Op-Ed: Islam, Jihad and Non-Muslims
Reading the title of Sinem Tezyapar’s latest article, “The Koran Does Not Sanction War Against Non-Muslims”, in which she responded to – and attempted to refute –my critique of her first article on the subject, I felt a surge of optimistic hope. I had entertained the notion that perhaps she had really discovered that my reasoning as to why Islam is inevitably hostile to Israel was faulty.
I had presented two principle arguments for this unfortunate conclusion. The first is the doctrine of naskh (abrogation), the second is the doctrine of ijma’ (consensus).
To recap briefly: the doctrine of naskh dictates that the later suras of the Qur’an abrogate the earlier ones, and the doctrine of ijma’ dictates that what the majority of Muslims believe is the authoritative interpretation of Islam.
Ms. Tezyapar did not address these arguments. She restated certain tolerant Qur’anic verses (“Your religion is to you, our religion is to us”, “There is no compulsion in religion”), but this is sadly irrelevant as long as Ms. Tezyapar did not refute the doctrine of naskh.
She also stated that “in my own religious community, there are fanatics who believe that my religion should fight against those who do not embrace it…. But I disagree with them” and continues: “I believe that I have far better proof that the radicals distort the true meaning of my religion”. But the doctrine of ijma’ dictates that the majority opinion among Muslims is authoritative.
She used a known argument that just as the Bible (Tanakh and New Testament) contains verses both of war and of peace, both of love and of hate, so too does the Qur’an. Just as Jews and Christians can pick and choose which verses they live by, so can Muslims.
Again, this claim is faulty. Of these three religions, Christians have the greatest autonomy in interpretation of their scriptures. For Jews, the Talmud and the Halakhic works (Mishneh Torah, Shulchan Aruch, and so on) provide the authoritative definitions of which Biblical verses have practical application and how to apply them. For Muslims, the doctrine of naskh precludes any autonomy to pick and choose which verses to apply in their lives, and the doctrine of ijma’ precludes any autonomy to apply their own personal interpretations – regardless of how peaceful and loving those interpretations are.
I do not doubt the writer's integrity and peaceful ideology. But her personal interpretation and application of Islam is not the subject under discussion.
Ms. Tazyapar argues that “Jihad is not synonymous with holy war...Jihad means rather exertion, which is to strive, to make effort toward some object identified to the will of God as revealed in the Qur’an. Some worthy objects of jihad include strife against one’s egoistic passions, or to make an intellectual challenge against irreligion, radicalism or fanaticism”.
To understand the concept and purpose of jihad, we first have to understand how Islam views the world.
Islam divides the world into dar el-salaam (the abode of peace) and dar el-harb (the abode of war). Dar el-salaam is that part of the world in which Islam rules, i.e. any area which has been subjugated to Islam. According to different Muslim theologians, this could include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other countries where the law of the land is either sharia’ (Islamic religious law) or based upon sharia’; some would also include such countries as Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Indonesia which, although sort of secular and sort of democratic, nevertheless define themselves as Muslim and have solid Muslim majorities.
Dar el-harb is anywhere in the world which has not been subjugated to Islam. Again, there are differences of opinion among Muslim theologians as to what exactly constitutes dar el-harb: some would include secular Muslim countries, and some would even include Islamic theocracies on the grounds that they are not governed by the Caliphate.
Theologically, the purpose of jihad is to increase Allah’s sovereignty in the world; that is, to subjugate the world to Islam. And this is done by conquering countries and absorbing them into dar el-salaam. To quote the definition of Sheikh Muhammad Abu Zahra (member of the Academy of Islamic Research), “jihad…had been decreed to repel aggression and to remove obstructions impeding the propagation of Islam in non-Muslim countries” (from a paper delivered to the Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research in Al-Azhar University, the most important Islamic university in the world, Rajab 1388/October 1968).
Now it is a fundamental principle of Islamic eschatology that one day the entire world will become dar el-salaam. Those Muslims whom we see holding up signs “Islam will dominate the world” are not “extremists” or “fundamentalists”; they are simply expressing one of the fundamental beliefs of mainstream Islam
It is also a fundamental principle of Islam that the entire Qur’an is eternal and immutable – including such passages as mandate jihad.
The combination of these principles leads to an apparent contradiction: if Islam will indeed one day conquer the world, then what will happen to jihad when that day comes? Since the Qur’an itself mandates jihad, and since the purpose of jihad is to subjugate the world to Islam, and since the mandate of jihad is eternal – then how will jihad be conducted after the day that the last street in the last village in the last country in the world has been subjugated to Islam?
To continue with Sheikh Abu Zahra’s dissertation, “Jihad would never end, because it will last to the Day of Resurrection. But war comes to a close so far as a particular group of people is concerned. It is terminated when the war aims are realised, either by the repulse of aggression and the enemy’s surrender by the signing of a covenant, or a permanent peace treaty or truce etc.”
When Islam will have conquered the entire world – and not before that – jihad will become the spiritual struggle that the Muslim wages against his own dark nature. Ms. Tazyapar’s depiction of jihad as “strife against one’s egoistic passions, or to make an intellectual challenge against irreligion, radicalism or fanaticism” is not false, merely not applicable until the violent Jihad has reached its goal.
To prove this, I turn to the Imam Abu Hanifa (699-767), who founded the Sunni Hanafi school of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Abu Hanifa was to what St. Augustine is to Christianity – the greatest ever post-canonical authority. I cite here his religious ruling as to which animals are hallal (permitted to be eaten) and which are haram (forbidden). Abu Hanifa ruled that though the horse is hallal (which is standard sharia’), horse-meat is nevertheless makruh tanzihan (preferable not to eat), because the horse is a majestic and noble beast which is used in jihad. Now no one uses a horse for “strife against one’s egoistic passions, or to make an intellectual challenge against irreligion, radicalism or fanaticism”; one uses a horse in temporal warfare on physical battle-grounds. Clearly, Abu Hanifa does not accept Ms. Tazyapar’s interpretation of jihad.
In her final paragraph, Ms. Tazyapar writes: “The vision of all the Abrahamic religions talk about the coming of a better world, without pain, hunger, hatred and war”.
True. But Judaism and Islam have widely differing visions of that perfect world. While Islamic eschatology holds that in the End of Days the entire world (that is, all people who survive) will believe in Islam and the entire world will be Islamic, Judaism has no parallel claim. In Jewish eschatology, the end-game scenario involves the Return to Zion – that is to say, all Jews will be in Israel, while the other nations will remain non-Jewish.
Putting this bluntly, Islamic eschatology sees Islam dominating the entire world; Jewish eschatology sees Jews dominating the Land of Israel and leaving all other nations to continue as they see fit. Of course, the belief is that the perfect Jewish society in Israel will inspire the rest of the world and will engender universal recognition of the G-d of Israel, without, however, calling on any non-Jews to convert to Judaism.
I am heartened by Ms. Tazyapar’s description of herself as “a devout believer who strongly believes that the message of Islam, Judaism and Christianity is the same: Peace”. Of course we must all do whatever we can to encourage and strengthen such beliefs and, in Ms. Tazyapar’s words, to “unite against terrorism, radicalism and bigotry, and help each other by building bridges across the rift that the radicals work so hard to deepen