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Jihad in the Koran

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Jihad as Penance

The concept of jihad and the promise of a “great reward” for killing and dying for God have fascinated Islamic scholars and writers from the earliest military conquests carried out during Muhammad’s life, and after his death, to this day.

4:74 So let those who sell the present for the life to come fight in the Way of Allah. Whoever fights in the Way of Allah and is killed or conquers, We shall accord him a great reward.

The earliest known writer on jihad, according to Cook, is Abdallah b. al-Mubarak [726-797] author of the Kitab al-Jihad (Book of Holy War). Mubarak summarized the redemptive value of killing and dying in the name of God as follows:

The slain [in jihad] are three [types of] men. A believer, who struggles with himself and his possessions in the path of God, such that when he meets the enemy [in battle] he fights them until he is killed. This martyr (shahid) is tested, [and is] in the camp of God under His throne; the prophets do not exceed him [in merit] except by the level of prophecy.

[Then] a believer, committing offences and sins against himself, who struggles with himself and his possessions in the path of God; such that when he meets the enemy [in battle] he fights until he is killed. This cleansing wipes away his offences and his sins – behold the sword wipes [away] sins! – and he will be let into heaven by whatever gate he wishes. …

[Then] a hypocrite who struggles with himself and his possessions in the path of God; such that when he meets the enemy [in battle] he fights until he is killed. This [man] is in hell since the sword does not wipe away hypocrisy.

David Cook, cf. Ibn al-Mubarak Understanding Jihad, p.14.

Later writings would expand on his concept that killing and being killed “in the path of Allah” has two redeeming features: atonement for your sins and rank in heaven . In the Christian gospels, Jesus of Nazareth shed his blood to redeem the sins of mankind; in the Islamic variation, it is the shedding of one’s own blood while killing the enemies of God that wipes away sins, the exception being one who dies in “the path of Allah” but whose loyalty was not always constant—the hypocrite.

There is a man who fights in the path of Allah and does not want to kill or be killed, but is struck by an arrow. The first drop of blood from him is atonement for every sin he has committed; for every drop he sheds he gains levels in paradise.

The second type of man is one who fights desiring to kill but not to be killed, and is struck by an arrow. The first drop of blood from him is for every sin; for every drop he sheds he gains a level in paradise until he bumps Abraham’s knee.

The third type of man is one who fights in the path of Allah desiring to kill and be killed and is struck by an arrow. The first drop of blood from him is atonement for every sin; he will come to the Day of Resurrection with a drawn sword [able to] intercede.

David Cook, cf. Ibn al-Mubarak Understanding Jihad, p.15.

This belief in the atonement properties of killing and dying for God and the way you died having an influence on your ranking in heaven could, according to the author of Understanding Jihad, have been responsible for “inspiring the conquest of so much territory and achieving what the early Muslims achieved.”

Killing and the way you die atoning for your sins is doubly effective in that it appeals to both the exemplary and the born-again believer. For example, a suicide bomber: the exemplary believer who has led a life according to the dictates of the Koran and the Prophet’s Sunnah, by his murderous self-immolation, not only offers a last honour and proof of his loyalty to God and His Messenger but is also assured of a higher ranking in heaven.

The born-again believer, on the other hand, can—in one irrational, destructive act—atone for a life of sinful behaviour, including premeditated murder, to gain immediate, unrestricted access to Paradise.

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Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "Allah welcomes two men with a smile; one of whom kills the other and both of them enter Paradise. One fights in Allah's Cause and gets killed. Later on Allah forgives the killer who also get martyred (In Allah's Cause)."

Bukhari 52.80

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Add to this the promise of unlimited sex with houris and “blushing maidens” and it’s a wonder that there are not more young Muslims willing to take on the role of the grim reaper. God may have wanted the believers to kill and die on his behalf and be handsomely rewarded for doing so, but he does not want them to get themselves killed fighting each other.

4:29 O believers, do not consume your wealth illegally, unless there be trading by mutual agreement among you; and do not kill yourselves. Allah is indeed merciful to you!

If only the next verse in this series was also a warning to the believers not to act aggressively against those who don’t share their religious obsessions.

4:30 And whoever acts aggressively and wrongfully, We shall cast him in the Fire; this being an easy matter for Allah.

Holy War - Origin

9 tropes about Muslims that are a product of Islamophobia

By Mirna Alsharif, CNN, September 11, 2021

...

4. The Quran encourages Muslims to commit acts of violence against non-Muslims

Claims that Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims are usually the result of people isolating verses from the religious texts that grant Muslims the right to defend themselves…

In fact the Quran is very clear about violence. Chapter 5, Verse 32 states: "Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind."

5. Muslims want to wage holy war by way of Jihad

 In the West, the term "jihad" is often used interchangeably with "holy war." But that's not what it means. Jihad is an Arabic term meaning "to strive" or "to struggle." In the context of Islam, it means to work toward becoming a better Muslim.

There are two types of jihad, inner and outer, with the former being known as the "greater jihad," and can encompass anything from not giving into temptations or making a greater effort to pray.

Outer jihad, or "lesser jihad," can refer to a military struggle, but more commonly refers to actions like being kind to others or being a good representative of the faith.

Dalia Mogahed (director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding) points out that the term "holy war" originated from The Crusades, a series of wars initiated by the Christian church, and does not originate in Arabic or the Muslim tradition at all.

The concept and conduct of holy war originated with Islam in spite of a falsehood, repeated here by CNN, that "holy wars" are a Christian invention. The Koran, the definitive text, was revealed in the 7th century and al-Mubarak’s Book of Holy War written in the 8th, 400 and 300 years respectively before the first crusade. As to that other assertion; if you have read this far the misrepresentation should be self-evident (and will become even more so), except for perhaps the reference to Verse 5:32. 

5:32 For that reason, We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul, not in retaliation for a soul or corruption in the land, is like one who has killed the whole of mankind; and whoever saves a life is like one who saves the lives of all mankind. Our Messengers came to them with the clear proofs; but afterwards many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

After the attacks of 9/11, Muslim community leaders said that those who caused the deaths of thousands in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania were not true Muslims because in Verse 5:32 Allah said that “whoever kills a soul is like killing all of mankind”, therefore no Muslim could have done this. They conveniently left out, as the CNN contributor does here, the part about the killing being justified if the murder is “in retaliation” for a previous murder or “corruption in the land” of which anyone who opposes Islam is guilty, and for whom the Compassionate sanctions the most gruesome of punishment. 

5:33 Indeed, the punishment of those who fight Allah and His Messenger and go around corrupting the land is to be killed, crucified, have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, or to be banished from the land. That is a disgrace for them in this life, and in the life to come theirs will be a terrible punishment.