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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 4 Aug 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Jihad has had a chaotic journey’ - Ayesha Jalal

By Rohit Karir in New Delhi


“ LACK OF Muslim unity has been a major reason why the concept of jihad could never stabilise as a spiritual struggle — rather than a physical one,” Pakistani- American historian Ayesha Jalal said during a lecture at Delhi University on Monday. Jalal, 54, was speaking on ‘ Jihad as Ethics, Jihad as War’.


“ The concept of jihad, which means an inner struggle to be more human, has suffered from betrayals from within,” said Jalal, a professor of history at Tufts University. “ Just when Islamic scholars like Shah Waliuallah, considered to be the founder of liberal Islam in India, would tone down the rhetoric about jihad and Islam in the 18th century, along would come people like Abul Ala Maududi in the 20th century, who would propagate a darker and a more absolute view of Islam and indeed jihad.” She said organisations supposedly associated with terrorism, such as Lakshar- e- Tayyeba and Jamat- ul- Dawa, play with people’s minds. “ When they helped people after the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, they termed it as jihad for people who had died of a natural cause,” she said.


Ayesha said she had thought of writing a book on jihad much before 9/ 11. “ The concept of jihad is crucial to understanding the issue of faith or imaan ,” she said. “ Because if someone tells you he or she is a Hindu, Sikh or Parsi, it really does not tell you what their faith is. The concept of jihad has shifted to refer to infidel encroachment rather than an ethical struggle to be more human. The word has had a topsy- turvy journey. Its beginnings were in imaan ( faith), but over the centuries, jihad has come to be associated with external sacrifice rather than an inner struggle to understand Islam.”


The seeds of the meaning of modern jihad were sown during colonial occupation in the subcontinent, when jihad took the meaning of anti- colonial nationalism. Then certain clerics from 20th century onwards propagated a darker and absolute view of Islam and jihad — as a quest for power rather than a struggle for personal ethics.


This aggressive meaning of jihad created the ground for the state becoming the religious guardian of jihad — and in turn formed the basis for terrorism, said Ayesha, adding that today, across the world, the word jihad is a controversial one. rohit. karir@ mailtoday. com Historian Ayesha Jalal speaking on ‘ Jihad as Ethics, Jihad as War’ at DU.