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History of Jihad



History of Jihad.


Holy war vs. Holy Struggle.

What the Quran says.

What the Hadith says.

Case Study : Jihad during the Medieval Islam Era.



Before we examine the concept of Jihad, we want to look briefly at Islam and certain of its fundamental beliefs. Islam which identifies Abraham, Moses, and Jesus as Islamic figures because of their monotheistic teachings, was completed in the seventh century by the Prophet Muhammad.4 During this period, Mecca, which was to become the holy city of Islam, was a trade center and place of pilgrimage. The religious importance of Mecca was due to the Kaaba landmark place of worship set up by the Prophet Abraham-the bearer of monotheism. In the long period that followed Abraham, monotheism was supplanted by paganism and idol worship-a period known as the dark age (Jahiliyya) in the history of Mecca as well as Arabia. Muhammad grew up against this backdrop. At age forty, Muhammad announced his divinely revealed mission as the Prophet.5 The divine revelation which he received directed him to exhort his people against paganism, idol worship, and other social ills. They were recorded, preserved, and today constitute the Islamic scripture-the Quran. (The Quran includes previous revelations received by earlier prophets as well as this final religious revelation of Allah to Muhammad.) Muhammad's ministry lasted twenty-three years, during which time he founded a religion, a nation, and a state.


Islam teaches belief in one Transcendent God (Allah), Resurrection, and the last Judgment.6 In the scheme of things, under which God (Allah) created this world and all life within it, human beings were required to live a life of righteousness as preparation for the next world and accountability on the day of last judgment.7 It is in the mediating of the life of this world for the other world that Islam sees itself departing radically from Christianity for Islam believes that the mediator is righteousness as spelled out in the Quran, and hence the mediator is the Quran itself. (The place of the Quran in Islam is roughly parallel to the role of Christ in orthodox Christianity.) In its theology the Quran rejects the anthropomorphic concept of God and places Muhammad in the role of a Messenger of God along with such figures as Jesus, Moses, and Abraham. To become a Muslim one must affirm the Shahada (testimonial) "La-Illah-il lallah-Mohammad ur-Rasul-Allah" ("there is no god but God (Allah) and Muhammad is the Prophet"). The Islamic concept of God (Allah) is critical and central to Islamic faith. Islam believes in the absolute Oneness or Unity of God (Allah). God (Allah) is Transcendent, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent.

The concept of Tawhid or the Unity of God (Allah) needs to be explained here. The Unity or Oneness of God (Allah) carries with it the idea that God is without an associate. Islam condemns as the gravest of errors associating a creature with God (Allah) (shirk). The reason for this is that no living being should claim to embody the moral law or in any way claim to be divine.8 Another far reaching result flows from the concept of the unity of God. This belief frees people from all superstitions and directs them to fear none except one power; i.e. God (Allah), the Creator of all, and to be ultimately answerable to Him only. Tawhid bestows upon the individual independence from all other trappings of authority and compels a revolt against all humiliating forces of fear and greed.

The Quran tells us that God sent a revelation to the Prophet to carry God's message to the people.10 These revelations continued through the life of the Prophet, and exhorted him to action. The Quran spells out general principles of humanitarianism, egalitarianism, social justice, economic justice, righteousness, and solidarity, as necessary to well-being in this world and well-being in the hereafter. The Quran is not a law book in the narrow sense of that term. It does lay down legal and ethical principles which govern Muslim life.12 The Prophet succeeded in his own lifetime in creating the city state of Medina which he ran in accordance with the principles of the Quran. After Muhammad, the Quranic principles were followed and applied by his successors, the first four Caliphs, who are described as "the rightly guided." What distinguishes this era for the Muslims is the belief that in this period Islam was practiced in its pristine purity. The principles and the practices followed by Muslims in this era are known as the Sharia. The term Sharia means the "highway to good life"13; i.e., religious values, expressed functionally and in concrete terms. The sources of the Sharia ranked in order are 1) the Quran and 2) Sunna; i.e., the practices of the Prophet 3) Qiyas; i.e., analogical reasoning and 4) Ijma; i.e., consensus of Islamic community on a point of law. According to Sharia, the sovereignty resides in God (Allah), thus the organs of the state have to act within the limits of the divine law, i.e., Sharia. This sovereignty is recognized by incorporation of Sharia in an Islamic community or state. In this sense Sharia is the constitutional law of a Muslim society. In the Western world such sovereignty is often attributed to the members of the community or to the state itself.

Based on these underlying concepts, Islam created a new spiritually inspired legal order which replaced the existing order. These definitions and beliefs form the background for the discussion of Jihad.