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February 9, 2010

The Meaning of Jihad (Updated)

Topics: Political News and commentaries, Understanding Islam

Why is it that so many people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, "struggle" with the meaning of jihad? What does it really mean and why does the Obama administration not only refuse to associate extremist Islam with violence against us and avoids being intellectually honest about the war we are in, but ignores not only the meaning of jihad but even goes so far as to refuse to even mention the word? Isn't the time way over due for not only Mr. Obama and his administration to honestly address the meaning of jihad, but also the media and the rest of us as well?

The issue of addressing the meaning of jihad was brought to my attention today by a commenter on this February 2006 post about the then on-going Muslim cartoon rage who wrote:

OK first, off Jihad means struggle. second not all muslims are bad. I am an american muslim.
First of all, I accept the fact, as stated by the commenter, that not all Muslims are bad, In fact, I'll go so far as to say that most Muslims are good (even though we never hear a massive outcry against Muslim extremism and violence, from the Muslim community). However, although I am certainly not an authority on Islam, I remembered a Sep 2009 article by Dr. Tawfik Hamid, author of "Inside Jihad," former associate of Dr. al-Zawahiri - second in command of al-Qaida - and currently a reformer of Islam (which surely qualifies him as an expert on the subject) who notes that since Sept. 11, few words have been considered more controversial than the term "jihad" in theological, political, and military discussions.

Dr. Hamid points out what many of us are so keenly and painfully (in the sense of being extremely exasperated) aware of, that apologists for Islamic radicalism immediately raced after 9/11 to convince the West that "jihad" is predominantly understood in a peaceful way, and those apologists continue to spout such nonsense to this very day (eg: the Christmas Day near disaster in Detroit, the individuals recently arrested in Detroit, Denver and New York, and the five Americans detained in Pakistan).

And as Dr. Hamid goes on to note, many in the West accepted and continue to rely on this comforting definition without adequate scientific research in Arabic and Islamic literature. So in order to help clear up the confusion, lets take a further look at what he has to say about the definition of jihad.

From "The West Struggles With Definition of Jihad" by Dr. Tawfik Hamid:

Apologists for Islamic radicalism immediately raced after 9/11 to convince the West that "jihad" is predominantly understood in a peaceful way. Many in the West accepted and relied on this comforting definition without adequate scientific research in Arabic and Islamic literature.

For example, John O. Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, mentioned that the meaning of jihad is to ". . . purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal" in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Aug. 6.

In addition, John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed defined jihad in their book "Who speaks for Islam" in the same peaceful way.[1]

Hiding the violent meaning of jihad has also permeated reputable encyclopedias for terrorism such as "Encylopedia of Terrorism" by Combs & Slann (See Revised Edition Infobase Publishing, page: 165)

According to classical Islamic texts and sources, jihad can be understood in several ways. Some are very violent and others are peaceful.

Scientific honesty necessitates that we present all views about the meaning of the word jihad instead of selecting the definition that makes us feel most comfortable.

The following facts MUST be addressed to understand the most dominant meaning of the word jihad in the Muslim world:

Currently, the words "jihadi Islam" are used by the mainstream Arab media to refer to the violent form of Islam. If jihad is mainly peaceful, why do the Arab media use the word predominantly to describe violent Islam? (Note: jihad is the noun, jihadi is the adjective)

The word jihad is interpreted in most of the reputable traditional Islamic books in a violent manner. One of the many available examples, al-Shawkaneei's interpretation for the Quran[2] mentions for Sura 9, Verse 73 that "Jihad against the Infidels is achieved by fighting them until they submit to Islam". Is this the moral goal that Brennan's speech writers and "Islamic experts" are alluding to? Why would it be that he the most reputable Islamic scholars understood jihad in such a way if it was predominantly peaceful?

Modern Islamic books written by top Islamic scholars and distributed globally still adopt the violent meaning of the word to fight the disbelievers until "Allah alone is worshiped". For example, Minhaj al-Muslim [3] states clearly that the aim of violent jihad is that "Allah alone is worshiped." Minhaj al-Muslim is published in Saudi Arabia, London, Houston, and New York and is written by al-Jaza'iry, who is a lecturer in the Noble Prophetic Mosque in Saudi Arabia. This position is one of the highest positions in Islam that could be attained by any Muslim scholar. It is unrealistic to assume that he, too, does not understand the definition of jihad.

If the word jihad is primarily understood in a peaceful way, why do we not hear about peaceful jihadi organizations? The word jihad is almost always used by the violent radical groups. If the word is understood predominantly in a peaceful way, we would have seen it used predominantly by peaceful Islamic organizations rather than the violent ones.

The hadith (or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) that described jihad as a struggle against one's desires ("It is the striving of the servant against his desires") is a Daiif or weak (unbinding) Hadith. [4]

Modern Islamic scholars such as Yusuf Al-Quradawy who are considered "moderates" by many in Western media and academia mention clearly that jihad has to be conducted via wars to spread Islam and make Islam as the only religion [5]. How is it that such a knowledgeable and leading "moderate" Islamic scholar is not aware of the meaning of the word jihad while non-Arabic speakers are aware of it?

It is fair to say that jihad "can be" understood in a peaceful way. However, there is huge difference between saying that "Jihad can be understood in a peaceful way" and "Jihad is a peaceful concept." The former is an honest and accurate statement, while the latter is a wrong and deceiving one that indicates a serious lack of knowledge.
More at the link.

Given such sobering truth about the real meaning of jihad - as defined by "moderate" Muslim scholars, lets no longer accept the nonsense of the Muslim apologists in the media and the Obama administration. Clearly, jihad has to do with Muslim extremists conducting war against the West in order to spread Islam and make Islam as the only religion. And unless we are willing to accept Islam and forgo our own faith, freedoms, and way of life, we'd damn well wake up to what those Islamic terrorists and Muslim extremists have in store for us. As Newt Gingrich recently wrote, it's time to be honest about what we know, before a lot more Americans are killed. We must once and for all acquire the courage to tell the truth and to act on that truth.

Related: Robert Spencer - The Definition of "Jihad" (... certainly most Muslims aren't jihadists. Most probably do think of jihad primarily as a spiritual struggle. But to pretend that the jihadists don't have the intellectual upper hand in the Islamic world today is to undercut any chances for genuine Islamic reform, which can only proceed from an honest acknowledgment of the realities of Islamic doctrine, not from ignoring those elements and implying they don't exist.)

Posted by Abdul at February 9, 2010 10:22 AM

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