Politics of Islamic Jihad
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis argues among other things, That the concept of jihad, which represents a form of striving and endeavour-often misinterpreted in the literature as 'holy war'- is rooted in the Qur'anic ideals and interpretations (ijtihad). However it can be extremely variable when 'applied' to Muslim societies in the course of history. Thus for example, the Greater and Lesser Jihads might be subject to a number of different interpretations when applied to Muslim societies deriving from a (a) historical experiences and/or circumstances; (b) theological or philosophical debates; (c) differing religio-political elite formations; and (d)strategic assesments of threats and/or dangers to Islam. We demonstrate the multifaceted and variable characteristics of jihad through the use of a 'Jihadist Wheel'. In the case of modern jihadist organizations, which we examine, reference to the Qur'an as a source of ideological guidance and inspiration has sometimes given way to what is referred to in the literature as a 'strategic' assesment of the realities confronting Islam. Often, as the case of Iraq, this might lead to excessive violence and accusations of Islamic terrorism.
From an analytical standpoint this thesis argues that 'jihadism' and 'terrorism' are two differnt construct in terms of motivation and goals. However the variability of the jihadist concept when applied by Muslims under varying conflictual circumstances (i.e. threats and/or response) can sometimes add to confusion surrounding the meaning of the term and of course its identification with 'holy war' or 'terrorism'.
It is hoped that this thesis will at least add some light to the current debate in the literature over the anatomy of jihadism, whils seeking to provide an analytical framework for the identification and application of different forms of jihad based on the Qur'anic exegesis.