Sharia Law and Jihad
Jihad is often portrayed in the West as a “struggle” (the literal meaning of the Arabic root jhd) against one’s evil intentions and Satan and it is true that “jihad bil nafs/qalb” (“jihad of the soul/heart”) is a form of jihad, but it is but one of four types.
The other three are:
Jihad by the tongue/pen (jihad bil lisan/qallam) which is concerned with spreading the word of Islam with one’s tongue or writing and the verbal (or written) defence of Islam.
Jihad by the hand (jihad bil yad) which refers to choosing to do what is right and to combat injustice and what is wrong in Islamic terms with action, e.g. protest, demanding “special consideration” etc.
Jihad by the sword (jihad bis saif) refers to qital fi sabili Allahi ([armed] fighting/killing in the way of Allah, or ‘holy war’), this is the most common usage by Salafi and Wahhabi Muslims and the most ancient. For example, Sahih Bukhari (the pre-eminent Hadith collection of Sunni Islam) has almost 200 references to jihad and 98% (~196) of them refer to Jihad in the sense of armed warfare against non-Muslims.
(I should note that some scholars regard sword-jihad as being part of hand-jihad whereas others differentiate the two and yet others define jihad by it’s targets rather than its methodology. It is also worth pointing out that three of these four forms are directed – in part or total – at the non-Muslim.)
The four schools of Sunni jurisprudence are pretty clear about both the target and methodology of Jihad:
Shafi’i school: The well known Shafi’i manual of Islamic law, the Umdat al-Salik, was certified in 1991 by Al-Azhar University, Cairo (one of the leading Sunni seats of religious learning in the Islamic world), as a reliable guide to orthodox Sunni doctrine. It stipulates about jihad that “the caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians…until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax.” It adds a comment by Sheikh Nuh ‘Ali Salman, a Jordanian expert on Islamic jurisprudence: the caliph wages this war only “provided that he has first invited them [Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians] to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya)…while remaining in their ancestral religions.” (‘Umdat al-Salik, o9.8). Comment: war – i.e. sword-Jihad will only cease when the non-Muslims are either Muslim, Dhimmi or dead.
Hanafi school: A Hanafi manual of Islamic law, Al-Hidayah, repeats the same injunctions. It insists that people must be called to embrace Islam before being fought, “because the Prophet so instructed his commanders, directing them to call the infidels to the faith.” It emphasizes that jihad must not be waged for economic gain, but solely for religious reasons: from the call to Islam “the people will hence perceive that they are attacked for the sake of religion, and not for the sake of taking their property, or making slaves of their children, and on this consideration it is possible that they may be induced to agree to the call, in order to save themselves from the troubles of war.” However, “if the infidels, upon receiving the call, neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax [jizya], it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon Allah for assistance, and to make war upon them, because God is the assistant of those who serve Him, and the destroyer of His enemies, the infidels, and it is necessary to implore His aid upon every occasion; the Prophet, moreover, commands us so to do.” (Al-Hidayah, II.140) Comment: In this we see “infidels” – non-Muslims declared to be the “enemies of Allah” against whom war is commanded. Further note that it is Allah who is the “destroyer of his enemies”, thus Muslims are absolved from any moral responsibility for any action – it is ‘really’ Allah who is killing the non-Muslims.)
Maliki school: Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), a pioneering historian and philosopher, was also a Maliki legal theorist. In his renowned Muqaddimah, the first work of historical theory, he notes that “in the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.” In Islam, the person in charge of religious affairs is concerned with “power politics,” because Islam is “under obligation to gain power over other nations.” Comment: the “holy war” is sword Jihad and can be used to forcefully convert non-Muslims to Islam. So much for “there is no compulsion in religion” as meaning “no forced conversions”. Most Koran commentators understand this verse fragment to mean that you cannot force someone to be a “true-believer”, not that you cannot force religious practice upon them.
Hanbali school: The great medieval theorist of what is commonly known today as radical or fundamentalist Islam, Ibn Taymiyya (Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya, 1263-1328), was a Hanbali jurist. He directed that “since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought.” Comment: Implicit is that anyone who opposes the “true faith” must be fought Hanbali Jurisprudence also permits warfare against those who are “the wrong sort of Muslim” or “no Muslim enough”; though this is a minority opinion.
Thus we see that all four schools talk about jihad as sword-jihad – fighting and killing non-Muslims.
There is no Caliph today, ISIL’s ‘Caliphate’ having been largely crushed, and hence the oft-repeated claim that Islamic “extremists” are waging (sword) jihad illegitimately, as no state authority has authorised their jihad. But the “extremists” justify their actions in terms of defensive jihad, which needs no state authorisation, and becomes “obligatory for everyone” (‘Umdat al-Salik, o9.3) if a Muslim land is attacked (Note that a Muslim “land” is not necessarily a Country. It can also be defined as any area in which Muslims predominate and rule themselves under Sharia law. Thus a Muslim enclave in a non-Muslim Country which operated under Sharia Law – even unofficially – could be deemed “Muslim land” ). The end of the defensive jihad, however, is not peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims as equals. On the contrary, the defensive jihad must continue until the “oppressed” Muslims are freed from their “oppressors” (Again note that in Islamic thought anything preventing the leading of a fully Sharia-compliant life is “oppressive”). I will allow the reader to ponder the consequences of that for our (hypothetical) enclave in a non-Muslim Country.
This also leads to the implication that one reason for the desire amongst many Muslims for the re-establishment of a Caliphate is that it would then be able to “legitimately” declare sword-jihad against non-Muslim Countries without any “quibble room”.
In an echo of what Ibn Ishaq (died 768 AD) wrote much earlier, the great medieval scholar Ibn Qayyim (1292-1350) neatly outlines the stages of the Muhammad’s prophetic career thus:
“For thirteen years after the beginning of his Messengership, he called people to God through preaching, without fighting or Jizyah, and was commanded to restrain himself and to practice patience and forbearance. Then he was commanded to migrate, and later permission was given to fight. Then he was commanded to fight those who fought him, and to restrain himself from those who did not make war with him. Later he was commanded to fight the polytheists until God’s religion was fully established.”
Thus the final position “for all time”, according to Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Qayyim, is that Mohammed could fight “polytheists” (originally polytheistic Arabs, but later expanded to mean simply “non-Muslims”) even if they were not attacking him or “Islam”, but simply because they were non-Muslims. And history amply demonstrates that just this happened in the first few centuries of Islamic expansion.
This position, that of using sword-jihad to subjugate non-Muslims, is upheld by modern-day scholars of Islam.
Majid Khadduri was an Iraqi scholar of Islamic law of international renown. In his book War and Peace in the Law of Islam, which was published in 1955 and remains one of the most lucid and illuminating works on the subject, Khadduri says this about jihad:
“The state which is regarded as the instrument for universalizing a certain religion must perforce be an ever expanding state. The Islamic state, whose principal function was to put God’s law into practice, sought to establish Islam as the dominant reigning ideology over the entire world….The jihad was therefore employed as an instrument for both the universalisation of religion and the establishment of an imperial world state.” (P. 51)
Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Shari’ah and Law of the International Islamic University in Islamabad. In his 1994 book The Methodology of Ijtihad, he quotes the twelfth century Maliki jurist Ibn Rushd:
“Muslim jurists agreed that the purpose of fighting with the People of the Book…is one of two things: it is either their conversion to Islam or the payment of jizyah…This leaves no doubt that the primary goal of the Muslim community, in the eyes of its jurists, is to spread the word of Allah through Jihad, and the option of poll-tax [jizya] is to be exercised only after subjugation [of non-Muslims].”
According to a 20th century Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid,
“At first ‘the fighting‘ [i.e. sword-jihad] was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory.” He also distinguishes two groups Muslims must fight: “(1) against them who start ‘the fighting’ against you (Muslims) . . . (2) and against all those who worship others along with Allah . . . as mentioned in Surat Al-Baqarah (Sura 2), Al-Imran (Sura 3) and At-Taubah (Sura 9) . . . and other Surahs (Chapters of the Qur’an).”
Thus we can see that from the first and right up to today, Jihad has primarily meant jihad against the non-Muslim and that frequently in terms of sword-jihad, not a “struggle” against one’s “inner demons”.