Lest we forget, during our mourning for the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 holocaust and its victims, we still battle violent Muslim Jihadists. In fact, there is not only a Muslim holy war being waged upon the battlefields of Afghanistan, but also in the murkier shadows where terrorists eviscerate their unsuspecting victims.
But what is Jihad? The doctrine of Jihad has been both debated publicly and also ignored in the years after the 9/11 attacks. Yet it has a set meaning and use since Muhammad’s days, despite much propagandizing and obfuscations by its apologists. Further, any group opposed by violent Islam shall be permanently attacked since Islamic radicals demand submission or death. Jihad, the Western idea of the Just War, and September Eleventh are the topic of this brief essay, lest we forget the cause of the terrorist butchery.
I. September 11th, 2001
It is a matter of the most solemn remembrance that we recall what happened on September 11th, 2001 in New York City, NY, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. As one source describes it:
The September 11 attacks were a series of four coordinated suicide attacks upon the United States in New York City and the Washington, D.C. area on September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 terrorists from the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger jets. The hijackers intentionally crashed two planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City; both towers collapsed within two hours. Hijackers crashed a third plane into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. A fourth jet, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed into a field near Shanksville, PA, before it could reach its intended target in Washington, D.C., after the passengers attempted to take control. Nearly 3,000 died in the attacks.
II. Two World Views: Western & Islamic
A. Muslim World View: Fundamentalism with no Reformation or Enlightenment
To understand the doctrine of Jihad, we must first realize how differently the Muslim world view is from that of the West. Briefly, in the aftermath of the fall of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, the West developed a “liberal” manner of dealing with politics, government, and religion. The root word and idea were “liberty,” or that freedom should be allowed people in what they believed and how they acted, as long as they did not disturb others. This became the classical liberal doctrine of tolerance in the midst of free expression of belief.
The result was the “Social Contract” which delivered peace as a side benefit of allowing matters of conviction to remain private choices. This resulted, ultimately, in the founding of America upon the classic expressions of political liberalism—the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights. The results have revolutionized the world.
On the alternative, Islam has never experienced a Reformation, and is therefore still highly impacted by the values of 7th century Arabia. Whereas the West developed the nation-state theory of sovereign lands, doctrinaire Muslim writers never countenanced such an idea. Instead they taught the Quranic view of society and religion, where church and state are one, no democracy is possible, and the land is ruled by a strong man.
B. Essential Elements of Islamic Convictions
First, the law stands at the heart of Islam, not the religion, according to Joseph Schacht. He wrote,
The sacred law of Islam, the Shari’a, occupies a central place in Muslim society, and its history runs parallel with the history of Islamic civilization. It has often been said that Islamic law represents the core and kernel of Islam itself and, certainly, religious law is incomparably more important in the religion of Islam than theology.
Second, there is no doctrine of practical separation of mosque and state, even if some Muslim states have practiced such. Third, there are two possible spheres of reality—the lands of the believers versus that of the unbelievers. Fourth, only believers hold unmitigated rights of any kind, but only when they hold tight to the one true faith.
C. House of God v. House of War
The practical outcome of these Muslim beliefs is to turn the world into two opposing, and perpetually antagonistic spheres—House of Allah versus the House of War. This fact then explains why true Islam and those who refuse to accept the teachings of Muhammad must always remain at odds. As Bernard Lewis describes this Muslim idea in The Multiple Identities of the Middle East:
The world is divided into the House of Islam and the House of War, the Dar al-Islam and the Dar al-harb. The Dar al-Islam is all those lands in which a Muslim government rules and the Holy Law of Islam prevails. Non-Muslims may live there on Muslim sufferance. The outside world, which has not yet been subjugated, is called the “House of War,” and strictly speaking a perpetual state of jihad, of holy war, is imposed by the law. The law also provided that the jihad might be interrupted by truces as and when appropriate. In fact, the periods of peace and war were not vastly different from those which existed between the Christian states of Europe for most of European history.
The law thus divides unbelievers theologically into those who have a book and profess what Islam recognizes as a divine religion and those who do not; politically into dhimmis, those who have accepted the supremacy of the Muslim state and the primacy of the Muslims, and harbis, the denizens of the Dar al-harb, the House of War, who remain outside the Islamic frontier, and with whom therefore there is in principle, a canonically obligatory perpetual state of war until the whole world is either converted or subjugated.
A. Moral Struggle v. Holy Warfare
It has been stated many times that the term “Jihad” in Islam is more properly defined as “holy struggle” than “holy war.” Reuven Firestone, in Jihad, The Origin of Holy War in Islam, points out that the word “Jihad” has no direct connection to war. Yet, it would be better to state that Jihad is a holy struggle most often expressed in terms of violent attack against Islam’s enemies. Firestone states,
When the word is used without qualifiers, like “of the heart,” or “of the word,” it is universally understood as war on behalf of Islam (equivalent of Jihad “of the sword”—jihad al-sayf), and the merits of engaging in such Jihad are described plentifully in the most respected religious works.
Firestone describes how the doctrine of Jihad developed, especially as holy war was allowed by Allah to evolve because of the obdurate attitude of the unbelievers. Eventually this developed into a doctrine of total war in the name of God.
B. Jihad as Bloodshed
And yet, Jihad remains a duty of all Believers, both individual and the group, as explained by Rudolph Peters in Jihad, In Classical And Modern Islam. For example, there is an immediate duty to kill all pagans, aka polytheists, according to Peters, who writes,
The only reasons an unbeliever should be put to death…is their unbelief. This motive then goes for all unbelievers…Enemies must not be tortured nor their bodies mutilated. The Muslims agree they may be slain by weapons. Controversy exists, however, concerning whether it is allowed to burn them by fire.
As to whether once could wage total war, and thereby also destroy the homes and property of unbelievers, Peters reports that while the Prophet’s right-hand man Abu Baker did not allow this, Muhammad did himself.
C. Seven Aspects of Legal Jihad
Peters lists Seven aspects of the legal doctrine of Jihad: 1. Legal Obligation: Muslim communities are everywhere held responsible to wage violent Jihad, even if all members cannot bear a sword; 2. The Enemy: All pagans—ie polytheists (everyone not Muslim, or dhimmi, being Jew or Christian). Christians and Jews can also be targeted under many circumstances; 3. Damage Allowed: Any confiscation or destruction of property, and the enslavement, jailing or death of enemies—except women and children; 4. Prerequisites of Warfare: The enemy must hear first the call to Islam before being attacked; 5. Maximum Number of Foes One Must Not Retreat From: Double the size of the forces of the Muslims; 6. Truce: A truce may be entered for advantage or from fear of extinction; 7. Aims of Warfare: To force dhimmis to either convert or pay the war truce tax “Jizya,” and either convert or kill the rest.
D. 164 Jihad Verses
There are said to be 164 verses in the Quran extolling Jihad. Here are just two:
[2.190] ...fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you…[2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.
IV. Western v. Muslim Just War Theory
A. Western Just War: 6 Elements
In the history of the West, appearing very early, was the notion of the Just War, first articulated by Augustine, but well-outlined by Aquinas and Grotius. According to the standard theory, a Just War must have six elements to be defensible:
- The war must be for a just cause.
- The war must be lawfully declared by a lawful authority.
- The intention behind the war must be good.
- All other ways of resolving the problem should have been tried first.
- There must be a reasonable chance of success.
- The means used must be in proportion to the end that the war seeks to achieve.
B. Islamic Just War
Peters explains that in the classic Muslim war theory, any battle with unbelievers was considered justified. Writes Peters,
The classical doctrine of jihad considered all wars against unbelievers as legal wars, sanctioned by the Shari’ah. In Fact, the Shari’ah required that the head of state organize once a year a military raid into enemy territory.
V. Doctrine of Perpetual War & the Cult of the Assassins
Perhaps the most unnerving aspect of the West’s unwanted war with Islamic terrorism is its permanent tenor. On the one hand, America and other nations have long vexed Islamic societies because of our freedoms and irreverence. On the other, the mere existence of a large group of highly successful unbelievers guaranteed at some point violent Islamists would try to take us down. Radical Muslims have launched surreptitious attacks against foes for a thousand years. This will not end till either they, or we, prevail.
Let us not forget that Islam means “submission” to the will of Allah. This denotes the group as a political entity, which all history proves. To become a Muslim merely means verbal assent to Allah and Muhammad. Therefore, conversions by sword is not merely possible, but clearly the most efficient way to bring the world to Allah. And, for example, while Muslims might sign a treaty—up to 10 years long—there is no shame in breaking such, whenever it benefits Islam. In fact, this is highly recommended.
B: Assassin Cult
Consider the murderous cult of the Assassins, an offshoot of Islamic Ismailis. The Assassins would take young boys, groom them into fanatics, then allow them to infiltrate a hated foreign enemy’s camp. There they would assiduously work to gain trust, often over decades, until they got close enough to a king or leader to drive a dagger into his heart when least suspected. Says one writer:
Marco Polo brought the remarkable tale of Hasan-i Sabbah and his cult of Assassins to the West. He visited their former stronghold, the fortress of Alamut (“Eagle’s Nest”), near Tehran, in 1273 C.E., 150 years after the death of Hasan.
Beginning just before the First Crusade, the Assassins held the Muslim world in the grip of fear. From his mountain keeps, Master Hasan directed campaigns of holy terror against rivals. Rulers could be struck down at any moment not just by a hidden assailant, but by a beggar or holy man on the street, even a trusted member of their own households. When captured, the attackers were contemptuous of death, resisting severe torture without betraying their comrades, sometimes even naming innocent people as their supporters, causing their deaths as well.
Hasan’s organization was clearly a prototype for modern Islamic terrorist groups. In some ways, it is eerily like Osama bin Laden’s. As one historian put it,
Hasan’s contribution to the art of assassination was that by careful selection, training, and inspiration he developed the practice into a sacred ritual and the prime weapon of a small state waging war against a great power. Thus, Alamut became the greatest training center of fanatical politico-religious assassins the world has known.
In other words, this group prizes martyrdom and murder so highly, one must assume that their entire purpose is to fight for their religion—even in the face of impossible odds. So, of course, they will not give up their war against the West. That is not in their nature or beliefs.
“The Price of Liberty Is Eternal Vigilance,” claimed Thomas Jefferson. And once we have accepted the obvious—that Islam is destined to a perpetual war against us infidels—our lives become easier. Because we are then on notice who our enemies are, and what their methods shall be. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, let’s instead recall that war appears the fate of mankind.
In the not too distant past, one of our greatest presidents commented upon the meaning of war and its heroes. Recall the immortal words of President Lincoln’sGettysburg Address, while we likewise remembering the victims and heroes of 9/11:
What radical Islam attempts is nothing less than the assassination of world freedom. America’s liberties are what really drive militant Muslims to want to destroy us. Their chief aim is obliterating freedom, and they shall not rest until achieving this. And unless America stands up to these religious bullies, world liberty will always be very much be at risk.Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.