What is jihad? Does it mean violence, as many non-Muslims assume? Or does it mean peace, as some Muslims insist? Because jihad is closely associated with the early spread of Islam, today's debate about the origin and meaning of jihad is nothing less than a struggle over Islam itself. In Jihad in Islamic History, Michael Bonner provides the first study in English that focuses on the early history of jihad, shedding much-needed light on the most recent controversies over jihad.
To some, jihad is the essence of radical Islamist ideology, a synonym for terrorism, and even proof of Islam's innate violence. To others, jihad means a peaceful, individual, and internal spiritual striving. Bonner, however, shows that those who argue that jihad means only violence or only peace are both wrong. Jihad is a complex set of doctrines and practices that have changed over time and continue to evolve today. The Quran's messages about fighting and jihad are inseparable from its requirements of generosity and care for the poor. Jihad has often been a constructive and creative force, the key to building new Islamic societies and states. Jihad has regulated relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, in peace as well as in war. And while today's "jihadists" are in some ways following the "classical" jihad tradition, they have in other ways completely broken with it.
Written for general readers who want to understand jihad and its controversies, Jihad in Islamic History will also interest specialists because of its original arguments.
"...short, incisive, and highly readable book..."--Ahmed Rashid, New York Review of Books
"Viewing what has become an increasingly crowded field, [Bonner] points out that the word jihad has acquired different resonances for a wide variety of actors, from the Islamist radicals for whom it forms the heart of a militant ideology to mystical quietists who regard the 'greater jihad' as the struggle against the 'lower self' of baser human impulses."--Malise Ruthven, New York Review of Books
"Bonner's Jihad in Islamic History is a first-class work that should be highly useful as an introduction to the basic issues and history of the subject, and despite its conciseness contains information interesting even for the more specialized scholar."--David Cook, Middle East Journal
"Bonner . . . provides a cogent yet detailed historical survey of the concept and practice of jihad in Muslim societies. His book is a much-needed counter to the poorly researched or downright biased and alarmist cluster of publications that were quickly written and released after September 11, 2001. . . . The book is easily accessible to the nonspecialist, and is ideal for use in an upper-level undergraduate topics course in Middle Eastern and Islamic history or Islamic religious thought. Bonner's work is also a useful primer for specialists which does not sacrifice quality for brevity."--Christopher Anzalone, Religious Studies Review
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