Sunday, 5 April 2009

Jihad and Dhimmitude (Part 3)


The theology of jihad which I have outlined thus far is not some seventh-century anachronism that is rejected or ignored today. In fact, it is a healthy, living doctrine, and is mainstream in the modern Islamic world to an extent that is quite shocking. A few representative examples are provided here.

Al-Azhar University in Cairo is the highest institution of learning and the most respected authority in Sunni Islam, Sunnis representing around 85% of the world's Muslims. In 1991, it endorsed a manual of Islamic law by the Shafi'i school of jurisprudence as conforming “to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community”. The manual, Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveller), defines jihad as “warfare against non-Muslims”, noting that the word itself “is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion.” It then devotes eleven pages to explaining how this warfare must be fought, saying that “[t]he caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians...until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll-tax.” Also, if there is no caliph, Muslims must still wage jihad.

Regarding dhimmis, Umdat al-Salik is clear about the restrictions that must be imposed upon non-Muslims subjugated by jihad: “[Dhimmis] are distinguished from Muslims in dress, wearing a wide cloth belt (zunnar); are not greeted with as-Salamu 'alaykum [the traditional Muslim greeting 'peace be with you']; must keep to the side of the street; may not build higher than or as high as the Muslims' buildings, though if they acquire a tall house, it is not razed; are forbidden to openly display wine or pork, [or] to ring church bells or display crosses, recite the Torah or Evangel aloud, or make public display of their funerals and feastdays; and are forbidden to build new churches.”

Furthermore, in line with the teachings of al-Mawardi and others, “[i]f non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic state refuse to conform to the rules of Islam, or to pay the non-Muslim poll tax, then their agreement with the state has been violated”, and they can legitimately be killed or sold into slavery. Al-Azhar – the closest Muslim equivalent to the Vatican – considers this manual to be a reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy.

The ideology of jihad is openly espoused by many of the world's top Islamic clerics. For example, see the recent work Islam and Modernism by Muhammad Taqi Usmani. Usmani sat for twenty years as a Sharia Judge in Pakistan's Supreme Court (his father was the Mufti of Pakistan). Currently he is the deputy of the Islamic Fiqh (Jurisprudence) Council of the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference. As such, he is a leading figure in modern Islamic jurisprudence.

In Islam and Modernism, Usmani explodes the common myths that jihad can only be defensive and that it is only a thing of the past. He invokes the example of the early Muslim rulers to assert that aggressive, expansionist jihad is a good thing: “Even in those days...aggressive jihads were waged...because it was truly commendable for establishing the grandeur of the religion of Allah.” Perhaps most alarmingly, Usmani also refutes the suggestion that jihad is forbidden against nations that allow the free preaching of Islam, stating that Muslims should only live peacefully in non-Muslim countries until they have developed sufficient strength to wage jihad against them.

Such views are not restricted to high-level theologians and clerics, either. They are in fact a part of the formal education of children in many Islamic countries, even in supposedly “secular” schools. For example, a study of Egyptian school textbooks revealed material that encouraged and celebrated not only violence against unbelievers, but their physical mutilation (in accord with Qur'anic passages such as 8:12 and 47:4). Here is an extract from one such textbook:

“This noble sura [sura 47] with questions of which the most important are as follows: 'Encouraging the faithful to perform jihad in God's cause, to behead the infidels, take them prisoner, break their power, and make their souls humble – all that in a style which contains the highest examples of urging to fight.”

According to the translator of these appalling passages, “[the] concept of jihad is interpreted in the Egyptian school curriculum almost exclusively as a military is war against God's enemies, i.e. the is war against the homeland's enemies and a means to strengthening the Muslim states in the world. In both cases, jihad is encouraged, and those who refrain from participating in it are denounced.”

Similarly, a July 2008 study found that Saudi Arabian textbooks were full of similar hatred and violence. Jews and Christians were described as hated enemies of Islam, while jihad and the killing of apostates were also advocated.

Finally, numerous polls and surveys have indicated alarming levels of support for jihad in the Islamic world, as well as here in the West. It is also of concern that while many Muslims claim to disapprove of terrorism, they nevertheless share the same ultimate goals and desires as jihadists. For example, according to a 2007 World Public Opinion poll, 65.2% of Muslims surveyed in four major Islamic countries (Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia) openly declared that they wanted to see a global Muslim state, or caliphate. Concordantly, 65.5% wanted strict (that word was emphasised) application of sharia law in every Islamic country. In early 2009, a follow-up poll by the same team achieved similar results. An earlier study in 2006 reported that as many as 40% of British Muslims would like to see the British legal system replaced with sharia.

These results are important because they clearly demonstrate that the ideologies of jihad and Islamic supremacism remain fundamental to the thinking and ideology of many Muslims in the mainstream today. This can only lead to a dangerous apathy in the heart of the Muslim umma, or community, at large, prohibiting serious efforts within Muslim societies to eradicate jihad and terrorism from their midst. Given that sharia law denies basic human rights to women and non-Muslims, and that one of the primary functions of the caliphate is to wage jihad against unbelievers, in turn imposing this totalitarian system upon them, such findings should make ominous reading for all those in the West concerned with preserving the freedom we take for granted.


Within several centuries of the death of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, Muslim jurists and theologians had formulated the permanent institution of jihad based on his teachings as preserved in the Qur'an and hadith: warfare against non-Muslims in order to submit the entire world to Islam. The historical record shows that this theory of jihad has been put into practice, continuously, across the globe, for over a millennium, into modern times.

What now remains is for the Muslim community to acknowledge this. Muslims must work to reform the elements of Islam that give rise to jihad violence, or the past will continue to poison the present and inhibit harmonious relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims. In the grand scheme of things, this is hardly an unreasonable request. Self-criticism is one of the guiding lights of civilisation. Here in the West, every scourge from slavery to capitalism, communism to Nazism, has been analysed and dissected by the intellectual elites. Even Judaism, relatively harmless in comparison to the power of Islam or the Church, has been forced to break away from some traditions. It is inconceivable that Islam alone should be immune from this critical self-reflection. Muslims cannot reform what they will not admit needs reforming.

In the West, such reflection is equally important, though of a different kind. The objective study of Islam and its inherently political doctrines, such as jihad, is of profound importance today. One of the most heinous crimes of the modern era may not be the jihad itself, but the almost complete failure of our leaders and analysts to understand the nature of the jihad and the threat posed by it to all those who cherish our freedom.

Their failures in this regard can only be to the detriment of us all.

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