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The Real Meaning of Jihad!
‘JIHAD’, the Real Meaning
‘Jehad’ (Jihad) is an Arabic word that literally means ‘endeavor’. In the literal historical context, this Islamic doctrine clearly implies physically fighting in the way of the Arabic God ‘Allah’ to establish supremacy over unbelievers, until they relinquish their faith and become Muslims, or acknowledge their subordination by paying the ‘Jaziya’ (or Jizya) humiliation tax. As will be shown in subsequent chapters, Jihad historically has been a perpetual war against infidels (Buddhists, Hindus, Deists, Pagans, Atheists, Skeptics, Jews, Christians, etc).
5 Pillars of Islam
The 5 pillars (obligations) of Islam include Shahadah (the witness), Salat (mandatory daily prayers), Zakat (mandatory alms), Sawm or Siyam (fasting during Ramadan), and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). As a practical matter (so as not to alert or advertise its methods and intents to potential adversaries), Jihad narrowly missed becoming a ‘declared’ pillar of Islam. Although not a declared pillar, amongst a majority of Muslims Jihad enjoys at least sympathy and support, if not active participation. It follows that Jihad then, in practice, serves as a functional pillar (obligation) of official Islamic theology. Indeed, any preview of Islamic written theology in relation to Jihad reveals that the practice is at least as important to the salvation of Muslims as are the other pillars. In many verses, the importance, and the promised benefits of Jihad (in both this life and the next) appear much larger than the more spiritual benefits associated with the other 5 pillars mentioned.
In the correct context of the Islamic sacred texts, ‘Jihad‘ means literally ‘holy war‘, but today there is an effort in some quarters to extend or redefine its meaning and scope. To some it essentially means, "struggle", and to those there are two types or divisions in Jihad: greater and lesser. "Greater Jihad," is the struggle within the soul of a person to be better, more righteous — the fight against the devil within.
"Lesser Jihad" is the fight against the devil without, the military struggle against those who subjugate Muslims or frustrate her aims. For those Muslims who ascribe to this differentiation, the struggle against the external oppressor waxes and wanes, but the fight to suppress the evil inclinations within is perpetual. When asked which is more important to Islam, greater Jihad or lesser Jihad, many ‘moderate’ Muslims tell infidels something like; "They don’t call it greater Jihad for nothing". Unfortunatly, the rather small effort within some communities of Islam to redefine/reform Islam to exclude ‘physical violence against non-believers’ from the concept of Jihad, is losing.
Amongst mullahs from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to points across the globe, a somewhat different definition of the Greater and Lesser Jihad is now offered; "They are of equal importance", say even Moderate Muslims. "Jihad against the oppressor of Muslims is an absolute duty. Islam is a religion that defends itself." The newer emphasis and message resonating now is as was described by a Pakistani Cleric interviewed in 2002; "Both the Jihads have their importance. In one, we struggle to amend our inner self, and in another, we defend our religion. Islam is a religion of limits, except for Jihad, where there is no compromise. Jihad must be fought without limits". This new emphasis places Jihad against ‘the devil without’ as more applicable today. Jihad against outside devils, in particular against the ‘Great Satan America‘, is waxing strong, assuming a permanent place of overriding importance. This is very disturbing with grave implications because once a Jihad has been declared and accepted by the followers of Muhammad, they tend to see it through to the end, even if that effort involves huge sacrifice and spans decades.
What follows are several classical definitions of Jihad. Thereafter we will examine passages from the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira related to Jihad and violence in Islam. "Jihad" or other forms of the word occur in the Qur’an about 35 times. Additionally throughout the Qur’an there are other words used for various other forms of violence. References to all these terms (fighting, war, attack, Jihad, slay, kill, etc) are almost continuous.
From the "Concordance of the Qur’an", 1983 comes a definition, probably the simplest most straightforward found. Kassis essentially derived it from the Qur’anic context of the word:
The following is a more detailed definition of Jihad from the Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, page 89:
Many Westerners have wondered in amazement at the number of men leaving safe and relatively comfortable lands to undertake a perilous journey and face death to fight superior forces in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Iraq. Clearly, those who do so, do it out of a strong sense of religious duty, fully expecting to be rewarded for their sacrifice. The "Dictionary of the Qur’an", op cit, defines Jihad as;
Regarding Jihad, the "Tafsir of Ibn Kathir", volume 2, pages 116, 117 on verse 2:191 states:
The classic manual of Islamic sacred law, "Reliance of the Traveler" , is one of the more respected, classical works in Islamic theology. This 1200+ page voluminous book on Sharia contains fundamentals of Islamic jurisprudence compiled by "the great 13th century Hadith scholar and jurisprudent", Iman 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. There are additional statements regarding the rules of Jihad found in "Reliance of the Traveler", but we quote only one relevant statement that portrays Jihad’s scope and application, from page 599:
Scholarly consensus by all reputable Islamic experts is sourced by scriptural basis for Jihad from such Qur’anic verses as: "Fighting is prescribed for you" (2:216), "Slay them wherever you find them" (4:89), "Fight the idolaters utterly" (9:36), and such Hadiths as the one related by Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet said:
A Hadith report by Muslim confirms this philosophy:
Finally, from Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadis #0033, and Sahih Bukhari, volume 1, Book 8, Hadis #387, comes a telling insight on the true meaning and scope of Jihad:
According to Muslim doctrine, to deny Allah and Muhammad’s exclusive right to be believed in and adored is a terrible crime. Having established the ‘best religion’ that abrogates all others, the Prophet undeniably prescribed that the correct course of action against non-believers is to fight them. Since the biggest crime any person or nation can commit is denial of Islam, it is quite clear the true solution to the problem has been dictated to be perpetual war (Jihad) against such renegades. Based upon Islamic scholars’ writings, it appears undeniable that 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. Further, some of the final direction from Muhammad was that that Jihad is to continue until all people are subjected to Islamic rule. Offensive aggression toward non-Muslims is clearly and unashamedly 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 yourself unto death.
Jihad embodies both an ideology and a jurisdiction, formally conceived by Muslim legal experts and theologians from the 8th to 9th centuries onward, based on their interpretation of Qur’anic verses and long chapters in the Traditions (the hadith). The consensus on the nature of jihad from all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi’i) is clear:
Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (Maliki),
Ibn Taymiyya (Hanbali)
From (primarily) the Hanafi school, as given in the Hidayah
These consenting opinions are all in complete harmony. In the violent, nearly 1,400-year relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, Jihad and dhimmitude were firmly established by the 8th century. Perhaps the preeminent Islamic scholar in history was Ibn Khaldun, a renowned philosopher, historian, and sociologist. In his writings in 1406, he summarized these opinions and five centuries of prior Muslim jurisprudence with regard to the uniquely Islamic institution of Jihad:
The simple terrible fact is that Jihad does not represent a mere excess or defect of Islam, but rather is an integral part of its timeless core. According to Muslim scholar Bassam Tibi,
World peace, according to his Islamic teaching, "is reached only with the conversion or submission of all mankind to Islam." So by Tibi’s logic, when Muslims wage jihad, they are performing pious acts of worship to bring about the peace of universal Islam. So it is, by this convoluted logic, that when Muslims disseminate Islam through violent means it is not war (harb), but rather a sacred act of "opening" the world to Islam. In other words, by simply existing, the entire non-Islamic world is always responsible for any and all Jihadic acts against them.
All this official Islamic scripture and sacred writings shows that the official meaning, purpose, and scope of Jihad is in fact quite clear and unambiguous. Further evidence will be outlined in subsequent chapters and appendix laying out carefully and chronically both the permanent basis for violent Jihad today, and its application by Muhammad , his ‘rightly guided Caliphs’ who followed him, and all subsequent followers of Islam throughout history.
Bat Ye’or wrote in The Decline of Eastern Christianity "Jihad is a religious obligation. It forms part of the duties that the believer must fulfill; it is Islam’s ‘normal’ path to expansion". It must now be noted that there is a deliberate effort underway by Islamists and their apologists to present the term Jihad differently. Some of these efforts may be genuine attempts to soften the religion and perhaps cause less military Jihad, but it seems most representations are simply propaganda efforts intended to disseminate misinformation for political purposes. The relatively new phraseology and interpretation is offered mainly to westerners, with the real meaning still taught in the vast majority of Islamic institutions around the world as it has always been. Obviously Islam does not want to alarm the intended audience with the truth, especially the Americans who have been acting badly of late.
In Jihad: How Academics Have Camouflaged Its Real Meaning (by Daniel Pipes Ph.D. in history and director of the Middle East Forum) Mr. Pipes states there is nearly universal falsification on the meaning of jihad amongst elitists. He cites an intellectual scandal wherein even scholars at American universities issue public statements that avoid or whitewash the primary meaning of Jihad in Islamic law and Muslim history. The result is obfuscation as we try to make sense of the Jihad declared on us and discover who the enemy is and what his goals are. Such apologists are dangerous because even people who think they know that jihad means holy war are susceptible to the combined efforts of scholars and Islamists brandishing notions suggesting Jihad means ‘resisting apartheid’ or ‘working for women’s rights’. To quote his article:
Pipes got it right, pointing out that the argument and issue is really a moot point. In fact it does not matter what propagandists, our educated elitists, Pipes, or all Islamic apologists claim Jihad means. What really matters is how millions of self-described devout Muslims understand it today and how they intend to act on their belief. What it has meant in the past (up to and including today) has already been fully defined by all previous actions of Muslim Militants in their conduct toward non-believers, and further debate to clarify or change that historical reality is just plain silly. Any honest review of Islamic history from 610 to 2004 answers the question of Jihadic definition quite convincingly, a portion of which will be reviewed in subsequent chapters. As far as majority Muslim understanding and use of the Jihad term goes, nothing much has changed through the last 1400 years. The lesser Jihad cannot be separated out from the greater Jihad and ignored; it appears they are both a part of unalterable core Islam. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either being deceitful or has been deceived. The basic Islamic worldview sees all lands as either as Dar al-Islam (the abode of Islam), or Dar al-Harb (the abode of war). All those countries and societies not currently dominated by Islamic supremacy are by default the abode of war, where Jihad (and deception) is always fully justified. Those who contend that jihad war is not a main tenet of traditional Islam do so either deceitfully or in blissful ignorance.
The writings of two contemporary Muslim scholars of jihad, the late Majid Khadduri, and Bassam Tibi, confirm that Islam in our age is still in uniform compliance with the earlier sacred writings. The uniquely Islamic conception of "House of War" (Dar ul-Harb) and "House of Islam" (Dar ul-Islam) was a consensus formulation from the early classical period of Muslim jurisprudence.
Majid Khadduri’s 1955 treatise on jihad remains one of the most respected analyses of this institution, summarizing the consensus views of these previous Islamic experts as follows:
And in 1996, Bassam Tibi wrote this:
Finally, as author Ram Swarup observed in Understanding Islam through Hadis: "Jihad is a divinely ordained institution in Islam. By many authorities it is counted as one of the pillars of Islam. Theologically, it is an intolerant idea: a tribal god, Allah, trying to be universal through conquest. Historically, it was an imperialist urge masked in religious phraseology."
Recent Muslim Views on Islam and Jihad
Several more modern Muslim leaders have put forward their reasoning describing when waging war is justified and allowed. From "The Qur’anic Concept of War", by Pakistani Brigadier S.K. Malik, it says (in the preface):
That Muslim writer, from our ally Pakistan, states that those who reject Islam are viewed as a cancerous growth to be violently removed (i.e. murdered). Note that the writer basically agrees with "Western Scholars" observations that Islam is indeed "in a state of perpetual war" with non-Muslims. Indeed, reviewing conflicts worldwide today, it is Islamic militancy which is causing more death and despair in the world than any other religious or political ideology. Review the following news release from an Egyptian party newspaper issued after Sept 11th.
© 2009 – 2011, Matt. All rights reserved.
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