Why is Islam at War?

A devout Muslim believes that anyone outside the Ummah, the community of believers, resides in Dar al-Harb, the World of War. The believer is obliged to fight to enlarge the Ummah by all means necessary. The war we are in now, the Great Islamic Jihad, Third Wave, is a continuation of a war that is as old as the Islamic faith itself.

Islam may be unique in its scriptural call to continuing war on behalf of the faithful. Some have argued that Christ’s words (Matthew 10:34)

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

are used as justification for Christian violence. On the whole, however, any Christian scriptural justification for holy war is weak indeed compared to numerous passages in the Quran such as:

Al-Baqara (The Cow)

2:218 Those who believed and those who suffered exile and fought (and strove and struggled) in the path of Allah,- they have the hope of the Mercy of Allah. And Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

And yet there are many scriptural passages in the Quran urging peace and mercy. The question naturally arises: Why did Islam not follow the other major religions into modernity by interpreting its core texts in a way that would allow a tolerant and secular society to arise?

Posts over the next several days will explore some general reasons why Islam remains at war.

6 thoughts on “Why is Islam at War?

  1. Funny enough, in the Constitution of Medina, written by Muhammad himself, the Jews were part of the Ummah.
    “A Jew who follows us has (a right to) the same help and support (as the believers), so long as they are not wronged (by him) and he does not ‘hlpe’ others against them.” –pt.16

    Christians were expected to be included as well–it’s just that there weren’t many in Arabia at the time.

    Further, there were three categories, not two. Dar al-ahd, or the land of the treaty. Also, Dar al-Harb as much describes the conditions Muslims are to expect from a world that has not committed itself to treaty with them as what they are to bring to the outside world. Jihad and harb are two entirely different kinds of war, even when we discuss the “lesser Jihad,” war. Harb is not sanctioned by the Qur’an, and includes, but is not limited to, terrorism.

    Why don’t we, also, consider, from the Qur’an (5:48) “so strive as in a race in all virtues” a command given not solely to Muslims, but to all ‘believers’ in monotheism, those in the Abrahamic tradition, Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. (quote from http://web.umr.edu/~msaumr/Quran/5.html)

    I mean, this all comes from what they’ve taught me here at W&M…so take it as you will.

  2. Doesn’t the “treaty” refer to the tactical concessions Muslims are allowed to make to infidels? These are considered only temporary, and may be broken by the believer without shame or consequence as soon as the situation confers advantage upon Islam.

    I believe the Iranians are negotiating one of these with the EU right now.

  3. Actually, just as often, it’s the Muslims who are allowed to negotiate from a position of power–see the Treaty of Hudaybiyya (sp?), where Ali accepted terms from a defeated enemy (much to the chagrin of the Kharijites).

  4. I think you’re talking about how the status of dhimmitude is conferred upon the non-believers now to be incorporated within the ummah. The Islamic majority allows the dhimmi to survive with restricted rights within the Islamic polity, provided that he pays the tax, refrains from attempting to convert others to his faith, and so on.

    This is the status that parts of (formerly) Christian Europe will undoubtedly live under before the end of this century.

  5. The doctrine of abrogation has existed
    in Islam since around 1100 AD or so,
    if my aging memory serves me. This
    doctrine states that later Sura take
    priority, or even cancel out, earlier
    ones. Thus the Mecca Suras of love
    and kindness, nice though they are to
    read, are overpowered by the Medina
    Sura of “strike the infidel at the
    neck until they bow to Allah, or
    agree to pay the jizya”.

    Every course in Islam taught by an
    institution is suspect, thanks to
    the large amount of Saudi money that
    has been spent over the last 20
    or more years from madrassas to
    mosques to endowments at
    universities. Read the Koran and
    the history, there the truth lies.

  6. Graf, that’s an interesting sequence. It seems the opposite of Christianity, where the Old Testament “smite with fire” meme was succeeded by the “love your enemy” trope in the New Testament.

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