Part one: the religious aspect.
The issue at stake is the deep gap between the horrific acts of terrorism coming from the World Jihad groups, and, at the same time, the propagation emanating from Islamists, Muslims and Westerners; firstly, that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, hijacked by extremists; secondly, that there is only one Jihād, the spiritual, that means to worship Allah; and thirdly that the Muslims are ordered to fight their enemies only defensively.
The stunned Free World witnesses atrocious acts of terror, such as slaughters and beheadings, yet is simultaneously being told that this is only a retaliation towards the Western colonialism and neo-imperialism, or, that these groups are outliers, a small minority; that the threats of demolishing modernity and bringing it back to the 7th century are only because World Jihad wished to defend its land, its lives and its honor against Western aggression.
Hence, the question that arises here is whether Jihād is defensive or offensive? The answer to this will become apparent through analyzing Islamic sources and Muslim exegetes in comparison to contemporary Islamists propagators of the West.
The Arab-Islamic terrorist organization’s strategy against the Free World is comprised of two parallel but coordinated arms: Jihād – a holy war against the infidels, and Da`wah – the persuasive methods used to convince people to join Islam. Both arms are intended to achieve the same objectives, yet both are used at the same time by different activists and are aimed against different targets. However, between both, Da`wah is more dangerous to the Free World. Jihād appears 41 times in 18 Suwar (plural of Sûrah) in the Qur’ān, mostly coupled with fi-Sabīlillah (in the way of Allah; for the sake of Allah), which transforms it into a religious sanction. Da’wah is the Islamic concept of missionary activity, aimed at persuading all human beings to believe in Allâh. Da`wah is the moderate and graceful opening address used to approach non-believers and convince them to submit to Islam, and if it fails, it is the duty of Jihād to achieve the Islamic goals.
According to a Muslim exegete, there are seven major features of the superiority of Arab-Muslims over others, based on the Qur’ān. Firstly, they are the best Ummah ever brought forth to men, bidding good (Ma’rûf) and forbidding evil (Munkar). Secondly, the Muslims are the last of all nations in history and the first on the day of resurrection. Thirdly, their Scriptures are in their breasts (they know it by heart). Furthermore, they take their own alms, yet are rewarded as if they give them away. In addition to this, they have the privilege of intercession (Shafā’ah), which is a pillar of the superiority of the Islamic community over all other communities. Moreover, they answer and are answered, which means that they are distinguished from other communities in their obedience to Allah, as well as in having invocation answered by Allah. Lastly, they will wage war on the people of error and the Anti-Christ.
As the Muslims see it, Islam is for everyone within the human race and should be expanded as a leading religion, until all human beings proclaim that “there is no God but Allâh and Muhammad is his messenger.”Jihād is universally understood as war on behalf of Islam, and its merits are described copiously in many well-respected Islamic religious works. It is called “the neglected duty” or “the forgotten obligation,” and regarded as the sixth pillar of Islam. Professor Bernard Lewis finds that an “overwhelming majority of classical theologians, jurists and traditionalists… understood the obligation of Jihād in a military sense.”
All four Islamic Schools of Jurisprudence and most of Islamic exegetes agree that the aims of Jihad are to remove the infidel’s oppression and injustice, to eliminate the barriers to the spread of Allah’s truth, and, to establish Islamic justice universally. There are four different ways in which the believer may fulfill his obligations: a) by his heart; b) by his tongue; c) by his hands; d) by the sword. This demonstrates the close connection between Jihād and Da’wah, as well as the fact that they are aimed at establishing Allah’s rule on earth, until either the non-believers embrace Islam (as a result of Da’wah), or submit to Islamic rule and agree to pay the tax poll, the Jizyah; or be killed in the battleground (as a result of Jihad war).
From the Islamic viewpoint, all wars in Islam are religious; the concept of “secular war” does not exist; and Jihād is the only just war known. So, even according to Islamic Jurisdiction, one can wage the most aggressive war using atrocious evil deeds and still see it as a defensive war. The Muslim legal theory states that Islam cannot exist in conjunction with idolatry. This is Shirk, meaning association of other gods and idols with Allah. According to a Hadīth related to Muhammad, he declared: “I am ordered to fight polytheists until they say there is no God but Allah.” Muslims are under the Qur’ān Commandments’ obligation to slay the idolaters. Hence, terrorizing Islamic enemies is Allah’s commandment.
There are four Qur’ān “sword verses” relating to different types of people against whom the believers are obliged to fight: a) Sûrah 9 (verse 5): Fighting the Idolaters; b) Sûrah 9 (verse 29): Fighting the People of the Book, Ahl al-Kitāb; c) Sûrah 9 (verse 73): Fighting the Hypocrites and the infidels; and d) Surah 47 (verse 4): Fighting the Enemies of Islam whoever they are and whenever they can be found. Of these, Sûrah 9 (verse 5) is considered to be the most important. Most Islamic exegetes claim that this verse abrogates 114 or 124 other non-militant verses from Mecca.
The Shahīd is one who is killed and has achieved martyrdom in the battle of Jihād. Islamic exegetes claim that the Shahīd is granted seven glorious gifts: a) He is forgiven at the first drop of his blood; b) He is dressed in the clothes of Imām and sees his status in paradise; c) He is protected from the punishment of the grave; d) He will be safe from the great fear of the Day of Judgment; e) A crown of glory will be placed on his head; f) He will intercede on behalf of 70 members of his family; g) He will be married to 72 Houris. Islamic exegetes take the Qur’ān statements that the Shuhadā’ are alive living beside Allah and enjoying all his grace.
According to Majid Khadduri, Muslims view peace as a tactical means for achieving their strategic objective, by defeating the enemy. Peace constitutes a temporary break in the ongoing war against the enemy, until Islam controls the whole world. They might come to terms with the enemy, provided that they resume the Jihād after the expiration of the treaty. Defeated Muslims maintained that their battle with the enemy would resume, however long they had to wait for the second round. By their very nature, treaties must be of temporary duration, for the normal relations between Muslim and non-Muslim territories are not peaceful, but war-like.
Khadduri states that Muhammad has set the classic example by concluding the Khudaybiyah Treaty, in 628 with the Meccans: a peace treaty with the enemy is a valid instrument. That is, if it serves Muslim interests. Muhammad and his successors always reserved their right to repudiate any treaty or arrangement which they considered as harmful to Islam. Muslim authorities might have come to terms with the enemy, provided it was only for a temporary period. In practice, however, Jihād underwent certain changes in its meaning to suit the changing circumstances of life. This change, did not imply an abandonment of the Jihād duty; it only meant the entry of the obligation into a period of suspension – it assumed a dormant status, from which the leader may revive it at any time he deems necessary.