Islam Undressed: ‘Real Islam’ from the Religious Texts
More than Just the Qur'an
"Real Islam" is the way of living the ‘Messenger of Allah’ (Muhammad) practiced and taught, as it is understood by the majority of Muslims today. To understand how Muslims think and what they believe today, we need to look carefully at the material from which they have been taught. One can also look at the history of the different sects within Islam, but all real Islamic philosophy is fully contained in its recognized scripture. By Muslim belief and understanding, no prophet can or will follow Muhammad, so no further scripture will ever be offered to challenge or replace the existing works. Within several centuries of Muhammad’s death, Muslim theologians and jurists - Sunni, Shiite, and Sufi - constructed from Qur’anic verses (the Koran), the historical logs (the Hadith collections), and also the sacred biographies of Muhammad (the Sira). These foundational texts of Islam contain Muhammad’s words and deeds over a 23-year period, the Qur’an being dominant in Islamic theology. But even the Qur’anic suras (verses) are not given equal weight. The most applicable part of Islamic theology is based more heavily upon Muhammad’s final teachings and deeds than earlier writings. This work endeavors to uncover these most important final teachings, exactly as recorded in the Qur’an, using chronology and context identified by the Hadith (the traditions and sayings of Muhammad), and the biographical material in the Sira.
In studying the scripts, it needs to be remembered that many of his words are understood to apply only to a specific people for a specific time or event. It appears that as Muhammad’s circumstances changed, his words, teachings, commands, and attitudes also sometimes changed. Thus, as situations changed over time, Muhammad’s words and teachings morphed to accommodate them, and so real Islam also changed over time. In the end, at Muhammad’s death, the philosophy and conduct of Islam and its followers solidified to a more stable and recognizable form. Therefore, to determine what real Islam teaches regarding Jihad and violence, we must examine not just the text, but also its chronology, context, and scope. 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 we are going to do is examine a number of Qur’anic passages related to Jihad and violence. Citations obtained from related Islamic texts in the Hadith and Sira are also presented to provide background, context, and chronology. Additionally, various references and commentary from early Islamic scholars’ (tafsir) will be presented. When appropriate, quotations will be presented by other historians, scholars or experts on Islam, be they Muslim, Christian, Hindu, or secular.
After this we are going to go a step further; we’re also going to examine Muhammad’s actions. Actions ever speak louder than words; therefore, let us lend an ear to hear what it is that his deeds speak about the man. A wise sage said, "A man is defined by what he does." Thus, Muhammad’s works must be thoroughly scrutinized, for surely they truly portray his heart and show us who he was, and what he truly believed. This is all the more important in our study because Muslims relationship’ with the God they worship is by and through the words and example of their prophet. The absolute truth, as accepted by all Muslims, is that Muhammad was the ‘seal’ of the prophets; or the last and final representative of God. Essentially, they believe that God completed his delivery of all revelation and instruction to men by the words and example of His final ‘Messenger’, and that new revelations or prophets are no longer possible. So the texts mentioned, which contain the teachings and example of Muhammad, are the only source material available for Muslims to follow and pattern their lives after.
We will also briefly review what Muhammad’s closest companions understood to be his final wishes, which direction they believed were the commands of God to His messenger or apostle. We will 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, they continued to fulfill and obey his commands, as they understood his final clear directions and wishes. They loved Muhammad, obeyed his commands, and put their lives on the line for him time and again. Hence, we can safely assume that their actions accurately depict their understanding of how Muhammad wanted them to carry on Islam (i.e. real Islam).
If Muhammad’s calls to violence found within the texts were only for a specific period, against a specific people, for an understandable cause such as self-defense, or to alleviate the persecution 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 to install Islam as the dominant power, then it would be deliberate deception to call Islam in Muhammad’s day a religion of Peace. By extension that would also mean Islam today is not a religion of Peace since that final philosophy and direction is unalterable.
In light of the long, often violent history of Islam’s expansion, and the many more recent terrorist attacks in the world, it would be foolish to rely on carefully crafted statements, in English, from prominent Muslims regarding the true nature of Islam. Westerners are inclined to believe religious leaders are normally honest and pious, and we desperately want to believe that all Muslim clerics and imams are similarly disposed, but that is a dangerous assumption. Unfortunately, as will be shown in subsequent chapters, practicing dishonesty and deception towards non-believers is also a part of accepted Islamic doctrine, and success at such deliveries in the advance of Islam is celebrated and rewarded.
So, let us start our study of official Islamic doctrine.
The Doctrine of Abrogation
Statements from Islamic theologians profess that the Qur’an is the immutable and unalterable word of Allah, but such statements should not be taken literally, as what is really meant (and understood by Muslims) is; "Qur'anic passages that have not been abrogated are the immutable and unalterable word of Allah". Understanding the doctrine of Abrogation as it is applied in interpreting the Qur’an is critical to this study. This unusual application is an important principal and facet of Islamic studies. We must start with the Qur’an because it is one of the foundations of Islam. Islam is built upon the Qur’an and "Sunnah", or lifestyle of Muhammad. Many Western readers will probably be inclined to apply traditional methods of logic and study of Biblical scriptures to their study of the Qur’an. They will be tempted to take various Qur’anic verses at face value, mistakenly thinking that all the verses in the Qur’an have equal weight and are equally applicable today. They may reason that since the Qur’an in one place says, "there is no compulsion in religion"; it must mean that Muslims are not to force people into Islam. This approach, however, is erroneous. One of the odd facets of the Qur’an is that some verses "abrogate" other verses, or in other words, they cancel them, rendering them null and void and no longer applicable.
Apparently, even in Muhammad’s day his followers noticed and were concerned about changing and conflicting directions issued, which undoubtedly led to Muhammad issuing Sura 2:106:
It seems the all-knowing and perfect Allah was in development for some time before he finally got it right. Sort of a huge contradiction against the concept of an Omni-Science God, but let’s just skip over that rather disturbing problem and move right along shall we?
"Abrogation" means the canceling or replacement of one Qur’anic passage by another. It seems that as circumstances changed during the 23-year period that Muhammad dictated the Qur’an, the directions and precepts found therein sometimes changed to accommodate new and changing political and military realities, sometimes quite dramatically. Thus, the Qur’an abrogates or cancels itself in various passages and presents seemingly conflicting statements. Muslims do not view the application of Abrogation as a contradiction, but rather, as improvements to better suit varying circumstances or needs, or to fit Muhammad’s religious concepts as they should be applied for different times. For example, most Islamic scholars consider that the verse referenced above "there is no compulsion in religion", found in 2:256, has been abrogated by the passage found in 9:5, (more on this later). This is widely understood because the more tolerant 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" state: "Qur’anic injunctions themselves may be abrogated, as has happened in a few cases. An example of this abrogation is 24:2 which abrogates the punishment of adultery, (q.v.) stated in 4:15-16. A study of the Qur’an shows first, that only a limited number of Qur’anic 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" the great Islamic scholar Arthur Jeffery wrote: "The Qur’an 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 Qur’anic science known as "Nasikh wa Mansukh", i.e.: "the Abrogators and the Abrogated"."
The Encyclopedia of Islam 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.
Therefore various Qur’anic passages are recognized as having been abrogated, and it is normal that some Islamic doctrine changes over time. As such, rules that were once correctly applied to one set of circumstances, may not necessarily apply to a different reality at a later date. This concept is unusual by Western religious standards in its scope, and there are even minor disagreements within Islam regarding which teaching or doctrine abrogates another. In general, Muslims recognize more recent passages and writings as the most applicable, abrogating earlier references on the same subject matter. Therefore, when discussing Islam and Jihad, what must be considered most applicable are Muhammad’s final teachings and commands, especially what his last wishes and instructions were regarding Jihad and violence. From the viewpoint of the non-Muslim world, we must know which Qur’anic passages are still in force today for the Muslim community, and which are not. Earlier statements related to peace may or may not have been abrogated by later statements related to violence, or visa versa. We must carefully examine the context of the texts to know which Jihadic directions are acceptable and in force today.
The revered work "al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh" (The Abrogators and the Abrogated) deals in great detail with many subject matters addressed in the Qur’an wherein there appears to be some conflict or contradiction. The book goes through every sura (chapter), pointing out in full detail every verse which has been canceled, and the verse(s) which replace it. The author notes that out of 114 suras, there are only 43 which were not affected by this concept. As an example of the scope of abrogation in the Qur’an: there are 125 versus that call for relative patience or tolerance which have been canceled and replaced by sura 9:5 and sura 5:33:
Muslim activists universally fail to reveal to Westerners this major doctrine, hiding the fact that earlier oft quoted conciliatory passages have been rendered null and void for over 1300 years. When Westerners discover it on their own they complain we misinterpret such writings or misapply their impact. Muslim promoters prefer to polish Islam's image by quoting the earlier abrogated Meccan passages that call for patience and forbearance. Spokespersons hide or omit Medinan passages that clearly call for killing and maiming. When hearing representatives explain Islam by quoting the earlier more peaceful verses as dominant in Islamic philosophy, the only conclusion that is reasonable is that: either the presenter is completely ignorant of genuine Islamic doctrine, or he is practicing officially sanctioned Islamic deceit.
Because opinions with regard to proper conduct between believers and non-believers varies widely, the question of which Qur’anic verses are ‘alive’ and being applied today, is critical to understanding ‘Real Islam’, and potentially to our own survival. Ibn Warraq summarizes the Muslim concept of abrogation as follows:
Chronology and Abrogation in the QUR’AN
The Qur’an itself is not arranged in any kind of chronological order …not even close. We will next review the general chronology of the Qur’anic listings, especially with respect to their violent Jihadic passages. This is challenging because their remains some uncertainties regarding its exact chronology. There is no standard chronological agreement among scholars as to when chapters or even portions of chapters were revealed during Muhammad’s life. Some of Muhammad’s words, spoken as the Qur’an near the end of his life, were folded into passages he spoke near the beginning of his declared prophet-hood. Therefore, the Qur’an is a jumbled chronological hodgepodge. In and of itself, the Qur’an is practically worthless when it comes to determining its chronology. The only corroborating references that are able to provide us a guide as to when certain passages were spoken are the Sira and Hadith. Sometimes they provide chronological details behind the Qur’an’s verses. However, as a whole, scholars are unable to completely determine the Qur’an’s chronology. Consequently, they only offer their best, educated, opinions. In our study, we are most interested in the opinions accepted by the majority of Muslims today.
A Qur’anic chronology is very important because what Muhammad said earlier in his life was not necessarily the final word on the subject and did not necessarily apply to later events. By any standard of evaluation, it appears Muhammad was often prepared and willing to change his mind, vows, and rules to fit his ever increasing aspirations. (See the selection of Hadiths from Sahih Muslim, book 15, #s 4044 – 4062). If we are to understand true Islamic Jihad as it is understood and taught today, then we need to establish his final position with respect to Jihad and aggression, as his first words and directions are not as significant or controlling. Hence, the last few chronological passages of the Qur’an are of great importance, as are the subsequent actions of his closest companions as they followed that final direction.
The following is a quote from the Encyclopedia of Islam with respect to Qur’anic chronology and abrogation.
"The Kuran responds constantly and often explicitly to Muhammad's historical situation, giving encouragement in times of persecution, answering questions from his followers and opponents, commenting on current events, etc. Major doctrines and regulations for the Muslim community, which are never stated systematically in the Kuran, are introduced gradually and in stages that are not always clear. There are apparent contradictions and inconsistencies in the presentation of both the beliefs and the regulations, and the latter are sometimes altered to fit new situations. Thus it is essential to know the approximate dates or historical settings of some passages, and at least the chronological order of others, if they are to be understood fully. This problem was recognized by early Muslim scholars who devoted much attention to it in the first few centuries, until a fairly rigid system of dating was established and given the imprimatur of orthodoxy. …".
First we note that a majority of various Qur’anic passages relative to "Jihad" or violence come from chapter nine. Most scholars agree that chapter nine is from a very late period - near the end of Muhammad’s life. The great Muslim historian Tabari, in volume 8, (who wrote a 39 volume Islamic history and an extensive commentary on the Qur’an), shows that the conquest of Mecca occurred in 630. Ibn Ishaq documented, in a work which is the most authentic biographical material available today, "Sirat Rasulallah", page 617, that the main Jihad section of chapter 9 was revealed in AH 9 (i.e. 631). Muhammad died in 632. Therefore, chapter 9 was revealed during Muhammad’s last two years, if not in the last year. Chapter 5 is usually thought to be the last chronological chapter, but it does not have many references to Jihad.
The Egyptian standard edition of the Qur’an gives the following chronological order of the Suras, with the verses said to date from a different period given in parentheses:
XCVI, LXVIII (17-33, 48-50 Med.), LXXIII (10 f., 20 Med.), LXXIV, I, CXI, LXXXI, LXXXVII, XCII, LXXXIX, XCIII, XCIV, CIII, C, CVIII, CII, CVII, CIX, CV, CXIII, CXIV, CXII, LIII, LXXX, XCVII, XCI, LXXXV, CVI, CI, LXXV, XCV, CIV, LXXVII (48 Med.), L (38 Med.), XC, LXXXVI, LIV (54-6 Med.), XXXVIII, VII (163-70 Med.), LXXII, XXXVI (45 Med.), XXV (68-70 Med.), XXXV, XIX (58, 71 Med.), XX (130 f. Med.), LVI (71 f. Med.), XXVI (197, 224-7 Med.),XXVII, XXVIII (52-5 Med., 85 during Hijrah), XVII (26, 32 f., 57, 73-80 Med.), X (40, 94-6 Med.), XI (12, 17, 114 Med.), XII (1-3, 7 Med.), XV, VI (20, 23, 91, 114, 141, 151-3 Med.), XXXVII, XXXI (27-9 Med.), XXXIV (6 Med.), XXXIX (52-4 Med.), XL (56 f. Med.), XLI, XLII (23-5, 27 Med.), XLIII (54 Med.), XLIV, XLV (14 Med.), XLVI (10, 15, 35 Med.), LI, LXXXVIII, XVIII (28, 83-101 Med.), XVI (126-8 Med.), LXXI, XIV (28 f. Med.), XXI, XXIII, XXXII (16-20 Med.), LII, LXVII, LXIX, LXX, LXXVIII, LXXIX, LXXXII, LXXXIV, XXX (17 Med.), XXIX (1-11 Med.), LXXXIII Hijrah, II (281 later), VIII (30-6 Mec.), III, XXXIII, LX, IV, XCIX, LVII, XLVII (13 during Hijrah), XIII, LV, LXXVI, LXV, XCVIII, LIX, XXIV, XXII, LXIII, LVIII, XLIX, LXVI, LXIV, LXI, LXII, XLVIII, V, IX (128 f. Mec.), CX.
The Encyclopedia of Islam also details three Western Islamic scholars chronology of the Qur’an. (Noldeke was one of the greatest Qur’anic scholars from the West). This is the chronological order of the last Medinan Suras listed in their work: Weil: 2, 98, 62, 65, 22, 4, 8, 47, 57, 3, 59, 24, 63, 33, 48, 110, 61, 60, 58, 49, 66, 9, 5. Noldeke and Blachere: 2, 98, 64, 62, 8, 47, 3, 61, 57, 4, 65, 59, 33, 63, 24, 58, 22, 48, 66, 60, 110, 49, 9, 5.
[NOTE: Traditional Western dating breaks the chronological order of the Qur’an up into 3 or 4 groups. The last group (sometimes called "late Medinan") is presented above. There are earlier suras in both lists above, however, for space’s sake, and editing time, only the last sura grouping is presented. Note that sura 9 is the second to last in all these three scholar’s groupings.]
Canon Sell in "The Historical Development of the Qur’an" details that Jalalu-d-Din as-Syuti (a great Muslim Qur’anic scholar) lists chapter 9 second to last, and Sir William Muir (a great Western Islamic scholar) lists chapter 9 as last. All of the above-mentioned references also list chapter 5 near the chronological end, if not at the very end.
The Hadith states:
So Sura 9 was considered by him to be one of the last, if not the last revealed chapters of the Qur’an.
Therefore, the works of six top scholars, (3 Muslim, 3 Western), all agree that chapter 9 is either the last or second to last chapter to be spoken or revealed by Muhammad. Consequently, since this chapter contains the largest amount of violent passages, this is our focus. In classical exegesis then, as a result of being the last Chapter revealed, Sura 9 would dominate, or abrogate, conflicting Qur’anic passages from earlier periods.
In "Milestones, Ideologue of Fundamentalist Islam in Egypt", Syed Qutb argues strongly for Jihad from select Qur’anic verses (4:74-76; 8:38-40; 9:29-32). These passages alone, he states, suffice to justify the universal and permanent dimensions of Jihad (pp. 53-76). All this being said, to be thorough and fair, we will also review other relevant earlier passages on Islamic violence and Jihad found in the Qur’an.
‘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). 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". Unfortunately, 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 that word occur in the Qur’an about 35 times. Additionally throughout the Qur’an there are different words utilized for various other forms of violence. Overall, 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: JIHAD = JAHADA (verb). To struggle, strive, fight for the faith.
The following is a more detailed definition of Jihad from the Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam , page 89:
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 Kuran patience under attack is taught; no other attitude was possible. But at Medina 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."
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;
"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 Qur’anic 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 know as qital ("fighting").
Regarding Jihad, the "Tafsir of Ibn Kathir" on verse 2:191 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 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", 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. 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:
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: "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."
A Hadith report by Muslim confirms this philosophy:
"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."
o9.1 OBLIGATORY CHARACTER OF JIHAD: 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: Koran 4:95 "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."
o9.3 Jihad is also obligatory for everyone able to perform it, male or female, old or young when the enemy has surrounded the Muslims.o9.8 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." Qur’an 9:29 The Caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim…
Finally, a telling insight on the true meaning and scope of Jihad is provided from Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari:
The Qur’an says Jihad receives the highest reward and is the surest way to paradise if the "fighter" dies:
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, "Muslims are religiously obliged to disseminate the Islamic faith throughout the world.... If non-Muslims submit to conversion or subjugation, this call can be pursued peacefully. If they do not, Muslims are obliged to wage war against them. … Those who resist Islam cause wars and are responsible for them"
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 are 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:
…through an examination of media statements by university-based specialists, they tend to portray the phenomenon of jihad in a remarkably similar fashion—only, the portrait happens to be false. … from the more than two dozen experts I surveyed, only four of them admit that jihad has any military component whatsoever, and even they, with but a single exception, insist that this component is purely defensive in nature. … To another half-dozen scholars in my survey, jihad may likewise include militarily defensive engagements, but this meaning is itself secondary to lofty notions of moral self-improvement. … But an even larger contingent—nine of those surveyed—deny that jihad has any military meaning whatsoever. The trouble with this accumulated wisdom of the scholars is simple to state. It suggests that Osama bin Laden had no idea what he was saying when he declared jihad on the United States several years ago and then repeatedly murdered Americans in Somalia, at the U.S. embassies in East Africa, in the port of Aden, and then on September 11, 2001. It implies that organizations with the word "jihad" in their titles, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad and bin Laden's own "International Islamic Front for the Jihad against Jews and Crusaders," are grossly misnamed. And what about all the Muslims waging violent and aggressive jihads, under that very name and at this very moment, in Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao, Ambon, and other places around the world? Have they not heard that jihad is a matter of controlling one's anger? But of course it is bin Laden, Islamic Jihad, and the jihadists worldwide who define the term, not a covey of academic apologists. More importantly, the way the jihadists understand the term is in keeping with its usage through fourteen centuries of Islamic history.
In the pre-20th century years (pre-modern times), jihad meant mainly one thing among Islamic majority Sunni Muslims. It meant the legal, compulsory, communal effort to expand the territories ruled by Muslims at the expense of territories ruled by non-Muslims. In this prevailing pre-modern view, the purpose of jihad is more political than religious. It aims first to extend sovereign Muslim power, and then by default to promote and spread the Islamic faith to those subjugated. The goal was boldly offensive, with its ultimate intent nothing less than to achieve Muslim dominion over the entire world. By winning territory and diminishing the size of areas ruled by non-Muslims, jihad accomplishes two goals: it manifests Islam's claim to replace other faiths, and it brings about the benefit of an Islamic ‘just’ world order. In 1955 (before political correctness conquered the universities), Majid Khadduri of Johns Hopkins University wrote that jihad is "an instrument for both the universalization of (Islamic) religion and the establishment of an imperial world state." As for the conditions under which jihad might be undertaken—when, by whom, against whom, with what sort of declaration of war, ending how, with what division of spoils, and so on—these are matters that Islamic religious scholars over the centuries worked out in excruciating detail. But about the basic meaning of jihad—warfare against unbelievers to extend Muslim domains—there was perfect consensus in pre-modern times. For example, the most important collection of Hadith (reports about the sayings and actions of Muhammad), called Sahih al-Bukhari, contains 199 references to jihad, and every one of them refers to it in the sense of armed warfare against non-Muslims. To quote the 1885 Dictionary of Islam, jihad is "an incumbent religious duty, established in the Qur'an and in the traditions (Hadith) as a divine institution, and enjoined especially for the purpose of advancing Islam and of repelling evil from Muslims." In the vast majority of pre-modern cases jihad signified one thing only: armed action against non-Muslims justified by both Allah and His messenger (Muhammad) as requisite for the advancement of Islam.
That said, jihad also had two variant meanings over the ages, one of them even more radical than the standard meaning and one quite pacific. The first, mainly associated with the thinker Ibn Taymiya (1268-1328), holds that born Muslims who fail to live up to the requirements of their faith are themselves to be considered unbelievers, and so legitimate targets of jihad. This tended to come in handy when (as was often the case) one Muslim ruler made war against another by portraying the enemy as not properly Muslim enough. The second variant, usually associated with Sufis, or Muslim mystics, was the doctrine customarily translated as "greater" or "higher" jihad. This Sufi variant invokes allegorical modes of interpretation to turn jihad's literal meaning of armed conflict upside-down, calling instead for a withdrawal from the world to struggle against one's baser instincts in pursuit of numinous awareness and spiritual depth. But as Rudolph Peters notes in his authoritative Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam (1995), this interpretation was "hardly touched upon" in pre-modern legal writings on jihad. Jihad is a concept has caused and continues to cause discomfort and untold human suffering. In the words of Bat Ye'or (the Swiss Islamic specialist), Jihad is responsible for "war, dispossession, dhimmitude (subordination), slavery, and death." As Bat Ye'or points out, Muslims "have the right as Muslims to say that jihad is just and spiritual" if they so wish; but by the same token, any truly honest accounting would have to give voice to the countless "infidels who were and are the victims of jihad" and who, no less than the victims of Nazism or Communism, have "their own opinion of the jihad that targets them."
… Some deny that jihad has any martial component whatsoever, instead redefining the idea into a purely spiritual or social activity. But unfortunately for the rest of the world, most Muslims in the world today largely reject these moves away from the old definition and purpose of jihad. Instead, the classic notion of jihad continues to resonate with vast numbers of them, as Alfred Morabia, a foremost French scholar of the topic, noted in 1993: "Offensive, bellicose jihad, the one codified by the specialists and theologians, has not ceased to awaken an echo in the Muslim consciousness, both individual and collective. . . . To be sure, contemporary apologists present a picture of this religious obligation that conforms well to the contemporary norms of human rights, . . . but the people are not convinced by this. . . . The overwhelming majority of Muslims remain under the spiritual sway of a law . . . whose key requirement is the demand, not to speak of the hope, to make the Word of God triumph everywhere in the world."
… For usage of the term in its plain meaning, we have to turn to Islamists not engaging in public relations. Such Islamists speak openly of jihad in its proper, martial sense. Here is Osama bin Laden: Allah "orders us to carry out the holy struggle, jihad, to raise the word of Allah above the words of the unbelievers." And here is Mullah Muhammad Omar, the former head of the Taliban regime, exhorting Muslim youth: "Head for jihad and have your guns ready."
Pipes got it right, pointing out that the argument and issue is really a moot point. In fact it does not matter what propagandists and apologists, our educated elitists, or Pipes and other scholars 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 2008 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. Non-Muslims who contend that jihad war is not a main tenet of traditional Islam do so in blissful ignorance. 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. These uniquely Islamic delineations ("House of War" and "House of Islam") were formulated by consensus from the early classical period of Muslim jurisprudence.
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. 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.
"I would have liked… to add to the flood of crocodile tears flowing from the four corners of the earth, as an expression of sorrow for America's victims… but I have found that my reservoir of tears ran dry a hundred years ago… Perhaps in another hundred years the time will come for me to cry over five thousand or even fifty thousand slain Americans." "Did I say five thousand? Did I say fifty thousand? By Allah, this number is miniscule…" "The tyrants of the world and of history (i.e. the Americans) suddenly discovered that their leader too could be attacked, and that the white Christian man can scream, suffer pain, bleed, and die…" "Do you want me to cry, right this minute, over two or three buildings? By Allah, that's ridiculous. How can someone who knows how you destroyed countries and obliterated cities from the face of the earth be sorry about two buildings…" "Despite all this, I did not exult. Death has glory and majesty, even when it is a dog that dies, let alone five thousand souls. I sat in front of the television and tears filled my eyes. I admit, I did not cry out of sympathy [for the victims]; [I cried] out of fear of Allah the powerful, the precious, the victor, the avenger, the just; how he takes the tyrants just when they think they rule the Earth and are capable of confronting Him…" "Islam is alive and well. The hero martyrs in Palestine are the ones who showed the world the incredible potential of the martyr's body. Whoever the perpetrators of the act [in the U.S.] may be, Islam is their teacher and their professor…"
- Mir, Mustansir, "Dictionary of Qur’anic Terms and Concepts", Garland, New York, NY, 1987, pp. 5-6
- Jeffery, Arthur, "Islam: Muhammad and His Religion", Bobs Merril, p. 66
- "Encyclopedia of Islam", published by Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands.
- Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi, An-Nasikh wal- Mansukh, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, birute, 1986 p.27
- Warraq, Ibn. What The Koran Really Says, Amherst, N.Y., 2002, pp. 67-69.
- Muslim, Abu’l-Husain, "Sahih Muslim", translated by A. Siddiqi, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1971 [Internet version available at: www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/muslim ]
- al-Tabari, "Ta'rikh al-rusul wa'l-muluk", (The History of al-Tabari), volume 8, State University of New York Press, 1997.
- Ibn Ishaq, (d.782), "Sirat Rasulallah", compiled by A. Guillaume as "The Life of Muhammad", Oxford, London, 1955
- Sell, Canon, "The Historical Development of the Qur’an", published by People International, p. 204.
- Kassis, Hanna, "Concordance of the Qur’an", University of California Press, Los Angeles, CA, 1983.
- "Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam", edited by H.A.R. Gibb, published by Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands.
- Ibn Kathir, "Tafsir of Ibn Kathir (vol. 2)" published by Al-Firdous, New York, NY, 2000, pp. 116-117
- "Reliance of the Traveler", (A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law), by Ahmad al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, published by Amana publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA 1991, 1997, p. 599
- Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani, La Risala (Epitre sur les elements du dogme et de la loi de l'Islam selon le rite malikite.) Translated from Arabic by Leon Bercher. 5th ed. Algiers, 1960, p. 165. [English translation, in Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam, Cranston, NJ, 1996, p. 295]
- Ibn Taymiyyah, in Rudolph Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam, (Princeton, NJ. : Markus Wiener, 1996, p. 49)
- From the Hidayah, vol. Ii. P. 140, in Thomas P. Hughes, "A Dictionary of Islam," "Jihad" Pp. 243-248. (London, United Kingdom.: W.H. Allem, 1895).
- Al- Mawardi, The Laws of Islamic Governance [al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, (London, United Kingdom.: Ta-Ha, 1996, p. 60).
- Ibn Khaldun, "The Muqudimmah. An Introduction to History," Translated by Franz Rosenthal. (New York, NY.: Pantheon, 1958, vol. 1, p. 473).
- Khadduri, Majid. War and Peace in the Law of Islam, 1955, Richmond, VA and London, England, pp. 63-64.
- Tibi, Bassam. "War and Peace in Islam" in The Ethics of War and Peace: Religious and Secular Perspectives, edited by Terry Nardin, 1996, Princeton, N.J., pp. 129-131.