Jihad in Islamic History

Jihad in Islamic History: Doctrines and Practice

Michael Bonner
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 224
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    Jihad in Islamic History
    Book Description:

    What is jihad? Does it mean violence, as many non-Muslims assume? Or does it mean peace, as some Muslims insist? Because jihad is closely associated with the early spread of Islam, today's debate about the origin and meaning of jihad is nothing less than a struggle over Islam itself. InJihad in Islamic History, Michael Bonner provides the first study in English that focuses on the early history of jihad, shedding much-needed light on the most recent controversies over jihad.

    To some, jihad is the essence of radical Islamist ideology, a synonym for terrorism, and even proof of Islam's innate violence. To others, jihad means a peaceful, individual, and internal spiritual striving. Bonner, however, shows that those who argue that jihad means only violence or only peace are both wrong. Jihad is a complex set of doctrines and practices that have changed over time and continue to evolve today. TheQuran's messages about fighting and jihad are inseparable from its requirements of generosity and care for the poor. Jihad has often been a constructive and creative force, the key to building new Islamic societies and states. Jihad has regulated relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, in peace as well as in war. And while today's "jihadists" are in some ways following the "classical" jihad tradition, they have in other ways completely broken with it.

    Written for general readers who want to understand jihad and its controversies,Jihad in Islamic Historywill also interest specialists because of its original arguments.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2738-1
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Symbols and Accent Marks
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. Chapter One Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    In the debates over Islam taking place today, no principle is invoked more often than jihad. Jihad is often understood as the very heart of contemporary radical Islamist ideology.¹ By a sort of metonymy, it can refer to the radical Islamist groups themselves.² Some observers associate jihad with attachment to local values and resistance against the homogenizing trends of globalization.³ For others, jihad represents a universalist, globalizing force of its own: among these there is a wide spectrum of views. At one end of this spectrum, anti-Islamic polemicists use jihad as proof of Islam’s innate violence and its incompatibility with...

  7. Chapter Two The Quran and Arabia
    (pp. 20-35)

    The Quran has always been the most important source of inspiration for the doctrine and practice of jihad, but never the only one. Limited in its length but boundless in its subject matter, the Book does not account for every single possibility that can occur to individuals and to the community of believers over the course of the generations. Accordingly, when we put together the various passages of the Quran that deal with warfare and jihad, we find that these are not so very numerous. The themes of warfare and jihad take up the greater part of only twosuras,...

  8. Chapter Three Muhammad and His Community
    (pp. 36-55)

    We have seen that the Quran does not provide us with a sustained, connected narrative about the early community and its Prophet, and that if we wish to have such a narrative, we must look for it in narrative sources—mainly sira, maghazi, and hadith—that are exterior to the Quranic text itself. Now we turn to those narratives, which tell us about the Prophet who served as the vehicle for the Revelation, and about the community that gathered around him. It is here, through these narratives, that jihad begins to emerge, both as a doctrine and as a pattern...

  9. Chapter Four The Great Conquests
    (pp. 56-71)

    The early Islamic conquests are a transforming event in history. They are also difficult to explain. How could a people who had lived for so long on the margins of the civilized world rise suddenly to defeat the two superpowers of the day, the Byzantine (East Roman) and Sasanian (Persian) empires? Where did they find the manpower to invade and overrun so many lands? And, most surprising of all, how did they then keep control over these lands and ultimately transform them? For even in defeat, the empires had reason to believe that the alien conquerers would eventually ask for...

  10. Chapter Five Martyrdom
    (pp. 72-83)

    One point on which most observers of the early Islamic conquests agreed was the extraordinary motivation of the Muslim fighters. An official Chinese source of the tenth century put it this way:

    Every seventh day the king [of the Arabs] sits on high and speaks to those below, saying: “Those who are killed by the enemy will be borne in heaven above; those who slay the enemy will receive happiness.” Therefore they are usually valiant fighters.¹

    Though the scenario is inaccurate, it captures the essence of the matter, at least as non-Muslims saw it: the Muslims’ self-sacrificing zeal came from...

  11. Chapter Six Encounter with the Other
    (pp. 84-96)

    The early expansion of Islam set in place what we may call a conquest society.¹ When the dust settled, the Arab Muslims found themselves scattered over great distances, clustered together in old cities and new garrison towns. They continued to fight against non-Muslim adversaries along the ever-receding frontiers and also, at times, against each other. Their activity as fighters was not a question of paid service. Rather, it had to do with identity and status, of being Arab Muslim males—even if, in reality, some of the fighters looked for ways to avoid their duty to serve in the army...

  12. Chapter Seven Embattled Scholars
    (pp. 97-117)

    As Islam became rooted in societies that were separated by vast distances, from the Atlantic coast of Africa and Europe far into Central Asia and India, these societies acquired characteristics in common. One of these was the phenomenon of men of religious learning (often called‘ulama’) taking it upon themselves to perform the jihad in person. This involved them, at various times, as legal functionaries or advisers, preachers, combatants, specialists in ascetic and mystical practice, experts in the history of the community and its wars, or any combination of these. Their activity had a largely symbolic value: by associating themselves...

  13. Chapter Eight Empires, Armies, and Frontiers
    (pp. 118-156)

    Islam begins in Mecca in an encounter with the transcendent Other, with the God whose Word enters and transforms the consciousness of human beings. Out of this encounter there emerges an individual soul, acutely aware of itself and its precarious place in the cosmos.¹ At the same time, there emerges a new community, defined and held together by its faith in God. The activity that stands out as most characteristic of this early community, the activity that its Scripture calls for over and again, has to do with generosity and care for the poor and unfortunate. Though we may disagree...

  14. Chapter Nine Colonial Empire, Modern State, New Jihad
    (pp. 157-166)

    This chapter does not offer a comprehensive outline or summary of jihad in the modern and contemporary world. This topic is vast and has been discussed in several recent books, some of which are mentioned in the notes to this chapter and the readings section at the end of this chapter. Here I wish to present a few themes for special emphasis, especially regarding continuity—or lack of it—with what has gone before.

    The encounter between the Islamic world and western Europe came to a turning point in 1798, when Napoleon arrived with his army in Egypt. Soon afterward,...

  15. Chapter Ten Conclusions
    (pp. 167-174)

    The origins of jihad extend over the entire span of Islamic history, beginning with the nomads and semi-nomads of Arabia before Islam. Warfare and depredation loomed large in their life. They also had a style of leadership based on violence, on the waste of already-scarce resources, and on egotistical boasting: in short, on what the Quran and early Islam condemned asjahiliyya, “uncouthness” and “coarse ignorance.”

    The Quran brought about a transformation of Arabian society, in part by prohibiting this sort of violence and waste. It did not condemn wealth or social inequality: “We have raised some of [mankind] over...

  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 175-190)
  17. Index
    (pp. 191-197)