About a seminar at the University of Virginia purporting to clear up the meaning of jihad, Robert Spencer recently wrote: “Note that in all this, at least as reported here, no one actually says that the jihadists’ use of the term is incorrect — just ‘incorrect in the sense that it is not the primary meaning of jihad.’ They just say the word has other meanings as well.”
Robert, you are being too kind. They are not only saying that the word “jihad” has “other meanings” — that can be granted — but would have us, unwary Infidels, believe that the primary meaning of Jihad is something other than that “struggle” or “Jihad” to spread Islam, to make sure that in the end all obstacles to the spread of Islam maintained by Infidels are torn down, so that everywhere “Islam dominates and is not to be dominated.”
Possibly the inimitable Karen Armstrong is not so inimitable after all. For it is she who quotes that hadith, the one about Muhammad returning home from war, and saying that he is returning from the “Lesser Jihad” of war to the “Greater Jihad” of domestic life and, presumably, working to stay on the path of Allah. But what Armstrong fails to tell readers is that this Hadith is not in either of the most respected and authoritative collections of Hadith, and even in the lesser ones in which it appears, it is not assigned the highest rank of authenticity. So it has little value. I assume that Karen Armstrong, who knows so little, simply has no idea how the Hadith have been gathered, collated, their isnad-chains studied, they themselves assigned different levels of plausibility and then gathered into certain collections and not into others. And in Onward Muslim Soldiers, you, Robert, observed that Hassan Al-Banna, Abdullah Azzam and others know well that this is a weak hadith, and used that fact as a point of recruitment, to win Muslims over to their uncompromising vision of jihad as warfare.
But what about the University of Virginia professor behind this — Gianotti? Does he know this? Is he simply trying to placate his Muslim colleagues and go along with the farce — for every Muslim knows perfectly well what the word “Jihad” is taken to mean by Muslims, in time and in space, from Spain to the East Indies, and over 1350 years? That a handful of people in the last two centuries tried, somehow, to endow it with another meaning is a detail or a footnote. Some of them did this because, during the years of perceived Muslim weakness and Western strength, they saw no other way out to attain the kind of accommodation that they realized would be necessary, in such circumstances, for Muslims to make.
The primary, the commonly-accepted and for almost all of the history of Islam virtually its only meaning of jihad was that which all of the Qur’anic scholars, the leaders of the various legal schools, the theologian Ghazali, the historian Ibn Khaldun, the caliphs and military men, gave it. And that is the same as the meaning given to it today not only by Osama bin Laden, but by Al-Qaradawi, and the Sheikh al-Azhar, and all of the Saudi imams, and of course the most learned Shi’a theologians as well — including that well-trained man, Ayatollah Khomeini, and his many admirers.
Such names as Joseph Schacht and Arthur Jeffery and Samuel Zwemer and St. Clair Tisdall and Emile Fagnan and K. S. Lal and David Margoliouth and Henri Lammens and Sir William Muir and so many others — well, are you going to believe me, says the likes of Timothy Gianotti, or what your lying eyes tell you when you read C. Snouck Hurgronje, or Joseph Schacht?
I think, in this as in so many other cases, you had better believe your “lying eyes.”