Challenge in the Local Paper

Odds are there’s no ‘holy war’ in Qur’an

February 29, 2008

Want $1 million? All you have to do is find a reference in the Qur’an to “holy war.”

The offer is being made by Jamal Badawi, professor emeritus of management and religious studies at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His only requirement is that the reference be in the original Arabic, not an English translation of the holy Islamic text.

Is that $1 million Canadian or American? “It doesn’t matter,” Badawi said. “It can be a million Canadian, a million U.S. or even a million euro [which would be worth almost $1.5 million]. I don’t have that much money, anyway. I’ve been making the offer ever since 2001. I’ve never had a taker, and I never will.”

Badawi was in the Twin Cities a week ago as part of a continuing effort to combat negative stereotypes about Muslims and violence, especially terrorism. He said that one of the biggest misconceptions he encounters is that the Qur’an promotes war, especially against those of different faiths.

“There is nothing in the Qur’an that says you should fight someone because they are of a different religion,” he said. “Just the opposite is true. In its writings on other faith communities, it encourages dealing with them with kindness and justice.”

The only time war is mentioned is in passages saying that believers can defend themselves from attack or oppression. Asked if a Muslim who sees the West as a threat could interpret that as an endorsement of a preemptive attack, Badawi said, “Humans have an inexhaustible ability to justify the wrong they’re doing. It’s no different than a Christian who is opposed to abortion using that as justification for bombing an abortion clinic. He’s not indicative of Christians as a whole. He’s a religious extremist, and the same term applies to anyone who plants a bomb in the name of their god. … The ends do not justify the means in Islamic philosophy.”

Badawi also mentioned the news media’s misappropriation of the term “jihad,” often using it as a label for Muslim aggression.

“It means to exert maximum effort, to strive to the utmost of your ability,” he said. “It is not a synonym for war.”


7 thoughts on “Challenge in the Local Paper

  1. very good post. That’s true that ‘Jihad’ in most examples is explained as a war but within own desires and acts, to obtain religion and own faith. Only excuse for agression is mentioned in case of self-defence.

  2. Amina – I’m not sure about it being “most examples,” although I haven’t done a comprehensive survey on the matter. The sunnah does talk quite a bit about struggling physically in war. We shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that one of our struggles are in war. And, we also shouldn’t forget that those struggles are carefully regulated, and woe be unto the one who transgresses those limits.

    However, I would say that when the non muslim world hears/talks about jihad, it is mostly in the sense of a physical struggle. And that’s definately out of proportion with how often the physical struggle is talked about vs. the struggle with the nafs.

  3. I heart that guy! What a great thing. I hope that there are people who take him up on the challenge… Maybe they will learn something in the process;)

  4. Rahma — it’s snowing in Dallas tonight, and a freeze will hit us tomorrow — but nothing at all like up there. This will pass within a day or two and it will be back up in the 70s like it was Monday. Are you really considering a move ? You could do a lot worse than TX…. and you can pick my brain any time !

  5. MK, still better than here, where it’s -5 without the windchill. It could be worse I suppose – I went to central wisconsin last weekend, and the snow was up above my head.

    The husband really isn’t liking the whole midwest atmosphere/weather, so we are looking to move. I’d prefer San Francisco/Zaytuna Institute, but it’s uber expensive. I’d heard that there are some good muslim communities in certain areas of TX, and I figured you’d be in the know. inshaAllah I’ll email you this weekend.

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