All praise belongs to Allah and blessings and peace be upon the final prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
We have recently seen a number of articles and lectures by various speakers and scholars about jihad and terrorism, and although these brothers have sincere intentions (and we ask Allah to reward and guide them), I fear that this discourse is lacking the basic framework of an academic methodology, and as a result it can easily be misleading and cause more problems than it solves.
The most fundamental principle to be considered prior to any discussion concerning any given topic is to define the major terms used throughout that discussion. With reference to recent discussions, we find that they revolve around the terms ‘terrorism’ and ‘jihad’ and are used in an attempt to condemn those who misunderstand both terms, yet commentators fail to provide comprehensive and accurate definitions for them. As a result, discussions become relative where all understand terrorism and jihad according to their own view. Modernists will see it as a proof that the concept of jihad should be re-interpreted according to Western imperial views dominated by an anti-Islamic agenda whereby the ‘correct’ and ‘moderate’ understanding of jihad does not include any type of physical engagement, including self-defence which of course is preposterously incorrect. Others will capitalise on this warped view in order to justify their ideological opinions regarding jihad in that it is limited to one’s struggle against his/her own whims and desires.
For those who have become embroiled in this discussion, it makes no difference as to whether a clarification is offered that these incorrect forms are not the jihad that they meant, or that their statements were misunderstood. What is of importance however, is that which the average reader understands, and therefore, providing clear and precise definitions must be a priority in order to avoid any possible confusion. In addition, it is notable that many lectures and articles written against so-called jihadists use an emotional tone – the same tool employed by the ‘jihadists’ themselves. This consequently lacks the ability to convince those who believe that they are the ‘authentic’ Mujahideen. It is also surprising that commentators use blanket statements which are basic , vague , and weak given that ‘jihadist’ discourse has developed to provide answers for most of the textual and rational evidences used against its mission and ambition.
One of the major concerns at this given juncture is that those who believe in this so-called jihadist methodology become more content that their opponents’ rhetoric is falsehood and so weak that they cannot manage to even produce a consistent (let alone strong) argument! Let us remember that if one is upon the truth but then is unable to deliver it in a convincing manner, it can instead become a source of misguidance for many. This is why Allah sent his Prophets with clear evidence, He said, “Then! Are the Messengers charged with anything but to convey the Message clearly?” The Prophet also said “Every Prophet has been given signs/verses the like of which, people believe in.” The scriptural texts quoted in most anti-jihadist literature to prove that killing innocent people is an act of great corruption and mischief on Earth is overplayed, and there is a lack of clear and comprehensive interpretation clarifying the boundaries between what is true jihad and what is not. It is known that ‘jihadists’ agree with these texts, but countering the argument by simply stating that these verses speak about those who kill innocent people. They state that the people killed by their operations are not completely innocent but either guilty of killing Muslims in other parts of the world or aiding those who perpetrated those acts. An example of this issue is when anti-jihadists state that jihadists are extremists and evil as Allah says, “And those who invoke not any other ilah (god) along with Allah, nor kill such life as Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse; and whoever does this shall receive the punishment. The torment will be doubled for him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein in disgrace”. The jihadist simply respond by saying that this verse is actually proof against the anti-jihadists since Allah states the exception is a “just cause” and jihad and self defence is ‘a just cause’ for killing others who aim to kill you and rape your wives and daughters!
In conclusion, I would like to advise our brothers, whether they be preachers or scholars to exercise careful consideration in regards to anything they say, and in particular, complicated matters such as jihad in the current context. Our brothers should not be fooled by those who welcome their statements, something which might later be the cause of a regrettable reaction. If we feel that we have no choice but to speak about such issues, we should avoid projecting our views in a way that implies that ours is the ultimate truth and anyone who disagrees is an extremist or has gone astray. The same advice must be said to those who believe that they are protecting the honour of the ummah (Muslim nation) by calling for what they see as Jihad.
(Please note that we disagree with the term ‘jihadist’ and the way it is used in the media. However, it was only used since it is the common word used to Muslims who believe that they are carrying out jihad activities)
Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Council of Europe. He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom’s Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari’ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Council of Europe as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.