Islam and Colonialism

by Rudolph Peters

Book cover for Islam and Colonialism

Jihad (in the sense of ‘Holy War’, lit. ‘exerting oneself to the utmost’) has always been considered a salient feature of Islam by Western observers. The present book scrutinizes the role of the doctrine of jihad in the confrontation between Islam and Western colonialism in the Arab world during the 19th and 20th centuries. Anti-colonial resistance, especially during the first stages of European expansion into the Islamic world, was often inspired by religion and armed struggle was waged under the banner of jihad. Later, however, when secular nationalist ideologies began to dominate anti-colonial struggle, proclamations of jihad became more part of ordinary war propaganda.

Modernist Muslim intellectuals have reinterpreted the doctrine of jihad, in the sense of Holy War, arguing that it concerns essentially defensive warface. The classical notions of jihad, however, have not disappeared entirely and occupy a significant place in the ideology of religiously motivated militant groups.

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