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Confusion seems to reign supreme as to the nature of jihad. A Chicago bus ad showing friendship people of different races and religions reads "#MyJihad is to build friendships across the aisle. - What's yours?." This advertisement would suggest that jihad is largely "striving for excellence" socially, and others have said it is the same with personal struggles.

Since it would be rather patronizing to tell Muslims what they believe about jihad, this paper examines the influences of Islamic texts on their own ideas about jihad.

It is self-evident that a question rising in the Western mind is whether one can draw any lines between actions of the Boston Marathon bombers, the Oklahoma attacker and what they are being taught about jihad. As much as there is a great deal of damage control being exerted in many quarters, the question remains: Is there any reason to consider the mosque as the source of their inspiration?  

In 2011 Mordechai Kedar and David Yerushalmi of the Center for Security Policy in Washington published a detailed essay “Shari’a and Violence in American Mosques” in the Middle East Quarterly. It is available here. Their research, entitled “Mapping Sharia” surveyed 100 randomly selected mosques across the United States.

In a nutshell, the study documented strong correlations between advocacy of violent jihad and the presence of materials advocating such. In the words of the study:

  • “51% of mosques had texts that either advocated the use of violence in the pursuit of a Sharia-based political order or advocated violent jihad as a duty that should be of paramount importance to a Muslim.”
  • Another 30% of mosques in the United States “had only texts that were moderately supportive of violence,”
  • “19% had no violent texts at all.”
  • “In 84.5% of the mosques, the imam recommended studying violence-positive texts.  The leadership at sharï'ah-adherent mosques was more likely to recommend that a worshipper study violence-positive texts than leadership at non-sharï'ah-adherent mosques.”

Here is a sampling of the books that were being read and taught from. They represent a range of what the authors called "violence-positive" to more mainstream texts such as the Reliance of the Traveller which has full endorsement by the Sunni al-Azhar University.

A. Qutb: Ma’alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones)
"If someone [prevents others from accepting Islam], then it is the duty of Islam to fight him until either he is killed or until he declares his submission."
*Note: A former mosque attendee of the Oklahoma mosque related the following in September 2014 " I went to the same mosque [as] the Oklahoma Muslim ... They sold Milestones in the bookshop while I was there ... They try very hard to whitewash Islam when the media is around, but they believe in their religion and the ultimate goal of an Islamic caliphate." 

B. Tafsir Ibn Kathir
"Allah made it obligatory for the Muslims to fight in Jihad against the evil of the enemy who transgress against Islam."

C. Saabiq: Fiqh-us-Sunnah (The Book on Acts of Worship)
“The truth of the matter is that he [who] becomes an unbeliever... is to be killed for his unbelief."

D. al-Misri: Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveller)
Jihad is:  “warfare against non-Muslims to establish the religion.”
553 al-Misri, Book O "Justice," at § o9.0 "Jihad" ....and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada signifying warfare to establish the religion.
*This book was also available at the Oklahoma mosque reading library, according to 'Noor' the former attendee.

E. Maududi: Tafhim al-Qur’an (The Meaning of the Qur'an)
"[the Believer] is required to oppose all those religious, cultural and political systems that are founded on rebellion against God and force people to submit to falsehood instead of the Truth."

F. al-Nawawi: Riyad-us-Saliheen (Gardens of the Righteous)
"When the situation calls for Jihad then the foremost priority of a Muslim should be Jihad. In such an event his passion for touring the world should yield to the spirit of Jihad against the infidels and then he must with his full force fight against the enemy."

G. Maududi: Jihad in Islam
"It is [the] duty [of Muslim men who propagate religion] to wipe out oppression, mischief, strife, immorality, high handedness and unlawful exploitation from the world by force of arms."

A few observations:

1. As much as some Western apologists and bus ads would like to focus primarily on the "internal spiritual disciplines" or striving for excellence as a manifestation of jihad, the data above suggests otherwise. The Islamic texts recommended by imams themselves, promote a kind of holy war — either violent or non-violent — to expand Islam worldwide. [Obviously, the study pre-dated the ready availability of radicalizing material on the likes of YouTube and Facebook]

2. This data is recommended by the authors to be taken seriously by Muslims themselves as their own places of "worship" have become centers for radicalization.  They state: "This survey suggests that, first and foremost, Muslim community leaders must take a more active role in educating their own faith community about the dangers associated with providing a safe haven for violent literature and its promotion.” Some writers have seen this recommendation as pie-in-the-sky or asking a leopard to change its spots.


If it is true, as Frank Gaffney of the Washington Times observed, that American mosques are [violent] jihad incubators, then the challenge to Christians it would seem is to creatively and constructively think of what could constitute "un-incubators." A few ideas might include:

  • reading the Islamic texts above [most are available for free download at the Mapping Sharia site] and understanding Islam from within
  • realizing that mosques are much more than a Muslim equivalent of a church
  • asking the hard questions whether Sharï'ah law and North American constitutional law can ever be compatible
  • exercising the role of good citizens to encourage politicians and law enforcement agencies to be awake to 'creeping-shariah' or 'stealth-jihad' which slowly but surely closes down any critique of Islam and enforces compliance to Islamic standards[i]
  • praying for local imams by name, that opportunities might be given to proclaim the Gospel to them
  • living out and proclaiming a vibrant Gospel witness to our Muslim neighbours
  • embracing both truth and love simultaneously when it comes to Islam and Muslims[ii].


[i] A concerned citizen might do well to watch Clare Lopez's September 5th/2014 talk "Jihad Resurgent: Islamic Challenge, Western Response.", especially at 1:27 where she answers the question "What Must we Do?" 

[ii] A well-balanced approach is advocated by the clergyman and scholar of Islamics, Mark Durie. His blog entry of September 26/2014 is entitled "Muslims Need Truth and Love." It is available here:


Your seventh recommendation is to embrace both truth and love simultaneously... which is good.  But to put it slightly different, without truth, there is no love.  And for the christian, to tell the truth without love, is not christian.

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