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Islam, Jihad and Non-Muslims

January 21, 2013

Sometimes you come across an article that is so well written, which explains a subject so well, that it should, in my view at least, be seen as an opinion that carries weight.

This article challenging, among other things, the idea that Jihad is primarily about internal personal struggle is from the Jewish biblical scholar Daniel Pinner, who writing on the Arutz Sheva news site, points out the different levels of interpretation of holy books, that are allowed by the three great monotheistic or quasi-monotheistic religions.

He points out that Islam allows less interpretation of the Qu’ran than Judaism which allows the Torah to be interpreted and very much less than Christianity which allows the New Testament to be interpreted. Both Islam and Judaism are at heart ‘religions of Law’ with rules on what to eat, when to pray and complex rules about how to observe their Sabbaths and festivals. Christianity on the other hand is not so much a religion of Law but one of faith.

He points out that Christianity, out of all the book based religions that emerged from the middle and near east, has the broadest acceptance of personal interpretation of their scriptures. This has meant that Christianity and to a lesser extent Judaism have built into them an ability to bend with the currents of history. This ability to bend instead of breaking shared by both Christianity and Judaism is one of the issues at the heart of the conflict between these three great faiths.

Islam because its of presumption against re-interpretation and because of its division of the world in into Dar Al Islam (land of peace) and Dar al Harb (land of war), is sadly not able to make the sort of broad re-interpretations of scripture that have allowed Christianity and Judaism to grow spiritually and intellectually. However, it is right to point out that his Mr Pinner’s view on the flexibility of Judaism regarding interpretation appears to be more of an an Orthodox Jewish one and which may not be shared by Jews of other flavours such as Reform Jews or Liberal Jews.

The article from Daniel Pinner has value as it shows up one of the key problems that Islamic reformists face, which is the fact that Islamic scholars are forbidden from interpreting the Qu’ran too widely or re reading the books message to take account of social, intellectual and scientific developments throughout history. This inability to make the sort of broad re interpretations of the Qu’ran may sadly preclude Islam from the sort of reform that allowed the Protestant Churches to emerge or which spurred the Jewish Haskalah or Enlightenment that started in the late 18th Century.

Although personally I believe that those who wish to reform Islam and make it more suitable for a civilised environment should be supported and protected, these reformers may be flogging a dead horse because Islam only accepts as authoritative the majority opinion of the Ummah and of Islamic scholars. This means that it would be difficult for a Liberal Islam to survive and thrive in an observant Islamic country or community. In fact, because such a reformed Islam would be so much at odds with the majority Sunni or Shia religious opinion, it would be highly dangerous to promote such an idea in a Muslim dominated country. Promoters of a Liberal Islam would be seen by the bulk of Islamic religious scholars as encouraging ‘Shirk’, which is an Arabic word that in a Muslim context, means associating something not of Allah with Allah. The closest words that mean similar to the word ‘Shirk’ in languages that the Christian or Jewish man on the street may understand, would be for Christians, the English word ‘heretic’ or for Jews the Greek loan-word ‘Apikoros’.

Daniel Pinner challenges the view of Islamic liberals that the word Jihad only relates to personal internal spiritual struggle. He said that the majority of Islamic opinion does NOT see Jihad as internal personal struggle, but instead to increase Islam’s influence on the world. I quote:

Theologically, the purpose of jihad is to increase Allah’s sovereignty in the world; that is, to subjugate the world to Islam. And this is done by conquering countries and absorbing them into dar el-salaam. To quote the definition of Sheikh Muhammad Abu Zahra (member of the Academy of Islamic Research), “jihad…had been decreed to repel aggression and to remove obstructions impeding the propagation of Islam in non-Muslim countries” (from a paper delivered to the Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research in Al-Azhar University, the most important Islamic university in the world, Rajab 1388/October 1968).

 Now it is a fundamental principle of Islamic eschatology that one day the entire world will become dar el-salaam. Those Muslims whom we see holding up signs “Islam will dominate the world” are not “extremists” or “fundamentalists”; they are simply expressing one of the fundamental beliefs of mainstream Islam

It is also a fundamental principle of Islam that the entire Qur’an is eternal and immutable – including such passages as mandate jihad

The combination of these principles leads to an apparent contradiction: if Islam will indeed one day conquer the world, then what will happen to jihad when that day comes? Since the Qur’an itself mandates jihad, and since the purpose of jihad is to subjugate the world to Islam, and since the mandate of jihad is eternal – then how will jihad be conducted after the day that the last street in the last village in the last country in the world has been subjugated to Islam?

To continue with Sheikh Abu Zahra’s dissertation, “Jihad would never end, because it will last to the Day of Resurrection. But war comes to a close so far as a particular group of people is concerned. It is terminated when the war aims are realised, either by the repulse of aggression and the enemy’s surrender by the signing of a covenant, or a permanent peace treaty or truce etc.” 

When Islam will have conquered the entire world – and not before that – jihad will become the spiritual struggle that the Muslim wages against his own dark nature. Ms. Tazyapar’s depiction of jihad as “strife against one’s egoistic passions, or to make an intellectual challenge against irreligion, radicalism or fanaticism” is not false, merely not applicable until the violent Jihad has reached its goal.”

If you like theology and want a background to the problems that liberal Muslim thinkers face, then this article and the liberal Muslim’s misconception that he is challenging, will be interesting to you.

It is chilling to think that the idea of Jihad as internal personal struggle will only come into its own when all the world is subjugated to Islam. Sometimes the words that different ideologies use may seem the same but upon examination have anything but identical meanings.

Like Mr Pinner, I would also like to encourage all those who believe in peace, and that the Derech Ha Shalom (Hebrew for road to peace) should be the road that we are all on. However, such a road can only be walked on together if we understand that the same words can have different meanings for different religions and different peoples.

Hopefully, one day the words of the Biblical prophet Micah will come true and each man will ‘sit in peace under their own vines and fig trees’, but it will not come whilst one religion, Islam, sees the word peace as meaning subjugation to Islam.


Full article in Arutz Sheva Israeli news site

Full quote from the biblical prophet Micah. Reference is Micah 4:4

“But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.”

Basic information on the 18th / 19th Century Jewish enlightenment.


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