Islamist Militants Carry Out Terror, Not Jihad

Editor’s Note:  This article was written by Raven friend Dr. Asma Afsaruddin and originally published by Religion News Service.

One of the most persistent accusations leveled against Muslims today is that the Quran explicitly instructs them in the name of jihad to fight against non-Muslims — solely because they are non-Muslims — until Islam takes over the whole world.

The term “jihad” however means to struggle or strive in order to promote what is good and prevent what is wrong — a fundamental moral imperative within Islam. Such striving can be accomplished through personal spiritual purification, social reform, and, when applicable, through military defense of those who have been persecuted. Militants and Islamophobes alike focus on the notion of jihad as armed combat.

The most frequently cited verse to make this point is Quran 9:5, which states: “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush.”

While this verse refers to Arab polytheists during the Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime and to the sacred months observed during the pre-Islamic period, this verse is plucked out of the holy text by Islamist militants and Islamophobes alike to make the case that Muslims are required to kill unbelievers everywhere, a duty understood to be obligatory for all time.

Case closed? Not quite.

Dr. Asma Afsaruddin is Professor of Islamic Studies and former Chairperson, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana University, Bloomington. She currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), a non-profit based in Washington, DC, dedicated to studying Islamic and democratic political thought and merging them into modern Islamic democratic discourse. She is the author of Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought. Her lecture on Islam and Violence at the 2016 COV&R conference was proudly made possible by a grant from the Raven Foundation.

Image: Screenshot from Youtube: “Not in my Name – Muslims against ISIS,” by its hamoodi

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