We see how in modern times almost every fanatic with a turban on his head and a Kalashnikov in his hand declares an armed jihad. We have so many armed jihads nowadays that it would be difficult to even count them. Successive waves of such people and groups have led to a situation in which the notion of jihad has been expanded so much that it covers virtually every field: political, military, religious, economic and social (eg. class struggle). Of course, this situation is the result of repeated violations of the original meaning of “jihad”.
And now let’s take a particular case, namely the Islamic State and see how this group actions violate even the most basic meaning of the concept of “jihad”:
- The Islamic State is trying to create its own state in a space where that is simply not possible. Even more than that, ISIS has self-proclaimed the promoter of “Global Islamic Empire”, which is a fantasy to say the least. Or the Prophet Muhammad was pretty clear about the conditions under which the jihad should be carried out, indicating that this process must take place in a space where the reality on the ground allows it;
- ISIS expands its territory exclusively by military means, completely ignoring any other form of jihad and any other means of carrying out. Or a true Muslim should use the other forms of jihad first. A Muslim who has not first assumed higher moral values through The Jihad with one’s own person cannot subsequently claim to carry out other forms of jihad, not in a legitimate and genuine way. ISIS has no set of moral values, being solely a criminal group, otherwise they would not exterminate unarmed civilians and destroy ancient cities only to get more attention from the West;
- ISIS confuses the idea of “alliances with the locals” with that of threatening them with extermination. That obviously cancels the idea of an alliance, which is seen as a mutually beneficial relationship. This mode of operation violates the concept of Major Jihad. By comparison, the Prophet Muhammad expanded his territory and consolidated his authority, not only through military conquest but through real political alliances as well;
- At least at the declarative level, the primary purpose of the jihad is the spreading of Islam and / or the removing the sinners within Islam. But ISIS’ actions are not aimed at either, but at the exploitation by any means possible of an as large territory as possible. That makes their claim of jihad no more than a lie;
- ISIS is not tolerant to anyone as it chooses to maintain control over the occupied territory through fear. Or, the Prophet Muhammad was tolerant to other religions, as long as they accepted his authority.
Although there are many articles on the Internet that attempt to explain the ideological side of ISIS, I will simplify things a bit in this article by saying that this a group has no ideology whatsoever. It has a set of goals, let’s say political and military in nature, and a set of means that are basically reduced to murdering anybody, anytime and anywhere. Such a behavior abolishes the idea of a jihad, placing it in the category of pathological crimes.
In the first part I also listed a number of questions that I considered relevant to today’s reality:
1. Is radical Islamism a contemporary issue?
Answer: Certainly yes. Radical Islamism exacerbates radicalism, abolishing Islam. Radical Islamist groups declare themselves “jihadist groups” and use terrorism as their main weapon. Terrorism was not used in the past by Islamic states because they had other, more effective instruments, with which to achieve their objectives: military tools, economic instruments, spies, administrative instruments and political alliances.
2. Can the actions of Islamic radical groups be justified by the concept of “jihad”?
Answer: Definitely not. Even if the so-called jihadists invoke passages in the Koran and the Prophet’s name to justify their actions, in reality neither one nor the other have any connection with their actions.
3. Is Islam a religion that promotes peace? Or does it promote war as well when peace fails to bring in the expected results?
Answer: In principle I cannot give a complete answer just by making reference to the concept of “jihad”. I can say, however, that peace and religious tolerance were the priority, while war was kept only as a back-up plan. And even war was only used in compliance with some very clear conditions, which we presented in Part II and which today are no longer taken into consideration.
Therefore the only answer that the evolution of the concept of “jihad” offers for the emergence of radical Islamism is that groups such as ISIS are trying to imitate the actions of the Prophet Muhammad and of the various caliphs in the past. They are trying to copy their thinking, their military objectives and a part of their operating methods. The main obstacles they face are the different geopolitical conditions and their own lack of education, which in turn prevents them from accepting the different geopolitical conditions and in adapting accordingly.