Two important modern reference works on jihad in Islam are Muhammad Haykal’s Jihad and Fighting according the the Shar‘i Policy (Al-Jihad wa-l-qital fi al-siyasa al-sharia’iyya) and Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s Jurisprudence of Jihad (Fiqh al-jihad). Both these works give the lie to apologies offered by many western scholars for Islam’s militancy, such as the claim that jihad is purely defensive.
As yet, neither work is available in English translation. Remarkably, Haykal attempts in his copyright statement to forbid anyone from quoting from or translating his work into any language other than its original Arabic. (However David Cook’sUnderstanding Islam gives a useful overview of Haykal on pp.124-127).
The TranslatingJihad website has recently posted a translation from a key section in Al-Qaradawi’s Fiqh al-Jihad (see here), which discusses the issue of whether ‘moderate’ Muslims support aggressive jihad. This was translated from a fatwa posted on IslamOnline.net. The fatwa is by Dr. ‘Imad Mustafa, professor at Al-Azhar University, who relies upon a passage from Al-Qaradawi’s Fiqh al-Jihad to support his ruling in support of aggressive jihad.
Al-Qaradawi is one of the most influential public intellectuals in the world today. He is a trustee of Oxford University’s Centre for Islamic Studies, and his program on Al Jazeera reaches an estimate audience of 40 million world wide.
In the passage cited by Dr Mustafu, Al-Qaradawi defends ‘moderate’ Muslims from the charge, made by ‘extremists’, that they do not support ‘offensive jihad’, which is aggressive warfare to conquer non-Muslim territory for Islam.
That Al-Qaradawi feels the need to mount such a defense at all is in itself a matter of considerable interest.
Jihad is a highly prestigious concept in Islam. The traditional view has always been that Islam’s conquest of non-Muslim civilizations was one of its greatest achievements, and certainly not something to be embarrassed about or to resile from. To accuse a group of Muslims of rejecting aggressive jihad is a tactic which will discredit them in the eyes of many other Muslims. Thus it is not surprising that Al-Qaradawi feels the need to defend ‘moderates’ – such as himself – from this charge. He writes:
I want to clarify here the difference between the moderates and extremists, or the “defensive (jihadists)” and “offensive (jihadists)”, as they are called by some.
Some of the offensive (jihadists) have not been fair to those who hold the opposing view. They have put words in their mouths which they did not say, and accused them of that which they are innocent. They say: “They (the defensive jihadists) do not accept offensive jihad under any circumstance, in any form, or for any reason. They do not believe jihad is legitimate except in one condition, which is if Muslims are attacked in their homes and lands.” This is how they depict the opinion of the moderates or the defensive (jihadists).
I think they are not being fair with the opposing side, and are not being precise or honest in presenting their views. Whoever reads their [i.e. the moderates'] opinions, will find that they accept offensive jihad, and attacking the infidels in their lands, for several reasons…
There is a great irony here. On the one hand, many Western scholars defend ‘moderate’ Islam on the basis that the concept of jihad is merely defensive, or not even militaristic at all. On the other hand, as prominent and influential a scholar as Al-Qaradawi feels the need to defend ‘moderate’ Islam on the grounds that itendorses aggressive jihad.
Al-Qaradaqi lists four conditions under which aggressive jihad would be supported by ‘moderate’ Muslims:
- To remove all obstacles to the propagation of Islam.
- Preemptive warfare in the interests of the Islamic state.
- To rescue people (Muslims and non-Muslims) from oppressive rulers.
- Religious cleansing of Arabia to eliminate all non-Muslim religions (‘Allah’s favour to the Arabs’).
There is ample provision in these principles to support just about any jihad conquest of non-Muslim lands. Just as Hitler termed the conquest of Poland an act of ‘liberation’, since time immemorial ambitious rulers have used the language of benevolence and liberation to justify their acts of aggressive conquest.
Read more at Mark Durie’s blog
Author of “The Third Choice“, Dr Mark Durie is a theologian, human rights activist and pastor of an Anglican church. He has published many articles and books on the language and culture of the Acehnese, Christian-Muslim relations and religious freedom. A graduate of the Australian National University and the Australian College of Theology, he has held visiting appointments at the University of Leiden, MIT, UCLA and Stanford, and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1992.