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Jihad Ideology in Light of Contemporary Fatwas

Shmuel Bar

The rise of the modern Islamist jihad movement in the last two decades of the 20th century has coincided with the rise of a growing body of fatwas that declare jihad as a legal religious obligation and define clear guidelines for the waging of jihad. These fatwas therefore provide moral and legal sanction for acts of terrorism. They relate to a broad-range of issues including the definition and identification of the battle space in which jihad is to be undertaken; the necessary conditions for jihad; the identity of the “infidels” whom jihad must be waged against; who must participate in jihad and how; what are the legitimate means and who are the legitimate targets of jihad; the legitimacy of suicide attacks and other issues. The discussion in the fatwas may seem caustic but it holds far-reaching implications, for questions that are commonly deemed “moral” and “ethical” are subordinated to legal casuistry. This paper will present some of the issues arising from such fatwas.

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