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The "black flag of jihad" as used by jihadist militants since around the late 1990s

Jihadism (jihadist movement, jihadi movement and variants) is used to refer to contemporary armed jihad in Islamic fundamentalism. The term "jihadism" was coined in the 2000s and mostly used to cover Islamic insurgency and Islamic terrorism since that time, but it has also been extended to cover both Mujahideen guerilla warfare and Islamic terrorism with an international scope since it arose in the 1980s, since the 1990s substantially represented by the al-Qaeda network.

Contemporary jihadism ultimately has its roots in the late 19th and early 20th century ideological developments of Islamic revivalism, developed into Qutbism and related ideologies during the mid 20th century. Its rise was re-enforced by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and has been propagated in various armed conflicts throughout the 1990s and 2000s. A specifically Salafi jihadism has been diagnosed within the Salafi movement of the 1990s by Gilles Kepel.[citation needed][year needed]

Jihadism with an international, Pan-Islamist scope in this sense is also known as Global Jihadism. Generally the term jihadism denotes Sunni Islamist armed struggle. Sectarian tensions led to numerous forms of (Salafist and other Islamist) jihadism in opposition of Shia Islam, Sufism and Ahmadi Islam.


Further information: Jihad

The term "jihadism" has been in use since about 2000, first in the Indian and Pakistani media, and by French academics who used the more exact term "jihadist-Salafist".[1][2][3] According to Martin Kramer as of 2003, "jihadism is used to refer to the most violent persons and movements in contemporary Islam, including al-Qaeda." Gilles Kepel is associated with early usage of the term (French djihadisme), and the term has seen wider use in French media since about 2004.[4] Use of "Jihadism" has been criticized (by Brachman) as "clumsy and controversial", on the grounds that in "much of the Islamic world" the term Jihad "simply refers to the internal spiritual campaign that one wages with oneself".[5]In his Global jihadism (2008), Brachman maintains that the term is "clumsy and controversial", on the grounds that in "much of the Islamic world" the term Jihad "simply refers to the internal spiritual campaign that one wages with oneself".[5]

The term "Jihadist Globalism" is also often used in relation to Jihadism; Steger (2009) proposes an extension of the term "Jihadist Globalism" to apply to all extremely violent strains of religiously influenced ideologies that articulate the global imaginary into concrete political agendas and terrorist strategies. (These include Al Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah, Hamas and Hezbollah, which he finds "today's most spectacular manifestation of religious globalism".)[6]

"Jihad Cool" is a term used by Western security experts[7] concerning the re-branding of militant Jihadism into something fashionable, or "cool", to younger people through social media, magazines,[8] rap videos,[9] clothing,[10] toys, propaganda videos,[11] and other means.[12] It is a sub-culture mainly applied to individuals in developed nations who are recruited to travel to conflict zones on Jihad. For example, Jihadi rap videos make participants look "more MTV than Mosque", according to NPR, which was the first to report on the phenomenon in 2010.[7][13]

Jihad fi sabilillah

According to Bernard Lewis, the term jihad is often followed by the words "in the path of God," (fi sabilillah)[14] a phrase found in the Quran. The phrase is re-used in modern jihadism. Thus, "Fi Sabilillah" armbands were worn by rebels in Xinjiang when battling Soviet forces,[15] and the phrase has been spotted on flags used by jihadists in Caucasia in the 2000s.

Offensive Jihad[edit]

"Offensive Jihad" (as opposed to "Defensive Jihad") is jihad to expand Dar al-Islam (the realm of Islam), transforming Dar al-Harb (the realm of war, i.e. the non-Muslim world) into Dar al-Islam and establish Islamic social order, sharia law. (These world divisions were derived by Islamic jurists, but not mentioned in the Qur'an or collections of hadith.[16]) An example of this kind of jihad is described in the famous fatwa "Defence of the Muslim Lands, The First Obligation After Iman" calling for jihad in Afghanistan written by Islamist cleric Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.[17] Azzam describes Offensive Jihad as Fard Kifaya, (a collective duty of Muslims) rather than Fard Ayn (an individual duty), and thus a lower priority than defensive jihad:

Where the Kuffar [non-Muslims] are not gathering to fight the Muslims. The fighting becomes Fard Kifaya with the minimum requirement of appointing believers to guard borders, and the sending of an army at least once a year to terrorise the enemies of Allah. It is a duty of the Imam [leader of the Muslim community] to assemble and send out an army unit into the land of war once or twice every year. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the Muslim population to assist him, and if he does not send an army he is in sin. - And the Ulama have mentioned that this type of jihad is for maintaining the payment of Jizya [tax on non-Muslims].[17]

According to another source, (Richard Edwards and Sherifa Zuhur), offensive jihad was the type of jihad practiced by the early Muslim community, because their weakness meant "no defensive action would have sufficed to protect them against the allied tribal forces determined to exterminate them." Jihad as a collective duty (Fard Kifaya) and offensive jihad are synonymous in classical Islamic law and tradition, which also asserted that offensive jihad could only be declared by the caliph, but an "individually incumbent jihad" (Fard Ayn) required only "awareness of an oppression targeting Islam or Islamic peoples."[18]


Praying Muhjahideen in Kunar Province, Afghanistan (1987).

Precursor movements[edit]

When jihadism is specifically motivated by Pan-Islamism, i.e. the ultimate aim of spreading Islam worldwide under a restored Caliphate, it is often called "Global Jihadism". But jihadism can also be motivated regionally, in an attempt to establish an Islamic state in a specific homeland. Global Jihadism is usually involved with international Islamic terrorism, while regional jihadism takes the form of guerrilla warfare, possibly also paired with terrorist attacks.

While the western term of "jihadism" was coined only in the early 2000s, and in retrospect applied to developments since the end of the Cold War era, this type of Islamist armed uprising against a secular government goes back to the early 19th century. The transition of this form of guerilla warfare was the decline of the great Muslim empires of the Early Modern period which could wage war on the scale of a great power and did not need to rely on asymmetric warfare (see Ottoman wars in Europe, Russo-Turkish War (1877–78), Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire). Early jihadist conflicts include:

Modern Islamism developed in the 1920s, and there have been a number of armed "jihads" informed by this movement since then.

While the "jihads" waged in the 19th and early-to-mid 20th century occasionally did involve western colonial powers, the phenomenon did remain mostly limited to the Middle East and the wider Muslim World. This changed significantly with the foundation of the state of Israel and the beginning of the Arab–Israeli conflict after the end of World War II. (Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine 1981–present, Islamic Jihad Organization 1982-1993, Hamas 1987–present). This sparked the beginning of international Islamic terrorism and put "jihadism" on the global agenda.

Islamic revivalism and Salafism (1990s to present)[edit]

Main article: Salafi jihadism
A black flag reportedly used by Caucasian jihadists in 2002 displays the phrase al-jihad fi sabilillah above the takbir and two crossed swords.

According to scholar of Islam and Islamic history Rudoph Peters, contemporary Traditionalist Muslims "copy phrases of the classical works on fiqh" in their writings on jihad; Islamic Modernists "emphasize the defensive aspect of jihad, regarding it as tantamount to bellum justum in modern international law; and the contemporary fundamentalists (Abul Ala Maududi, Sayyid Qutb, Abdullah Azzam, etc.) view it as a struggle for the expansion of Islam and the realization of Islamic ideals."[19]

Jihad has been propagated in modern fundamentalism beginning in the late 19th century, an ideology that arose in context of struggles against colonial powers in North Africa in the late 19th century, as in the Mahdist War in Sudan, and notably in the mid-20th century by Islamic revivalist authors such as Sayyid Qutb and Abul Ala Maududi.[20]

The term jihadism (earlier Salafi jihadism) has arisen in the 2000s to refer to the contemporary jihadi movements, the development of which was in retrospect traced to developments of Salafism paired with the origins of Al-Qaeda in the Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1990s.

Jihadism has been called an "offshoot" of Islamic revivalism of the 1960s and 1970s. The writings of Sayyid Qutb and Muhammad abd-al-Salam Faraj provide inspiration. The Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–1989) is said to have "amplified the jihadist tendency from a fringe phenomenon to a major force in the Muslim world.[21] It served to produce foot soldiers, leadership and organization. Abdullah Yusuf Azzam provided propaganda for the Afghan cause. After the war veteran jihadists returned to their home countries and dispersed to other sites of Muslim insurgency such as Algeria, Bosnia and Chechnya creating a "transnational jihadist stream."[22]


Against Sikhs[edit]

A rebel camp was set up in the early 19th century by Sayyid Ahmed Barelvi after leaving India for Afghanistan. There he set up a rebel camp to launch attacks against the Sikh power which was centered in the Punjab before focusing his attention of the British.[23] Waliullah's teachings directly inspired jihad against Sikhs between 1826 and 1831.[24]

Against Hindus[edit]

The Hindu Kush refers to a region in Northwest India and translates as the slaughter of the Hindus. It refers to an incident when Hindus were transported to Muslim courts.[25] Aurangzeb supervised a book called Fatawa al-Hindiyya which dealt with the subject of Jihad.[26] Jihad was also considered by oSIMI in response to the 2002 Gujarat riots.[27]

Against Buddhists[edit]

In 1532, Sultan Said Khan launched a jihad against Tibetan Buddhists. He thought that Lhasa was a direction of prayer for all the Chinese and therefore sought to destroy its main temple. The jihadist expedition was led by Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat.[28]

Against Jews[edit]

There are references in some hadiths to jihad being launched against Jews.[29] Ayman al-Zawahiri declared a fatwa of jihad against Jews in 1998. One of the earliest Jihads against Jews occurred in 627 AD against the Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe.[30]

Against Zoroastrians[edit]

During the Muslim conquest of Persia, Jihadists caused the fall of the largely Zoroastrian Sasanian Empire. Major battles included the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah and Battle of Nahāvand.[31][32]

Against pagans[edit]

During Muhammad's lifetime, there were many battles fought between Muslims and pagans. Examples of these include the Battle of Badr and Battle of the Trench. however after conquest of Makkah in Hijri 8, Muhammad forgave all the pagan enemies which resulted in most of them converting to Islam.

Against atheists[edit]

President Reagan meeting with Afghan Mujahideen leaders in the Oval Office in 1983

During the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s, many Muslims received calls for a jihad against atheists.[33] Mujahideen were recruited from various countries including Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.[34] The conflict gradually turned from one against occupation to one seen as a jihad.[35]

Against Christians[edit]

The European crusaders re-conquered much of the territory seized by the Islamic state, dividing it into four kingdoms, the most important being the state of Jerusalem. The Crusades originally had the goal of recapturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land (former Christian territory) from Muslim rule and were originally launched in response to a call from the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire for help against the expansion of the Muslim Seljuk Turks into Anatolia. There was little drive to retake the lands from the crusaders, save the few attacks made by the Egyptian Fatimids. This changed, however, with the coming of Zangi, ruler of what is today northern Iraq. He took Edessa, which triggered the Second Crusade, which was little more than a 47-year stalemate. The stalemate was ended with the victory of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, known in the west as Saladin, over the forces of Jerusalem at the Horns of Hattin in 1187. It was during the course of the stalemate that a great deal of literature regarding Jihad was written.[6] While amassing his armies in Syria, Saladin had to create a doctrine which would unite his forces and make them fight until the bitter end, which would be the only way they could re-conquer the lands taken in the First Crusade. He did this through the creation of Jihad propaganda. It stated that any one who would abandon the Jihad would be committing a sin that could not be washed away by any means. It also put his amirs at the center of power, just under his rule. While this propaganda was successful in uniting his forces for a time, the fervor burned out quickly. Much of Saladin's teachings were rejected after his death.


Against Shia[edit]

The Syrian Civil War became a focus for Sunni fighters waging jihad on Shia. The al-Nusra Front is the largest jihadist group in Syria.[36] The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has called for jihad against the Syrian government and against that government's Shi'ite allies.[37] Saudi Arabia backs the jihad against the Shia in Syria using proxies.[38] Sunni jihadi converge in Syria from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Bosnia, other Arab states, Chechnya, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Western countries.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jihadist-Salafism" is defined by Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 219-22
  2. ^ and by Guilain Deneoux, "The Forgotten Swamp: Navigating Political Islam," Middle East Policy, June 2002, pp. 69-71."
  3. ^ Martin Kramer (Spring 2003). "Coming to Terms: Fundamentalists or Islamists?". Middle East Quarterly X (2): 65–77.  "French academics have put the term into academic circulation as 'jihadist-Salafism.' The qualifier of Salafism—an historical reference to the precursor of these movements—will inevitably be stripped away in popular usage. "Jihadist-Salafism" is defined by Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 219-22; and Guilain Deneoux, "The Forgotten Swamp: Navigating Political Islam," Middle East Policy, June 2002, pp. 69-71."
  4. ^ DJIHADISME Une déclaration de guerre contre Moubarak, Courrier International, 14 October 2004; Islamisme radical et djihadisme en ligne Le Monde 28 September 2005.
  5. ^ a b Brachman 2008, p. 4: "“Jihadism” is a clumsy and controversial term. It refers to the peripheral current of extremist Islamic thought whose adherents demand the use of violence in order to oust non-Islamic influence from traditionally Muslim lands en route to establishing true Islamic governance in accordance with Sharia, or God’s law. The expression’s most significant limitation is that it contains the word Jihad, which is an important religious concept in Islam. For much of the Islamic world, Jihad simply refers to the internal spiritual campaign that one wages with oneself."
  6. ^ Steger, Manfred B. Globalization: A Short Introduction. 2009. Oxford University Publishing, p. 127.
  7. ^ a b Laura Italiano (June 20, 2014). "American Muslims flocking to jihadist group". New York Post. Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  8. ^ Steve Emerson (April 15, 2013). "Jihad is Cool: Jihadist Magazines Recruit Young Terrorists". Family Security Matters. Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  9. ^ J. Dana Stuster (April 29, 2013). "9 Disturbingly Good Jihadi Raps". Foreign Policy. Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  10. ^ Robert Spencer (August 7, 2014). "India: Imam arrested for distributing Islamic State t-shirts". Jihad Watch. Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  11. ^ Jytte Klausen (2012). "The YouTube Jihadists: A Social Network Analysis of Al-Muhajiroun’s Propaganda Campaign". Perspectives on Terrorism 6 (1). Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  12. ^ Cheryl K. Chumley (June 27, 2014). "Terrorists go 'Jihad Cool,' use rap to entice young Americans". Washington Times. Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  13. ^ Dina Temple-Raston (March 6, 2010). "Jihadi Cool: Terrorist Recruiters' Latest Weapon". National Public Radio. Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  14. ^ Haley, P. Edward (June 12, 1988). "Understanding the Mideast War Process : THE POLITICAL LANGUAGE OF ISLAM by Bernard Lewis (University of Chicago Press: $14.95; 157 pp.) [Book review]". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  15. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911-1949. Cambridge, England: CUP Archive. p. 144. ISBN 0-521-25514-7. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  16. ^ Campo, Juan Eduardo (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Infobase Publishing. p. 182. 
  17. ^ a b Defence of the Muslim Lands; The First Obligation After Iman; Biography of Abdullah Azzam and Introduction, by Abdullah Azzam (Shaheed), English translation work done by Brothers in Ribatt.| religioscope.com
  18. ^ Edwards, Richard; Zuhur, Sherifa. The Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Political, Social, and. ABC-CLIO. p. 553. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  19. ^ Peters, Rudolph (1996). Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam: A Reader. Princeton: Marcus Wiener. p. 150. 
  20. ^ Rudolph Peters, Jihad in modern terms: a reader 2005, p. 107 and note p. 197. John Ralph Willis, "Jihad Fi Sabil Allah", in: In the path of Allah: the passion of al-Hajj ʻUmar : an essay into the nature of charisma in Islam, Routledge, 1989, ISBN 978-0-7146-3252-0, 29-57. "Gibb [Mohammedanism, 2nd ed. 1953] rightly could conclude that one effect of the renewed emphasis in the nineteenth century on the Qur'an and Sunna in Muslim fundamentalism was to restore to jihad fi sabilillah much of the prominence it held in the early days of Islam. Yet Gibb, for all his perception, did not consider jihad within the context of its alliance to ascetic and revivalist sentiments, nor from the perspectives which left it open to diverse interpretations." (p. 31)
  21. ^ Commins, David (2009). The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia. I.B.Tauris. p. 174. 
  22. ^ Commins, David (2009). The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia. I.B.Tauris. pp. 156, 7. 
  23. ^ Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity - Page 36
  24. ^ Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia - Page 57, Ayesha Jalal - 2009
  25. ^ Islamic Economics and the Final Jihad David J. Jonsson - 2006 - Page 87
  26. ^ Understanding Jihad, David Cook - 2005, r 49
  27. ^ Islamism and Democracy in India, p 147, Irfan Ahmad - 2009
  28. ^ Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road - Page 174, Johan Elverskog - 2011 -
  29. ^ Sahih Muslim 41:6985, Sahih Muslim 41:6981, Sahih Muslim 41:6982
  30. ^ Guillaume, Alfred, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah. Oxford University Press, 1955
  31. ^ Iranian History and Politics: The Dialectic of State and Society By Homa Katouzian, pg. 25
  32. ^ The Expansion of the Saracens-The East, C.H. Becker, The Cambridge Medieval History:The Rise of the Saracens and the Foundation of the Western Empire, Vol. 2, ed. John Bagnell Bury, (MacMillan Company, 1913), 348.
  33. ^ The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global - Page 68, Fawaz A. Gerges - 2009 -
  34. ^ Aging Early: Collapse of the Oasis of Liberties - Page 47, Mirza Aman - 2009
  35. ^ Withdrawing Under Fire, Joshua L. Gleis - 2011
  36. ^ "Inside Jabhat al Nusra – the most extreme wing of Syria's struggle". 2 December 2012. 
  37. ^ Maggie Fick (June 14, 2013). "Egypt Brothers backs Syria jihad, slams Shi'ites". Reuters. 
  38. ^ Robert F. Worth (Jan 7, 2014). "Saudis Back Syrian Rebels Despite Risks". New York Times. 
  39. ^ Mark Hosenball (May 1, 2014). "In Iraq and Syria, a resurgence of foreign suicide bombers". The Economist. 
  40. ^ Darion Rhodes, Salafist-Takfiri Jihadism: the Ideology of the Caucasus Emirate, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, March 2014


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