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Islamic Politics and the Attempts to Soften Jihad

QUESTION: Islamic Politics – Attempts to Soften Jihad


Contemporary Muslim apologists, especially following the shocking attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, attempt to soften the concept of jihad in two ways: 1) they assert that jihad is focused on the internal spiritual struggle of the individual or community; and 2) they often assert that the early conquests of Muhammad and his companions were purely defensive.1

Islamic Politics – The Internal Struggle
While the first assertion—that jihad concerns the internal spiritual struggle of Muslims—is true, this interpretation is only one of its two sides. It seems a purely rhetorical maneuver to emphasize only one facet of the definition. In a post-9/11 historical context, Muslims, especially those living in Western nations, naturally may want to downplay jihadist aggression lest their non-Muslim neighbors and friends fear the worst. But it is inaccurate and misleading to mute the historical primacy of wars in the name of jihad.

The second assertion—that jihad was purely defensive—simply does not fit the historical facts. Fazlur Rahman writes, “The most unacceptable [explanation] on historical grounds, however, is the stand of those modern Muslim apologists who have tried to explain the jihad of the early Community in purely defensive terms.”2 Early jihad, and jihad ever since, has never been purely defensive, but rather it has been characteristically offensive, as the history of Islam clearly reveals.3


Rendered with permission from the book,Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews(Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

2 Fazlur Rahman, Islam,2nd ed. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1966, 1991), 37.
3 An extensive discussion of the theory and history of jihad is presented in Serge Trifkovic, The Sword of the Prophet: Islam: History, Theology, Impact on the World (Boston, MA: Regina Orthodox Press, 2002).

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