Some resouces on "jihad", from Jon Brockopp, Co-chair of the Study of Islam Section.


That said, I would like to respond with the following:

1) a few personal thoughts;

2) an excerpt from a short piece on jihad that I have written

3) an excerpt from a piece by Richard C. Martin entitled "Discourses on Jihad in the Postmodern Era."

The last two pieces are from my forthcoming volume "Islamic Ethics of Life: abortion, war and euthanasia"

(University of South Carolina Press). These materials are under copyright; please do not disseminate them.


Further, I must reiterate that Bin Laden and others like him are extremists and do not represent even a

fraction of the majority, yet it is important that as scholars we attempt to understand the place of their thought within the Muslim and

non-Muslim world.


Personal notes, from Jon Brockopp:

First, jihad is a religious doctrine that has little place in modern statecraft. Wars in the Middle East and elsewhere are termed "harb" not jihad. Jihad means "struggle" and the Prophet stated that the lesser jihad is the struggle to spread Islam, the greater jihad is the struggle with one's own evil inclinations. In the medieval period, Jihad was waged, like the Crusades, to spread Islam, and just as the word crusade is still used in a metaphorical sense, so also one hears jihad. It is a perversion of medieval doctrines of warfare to use jihad to justify individual terrorist acts and these acts have always been condemned by Muslim authorities in the strongest terms.

In fact, many would argue that anyone willing to carry out suicide missions cannot be considered a Muslim, or at least must be considered a grave sinner who will suffer in hell. Muslims are deeply opposed to suicide, even in cases of war. Further, war is understood to be run by the state, and in my experience the VAST majority of Muslims (even Palestians) support non-violent means to end their conflicts. Most Palestinians are poverty-stricken farmers or small business people who oppose violence of any sort, but it is the vocal few who make the news. Also, only a small fraction of Muslims live in the Middle East, so it's a terrible misconception to globalize Palestinain concerns to all Muslims.

Of course, there are Muslim terrorists, but just as I would never want abortion clinic bombers to represent Christianity, so also we should not let Usama bin Laden exemplify Islam.



From "Jihad" by Jonathan Brockopp

The Islamic tradition sees religiously sanctioned war as one of the means by which God effects change in this world. Therefore, it is no

surprise that the subject of war occupies a large place in both historical texts and legal ones. Certain key wars were formative for the Muslim community. Among these are the wars fought by the Prophet, such as the battle of Badr (624) and the conquest of Mecca (630), and also the great conquests of the Byzantine and Persian empires in the seventh century.

But in the early years, Muslims also fought one another in a series of struggles, such as the war of apostocy (633) just after the Prophet's death, the battle of the camel (656) led by the Prophet's wife 'A'isha, and the battle of Siffin (660) led by the Prophet's son-in-law 'Ali. The centrality of war caused scholars to divide the world into three sections: the abode of Islam, the abode of treaty and the abode of war. The fact that war can be a moral good in Islam, does not mean that killing in war is an undifferentiated act, or that enemies are somehow seen as sub-human. All life is valued in Islam, and as we will see, rules of war even protect vegetative life, such as crops and trees. Further, the Qur'an explicitly recognizes a common humanity, all of whom are "children of Adam," so the simple state of unbelief does not cause one's life to be forfeit. The recognition of common humanity also means that voluntary conversion by the enemy, or submission to the rule of Islamic law without conversion, both make war no longer necessary. Territorial aggression between groups of Muslims is normally prohibited in Islam, but it may be accepted in cases of doctrinal differences.




In his essay below, Richard Martin analyzes Muslim rhetoric of war in a postmodern world. Martin addresses radical Muslim voices that call

for jihad and for the killing of enemies in ways that the classical sources would not sanction. In these cases, it seems that ethical

statements on war are not so much prescriptive of what a person should do as descriptive of how Muslims perceive their position over and against western powers. Martin continues by addressing two controversial cases: the use of jihad rhetoric in the slaying of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981; and recent calls for jihad against western powers by the Saudi jurist Usama bin Laden. Here, extremists use the rhetoric of jihad to justify terrorism and individual acts of violence against the enemy. By analyzing these voices on the edge of ethical discourse, Martin reveals the boundaries of Muslim morality, since even these angry, radical men root their arguments in the classical sources. But as examples of "global rhetoric" aimed to address larger issues of injustice, they reject what Martin terms "the quietism of traditional Sunni theories of jihad."

The focus on the rhetoric of jihad in this section may seem some distance from an Islamic ethics of killing and saving life in warfare, but

in fact these issues are intimately related. From the Crusades up to the present day, jihad has defined Islam in the mind of many westerners, and Muslims are regularly depicted as terrorists with no regard for life. These powerful representations, if left uncorrected, only succeed in blocking our examination of war in ethical terms. In fact, however, the rhetoric of extremists gains much of its shock value from the respect given to human life in Islam. Further, to justify terrorist acts such as assassination of a standing president, they have to engage in such rhetorical gymnastics that they end up rejecting classical and mainstream jurists alike, isolating themselves from the rest of the tradition. It is another example of the flexibility of the Islamic legal system that there can be no single, authoritative response to such voices.

While Martin refers to a "war of the fatwas," in which opinions and counter-opinions do battle in the daily newspapers, there is no ultimate

authority to which the parties can appeal. That such freedom of expression is a moral good can hardly be argued, and in the previous

section, Marion Katz noted this flexibility with approval in private matters such as abortion. But the lack of authoritative response, just as

the general focus on cases over principle, may undercut Muslims' ability to make substantial contributions to limiting the scourge of war. In the very public issue of war, it sometimes seems that the only principle that seems to hold is that great destroyer of principle: "necessity makes licit the illicit." As emphasized several times by the authors in this section, however, there are both functional limits of warfare and also a clear commitment to hold human life as sacred. As Hashmi points out, Islamic ethicists will need to find ways to identify and enforce these limits in the future.

Curiously, it may be Abu l-A'la Mawdudi, the father of the radical Islamic party in Pakistan, who points the way. In his discussion of Qur'an 6:15 "Do not kill the person that God has made sacred, except for just cause" Mawdudi lists five just causes, including that of religiously sanctioned war. But he continues to explain that the command not to kill can only be overridden in order to uphold the truth and justice that make life meaningful. In the modern world, where we have the ability to destroy civilizations and the environment on an unprecendented scale, it could be argued that Muslims must establish limits to uphold the integrity of creation that makes life possible. In so arguing, Muslims would have a powerful means to defend the sacredness of life even in the face of war.


Excerpt from Richard C. Martin, "Discourses on Jihad in the Postmodern Era"

'Abd al-Salam Faraj and other Islamist authors have not felt bound by the interpretations of their twentieth-century predecessors. Indeed, 'Abd al-Salam Faraj's treatise is nothing short of a diatribe against the position of the established Sunni doctrine of jihad. Whereas the modern Sunni theory generally restricts the use of force in combat to the defense of the Muslim state and the preservation of a just society, Faraj argues that armed jihad against unbelievers and unbelief is a necessary but neglected duty that falls to all Muslims.[...]

Faraj argues, that fighting is a duty, and that it is insufficient to try to fulfill this obligation merely through missionary activity (da<wa).

Fighting is the essence of this duty, and it entails confrontation with the enemy and blood ( al-muwajaha wa l-dam, 84). Three conditions in

particular make jihad an individual duty: when a Muslim army is facing an enemy, when nonbelievers (kuffar) descend upon a country, and when the Imam calls upon a people to fight an enemy. [...]


A famous fatwa co-signed by Usama bin Laden, Rifa<i Taha, and several others appeared in Arabic al-Quds al-<Arabi on 23 January 1998 (English translation appeared on the Web) along with other writings by and interviews with Bin Laden that pertain to his views on jihad.

One important characteristic of Bin Laden's fatwa is that it not only argues the jus ad bellum case for going to war against western enemies (specifically termed "Jews and Crusaders," as we saw in the case of 'Abd al-Salam Faraj's tract), but unlike most other fatwas on jihad in modern times, it argues the jus in bello case for terrorism and individual acts of violence against the enemy, civilian or enemy, wherever they may be found in the world. One important issue debated in these competing fatwas by the Egyptian Grand Mufti, Tantawi, and by the Saudi rebel, Bin Laden, is the validity of conducting jihad with non-Muslim allies, that is, of "Muslim" armies, such as the Egyptians, joining the American-led forces of Operation Desert Storm. Tantawi's fatwa argues the need to join forces with other Muslim and non-Muslim armies against Iraq in the following way. It is the duty of a Muslim ruler to adopt "every lawful measure to secure the safety of his people, their property, and their honor against any aggressor."

If [his armed forces] is deemed inadequate, then the ruler should seek the assistance of his Muslim brothers and should consolidate all efforts to confront this danger. If the situation deteriorates, and the ruler...finds that the forces of his country and those who were summoned to assist are unable to deal with the situation adequately, then the Muslim country ... has every right to seek help from Muslims and non-Muslims to repel the aggression and defend that which lawfully should be defended (Haddad, 298).

Bin Laden construes the presence of non-Muslim, specifically American and European "infidel" armies occupying the lands of the Haramayn as the chief reason or ground for going to war. In his 1998 fatwa, he wrote: "for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors." These are interpreted as religious acts of aggression against Muslim peoples, acts that go back to and continue the Crusades. Therefore, as we have seen already in the writings of Faraj, it is a duty that devolves upon individual Muslims (fard/. <ayn), not simply a communal duty, to fight those who have declared "war on God, His messenger, and Muslims."

Regarding Tantawi's and the other fatwas in support of Egypt and

its Muslim allies joining Operation Desert Storm, Bin Laden argues that

the government tricked prominent scholars into issuing fatwas that have no

basis in the Qur>an or Sunna. This is an important point regarding the

hermeneutical grounds on which the ethics of killing have been debated in

contemporary Islam, to which I will return briefly in the conclusion. Bin

Laden goes beyond Faraj, reflecting the global discourse against Islamic

radicalism that had developed in the west and in the Islamic world since

the Iranian Revolution, to argue that terrorism (irhab) is a legitimate

and morally demanded duty so long as the anti-Muslim forces are carrying

arms in Muslim lands, especially in Muslim holy places. He likens

American forces to a snake, which enters the house of a man and then is

killed by that man. Bin Laden's argument for terrorism as a legitimate

means of conduct in war is a significant development in contemporary

discussions of jihad.



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