Last updated on: 5/16/2008 12:49:00 PM PST

Does "Jihad" Imply Violence and War against Non-Muslims?

PRO (yes)

Bernard Lewis, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, in his 2003 book The Crisis of Islam, wrote:

"For most of the fourteen centuries of recorded Muslim history, jihad was most commonly interpreted to mean armed struggle for the defense or advancement of Muslim power. In Muslim tradition, the world is divided into two houses: the House of Islam (Dar al-Islam), in which Muslim governments rule and Muslim law prevails, and the House of War (Dar al-Harb), the rest of the world, still inhabited and, more important, ruled by infidels. The presumption is that the duty of jihad will continue, interrupted only by truces, until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule."

2003 - Bernard Lewis, PhD 

Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari, former Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of Iran, in a collection of lectures titled, "Jihad: The Holy War of Islam and Its Legitimacy in the Quran," published by the Islamic Propagation Organization, Tehran, Iran on the website of (accessed Apr. 26, 2007), wrote:

"'And Fight those who have not faith in God, nor in the Hereafter, and (who) forbid not what God and His Prophet have forbidden and (who ) are not committed to the religion of truth, of those who have been brought the Book, until they pay tribute by hand, and they are the low.' (9:29) [chapter:verse of the Qur'an]

This Quranic verse concerns the People of the Book, meaning those non-Muslims followers of one of the holy books, namely the Jews, Christians and perhaps the Zoroastrians.

The verse is one of war with the People of the Book, but at the same time, it does not tell us to fight them; it tells us to fight only those of them who have no faith in God, in the Hereafter, and who do not abide by the rule of God, allowing what He has forbidden - and who are not religious according to the religion of truth. It is these People of the Book whom we are to fight until they pay the Jezyah (tribute). That is, when they are ready to pay the Jezyah and are humble before us, we are to fight them no more."

Apr. 26, 2007 - Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari 

David Cook, PhD, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University, in his 2005 book Understanding Jihad wrote:

"However, sura 9 [chapter of the Qur'an] has many more important verses to offer concerning jihad. The sura's main subject is the revocation of the immunity granted by God and Muhammad to those tribes that had not converted to Islam prior to this revelation. After the lifting of the immunity, the Muslims must fight the unbelievers:

'Then, when the sacred months are over, kill the idolaters wherever you find them, take them [captive], besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every point of observation. If they repent afterwards, perform the prayer and pay the alms, then release them. Allah is truly All-Forgiving, Merciful.' (9:5)

This verse, together with the salvific covenant [a promised path to salvation], is one of the most important verses on the subject of jihad. It is usually called the 'Verse of the Sword' and is said to abrogate all other verses in the Qur'an on the subject of war and peace. While its immediate subject is the pagan Arabs— a narrow application sustained by early commentators—later Muslim jurists would use the verse to proclaim a universal jihad against all non-Muslims."

2005 - David B. Cook, PhD 

Daniel Pipes, PhD, Director of the Middle East Forum, in a Dec. 31, 2002 New York Post essay titled "What Is Jihad?" wrote:

"Jihad is 'holy war.' Or, more precisely: It means the legal, compulsory, communal effort to expand the territories ruled by Muslims at the expense of territories ruled by non-Muslims. The purpose of jihad... is not directly to spread the Islamic faith but to extend sovereign Muslim power. Jihad is thus unabashedly offensive in nature, with the eventual goal of achieving Muslim dominion over the entire globe."

Dec. 31, 2002 - Daniel Pipes, PhD 

CON (no)

Louay Fatoohi, PhD, Editorial Director of Packt Publishing, in his 2004 book Jihad in the Qur'an: The Truth from the Source, wrote:

"Contrary to the common belief that is embodied in the misinterpretation of 'jihad' as 'holy war,' Islamic jihad does not refer solely to fighting in the way of Allah. This, in fact, is a special case of jihad. The Qur'anic concept of jihad refers to exerting efforts, in the form of struggle against or resistance to something, for the sake of Allah. This effort can be fighting back armed aggression, but can also be resisting evil drives and desires in one's self. Even donating money to the needy is a form of jihad, as it involves struggling against one's selfishness and inner desire to keep one's money for one's own pleasures. Jihad can, therefore, be subdivided into armed jihad and peaceful jihad. Armed jihad... is only temporary and is a response to armed aggression. Once the aggression has ceased, armed jihad comes to an end. Armed jihad, thus, can take place only when there is an aggressive, external enemy."

2004 - Louay Fatoohi, PhD 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in a 2000 entry titled "About Islam and American Muslims," stated the following:

"'Jihad' does not mean 'holy war.' Literally, jihad means to strive, struggle and exert effort. It is a central and broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defense (e.g., -- having a standing army for national defense), or fighting against tyranny or oppression."

2000 - Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) 

Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari, a Shia Islamic scholar in Iran, in an article entitled "The Jehad - the Holy War," and posted to the website Light of Islam (accessed Apr. 26, 2007), wrote the following:

"Islam's aim, in its wars, battles and national uprisings against polytheism and materialism, has not been conquest, expansionism, imperialism or the seizure of others' financial resources...

This concept of 'a just war' led to that of, 'the Jehad' or 'Holy War', and the first revelations on this subject to the Prophet are enshrined in the Qur'anic texts (1) Sura XXII: Hajj-'Pilgrimage' (verses 39 and 40): 'Those upon whom war is made by unbelievers are granted permission to fight because they are being oppressed (Verily God is most powerful to aid them) and have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right for the sole 'crime of saying 'Our Lord is God'...'

Islam does not war against people. It wars against oppression, tyranny and wrong. These false ideas it seeks to root out, and to replace them by the superior ideas of purity and faith...

Therefore, before embarking on hostilities, Islam always sends a herald to the enemy bearing the invitation to accept Islam and make peace on the spot...

In the Qur'an rules are laid down for the relationships of Muslims with non-Muslims. If the non-Muslims maintain a friendly attitude they are well-treated, though of course hostilities must be repulsed, whether overt or covert. But Muslims are forbidden to begin aggression of either type."

Apr. 26, 2007 - Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari 

Plemon T. El-Amin, Masjid Imam of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, refering to a statement made by Imam W. Deen Mohammed, Founder and President of The Mosque Cares/W.D.M. Ministry, in a 2002 article published in Tikkun titled "A Muslim Voice Against Terrorism," wrote the following:

"The definition of jihad is not Holy War, nor can it be used to justify terrorism. Imam W. Deen Mohammed has stated that `Jihad means struggle in everything that God has established for Muslims to do. The emphasis on jihad in the Qur'an and in the life of Prophet Muhammed was not for the purpose of conquering lands or overthrowing nations, it was for the purpose of liberating the higher instincts, the higher aspirations in man.'"

2002 - W. Deen Mohammed 
Plemon T. El-Amin