War: A Muslim Perspective
On September 29, the
Chicago Union Tribuneran a letter, discovered by the FBI, that had been written to the September 11 hijackers, emboldening them with promises of paradise in exchange for their suicide attack. Muslims have argued against associating the attacks with Islam, suggesting that the attackers represent a radical fringe divorced from true Islam. Politicians seem to agree. In his speech to a joint session of Congress (and the nation) on September 20, President George W. Bush described the teachings of Islam as "good and peaceful" and said that "those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah."
But jihad has a long history in Islam, and Muslims have fought under its banner for centuries. If Christians have put forward the concept of just war as justification for war, jihad, or holy war has underpinned Muslim determination to fight. What exactly is jihad, and how has it been waged in the past? In the fall of 1993, Christian History asked Islamic historian Dr. Hadia Dajani-Shakeel to describe how Muslims viewed the Crusaders and why they responded as they did. Excerpts from her response appear below. Dajani-Shakeel is co-editor of
The Jihad and Its Times(Michigan, 1991).
In 1095, Pope Urban II staged a massive military invasion of the Muslim East. That invasion and occupation caused the forced expulsion, conversion, or enslavement of the Muslim majority. Only a few cities in Syria remained in Muslim hands, and these became centers for Islamic resistance.
Muslims viewed the Christian settlements as alien and illegitimate, established at the expense of the native population, which had been displaced or massacred. The early Christians were portrayed as ruthless, bloodthirsty, and barbaric.