Notwithstanding all this contemporary evidence — which reflects a seamless continuum of Islamic doctrine and history — the Obama administration’s lead counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, vociferously advocates an exclusive, bowdlerized definition of jihad in the public discourse as, “to purify oneself or one’s community,” lest the tender sensibilities of Muslims be offended. He further claims that, somehow, self-described jihadists, “have truly just distorted the whole concept” of jihad. But it is Brennan, irrespective of whatever flimsy, ahistorical rationale he provides, who thoroughly misrepresents jihad — a living, bellicose Islamic institution which dates from Islam’s origins almost 14 centuries ago.
The dangerous absurdity of Brennan’s jihad denial is self-evident: nearly 17,500 jihad terror attacks have been committed by Muslims worldwide since the cataclysmic acts of jihad terrorism committed against the United States itself on September 11, 2001. These data should remind us that there is just one historically relevant meaning of jihad despite such contemporary apologetics. The root of the word Jihad appears 40 times in the Koran, and in subsequent Islamic understanding to both Muslim luminaries — from the greatest jurists and scholars of classical Islam (including Abu Yusuf, Averroes, Ibn Khaldun, and Al Ghazzali), to ordinary people — meant and means “he fought, warred or waged war against unbelievers and the like.” As described by the seminal 19th century Arabic lexicographer E.W. Lane, “Jihad came to be used by the Muslims to signify wag[ing] war, against unbelievers.” A contemporary definition, relevant to both modern jihadism and its shock troop “mujahideen” — was provided at the Fourth International Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research at Al Azhar University, in 1968, by Muhammad al-Sobki:
the words Al Jihad, Al Mojahadah, or even “striving against enemies” are equivalents and they do not mean especially fighting with the atheists … they mean fighting in the general sense.
Muhammad himself, during the last decade of his life (622-632), waged a series of proto-jihad expeditions to subdue the Jews, Christians, and pagans of Arabia. Not surprisingly, the Jews figured prominently in these campaigns. Muhammad’s failures or incomplete successes were consistently recompensed by murderous attacks on the Jews. The Muslim prophet-warrior developed a penchant for assassinating individual Jews, and destroying Jewish communities — by expropriation and expulsion (Banu Quaynuqa and B. Nadir), or massacring their men, and enslaving their women and children (Banu Qurayza). Just before subduing the Medinan Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza and orchestrating the mass execution of their adult males, Muhammad invoked perhaps the most striking Koranic motif for the Jews debasement — he addressed these Jews, with hateful disparagement, as “You brothers of apes.” Subsequently, in the case of the Khaybar Jews, Muhammad had the male leadership killed, and plundered their riches. The terrorized Khaybar survivors — industrious Jewish farmers — became prototype subjugated dhimmis whose productivity was extracted by the Muslims as a form of permanent booty. And according to the Muslim sources, even this tenuous vassalage was arbitrarily terminated within a decade of Muhammad’s death when Caliph Umar expelled the Jews of Khaybar.
Numerous modern day pronouncements by leading Muslim theologians confirm that Muhammad has been the major inspiration for jihadism, past and present. (See for example, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s, “The Prophet Muhammad as a Jihad Model”.)
Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), jurist, reknowned philosopher, historian, and sociologist, summarized these consensus opinions from five centuries of prior Muslim jurisprudence with regard to the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad:
In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force … The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense … Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.
Classical Islamic jurists such as Ibn Khaldun also formulated the concepts Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb (Arabic for, “The House of Islam and the House of War”). As described by the great 20th century scholar of Islamic Law, Joseph Schacht:
A non-Muslim who is not protected by a treaty is called harbi, “in a state of war”, “enemy alien”; his life and property are completely unprotected by law …
Yusuf Al-Qaradawi reiterated almost this exact formulation of Dar al Harb during July 2003, both in conceptual terms, and with regard to Israel, specifically. Accordingly, innocent non-combatant “harbis” can be killed, and have always been killed, with impunity simply by virtue of being “harbis” during endless razzias — raids — and or full-scale jihad campaigns that have occurred continuously since the time of Muhammad, through the present. This is the crux of the specific institutionalized religio-political ideology, i.e., jihad, which makes Islamdom’s borders (and the further reaches of today’s jihadists) bloody, to paraphrase Samuel Huntington, across the globe.
The essential pattern of the jihad war is captured in the classical Muslim historian al-Tabari’s recording of the recommendation given by Umar b. al-Khattab (the second “Rightly Guided Caliph”) to the commander of the troops he sent to al-Basrah (636 C.E.), during the conquest of Iraq. Umar reportedly said:
Summon the people to God; those who respond to your call, accept it from them, but those who refuse must pay the poll tax out of humiliation and lowliness. (Koran 9:29) If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency.
By the time of al-Tabari’s death in 923, jihad wars had expanded the Muslim empire from Portugal to the Indian subcontinent. Subsequent Muslim conquests continued in Asia, as well as Eastern Europe. Under the banner of jihad, the Christian kingdoms of Armenia, Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, and Albania, in addition to parts of Poland and Hungary, were also conquered and Islamized by waves of Seljuk, or later Ottoman Turks, as well as Tatars. Arab Muslim invaders engaged, additionally, in continuous jihad raids that ravaged and enslaved Sub-Saharan African animist populations, extending to the southern Sudan. When the Ottoman Muslim armies were stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683, over a millennium of jihad had transpired. These tremendous military successes spawned a triumphant jihad literature. Muslim historians recorded in detail the number of infidels slaughtered, or enslaved and deported, the cities, villages, and infidel religious sites which were sacked and pillaged, and the lands, treasure, and movable goods seized.
This sanctioned, but wanton destruction resulted, specifically in: the merciless slaughter of non-combatants, including women and children; massive destruction of non-Muslim houses of worship and religious shrines — Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, and Zoroastrian, Hindu, and Buddhist temples and idols; and the burning of harvest crops and massive uprooting of agricultural production systems, leading to famine. Christian (Coptic, Armenian, Jacobite, Greek, Slav, etc.), as well as Hebrew sources, and even the scant Zoroastrian, Hindu, and Buddhist writings which survived the ravages of the Muslim conquests, independently validate this narrative, and complement the Muslim perspective by providing testimonies of the suffering of the non-Muslim victims of jihad wars.
And what was the nature of the system of governance imposed upon those indigenous non-Muslims conquered by jihad? In his seminal The Laws of Islamic Governance al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a renowned jurist of Baghdad, examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel “dhimmi” (which derives from both the word for “pact”, and also “guilt” — guilty of religious errors) population had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the Koranic poll tax (jizya), based on Koran 9:29. Al- Mawardi notes that: “The enemy makes a payment in return for peace and reconciliation.” He then distinguishes two cases: (I) Payment is made immediately and is treated like booty, “it does, not however, prevent a jihad being carried out against them in the future.” (II). Payment is made yearly and will “constitute an ongoing tribute by which their security is established.” Reconciliation and security last as long as the payment is made. If the payment ceases, then the jihad resumes. A treaty of reconciliation may be renewable, but must not exceed 10 years. This same basic formulation was reiterated during a January 8, 1998 interview by Yusuf al-Qaradawi confirming how jihad continues to regulate the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims to this day.
The “contract of the jizya”, or “dhimma” encompassed other obligatory and recommended obligations for the conquered non-Muslim “dhimmi” peoples. Collectively, these “obligations” formed the discriminatory system of dhimmitude imposed upon non-Muslims — Jews, Christians, [as well as Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists] — subjugated by jihad. Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished dhimmis, and of church bells; restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches, synagogues, and temples; inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law; the refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts; a requirement that Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims, including Zoroastrians and Hindus, wear special clothes; and the overall humiliation and abasement of non-Muslims. It is important to note that these regulations and attitudes were institutionalized as permanent features of the sacred Islamic law, or Shari’a.