Idris, professor and chairman of Al Azhar University's Department of Comparative Jurisprudence at the Faculty of Sharia Law, is a well-reputed legal scholar. He begins his article by quoting from various international bodies that correctly define terrorism as violence or threats of violence as a means of coercion.
Idris also mentions how "the Islamic Research Academy, in its report issued on November 4th, 2001, defines terrorism as terrorizing innocent people and the destruction of their properties and their essential elements of living and attacking their finances and their persons and their liberties and their human dignity without right and spreading corruption throughout the land."
It is interesting to note that, although he quotes from several international bodies, it is only the "Islamic Research Academy" that includes words like "innocent" and "without right," both of which clearly leave much wiggle room to exonerate terrorist acts committed against those perceived as not being "innocent" or who it is a right to terrorize, which according to many Muslims, includes the West.
At any rate, in the context of the Muslim Brotherhood's recent terrorist attacks throughout Egypt—including the destruction of over 80 Christian churches—Idris agrees that,
It is therefore correct to define what happened recently [in Egypt] as terrorism and it cannot be called, as some have done [e.g., Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, et al.], a jihad or ribat in the path of Allah, for the difference between them is vast. Terrorism is a crime, both according to Sharia and the law; and all international conventions consider it a crime and call on all people to fight against it through all means.Up until this point, Idris defines and agrees with the international definition of terrorism, and portrays the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (whom he never names) as terrorism.
So far so good.
However, Idris immediately makes a complete reversal in his follow-up sentences:
But jihad in the path of Allah, to make his word supreme, spread his religion, defend the honor of the Islamic nation [umma], and respond to the aggression against Muslims all around the earth—this is jihad: when a Muslim fights an infidel without treaty to make the word of Allah Most High supreme, forcing him to fight or invading his land, this is a permissible matter according to the consensus of the jurists. Indeed, it is an obligation for all Muslims. Now if the deeds of the jihad—including fighting the infidels and breaking their spine through all possible means—are permissible according to Sharia, then it is impossible to define those acts as terrorism, which Sharia-based evidence has made illegitimate. A large gap exists between them [jihad and terrorism]. And there is no connection between what is obligatory [jihad] and what is forbidden [terrorism].At this point, the befuddled Western reader may be at a loss to understand how, exactly, jihad—"according to the consensus of the jurists," no less—is different from the aforementioned definitions of terrorism.
What's needed here is for the non-Muslim to try to transcend his epistemology and think, for a moment, like an observant Muslim, especially in the context of two points:
- According to Islamic doctrine, jihad, as Idris asserts, is an obligation for Muslims (offensive being communal, defensive being individual). As this expert of Islamic jurisprudence states: "But jihad in the path of Allah, to make his word supreme, spread his religion… this is jihad: when a Muslim fights an infidel without treaty [e.g. dhimma pact] to make the word of Allah Most High supreme, forcing him to fight or invading his land…"
- In Islamic thinking, even offensive jihad—including "breaking [the infidels'] spine through all possible means"—is seen as something of an altruistic affair, for the good of the world. More to the point, the ends justify the means.
In short, jihad is not terrorism simply because Allah says so—even if the two, back in the real world, are identical. In the words of Idris: "Now if the deeds of the jihad—including fighting the infidels and breaking their spine through all possible means—are permissible according to Sharia, then it is impossible to define those acts as terrorism."
Three final thoughts:
- Next time you wonder why "moderate" Muslims rarely if ever condemn the terrorism habitually committed in the name of their religion, you'd do well to remember Idris' article and rationale.
- Regarding the supposedly "controversial" question of what jihad really is, who do you think is more authoritative—a Sharia law instructor at the Islamic world's most prestigious university, writing in Arabic to fellow Muslims, or, say, a Karen Armstrong writing best-selling fluff pieces about a benign and "misunderstood" Islam to a naïve Western public?
- Why was Idris' article left unreported? Imagine the international outrage that would spark if a Christian theologian wrote in the New York Times—which is what Al Ahram is equivalent to in Egypt—that "it is an obligation" for Christians to wage "holy war" on non-Christian infidels and "fight or invade his [non-Christian] land" to "make Jesus' word supreme"?
Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (Regnery, 2013). A Middle East and Islam expert, he is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum and author of The Al Qaeda Reader: The Essential Texts of Osama Bin Laden's Terrorist Organization.
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