Is Jihad Un-Islamic?

Wishing something doesn't make it true.

gh22So-called "Islamophobes" such as Bat Ye'or and others have been warning for years against the possible rise of a new Islamic Caliphate. They have been largely ignored and partly ridiculed for doing so.

In the summer of 2014, a new Caliphate was actually declared in the Middle East. A militant organization that had gained control over sections of Iraq and Syria declared itself the Islamic State (IS). It is headed by the ruthless Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who on June 29 2014 declared himself Caliph. ISIS or IS was originally an offshoot of al-Qaida, but broke ties with the mother organization in early 2014.

It is too early to tell whether this self-professed Caliphate or Islamic State will survive. It has many enemies, and has already caused former enemies to unite to combat it. However, it is clearly not a joke. By August 2014, it was in effective control over a substantial territory and ruled over millions of people. It has gained control over several oil fields and refineries and thereby a steady stream of money through the sale of oil on the black market. It has also managed to get hold of relatively sophisticated weaponry. Western analysts warn that ISIS represents a credible fighting force, perhaps capable of striking targets in the West. They already control more money and weapons than al-Qaida ever did through its bases in Afghanistan prior to 2001.

The Islamic State has gained notoriety for its brutal methods, including mass executions and beheadings. This caused several Muslim and non-Muslim commentators to declare that the Islamic state is in fact un-Islamic. But is this true? Do mass executions or beheadings of non-Muslims make them un-Islamic?

According to Islamic historical sources, Muhammed and his companions mass-executed by beheading all adult males of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza from Medina in the year 627 AD. Their women and children were taken as slaves. This forms a part of the Sunna, the personal example of Muhammed and his companions, which is the most important source of Islamic religious law next to the Koran. It is very difficult to argue that mass executions and beheadings of non-Muslims are "un-Islamic" when they were supported by Islam's founder and alleged prophet Muhammed.

Is Jihad un-Islamic?

In Denmark in 2005, Tina Magaard – a Sorbonne-trained linguist specializing in textual analysis – published detailed research findings comparing the foundational texts of ten major religions. Magaard concluded from her data-driven analyses that

“The texts in Islam distinguish themselves from the texts of other religions by encouraging violence and aggression against people with other religious beliefs to a larger degree. There are also straightforward calls for terror. This has long been a taboo in the research into Islam, but it is a fact that we need to deal with.”

Magaard further observed that “There are 36 references in the Koran to expressions derived from the root qa-ta-la, which indicates fighting, killing or being killed. The expressions derived from the root ja-ha-da, which the word Jihad stems from, are more ambiguous since they mean ‘to struggle’ or ‘to make an effort’ rather than killing. Yet almost all of the references derived from this root are found in stories that leave no room for doubt regarding the violent nature of this struggle. Only a single ja-ha-da reference (29:6) explicitly presents the struggle as an inner, spiritual phenomenon, not as an outwardly (usually military) phenomenon. But this sole reference does not carry much weight against the more than 50 references to actual armed struggle in the Koran, and even more in the Hadith.

Andrew G. Bostom’s copiously documented book The Legacy of Jihad describes the doctrinal rationale for Islam’s sacralized Jihad violence, and its historical manifestations, from the seventh-century advent of the Muslim creed through the present. Consistent with Magaard’s textual analysis, Bostom cites the independent study of the renowned Arabic-to-English translator Paul Stenhouse, who maintained that the root of the word Jihad appears forty times in the Koran. With just four exceptions, all the other thirty-six usages in the Koran and in subsequent Islamic understanding to both Muslim luminaries – the greatest jurists and scholars of classical Islam – and to ordinary people meant and mean, as described by the seminal Arabic lexicographer E. W. Lane: “He fought, warred or waged war against unbelievers and the like.” Muhammad himself according to traditional Islamic sources waged a series of bloody Jihad campaigns to subdue the Jews, Christians and pagans of Arabia.

The concept of Jihad is unique to Islam. It is a key component that makes Islam uniquely aggressive and dangerous among all of the world's major religions.

It is, technically speaking, true that there may be non-violent aspects to Jihad as well, for instance propaganda. However, this is true of all wars. The primary meaning of Jihad is violent, and has been so consistently for fourteen centuries. The ultimate goal of Islam and of Jihad is the global supremacy of Islam and of Islamic law, or sharia — in other words, world supremacy. It is very hard to get much more aggressive than that. Until that goal has been reached, every non-Muslim man, woman and child on this planet is a potential target for Jihad violence. Sometimes, Jihadists will even target Muslims who are not Islamic enough for their taste.

One Jewish survivor of the Second World War was asked what he learned from the Holocaust. His reply was that when somebody tells you they want to kill you, you should believe them. That is wise advice, and not just for Jews. The fighters of the Islamic State have public declared to the Western world that "we will drown all of you in blood." I tend to take them at their word, and so should you.

I am a man of books and letters myself. I rely on rational arguments, as far as that goes. However, I am also not a pacifist. Genghis Khan would not have been impressed by the force of your arguments, only by the force of your arms. The same thing applies to Islamic Jihadists. They are not interested in “dialogue,” unless this means submission to Islam and Islamic rule. Until you accept that, they will respect only the strength of your arms. They cannot be reasoned with, and it is suicidal to try.

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