Relax! Take your shoes off! Jihad is an interior spiritual struggle! Nothing to be concerned about at all! Everybody out to the beach!
By Matt Vande Bunte for The Grand Rapids Press:
GRAND RAPIDS — Next time you hear “jihad” associated with a terrorist act, consider it a politicized perversion of a spiritual concept.
Bilal Sambur says you should instead think of the term the way most of the world’s billion Muslims understand it: a pervasive morality that governs daily life.
Sambur, director of the Turkish Association for Liberal Thinking’s Centre for the Study of Religion and Freedom, is spending a month at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty.
Just as the Grand Rapids think tank explores the role of Christian morality in a free-market economy, Sambur said he promotes democracy and free religious expression within the context of Islam.
“There is a need to rediscover what ‘jihad’ really means,” said Sambur, a Muslim who teaches at Suleyman Demirel University in Turkey. “Jihad is not equal to holy war. It is an ethical and spiritual concept. It means a human being must spend all his effort to actualize spiritual ideas in his individual and social life.
“This is not my personal definition. This is what the Prophet defines.”
The Prophet. Hmmm. Uh, that would be Muhammad, right? Oh yes, I think I’ve heard of him. And as a prophet, he delivered to the world a holy book, didn’t he? Let’s see, I think I’ve heard of it — the — the Qur’an, that’s it! Of course!
Now, in it, is jihad really simply the idea that “a human being must spend all his effort to actualize spiritual ideas in his individual and social life”? Can you explain, please, Mr. Sambur, how the idea that Jews and Christians must be warred against until they submit to Islamic rule, pay a special tax, and “feel themselves subdued” (Qur’an 9:29) represents the actualization of a spiritual idea? Do you mean, perhaps, by “spiritual idea” the idea of Sharia supremacism, with its “actualization” in “social life” involving warfare against unbelievers?
Take also another passage, one that isn’t usually adduced in discussions of Qur’anic teaching on jihad. Qur’an 4:71-104 is an extended passage exhorting the believers to go forth courageously to jihad warfare. Ibn Kathir explains v. 71 in this way: “Allah commands His faithful servants to take precautions against their enemies, by being prepared with the necessary weapons and supplies, and increasing the number of troops fighting in His cause.” A warrior should fight fearlessly, for “whether he is slain or gets victory” he will be rewarded (v. 74).
How is all this talk of weaponry and the possibility of being slain in battle consonant with the idea that jihad is primarily the actualization of a spiritual idea? (Unless, again, that spiritual idea is that Sharia should be the supreme law throughout the world, with non-Muslims subjugated).
The passage goes on to say that one will not escape death by declining to fight, for “all things are from Allah” (v. 78). And in any case, Allah will “restrain the fury of the unbelievers” (v. 84). V. 90 is sometimes adduced as proof that Muslims have no open-ended mandate to fight unbelievers, but the Tafsir al-Jalalayn makes clear that this refers only to unbelievers who submit to Islamic rule: “And so if they stay away from you and do not fight you, and offer you peace, reconciliation, that is, [if] they submit, then God does not allow you any way against them, [He does not allow you] a means to take them captive or to slay them.” V. 95 says that those believers who stay home and risk no injury are not equal to those who wage jihad.
Do not passages such as this demonstrate definitively that what the Qur’an means by jihad is not an interior spiritual struggle, but warfare? Why should anyone fear death or the fury of the unbelievers, or shorten his prayers in view of an impending attack by the unbelievers (v. 101), in a spiritual struggle? How can one kill a fellow Muslim by accident (v. 92) in a spiritual struggle?
Sambur goes on to say that he likes eating at McDonalds, and therefore there is no clash of civilizations. I am all for Muslims adapting to Western mores while living here, but his talk might have been a bit more reassuring if he had dealt forthrightly with the passages about jihad that I mention above, and many others like them.
But probably no one in the audience knew enough about the Qur’an to ask him about them — demonstrating once again the utility of being well-informed. For if he had been asked about them, his answers, or his reaction, might have been most illuminating and instructive to his non-Muslim audience.