September 21, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 3249

Arab Columnists: Stop Talking About Offensive Jihad

September 21, 2010
Special Dispatch No. 3249

One dominant theme during Ramadan in the Arab world is the discussion, in the media and in religious circles, of the commandment of jihad and the obligation therein to wage war against the infidels.[1] Two articles, in the Saudi and Egyptian press respectively, spoke out against this "offensive jihad."

Columnist Khaled Al-'Ghanami wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Watan against extremists who call for jihad against the infidels and claim that it is the preferred way to propagate Islam. He said that today's media offers a variety of ways of spreading the message of Islam, so that there remains no justification for waging war to do so. Al-'Ghanami divided supporters of offensive jihad into two groups: those who call for immediate jihad, and those who think that as long as Muslims are weak there is no point in discussing jihad.

In his column on the Koran and Sunna in the Egyptian daily Al-Gomhouriyya, 'Abdallah Al-Naggar wrote about preachers who focus on offensive jihad during Ramadan, referring particularly to preachers in Egypt who stress this issue on 10th day of the month of Ramadan – the date in the Islamic calendar on which Egypt marks the "victory" of the 1973 war with Israel. He suggested that in our time it is best to emphasize jihad as self-defense, not as offensive, adding that the Muslims currently don't have the strength or faith that will enable them to institute Islam worldwide (This puts him in the second of Al-'Ghanami's categories).

The following are excerpts from both columns:

Thanks to Satellite TV and Internet, There's No Justification for Jihad to Spread Islam

Al-'Ghanami wrote in his column: "The Muslim clerics have categorized the [commandment of] 'jihad for the sake of Allah, and war' into two types: offensive jihad and defensive jihad. All the nations of the world, except for a few Sufis and people who believe in submitting to fate, accept the legitimacy of defensive jihad – that is, self-defense.

"Offensive jihad means preemptive raids: the imam of the Muslims declares jihad, which is aimed at conquering non-Islamic lands, and then either imposing the jizya [poll tax for non-Muslims] on them and [living in] peace with them, or having their inhabitants convert to Islam of their own free will. This type of jihad was customary when there were no means of propagandizing for the religion, and people lived in total ignorance about Islam. That is why this type of jihad was legitimized – as a way to banish this ignorance and remove the tyranny of kings who oppressed the weak and denied them the freedom to choose their religion or way of life.

"Today, when there are other ways to convey the message of Islam to humanity, via the media – including satellite television channels and the Internet – there is no longer any justification [for offensive jihad] in order to convey the message of Islam to humanity. This message has already arrived, and therefore 'let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it) [Koran 18:29],' for [the Koran states:] 'Let there be no compulsion in religion [Koran 2:256].'

"[The notion] of forcing people to convert is completely illogical. When a sword rests on the neck of the man you want to convert, he will tell you whatever you want [to hear] – but the faith in his heart will remain his own.

"The idea of attack and conquest by force is considered highly improper, even among large segments of preachers who advocate the Islamic solution – and especially amongst those who live in Europe, who enjoy the freedom of those countries, such as health care and education. They know that they will not have even a quarter of the rights [they now have] if the identity of those countries changes [i.e. if they are conquered by Islam]...

"[Conversely,] there are those, albeit a few, who think that the Muslim rulers must declare Jihad on all the planet's inhabitants so that we will ride [forth on] our horses and camels, take over the Eiffel Tower by the sword, and straighten out the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

"Others, who are somewhat wiser, think that we [Muslims] are in a state of weakness, and for this reason must sit and wait until the era of our strength returns. Then we will go back to horses, swords, and raids; but as long as weakness prevails, there is nothing shameful about taqiyya [i.e. hiding our faith] until the time is ripe. If this isn't hypocrisy, I don't know what is. A few days ago, I read the manifesto of someone who holds this view[2] – a manifesto that brings up this whole issue anew. [It is written] in that same [old] tune, based on the assumption that the world doesn't read, doesn't monitor, and doesn't understand [what we are saying], that it fears our tone and our religion, and that it is not paying attention to the calls for killing, tyranny, and aggression that we are spreading.

"I do not wonder at all at these people, who do not love their homeland and do not place it at the top of their agenda. The idea of a supra-national [Muslim state] conceals devastating potential and the ability to blind people – to the point that a member of the group [that advocates this idea] might see the entire world as his homeland, including the part that he has not yet invaded with swords and spears. [But] what is astounding is these people's ability to keep this extremist voice in the public sphere…

"At the same time, we find that the free voices that are conducting an in-depth and essential debate about these issues have almost no opportunity to make their voice heard in public. The moderate voice, which is the path of this country [i.e. Saudi Arabia] led by King 'Abdallah bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz, must be heard more among the general public, and it must have absolute freedom to criticize these extremist views that bring nothing but evil and catastrophe. These extremist voices are the reason for the defeat of many of our just demands, including our right to the occupied land and [our demand that] the party guilty of that occupation [i.e., Israel] be condemned."[3]

In Our Circumstances, We Must Stress Jihad as Self-Defense

'Abdallah Al-Naggar wrote in his column: "[Historical] events that took place during Ramadan require preachers to talk about battles and jihad, particularly on the 10th, the 17th, and the 20th [of the month]. On the 10th was the successful conflict in modern times between the Arabs and Israel [i.e. the 1973 War], that ended in a victory that restored the Arabs' self-respect... Because this event occurred on the 10th of Ramadan, the [television] programs fill with talk and the [newspaper] pages fill with writing about it, [with the speakers and writers] linking this event to the precepts of the Islamic religion on jihad and defense of the land and the homeland.

"Likewise, on the 17th of Ramadan occurred the Battle of Badr,[4] and on the 20th was [Muhammad's] conquest of Mecca. For this reason, the month of Ramadan is fertile ground for talk on [the concepts of] jihad and defense in Islam.

"For decades, and even centuries... those who spoke about this issue [i.e., jihad] did not handle it [properly]. They focused on the aspect of force – which was one of the characteristics of the Muslims in those [early] times – and on what went along with the use of force – that is, killing the enemies, triumphing over them, and beheading those who stubbornly opposed the preaching for the young Islam, or who incited against it.

"Today, the Muslims' circumstances are different, and talk of this aspect [of jihad] requires a smart approach, one that stresses the aspect of self defense, instead of aggression and onslaught. Allah did not command the Muslims to attack; he demanded that they fight those who fight them. As the Koran says, ' Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors,' and 'if they fight you, slay them [Koran 2:190-191].'

"Some of these speakers are still captive to the early Islamic past. Mentioning this past is useful perhaps to raise morale, but it arouses the enmity of people who think evil of us, and who would like to see us disappear into the earth, with all memory of us lost, every time we remind them of what we did to them in the past.

"There is nothing in the world that we can use to repel [these people's] strength, and our hearts do not hold a faith that makes us capable of triumphing over them. For this reason, there is a need for wisdom in our impassioned discussions of war and battles."[5]


[1] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 636 "Calls in the Muslim World to Intensify Jihad During Ramadan," September 13, 2010, Calls in the Muslim World to Intensify Jihad During Ramadan.

[2] Apparently a reference to a recent article by Saudi Sheikh 'Abd Al-Rahman bin Nasser Al-Barrak, a former lecturer at the Imam Muhammad bin Sa'ud Islamic University in Riyadh. The article was posted on the sheikh's website ( See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 636 "Calls in the Muslim World to Intensify Jihad During Ramadan," September 13, 2010, Calls in the Muslim World to Intensify Jihad During Ramadan.

[3] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), August 19, 2010.

[4] The Battle of Badr took place in 624, when Muhammad had his first triumph over the Quraish tribe, which inhabited Mecca. In the Islamic tradition, this battle symbolizes heroism and victory.

[5] Al-Gomhouriyya (Egypt), August 25, 2010.

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