Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Research Paper on Jihad

Jihad: Its Relationship to and Difference from Warfare

Traditionally, Jihad is perceived by non-Muslims as the holy war which naturally implies some military actions targeting the elimination or defeat of all enemies of Islamic faith. Often, Jihad is associated with certain extremist movements that use military methods of struggle to achieve their goals which they attempt to justify by some sacred reasons in order to pretend that they are acting in accordance with the will of Allah1. However, such a view on Islam is very simplistic and has little in common with the real essence of Jihad as a very important part of Islamic religion and culture. In actuality, such an erroneous view on Jihad is basically determined by the lack of knowledge about Jihad and its role for Muslims, while the regular wars of Muslims against non-Muslims, which were often framed within Jihad concept, contributed considerably to the different perception of Jihad by non-Muslims. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to deny totally that Jihad has nothing in common with warfare. On the contrary, warfare may constitute a part of Jihad or it is rather one of the forms of Jihad but the real concept of Jihad is much more complicated than just warfare, which it may resemble for an individual who has a vague idea about the essence of Jihad.


First of all, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon the major similarities between Jihad and warfare that will also help understand the reasons for the erroneous view on Jihad as a pure warfare. In this respect, it should be said that often Jihad really implies military actions, wars against non-Muslims or infidels who do not want to accept Islamic faith and deny it arguing that it is only their faith is right2. It is worthy of mention that having a different religious views can hardly provoke Jihad as a war since traditionally Jihad is rather a defensive doctrine. To put it more precisely, Jihad implies the defense of Islam and Islamist value when there is some threat to them. In fact, the ultimate goal of Jihad is to improve society and, in the case of warfare, this implies that Jihad may include the war which could improve the society, especially those of infidel, resulting in the conversion of the latter in Islam3.

It is worthy of mention that Jihad is the only form of warfare permissible under Islamic law. In actuality, it may target against not only non-Muslims but also against rebels, highway robbers, violent groups, etc. and the methods it uses are military methods4. Consequently, it is quite logical to estimate that Jihad is a warfare which has religious beliefs as the ideological basis of war.

However, there are significant differences between Jihad and warfare. The differences are obvious even in the methods that Jihad admits in the process of war. For instance, Jihad forbids killing women, children, and non-combatants, while warfare, as the historical experience of human society proves, uses all methods and in the 20th century the killings of civilians, including children and women became a norm of warfare, the norm totally rejected by Jihad.

At the same time, it is necessary to underline that Jihad is much broader term than warfare or a Holy war. In actuality, Jihad is a very complicated concept which implies the purification and perfection in the struggle in the way of Allah.

Basically, Jihad does not necessarily mean the real, physical war against some people. In stark contrast, Jihad as a Holy war is just one of several categories of Jihad and not the most important one. In this respect it should be said that there are four categories of Jihad many of which cannot be found in warfare: Jihad against one’s own self, Jihad of the tongue, Jihad of the hand, and Jihad of the sword5.

Actually, it is only the latter category that may be associated in a way with warfare since it implies military actions, though even this category has certain differences from warfare which have been already mentioned above, namely the limitations in killing people.

Naturally, it is possible to argue that Jihad of the tongue, for instance, may be viewed as a part of warfare since it implies the struggle for the minds of people by means of verbal conviction or conversion into Islamic faith. In fact, the struggle at large which is the basic point in Jihad is also the major common feature of Jihad and warfare. However, this similarity disappears as the major goal of Jihad and warfare is revealed because Jihad is hostile to mercantile goals of warfare, instead it targets perfection of society and each individual, including self-perfection. In fact, Jihad is rather a struggle of good against evil which is not physical but also spiritual struggle that makes Jihad different from the struggle typical to warfare.
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