Thursday, 11 February 2010

The ABC's "inner struggle" to understand the Jihad

I started listening to Australia's ABC Radio a while back.  A recent discussion with a Muslim spokesperson on Islam prompted my letter to them re the meaning of "Jihad".  I'm posting this here now rather than tossing out, as it may come in useful for reference.  The simple conclusion is that "Jihad" means "Holy war to spread Islam".  Any other meaning (eg "inner struggle for self improvement") is very much secondary.

Sent to ABC Encounter. 3 February 2010.

I'm here in Hong Kong listening to the program, which is very good, thanks!

Your interviewer did at least challenge the fellow when he claimed that Islam has all the human rights that other religions have, by querying the rights of women in Islam. 

The interviwee (I'm sorry I don't recall his name) did not really answer that question, but that's what one would expect.  He did admit that in Islamic countries the rights were not the same for all people, and I thought this could have been pursued a bit more: eg the issue of "dhimmies" in those countries.

My main comment, though, is that he was allowed to get away with the line that "jihad" means an "inner struggle", some kind of spiritual effort to improve oneself.  This is technically true, in that Mohammad referred in the Hadith to a “lesser” Jihad (war) and a “greater Jihad” (striving for improvement).   However Jihad as holy war is the overwhelmingly predominant meaning.  It is this meaning -- Jihad as "holy war" --  that counts.  For example, in the Hadith of Bukhari, Jihad refers to “holy war” in over 90% of its references.  Islam was spread by Jihad and it is in the DNA of Islam. This meaning is confirmed in all of Islamic jurisprudence (including specifically the Hanbali school he quoted), its doctrine and its theology [1]. It is also confirmed by authoritative voices for Islam, such as Sheikh Abdullah Azzam:

“Every Muslim on earth should unsheathe his sword…. Jihad means fighting…. You must fight any place you can get…. Whenever Jihad is mentioned in the Holy Book, it means the obligation to fight.   It does not mean to fight with the pen or to write books or articles in the press, or to fight by holding lectures.” [2] (Emphasis added)

That seems pretty clear.  No doubting the context there, no cherry picking.  For your interviewee to claim the innocent sense of Jihad (striving for self-improvement) is the main meaning is pure Taqiyya. (Islamic deception).  That's to be expected from an Islamic apologist, but it could have and should have been called out by your interviewer, had he had more knowledge of the subject.

(PS: It seems to me that saying “Jihad” means “to struggle for improvement”, is rather like saying Australia is Christmas Island.  Well, yes, it is -- though strictly it ought to be "Christmas Island is Australia --  but it's only 170 sq km out of 7.6 million of it)

[1]   Three examples defining "Jihad":
(i) Umdat Al-Salik.  The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, authorized by the Al-Azhar University in Cairo:  “Jihad means to war against non-Muslim, and is etymologically derived from the word mujadada signifying warfare to establish the religion.” (o.8 8-9).
(ii) The Hadith Sahih Bukhari: 71 mentions of Jihad, 66 of them relating to warfare in the name of Islam.
(iii) The Britannica Encyclopedia:  “Jihad: a religious duty imposed on Muslims to spread Islam by waging war.”  (I quote the Britannica because one would expect it to be particularly sensitive to Muslim opinion, as it is “mainstream”and carefully, scrupulously, authoritative; it has given this definition because that is what the plain evidence indicates the meaning of "Jihad" really is).

[2]  Sheik Abdullah Azzam, Ph.D. in Islamic Jurisprudence, al-Azhar University, Professor at King Abdul Azziz University, Jeddah.  Speaking at “Conference of Jihad”, 1988, reported in “Willful Blindness”, Andrew C. McCarthy, Encounter Books, 2008, p 80Sge