July 6, 2014

In a recent op-ed, Hocine Kerzazi speaks of the growing “jihadist movement” and explores the origins of jihad in Islam. Kerzazi speaks to both France’s Muslim population and to scholars around the world who study Islam.

He states that “nowhere does the Qur’an gives the term ‘jihad’ the sense of armed conflict, that of which is designated by the expression “qital” (combat, war.) The sense of ‘jihad,’ meanwhile, is fundamentally associated with the inner struggle between man and his ego.” According to Kerzazi “jihadist preachers” are guilty of shifting the meaning of Islamic legal terminology. Their arguments are taken from the eschatological tradition, namely situations of genocide that are justified in apocalyptic situations.

Jihadists added another concept to this tradition called “blood bath” (al-harj) that justifies the call to kill. In the past, the khawarij had used this to legitimize the killing of innocent peoples with the intention of pleasing God. In this way, those who call for civilian killings can, at the same time, oppose war. Kerzazi adds that the Islamic tradition is not one of “18th century pacifism” in the manner of Kant or Saint Peter. Islam, in that sense, rejects “perpetual peace” as a utopia.

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