Extremists Transform Concept of jihad

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The prominence of jihad as a concept in Islamic culture is evident from the texts and cultures of different Muslim societies.

Recently, jihad has undergone major developments with the emergence of radical groups imbuing it with political elements to further their agendas.

The basic conception of jihad was historically linked to spiritual practices among Sufis. The first tenet of jihad consisted of disciplining the human spirit, cleansing it and steering clear of vices.

Jihad consisted of two types: the greater jihad, which related to spiritual and moral matters, and the lesser jihad, which involved fighting an enemy. The latter, considered inferior to the former, was to be employed only when the need arose.

The anti-colonial movements of the 19th and 20th centuries ingrained the concept of the lesser jihad in the general Muslim mindset. Rhetoric urging resistance against the occupiers came to dominate among Islamist groups.

Even Sufis began to attribute more importance to jihad against the foreign enemy than the spiritual quest with the appearance of Sufi resistance groups, like the Abdelkader el-Djezairi movement challenging French colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s.

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