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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 29 Jul 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Idea of Jihad in the Quran and Terrorism

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

29 July 2021

The Extremist Interpretation of War Verses Served As the Basis of Terrorist Ideology

Main Points:

1. Terrorist organisations quote mainstream jurisprudents to justify terrorism

2. They cover up their terrorist activities under the term jihad

3. They use War verses to justify their ideology


The term terrorism is used for the use of indiscriminate violence by a fringe or disgruntled group for the forceful implementation of an ideology. This is not specific about any religious or atheist groups but for the last 20 years Muslim extremist groups across the world have adopted this means to implement their violent and extremist ideology. Al Qaida was the first major terrorist group which came to prominence towards the beginning of this millennium. It conducted the attack on the twin towers in New York apart from a number of small and big attacks on the American defence and diplomatic installations. Taliban, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, Al Nusrah and ISIS are other terrorist and extremist Muslim organisations that follow a violent religious ideology and want to implement their version of Islamic system of government or society or educational system.

All these extremist organisations use wanton killing of innocent people and women and children and quote from the books and fatwas of mainstream jurisprudents to justify the killing of innocent Muslims. The idea of jihad mentioned in the Quran has been used by these terrorist organisations to justify their terrorist ideology and activities. Thus they have replaced the term jihad with terrorism. Jihad in Quean means struggle in the path of truth and struggle against one's own Nafs (self) but the extremists and terrorists have interpreted the Quranic term jihad to mean fighting with and killing even non-combatant non-Muslims which in their theology include even the People of the Book. To them all are Kafirs.

But in the development of this theology of terrorism, the writings and interpretations of some of prominent mainstream exegetes of the Quran have played a vital role. The contextual war verses of the Quran have been declared by them valid even today and apply to the non-Muslims of today. The theory of Abrogation of Verses which is supported by a number of prominent exegetes and Islamic scholars like Shah Waliullah has played a very critical role in the development of a violent religious ideology. According to this theory all the war verses are valid and relevant even today. For example, the terrorists use this contextual war verse to commit violence against the non-combatant non-Muslims of today.

"O believers! Keep fighting with Kafirs close to you so that they realise that you are strong". (Taubah: 123)

To understand how our mainstream religious scholars promoted extremist ideas among Muslims we can take the example of one of the most prominent Islamic scholars of the 2oth century, Mohammad Qutb. Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaida was his student and disciple. Mohammad Qutb was of the view that apostates deserved to be killed because their apostasy was a crime against society, not a sin against God. The Quran does not prescribe death sentence for apostates leave alone any physical punishment.

The extremist exegetes or Islamic scholars ignore verses which prevent Muslims from doing injustice or committing violence against peace loving non-Muslims.

"Allah does not prevent you from treating those who did not fight you over Deen and did not drive you out from your homes well and do justice to them. Verily, Allah loves those who do justice."(Al Mumtahinah: 8-9)

The Quran permits Muslims to fight a violent group unitedly if it commits aggression against Muslims, thus permitting Muslims to fight against Muslim terrorist organisations.

"If two groups of Muslims clash, make peace between them. But if one of them commits aggression against the other, then you should fight against the aggressor until it returns to Allah's path. Then if it returns, make peace between the two and do justice. Verily Allah loves those who do justice"(Al Hujurat: 9)

There are a number of verses that tell Muslims to accept the way of worship of other religious communities and do their religious duties without entering into confrontation with them.

"We have fixed a way of worship for every community and they worship in that way. So they should not quarrel with you over this and you should invite them towards your Lord. Of course you are on the right path. Then if they quarrel with you say God knows better what you do."(Al Hajj: 69)

But the terrorist organisations become self-proclaimed flag bearers of Islam and try to implement their version of Islamic state or Khilafat by brute force and think that they are the true reformers.

"And when they are told not to do mischief on earth, they say we are only the reformers. Lo! They are the ones who do wrong but they do not realise."(Al Baqarah: 13)

'"And eat and drink and do not move about on Earth doing mischief". (Al Baqarah:60)

"Verily, the wrongdoers will not attain salvation"(Al An'am:135

That many mainstream Islamic scholars, clerics and some mainstream Islamic organisations believe in the contextual war verses to be relevant and universal became evident when the terrorist organisation ISIS captured a large part of Iraq and Syria and declared its caliphate. These clerics and Islamic organisations openly lent support to them and defended their killing of innocent Muslims and non-Muslims including women and children. The ISIS destroyed churches and mausoleums alike. They held women slaves and sold them because many mainstream clerics say that capturing women of enemies and having sex with them and then selling them out is permissible in Islam.

Though some liberal thinkers and Islamic scholars of Islam of the 20th century like Muhammad Asad and Maulana Wahiduddin Khan tried to reinterpret the Quran without any sectarian and supremacist preoccupations and bring about an ideological change among the Muslims in the light of multicultural needs and compulsions of the modern society, the extremist interpretations of Islam presented by the 11th and 18th century clerics and exegetes is still considered more correct and propagated and followed by a section of mainstream scholars. The inclusion of these texts in the religious curriculum of Muslims contributes largely to the promotion of a violent interpretation of Islam.

In order to root out terrorism and sectarian hatred, therefore, our mainstream clerics and Islamic scholars should take initiative. An honest modern interpretation of the Quran and an inclusive approach towards understanding religion will only help purge Islam of violence, sectarianism and religious extremism.


S. Arshad is a columnist with


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