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Muslims were not allowed to wage war before the hijra. The reason for this is that without political sovereignty, jihad becomes fasad. How is it possible that a group which does not even have the right to award punishment to a criminal should be given the right to wage war?
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Mizan, qaanuune da`wat; page 35, Urdu version. (alt. here)

Jihad, to foreign ears, should be viewed as an assertion.

Pretend you're a Muslim. Why jihad?

Contrary to the assumptions of many right-wing extremists, Islam has a more sophisticated view of violence than Christianity and Judaism. The God of the Qu'ran recognizes that nobody is perfect, and peace is not the natural order on Earth. Sometimes it is necessary to struggle. There are, therefore, two kinds of struggle: fasad and jihad.

Fasad, "mischief" or "corruption", is behavior which is disobedient towards God and disrespectful of life. Terrorism is sometimes deemed fasad fi al-ardh, spreading corruption in the land; in extreme countries, advocating atheism is fasad due to a poor understanding of religion.

Jihad is the good kind of struggle. Literally, jihad is any situation where you must struggle against some foreign desire to set yourself right with God. For example:

The giving of zakat or religious tax and khums is again a form of jihad not only in that in departing from one's wealth man must fight against the coveteousness and greed of his carnal soul, but also in that through the payment of zakat and khums in its many forms man contributes to the establishment of economic justice in human society.

The beneficial and righteous fruits of any good jihad will be evident when it is carried out. Zakat is a good jihad because it not only fights your internal demons, but social injustice in the physical world.

How about those Islamic Jihad folks who bomb Israel?

When a country, organization, or individual calls for jihad, it means they are claiming the following:

  1. One's freedom to live the right way, i.e., the way God intends, is being infringed.
  2. It's not about our problems, it's about some outside oppressor.
  3. It is not enough to simply accept the perversion because God made it clear to us that we must defend our way of life, with violence if necessary.

You might notice that these are the same claims made in the American Declaration of Independence. This was an unintentional parallel on my part. I didn't notice this until I reread the Declaration recently.

The violence committed by extremists is asserted to be "jihad." That does not mean that jihad, an integral part of Islam, is a call to violence anytime, anywhere. Such a thing would be absurd; that religion would not survive for 100 years, let alone 1400. When extremists say that jihad is necessary they are telling Muslims that they are in the right. Therefore, when you read a sentence like this:

Islamic Jihad said it carried out the attacks in response to the killing of 10 militants in Gaza this week.

The name "Islamic Jihad" should not be viewed as a statement of hatred for freedom or any nonsense like that. It is in fact two assertions which are broadcast wholesale to the world despite the fact that they are patently untrue. The word Jihad is an assertion that the members of this so-called "Islamic Jihad" are carrying out a necessary struggle; the word Islamic is an even bolder assertion, that they are worshiping God in the way He demands, and that any good believer ought to do the same. In other words, a name like "Islamic Jihad" is propaganda aimed at Muslims. They are claiming to be the good guys.

If you understand this you will see that the only thing more outrageous than a name like that is a bunch of dumb Americans reading that name in a news article and thinking "with an evil name like that, any Muslim who thinks they are the good guys has got to be subhuman." If you want to prove to Muslims that the "jihadis" are not the good guys, you must explain not only how they are not Islamic, but they are not doing jihad. Rather, they are being selfish, short-sighted, and disrespectful to God.

Further reading

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