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Islam and war

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Title: Islam and war  
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Subject: Islam and violence, Religious war, Jihad, Criticism of Islam, Jihad (disambiguation)
Collection: Criticism of Islam, History of Islam, Islam and Violence, Islam-Related Controversies, Jihad, Violence
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Islam and war

The beginnings of Jihad are traced back to the words and actions of Muhammad and the Quran.[1] This encourages the use of Jihad against non-Muslims.[2] The Qu'ran, however, never uses the term Jihad for fighting and combat in the name of Allah; qital is used to mean "fighting." The struggle for Jihad in the Qu'ran was originally intended for the nearby neighbors of the Muslims, but as Islam expanded through conquest, the Quranic statements supporting Jihad were updated for the new adversaries.[2] The first documentation of the law of Jihad was written by 'Abd al-Rahman al-Awza'i and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani. The document grew out of debates that had surfaced ever since Muhammad's death.[1]


  • Early instances 1
  • Crusades 2
  • Islamic Spain and Portugal 3
  • Indian subcontinent 4
  • Barbary Pirates 5
  • West Africa 6
  • Caucasus 7
  • Mahdists in Sudan 8
  • Wahabbists 9
  • Ottoman Empire 10
  • Afghanistan 11
  • Algeria 12
  • Vietnam 13
  • China 14
  • Nazi Germany 15
  • See also 16
    • Political and military aspects 16.1
    • Related concepts 16.2
  • References 17
  • Further reading 18
  • External links 19

Early instances

The first forms of military Jihad occurred after the migration (hijra) of Muhammad and his small group of followers to Medina from Mecca and the conversion of several inhabitants of the city to Islam. The first revelation concerning the struggle against the Meccans was surah 22, verses 39-40:[3]

To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid. (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right,- (for no cause) except that they say, "our Lord is Allah". Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will).
— Abdullah Yusuf Ali

At this time, Muslims had been persecuted and oppressed by the Meccans.[4] There were still Muslims who could not flee from Mecca and were still oppressed because of their faith. Surah 4, verse 75 is referring to this fact:

And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?- Men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!
— Abdullah Yusuf Ali

The Meccans also refused to let the Muslims enter Mecca and by that denied them access to the Ka'aba. Surah 8, verse 34:

But what plea have they that Allah should not punish them, when they keep out (men) from the sacred Mosque—and they are not its guardians? No men can be its guardians except the righteous; but most of them do not understand.
— Abdullah Yusuf Ali

However hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari formalized the rules for warfare, which legitimized warfare against hypocrites.

It has been reported from Sulaiman b. Buraid through his father that when the Messenger of Allah appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and to be good to the Muslims who were with him. He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of Muhairs and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajirs. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muslims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai' except when they actually fight with the Muslims (against the disbelievers). If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them. When you lay siege to a fort and the besieged appeal to you for protection in the name of Allah and His Prophet, do not accord to them the guarantee of Allah and His Prophet, but accord to them your own guarantee and the guarantee of your companions for it is a lesser sin that the security given by you or your companions be disregarded than that the security granted in the name of Allah and His Prophet be violated When you besiege a fort and the besieged want you to let them out in accordance with Allah's Command, do not let them come out in accordance with His Command, but do so at your (own) command, for you do not know whether or not you will be able to carry out Allah's behest with regard to them."[5]

The main focus of Muhammad's later years was increasing the number of allies as well as the amount of territory under Muslim control.[6] The Qu'ran is unclear as to whether Jihad is acceptable only in defense of the faith from wrongdoings or in all cases.[1]

Major battles in the history of Islam arose between the Meccans and the Muslims; one of the most important to the latter was the Battle of Badr in 624 AD.[6] This Muslim victory over polytheists showed "demonstration of divine guidance and intervention on behalf of Muslims, even when outnumbered."[7] Other early battles included battles in Uhud (625), Khandaq (627), Mecca (630) and Hunayn (630). These battles, especially Uhud and Khandaq, were unsuccessful in comparison to the Battle of Badr.[6] In relating this battle, the Qu'ran states that Allah sent an "unseen army of angels" that helped the Muslims defeat the Meccans.[8]


The European crusaders re-conquered much of the territory seized by the Islamic state, dividing it into four kingdoms, the most important being the state of Jerusalem. The Crusades originally had the goal of recapturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land (former Christian territory) from Muslim rule and were originally launched in response to a call from the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire for help against the expansion of the Muslim Seljuk Turks into Anatolia. There was little drive to retake the lands from the crusaders, save the few attacks made by the Egyptian Fatimids. This changed, however, with the coming of Zangi, ruler of what is today northern Iraq. He took Edessa, which triggered the Second Crusade, which was little more than a 47-year stalemate. The stalemate was ended with the victory of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (known in the west as Saladin) over the forces of Jerusalem at the Horns of Hattin in 1187. It was during the course of the stalemate that a great deal of literature regarding Jihad was written.[6] While amassing his armies in Syria, Saladin had to create a doctrine which would unite his forces and make them fight until the bitter end, which would be the only way they could re-conquer the lands taken in the First Crusade. He did this through the creation of Jihad propaganda. It stated that any one who would abandon the Jihad would be committing a sin that could not be washed away by any means. It also put his amirs at the center of power, just under his rule. While this propaganda was successful in uniting his forces for a time, the fervor burned out quickly. Much of Saladin's teachings were rejected after his death.[9]

Islamic Spain and Portugal

Muslims conquered Spain in the year 711. The medieval Iberian Peninsula was the scene of almost constant warfare between the Muslim al-Andalus (and later Taifas) and Christian kingdoms. Periodic raiding expeditions were sent from Al-Andalus to ravage the Christian Iberian kingdoms, bringing back treasure and slaves. In raid against Lisbon, in 1189, for example, the Almohad caliph Yaqub al-Mansur took 3,000 female and child captives, while his governor of Córdoba, in a subsequent attack upon Silves in 1191, took 3,000 Christian slaves.[10]

The Almohad Dynasty (from Arabic الموحدون al-Muwahhidun ("the monotheists") or "the Unitarians"), was a Berber, Muslim dynasty that was founded in the 12th century, and conquered all Northern Africa as far as Libya, together with Al-Andalus (Moorish Iberian Peninsula). The Almohads, who declared an everlasting Jihad against the Christians, far surpassed the Almoravides in fundamentalist outlook, and they treated the dhimmis harshly.[11] Faced with the choice of either death or conversion, many Jews and Christians emigrated.[12][13] Some, such as the family of Maimonides, fled east to more tolerant Muslim lands,[12] while others went northward to settle in the growing Christian kingdoms.[14][15]

Indian subcontinent

Sir Jadunath Sarkar contends that several Muslim invaders were waging a systematic Jihad against Hindus in India to the effect that "Every device short of massacre in cold blood was resorted to in order to convert heathen subjects."[16] In particular the records kept by al-Utbi, Mahmud al-Ghazni's secretary, in the Tarikh-i-Yamini document several episodes of bloody military campaigns. In the late tenth century, a story spread that before Muhammad destroyed the idols at the Kaaba, that of Manāt was secretly sent to a Hindu temple in India; and the place was renamed as So-Manāt or Somnath. Acting on this, the Shiva idol at the Somnath temple was destroyed in a raid by Mahmud Ghazni in CE 1024; which is considered the first act of Jihad in India.[17] In 1527, Babur ordered a Jihad against Rajputs at the battle of Khanwa. Publicly addressing his men, he declared the forthcoming battle a Jihad. His soldiers were facing a non-Muslim army for the first time ever. This, he said, was their chance to become either a Ghazi (soldier of Islam) or a Shaheed (Martyr of Islam). The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb waged a Jihad against those identified as heterodox within India's Islamic community, such as Shi'a Muslims.[18][19]

Barbary Pirates

After the Spanish reconquered Granada from the Moors in 1492, many Moors exiled from the Spanish Inquisition fled to North Africa. After attacks against Spanish shipping took place from North Africa, the Spanish retaliated by seizing Oran, Algiers, and Tunis. By 1518, the pirates were serving in the navies of North African Sultans, conducting activities that included attacks on enemy (especially Christian) trade and raiding European coastlines for potential slaves. However, by 1587, their activity became much more decentralized, and more like traditional piracy.[20]

Much of the Barbary activity was funded through the enslavement of European Christians. In the beginning of the 17th Century, there were more than 20,000 captives to be sold into slavery in Algiers alone. Although people from all over Christendom suffered Barbary attacks, the people who were the most likely victims were from Sicily. However, any Christian nation that refused to pay tribute to Islam and either the Sultanate of Morocco, Eyalet of Tripolitania, or the Regency of Algiers could have been subject to attack.[20]

In 1800, the Eyalet of Tripolitania demanded an increase of tribute in order to "prevent" future attacks against the fledgling United States of America. However, the U.S. refused to pay the tribute, and this lead to the First Barbary War. When the U.S. defeated the Tripolitanians in the Battle of Derne in 1805, the two nations signed a treaty that had favorable terms for the United States. However, a resurgence in Barbary attacks in 1815 lead to the U.S. Navy being used again in the Second Barbary War, which also resulted in a U.S. victory and the ceasing of all Barbary attacks on American shipping without tribute.[21]

West Africa

The Fula or Fulani jihads, were a series of independent but loosely connected events across West Africa between the late 17th century and European colonization, in which Muslim Fulas took control of various parts of the region.[22] Between 1750 and 1900, one-third to two-thirds of the entire population of the Fulani jihad states consisted of slaves.[23]


In 1784, Imam Sheikh Mansur, a Chechen warrior and Muslim mystic, led a coalition of Muslim Caucasian tribes from throughout the Caucasus in a ghazavat, or holy war, against the Russian invaders.[24] Sheikh Mansur was captured in 1791 and died in the Schlüsselburg Fortress. Avarian Islamic scholar Ghazi Muhammad preached that Jihad would not occur until the Caucasians followed Sharia completely rather than following a mixture of Islamic laws and adat (customary traditions). By 1829, Mullah began proselytizing and claiming that obeying Sharia, giving zakat, prayer, and hajj would not be accepted by Allah if the Russians were still present in the area. He even went on to claim that marriages would become void and children bastards if any Russians were still in the Caucasus. In 1829 he was proclaimed imam in Ghimry, where he formally made the call for a holy war. In 1834, Ghazi Muhammad died at the battle of Ghimri, and Imam Shamil took his place as the premier leader of the Caucasian resistance. Imam Shamil succeeded in accomplishing what Sheik Mansur had started: to unite North Caucasian highlanders in their struggle against the Russian Empire. He was a leader of anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War and was the third Imam of Dagestan and Chechnya (1834–1859).[25][26]

Mahdists in Sudan

During the 1870s, European initiatives against the fall of Khartoum.[30]


The Saudi Salafi sheiks were convinced that it was their religious mission to wage Jihad against all other forms of Islam. In 1801 and 1802, the Saudi Wahhabists under Abdul Aziz ibn Muhammad ibn Saud attacked and captured the holy Shia cities of Karbala and Najaf in Iraq, massacred the Shiites and destroyed the tombs of the Shiite Imam Husayn and Ali bin Abu Talib. In 1802 they overtook Taif. In 1803 and 1804 the Wahhabis overtook Mecca and Medina.[31][32][33][34]

Ottoman Empire

Upon succeeding his father, Suleiman the Magnificent began a series of military conquests in Europe.[35] On August 29, 1526, he defeated Louis II of Hungary (1516–26) at the battle of Mohács. In its wake, Hungarian resistance collapsed and the Ottoman Empire became the preeminent power in South-Eastern Europe.[36] In July 1683 Sultan Mehmet IV proclaimed a Jihad and the Turkish grand vizier, Kara Mustafa Pasha, laid siege to Vienna with an army of 138,000 men.[37][38][39]

On November 14, 1914, in Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire, the religious leader Sheikh-ul-Islam declares Jihad on behalf of the Ottoman government, urging Muslims all over the world—including in the Allied countries—to take up arms against Britain, Russia, France, Serbia and Montenegro in World War I.[40] On the other hand, Sheikh Hussein ibn Ali, the Emir of Mecca, refused to accommodate Ottoman requests that he endorse this jihad, a requirement that was necessary were a jihad to become popular, due to British pressure and on the grounds that:

'the Holy War was doctrinally incompatible with an aggressive war, and absurd with a Christian ally: Germany'[41]


Ahmad Shah, founder of the Durrani Empire, declared a jihad against the Marathas, and warriors from various Pashtun tribes, as well as other tribes answered his call. The Third battle of Panipat (January 1761), fought between largely Muslim and largely Hindu armies who numbered as many as 100,000 troops each, was waged along a twelve-kilometre front, and resulted in a decisive victory for Ahmad Shah.[42]

In response to the Hazara uprising of 1892, the Afghan Emir Abdur Rahman Khan declared a "Jihad" against the Shiites. The large army defeated the rebellion at its center, in Oruzgan, by 1892 and the local population was severely massacred. According to S. A. Mousavi, "thousands of Hazara men, women, and children were sold as slaves in the markets of Kabul and Qandahar, while numerous towers of human heads were made from the defeated rebels as a warning to others who might challenge the rule of the Amir". Until the 20th century, some Hazaras were still kept as slaves by the Pashtuns; although Amanullah Khan banned slavery in Afghanistan during his reign,[43] the tradition carried on unofficially for many more years.[44]

The First Anglo-Afghan War (1838–42) was one of Britain's most ill-advised and disastrous wars. William Brydon was the sole survivor of the invading British army of 16,500 soldiers and civilians.[45] As in the earlier wars against the British and Soviets, Afghan resistance to the American invaders took the traditional form of a Muslim holy war against the infidels.[46]

During September 2002, the remnants of the Taliban forces began a recruitment drive in Pashtun areas in both Afghanistan and Pakistan to launch a renewed "jihad" or holy war against the pro-Western Afghan government and the U.S-led coalition. Pamphlets distributed in secret during the night also began to appear in many villages in the former Taliban heartland in southeastern Afghanistan that called for jihad.[47] Small mobile training camps were established along the border with Pakistan by al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives to train new recruits in guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics, according to Afghan sources and a United Nations report.[48]

Most of the new recruits were drawn from the madrassas or religious schools of the tribal areas of Pakistan, from which the Taliban had originally arisen. As of 2008, the insurgency, in the form of a Taliban guerrilla war, continues.

Although there is no evidence that the [50]


In 1830, Algeria was invaded by France; French colonial domination over Algeria supplanted what had been domination in name only by the Ottoman Empire. Within two years, Abd al-Qādir was made an amir and with the loyalty of a number of tribes began a jihad against the French. He was effective at using guerrilla warfare and for a decade, up until 1842, scored many victories. He was noted for his chivalry. On December 21, 1847, Abd al-Qādir was forced to surrender.[51]

Abd al-Qādir is recognized and venerated as the first hero of Algerian independence. Not without cause, his green and white standard was adopted by the Algerian Liberation Front during the War of Independence and became the national flag of independent Algeria.

The massacres of intense brutality and unprecedented size.[52][53]


The Cham Muslims under Katip Suma declared a Jihad against the Vietnamese invasion of Champa in 1832 under Emperor Minh Mang.[54][55][56][57]


Turkic Kokandi Uzbek Muslim forces under Yaqub Beg declared a Jihad against Chinese Muslims under T'o Ming during the Dungan revolt. Yaqub Beg enlisted non Muslim Han Chinese militia under Hsu Hsuehkung in order to fight against the Chinese Muslims. T'o Ming's forces were defeated by Yaqub, who planned to conquer Dzungharia. Yaqub intended to seize all Dungan territory.[58][59]

The Boxer Rebellion was considered a Jihad by the Muslim Kansu Braves in the Chinese Imperial Army under Dong Fuxiang, fighting against the Eight-Nation Alliance.[60][61]

Jihad was declared obligatory and a religious duty for all Chinese Muslims against Japan after 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War.[62]

Nazi Germany

Arab Muslim leader the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini met with Adolf Hitler on 21 November 1941.[63]

Prior to the meeting, in June 1940 the Mufti offered his services to the Nazi Reich government. In 1941, he went to Berlin via Tehran, where he explained to the German ambassador, Erwin Ettel, his plan to bring all Arabs under the banner of Pan-Arabism over to the side of the Axis (25 June 1942). Here he came out unconditionally for the "final solution" of the Jewish question, calling on the Germans to wipe out all Jews, "not even sparing the children."[64]

His meeting with Hitler evolved around Jews being "his foremost enemy". The Nazi dictator rebuffed the Mufti's requests for his empowerment.[63] Though Adolf Hitler hated Arabs, considered them to be racially inferior just as Jews, and refused to touch the Mufti or shake his hand, nevertheless, the Nazi Führer and the supreme religious authority of the Islamic world were able to bridge in a common hatred of the Jews.[65] Prof. W. Phares explaines in a paragraph:Jihadists and World War II that "While Nazi infidels were ultimately anathema to jihadists, the alliance answered all their practical needs at the moment."[66]

From a description in the article "The Mufti of Berlin" (24 September 2009) in the Wall Street Journal how his legacy had an impact of future radical Islamists:

...the Palestinian wartime leader "was one of the worst and fanatical fascists and anti-Semites," .... He intervened with the Nazis to prevent the escape to Palestine of thousands of European Jews, who were sent instead to the death camps. He also conspired with the Nazis to bring the Holocaust to Palestine. The mufti "invented a new form of Jew-hatred by recasting it in an Islamic mold," according to German scholar Matthias Küntzel. The mufti's fusion of European anti-Semitism—particularly thegenocidal variety—with Koranic views of Jewish wickedness has become the hallmark of Islamists world-wide, from al Qaeda to Hamas and Hezbollah. During his time in Berlin, the mufti ran the Nazis' Arab-language propaganda radio program, which incited Muslims in the Mideast to "kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion." Among the many listeners was also the man later known as Ayatollah Khomeini, who used to tune into Radio Berlin every evening, according to Amir Taheri's biography of the Iranian leader. Khomeini's disciple Mahmoud Ahmadinejad still spews the same venom pioneered by the mufti as do Islamic hate preachers around the world. Muslim Judeophobia is not — as is commonly claimed — a reaction to the Mideast conflict but one of its main "root causes." It has been fueling Arab rejection of a Jewish state long before Israel's creation.[67]

The exiled al-Husseini fled in 1941 to Berlin, serving the Nazi regime for four years in broadcasting jihadist as well as anti-British propaganda to the entire Middle East and by recruiting Bosnian Muslims for the Wehrmacht, the SS.[68]

  • Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini of 'Palestine' recruites[68] Moslem Holy Warriors who fought as the Waffen SS, and the "Free Arabia." - 1943[69]

In speaking to potential recruits, al-Husseini stressed the connections they had to the "Muslim nation" fighting the British throughout the world. That it is about "defending Muslims."

There were three divisions of Muslim soldiers: The Waffen SS 13th Handschar ("Knife"), the 23rd Kama ("Dagger") and the 21st Skenderbeg. The Skenderbeg was an Albanian unit of around 4,000 men, and the Kama was composed of Muslims from Bosnia, containing 3,793 men at its peak. The Handschar was the largest unit, around 20,000 Bosnian Muslim volunteers. The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust states "These Muslim volunteer units, called Handschar, were put in Waffen SS units, fought Yugoslav partisans in Bosnia and carried out police and security duties in Hungary. They participated in the massacre of civilians in Bosnia and volunteered to join in the hunt for Jews in Croatia." Part of the division also escorted Hungarian Jews from the forced labor in mine in Bor on their way back to Hungary. "The division was also employed against Serbs, who as Orthodox Christians were seen by the Bosnian Muslims as enemies." All in the all, there were at least 70,000 Bosnian Muslims captured by the British. Some of these Muslim ex-soldiers participated in aiding Arabs in the anti-Israel war of 1948.[70]

See also

Political and military aspects

Related concepts


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External links

  • Djihad in: The Encyclopaedia of Islam.
  • Alfred Morabia, Le Ğihâd dans l'Islâm médiéval. "Le combat sacré" des origines au XIIe siècle, Albin Michel, Paris 1993
  • Rudolph Peters: Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam
  • Nicola Melis, "A Hanafi treatise on rebellion and ğihād in the Ottoman age (XVII c.)", in Eurasian Studies, Istituto per l'Oriente/Newham College, Roma-Napoli-Cambridge, Volume II; Number 2 (December 2003), pp. 215–226.
  • Rudolph Peters, Islam and Colonialism: The Doctrine of Jihad in Modern History, "Religion and Society", Mouton, The Hague 1979.
  • Muhammad Hamidullah: Muslim Conduct of State
  • Muhammad Hamidullah: Battlefields of the Muhammad
  • John Kelsay: Just War and Jihad
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Further reading


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