According to Islam, the literal meaning of jihad is to struggle or strive. Jihad means both an inner spiritual struggle as well as a holy war. Like many aspects of Islam, jihad also has different interpretations according to the scholars. Modern militant Islamic fundamentalists however interpret jihad in terms of a just and holy struggle against the outside world. Jihad against non Muslims is of four kinds: with the heart, the tongue, one’s wealth and oneself. Jihad against the non Muslims is more along the lines of physical fighting (Al-Munajjid).
According to the Islam, Jihad is normally permitted when Muslims are under attack or they are persecuted because of their religion. The majority of scholars, theologians and jurists understood Jihad in the military sense. The primary aim of Jihad is not to convert or force non Muslims to Islam but to expand and defend the Islamic state. Non Muslims would become “protected” people who had to pay taxes in return for protection and freedom to practice their religion. The classical Islamic jurists laid down strict rules of warfare in their books.
According to these books it was prohibited to kill non combatants, burn or cut trees, destroy places of worship or damage residential places. Jihad also has been used for offensive warfare by early groups like Kharijites who were the first sect in Islam. The Kharijites believed that a major sin made a Muslim an apostate and therefore had to be killed. Modern militant Islamic groups have also justified terrorist atrocities as part of Jihad. Attacks on Muslim civilians have been justified on the basis of the latter being collaborators with outside powers.
While there has been a difference in the implementation of Jihad amongst the Islamic scholars, they have been unanimous in understanding it in the military sense. Traditional Islamic books divided the world in to: House of Islamic Peace and House of War. The House of Islamic Peace was the area where Islamic government and rules prevailed. The outside world was considered to be the House of War. Muslims believed that eventually both domains would collide and war inevitable. Even though there would be truces, fighting would eventually occur with either the submission of the area to Islam or if the entire world converts to Islam.
According to Islam the person engaged in Jihad earns a reward both in this world and in the hereafter. Militant Muslims have found ample justifications in Islam to use terrorism and violence to achieve their political goals. The history of the Islamic world has religion mixed with politics. Intellectual movements that aimed at divorcing religion from politics achieved very limited success. This is because the majority of Muslims have notions of an ideal Islamic society. Militant Muslims therefore justify the use of terrorism and suicide bombings to create an ideal Islamic society that existed in the time of the Prophet and the four caliphs.
Militant Islamic groups have sprung from Egypt to Algeria where they have become a threat to existing regimes. Radical Islamic groups have emerged as leading insurgencies in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Philippines and other parts of the world. Iran and Saudi Arabia are two fundamentalist regimes that have been exporting their own versions of fundamentalist Islam. Pakistan is at the threshold of fundamentalist barbarism (Brewer 25). Islamic groups have their origins in the colonization of the Muslim world in the 18th and 19th Century by Europe.
The long and protracted decline of the Muslim world led to a stagnation in science and technology, military tactics, politics and economics. Radical Islamic groups rose as a reaction to what they perceived was the intrusion by Western powers. Islamic terrorist groups refer to their actions as Jihad. They have used tactics like hijackings, suicide bombings, beheadings, assassinations, kidnappings and roadside bombings. Both Muslims and Non Muslims have been targets and victims. Declaring a Muslims to an unbeliever is called takfir.
This caries a death sentence since any Muslim who becomes an unbeliever is an apostate and should be executed according to Islamic law (Brewer 35). Islamic groups are motivated by several factors to perpetrate violence. They believe that the United States supports Israel with military and economic aid. They perceive Israel to be an illegitimate state which has been oppressing and persecuting the Palestinians. They also seek to use violence to compel Western forces to end support for moderate governments that are considered weak and subservient to the West.
Islamist ideology is also based upon the belief that Muslims have corrupted their faith with heresies and deviations. They advocate a strict and literal interpretation of Islam and they also believe in individual reasoning rather than blindly following any traditional Islamic scholar. Islamists are also opposed to Western terms like democracy, pornography, immorality, feminism, secularism and homosexuality. The Old Testament is full of violence, wars, pestilence, executions, infanticide, torture and mutilation. According to the Old Testament God condemned the entire human race because of two people.
During the time of Moses, Egyptian babies were killed at the time of the Passover. There are also accounts of warfare. The Israelites are ordered to attack King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan. The Israelites are instructed to wipe out the entire city of Jericho under Joshua’s army. War was waged on Midian in which the men folk were murdered and the cities were burned to the ground. Warfare is a part of Old Testament scriptures. According to the book God himself had ordered Israelites to go to war. Capital punishment and killing during warfare has been permitted in the Old Testament.
Kidnapping, cursing parents, Sabbath breaking, sorcery, idolatry and bestiality all carry the death sentence according to the Old Testament. The wars fought under Moses and Joshua were bloody in which hand to hand fighting occurred. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were slain while entire cities were burned to the ground (Smith 102). The Old Testament mentions David as a great military warrior and king. Armed with faith, a sling and a few stones he slew the great giant warrior of the Philistines.
David as the king of Israel fought many battles with its neighbors in which tens of thousands of people were killed and cities were plundered. The Old Testament does not say that the Israelites should disband their armies. God’s prophets were not pacifists. Capital punishment and going to war is clearly permitted and instructed. The Old Testament is also full of examples of famine and pestilence being sent on the enemies of God. Human society became corrupted after the great flood. Abraham is considered to obey God and he gained many servants. Some of these servants were trained as soldiers.
Abraham sent his armies to rescue Lot in which his enemies were killed and the captives were rescued. This is the first mention of armies in the Bible. This incident also gives the first mention of military tactics since Abraham’s armies attacked in the night (Smith 122) Many shameful things have been perpetrated in the name of religions. However the fact is that Christians and Jews who use violence in the name of God to destroy their enemies have no justification to do it under the teachings of the scriptures. Muslims on the other hand have ample justification to use violence based on the Quran and Hadith.
The Old Testament verses speaking about warfare and bloodshed were for a limited time, specific people and had important spiritual lessons. Biblical scholars interpret these verses as God using Israel as an instrument to purge the land of sins. Nowhere in the Old Testament is there mention of Israelites being commanded to attack pagan nations, convert them or destroy them. Further no time was this violence codified or sanctioned into Jewish Law. Another reason why no one justifies terrorism and violence on the basis of Old Testament is because of the separation of church and state in the West and Israel.
Judaism and Christianity have both been reformed. The clergy and rabbis have nothing to do with politics. They are simply to perform religious services. The West was also under the influence of the Catholic Church. The Church interfered in the affairs of the state and enjoyed great taxes and exemptions. People who did not confirm to their views were tortured, murdered and burned to the stake. Scientists who questioned the Church’s doctrines were excommunicated or murdered. The Reformation and Renaissance ultimately led to the downfall of the power of the papacy. A secular modern West and Israel have completely divorced religion from politics.
Religion is the private affair of citizens and the state does not interfere in that. This is the reason why there is little or no justification by extremists to use violence and terrorism in the name of God.
Al-Munajjid, Sheikh Muhammed Salih . “Ruling on jihad and kinds of jihad . ” Islam QA Question and Answer. Islam QA. 5 Nov 2007 <http://www. islam-qa. com/index. php? ref=20214&ln=eng&txt=jihad>. Brewer, Paul . September 11 and Radical Islamic Terrorism. US: Gareth Stevens, 2006. Smith, Henry Preserved . Old Testament History . US: C. Scribner’s sons, 2001.