The fallacy of the “greater” and “lesser” jihads

January 31, 2007 at 2:47 am (Arabic, Idiots, Islam, Islamism, Military, Religion, War, World War III)

Whenever someone reads about jihad, one will invariably come across an explanation that includes a differentiation between the greater and lesser jihads.

Basically, this interpretation is based on some saying of some prominent person (and who exactly said it varies according to account) who, upon returning from a war or campaign, remarked that he was returning from the lesser jihad (that is, armed jihad; in Arabic: الجهاد الأصغر, al-jihād al-aSghar) to the greater jihad (that is, spiritual refinement; in Arabic: الجهاد الأكبر, al-jihād al-akbar). Another way to characterize this is to refer to “jihad with the sword” (جهاد بالسيف, jihād bi-s-sayf) and “jihad with the self” (جهاد بالنفس, jihād bi-n-nafs). However, we are presented with a linguistic dilemma. The particle prefix (ب, bi-) can here function as a possessive qualifier, that is: a jihad belonging to the sword or a jihad belonging to the self, or to indicate instrumentality, that is: a jihad fought by using a sword or a jihad fought by using one’s self. Considering both involve the offering of one’s self for the sake of Islam, they are practically synonymous in referring to jihad that is warfare.

In a similar manner, practically every phrase, term, title, or permutation using the word “jihad” can be and is taken to refer to jihad that is warfare. In other words, as far as Islam’s centuries-old literature is concerned, “jihad” refers to offensive warfare for Islam’s sake, even though it may take a number of forms. All of this “lesser jihad” and “greater jihad” and “non-violent jihad” is all nonsense.

Two major points:

  1. There is no authentic or reliable source for the quote that is used to create this concept of jihad being external and internal. Its authenticity is disputed. Plus, there are far more sayings and quotes that state the exact opposite of the quote in question. One simple example, by Muhammad himself, is that “the gates of Heaven are under the shadow of swords.”
  2. The literature of Islam pertaining to jihad focuses on jihad as warfare. Sufi manuals and books, and those influenced by the same, may talk about jihad as internal warfare, but this is an innovation and unattested to in the normative or orthodox literature of Islam, including and especially those dealing with Islamic law and practice.


Therefore, let anyone who claims that jihad can be non-offensive (that is, taking a form that does not affect those other than oneself) be aware that one is wrong. Although the jihad to establish Islamism can take non-violent forms (such as propaganda, supplying the fighters, et cetera), no form of jihad (or, at least, no legitimate form of jihad) exists that concerns solely the self. All forms of jihad have the aim to reform and change and conquer those around one.

Permalink 1 Comment

What to call these fighters of jihad

January 31, 2007 at 2:17 am (Arabic, Islam, Islamism, Languages, World War III)

There does not exist a word in English that can serve as an equivalent to the Arabic word (مجاهد, mujāhid; nominative plural: مجاهدون, mujāhidūn; oblique plural: مجاهدين, mujāhidīn).

Who or what is a mujāhid? I’m glad you asked. It means, literally, one who performs (جهاد, jihād), especially what is termed (جهاد بالسيف, jihād bi-s-sayf, jihad with/by the sword) or (جهاد في سبيل الله, jihād fi sabīlillāh, or jihad in the path of God). This means, in other words, one who fights for God/Islam. And this fighting is not of the spiritual sort but, rather, of the military and armed sort.

Some have taken to calling these people “jihadis”. This is not incorrect or inaccurate: in Arabic (as well as other languages, such as Persian and Urdu), (جهادي, jihādī) means not only “of or pertaining to jihad” but also “supportive of or belonging to jihad”, which can be used to describe the many sorts of people who conduct jihad or support it. But how much of this do the normal people know? To how many would it be a strange word or one devoid of meaning or connotation?

Despite the many parallels drawn between the two, mujāhidūn or jihad-fighters or jihadis are not Crusaders or even like them. Jihad-fighters wage war unprovoked. Or, rather, one’s infidel-hood is sufficient provocation to cause them to wage war. (A completely different issue, of course, is why we in the West continue to condemn the Crusades while failing to condemn or, even worse, overlooking the Islamic/Islamist wars of conquest.)

The round-about descriptive way is to refer to such people as “militant Islamist terrorists” (while their supporters are “militant Islamists” or somesuch). But this becomes a mouthful. But it does preserve an element I believe is key: putting this terrorism issue in the context of Islamism. Terrorism is but a manifestation of Islamism, not the other way around. And yet I fear that using such terms can only open the door for endless symantic debates as well as seeming to be fearful of offending someone. (“Islamo-fascists” is quite more assertive and strident than “militant Islamist terrorist networks et cetera“.)

Of course Arabic would have the perfect word, what with its hundreds of permutations for a single root. Applying its own rules in the same manner, so would Hebrew. But then none of us speak Hebrew, so that would not help us.


Permalink 2 Comments

A solution for Global Warmening

January 30, 2007 at 5:17 pm (Amusement)

I have a solution for Global Warmening.

You see, it cannot be denied that a major factor in Global Warmening is bovine flatulence. Therefore, we must:

  • outlaw vegetarianism
  • promote the eating of beef
  • have the Government subsidize steak houses to permit them to offer their goods at a greatly reduced price

Voilà! A solution we all can benefit from!

My only response to those who might disagree with these proposals is: why do you hate the earth so much? why do you hate humanity so much?

Permalink 5 Comments

Of civilizational values foreign and domestic

January 26, 2007 at 7:05 pm (The Rest, The United States, The West)

I do not mind immigration or immigrants. Especially in the case of The United States, immigration and immigrants are good. We are, after all and ultimately, a nation of immigrants. What I do mind–and I mind this very much–are people who come here but refuse to embrace their new home, refuse to embrace their new home’s civilization and values, and who insist that their foreign ways and civilizational values be tolerated if not embraced, accepted, or praised.

Our civilizational values are what make us what we are today; they are what make us great. If their civilizational values were worthy of praise, tolerance, or acceptance, they would not have to come here.

Considering they came here by choice, the least we can expect is for them to embrace, defend, and appreciate their new home’s civilizational values.

Permalink 2 Comments

If your comment doesn’t show up…

January 25, 2007 at 6:40 pm (Blogs, Personal)

If you have submitted a comment and it does not appear within two days, please e-mail the comment to me and I will post it.

It is possible that for some reason the spam-catching system marked it as spam and, as such, was deleted along with the rest of the spam (what with hundreds of spam “comments”, I cannot go through them to weed out any genuine comments); or it is possible that I may have inadverdently marked it as spam rather than approving it. (This applies to comments that are held for my approval, of which lately many have been spam comments.)

Thank you.

Permalink 2 Comments

Now it’s my turn

January 25, 2007 at 3:58 pm (Books, The Right)

It seems that with his new book, The Enemy Within, Dinesh D’Souza has gone off his rocker.


Maybe now *I* can be the new brown enfant terrible of The Right!


Permalink 4 Comments

“Pulsa de nura”

January 13, 2007 at 6:43 am (Israel, Judaism, Personal, Religion)

Although some characterize it as a curse, in reality “pulsa de nura” (Aramaic for “bolt of light”) is a prayer: it is a prayer beseeching God to deliver judgment on someone if that someone has sinned greviously against God. This is not taken lightly at all, and evidently even secular / atheist / agnostic / inactive / non-religious Jews dread it.

Many rabbis deny it exists. One Chicago rabbi published the text (as a PDF file) on his website, in order to dispell rumors about it.

The prayer is tied to Kabbalah (the real kind; in other words: Jewish mysticism or esotericism; to be more accurate, popular practical Kabbalah, which tends a bit to the superstitious side), and as such probably involves pronouncing or spelling names of God, petitioning angels, and so on. (I downloaded the PDF but have not read it; in any case, it would probably be in Aramaic, which I know very little of. Were it in Hebrew, I would have be able to make out what it meant.)

Evidently, the text for it is not easily found (probably because people fear misusing it: if misused, the person performing the prayer could be severely punished) or is not very common, but is used commonly in ultra-Orthodox circles against politicians they oppose. (As such, it would be found mainly in books circulating in ultra-Orthodox esoteric circles.)

But here is the puzzling part about it: there have been two well-known instances recently when pulsa de nura was used. The first time was against Yitzchak Rabin; he was assassinated within a month’s time. (I remember reading reports about the prayer, and then soon thereafter of the assassination.) The second time was against Ariel Sharon; he was felled by two major strokes within six months. (I remember reading about the prayer and expecting something very bad to happen to Sharon, all appearances to the contrary at that time. Then,…)

Although people dismiss these as simple coincidences, I don’t know if I am so sure about that. Even Sharon’s health was extraordinarily robust before he was mysteriously struck.

(I should do a post on Jewish esotericism: explain what it’s really about. None of this Kabbalah Centre nonsense.)

Permalink 7 Comments

Of Zionism and Naturei Karta (*spit*)

January 13, 2007 at 6:21 am (History, Idiots, Israel, Judaism, Religion, Theology)

I will begin by saying that I am an ardent Zionist. From the perspective of international relations, the international state system which currently prevails, World War III, and Cold War II, as an ardent American exceptionalist (please see “American exceptionalism” by Wikipedia for information on this term I just found) it only makes sense to be a Zionist.

You must have heard that term, “Zionist.” It is often used pejoratively by many peoples of the world. But it is something we ought to be familiar with, if only because of its rôle in world politics.

What Zionism is depends on which phase one is considering. In its early, initial phase, “Zionism” referred to the belief that Jews ought to establish an atonomous presence. In the beginning, a prevalent interpretation concerned itself solely with the establishment of a polity, anywhere in the world, wherein Jews could exercise autonomy. But this aspect condensed to themes that had run through Jewish liturgy, belief, theology, religion, expectations, and history for millennia: the reestablishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 5 Comments

Wherein I make a million enemies

January 9, 2007 at 2:11 am (Culture, History, Idiots, International community, Leftist idiocy, The Rest, The United States, The West, War, World War III)

(Note: If I later regret writing this post, it may magically disappear.)

It is time that we realized that war is a part of human society. It is part of our very being. We humans have been fighting wars since our beginning. If one believes in evolution, we have been fighting wars even before we were humans, competing for resources and whatnot. This tendency to violence continued as our species evolved; indeed, violence is how we became dominant and is how any species becomes and remains dominant.

But this is, of course, not an issue of species. It is quite common for beings to fight with others of their kind, especially for resources (whether food, water, mate, children, area of dominance, recognition in or advancement in the pecking order, and so on) or defense (of one’s resources or one’s self, or one’s descendants and/or mate, and so on).

Since we have been fighting from the very beginning, I see no reason whatsoever why we should expect humanity today to be any different. That we fight does not change; why we fight does change. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 19 Comments

Unpleasant bedpartners: why we support people we don’t like

January 8, 2007 at 3:20 am (History, Military, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, The United States, US Government, War)

Reading the comments at the Elder of Ziyon‘s blog reminded me of a very unpleasant truth: at times, we are forced to deal with and even support very unpleasant people. Two examples should suffice: Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and The House of Saud of Saudi Arabia. In a perfect world, we would be free to conspire to remove both from power, but these entities are the lesser of evils that would exist. As it is said, better the devil we know than the devil we don’t. Furthermore, Abbas and The House of Saud have a vested interest in ensuring not only that they continue to receive our support but also that they continue to support our interests. In some cases, our interests are their interests as well. But then one has to wonder to what extent certain problems (such as, the so evil adversaries of Fatah or The House of Saud which cause us to support people and entities we’d rather not) are perpetuated by those who receive our support. In other words, rather than solving the problems that cause us to support them, are they in fact prolonging them so as to continue to receive our support?

An example of this is Pakistan’s government and military and the issue of the Taliban. To a certain degree, the government and military of Pakistan do not and will not completely eradicate the Taliban in Pakistan or in any areas over which they exercise influence or authority, no matter how easy or possible it is. The same with Usama bin Ladin: Pakistan has a policy, unofficial, of course, of deliberately not taking him out and even of sparing him. Both of these exist for the same reason: if the Taliban were destroyed and/or Bin Ladin taken out or apprehended, The United States’ interest in Pakistan (and, importantly, in Pakistan’s ruling regime) would decrease. Pakistan’s government and military want to ensure the maximum interest of The United States for the maximum amount of time.

(When the Pakistani government hinted that it may not permit foreign forces to move against Bin Ladin were he found within Pakistan’s borders, The Government wisely responded quite severely, stating that if Bin Ladin were found, The United States would move against him whether Pakistan permitted it or not. This sent a very clear message to Pakistan’s government and military: that Pakistan’s intransigence would be tolerated only so much.)

The issue of what Pakistan can and cannot do, as far as potential and politics are concerned, is another matter all together. In certain areas and issues, Pakistan’s government and military are quite impotent.

Unfortunately, we have to recognize that reality is often complicated and quite inconvenient. As much as we may hate it, we have little choice but to side with our erstwhile allies (while, at the same time, keeping a watch on our back). And we need to remember this for the future: when conditions change, we should remember why we supported whom we supported, both so as not to falsely accuse our past actions of laziness or insufficient dedication to our ideals and also so as to analyze every situation to ascertain if we can finally end an unpleasant relationship and bring onto the world stage a better, newer partner.

Permalink 2 Comments

Of arms and hands: militias in The Palestinian Territories

January 8, 2007 at 2:28 am (Middle East, Military, Palestinian Territories)

Inspired by Elder of Ziyon‘s “Abbas’ support for terror”.

One of the difficult aspects of politics of The. Palestinian Territories are the essential character and characteristics of its main players. The main players today, Fatah and Hamas, are basically militias with political involvement rather than political parties or social organizations that happen to have armed wings. That is, the primary element of the two groups is their armed natur rather than their political involvement. As they have shown, armed tactics is part of their modi operandi regardless of whether they are in power or not. Hence the civil war that has been raging in The Palestinian Territories.

(Sidenote: As “government” is often defined as that entity that has a monopoly on the use of force, and as entities such as Fatah and Hamas (and Iraq’s sectarian militias) demonstrate, for some people at least, why only state authorities ought to have the ability to project armed force, it seems incredible and extraordinary that in The United States the average citizen not only has the ability and permission to bear arms independent of the government’s forces but even has the right to do so. Quite remarkable indeed.)

So if we hear of any disarming or dissolving of militias in The Palestinian Territories, we must keep in mind that there is more to the civil war than just a few militias. Without an effective, legitimate, and able law enforcement body, how can one expect any Palestinian “government” to operate properly (that is, not engaging in a civil war with its political opponents)? It will, accordingly, take more to solving this war than the unilateral disarmament of one side: the normal characteristics of an effective government would have to come into being, which would include, most importantly and unavoidably, the disbanding of every militia or armed outfit in favor for an impartial and professional law enforcement force. Such a force would exercise its duties uniformly regardless of what party or faction may dominate whatever bodies of government.

But it is difficult to see this happening in The Palestinian Territories, and this because of what seems to be an endemic or systematic element of militia-mongering, with its associated instability, popular promotion for and propaganda for militias and violence, and the delegitimization of other factions, that can be said to characterize the Palestinian political milieu. Of course, various internal and external forces not only favor this situation but also perpetuate it: after all, without Hamas, whom would the Iranis sell weapons to in the Palestinian political theatre? (And a theatre it is: the play is a tear-gushing tragedy.)

The situation in The Palestinian Territories is quite sad indeed; but we should not ignore to what extent the Palestinians’ tragedies are cause by Palestinians, Arabs, and other players other than Israel: indeed, one may say that viewing who has a hand in the Palestinians’ troubles, Israel should be the least of the Palestinians’ concerns.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Geopolitical categorization: not as easy as (carving up a) pie

January 8, 2007 at 1:58 am (Afghanistan, Arabs, History, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, South Asia, The Rest)

This may seem like a somewhat random post, but I’d like to point out an interesting aspect of political geography: the difficulty of grouping states together.

Consider, for example, Iran. Iran is often grouped into the “Middle East” (also known as the “Near East) but it differs markedly from other Middle Eastern states: it is Shiite rather than Sunni (Syria has a Shiite government with a Sunni population while Bahrain has a Sunni government with a majority Shiite population; Iraq has a significant Shiite demographic: but none of these is like Iran, where both the government and population are Shiite); it is ethnically Persian rather than Arab (and, consequently does not share the dominant language of the Middle East, Arabic); it has an elected theocratic government rather than the monarchies and dictatorships of most of the Middle East. Even historically Iran differs significantly in that most of the Middle East was part of the Sunni caliphate’ particularly the Ottoman Empire, while Iran had been under its own local regimes.

But where else, then, could Iran be grouped into? Iran is certainly not Central Asian or South Asian (despite the Persians’ influence on the latter). And Iran shares closer relations to and with Middle Eastern states than Central Asian or South Asian states. As such, the common inclusion of Iran in the “Middle East” makes sense.

And what of Turkey? Like most Middle Eastern states, it is Sunni. Unlike most Middle Eastern states, it has a popularly elected governmen and has little, if any, connection with Arabic culture and civilization. Yet, like Iran, it has shared close relations with other states of the Middle East: indeed, for centuries it ruled the Middle Eastern states (except for Iran, but it battled with Iran, figuratively and literally, for dominance and influence over the area). Can Turks and Arabs (or, for that matter, Persians and Arabs) be lumped together?

One example that amuses me is Egypt (and can include or be used for any of the Arab states of Northern Africa, beginning with Egypt and stretching to Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean): are Egyptians Arabs, Middle Easterners, or Africans? And as Egypt has been considered to be in Africa for centuries now, can Egyptians, as Africans, claim benefits or special arrangements for Africans or people of African origin?

And what about Mediterranean states? Should they not also be considered to be a group unto itself? Does not a state’s location on the Great Sea play an important part in its character, politics, culture, and tendencies?

And how about Afghanistan? Is it Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Central Asian? Or this a case, as some say is with Turkey, that parts belong to different areas (the Pashtun areas being South Asian; the Tajik and Uzbek areas being Central Asian; the more Persian or Dari areas being Middle Eastern)?

It is not easy to group states together into useful categories or geopolitical regions, yet doing so makes considering the world and its manifold issues easier. And, indeed, in some cases such categorization even makes sense as far as issues go. But there has yet to be a comprehensive system developed: all systems in use are debated and problematic to some degree.

As such, while we ought to consider a state’s location, we should not put all of our understanding of a state’s problems or issues solely in the context of geopolitical location. In some ways, each state is an entity unto itself or may involve issues, characteristics, or aspects common or dissimilar to the states around it.

Permalink Leave a Comment

A Victory!

January 5, 2007 at 7:23 am (News, Personal, The Rest, The West, World War III)

Hurrah, hooray, and hallelujah!

Isaac Schrödinger has been granted refugee status in Canada.

I am selfish and chauvinistic: I’d rather he be here in The United States; but Canada is still in the West.

I am relatively speechless with joy at this good news. I take this to be a personal victory for me. In any case, it is a victory for all of us of the West.

Our good friend can now call the West, officially, as his home. And he now has a secure place to be.

Here’s to the system working, for once, and to more wit and wisdom from Isaac Schrödinger!

Permalink 5 Comments