Glossary of Terms



Islam: Beliefs and Observances, Fifth Edition

by Caesar E. Farah (Hauppauge, NY: Baron's Educational Series, 1994, pages 154-155)


The idea of jihad in a military context with its emphasis on the notion of continuous struggle against non-believers in God as the sole deity tended to keep alive the spirit of solidarity in the community over and against outsiders. While the Qur'an does not make of jihad in the "holy war" context an article of faith, it is the Hadith which renders it into a formula for "active struggle" that invariably tended toward a militant expression. What makes of jihad a binding institution in Islam is the fact that it is a communal not an individual obligation. The incentive for jihad lies in its two-fold benefits: booty for this life and martyrdom with its immediate promise for a blissful eternal hereafter for those killed in battle, the shuhada (sing. shahid: martyr).

The exercise of jihad was the responsibility of the imam, or the caliph when the powers of the office were still in his hands; the territory of sanctioned war, dar al-harb, invariably was on the frontier of dar al-Islam (abode of Islam). The year raids against the Byzantines by the 'Abbasids, and later the Turkish thrusts into Byzantine holds in Asia Minor, which ended ultimately in the destruction of the empire altogether, were sanctioned by jihad, as were the raids into Hindustan by the Ghaznawids in the tenth and eleventh centuries.

Jihad has also an important non-military connotation, namely, that each Muslim must strive to live up to the tenets and requirements of his religion by constant manifestations of charitable deeds. This is what pious Muslims term the greater jihad, while the militant aspect is called the lesser jihad. This is the side of jihad that Western scholars tend to ignore.

Jihad in a militant context did not affect non-Muslim subjects and residents. The governing institutions of Islam affected directly the communicants and only superficially con-communicants whose residence among Muslims was accepted, tolerated, and indirectly regulated.

The conquerors permitted full juridical and administrative control to Christian and Jewish communities whose protection the Qur'an enjoins and who are known as ahl al-dhimmah or dhimmis (dimmis), in exchange for the jizyah, a sort of personal tribute-tax levied on all those capable of paying it. Their social and religious status with few exceptions was respected. The bishop, rabbi, or the head of the protected community was directly responsible for its affairs and welfare to the Muslim caliph, and later, sultan.

See also Mary Baker Eddy's description under the marginal heading, "The holy struggle," in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Boston: The Writings of Mary Baker Eddy, 2000, page 33:18):

When the human element in him struggled with the divine, our great Teacher said: "Not my will, but Thine, be done!"--that is, Let not the flesh, but the Spirit, be represented in me. This is the new understanding of spiritual Love. It gives all for Christ, or Truth. It blesses its enemies, heals the sick, casts out error, raises the dead from trespasses and sins, and preaches the gospel to the poor, the meek in heart.


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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