Wars have been fought to end it. National world leaders have convened to stop it. Civilians have joined military campaigns to die in the fight against it. But will jihad ever truly end? We asked Fouad Masri, founder and president of Crescent Project, to share his thoughts on this troubling question.
Fouad, before we begin addressing this important question, let’s revisit the definition of jihad first.
Fouad: The Arabic word jihad when literally translated means to strive. Since the inception of Islam, Muhammad used jihad to specifically mean fighting to spread the cause of Islam. Repeatedly, Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, allowed jihad, even prioritizing it over prayer at the mosque. Throughout Islamic History, any reference to dying while in jihad meant dying in warfare, not praying peacefully in a mosque.
Jihad in the Qur’an is also related to fighting in the cause of Islam.
And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (Qur’an 9:5)
This verse, Qur’an 9:5, was quoted in the first video appearance of Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
For further references to jihad in the Quran, click here: 9:29, 9:111, 25:52, 47:4
Therefore, jihad is always defined as fighting to spread the religion of Islam, implementing it by force. In recent years, many Muslim professors and Apologists introduced a softer view of jihad: a jihad of the self, a jihad of the personal life. This new definition is, therefore, a fairly recent concept of jihad and is not supported by the Qur’an nor Islamic history.
You once said, “Many Muslims say jihad will stop when the whole planet has been Islamicized. Not true because Muslim countries are committing jihad toward each other.” Please explain why Muslims would kill fellow Muslims in the name of jihad.
Fouad: Muhammad said if there is more than one leader in the Muslim community, then kill the other.
It has been narrated on the authority of Aba Sa'id al-Khudri that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“When oath of allegiance has been taken for two caliphs, kill the one for whom the oath was taken later." (Sahi Muslim, 1853: Book 33, Hadith 96, Book 20, Hadith 4568)
The problem is, the Hadith does not define who the “other” is. The one who wins has God on his side. After the death of Muhammad in 632 AD, a severe schism developed around the question of who would succeed him as Messenger. One side called themselves Sunni and the other Shi’ites. Sunnis wanted to declare a successor of Muhammad as a result of a consensus among tribal leaders, while Shi’ites pushed for the holy lineage and unique bloodline of the prophet of Islam. The first cousin of Muhammad, Ali, considered himself worthy of the position as a blood relative. In the Shi’ite opinion, Ali was the rightful successor, because of being in the right household and of approved descent.
Thousands of Muslims died in the first battle called “Battle of the Camel” and that continues today. Muslims continually argue over who are the real Muslims. Angry accusations of bid’ah, the heretic who is worse than the infidel, are made, all in the name of Allah. Jihad is continually declared on one another and all non-Muslims. In fact, in the last 1400 years, more Muslims have died at the hands of other Muslims than at the hands of anyone else.
So who are the terrorists? Shi’ites or Sunnis?
Fouad: Terrorism is defined in the Oxford Dictionary of the English language as the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. Islamic terrorism is done in the name of the Islamic religion. Shi’ites and Sunnis are both involved in Islamic jihad terrorizing communities that disagree with them, whether Muslim communities or not. For example, the Iraq-Iran War was a jihad by Iran against Iraq; the Gulf War was a result of a jihad between Iraq and Kuwait.
What do you feel is the heart of the Muslim jihadi’s desire to Islamicize the whole world?
Fouad: As a religion Islam, in many ways like Christianity, views itself as a way of life that controls all facets of life. Islam dictates political, military, social, and personal life. Therefore, a Muslim can attain heaven or paradise and good standing with God when they produce good works. Implementing Islamic law on earth through jihad is considered good works.
Added to that, Islam’s view of the Judgement Day does not assure Muslims of their destiny after death. God’s will cannot be trusted since God can change His mind. Therefore, jihad is offered as a guarantee to attain paradise.
Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah , so they kill and are killed. [It is] a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur'an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah ? So rejoice in your transaction which you have contracted. And it is that which is the great attainment. (Qur’an 9:111).
The spiritual motivation of a jihadi is to please Allah and attain complete forgiveness of sin, guaranteeing entry to heaven. Social upheaval, political corruption, and religious hypocrisy in the Muslim world have created an illusionary desire in the hearts of many Muslim men and women who are yearning for peace with God.
Can you describe how the gospel of Jesus Christ addresses the jihadi’s desire to please God, attain forgiveness, and enter heaven?
Fouad: Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” (John 14:27). In John 6:37 He said, “…whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” He invites us in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
In today’s culture, it sounds plausible to many people to attain heaven through our own works. But repeatedly, the twenty-first century provides overwhelming evidence that the human soul is broken and needs a savior. Jesus can mend the heart and change the soul. Jesus leads us to heaven after death because He is faithful to his promises. Terrorists, whether Sunni or Shi’ite, all need to hear about the Savior Jesus.
What should the Christian’s response be?
Fouad: It is important to protect communities we live in. The only way we can do that is to meet Muslims in our communities and share the Gospel with them. The Gospel will change their lives. If every Muslim had one Christian friend, we could catch the terrorists! As Christians, our number one response must be anger without committing sin. Jihad is the problem, and Muslims are continuously its victims. Christians must resolve to move beyond the anger and fear incited by the media and obey the command of Jesus who said, “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Abundant life does not mean you live in the United States of America or own a fancy car. It means you have been saved, forgiven, and the Holy Spirit is guiding you throughout your life.
As Christians, we can invite the Muslims in our communities to enter this abundant life through Jesus the Messiah.
If you would like to read more about the ideology behind jihad and how to respond as a follower of Christ, click here to see Part One and Part Two in this series.
Listen to this podcast with Fouad Masri on "Islamic Terrorism: How should we now live?"
Jihad: Most commonly the struggle or fight against the enemies of Islam.
Qur’an: The sacred text of Islam, considered by Muslims to contain the revelations of God to Muhammad
Hadith: A collection of traditions containing sayings of the prophet Muhammad that constitute a major source of guidance for Muslims apart from the Koran.
Jihadi: A Muslim who participates in jihad.
Bid’ah: heretical doctrine, heresy, heretic,“the heretic who is worse than the infidel”