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Re: 14 July 1099

>Sinclair and John...
>I have a few brief comments regarding your interesting exchange of posts on
>Jihad and Holy Wars.
>(1) In today's parlance, a "holy war" is a war launched for religious
>purposes.  The poster child for such wars is the Islamic conquest initiated
>in the seventh century (and stretching over nearly a millennium thereafter)
>"to make the world safe for Mohammed (and his co-religionists)".   ;-)

Is it?  I would think for some people, especially those who celebrate
Hannukah, that it might be the revolt of the Maccabees.

One could well argue that Alexander's conquests were also a holy war.
Remember, what set off the Maccabean revolt was the Greek insistence
on worship of Greek gods.

And the Assyrians, Akkadians, Sumerians, etc. before them usually insisted
on setting up worship of their gods in place of the gods of those they

>Mohammed's thinking regarding "Jihad" evolved drastically during his

Most things Mohammed thought evolved during his lifetime.

>During the period of Qur'anic revelation while Muhammad was in Mecca
>(610-622), jihad meant essentially a nonviolent struggle to spread Islam.

Not exactly; it has at least as much to do with an internal struggle
to think and act in accordance with Islam.  Although it may be that
you also interpret Krishna's advice to Arjuna in the Bagavad Gita
as merely a literal injunction to go out and kill one's relatives,
in which case there's no point in continuing the discussion.

>Following his move from Mecca to Medina in 622, and the establishment of an
>Islamic state, fighting in self-defense was sanctioned by the Qur'an
>(22:39). The Qur'an began referring increasingly to qital (fighting or
>warfare) as one form of jihad. Two of the last verses on this topic (9:5,
>29) suggest a war of conquest or conversion against all unbelievers.*
>and his followers went further... much much further.

This history is parallel to that of Christianity.  Probably you won't
find Jesus quoted anywhere as advocating warfare.  But by the time of
Augustine of Hippo, partly due to the fall of the Roman state that had
first oppressed the Christians and then protected them, Christianity
evolved a rationalization for a just war, which I quoted in my previous

>You chose to quote the first definition proffered by the Qur'an; I would
>suggest that a more correct interpretation, (and certainly one much closer
>to the objective historical facts of Islam), is the last definition of Jihad
>in the Qur'an : "a war of conquest or conversion against all unbelievers".

You can say the same thing about Christianity: it may have started as
a peaceful religion, but it evolved into the Crusades.  Many people
do say this.  I don't think it's a particularly useful thing to say,
perhaps because I have met Christians who are not Crusaders.

>(2) Augustine's "Just War" concept was developed to answer critics who
>viewed the "thou shalt not kill" commandment as a prohibition against
>participation in all wars by Christians.   It had nothing to do with "holy
>wars".  It was intended to distinguish moral wars from immoral wars.... a
>very very different concept.

An interesting assertion, with no accompanying arguments.

>(3) Aquinas merely clarified Augustine's concept... for much the same

Indeed, Aquinas clarified Augustine's concept.

In the context of medieval Christianity, what more just cause and good
intention (Aquinas's points 2 and 3) could there be than conquest or
conversion of unbelievers?

Meanwhile, even before Aquinas, Justinian fought a holy war to take
back much of the western Empire:

``But one of the priests whom they call bishops, who had come from the East,
 said that he wished to have a word with the emperor. And when he met
 Justinian, he said that God had visited him in a dream, and bidden him
 go to the emperor and rebuke him, because, after undertaking the task
 of protecting the Christians in Libya from tyrants, he had for no good
 reason become afraid. "And yet," He had said, "I will myself join with
 him in waging war and make him lord of Libya." When the emperor heard
 this, he was no longer able to restrain his purpose, and he began to
 collect the army and the ships, and to make ready supplies of weapons
 and of food, and he announced to Belisarius that he should be in
 readiness, because he was very soon to act as general in Libya.''

Procopius History of the Wars III.1-11

Sounds like a Christian war of conquest against unbelievers to me.
This was still before Mohammed was born.

>Best regards,
>Joe Erkes
>* From Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, ed. Robert Wuthnow. 2 vols.
>(Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1998), 425-426.

John S. Quarterman <jsq@quarterman.org>

Obolus for Belisarius?

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