EMAIL THIS PAGE       PRINT       RSS      

Islam, Jihad, and ISIS

Nabeel Qureshi was raised in a devout and loving Muslim home, but during his college years he began to closely examine Islamic teachings along with the claims of Christianity. As a result, Nabeel committed his life to Jesus Christ, a dramatic and engaging story he told in the New York Times bestselling and award-winning memoir, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.

Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward, is Qureshi’s just-released book, rushed to press in the wake of the growing global concern over the threats and actions of Muslim extremists. This is Part 3 of a 4-part interview with Qureshi, currently studying Judaism and Christianity at Oxford, pursuing his doctorate in New Testament studies.

How would you describe jihad?

The popular definition of jihad as “Islamic holy war” is misleading. The words “holy war” are charged with connotations of the Christian Crusades, but the impetus and theological justification of the Crusades were markedly different from jihad. Though the word “jihad” literally means “struggle,” and the Quran at times uses it in a spiritual context, the primary use of the word has always implied a physical struggle for spiritual purposes. The doctrine of jihad has been developing from the time of the Quran until today, in the classical era being expounded to include a code of conduct with injunctions designed to preserve innocent lives and lessen collateral damage. These rules, however, have not always been enforced. The portrayal of jihad as primarily a spiritual endeavor, often by referring to the tradition of the “greater jihad,” is inconsistent with the Quran, the canonical hadith collections, Islamic history, and classical Islamic hermeneutics. It is an argument that has little grounding in reality. To summarize: Jihad is primarily a physical struggle in the name of Islam, and it came to be codified more specifically during the classical era of Islamic history.

Does the idea of jihad have violent roots in Islam?

Yes. Although the average American Muslim agrees that the Quran and hadith are the ultimate basis of their faith, many have not critically read either and would be surprised to find violent, offensive jihad shot through the foundations of Islam. The Quranic revelations reflect the development in Muhammad’s life as he moved from a peaceful trajectory to a violent one, culminating in surah 9 of the Quran, chronologically the last major chapter of the Quran and its most expansively violent teaching. Surah 9 is a command to disavow all treaties with polytheists and to subjugate Jews and Christians so that Islam may “prevail over every faith.” The scope of violence has no clear limits, so it’s fair to wonder whether any non-Muslims in the world are immune from being attacked, subdued, or assimilated under this command. Muslims must fight, according to this final surah of the Quran, and if they do not, then their faith is called into question and they are counted among the hypocrites. If they do fight, they are promised one of two rewards, either spoils of war or heaven through martyrdom. Allah has made a bargain with the mujahid who obeys: Kill or be killed in battle, and paradise awaits.

What is sharia law?

Islamic jurisprudence is the effort to understand all the teachings of Muhammad systematically, so that Muslims can know how to live. The end product, or the point of discovery, is sharia. Put another way, Allah has given a code of conduct and a set of rules for all Muslims to live by. Following these rules is how one obeys Allah, thus securing his pleasure and living according to his created order. That is sharia. The word sharia literally means “path” or “path to water.” This imagery is strong, especially for a desert people. Following sharia is what preserves the life of the believer as water preserves the life of the thirsty.

Even though surah 9 of the Quran is very clear in what it teaches, and even though it is the final marching orders that Muhammad left for his people, and even though it strongly accords with the hadith on jihad, Muslim leaders in various schools of thought do not teach their followers to act upon its teachings today. Because of the expansive number of Islam’s foundational teachings and because of complicating hermeneutic factors such as abrogation, Muslims do not determine sharia for themselves but receive it from their imams. So they ought not to be faulted for believing Islam is a religion of peace, especially if they have never confronted the violent verses of the Quran and the hadith. Yet the legitimacy of their personal, peaceful practice does not mean Islam itself is a religion of peace. We must remember that we are not defining Islam as the practice of Muslims, but rather as the teachings of Muhammad.

Where did “radical” Islam come from?

If we consider the words of the founders of the movement, radical Islam was born out of a frustration with the political inferiority of modern Muslim nations to Western and Eastern superpowers, especially in light of the Quranic promise that Allah will grant victory to those who strive for him. Radical Muslims believe another Golden Age awaits Muslims who are devoted to following the true teachings of Islam, and they are zealous to bring this about and see the glory of Islam restored. Radical Islam, then, grows out of an understanding that the average expression of Islam today is too far removed from the teachings of Muhammad and the Quran. Adherents often consider moderate Muslims to be apostates because of their lack of zeal for the original teachings of Islam. To summarize: radical Islam is a devout, literal adherence to the foundational texts of Islam, including faith in its promises.

Where has ISIS come from and what are they trying to accomplish? Are they connected with Al-Qaida or Boko Haram?

Al-Qaida, ISIS, and Boko Haram are interconnected, and they all interpret and conduct their politics through the lens of their religious beliefs. There is no denying that each group has political aims, but these aims are grounded in a religious worldview, and their actions are driven by religious principles and motives. Each group sees themselves as champions of true Islam, applying their views on the canvas of global politics for the sake of Muslim societies. Their practice of Islam places relatively greater emphasis on the foundational texts of the faith than does the practice of more moderate Muslims. Their methods are based on the writings of Sayyid Qutb, whose teachings were almost entirely derived from the Quran, and Abd al-Salam Faraj, who focused on the life of Muhammad in addition to the Quran.

When leaders and media members insist that these groups are not Islamic, they are either speaking out of ignorance or intentionally engaging in propaganda. These three groups are dynamic expressions of the modern Islamic reformation, and their interpretations of the Quran and hadith, in terms of being devoid of accreted tradition, are among the most pure in the Islamic world.

»  Become a Fan or Friend of this Blogger
About
Amazing voices from the faith community. These are pastors, social justice leaders, musicians, cultural influencers, filmmakers and more who blog from time to time on ConversantLife.


Media
Resources