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February 17, 2011 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 666

Muslim Clerics, Saudi Commentators Ask: How Legitimate and Relevant Is Offensive Jihad?

February 17, 2011 | By D. Hazan
Palestine | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 666

In recent months, discussion of the legitimacy and relevance of jihad today has emerged in the Arab media, and particularly the Saudi media. While the legitimacy of defensive jihad (jihad al-daf') is not in question, there is disagreement over the legitimacy of offensive jihad (jihad al-talab ): Is the directive to wage jihad against the infidels to occupy their lands, convert them to Islam or force them to live under Islamic rule and pay the jizya until the entire world is occupied and Islam the only religion still valid in our time?

The main discussion was between Sheikh Salman Al-'Odeh, the former dissident sheikh who publicly broke with Osama bin Laden in 2007, and who is now a loyal supporter of the Saudi regime, and Sheikh 'Abd Al-Rahman bin Nasr Al-Barrak, an extremist cleric who is a former lecturer at the Saudi Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University. Al-'Odeh represents the more liberal Islamic position, i.e. that Islam does not seek war but considers it an inevitability to be avoided as much as possible. He claims that offensive jihad was appropriate to the circumstances during the early Islamic era, when might made right, but that it is not relevant today, when international laws regulate relations between countries. He considers that if there had been such arrangements then, Islam would have welcomed them. Sheikh Al-Barrak, in contrast, represents the traditional rigid Islamist position, i.e., that jihad is an imperative originating in the Koran and the Sunnah - and that, as such, it supersedes any man-made law and Muslims are obligated to implement it until the Day of Judgment. Each cleric based his statements on Koran verses and hadiths.

At the periphery of the dispute was the issue of slavery, presented by Al-'Odeh as an example of a phenomenon in Islam's past - just as it existed all over the world at that time - but which today is not accepted in the world or in Islam; at that time, Islam, which did not approve of slavery, had reconciled itself to its practice. However, Al-Barrak stated that the right to enslave infidel captives is imparted to the mujahideen by Islam, and that opposing slavery was the same as opposing the Koran and the Sunna. ...

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