According to Shariah, is jihad an inner struggle or holy war?



 This is the 13th in a series of articles on Shariah. These articles are based in the book, “Shariah—The Threat to America (An Exercise in Competitive Analysis—A Report of Team B II). Click here for the first article.

Shariah – derived from Islam’s foundational documents – defines Islamic doctrine, including the universal obligation to jihad against non-believers. The question is: What is meant by “jihad”? Is it merely a personal struggle to be the best possible Muslim? Or does it mean holy war, the pursuit of a global Islamic state (caliphate) that rules in accordance with shariah?

The Quran and Jihad

The answer is readily accessible to those willing to seek it. Islamic jurisprudence, fiqh in Arabic, forms the legal context for shariah and its rulings. As such, it relies first and foremost on the Quran and cites its verses to support the caliphate and jihad. Simple citation of the verses themselves, without the context provided by how the shariah scholars interpreted these verses, provides an incomplete and incorrect understanding.

Shariah scholars typically cite as authority for jihad from the Quran any of the 164 verses that specifically refer to jihad against non-Muslims in terms that include military expeditions, fighting enemies, or distributing the spoils of war. Among these are: “Fighting is prescribed for you” (Q 2:216); “Slay them wherever you find them” (Q 4:89); and “Fight the idolaters utterly” (Q 9:36).

Among the most categorical of such Quranic entries and the most often cited as authoritative by the shariah scholars is the “Verse of the Sword”: ”So when the sacred months have passed, then fight and slay the pagans wherever you 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 leave their way free to them; for surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Q 9:5)

As regards pagans (or polytheists), therefore, the doctrine is clear: Convert or die. The treatment for “People of the Book,” Christians and Jews, is controlled by a Sura 9: “Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the Religion of truth, even if they be People of the book [Christians and Jews] until they pay the Jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.” (Q 9:29)

Thus, Christians and Jews are afforded a third choice not available to polytheists: convert, die or submit to Islam as dhimmis.

The Hadiths and Jihad

The hadiths are the second source of shariah. Throughout those hadiths considered authoritative, jihad means warfare. The hadith collections of Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are accorded the highest level of authenticity by Islamic scholars and both include hundreds of references to jihad. Each and every one of these citations leaves no room for doubt that jihad means warfare.

For example, one of the most oft-cited Sahih al-Bukhari hadiths about jihad says:

Narrated abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been ordered to fight with the people till they say, “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,” and whoever says, “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,” his life and property will be saved by me except for Islamic laws and his accounts will be with Allah, (either to punish him or to forgive him).

The reasons for Jihad which have been described in…verses [from cited sacred texts] are these: to establish God’s authority in the earth; to arrange human affairs according to the true guidance provided by God; to abolish all the Satanic forces and Satanic systems of life; to end the lordship of one man over others since all men are creatures of God and no one has the authority to make them his servants or to make arbitrary laws for them. These reasons are sufficient for proclaiming Jihad.
By “Satanic systems of life,” Qutb means the way of life practiced in Western-style liberal democracies – the way of the infidel, the Westerner, the non-Muslim. Similarly, “the lordship of one man over others” means the system of democracy – which is the political system of the infidel, the Westerner, the non-Muslim.
Among those who acted on Mawdudi and Qutb’s injunctions with respect to jihad were the assassins of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. The followers of Ayman al-Zawahiri and his group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), produced a pamphlet called The Neglected Duty, which exalted violent jihad to “enjoin the good and forbid evil” as the heart and soul of Islam. The Neglected Duty exhorts Muslims to be aggressive and to “exert every conceivable effort” to establish truly Islamic government, a restoration of the caliphate, and the expansion of Dar al-Islam.
The wording of this “sahih” hadith (meaning that its authoritative status has already been determined) not only states unequivocally that it is Allah himself who has ordered Muslims to war against non-Muslims, but also states the command in completely open-ended terms; i.e., Muslims are to fight “the people” who do not worship Allah until “they” all submit to Islam. This is not a command to convert nonbelievers but to subjugate them to “Islamic laws.”

 Other Sources on Jihad

Modern means of communication allow for an even broader dissemination of Islamic thinking on the subject than ever before. For instance, the online Arabic language magazine Moheet, which has offices in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, carried an article on March 13, 2010 by the Islamic cleric, Iman alKhashab. It extolled the virtues of jihad, provided doctrinal references for his position and described violent warfare against infidels as the “sixth pillar of Islam.” Al-Khashab wrote:

Jihad in the path of Allah is a mainstay of the religion and a great religious duty, as the Prophet (PBUH) said: “The most important thing is Islam, and it is supported by prayer, and its apex is jihad in the path of Allah.” Allah has commanded us in many verses (of the Quran), and urged us, as has also our Prophet (PBUH), regarding the issue of jihad. The Prophet desired it himself, and urged (others) to it. He declared its virtues so often that some scholars consider it the sixth pillar of Islam, due to its importance, which is attested by how often it appears in the Quran and hadith.

The Shiite and Iranian Views of Jihad

The Sunni and Shiite schools of jurisprudence differ in a number of respects. One of them historically has been with respect to the circumstances under which “offensive” jihad could be conducted with traditional Shiites holding that it may not be waged in the absence of an Imam to lead it. According to Shi’a Islam, the 12th and final Shiite Imam, directly descended from the Prophet, disappeared in the 10th century. For centuries afterward, Shiite scholars held that renewal of offensive jihad must await his reappearance as Shiism’s messianic figure at the End of Times.

However, some scholars have observed that important historical exceptions occurred, noting that, with respect to the so-called “requirement” for the Shi’a Imam’s “consent” to wage jihad, this was already argued away (as a contingency) by Abu Jaffar al-Tusi during the 11th Century as the Shi’a of Iraq were fighting the Sunni Seljuk Turks, and reiterated in the 13th Century by al-Hilli. These legists maintained—in a deliberately vague and elastic formulation—that Shi’a Muslims could be summoned to jihad by the Imam’s so-called “designee(s)”—which readily came to mean the “fuqaha” or “doctors” of the (Shiite) Muslim Law.

In 1970, the Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini outlined a personal ideology he called Velayat-e Faqih (Rule of the Jurisprudent). In it, he asserted – within this branch of Shi’a scholarly tradition – that Shiites should not have to wait interminably for the return to earth of their Mahdi to wage jihad.

Khomeini set himself up as a kind of stand-in for the 12th Imam as a Grand Ayatollah and arrogated to himself the title of “Imam.” Following his revolution and rise to power in Tehran, the policy of his Iranian theocracy to bear in advancing the sort of offensive jihad shariah-adherent Sunnis had always espoused. For example, Khomeini declared himself unequivocally committed to jihad:

Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other [Koranic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.

It was this pan-Islamic perspective that brought the Iranian regime and its terror proxy Hezbollah to work with Osama bin-Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and an incipient al Qaeda in Sudan in the early 1990s in an operational alliance to conduct a unified jihad against the West. That Sunni-Shi’a alliance, formed under the aegis of the Sudanese Islamic figure, Hasan al-Turabi, solidified and intensified throughout the 1990s, with joint attacks against Khobar Towers (1996), two American embassies in East Africa (1998), the USS Cole (2000) and the attacks of September 11, 2001.

In short, each of these sources makes plain the supremacist character of shariah and the instrument for realizing its global dominance, jihad. The bottom line:

There is no basis in doctrinal Islam for concluding that jihad means anything other than waging holy war for the implementation of shariah and the establishment of the caliphate throughout the world.


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