Modern scholarship, in accord with traditional
Islamic jurisprudence, has generally treated jihad in the context
of military action as the one form of war which is permissible
in principle in Islam; as the instrument of Islam's universal
mission and, if need be, in the defence of Islam; and as an
individual duty and collective obligation upon the community
Among modern Muslims this subject has been one of great sensitivity
since the accusations that Islam "converted by the sword"
and is little more than a "warrior's cult" lacking
spiritual and ethical depth pervaded so much of the polemical
literature largely produced by Christian missionaries in the
19th and early 20th centuries writers who were often closely
associated in ultimate outlook if not in person to many of the
modern Western scholars of Islamica."3"
This sensitivity is not only a factor in the consciousness of
some modern Muslims and reflected in their political thought
as it bears upon jihad (and as such shall be surveyed by this
study), but it has also hindered the efforts of modern Muslim
scholars as well as political writers in seeking the essence
(and thereby the significance) of jihad within traditional Muslim
consciousness, acceptable to whatever fashions of contemporary
Western thought, be it the pacifist or dynamic evangelical witness
of rationalist Victorian Protestantism that seems to have weighed
so heavily upon Muslims receiving modern educations in the late
19th and early 20th centuries or the more recent requirement
of a "revolutionary ideology.""4"
For while this is a study of modern Islamic political theory,
it is in the very nature of that modernity that we must turn
to the pre-modern, or traditional, consciousness, to determine
the essence of jihad before we can interpret the significance
of its treatment in modern Islamic political thought. Yusuf
Ibish and Seyyed Hossein Nasr have observed that modern Muslim
consciousness is marked by a profound sense of loss that Islam
in its most outward. political dimension has been vanquished
by Western conquest and a result the unity of Islamic consciousness,
a reflection of the central doctrine in which all dimensions
of life and thought are subject to the Will and Unity or Oneness
of God, has been disrupted on the plan of temporal existence
In other words, there is no way of determining the integrity
of the concept of jihad within any particular strand of modern
Islamic political thought in itself given the fact of modernity
as the rupture of Islamic Consciousness.
The extensively examined history of that on-going disruption,
recorded conquests, juridical capitulations, cultural and economic
penetration, etc., is not the subject of this study. It is however
assumed as the
Determining experience that separates modern Islamic political
thought from the pre-modern, or traditional. From the perspective
of this thesis, some of the most relevant work has been done
at this point in the recent
Military political studies published by Ross E. Dunn. John S.
Habib, and B.G. Martin."6"
In contrast to modern Islamic political theory which lends itself
far more easily to the intemporary categories of the humanities
and social sciences precisely because of the rupture of Islamic
Consciousness, pre-modern thought as it bears on jihad must
be derived from the totality of Islamic thought.
The most apparent strand would seem to be Islamic: political
philosophy where, Muhsin Mahdi suggests, jihad could be identified
with the "just war" waged by al-Farabi's virtuous
ruler to establish the virtuous regime, but only in the most
provisional sense given in Mahdi's reading of al-Farabi's denial
that any religion has a universal mission."7"
The very "apparentness" should also be a warning.
Not only, as Leo Strauss observes, because "political philosophy
is not the same as political thought in general. Political thought
is coeval with political life,""8"
but because Islam is an all-inclusive social order based directly
upon revealed Law. This precludes from the outset, as Ernest
L. Fortin notes, "any sphere of activity in which reason
could operate independently of the divine Law,""9"
and it is the rationalistic, autonomous aspect of Islamic philosophy
that has had the least impact in the formation of Islamic Consciousness.
Majid Khadduri has extensively examined the treatment of jihad
as subject of Islamic Jurisprudence, as has Muhammad Hamidullah
to a lesser extent, in the context of international relations,
and both have interpreted the traditional juridical treatment
of jihad as an Islamic "Law of Nations."' "11"
Less ambitional but of great value is Rudolph Peters' treatment
of similar material (in his case the chapter on jihad from Ibn
Rushd's legal handbook Bidayat al-Mudjtahid in Ibn Rushd's capacity
as Qadi, not as philosopher) since it is accompanied for comparative
purposes by Peters' notes and translation of a contemporary
treatise on jihad by the modernist VIM Mahmud Shaltut."12"
The jurists also considered jihad as an element among the conditions
of legitimate rule in the Sunni theories of Imamate. These works
most approximate self-conscious political thought within an
intrinsically Islamic (rather than classic, or Aristotelian)
context and as observed by both H, A. R. Gibb and Yusuf Ibish,
are definite responses to political life."13"
Just as there is no political thought separate from religious
thoughts, so in at-tawhidh shaped consciousness, there is no
aspect of religious thought necessarily separate from political
thought. As Muhammad Aziz Ahmed observes, a traditional Muslim
"is shocked to think of religion and politics; he only
thinks in terms of Islam.""14"
Jihad is an Islamic phenomenon and this study attempts to comprehend
pre-Modern Islamic Consciousness on its own terms -deriving
its primary sense of meaning, as Maurice Natanson advises, from
"the meaning the activity has for the one who performs
in this case,
to rethink past thought in the mode of historical sympathy,
which Donald M. Lowe has defined as "the understanding
of meaning in context." "16"
The limits we have set to that definition are doctrinal orthodox
Sunni Islam, self-defined ijma (consensus); geographic Western
and Central Asia; and historic within a comprehensive religious
culture, its institutions and thought, that as Gibb notes
had largely defined itself in full by the 14th century; a
culture in which "the religious institution" and
"religious thought" could by no means be said to
be exclusively defined or necessarily dominated by a juridical
mode of thought."17"
What can be said with certainty about Modern Islamic Political
Theory is that it shares with traditional Islamic Consciousness
a belief that the purpose of political life is defined by
religion, not vice versa (that is, finally, what determines
modern political thought to be "Islamic" and not
"Arab Nationalist" or even "Muslim" in
the communal sense of liberal democratic pluralist politics),"18"
although this "belief' is a highly ethical, embattled
conviction in modern thought in contrast to its easy participation
in the metaphysical assumptions of traditional Islamic Consciousness.
The modern conviction is self-conscious and embattled precisely
because the overall trend is so clearly to the contrary. The
on-going secularization of the political and economic life
of the Muslim peoples, as Seyyed Hossein Nasr observes, "is
in total contrast to the Islamic conception, which has sacralized
man's daily life including of course, his political and economic
activies and institutions. ""19"
Mircea Eliade conceives of sacralization as the axiom of all
Whatever the historical context in which he is placed, homo
religious always believes that there is an absolute reality,
the sacred, which transcends this world but manifests itself
in this world, thereby sanctifying it and making it real.
He further believes that life has a sacred origin and that
human existence realizes all of its potentialities in proportion
as it is religious that it participates in reality.
… Needless to say, there is nothing corresponding to this
on the level of the profane experience life. For non-religious
man, all vital experiences whether sex or eating, work or
play have been desacralized. This means that all these physiological
acts are deprived of spiritual significance…"20"
Frithjof Schuon, in his discussion of the theophanic phenomenon
of consciousness is still more concise: ". . . to sacralize;
it is to open the natural to the supernatural whence it proceeds
ontologically; it is to make the natural element a means of
supporting an awareness of the supernatural." "21"
Arthur Jeffery derives sacralization in Islam from ahrama
which he translates as "to declare a thing sacred"
in his discussion of the rites of ihram "puting oneself
in the sacred state") that precede pilgrimage to Mecca,"22"
and again applies the concept in his discussion of the most
basic Islamic invocations, the basmala which he describes
as being "freely used on by pious Muslims . . . as a
phrase of sacralization." "23"
The is thesis of this study that jihad is the instrument of
sacralization of the social-political order in Islam.
Part One of this study will first attempt to define the essence
of jihad in traditional Islamic consciousness and then to
survey the elaboration of its meaning in relevant Islamic
institutions and thought through the pre-modern period (within
the doctrinal, geographic and historic limits outlined above)
to establish the thesis.
Part Two will review the understanding of jihad in Modern
Islamic Political Theory in light of this thesis.
Part Three: the Case Study of the Life and Thought of Sheikh
'Izzid Din al-Qassam' will illustrate the relevance of the
thesis to comprehension of Sheikh 'Izz-id-Din's own understanding
and actual undertaking of jihad and the reason and manner
in which both his understanding and his undertaking has been
so misconceived by his contemporaries.
Jihad and Traditional Islamic Consciousness
According to the classical lexicons the jihad is of three
kinds: struggling against a visible enemy, against the devil,
and against the nafs (the lower or passionate soul or self),
which are all included in the term following two versions
from the Qur'an. "24"
And strive for Allah with the striving which is His right.
Go forth, light armed and heavy armed, and strive with your
wealth and your lives in the way of Allah.
The movement in this definition is from the outward and most
visible and occasional in time and space back to the inward
and continuous which is the movement of all things Islamic."25"
As an example, worship of Allah is an outward and obligatory
duty performed at fixed times and in a defined and visible
manner (but even here requiring for efficacy an inward attitude)
and simultaneously the very purpose of Man's existence in
this world, acknowledged in the practice of dhikr'illah the
invocation of His Names at all legitimate times, places and
This may outwardly be understood only as recommended formulae
in conformity with pious convention and good manners to be
rewarded in the hereafter; inwardly the Invocation sacralizes
phenomena, as noted earlier, and with proper intention serves
as a method for the attainment in this life of ma'rifa (intuitive
knowledge) of God.
What this suggests is that the outward (and occasional) and
the inward (and continuous) are not isolated levels or rigidly
defined relationships but multiplicities of related and re-relating
meanings, of which the Arabesque and the geometric method
of Islamic design may be considered as visible metaphors,
and which is expressed in the very complexity with which Allah
defines His own Unity:
He is the First and the Last and the Outwardly Manifest and
the Inwardly Hidden; and He is Knower of all things. "27"
It is in its most outward (and thus most apparent) and in
its most obligatory (and thus, invariably, most occasional)
form that Jihad came to be used by the Muslims to generally
signify the sacralization of combat ; the holy war particularly
as understood in the use of the expression: jihad fi sabil
Allah fighting in the way of God, or for His sake, in the
cause of Religion. "28"
And it is in this sense that jihad is most commonly used throughout
the Qur'an and hadith reports of the sayings and behaviour
of the Prophet Muhammad, preserved by his Companions, transmitted
in the collections and understood by Muslims as a sacred commentary
upon the Qur'an itself. The customary practices of the Prophet
and his Companions contained in the hadith constitute the
sunna of the Prophet and his community which, with the Qur'an,
is the Sunni criterion for orthodoxy.
In the chronology of the Qur'an, divine permission to fight
(gital) is first given to the Muslims in response to persecution:
Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been
wronged: and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory."29"
and as a means to end discord and preserve the moral order
threatened by the sedition of the unbelievers:
And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from
where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression
are worse than slaughter"30"
But fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first)
fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is
the reward of those who suppress faith.
Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not
transgress the limits; for God loveth not transgressors."31"
The limits include a strictly defensive posture in the vicinity
of the Kaaba, where the Muslims could fight only if attacked,
similar reservations about fighting during the sacred months,
and precise conditions for allowing temporary safe conduct
to certain classes of unbelievers, as well as more general,
ethical limits to combat. But recourse to fighting for men
at all times is acknowledged and commanded throughout the
Qur'an in accounts of the earlier prophets as a barrier to
the forces of corruption and to affirm the Truth:
And if Allah had not repelled some men by others the earth
would have been corrupted. But Allah is the Lord of Kindness
to (His) creatures.
For had it not been for Allah's repelling some men by means
of others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques,
wherein the Name of Allah is oft mentioned, would surely have
been pulled down . . . "32"
In this context the jihad is declared as an instrument for
the establishment of an Islamic social order that differentiates
between the popular idolatry of Arabia and a position within
that social order for peoples possessing sacred scripture:
Fight them until there is no more seditious unbelief and
religion is for Allah. If they desist in their unbelief there
is no enmity, save against the wrong-doers.
That when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters
wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege
them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent
and establish worship and pay the poor due, then leave their
way free. Lo! Allah
Is Forgiving, Merciful.
Fight against such of those have been given the Scripture
as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that
which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not
the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily,
being brought low."33"
In these circumstances fighting is a binding, sacred duty
on Muslim thought he dislike it, and the Prophet is commanded
to exhort the Believers to fight,"34"
which he does in declarations that leave little room for ambiguity
as to the uses of jihad as the instrument for an Islamic social
To be continued on this site...
1) For the most comprehensive sense of the verb: "He strove,
labored, toiled; exerted himself; or his power, efforts, endeavours,
ability; employed himself vigorously, strenuously, laboriously,
diligently, studiously, seculously, earnestly, with energy;
was diligent, studious, took extraordinary pains." Lane's
Arabic-English Lexicon, Vol. II (1865), p. 473.
2) E. Tyan, "dijhad", Encyclopadia of Islam,
1st ed., Vol. II (1965), pp. 538-540; Majid Khadcluri, War
and Peace in the Law of Islam (Baltimore: John Hopkins
University Press, 1955), pp. 51-54.
3) See as recent an example as Samuel M Zwermer. , "The
Sword of Muhammad and Ali," .Moslem World, XXI (April, 1931),
pp. 109-121. See Moulavi Cheragh Ali, A Critical Exposition
of the Popular jihad (Karachi: Karimsons, 1977, reprint of
the original 1885 Calcutta edition), for an anthology-like
collection ofextracts from the work of Orientalists and /
or missionaries hostile to Islam.
4) In addition to the above cited work of Cheragh Ali,
see also the chapter on jihad in Muhammed Ali, The Religion
of Islam (Cairo: The Arab Writer Publishers and Printers,
n.d.), pp. 545-599; Ameer Ali, TheSpirit of lslam (London:
Methuen, 1965), reprint of the 1922 edition.
As for Islam as revolutionary ideology, see Ali Shari'ati,
On the Sociology of lslam, Hamid Algar, trans. (Berkeley:
Mizan Press, 1979) Shari'ati's work is not surveyed in this
study since his references are almost entirely Shia, but his
treatment of Islam as revolutonary ideology is the most thought
out, transformational ellbrt available in English to date.
Given Shari'ati', popularity , with Iran's "revolutionary
Islamic- youth' in the decade preceding the Iranian Rvolution,
his work is of exceptional historic significance. On the other
hand it could also he argued that Shari-ati's uses of an Islamic
technical vocabulary and Islamic subject material does not,
justify classifying his Fanonist neo-Matrix thought as Islamic.
5) Yusuf Ibish lectures on Islamic Political Thought.
American University of Beirut. Syyed Hossein Nasr, ideas and
Realities of Islam (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.,
1966;. pp. 29-33, 36-38 [hereafter referred to as Ideals).
6) Ross E. Dunn, Resistance in the Desert (London: Crown
Helm Ltd., 1977); JohnS. Habib, Ibn Sa'ud's Warriors of Islam
(Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1978) B.G. Martin, Muslim Brotherhoods
in 19th century Africa (Cambrige: Cambridge University Press,
7) Muhsin Mahdi, "Alfarabi", in L. Strauss
and J. Cropsey, eds., History of Political Philosophy (Chicago:
Rand McNally & Co. 1972), pp. 196-197.
8) Leo Strauss, "Introduction", in L. St rauss
and J. Cropsey), eds., History of Political Philosophy, p.1.
9) Ernest L. Fortin, "St. Thomas Aquinas",
10) Seyyd Hossein Nasr, Three Muslim Sages (Delmar,
New York: Caravan Books, 1976), reprint of 1964 Harvard University
Press edition, pp. 49-51.
11) Majid Khaddutr, The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani's
Siyar (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1966); "International
Law", in M. Khadduri and H.J. Liebesny, eds, Law in the
Middle East (Washington, D.C.: Middle East Institute, 1955),
I, pp. 349-372; Muhammed Hamidullah, Muslim Conduct of State
(Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1945).
12) Rudolf Peters, ed, and trans., .Jihad in Mediaeval
and Modern Islam, "Nisaba Series" (Leiden: E J.
13) H.A.R. Gibb, "Al-Mawardi's Theory of the Caliphate",
in S.J.Shaw and W.R.Polk, eds, Studies on the Civilition of
Islam (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968), pp. 151-165, Yusuf Ibish,
The Political Doctrine of al'Baqillani (Beirut: American University
of Beirut, 1966), pp. 42-53.
14) Muhammad Aziz Ahmed, "The Nature of Islamic
Political Theory", Islamic Culture, XVII (January, 1943),
15) Maurice Natanson, The Journeying Self: A Study
in Philosophy and Social Role (Reading MAss: Adison Wesley
Publishing Co. 1970), p.39.
16) Donald M. Lowe, "Intentionality and the Method
of History"m in M. Natanson, ed, Phenomenology and the
social Sciences, II (Evanston: Northwestern University Press
17) H.A.R. Gibb, "Structure of Religious Thought",
in Shaw and Polk, eds. Studies ...., pp. 208-218; "An
Interpretation of Islamic History", ibid., pp. 27-32.
18) Muhammad Asad, The Principles of State and Government
in Islam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961),
19) Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islam and the Plight of Modern
Man (London: Longmans, 1975), p.21 [italics mine].
20) Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, W.R.
Trask, trans. (New York: Harcourt Brace & World, 1959),
pp. 202, 168. For additional uses of the concept of sacralizationn
(and desacralization) by Eliades, see pp. 13-14, 23, 167,
193, and 203. Equally applicable in the analysis of religious-political
thought and institutions in Jacob Neusner, "From Theology
to Ideology: the Transmutation of Judaism in Modern Terms,"
in Kalman H. Silvert, ed, Churches and States: the Religious
Institution and Modernization (New York: American University
Field Services,Inc., 1967), pp. 13-48. Less applicable is
Gustav Von Grunebaum's use of sacralization in his discussion
of the "desacralized period of Fatimad rule", in
"The Nature of the Fatimid Achievement", Colloque
international sur l'Histoire du Caire (Cairo: Ministry of
Culture 1972), p. 210
21) Frithjof Schuon, " Aspects of the Theophanic
Phenomenon of Consciousness", Studies in Comparative
Religion, XII (Winter/Spring, 1978), p.3.
22) Arthur Jeffery, ed and trans., A Reader on Islam (The
Hague: Mouton 1962), p.497.
23) Ibid., p. 556. The basmasla is the phrase, bismillah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim,
"In the Name of God, The Merciful, The Compassionate."
The use of this phrase as an act of piety before proceeding
with any act is called tasmiya.
24) Lane's Lexicon, II, p. 473; Imam Abu-l-Qassim al-Raghib
al-Ishani, al-Mufradat fi gharib al Qur'an, quoted in Sheikh
Muhammad Abu Zahra, "The Jihad (Striving)", The
Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research (Cairo:
al-Azhar, 1970), p. 49. Qur'an XXII:78;IX:42. Translations
of the meaning of the Qur'an are based upon English language
interpretations by Pickthall, Ali, Asad, Arberry and Lewis
with reference to Lane's Lexicon and the tafsir of al-Qurtobi
who reports the opinions of the earliest tafsir (al-Tabari,
Ibn Abbas, ect.) along with his own.
25) Nasr, Ideals, pp.58-65.
26) Nasr, Ideals, pp. 62-65
27) Qur'an, LVII:3.
28) Lane's Lexicon, II pp. 473-474.
29) Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1961 ed. s.v. "Hadith",
"al-Kuran", "Sunna" [Hereafter referred
to as SEI].
30) Qur'an, II:191 (Yusuf Ali translation)
31) Qur'an, II:190 (Yusuf Ali translation)
32) Qur'an, II:251. (The reference is to Nabi Dawud (David)
slaying Goliath and the hesitation of the Bani Israel, after
Nabi Musa (Moses), to fight sabi'illah); Qur'an XII:40
33) Qur'an, II:193; IX:5; IX:29
34) Qur'an, II:126; VIII:65-66.
35) Sahih al-Bukhari, M.M.Khan, trans., 10 vols. (Medina:
Islamic University, 1971), Book IV, Chapters 93-102
The Islamic Quarterly, London
Third Quarter 1983