Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Conceptualizing Jihad among Southeast Asia's Radical Salafi Movements

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Conceptualizing Jihad among Southeast Asia's Radical Salafi Movements

Article excerpt


Studies on jihad as concept, ideology, and forces of political mobility have earned a wide coverage in the academia1 since the rise of the political Islam worldwide.2 Furthermore, there were also Western scholars who attempted to thoroughly study the concept, and yet the majority of them appear to have had a bias understanding, viewing the concept as a threat to Western security and civilization.3 It can be argued however that there is no single notion of the concept of jihad, even among Muslim scholars. For the Muslim scholars, debates on the jihadi concept can be divided between the so-called reformists and classicists.4 For classicists, the fundamental meaning of jihad is that of a holy physical fighting, which entails being in the offensive, and represents a non-negotiable concept, yet for the Muslim reformists, the character of jihad in its sense of fighting or struggle, should be viewed defensive in nature.

The emergence of Taliban, al-Qaeda and later the Islamic State (IS) has witnessed the rise in importance of the concept of jihad. Al-Qaeda's conceptualisation of jihad has given emphasis on the qital's offensive notion of the concept. Jihad is seen as an armed struggle against the Western domination and its representatives, especially the United States. The September 11 incidents were the culmination of al-Qaeda's determination of holy war against the political deprivation. The jihad of the Islamic State is no different from that of al-Qaeda's, but its execution of the concept seems to be more lethal and rigidly dogmatic.

In Southeast Asia, calls for jihad against Western political discrimination have become more vocal ever since the 2002 Bali Bombing incidents. It cannot be denied that jihad has always been at the forefront in the struggle of the separatist movements in the region, i.e. through Moro Islamic Liberation Movements (MILF) of the Philippines, and other Muslim-based separatist movements. But it was the Bali Bombings and the ethno-religious conflicts in various parts of Indonesia that have brought up the concept of jihad to its prominence. The salafi radical movements seem to offer a new conceptualisation of jihadi ideas to the region.

This article seeks to map out the conception of jihad as being propounded by three regional salafi movements - Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), Jama'ah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), and Hizbut Tahrir (HT). These movements that are active in Indonesia have made the presence of the concept felt in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and Philippines. Some of them have been active in propagating the new concept of jihad. The article, hence seeks to understand how these movements' conception of jihad has departed from the earlier salafi movements. In addition, it also seeks to answer how the idea has been expanded from Indonesia to other Nusantara archipelago.

The Salafi's Jihad

Jihad, as a concept, has various meanings. Epistemologically, jihad generally means to strive in a struggle (by whatever forms).5 Conceptually, it seeks every Muslim community to use one's ability and power by exerting oneself spiritually in the way of Allah and by doing one's best to preach the message of Islam to others. Hence, it has developed into a concept of strong resistance that can come in the form of inner spirituality, motivation and physical strength through political mobility.6

Hassan al-Banna of the Muslims Brotherhood movement in Egypt points out that every Muslim has the obligation for jihad, given that the order comes from Allah (God). In the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), jihad is interpreted in two ways: firstly, as personal and a community struggle against injustice. According to Fazlul Karim, jihad strives to exert

on one's power in repelling enemy to the extent of one's ability whether by word or deed. It also means a war undertaken for a just cause and for [the] defense of Islam.7

Hence, it can be understood that one's struggle can be in oral form, in writing or even by the use of force. …

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