Violence and Jihad in Islam: From the War of Words to the Clashes of Definitions
2. Jihad: From Polysemy to Semantic Indeterminacy and Overinterpretation
2.1. Jihad in the Qur’an and the Islamic Tradition
2.2. Jihad: From Manipulations to Instrumentalizations and Excessive Interpretations
3. Islam and Violence: A War of Words and Definitions
3.1. Violence and Islam, What Does the Islamic Tradition Say?
Whoever maintains that it is not Islam as such that justifies violence must know that he or she stands in direct opposition to the prevailing reading of the founding texts, a reading which objectively had its reasons in the first centuries of the history of Islam, but which continues to have followers until today, despite the radical changes and even upheavals in the position and impact of Muslims in the world.
3.2. Authority and Legitimate Violence
When people (who have a religious coloring) come to have the (right) insight into their affairs, nothing can withstand them, because their outlook is one and their object one of common accord… (On the other hand,) the members of the dynasty they attack may be many times as numerous as they. But their purposes differ, in as much as they are false purposes, and (the people of the worldly dynasty) come to abandon each other, since they are afraid of death. Therefore, they do not offer resistance to (the people with a religious coloring), even if they themselves are more numerous. They are overpowered by them and quickly wiped out, as a result of the luxury and humbleness existing among them, as we have mentioned before.
3.3. The Da’wa: From Proselytism to Coercion
4. The Narrative of War in Islam
4.1. No War without Peace
4.2. Justification of War in Islam
You will find others who wish to obtain security from you and [to] obtain security from their people. Every time they are returned to [the influence of] disbelief, they fall back into it. So if they do not withdraw from you or offer you peace or restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you overtake them. And those–We have made for you against them a clear authorization.(Qur’an, 4:91)
And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, ‘Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?’.(Qur’an, 4:75)
And if two factions among the believers should fight, then make settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinance of Allah. And if it returns, then make settlement between them in justice and act justly. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.(Qur’an, 49:9)
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
In comparison with the 181 verses where the words sulh (peace and reconciliation), ṣalaḥ (goodness), al-salihin (virtuous), and their derivatives appear. This point will be dealt with in the third section of this article.
Ibn Baz (d. 1999) considered jihad as the sixth pillar of Islam. On his official website, we can read the following opinion: ‘And the most beloved thing of God is to get close to Him through the obligatory prayers, zakat, fasting, Hajj and jihad’. https://binbaz.org.sa/search?q=%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%AF%20%D9%87%D9%88%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%86%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%B3%20%D9%85%D9%86%20%D8%A3%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A7%D9%86%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85&type=fatwa&page=3&operator=OR&filters=title&filters=question&filters=description (accessed on 23 October 2019).
Qital does not incorporate the range of meanings found in jihad. Linguistically, it is less extensive as it is specifically reserved for war in the Qur’an. We counted 171 verses in which the word qital appears. We counted approximately 10 verses where the word harb means war.
In the Pakistani context, the former president of the republic, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, promoted an increased Islamization of the army, which was expressed in the ideological training of officers, in the adoption of a new army motto: “Iman, Taqwa, Jihad-fi-Sabilillah: Faith, piety and fighting in the path of God”. Zia foreworded the book written by brigadier general S. K. Malik, published in 1979 on The Quranic Concept of War. According to S.K. Malik, the Qur’an places the doctrine of war and its theory on the side of God. In matters of fighting, the principles and commandments are directly dictated by God. See Malik ( 1986).
Besides these four types of jihad, Natana J. Delong-Bas Jihad evoked, in her study, other types, including educational jihad (jihad al-tarbiyyah; educational jihad can be attributed in general terms to the actions of various movements of Islamic tendency whose action focuses on schools and education.
The book of governance according to the shari’a.
This verse was revealed as the circumstances of the ‘Peace of Hudaibiyah’ in 628, between the Prophet and Quraysh.
Abu Musab al-Suri’s influential book, Call for Global Islamic Resistance, is nevertheless an exceptional example. In 1600 pages, the author analysed his intellectual achievements and theories of jihad in the light of his personal experience and influences. The theory of jihad adopts the method of renewal in the work of jihadism and ‘the ideology of the Islamic awakening movement’ (p. 881). The book is widely disseminated in the jihadist milieu for its analytical value. Abu Musab al-Suri theorised the strategies of individual jihadism by developing, in page 1356, the three schools of jihadism:
According to Brynjar Lia, Abu Musab al-Suri’s work is the first to offer teachings on the non-central global jihad. His is the best point of view among ‘jihad’ ideologues and strategists, as his work and analyses are both systematic and comprehensive. According to Brynjar Lia, his honesty and self-criticism are typical of jihadist circles. See Lia (2008).
In L’Orient Imaginaire, Thierry Hentsch analyses the paradigmatic change that occurred 200 years before 2001, with Bonaparte’s 1798 expedition to Egypt marking a major turning point in East–West relations in the Mediterranean. This expedition was an abrupt manifestation of a long-term process of change. It was a military and cultural shock, injecting Western history and science into the heart of Mediterranean Islam (Hentsch 1988).
These four words have appeared in the Qur’an in different proportions and in different contexts to refer to war situations, with linguistic nuances that we did not choose to include in this work exhaustively. Jihad appears in 41 verses, in the sense of jihad with weapons (Qur’an, 4:95), jihad with words (Qur’an, 25:52), and jihad in the sense of work and effort (Qur’an, 29:6). The word qital appears in 171 verses, in the sense of killing and war (Qur’an, 2:191) and swearing (Qur’an, 74:21). Harb appears in 10 verses, in the sense of war (Qur’an, 47:4), violation of Sariah and corruption, fasad, on earth (Qur’an, 5:33). Nafr, appears in 18 verses, with several meanings, including preparing for jihad (Qur’an, 9:38). The difference between these four terms also lies in the motivations, aims, means, and objectives of war.
This is a collection of traditions containing sayings of the prophet Muhammad which, with accounts of his daily practice (the Sunna), constitute the major source of guidance for Muslims apart from the Qur’an.
‘Fight in the cause of Allah ˹only˺ against those who wage war against you, but do not exceed the limits. Allah does not like transgressors’ (Qur’an, 2: 190); ‘If you retaliate, then let it be equivalent to what you have suffered. But if you patiently endure, it is certainly best for those who are patient’ (Qur’an, 16:126).
ṣalaḥ means goodness and righteousness. iṣ’laḥiha comes from the same root, meaning reformation and betterment, and it has also the meaning of restoration and improvement. ‘So fulfil the measure and weight and do not deprive people of their due and cause not corruption upon the earth after its reformation. That is better for you, if you should be believers’ (Qur’an 7:85).
‘in Islam war is waged to establish supremacy of the Lord only when every other argument has failed to convince those who reject His will and work against the very purpose of the creation of mankind’.
‘And cause not corruption (fasad) upon the earth after its reformation (iṣ’laḥiha). And invoke Him in fear and aspiration. Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near to the doers of good’ (Qur’an, 7:56).
‘In relation to the catastrophe that the Arab and Islamic world is experiencing today, we discover that the analyses of the famous 14th century historian Ibn Khaldun are not entirely behind us. They cast light on our present. The medieval historian, certainly existentially pessimistic, tells us about states that last for a maximum of three human generations. Yet we see, before our eyes, the collapse of states built in the 1950s. Such is the case of Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. The historian invents a notion of ‘the sharp edge’ to signal the tyrannical reign that must be avoided. He calls on the prince to reign in the right measure, to avoid excess, not to reign by brandishing the sharp sword. In short, Ibn Khaldun advises the prince to avoid tyranny because it is tyranny that generates irreparable evils leading to the destruction of states’. Abdelwahab Meddeb, Cultures d’Islam, https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/cultures-dislam/ibn-khaldoun-et-la-violence (accessed on 13 December 2020).
‘Quoting Aristotle’s Book on Politics, on the theme of authority, Ibn Khaldun comments that the author ‘arranged his statement in a remarkable circle that he discussed at length. It runs as follows: “The world is a garden the fence of which is the dynasty. The dynasty is an authority through which life is given to proper behaviour. Proper behaviour is a policy directed by the ruler. The ruler is an institution supported by the soldiers. The soldiers are helpers who are maintained by money. Money is sustenance brought together by the subjects. The subjects are servants who are protected by justice. Justice is something familiar, and through it, the world persists. The world is a garden …”, and then it begins again from the beginning. These are eight sentences of political wisdom. They are connected, the end of each one leading into the beginning of the next. They are held together in a circle with no definite beginning or end. (The author) was proud of what he had hit upon and made much of the significance of the sentences’. Ibn Khaldun 1958 https://delong.typepad.com/files/muquaddimah.pdf (accessed on 2 March 2021).
‘The imam is necessary because religious order is necessary, and because religious order involves worldly order, that is to say, security of life, livelihood, dwelling, and so on’ (Hourani 1983).
The argument of fasad has gone through the epochs and centuries as a Qur’anic notion transformed into a political argument.
In medieval Arab-Muslim thought, the term political Islam has no existence. Political reason, however, was considered and analysed in order to establish the matrix of political power and its constituents.
In consideration with Hobbes’ philosophy, the concept of da’wa is a form of justice that must be obeyed, as justice is defined by obedience. After the settlement of the state, those elements that constitute the da’wa turn to laws that need to be obeyed. ‘It is once a Republic is established (and not before) that they are indeed laws, as they are then the commandments of the Republic, and that consequently they are also the civil laws: it is in effect the sovereign power that compels men to obey them’ (Hobbes 1999).
Qur’an, 3:159, 41:33, 3:110, 3:104, 16:125.
This type of jihad can be compared to the one explained by Natana J. Delong-Bas as missionary jihad (jihad al da’wah). Delong-Bas added, ‘Rather than proclaiming the responsibility of Muslims to fight permanently and continuously against ungodliness and evil in this world and consider all non-Wahhabis as unbelievers, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s writings reveal a worldview in which education and dialogue play a more important role in winning converts and establishing justice than does violence’ (DeLong-Bas 2004).
Qur’an, 88:22, 13:40, 2:172.
The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat or Islamic State’s West Africa Province, formerly known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihad, have completely amalgamated da’wa and militant jihad in their constitution.
See Al-Maqdissi (1970). Al-Maqdisi distanced himself from DAECH following the burning to death of the Jordanian soldier Muath al-Kasasbeh in 2015. He considers their legal jihad as being violent and murderous. See his interview given to the Roya channel on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFh6gMKSGmA (accessed on 2 March 2021).
An example from a poem of Antarah ibn Shaddad:
‘And surely I recollected you, even when the lances were drinking my blood, and bright swords of Indian make were dripping with my blood.
I wished to kiss the swords, for verily they shone as bright as the flash of the foretooth of your smiling mouth.
If you lower your veil over yourself in front of me, of what use will it be? for, verily, I am expert in capturing the mailed horseman.
Praise me for the qualities which you know I possess, for, verily, when I am not ill-treated, I am gentle to associate with.
And if I am ill-treated, then, verily, my tyranny is severe, very bitter is the taste of it, as the taste of the colocynth’. (Sharf Addin 1997).
‘and Allah knows the corrupter from the amender’ (Qur’an, 2:220).
The suspended poems are odes where Arab life, before Muhammad, is portrayed with great charm and precision. The odes are said at the Ukaz fair, a literary and commercial gathering near Mecca, where poets from the various tribes would publicly perform their verses, and the most valuable were inscribed with gold letters and hung on the walls of the Ka’ba.
The term ‘peace’ and its derivatives are mentioned in the Qur’an more than 200 times.
dar al-Islam, the house/zone of Islam has been.
The Islamic tradition, in both classical and contemporary manifestations, suggests that the idea of religion as a causus belli provides a way to limit the occasion and the damage of war. In short, the Islamic tradition suggests that ‘holy war’ is not the equivalent of ‘total war’, any more than ‘just war’ always means ‘limited war’ (Kelsay 2007).
According to the philosopher Al-Fârâbî (872–950), who lived at a time when the central power, the caliphate, was divided into emirates and states that were claiming to be independent, armed violence must not be an end in itself—it is only justified as long as injustice and persecution continue. Maintaining war for war is the supreme vice according to the philosopher (Mahdi 2000, p. 193).
- Abbès, Makram. 2014. Réflexions sur la guerre en Islam (Reflections on the War in Islam). Extrême-Orient Extrême–Occident (Far East Far West) 38. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Afsaruddin, Asma. 2013. Striving in the Path of God. Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Google Scholar]
- A-Isfahani, Al-Raghib. 2002. Mufradāt alfāẓ al-Qur’ān (Vocabulary of the Words of the Qur’an). Beirut: Dar Al-Qalam. [Google Scholar]
- Al Banna, Hassan. 1974. Mudhakirat al-daw’a wa dayia (Memoirs of the Preaching and the Preacher), 3rd ed. Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami. [Google Scholar]
- Al-Ghazâlî, Abū āmid Ḥ. 1964. Fadâ’ih al-bâtiniyya wa-fadâ’il al-mustazhiriyya (The Infamies of the Batiniyya and the Virtues of the Mustazhiriyya). al-Qāhirah: Al-Dār al-Qawmīyah lil-Ṭibāʻah wa-al-Nashr. [Google Scholar]
- Al-Jubūrī, Abd al-Jabbār ʻAbd al-Wahhāb. 2011. al-Fikr al-ijtimāʻī ʻinda al-Imām al-Ghazālī: Dirāsah taḥlīlīyah fī al-fikr al-ijtimāʻī al-muqāran (Al-Ghazali’s Social Thought: Analytical Study in the Comparative Social Thought). ‘Ammān: Dār Ghaydā’ lil-Nashr wa-al-Tawzī‘. [Google Scholar]
- Al-Jurjani, Abd al-Jabbār ʻAbd al-Wahhā. 1994. Kitâb al-Ta’rifât (The Book of Definitions). Translated by Maurice Gloton. Téhéran: Presses Universitaires d’Iran. [Google Scholar]
- Al-Maqdissi, Abou Mohammed. 1970. Waqfat ma‘ thamarat al-jihad (On the Fruits of Jihad). Available online: https://www.noor-book.com/%D9%83%D8%AA%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D9%88%D9%82%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%AB%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%AF-pdf (accessed on 31 December 2019).
- Babadžanov, Bahtijar. 2007. Le jihad comme idéologie de l’«Autre» et de «l’Exilé» à travers l’étude de documents du Mouvement islamique d’Ouzbékistan (Jihad as An Ideology of the “Other” and the “Exile” through the Study of Documents of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan). Cahiers d’Asie centrale. Available online: http://journals.openedition.org/asiecentrale/84 (accessed on 27 October 2021).
- Bar, Shmuel. 2004. The Religious Sources of Islamic Terrorism. Stanford: Hoover Institution, Available online: https://www.hoover.org/research/religious-sources-islamic-terrorism (accessed on 27 October 2021).
- Bourdieu, Pierre. 1980. Le sens pratique (Practicality). Paris: Minuit. [Google Scholar]
- Bourdieu, Pierre, and Loïc Wacquant. 1992. Réponses. Pour une anthropologie réflexive (Responses. for A Reflexive AnThropology). Paris: Seuil. [Google Scholar]
- Bozarslan, Hamit. 2014. Le luxe et la violence. Domination et contestation chez Ibn Khaldûn (Luxury and violence. Domination and contestation in Ibn Khaldûn’s Theory). Paris: CNRS Éditions. [Google Scholar]
- Bozarslan, Hamit. 2016. Quand les sociétés s’effondrent. Perspectives khaldûniennes sur les conflits contemporains (When Societies Collapse. Khaldunian Perspectives on Contemporary Conflicts). Esprit. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Buresi, Pascal, and Abbès Zouache. 2014. Les Armées (Armies). Available online: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01440052/document (accessed on 6 January 2012).
- Cavanaugh, William T. 2009. The Myth of Religious Violence. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Chams Eddin, Ibrahim. 2002. Majmou’ Ayyam Al-‘Arab fi AL-Jahiliyya wa al’Islam (The Sum of the Days of the Arabs in the Pre-Islamic Era and Islam). Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmyya. [Google Scholar]
- Charfi, Abdelmajid. 2003. L’islam face à la violence, au terrorisme et à la guerre (Islam Facing Violence, Terrorism and War). Réalités 926: 18–22. [Google Scholar]
- Cousin, Bruno, and Tommaso Vitale. 2014. Le magistère intellectuel islamophobe d’oriana fallaci. Origines et modalités du succès italien de la «trilogie sur L’islam et sur l’occident 2001–2006» (The Islamophobic Intellectual Authority of Oriana Fallaci. Origins and Modalities of the Italian Success of the ”Trilogy on Islam and the West 2001–2006”). Sociologie 5: 61–79. [Google Scholar]
- DeLong-Bas, Natana J. 2004. Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Euben, Roxanne Leslie. 2002. Killing (for) Politics: Jihad, Martyrdom and Political Action. Political Theory 30: 4–35. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Garrush, Hamza. 2017. La modélisation de la prise de pouvoir selon Ibn khaldoun. Étude du coup d’état en deux temps de Qadhafi (Ibn Khaldun’s modelling of the power takeover. Study of Qadhafi’s two-stage coup d’état). French Journal for Media Research. 7. Available online: https://frenchjournalformediaresearch.com/lodel-1.0/main/index.php?id=1158 (accessed on 27 October 2021).
- Hentsch, Thierry. 1988. L’Orient Imaginaire. La vision politique occidentale de l’Est méditerranéen (The Imaginary East. The Western Political Vision of the Eastern Mediterranean). Paris: Les Editions de Minuit. [Google Scholar]
- Hobbes, Thomas. 1999. Léviathan (Leviathan). Paris: Éditions Dalloz. [Google Scholar]
- Hourani, Albert. 1983. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798–1939. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Ibn Khaldun, Abū Zayd ‘Abd ar-Raḥmān. 1958. The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, 2nd ed. Translated by Franz Rosenthal. Princeton: Princeton University Press, Available online: https://delong.typepad.com/files/muquaddimah.pdf (accessed on 1 November 2021).
- Kelsay, John. 2007. Islam and war: The Gulf War and beyond. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. [Google Scholar]
- Khadduri, Majid, and J. Herbert Liebesny. 1955. Law in the Middle East. Richmond: The William Byrd Press, Inc. [Google Scholar]
- Khadduri, Majid. 1955. War and Peace in the Law of Islam. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. [Google Scholar]
- Labica, Georges. 1965. Politique et religion chez Ibn Khaldoun. Essai sur l’idéologie musulmane (Ibn Khaldun’s Politics and Religion. Essay on Muslim Ideology). Alger: SNED. [Google Scholar]
- Lewis, Bernard. 2003. The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror. New York: Modern Library. [Google Scholar]
- Lia, Brynjar. 2008. Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al Qaeda Strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri. New York: Columbia University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Mahdi, Muhsin. 2000. La cité vertueuse d’Alfarabi. La fondation de la philosophie politique en islam (The Virtuous City of Alfarabi. The Foundation of Political Philosophy in Islam). Paris: Albin Michel. [Google Scholar]
- Malik, S. K. 1986. The Quranic Concept of War. Mumbai: Himalayan Books. First published 1979. [Google Scholar]
- Maréchal, Brigitte. 2009. L’apport fondateur et incontesté d’Hassan Al-Bannâ (The Founding and Undisputed Contribution of Hassan Al-Bannâ). In Les Frères musulmans en Europe. Racines et discours. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. [Google Scholar]
- Maududi, Abul Ala. 2017. Jihad in Islam, n.p.
- Meisami, Julie Scott. 2003. Structure and Meaning in Medieval Arabic and Persian Poetry. London: Routledge. [Google Scholar]
- Mirbagheri, S. M. Farid. 2012. War and Peace in Islam, a Critique of Islamic/ist Political Discourses. London: Palgrave Macmillan. [Google Scholar]
- Mohammad, Noor. 1985. The Doctrine of Jihad: An Introduction. Journal of Law and Religion 3. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Moussalli, Ahmad. 2009. Wahhabism, Salafism and Islamism: Who Is the Enemy? In Beirut–London–Washington: Conflicts Forum. Available online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275986634_Identifying_Islamist_Parties_Using_Gunther_and_Diamond%27s_Typology/fulltext/55ee2e3508ae0af8ee19f421/Identifying-Islamist-Parties-Using-Gunther-and-Diamonds-Typology.pdf (accessed on 5 January 2021).
- Qutb, Sayyid. 2005. Milstones. Chicago: American Trust Publications. [Google Scholar]
- Sharf Addin, Kh. 1997. Diwan ‘Antarah wa Mu’llaqatahu (A Collection of ‘Antarah’s Poetry and His Suspended Ode). Beirut: Dara al-Hilal. [Google Scholar]
- Simbar, Reza. 2008. The Challenging Role of Islam in International Relations. Journal of International and Area Studies 15: 55–68. [Google Scholar]
- Weber, Max. 1950. The social causes of the decay of ancient civilization. Journal of General Education 5: 75–88. [Google Scholar]
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Mostfa, A. Violence and Jihad in Islam: From the War of Words to the Clashes of Definitions. Religions 2021, 12, 966. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110966
Mostfa A. Violence and Jihad in Islam: From the War of Words to the Clashes of Definitions. Religions. 2021; 12(11):966. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110966Chicago/Turabian Style
Mostfa, Ali. 2021. "Violence and Jihad in Islam: From the War of Words to the Clashes of Definitions" Religions 12, no. 11: 966. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110966