a short course, part 2

How does Shariah define Jihad?


Shariah – the law derived from Islam’s foundational documents – defines the Islamic doctrine of the universal obligation to jihad against non-believers.

The question is, What is meant by “jihad”? Is it merely a personal struggle to sacrifice for God and be the best possible Muslim? Or does jihad mean holy war, the pursuit of a global Islamic state known as a caliphate, that rules in accordance with shariah?

The Center for Security Policy’s “Team B” studied the question in its recent report, Shariah – Threat to America. On September 17, BigPeace ran Team B’s answer to the question, “What is Shariah?“  Today we summarize the Team B report’s findings on shariah and jihad.

The answer to the question, “What is Jihad?” is readily accessible to those willing to seek it – not from critics of Islam, but from the Quran and other foundational Islamic sources.

Shariah scholars typically cite as authority for jihad from the Quran any of the 164 verses that specifically refer to jihad against non-Muslims in terms that include military expeditions, fighting enemies, or distributing the spoils of war. By describing the warfare of jihad as something sanctioned by Allah himself, Islamic authorities set it apart from the common tribal warfare of the time and elevated it to a superior status of something sacred.

In addition to the Quran, which Muslims believe is the text of words delivered directly from Allah to Mohammed, the hadiths (accounts of the actions and sayings of Mohammed) are a second primary source governing jihad in Islamic doctrine. A third principal source is made up of recognized compilations of classical Muslim writings that systematize and codify Islamic law. They spell out the duty of jihad as holy war, which all Muslims, according to shariah, must advance in one or more carefully delineated ways.

Islamic jurisprudence, known as fiqh in Arabic, forms the legal context for shariah and its rulings. As such it relies first and foremost on the Quran and cites its verses to support the caliphate and jihad. Simple citation of the verses themselves, without the context provided by how sharia scholars (who guide and enforce Islamic thought and action) interpreted these verses, provides an incomplete and incorrect understanding.

The Team B report on Islamic threat doctrine specifically cites the sources. Reliance of the Traveler: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law (Umdat Al-Salik) written in the 14th century by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, states, “Jihad means to wage war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion. And it is the lesser jihad.” According to this authoritative doctrinal text, the “greater” jihad is the struggle for the spiritual self – what the Muslim Brotherhood wants the non-Muslim world to understand as the “real” meaning of jihad.

When Reliance refers to the greater and lesser jihad, it indicates that this differentiation is not a part of the law of jihad – leaving us with no alternative but to understand that, under shariah, the meaning of “jihad” connotes force and violence.

In the 20th century, Muslim Brotherhood ideologues such as Hasan al-Banna (1906-49) and Sayyid Qutb (1906-56) recast modern jihad on the fiery language of revolution and anti-colonialism of the times and not just strictly warfare to expand Islamic and legal political dominance – whether against oppressive colonialist forces of Muslim rulers (“the near enemy”) who were judged apostates because of their failure to uphold shariah.

Qutb, the chief theoretician for the Muslim Brotherhood, declared in his capstone book Milestones, “The reason for jihad which have been described in . . . verses [from the sacred texts] are these: to establish God’s authority in the earth; to arrange human affairs according to the true guidance provided by God; to abolish all the Satanic forces and Satanic systems of life; to end the lordship of one man over others since all men are creatures of God and no one has the authority to make them his servants or make arbitrary laws for them. These reasons are sufficient for proclaiming jihad.”

By “Satanic systems of life,” Qutb was referring to the way of life practiced in Western-style, secular, liberal democracies. The reference to “the lordship of one man over others” was not reserved for dictators, but to any man-made law – including Muslim leaders who did not rule under the shariah code. The assassins of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat acted on Mawdudi and Qutb’s injunctions with respect to jihad.

The Quran (verse 2:216) obligates all Muslims to wage jihad, “though it be hateful to you.”

Most Americans are familiar with the violent form of jihad as waged by the terrorists. There is a second kind of jihad that is not violent – at least not for the moment – that the Muslim Brotherhood calls “civilization jihad.” Civilization jihad is “pre-violent.” And it is all around us.

We will look at civilization jihad in Part 3 of this series.