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Case Study : Jihad during the Medieval Islam Era.




What they say about Jihad

What Muslim believes

What the Quran says

What the Hadith says

Case Study : Jihad during the Medieval Islam Era.




As Abbasid power declined, the rule of Muslim territory passed

into the hands of Muslim usurpers and adventurers. Some of these

rulers were men of questionable morals vis-a-vis Sharia. This raised

the issue of the right to revolt against a Muslim ruler. Muslim scholarship

came up with a juristic interpretation for the situation. Several

distinguished scholars provided the basis for accepting the rule of an

evil Muslim ruler or tyrant on the ground that order is better than

38. M. KHADDURI, supra note 14, at 64-66.

392 [Vol. 3


chaos.39 This principle gave support to many non-Islamic regimes

down through history. However, this principle was again challenged

and revised in the fourteenth century by Ibn-Taymiya, a preeminent


During Ibn-Taymia's period two major Muslim powers, the

Mamluks and Mongols, were at war with each other.40 Ibn Taymia

lived under the Mamluks. The issue facing Islamic scholars was the

right to revolt against Muslim rulers, specifically the Mongols. If this

right were established, a call for Jihad could be issued by Mamluks to

encourage Muslim warriors to join the army to oppose the Mongols.

Ibn-Taymia's supplied the answer. He held that the prohibition

against revolt applies if two conditions are met: 1) the ruler is Muslim

and 2) he applies Sharia. Since the Mongols did not apply Sharia

they did not meet both conditions. He ruled, therefore, that Jihad

against the Mongols is legitimate. Thus, from the fourteenth century

Jihad came to include the right to revolt against a Muslim ruler if he

violates Sharia.

The sixteenth century was another major period of Muslim

power exemplified by three major empires: the Ottomans, the

Safavids, and the Moghals. In the beginning of the eighteenth century,

however, the picture changed with European colonialism posing

a new threat. One after another of the Muslim areas came under the

political control of advancing European armies. Religious scholars

suddenly found themselves faced by two simultaneous challenges.

One was the threat of non-Muslim political control and the other,

religious decay within the society. Both these challenges were met by

leading figures.41 Mohammad Abdul Wahab, who was influenced by

Ibn Taymia, used his learning to purify and radicalize Islamic theology

and helped establish a Muslim state in Arabia under the predecessor

of the ruling Saudi family. Abdul Wahab inspired the Mahdi in

the Sudan, who launched a movement to purify the faith and throw

off British political control, succeeded in his efforts at religious reform

and political liberation from the British. Sanussi organized the Muslims

of North Africa against colonial forces and sought internal purification,

and Abdul Qadir played the same role in Algeria. In India

Shah Waliullah, a contemporary who may also have been a classmate



40. Id. at 94.

41. W. DIETL, HOLY WAR 13-47 (1984).

381] 393


of Abdul Wahab, faced this same crisis in Indian Islam.42

The internal challenge was faced by these scholars by Ijtihad (reinterpretation)

of the Sharia and external challenge was met by pursuing

active Jihad against colonizing powers. The foremost figure to

influence Muslims in this effort was the thinker,scholar, and revolutionary,

Jamaluddin Afghani.43 He was a man with boundless energy

and exalted spiritual commitment to the glory of Islam and Muslims.

During his stay in Egypt, where he became quite influential, he gained

as a disciple the distinguished scholar Mohammad Abduh (the mentor

of Rashid Rida, another distinguished scholar and thinker).