Sygma/Corbis)
Present-day Middle Eastern leaders have invoked the concept of jihad, often incorrectly, to inflame Muslims — such as these Shia fighters during the Iran-Iraq War — to war against all "idolaters." (© Richard Hoffmann/Sygma/Corbis)

'When Saudi Wahhabists crashed Western passenger planes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001, they did so in the fundamentalist spirit of jihad'

It's unfortunate that in today's world the Arabic word jihad is most directly associated with heinous terrorist acts committed by Islamic extremists who either don't know or don't care about the word's origin and true meaning.

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The doctrine of jihad, or holy war, was Muhammad's principal military legacy. It is indisputable that divinely justified warfare became a force of major importance during the early Islamic period, was a significant motivator for the Muslim conquests that followed Muhammad's death in 632 and remains a primary characteristic of Islamic warfare. Pre-Islamic Arabia knew no notion of ideology of any sort, and certainly no notion of religiously sanctioned war. Pre-Islamic Arab warfare was directly linked to the economic and social circumstances of pasturage, material wealth and prestige and was characterized by looting, raiding and clan and tribal blood feuds. The idea of warfare as Allah's command—rewarded by martyrdom and swift transport to paradise—was an innovation with no precedent in Arab culture, custom or practice, brought about entirely by Muhammad's thinking and influence on events.

Setting aside the question of divine influence on Muhammad's thinking, where might he have acquired his ideas of holy war and martyrdom?

Born circa 570 in Mecca, Muhammad lost both parents in childhood and lived with various relatives. In his teens he became a caravanner, traveling to Jewish communities in Arabia and Christian border communities of the Byzantine empire. Among the Jews he may have encountered the concept of herem—holy war against idolaters and nonbelievers—which plays a prominent role in the Old Testament accounts of Moses and Joshua establishing the Israelite state. Muhammad may have acquired the idea of martyrdom from the Christians. The Roman empire had persecuted believers in the first three centuries of the Christian faith, and from 380 to 620 the Byzantine emperors had persecuted followers of all heretical sects (adherents to beliefs that fell outside the state-sanctioned Nicene Christianity), thus reinforcing the notion of martyrdom. The sects often settled in remote border communities to escape persecution.

The influence of Greek philosophy, Roman occupation and the Jewish Diaspora put a damper on the Jewish concept of holy war, while the Christian ideal of martyrdom faded under the impact of nationalism, the rise of the nation state, Enlightenment, religious freedom and the Industrial Revolution—forces that have shaped Western culture. These forces had little impact in the Islamic world, however, with the consequence that the Muslim idea of holy war has remained essentially unchanged from the time of Muhammad. In addition, martyrdom by death in battle while defending the faith or proselytism became a central tenet of Islam. Martyrs went directly to paradise without having to suffer the "torment of the grave," unlike other Muslims, who had to wait until Judgment Day to be resurrected.

Politics, as much as religious zeal, may have prompted Muhammad's promulgation of holy war. It was a time of crisis for Islam. Either Muhammad would force pagan tribes into the fold and set the stage for the religious conversion of all Arabia, or Islam would remain a creed confined to the desert. After returning from an abortive military expedition to Tabuk near the Byzantine border in 630–31, Muhammad had a revelation instructing him to impose a zakat (obligatory annual tax) on Muslims. He would give the tribes of Arabia one last chance to join the Islamic movement. Payment of the tax—the ancient Arab way of showing submission to a chief—would be the test of their loyalty. Those who remained disloyal would be killed.

This instruction is known in the Muslim tradition as al-Tawbah ("the Repentance") and is found in the Qur'an. The Arab world changed dramatically with its promulgation. It was now time to choose between the old order and the new, and Muhammad declared war against all non-Muslim Arabs. The idolaters were given four months' grace, after which Muhammad declared himself free of any responsibility toward them. Muslims were then commanded to "slay the idolaters wherever you find them." No longer would Muhammad form alliances with the non-Muslim tribes. Their choice was to join Muhammad or face "war to the knife."

The promulgation of al-Tawbah is the only example of Muhammad forcing "conversion by the sword" under penalty of death, and it applied only to the Arab tribes in Arabia. It did not apply to those outside Arabia that later fell to Arab conquest or to Christians and Jews living in Arabia. Those communities were not to be harmed, although as events turned out, Arabs did massacre and destroy Jewish communities. At least at the outset, however, there was to be "no compulsion in religion," and conversion by the sword was forbidden.

Jihad came to have many meanings over the centuries due to the influence of Muslim legalists, scholars, theologians, ambitious rulers, rebels and the violent conflicts among Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims. The term derives from the root jahada, roughly defined as "exerting one's utmost power, efforts, endeavors or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation." However, few non-Western Islamic scholars and jurists regard the concept of jihad as only a personal inner struggle. Most subscribe to the classical evolutionary theory of holy war. In this view, what Muhammad meant by jihad depended on the historic circumstances and needs at different times during his prophetic mission, until it was concluded that war against non-Muslims could be waged virtually at any time, without pretext and in any place. This interpretation provided the ideological justification for the Arab conquests and is very much alive in the minds of present-day jihadists.

The history of jihad can be divided into four distinct, if overlapping, periods, each distinguished by the major combatants involved.

Jihad of the Riddah (632–33)
Soon after Muhammad's death in June 632 the Islamic coalition of tribes began to fall apart. In the traditional fashion of Arab covenants, upon Muhammad's death many tribal and clan chiefs no longer felt bound by their old agreements with the prophet. The crux of the problem was the zakat. Some of the allied tribes sent delegations to Medina to negotiate new agreements with Abu Bakr, Muhammad's father-in-law and the man who succeeded him. The tribes promised to remain Muslim and say their daily prayers in exchange for repeal of the tax. Abu Bakr refused, reportedly saying, "By Allah, if they withhold from me the rope of a camel they paid to [Muhammad], I will fight them for it." The dispute sparked the Riddah ("Apostasy") wars.

Abu Bakr declared war on all those who would not obey and introduced three new elements to Islam that greatly expanded the religious justification for jihad against Muslims. First, he proclaimed withdrawal from Muhammad's coalition to be a denial of Allah's will and thus apostasy punishable by death. Muslims would later use this concept to conduct jihads against other Muslims who did not follow sharia law. Second, Abu Bakr declared that Muslims could not be loyal to Allah under any leader whose legitimacy did not derive from Muhammad, thereby laying the groundwork for the later Sunni-Shia jihads against one another over the question of who were the legitimate leaders of Islam. Third, to forestall the influence of self-professed prophets who had arisen in Arabia during Muhammad's lifetime, Abu Bakr declared Muhammad to be the last prophet Allah would send. This led Muslims to regard as false all prophets and religions that came after Muhammad.

Although Abu Bakr's pronouncements were introduced as part of his political strategy to isolate and compel the obedience of the Arabian tribes—and could claim no religious authority to support them—these pronouncements became important Muslim religious beliefs as the years passed. It was actually Abu Bakr more than Muhammad who laid what became the religious justification for the internecine jihads among Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims to follow over the centuries.

Jihad of the Muslim Conquests (633–732)
With the Riddah finished, in 633 Abu Bakr ordered the Arab armies to attack the Persians and Byzantines, beginning the first phase of the Muslim conquests that lasted until 732. These assaults brought much of the Persian and Byzantine empires and the Mediterranean littoral under Islamic occupation until the end of the Ottoman empire in 1918. However, jihad as a stimulus for converting non-Muslims seems to have played only a secondary role in these events. Once they had converted the Arabian people, Abu Bakr and his successor, 'Umar, found themselves with insufficient resources to sustain the Islamic state and its tribal coalition armies. The conquest of Byzantine and Persian lands was necessary to provide new sources of loot, food, horses, land and taxes to sustain the Muslim ummah ("community") and its military forces. Religious jihad seemed not to have been the primary motivation of the Arab armies, although it surely must have been for many of the individuals who fought in the campaigns.

Once established in their new lands, the Arabs made no attempt to convert the conquered populations to Islam, instead seeking to remain an ethnically homogeneous and religious society apart from the infidels. Arab immigrants lived in ribats, fortified cities built to limit contact with non-Muslims, lest the residents backslide into polytheism. All Muslims were recorded in the diwan ("registry") and received housing, monthly rations and a cash allowance. The diwan was the primary institution for the maintenance of the army and all Muslims. The Arabs took over the financial systems of the conquered lands, levied a mandatory tax on all non-Muslims and exempted infidels from military service. The Arabs' self-isolation worked against the creation of a Muslim society in the conquered lands, a task left to those conquered infidels who later converted to Islam.

The attempt to sustain a separate Arab identity apart from the infidels was bound to fail due to sheer numbers. The size of the Arab occupation forces could hardly have exceeded 100,000 people, including women and children, whereas the population of the conquered lands probably exceeded 20 million. The Arabs made no attempt at forced conversion. Voluntary conversion, however, was successful. By 825 Muslims were a majority of the population in Iran and achieved majorities in Egypt, Syria and Iraq by 900. The Arabs gradually were subsumed into the Muslim armies of disparate peoples who had converted to the new faith.

Jihads of the Sunni-Shia-Sufi (656–present)
Within a decade of Abu Bakr's death his pronouncements created serious difficulties within the new faith. His declarations on apostasy made it legitimate for Muslims to kill Muslims; his claim that only elected leaders were legitimate laid the basis for Shia-Sunni antagonism; and contrary to Muhammad's practice, religion, state and army were now inseparable. It was inevitable that dynastic and civic conflicts would become religious conflicts, while religious disagreements would become civic conflicts. The result has been centuries of jihads among Shia, Sunni and Sufi factions of Islam.

In 656 intrafaith tensions flared into conflict. The appointment of the third caliph, 'Uthman, in 644 had precipitated a division between those who believed rulers should be selected by the prophet's companions (Sunni) and those who believed only Allah could appoint the ruler (Shia), a blood relative of Muhammad or his family. The Khawarij ("Seceders") declared a jihad against the Sunni caliph, saying his improper election made him a kafir, an apostate who must be killed. Assassins killed 'Uthman, and his successor, 'Ali, declared a jihad against the Khawarij. A Khawarij assassin, in turn, killed 'Ali in 661. The Sunni-Shia dispute turned increasingly violent, as each regarded the other as heretics that could be legitimately slain "in defense of Islam." Sufis soon joined the fray with a mystical take on "jihad of the sword" that threatened everyone. From 656 to 750 Muslims fought three dynastic-religious civil wars, which led to the emergence of a formal ideology of jihad, appearing first in a treatise on the subject in the late 8th century.

The 680 beheading of Husayn ibn 'Ali, the first Shia imam, by the Sunnis in Iraq is remembered in Shia history as the Shia martyrdom and sparked violent retribution. The Sunni Seljuk Turks in turn implemented jihad against the Shia and infidels as a means to expand their territory and control those rebelling factions within it. In 1124 Shiites opposed to Seljuk rule in Iran, Iraq and Syria formed a group, known in the West as the Assassins, dedicated to using murder and assassination to overthrow the ruling Sunni order. In 1501 Shah Isma'il Safavi, a Shia and first ruler of the dynasty (Safavid) bearing his name, made Shia Islam the official religion of the Persian state and launched a 10-year jihad of persecution against Sunnis. Much of the centuries-long conflict between Persia and Turkey had its roots in the Shia-Sunni divide.

The 1744 rise of Wahhabism injected an even more violent strain into these conflicts. Originating in what is now Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabis comprised a fundamentalist Sunni sect that believed most Muslims were insufficiently observant. Along with massacring fellow Sunnis, the Wahhabis declared unrelenting war against the Shia. In 1802 Wahhabis slaughtered thousands of Shiites in their holy city of Karbala in present-day Iraq. The Wahhabis formed an alliance with the house of Saud in Arabia, and the Saudi regime remains Wahhabist. During the 1980–88 Iran-Iraq War, Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared the conflict against the Sunnis in Iraq a jihad. The current civil war in Syria is an extension of the historical Shia-Sunni conflict, with Saudi Arabia supporting the Sunni rebels and Iran propping up Bashar al-Assad's Shia Alawite regime. After more than 1,400 years it is unlikely a solution is imminent to what is surely one of history's longest running conflicts between adherents of the same religion. One of the great paradoxes is that far more jihads have pitted Muslims against one another than against non-Muslims.

One factor contributing to the longevity of the Shia-Sunni conflict and its use of jihad is an increase in the number of Islamic civic and religious authorities claiming the right to declare "holy war." A power once confined to the Sunni caliphs and Shia imams, it ultimately fell claim to all sorts of malcontents for all kinds of reasons. In their hands jihad became a justification for suppressing domestic dissent or settling political problems, in turn leading to countless massacres and forced conversions over the centuries, mostly against Jews and Christians living in Muslim territories. Jihad continued to serve its original purpose in justifying wars against non-Muslims, such as the 1024 Muslim invasion of India and the 1507 Mughal conquest of the same area, while even the Mongols and later Tamerlane used jihad to justify attacks against fellow Muslims.

Jihad in the Colonial Period
The encroachment of Western powers on Muslim territories of the Ottoman empire provoked many calls for jihads to defend Islam. The 1783 Russian annexation of Crimea, Napoléon Bonaparte's capture of Egypt in 1798 and the French invasion of Algeria in 1830 were met with calls for jihad. The Russian attempt to drive the Ottomans from southeast Europe in 1877–78 prompted another such declaration, as did Russian moves in central Asia in 1914. That same year the Ottomans declared jihad against the Armenians, which ended with the genocide of more than a million of the ethnic Christians. The colonial period also witnessed calls for jihads in China, Sudan, Egypt, Palestine, Morocco, Africa and India. During this period Muslims massacred ethnic and racial minorities, Jews, and Christian and Islamic sects alike as enemies of Islam.

World War I and the occupation of the Ottoman and Persian empires by the West generally put an end to such large-scale jihads, although pockets of resistance existed until after World War II. Some movements, such as the active one in Chechnya, have persisted for centuries.

The withdrawal of colonial powers from most Islamic lands gave rise to nationalist regimes in many of the former Ottoman and Persian territories. The cultural shock occasioned by the collapse of the Ottoman empire, Western occupation and the establishment of an Israeli state in 1948—followed by a series of Arab-Israeli wars in which Jewish forces roundly defeated Muslim armies—demoralized the Islamic spirit and saw a corresponding decline in the frequency of jihads. Muslims placed their faith in new nationalist leaders—including Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, Hafez al-Assad in Syria and Sadaam Hussein in Iraq—to protect Islamic interests. But these regimes drew support only from the urban, educated pro-Western elites, leaving the rural, poor masses to the continued influence of fundamentalist religious leaders and the mosque schools. It was in these schools the spirit of jihad was reignited.

By the late 1970s the failure of such nationalist regimes to provide adequate economic improvement for most Muslims, and the increased Westernization of their ruling elites, provoked violent resistance from traditional Muslims. A number of events over the next two decades signaled a renewal of militant Islamic jihadism, including the 1978 coup of fundamentalist Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in Pakistan and subsequent rise of the Taliban and al-Qaida; the 1979 Shia revolution in Iran; the Iran-Iraq War; the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad; the 1987 and 2000 Palestinian intifadas against Israeli rule in the West Bank; the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait; renewed wars in Chechyna and the North Caucasus in 1994; and increased financial support by Saudi Arabia for Osama bin Laden and other Wahhabist causes throughout the Muslim world.

When Saudi Wahhabists crashed Western passenger planes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001, they did so in the fundamentalist spirit of jihad once again aflame in the Muslim world.

For further reading Rick Gabriel recommends Jihad: From Qur'an to bin Laden, by Richard Bonney, and Jihad in Islamic History, by Michael Bonner.


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3 Responses to “Jihad: War to the Knife”


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    Laila Rasheed says:

    Salaam,

    ISLAM, JIHAD, AND TERRORISM
    If you’re going to truly understand “jihad” and Islamic violence in today’s time you must examine the Islamic texts. A 30 second sound byte from some “expert” be they Muslim, Christian, Hindu, or otherwise is not sufficient. You will have to investigate the Quran, Hadith, and Sira. And, you will have to understand the context, background, scope, and applicability of the various passages related to jihad and violence in Islam. Otherwise, you will be left with many passages that seemingly contradict each other, and be no closer to truly understanding “jihad”, and the application of Islamic violence today. A mere phrase such as “Islam means peace”, or “jihad is an internal struggle against internal, sinful desires” or, “Islam is violent” has little support if one does not know the actual teachings of Islam.
    For ourselves, and our future, we need to answer the following three questions:
    (1) What are the teachings of real Islam found in the Quran, Hadith, and Sira with respect to the use of violence, call it jihad if you like, to aggressively spread it’s power over non-Muslims, and are these teachings valid and applicable today?
    (2) Is real Islam behind and does it condone the murder of thousands of kafirs and destruction all over the world, or are these Muslim terrorists doing something well outside Muhammad’s religion?
    (3) What does the future hold for Islam and the rest of the world?
    REAL ISLAM AND THE RELIGIOUS TEXTS
    I define “real” Islam as the Islam Muhammad practiced and taught. Real Islam is based upon Muhammad’s final teachings and deeds. These final teachings are recorded in the Quran, Hadith (Hadith are the traditions and sayings of Muhammad), and Sira (sira is biographical material).
    These foundational texts of Islam contain Muhammad’s words and deeds over a 23 year period, the Quran being dominant in Islamic theology. Many of his words apply to a specific people for a specific time or event. As Muhammad’s circumstances changed, his words, teachings, commands, and attitudes changed. Thus, as situations changed over time, Islam changed over time. Therefore, to determine what real Islam teaches regarding jihad and violence, we must examine these text’s chronology, context, scope, and applicability. It is either mistaken or dishonest to take one passage out of context and apply it to a set of circumstances for which it was not meant.
    What I am going to do is examine a number of Quranic passages related to jihad and violence. In this I will cite from related Islamic texts, i.e., the Hadith and Sira to provide the context and background. Additionally I will reference various early Islamic scholar’s commentary (tafsir). When appropriate, I will also quote from other books written by scholars or experts on Islam be they Muslim, Christian, or secular.
    And, I am going to go a step further: I am also going to examine Muhammad’s actions. Actions ever speak louder than words; therefore, let us lend an ear to hear his deeds speak. What do they say? – for they truly portray his heart. A wise sage said, “A man is defined by what he does.” Thus, Muhammad’s works must be thoroughly scrutinized for they show us who he truly was and what he truly believed.
    NOTES
    (1) NOTES FOR TEXT COLOR BREAKDOWN:
    (a) I have tried to make all book or article quotations as either medium or dark blue text, sometimes in bold.
    (b) References to various books and articles are in green.
    (c) Issues or points that I want to stress are in red.
    (d) Critical thoughts, statements, or events that bear upon my conclusions will be in orange, and usually bold. These passages in orange are ones that I want you, the reader, to especially take note of.
    (e) Section headings will be in either black or dark red.
    (f) Near the end of this article I present several pages of Muhammad’s sayings (Hadith). These are in black text, except for key sentences that I’ve highlighted in red.
    Keeping track of all quotes and references is difficult, so, if I miss a few colors, please forgive.
    (2) Around May of 1999 I wrote an article on Islamic terrorism. I have copied some of the information from that article into this one. I saw no reason to re-create the information. The article can be accessed at [1]
    The article above contains a great deal of relevant information that is not quoted here. If you want to obtain a broader scope in understanding Islam and terrorism, please read that article as well.

    LET’S START
    UNDERSTANDING A CRITICAL FACET OF THE QURAN: ABROGATION
    We must start with the Quran because the Quran is one of the foundations of Islam. Islam is built upon the Quran and “Sunnah”, or lifestyle of Muhammad. Now many Western readers will be tempted to apply their methods of logic and understanding of Biblical Scriptures to the Quran.
    They will take various Quranic verses at face value thinking that all the verses in the Quran are applicable today. They may reason that since the Quran says, “there is no compulsion in religion”, it means that Muslims are not to force people into Islam.”
    This approach is erroneous.
    One of the odd facets of the Quran is that some verses “abrogate” other verses, i.e. they cancel them, or render them null and void, no longer applicable. “Abrogation” means the canceling or replacement of one Quranic passage by another. Things changed during the 23 year period that Muhammad spoke the Quran. As circumstances changed Muhammad’s precepts found in the Quran changed accordingly. Thus the Quran abrogates or cancels itself in various passages and presents seemingly conflicting statements.
    These abrogations are not viewed as contradictions by Muslims, but rather, as improvements, to better suit the varying circumstances or needs, of the Muslims, or to fit Muhammad’s religious concepts. For example, many Islamic scholars consider that the verse reference above “there is no compulsion in religion”, found in Quran 2:256, has been abrogated by the passage found in Quran 9.25.
    [The verse in chapter 2 was spoken about 7 - 8 years earlier than the one spoken in Chapter 9.]
    The "Dictionary of Qur'anic Terms and Concepts", pages 5 and 6, [2], state: "Quranic injunctions themselves may be abrogated, as has happened in a few cases. An example of this abrogation is Quran 24:2 which abrogates the punishment of adultery, (q.v.) stated in Quran 4:15-16. A study of the Quran shows first, that only a limited number of Quranic verses have been abrogated, and second, that the abrogation pertains to legal and practical matters only, and not to matters of doctrine and belief."
    In “Islam: Muhammad and His Religion”, page 66, [3], the great Islamic scholar Arthur Jeffery wrote:
    "The Quran is unique among sacred scriptures in teaching a doctrine of abrogation according to which later pronouncements of the Prophet abrogate, i.e.: declare null and void, his earlier pronouncements. The importance of knowing which verses abrogate others has given rise to the Quranic science known as "Nasikh wa Mansukh", i.e.: "the Abrogators and the Abrogated".”
    The Encyclopedia of Islam, [4], states on abrogation:
    Rather than attempting to explain away the inconsistencies in passages giving regulations for the Muslim community, Kuran scholars and jurists came to acknowledge the differences, while arguing that the latest verse on any subject "abrogated" all earlier verses that contradicted it. A classic example involves the Kuranic teaching or regulation on drinking wine, where V, 90, which has a strong statement against the practice, came to be interpreted as a prohibition, abrogating II, 219, and IV, 43, which appear to allow it.
    Consequently, as a result of changing circumstances, various Quranic passages were abrogated and Islam changed over time. The rules that applied at one point in time did not necessarily apply at another.
    Therefore, when discussing Islam, jihad, and terrorism, what must be considered are Muhammad’s final teachings and the commands that he wanted obeyed. What were his last wishes and instructions regarding jihad and violence? Which Quranic passages are in force today for the Muslim and the Muslim community? Earlier statements related to peace may or may not have been abrogated by later statements related to violence. We will have to examine the context of the texts to know which are in place today.
    Now then, if Muhammad’s calls to violence found within the texts were only for a specific period of time, against a specific people, for an understandable cause such as self defense, or to alleviate the oppression of an oppressed people, then the critics of Islam could not honestly say that Islam is a religion that condones aggressive violence and terrorism.
    On the other hand, if it can be shown that Muhammad’s final intentions for Islam were to attack, conquer, and rule all other peoples, and that the use of violence, in various forms including terrorism, were justified towards installing Islam as the dominant power, then Islam should be called an evil religion. Accordingly, the actions of the murderous Muslims should be identified as truly Islamic and done in the spirit of real Islam.
    I will also briefly review what Muhammad’s closest “companions” understood to be his final wishes, i.e. the commands of God and of His messenger or apostle. I refer to the four “rightly guided” Caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. These four hold a special place in Islamic theology and history. If anyone knew what Muhammad truly wanted, they did. Following Muhammad’s death (poisoned by Aisha and Hafsa) (5), they continued to obey his commands and fulfill his wishes. They loved Muhammad, obeyed his commands, and put their lives on the line for him time and again. Hence their actions depict their understanding of what Muhammad wanted, i.e. real Islam.
    DEFINITIONS OF “JIHAD”
    Below are several classical definitions of jihad. Thereafter we will examine passages from the Quran, Hadith, and Sira related to jihad and violence in Islam. “Jihad” or a form of the word occur in the Quran about 35 times. Additionally throughout the Quran there are other words used for various forms of violence.
    From the “Concordance of the Quran”, by Hanna Kassis, published by University of California Press, Los Angeles, CA, 1983, [6]:
    JIHAD = JAHADA (verb). To struggle, strive, fight for the faith.
    The above definition is the simplest, most straightforward definition I’ve found. Kassis essentially derived it from the Quranic context of the word.
    A more detailed definition of jihad from the Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam, page 89, [7]:
    DJIHAD, holy war. The spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general. It narrowly escaped being a sixth “rukn”, or fundamental duty, and is indeed still so regarded by the descendants of the Kharidjis. The position was reached gradually but quickly. In the Meccan Suras of the Kur’an patience under attack is taught; no other attitude was possible. But at Madina the right to repel attack appears, and gradually it became a prescribed duty to fight against and subdue the hostile Meccans. Whether Muhammad himself recognized that his position implied steady and unprovoked war against the unbelieving world until it was subdued to Islam may be in doubt. Traditions are explicit on the point; but the Kuranic passages speak always of the unbelievers who are to be subdued as dangerous or faithless. Still, the story of his writing to the powers around him shows that such a universal position was implicit in his mind, and it certainly developed immediately after his death, when the Muslim armies advanced out of Arabia. It is now a “fard ‘ala ‘l-kifaya, a duty in general on all male, free, adult Muslims, sane in mind and body and having means enough to reach the Muslim army, yet not a duty necessarily incumbent on every individual but sufficiently performed when done by a certain number. So it must continue to be done until the whole world is under the rule of Islam.”
    The “Dictionary of the Quran”, op cit, defines Jihad as,
    “The literal meaning of jihad is “to strive”. Technically, jihad is any endeavor that is made to further the cause of God, whether the endeavor is positive (e.g. promoting good) or negative (e.g. eradicating evil) in character, takes the form of social action or private effort, involves monetary expenditure or physical struggle, or is made against the enemy without or the enemy within (i.e. against “the bidding self”). The reduction of jihad to “war” is thus unjustified, though war is an important form of jihad, and a number of Quranic verses about jihad (e.g. 8:74, 75, 9:44) refer primarily to fighting. The comprehensive nature of jihad is evidenced by such verses as 29:69: “Those who strive in Us (= Our way), We guide them to Our ways.” When jihad takes the form of war it is known as qital (“fighting”).
    Regarding jihad, the “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, volume 2, pages 116, 117 on verse 2:191, [8], states:
    As Jihad involves death and the killing of men, Allah draws our attention to the fact that the disbelief and polytheism of the disbelievers, and their avoidance of Allah’s path are far worse than killing. Thus Allah says, “And Fitnah is worse than killing.” This is to say that shirk (Polytheism) is more serious and worse than killing.
    The “Reliance of the Traveler, (the Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law)”, page 599, [9], is one of the more respected, classical works in Islamic theology. This 1200+ page volume contains fundamentals of Islamic jurisprudence compiled by “the great 13th century hadith scholar and jurisprudent”, Imam Nawawi, and others. This work was not written with a Western audience in mind. Nawawi wanted to produce a book on Islamic law that was precise, and accurate; one that taught true Islamic values. The following is a long quote on jihad:
    “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word “mujahada”, signifying warfare to establish the religion. And it is the lesser jihad. As for the greater jihad, it is spiritual warfare against the lower self, (nafs), which is why the Prophet said as he was returning from jihad.
    The scriptural basis for jihad, prior to scholarly consensus is such Koranic verses as:
    (1) Fighting is prescribed for you (2:216)
    (2) Slay them wherever you find them (4:89)
    (3) Fight the idolaters utterly (9:36)
    And such Hadiths as the one related by Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet said:
    “I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay zakat. If they say it, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them. And their final reckoning is with Allah.”
    And the hadith report by Muslim
    “To go forth in the morning or evening to fight in the path of Allah is better than the whole world and everything in it.”
    Jihad is communal obligation. When enough people perform it to successfully accomplish it, it is no longer obligatory upon others. And Allah Most High having said:
    Those of the believers who are unhurt but sit behind are not equal to those who fight in Allah’s path with their property and lives. Allah has preferred those who fight with their property and lives a whole degree above those who sit behind. And to each Allah has promised great good.” 4:95
    Jihad is also obligatory for everyone able to perform it, male or female, old or young when the enemy has surrounded the Muslims.
    The Caliph makes war upon the Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax Jizya…in accordance with the word of Allah Most High:
    “Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden – who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book – until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled.” 9:29
    The Caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim ….”
    END OF QUOTE
    There are additional statements regarding the rules of jihad found in “Reliance of the Traveler”, but I quote only the relevant statements that portray jihad’s scope and application.
    CONCLUSION OF THE DEFINITIONS OF “JIHAD”
    Based upon Islamic scholars' writings, violent jihad is permitted in Islam for both offensive and defensive purposes. It was commanded by, and praised by, Muhammad as being one of the greatest forms of true Islamic spirituality. It is to continue until all people are subjected to Islamic rule.
    Aggression toward non-Muslims is allowed but prior to attacking, the Muslims are to offer them a choice:
    (1) Become Muslim
    (2) Do not become Muslim but pay the extortion (jizya) tax
    (3) Defend yourselves unto death



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