Journal of Religious Ethics 32 (1):95-128 (2004)


This article offers an overview of the various formulations of "jihad" during the first six Islamic centuries , showing them to be embedded in particular socio-historical contexts. If the essential significance of "jihad" as righteous cause is shown to have been variously altered according to the needs and conditions of the Muslim community, significant possibilities arise for a contemporary understanding of "jihad" that is relevant to the needs and circumstances of the Muslim community today. Some features of the "jihad" tradition, although specific to a particular period and with little relevance today, continue to inform the current discussion on "jihad." Discussion of the "jihad" tradition, then, should take care to distinguish the historically incidental features of the tradition from those with an enduring relevancy. By doing so, the "jihad" tradition will be able to contribute to discussions on the relation of religion to the public order and political organization, even those not limited to Islam

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