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Monday, July 10, 2017

In the wake of Linda Sarsour's assertion that when she calls for a "jihad" against Donald Trump she is unambiguously meaning a non-violent jihad, and the leftist media rallying to defend her interpretation, I looked up how the word was used dispassionately in the 19th century.

A great deal of the literature comes from India, where the British needed to be aware of Islamic law and the Muslims wanted to show Islam in as positive a light as possible.

"Mahomedan Law Relating to Marriage, Dower, Divorce, Legitimacy and Guardianship of Minors, According to the Soonnees" is an encyclopedic work on Sunni Islamic law written by Muslim scholars of law who were "pleaders of the Calcutta High Court."

The word "Jehad" has no meaning in this book outside of "religious war." Here are its index entries on "jehad."

The Census of India, 1891, Volume 23, Parts 1-2, includes a large amount of explanatory material for the English-speaking reader. It includes a sympathetic description of "jehad" that makes it clear that the intent is defensive war - but that is again the only definition given, and nothing is said about the supposed "greater jihad" of struggling with oneself or any other non-violent interpretation. In fact, this description, meant for the Western reader,  revels in the violence of jihad as a necessary and progressive effort to subdue paganism and Christianity.

165.—Jehad.—It is an erroneous notion to suppose that Islam is a religion propagated by means of the sword. After studying both sides of the question carefully, an unbiassed mind will pronounce its verdict against the common prevailing idea that the Jehad was enjoined by the Prophet, and that consistent Islam is always a church militant. Moulive Cheragh Ali, now Nawab Azam Yar Jung, the Subedar of the Southern division, and Financial Secretary to Government, in his valuable work, "Critical Exposition of the Jehad", completely refutes the imputation, and proves conclusively that the Jehad was a purely defensive war, undertaken by the Prophet and his handful of followers to protect themselves against the persecutions and attacks of the ungodly and fierce Koreish. After the death of the Prophet and during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr, most of the Arab tribes turned from their newly adopted religion, and refused to pay the alms and tithes which they had undertaken to disburse; hence forces were levied by order of the Caliph, and sent against such infidels to collect the tithes. Their success in this enterprise fired their zeal and enthusiasm, which developed into that marvellous career of conquest, unrivalled in the history of the world.* (Footnote: * The Arabs marched into the neighbouring countries and offered their religion to the inhabitants for acceptance; as an alternative they were advised to pay Jazya, or tribute, which allowed them the right of performing unmolested their own rites and ceremonies, and they were to be under the protectorate of the Moslems, so long as they paid the Jazija regularly; but if they refused both the above alternatives, then the question of supremacy and right was decided by the sword,) Africa was completely subjugated under Abu Bakr, the first Caliph ; Syria and part of Persia during the Caliphate of Omar, the second Caliph, and the subjugation of Persia was completed during Osman's term of office. Within twelve years after the death of the Prophet, the Arabs had reduced 36,000 fortified places in Persia, Syria and Africa and had replaced churches and places of worship, by 1,400 mosques. Musa, who, like Cromwell, was a brave soldier as well as an eloquent preacher, conquered Carthage during the expiring years of the seventh century, and Spain in the beginning of the eighth. A few years more and the Saracens entered France and would have conquered it and the rest of Europe with the same facility as they had done Asia and Africa, had not their victorious march been checked by Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne. This event took place at the memorable field of Tours in 732, A. D., so that within a hundred years after the Prophet's death, the power of the Moslems had extended from the borders of China to the boundaries of France, from the Gulf of Tonquin to the Bay of Biscay. But there were circumstances, religious, social and political, peculiar to that age and century which greatly facilitated this series of uninterrupted and almost superhuman success. In Persia, the sublime religion of Zaratusht (Zoroaster) had degenerated into various species of magie worship, idolatry and silly superstitions. The sharp distinctions of right and wrong, as developed in the lofty dualism of Ahura Mazda (Hormazd) being engaged in eternal conflict with Angrimainya (Ahriman), had well nigh faded away, and the noble race of the Iranians had sunk into all forms of vice and corruption. As a natural and inevitable consequence, there were mutual jealousies and internal feuds and dissentions all over the Sassauidian Empire, till it needed only the persistent blows of a strong force to shatter it to pieces. That force was found in Islam. The religious, social and political conditions of Syria and Egypt, of Carthage and 5? pain were equally bad, if not worse. All these countries had once formed parts of the great Roman Empire, and had consequently, not yet recovered from the effects of the blows that had brought rack and ruin to the whole. No doubt, they had all been converted from paganism and idolatry to Christianity, but that Christianity had, within six centuries, undergone such deterioration and frightful degeneracy as to have been scarcely discernible as the simple original faith, which its Founder had lived and died for. "When, therefore", says an eminent philosopher and historian, "in the midst of the wrangling of sects, in the incomprehensible jargon of Arrians, Nestorians, Eutychians, Monothelites, Monophysites, Mariolatrists and an anarchy of countless disputants, there sounded through the world, not the miserable voice of the intriguing majority of a council but the dread battle-cry, "There is but one God", enforced by the tempest of Saracen armies, is it surprising that the hubbub was hushed? Is it surprising that Asia and Africa fell?"

Finally, and most surprisingly, comes this description of Islam in The Calcutta Review, Volume 65, from the University of Calcutta. An article called "Islam as it is," anonymously written by "A European Haji," again describes Islam as charitably as possible for a scholarly Western audience.  It describes the "lesser Jihad" and the "greater Jihad" in terms that are much different than how Muslims describe them today:

There are two subjects which may perhaps be most suitably introduced here:—the personal character of Mahomed, and jehad, or religious war. We need not dip far into the writings of European authors on these subjects, to detect the impulse under which they write. From Alexander Ross  to Major Osborn,  our authors seem to have considered it their duty when discussing such questions to heap together all the calumny they could, and excite themselves ihto fierce denunciations of the prophet, as an " ambitious politician," an "assassin," one who sought only "worldly dominion," a "libertine," and so forth; nor is the jehad a subject which such writers can afford to discuss calmly, dispassionately or truthfully. Jehad had been denounced as being the "obligation under which the faithful lie, to kill and destroy all infidels ;" and Europeans generally insist on holding the opinion, that every Mahomedan who neglects an opportunity of giving an infidel the choice between death or Islam is esteemed little better than an infidel himself. Let it be sufficient to say that did the Koran or the Miskat al Masibalt§ support this theory, there is scarcely a Mahomedan in the country whose hands would not now be dipped in English blood.
A Mahomedan is not bound to engage in jehad against a country or people who permit him to exercise his religion without hindrance,nor can a. jehad be proclaimed without sufficient cause being shown. In the lesser "jehad" (jehad essighir) the rights of even infidels against whom it is not directed should be respected.The "lesser jehad" is where one or more particular sects have acted aggressively towards Mahomedans, and the jehad is directed only against them. The " greater jehad " (jihad ackbar) is when Islam faces all disbelievers, and fights until either all disbelievers are exterminated, yield tribute or are converted. Christians may even assist in the "lesser jehad." Towards the close of the pilgrim season of 1875-76, the war in Turkey was formally declared to be a jehad by the ulema (or council of the learned) in Mecca.
Today, the "greater jihad" is invariably described as an "inner struggle." Yet according to WikiIslam, the hadith that defines "greater jihad" as an inner struggle is considered suspect by Islamic scholars altogether. This source explicitly defines "greater jihad" as more violent than "lesser jihad."

All three of these descriptions of jihad were written by Muslims trying to make Islam look as positive as possible for a Western audience. Not one of them mentioned Jihad in any context outside religious war.

While the etymology of "jihad" does mean "struggle," etymology does not indicate meaning. It is as if someone would describe suicide bombings as "terrific" and, when pressed, would say the word "terrific" comes from the same root as the word "terror" and often meant "terrifying" in the 17th century, which is technically accurate but fundamentally false.

(See also my post from yesterday on this subject.)

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