jihadi movements (Religious Movement)

The concept of jihad, means simply struggle or exertion to the best of one’s ability. Legally, there are two main types of jihad: greater jihad or jihad of the heart, tongue and hand which aims at the spiritual and intellectual development of the individual, and lesser jihad or jihad of the sword. The direct purpose of the latter has been widely understood to be the strengthening of Islam, the protection of believers and the elimination of unbelief. Closely linked with this notion of jihad is the division of the world into two realms the realm of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the realm of war (dar al-harb). Some schools of Islamic law also mention a third category or realm, the territory of treaty, which refers to an area whose non-Muslim inhabitants have concluded an armistice or treaty with Muslims and have agreed to pay the latter an annual sum in cash or kind. Twelver Shi’ite Islam (the type of Shi’ism that prevails for example in Iran and most of southern Iraq) holds that the obligation to undertake jihad is conditional on the manifest presence of the Imam. However, since their Imam went into hiding or concealment in 873 CE and though he is expected to return one day, the doctrine of jihad has no meaning in practice until that return takes place. This notwithstanding, the duty of defending Muslim lives and property remains. For jihad to be undertaken legally many requirements must be fulfilled including the obligation not to kill women and children unless they are actively fighting for the enemy. In the opinion of some schools of law only those who are fit and able to fight can be killed.

Countless movements in modern times, one of the most influential being the Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan founded by Hassan al-Banna (1906-49), have undertaken jihad and are frequently referred to as jihadi movements. Sayyid Qutb, a prominent member of the Brotherhood, is one of the most influential of the modern theorists of the use of jihad. Many of the modern writings on jihad have more of a mobilizing character than anything else, as do those that extol the bliss of martyrs in the Hereafter. Such writings appeared regularly during the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict and were replete with feats of Islamic heroism and contempt for death.

It is also important to note that in modern times fatwas or pronouncements concerning jihad tend to emphasize much more than in the past that it is an individual rather than a collective obligation and give as one of the reasons the invasion of Islamic territory by non-Muslims. They see the struggle therefore as a defensive war, an explanation given by Osama bin Laden for his declaration of war against the United States and its allies. However, these fatwas do not give to any and every Muslim the right to wage jihad. Often they will stress that rules laid down by the Arab League for participation in jihad must be observed.

Contemporary Islamic reform movements are not all of a kind. So-called radical, Islamist groups active today do not all espouse militancy, though in recent times there has been a growing tendency among such movements to turn themselves into jihadi movements and support the use of force (Zahab and Roy, 2002). However, the most important concern of some these movements is the reform of Islam by peaceful means to enable Muslims to embrace in a positive and constructive way the modern world. Others remain determined to throw a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around Islam and protect it by jihad or holy war, if necessary, from what they perceive as the corrosive influences of modernization, which for them is synonymous with westernization. For the latter an essential part of this defence of Islam is the restoration of authentic Islam which includes the establishment of an Islamic state, as was attempted by the Taliban with the support of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, that is a state in which Shari’a law is recognized as the law of the land.

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