‘Defensive’ Jihad is Offensive

By Barry Rubin


An extraordinarily important fatwa has been issued by Dr. Imad Mustafa, the professor on that subject at al-Azhar University, the world’s most important Islamic university. He began by stating the well-known doctrine of “defensive jihad,” that is Muslims must go to war against infidels who attack them. Of course, the word “attack” is often spread rather thinly to justify aggression.But now Mustafa is publicly and explicitly proposing a new strategy for those hitherto seen as reliably pro-government clerics who were seen as relativley non-threatening. This trend, little noticed in the West, has previously non-Islamist clerics increasingly sounding like al-Qaida.

He explains:

“Then there is another type of fighting against the non-Muslims known as offensive jihad…which is to pursue the infidels into their own land without any aggression [on their part]….“…Two schools [of Islamic jurisprudence] have ruled that offensive jihad is permissible in order to secure Islam’s border, to extend God’s religion to people in cases where the governments do not allow it, such as the Pharaoh did with the children of Israel, and to remove every religion but Islam from the Arabian peninsula….”

What does it mean about extending “God’s religion,” i.e., Islam? On the surface, “where the governments do not allow it” and the reference to Pharaoh seems to imply the complete prohibition of Islam.

But in the current context, I think this means that it is permissible to wage jihad on a country, if anything “necessary” to Islam according to (hardline) clerics’ interpretations is blocked (polygamy, child marriage, special privileges at work places, building mosques anywhere, permitting the wearing of headscarves or burqas, and so on).

In practice, according to this doctrine, then, any non-Muslim can be attacked anywhere in the world. Thus, mainstream, powerful clerics are now calling for a seventh-century-style Jihad against non-Muslim lands even if the victims cannot be accused of attacking Muslim-ruled lands! Merely to “extend God’s religion” to others is a sufficient motive. Mustafa says that two of Islam’s main schools have always endorsed offensive Jihad but I doubt if he would have made that argument ten or twenty years ago.

Of course, that doesn’t mean most Muslims will accept this new stance. But it does mean that radical groups now have mainstream support for their most extreme, aggressive behavior. Even if nobody repeats Mustafa’s statement publicly–if for no other reasons than it is bad public relations in the West–this idea will be more and more taken for granted. Presumably, Mustafa won’t be forced to retract this fatwa by his colleagues or Egypt’s government. Moreover, we probably won’t see senior clerics denouncing and rejecting the doctrine of offensive Jihad.

This is a development of stupendous proportions that will probably not even be covered in the Western mass media. If this view point continues to spread–along with the growing al-Qaida type doctrine of the Muslim Brotherhood–it could be a historical turning point that will greatly intensify revolutionary Islamist terrorism and attacks on the West. Watch this trend very carefully.