What is Jihad?
"Jihad" (جهاد) is an Arabic word which comes from the Arabic root word "jahada"; which means "exerting utmost effort" "to strive" or “to struggle.” The word can generally connote one of two meanings. The first, being an inward spiritual struggle to attain perfect faith and the second, being an outward material struggle to conquer and subdue. In the initial days when Islam was weak, during the period of Qur'anic revelation while Muhammad was in Mecca, jihad meant essentially a non-violent struggle. Following his move from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE, and the establishment of an Islamic state, fighting in self-defense was sanctioned by the Qur'an (22:39). The Qur'an then began referring increasingly to the word qi'tal (fighting or warfare), instead of jihad. Two of the last verses on this topic (9:5, 29) explicitly call for a war of conquest against unbelieving enemies. This call to arms, abrogated (replaced) earlier revelations which claimed "There is no compulsion in religion."
We find in medieval legal sources, that this view is confirmed and jihad among believers generally referred to a divinely sanctioned struggle to establish Muslim hegemony over non-Muslims as a prelude to the propagation of the Islamic faith, so the concept and practise of the violent Islamic Jihad has always been a central aspect of Muslim life. It began with Muhammad's latter aggressive orders abrogating all of his previous defensive orders and consequently all Muslims are now required to strive to destroy the dar al-kufr ('house/domain of disbelief'). Muslims throughout history have acted on, and are continuing to act on these orders.
Jihad as a general struggle
The two meanings of Jihad are sometimes explained by Muslims by citing a hadith recorded by Imam Baihaqi and al-Khatib al-Baghdadi:
- lesser outer jihad (al-jihad al-asghar); a military struggle, i.e. a holy war
- greater inner jihad (al-jihad al-akbar); the struggle of personal self-improvement against the self's base desires
This "inner Jihad" essentially refers to all the struggles that a Muslim may go through, in adhering to the religion. For example, a scholarly study of Islam can be an intellectual struggle that some may refer to as "jihad." However, this hadiths isnad (the completeness of the chain of narrators and the reputation of each individual narrators within the chain of oral tradition) is categorized as "weak," and generally in Islamic law, only the authentic (sahih) and good (hasan) hadiths are used in deriving the rules. The weak (da`if) hadiths have no value for the purpose of Sharia. Contemporary Islamic scholar Abdullah Yusuf Azzam has argued that the hadith is not just weak but:
Furthermore, in the Hadith collections, jihad almost always refers to the so-called "lesser" outward physical struggle and not the so-called "greater" inward spiritual struggle. As an example, there are nearly 200 references to jihad in the most standard collection of hadith, Sahih (authentic) al-Bukhari, and every single one assumes that jihad means literal warfare. Scholar David Cook writes:
Jihad as an Islamic "Holy War"
The Islamic legal tradition (Sharia; which is extracted from both the Quran and Hadith) identifies two types of armed religious warfare, 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. Islamic law, holds that when Muslims are attacked then it becomes obligatory for all Muslim men of military conscription age, within a certain radius of the attack, to take up arms against the attackers - that is, to participate in the defensive jihad. If the attackers are not defeated, then the "radius of obligation," so to speak, continues to expand, until it may encompass the whole world and every Muslim male of military conscription age. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the prominent scholar of Islamic law, Dr. Abudllah Yusuf Azzam, issued a fatwa, “Defense of the Muslim Lands, the First Obligation after Faith” declaring that both the Afghan and Palestinian struggles were jihads in which killing 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:
- See also: Defensive Fighting Mandated
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. The Encylopedia of the Orient explains, "offensive jihad, i.e. attacking, is fully permissible in Sunni Islam." . Dr. Abudllah Yusuf Azzam, in his fatwa, “Defense of the Muslim Lands, the First Obligation after Faith”, wrote in this regard:
Islamic apologists and liberal Muslims - progressives who seek to break away from the imperialistic ideology of Islam - dispute the necessity and obligation of the offensive Jihad; they say that offensive wars were practiced only to preserve Islam from destruction, and that the concept is now obsolete because freedom of religious practice (for Muslims) is present in most of the world. Their more traditional and scripturally-sound ideological opponents question whether the Muslims established the second-largest empire in the history of the world, through war and conquest, only to preserve Islam from destruction. When studying the history of Jihad and the Islamic texts themselves, the absurdity of this claim made by liberals and apologists becomes apparent . As Azzam's fatwa showed, orthodox Muslims believe that it is Islam's goal to establish an ever-expanding theocratic empire. They see this as a pious and important ambition, and wish to return to the days when a single Islamic Empire was ruled by a single Caliph. Worryingly, they find justification for their imperialistic beliefs, not only within the mainstream Islamic legal tradition of the four Madhabs, which was codified in the early centuries of the budding Islamic empire, but also in the Quran and the sayings and deeds of Muhammad, someone whom all Muslims consider uswa hasana (the perfect human.) The Muslim masses continue to see their imperial past, such as when Islamic armies conquered Spain, marched half way into France, laid siege to Vienna, and invaded large portions of Eastern Europe, as blessed and legitimate occurrences of jihad.
Offensive Jihad as a Method for the Propagation of Islam
Forced conversions have been very common throughout all Islamic history. Noted cases include the conversion of Samaritans to Islam at the hands of the rebel Ibn Firāsa, conversions in the 12th century under the Almohad dynasty of North Africa and Andalusia, as well as in Persia under the Safawid dynasty where Sunnis were converted to Shi'ism and Jews were converted to Islam.
Prof. K.S. Lal, suggests in his book Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India that between the years 1000 AD and 1500 AD the population of Hindus decreased by 80 million in the Indian Subcontinent due to forced conversion to Islam and widespread slaughter of Hindus who resisted conversion. Given that the population of Entire Asia was only around 500 million during that period, this forced conversion would later form the basis of the partition of India on religious lines. Other notables among these have been the cases of Iraq's Mandaeans, Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christians, Christians of Pakistan  and Assyrian Christians of Iraq  who have faced coercion to convert to Islam.
In the cases where forced conversions were not practiced, the jizyah (a tax laid exclusively on non-Muslims whose proceeds go to the government) and dhimmitude (the status that Islamic law, the Sharia, mandates for non-Muslims) created an economic and social apartheid in which non-Muslims (dhimmi's) were economically and socially punished by the state for not converting to Islam.
Non-Muslims were (and in many cases, still are) legally classed as inferior to Muslims and have severe limitations to their freedom imposed on them and their communities when under Islamic rule, having separate laws to govern both divisions of the populous and how they interact with one another. They were usually denied entry to high-ranking military and civil service positions, and brutal subordination and violence became the rule of the day for many. For example, in 772, the caliph al-Mansur ordered Christians and Jews in Jerusalem to be stamped on their hands with a distinctive symbol. Conversions to Christianity were dealt with (as they still are today) particularly harshly. In 789, Muslims beheaded a monk who had converted from Islam and plundered the Bethlehem monastery of St. Theodosius, killing many more monks. Other monasteries in the region suffered the same fate. Early in the ninth century the persecutions grew so severe that large numbers of Christians fled for Constantinople and other Christian cities. Fresh persecutions in 923 saw more churches destroyed, and in 937, Muslims went on a rampage in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, plundering and destroying the Church of Calvary and the Church of the Resurrection.
Non-Muslims paid jizyah while Muslims, under the empire, paid a tax called zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, a so-called "charity tax" which all Muslims are obligated to pay even today, but instead of paying it to the state they now pay zakat to charities of their choice, it must be noted that the majority of Islamic scholars are of the view that non-Muslims should not benefit from this alms giving. The zakat is a 2.5% tax, while the jizyah (which can vary) is about a 10% income tax (although it has been known to be as high as 50%); as explained in the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on jizyah, "many converted to Islam in order to escape the tax." This extra revenue generated by the jizyah may have also been reason enough for the Islamic authorities to avoid heavy-handed attempts at proselytization and in some cases the taxation of the non-Muslims was so profitable that the Islamic rulers went so far as to prohibit their subjects from converting to Islam.
How to declare an offensive Jihad
Many Muslim jurists today believe the power to declare an "Offensive Jihad" in the absence of a Caliph, rests with any legitimate Muslim political authority or "Ulama" (Islamic scholar) who can proclaim an offensive jihad by way of fatwa. Recognition being at the discretion of the listener.
Islamic Laws Regarding Prisoners of War
Execution of Prisoners of War
One Islamic view (also shared by the Shafi'i madhab) is that Islam allows for the execution of a Prisoner of War (POW), even if it is simply for the purposing of instilling fear in the enemy. As Wall Street Journal columnist Amir Taheri explains,"... The fact is that the seizure of hostages and "exhibition killing" go back to the early stages of Islamic history. In the Arabia of the seventh century, where Islam was born, seizing hostages was practiced by rival tribes, and "exhibition killing" was a weapon of psychological war." A Muslim researcher explains, "In times of war, Islamic law permits the taking of hostages from the enemy camp and they can be: released, ransomed or punished appropriately."  Also the Sira records that upon defeating the Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza, Muhammad himself had every male of the tribe, above twelve to fourteen years of age, beheaded; the women and children of the Banu Qurayza were enslaved. In modern times, kidnappings and beheadings have been widely seen, such as the kidnapping and video-taped beheading of the journalist Daniel Pearl. Pakistan’s interior minister stated in a press conference that LeJ (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Wahabi Sunni group) had a role in the kidnapping and execution of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl  as well as the kidnappings and beheadings of foreign workers and journalists in Iraq.
The Qur'an makes this command in regards to the taking of prisoners of war:
- See also: Violence Under Muhammad
Enslavement, Rape, Ransoming, and Exchange of Prisoners of War
Islam categorizes prisoners as war booty. As such, when Muhammad and his armies would be victorious in a battle, the captured male POW's could be returned to their tribes for a ransom, could be exchanged for Muslim prisoners, could be enslaved, could be freed or (as previously mentioned) in the case of the Jewish Quraytha tribe, executed. Women and children (who had not yet reached puberty) were captured and made prisoners of war and would become the property of their Muslim captors. Female captives could be taken as concubines or given as gifts to Muslims. The Qur'an speaks in many places (e.g., 33:50) about the permissibility of raping/having sexual-intercourse with POW's turned into concubines (euphemistically referred to in the Qur'an as "those whom your right hand possess"). In modern times, this has led to Islamic groups raiding the countryside in places like Chechnya to carry out kidnapping and ransom, in order to generate revenue for their cause; "In 1997-1998, more than 60 Chechen groupings kidnapped a total of 1,094 people for ransom, and in 1999, 270. The number of hostages kidnapped for ransom still remaining in captivity is estimated to be more than 1,500. No estimate of the total ransom payments received is available."  In a related matter, another source reports, "Since 9/11, ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) has been involved in hundreds of kidnappings, largely victimizing the local populations of the southern Philippines." Kidnapping and ransom is a common practice for Islamic terrorist organizations; they often become involved in the international black market in human trafficking (most often human trafficking for the purpose of sexual slavery) in order to generate revenue for their cause. Such groups do not have too much difficulty in finding religious justifications for their actions. According to several news agencies:
These views, regardless of how extreme or archaic they may seem, are authenticated by the sunnah (personal example) of Muhammad, thus, they are deemed as moral. For example; the following authentic hadith relates that Muhammad allowed his soldiers to rape and impregnate female prisoners of war:
Terrorism by Muslims
There exists an enormous amount of Islamic groups which are also designated terrorist organizations; many use the word "Jihad" as part of their name. Examples include "Egyptian Islamic Jihad" “Yemeni Islamic Jihad” "Palestinian Islamic Jihad" and so on. Some Islamic legal rulings view the killing of civilians as against the ethics of Islam. But many think otherwise. In the view of the Muslim terrorists, their religion sanctifies their homicidal actions; in fact, there are many Muslim clerics who authorize the suicide bombing of innocents as a valid form of jihad, especially against Israel, her allies, and her supporters, believing that such attacks are legitimate responses to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza . One of these so-called supporters being the United States.
Proponents of Islamic terrorism such as Osama bin Laden argue that economic targets can be seen as military targets, and often cite Muhammad's numerous caravan raids of Meccans that passed by Medina. He organized 64 such raids from 622 CE to 630 CE, of which he personally led 27.
In 630 CE Muhammad led the Siege of al-Ta'if, where the Muslims first discovered catapults. Muhammad deemed it permissible to use the catapults against the enemy, despite the fact that women and children would be put at risk of being killed by the boulders and burning missiles launched from the catapults. This has led to the slaughter of innocent non-believers being seen by Muslims as religiously acceptable collateral damage, with the end justifying the means.
Many Islamic apologists will present you with the following verse from the Qur'an which appears to denounce the killing of any person who is not guilty of at least one of two crimes as 'proof' that the killing of innocents by terrorists is incompatible with their beliefs:
What they fail to mention is what constitutes spreading “mischief” in Islam. Looking to other verses found within the Quran, (7:103 for example) mischief can and does apply to someone who simply does not accept Islam. We can go further still, and look towards the respected Tafsir of Ibn Kathir where he states that this verse is specifically condemning the murder of Muslims at the hands of other Muslims. Many things which non-Muslims would consider to be fundamental rights or freedoms in the West are considered under Islamic law to be worthy of death. This is something that the non-Muslims fall foul of in the East on a daily basis and this is spreading to the West. One example of this somewhat alien morality, for the modern West, is the lack of freedom of speech. Muhammad considered poetry against his new religion to be a form of "creating disorder in the land" and silenced a number of great poets of his day by having them murdered. One such silenced poetess was Asma bint Marwan. Another such poet was Abu 'Afak. In a similar spirit, "Theo van Gogh (47), a Dutch film-maker who had made a movie critical of some aspects of Islamic society and culture, had been shot dead in an Amsterdam street on November 2 . The late great-grand-nephew of famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh had received many death threats after releasing Submission last August, a short film detailing the treatment of Muslim women. He shrugged off the threats, saying there was nothing offensive in his movie. The killer, a 26-year-old Moroccan residing in Holland, was wearing a long beard and Islamic garb when he shot and stabbed van Gogh in broad daylight. He was arrested after a shoot-out with the police."  Another famous incident of this kind was the death fatwa against Salman Rushdie, issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, in which Khomeini called upon any Muslim in the world to murder Salman Rushdie, because of a book in which Rushdie supposedly blasphemed Islam. Today, most publicly known Western critics of Islam receive a constant stream of death threats from Muslims seeking to silence them, and have to employ the service of body guards (Canadian TV producer and publicly known Muslim critic of orthodox Islam, Irshad Manji, is sometimes cited as the "new Salman Rushdie" and employs the service of a number of Israeli trained body guards). In the Muslim world, those who dare to publicly criticize Islam are usually executed or imprisoned by their governments, under laws against "spreading disorder [mischief] through the land" and apostasy (a crime punishable by death in Islam)
- See also: Mischief
The rewards of Jihad
In Islam, one can guarantee themselves a place in Janna (Paradise) where they will have 72 virgins (Houris), rivers of wine and fresh fruit, by becoming a shahid (martyr) while fighting Jihad. This alone, is a great motivator for many would-be Jihadists. If non-combatant Muslims perish in such attacks, they too are considered shahid, thus have also secured a place in paradise. Hence, the only true victims of the Islamic jihad are the kaffir, or unbelievers. The basis of the concept of shahid can be traced back to the words of Muhammad, prior to the battle of Badr where he stated:
Also, in a number of quranic verses, the command to fight is supported by promises of rewards:
Jihad and its effects today
Today, we find Jihad to be by far the biggest source of terrorism, inspiring the slaughter of more innocent lives each and every year than in all 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition combined. More than 29 people are killed in religiously motivated attacks every single day, at the hands of Muslims, which is roughly one to two deaths every hour. Islam through Jihad, in its 1,400 year history has caused more deaths than Christianity, fascism or communism. Bill Warner, the director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam, says:
Many will attempt to excuse away present-day Jihad, by claiming its simply a reaction to American foreign policies and the war in Iraq etc, but this explanation does not hold water once examined. The majority of attacks are taking place in the East and are often against other Islamic denominations who are considered kafir, or (for example, Somalia) where it is used to force governments into implementing sharia (Islamic law) on Muslims and non-Muslims alike, thus expanding the Dar al-Islam ('house/domain of Islam').
Excerpts from the Qur'an on warfare
Some Islamic apologists attempt to deny any connection whatsoever with violence and jihad, by asserting that the Qur'an uses the term “jihad” only four times, none of which refer to an armed struggle. As such, jihad, in reference to Islamic terrorism and holy war, is a latter day invention of Muslims and has nothing to do with the fundamentals of their faith. However, something that they fail to mention is the fact that the concept of an Islamic holy war (as mentioned earlier) was not in itself a latter day invention, and the Qur'an does indeed contain numerous passages laying out the theory and practice of armed struggle (qi'tal) for Muslims. A few examples are as follows:
Islamic scholars have written volumes on Jihad. Here is just a small sample:
(b. 1944) is a Muslim German political scientist of Syrian origin who has taught at Göttingen, Harvard, and Cornell University.
The Western distinction between just and unjust wars linked to specific grounds for war is unknown in Islam. Any war against unbelievers, whatever its immediate ground, is morally justified. Only in this sense can one distinguish just and unjust wars in Islamic tradition. When Muslims wage war for the dissemination of Islam, it is a just war (futuhat, literally "opening," in the sense of opening the world, through the use of force, to the call to Islam); when non-Muslims attack Muslims, it is an unjust war ('idwan).
(1301-1373) who was an Islamic scholar.
Allah said, "Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the People of the Scripture, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." Therefore when the People of the Scripture disbelieved in Muhammad, they had no beneficial faith in any Messenger or what the Messengers brought. Rather they followed their religions because this conformed with their ideas, lusts, and the ways of their forefathers, not because they are Allah's laws and religion. Had they been true believers in their religions, that faith would have directed them to believe in Muhammad because all Prophets gave the good news of Muhammad's advent and commanded them to obey and follow him. Yet when he was sent, they disbelieved in him, even though he is the mightiest of all Messengers. Therefore, they do not follow the religion or earlier Prophets because these religions came from Allah, but because these suit their desires and lusts. Therefore, their claimed faith in an earlier Prophet will not benefit them because they disbelieved in the master, the mightiest, the last and most perfect of all Prophets. Hence Allah's statement, "Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the People of the Scripture."
Al-Amili was a Shia who wrote Jami-i-Abbasi. He died in 1621 CE.
Islamic Holy war against followers of other religions, such as Jews, is required unless they convert to Islam or pay the poll tax. There are twelve conditions required in paying the poll tax. First condition: According to some Mojtahids those possessing Holy Scriptures, such as Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, living in Muslim territories are obliged to pay the poll tax, (in lieu of conversion to Islam). ... If a Jew or any of those possessing Holy Scriptures converted to Islam, they were not obliged to pay the poll tax.
- Cook, David, Understanding Jihad, University of California Press, 2005, p.165-6
- Al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari (Ta'rikh al rusul wa'l-muluk), vol. 12: The Battle of Qadissiyah and the Conquest of Syria and Palestine, trans. Yohanan Friedman (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), p. 167.
- Waines (2003) "An Introduction to Islam" Cambridge University Press. p. 53
- Lewis (1984), p. 17, 18, 94, 95.
- M. Levy-Rubin, "New evidence relating to the process of Islamization in Palestine in the Early Muslim Period - The Case of Samaria", in: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 43 (3), p. 257-276, 2000, Springe
- Fattal, A.(1958) Le statut légal des non-Musulman en pays d'Islam, Beyrouth: Imprimerie Catholique, p. 72-73.
- Iraq's Mandaeans 'face extinction'
- Taliban Tells Pakistani Christians: Convert or Die
- Christian Minorities in the Islamic Middle East : Rosie Malek-Yonan on the Assyrians
- The assault on Assyrian Christians
- Told to Convert or Die, 21 Assyrian Families Seek Shelter in Baghdad Churches
- 'Conversion' sparks Copt protest
- Bill Warner - The Islam Tax - Right Side News, January 27, 2010
- Then after them We sent Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they wrongfully rejected them: So see what was the end of those who made mischief. Quran 7:103
- Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "He who allows himself to shed the blood of a Muslim, is like he who allows shedding the blood of all people. He who forbids shedding the blood of one Muslim, is like he who forbids shedding the blood of all people. Tafsir Ibn Kathir
- http://www.amren.com/mtnews/archives/2004/11/dutch_police_ar.php 3
- Interview with Bill Warner The Study of Political Islam Frontpagemag, February 05, 2007
- Somali president bends to rebel demand for sharia law
- Excerpted from Jami-i-Abbasi: yakdawrah-i fiqh-i, trans. Baha' al-Din Muhammad ibn Husayn al-Amili (Tehran: Muassasah-i Intisharat-i Farahani, 1980), pp. 153-154, 367, 417, 423, 428-32; English translation from the Farsi by Fatemeh Masjedi.