The concept of “jihad” has different meanings and a scholar such as Jalal ad-Dîn as-Suyutî (15th century), while studying its scope, highlighted 80 different dimensions, uses and objectives related to its place in Islamic teachings. Its root “ja-ha-da” means “making an effort”, “exerting oneself” in order to promote good or to resist wrongdoing, evil or oppression. Every individual trying to resist her/his own negative temptations is engaged in “jihad” and the first time the word is used in the Qur’an (25:52), it refers to an intellectual and spiritual resistance by the means of the Qur’an itself.
In all its dimensions, the essence of “jihad” is “to resist” in the name of justice and dignity. When there is an armed aggression, Muslims have the right to protect themselves and to defend their rights. Here “jihâd” means “qitâl” (armed struggle). The use of violence and weapons must be adjusted to the nature of the aggression itself: an armed aggression may justify an armed resistance if there is no other way to come to a peaceful agreement. But the use of violence and weapons must be proportionate and never target innocent people, women, children, the elderly, and even fruit trees as Abû Bakr, the first successor of the Prophet, stated following Muhammad’s teachings. Jihad never means “holy war” in order “to impose” or “to propagate” Islam everywhere. In fact jihâd and qitâl mean exactly the opposite of what we commonly think: rather than being the justifying instruments of war, they are the imposed measures to achieve peace by resisting an unjust aggression.
In specific situations – when one faces an army and has no weapons or other means to resist – it may be understandable and justifiable to consider sacrificing one’s life in attempts to reach the armed soldiers. Here we are not far from a kind of suicide but it is related to three specific conditions: 1. It must be in a time of declared war; 2. when no other means of resisting are available; 3. the targets must be exclusively the army of the enemies and its armed soldiers. Today’s suicide bombers who are killing innocent people are not only not respecting the Islamic teachings as to the ethics of war but are in fact indulging in anti-Islamic actions.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Tariq Ramadan speaking out
From the Washington Post's Muslims Speak Out section, Tariq Ramadan answers two questions about jihad and apostacy, as well as the the omni present "treatment of women in Islam" schtick. Can't say enough good things about this guy. I'm saving his jihad response for future reference in debates against those who insist that it is nothing more than terrorism. Also, I need to find the work of Jalal ad-Dîn as-Suyutî he mentions. That's one of the things I love about Islam. This deen has such a rich and deep intellectual history, you're always finding something new to explore