The Origins Of Global Jihadi Terrorism

4943 words - 20 pages

The Origins of Global Jihadi Terrorism:
A Framework for Countering Islamic Radicalisation

“He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

Genesis 16: 12
The Bible, New International Version.

Such is the prophecy foretold in the Bible, where Ishmael, to whom the Prophet Muhammad traces his lineage , is to lead a life in perpetual conflict with his brethren. This prophecy has been cited as an analogy to highlight the greatest challenge that Islam is facing today – jihadi terrorism, which threatens to sow enmity between the Muslim civilisation and the rest of the ...view middle of the document...

The Theological Basis for Jihad

The term “jihad” literally means “struggle”, particularly for the “cause of God” , and appears numerous times in the Quran, Hadith (sayings of the Prophet) and Sunnah (Islamic practices or habits). Jihad is not always an outward manifestation of war; a distinction is made between the “greater jihad” which involves an individual’s “inward spiritual struggle to improve oneself as a Muslim” , and “lesser jihad” which is an “outward physical struggle to ensure justice and promote the spread of Islam” . “Greater jihad”, as its name suggests, is considered to be more important of the two. Muslims often focus on the endeavour of “greater jihad” in the pursuit of self-betterment and the strengthening of their faith.

It follows that any physical action made in the name of jihad falls within the category of “lesser jihad”. While this form of jihad is of secondary importance, it is the only form of jihad that is demonstrable by practical action, either on an individual or a collective basis. “Lesser jihad” can be further sub-divided into “offensive” and “defensive” jihad . The former aims to “promote, propagate and conquer for Islam” , while the latter authorises the use of force in response to external threats. By Islamic tradition, “offensive jihad” can only be waged by “the Caliph, with the support of the ulama (religious scholars)” . “Defensive jihad”, on the other hand, is only permissible under circumstances that require the need to repel aggression. In the absence of a Caliph since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, Muslims can theoretically only wage “defensive jihad” for the purpose of self-defence.

Ideological Roots

The Islamic faith mandates that the act of jihad is an obligation, or wajib , but must be conducted within the confines of the conditions laid out in the preceding paragraph of this essay. While self-defence can be understood to be the only ethical basis for jihad in the absence of a Caliph, the paucity of specific contexts for the application of jihad in the modern world has allowed for a variety of interpretations on what constitutes self-defence. This ambiguity has allowed proponents of radical Islamic ideology to articulate their extremist views under the legitimate process of independent judgment, or ijtihad , as well as reasoning by analogy, or qiyas . The name of God is often invoked to lend divine authority to the radicals’ clarion call for the faithful to embrace their brand of jihad.

Global jihadist terrorism has its ideological roots in Salafism, which is a radical form of Islam that calls for a “revival of the original community” as described in the Hadith and Sunnah. At the heart of Salafi ideology is 13th century Islamic scholar Ibn Tamiyya’s concept of tawhid, which affirms God as “the only object of worship and obedience” . Egyptian theologian Sayyid...

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