Islam · Islamic State · Islamophobia

Jihad: Striving for Peace

Students in my “Muslims in American Society” course at Rice University have produced some excellent material to counter the Islamophobia industry. Here is the latest peace on dismantling the idea that “jihad means violence.” I highly recommend that you read the entire blog. A few passages to get you started…

“I think all of us recognize that this great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted to justify violence towards innocent people that is never justified.” – President Barack Obama

The “jihad” of terrorism deviates from Islamic jihad in four ways.

Firstly, Islamic jihad is to be authorized by a recognized authority to deter aggression. Terrorists – individuals and groups who are not legitimate leaders in any way – act as aggressors to strike fear rather than directly counter any aggression. Using their own rationalizations, terrorism “jihad” ignores the arguments of anti-terrorism Muslim imams and scholars. ISIS, for example, establishes itself as an authority (a “caliphate”) and improperly uses jihad to gain territory and force their views onto others.

Secondly, Islamic jihad is to only focus on active enemy combatants, but terrorists routinely kill innocent civilians, the majority of whom are Muslim. Pre-modern jihad discussion focused on the immunity of non-combatants and the need for proportionality of force. This Jus in Bello (law of war) is downplayed in modern terrorism, as shown by the killing of innocent people. Additionally, the “jihad” of terrorism often calls for greater violence than the violence terrorists claim to be fighting against.

Thirdly, jihad is to be a public declaration, but terrorism is plotted secretly and as surprise attacks.

Finally, jihad has many rules and restrictions, while terrorism has transgressed all bounds of respect for human life, killing innocent children and terrorizing nations. Some terrorists “rationalize” this by claiming that the US government is indiscriminate in its drone strikes, and that the innocent victims selected the government. Such rationalization only seeks an “eye for an eye,” and fulfills nothing but a misdirected sense of anger and revenge.

Keep reading on our course blog Muslims America

7 thoughts on “Jihad: Striving for Peace

  1. A fairly one sided selection of sources here if I may say so. It would not be difficult to find more aggressive definitions of jihad from Islamic scholars past and present.

    This is what Rice’s Professor of Religious Studies David Cook has written on the subject

    “Many contemporary Muslim writers, recognizing the negative connotations that jihad has acquired in European languages, maintain that the word means nothing more than “striving”. Yet this position, predominant among Muslim apologists writing in non-Muslim (predominantly Western) languages, is disingenuous…‘Warfare with spiritual significance’ is the primary and root meaning of the term as it has been defined by classical Muslim jurists and legal scholars and as it was practised by Muslims during the premodern era. This meaning is sustained in the standard definition given in the new edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam: “In law, according to general doctrine and in historical tradition, the jihad consists of military action with the object of the expansion of Islam and, if need be, of its defense.” This terse summary of Muslim law and history is the standard, scholarly one.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. JJ has a good point Jihad can be both physical and spiritual depending on the situation

    A great God based and morality based religion is not worth the name religion at all if it does not support JIHAD that is : taking efforts, struggling hard and if necessary taking arms by the good against the evil.

    Palestinians can under strict Islamic leadership can start an armed liberation movement to liberate their nation by Jihad That is approved Jihad on any interpretation but not by terrorism but guided by a Imam(a Muslim leader).

    Did not the Americans carry out Jihad in various countries fighting against aggression, oppression, occupation, persecution, tyranny, discrimination, human right violations and injustice.

    If Muslims do it as per strict religious rules why brand with a different name.

    In Islam JIHAD signifies a physical, moral , spiritual and intellectual effort. No ideology worth its name or national constitution wants its adherents, followers to tolerate oppression, cruelty and injustice

    The Quran chooses a vaguer, richer word jihad with a wide range of connotations. The Jihad is not one of the five pillars of Islam. It is not the central prop of the religion despite the common view of non-Muslims.

    But it was and remains a duty for Muslims to commit themselves to a struggle on all fronts- moral, spiritual and political—to create a just and decent society, where the poor and the vulnerable are not exploited, in the way that God had intended man to live. This duty is applied by all religious groups and nations too.

    Was not fighting against Hitler’s ideology a jihad? War of justice war against aggression. Which national ideology accept aggression peacefully?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Selective reading by many readers makes them blind to the real Islamic spirit of Jihad

    There is a well known saying of Muhammad(pbuh). He was returning from a battle.

    He said,


    The little Jihad he mentioned was the battle and the greater Jihad he mentioned was conquering the forces of evil in oneself and in one’s own society in all the details of daily life.

    The Quran amplifies this forcefully,


    “ Had God not driven back the people, some by the means of others, the earth had surely been corrupted ; but God is merciful unto all beings.”

    When the people of a territory were chased out of their land like morbid dogs by the merciless hordes and aggressors ( as it happened in Palestine) the people of Palestine can engage in Jihad but strictly under the laws of Islam following their spiritual leader. You want a present day example , you got one.

    The Quran says

    “Fighting is an evil thing, but to bar people from God’s way, disbelief in Him and the Holy Mosque, and to expel its people from it —that is more evil in God’s sight. And persecution is worse than
    killing.” Holy Quran 2: 213.

    So as an example the persecuted Palestinians have every right to do Jihad.

    Liked by 1 person

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