Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam

Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam

Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam

Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam

Synopsis

While there exists no evidence to date that the indigenous inhabitants of Arabia knew of holy war prior to Islam, holy war ideas and behaviors appear already among Muslims during the first generation. This book focuses on why and how such a seemingly radical development took place. Basing his hypothesis on evidence from the Qur'an and early Islamic literary sources, Firestone locates the origin of Islamic holy war and traces its evolution as a response to the changes affecting the new community of Muslims in its transition from ancient Arabian culture to the religious civilization of Islam.

Excerpt

Time, as we understand it, is linear. It progresses along a chronological path, always moving forward, never reversing itself, backtracking, or becoming distracted by sliding sideways. Perhaps because of the strict linearity of our concept of time, humans have the tendency to view history in strictly linear terms as well. We observe trends or note consistencies according to certain patterns that we detect, and we tend to ignore contradictory evidence that distracts from those patterns of observation. We latch onto certain perceived trajectories of behavior, ideas, or forces that we believe move through time and history. Then, either to build our argument or perhaps simply to make sense of life, we tend to disregard or forget about parallel, colliding, or contradictory vectors that cloud the crispness of those trajectories we are attracted to. Scientific arguments are often articulated in linear form in order to make a case; in such arguments, distracting data or points of view must be treated as much as possible, although they are not always perceived.

The science of history, like most other modern scientific disciplines, tends to be articulated in linear terms because of the nature of scholarly argument, but it is not at all certain that the human individuals and groups the science of history studies move through the perceived linearity of time in similar longitudinal patterns. While time is perceived as linear, human history seems not to be. Human behavior fluctuates, sometimes radically, and is affected by innumerable forces. It might be helpful to imagine human behavior through history as being shaped by a multitude of vectors of influence. While each one may affect human behavior in a consistent and even linear manner, when the entirety of vectors are at . . .

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