(D14) Islamic Concepts of Jihâd in the Past and Present

Cover and text page of a manuscript on the advantages of jihâd
Cover and text page of a manuscript on the advantages of jihâd

The aim of the project is to systematically record, review and translate the most important Islamic field of discourse, which concerns the topic of “jihâd”. This is the very extensive – and by the Western sciences as yet only insufficiently recognised − field of the so-called hâdith transmissions, which includes actual or alleged historical messages of Muhammad and other material on the early history of Islam. Therefore, as it is the second most important source of Islamic religion and jurisprudence alongside the Koran but, de facto, maybe also the most influential one due to the amount of material, this project makes the “canonical” main source of Islamic tradition exhaustively accessible for the first time with regard to jihad. In this perspective, the project also complements other investigations on the legitimation and delegitimation of violence by means of scripture and tradition in the other monotheistic religions, facilitating a comparative synopsis.

The research focuses on all hâdithes (transmissions) from which one can discover (a) what the “jihâd” actually should be and what it should aim to achieve (military campaign, social activity, inner “effort of the soul” of the individual), (b) how the different forms of jihâd interrelate, and (c) in what way the use of violence, depending on the different concepts, is legitimised. It is worthy to point out that it is a matter of different forms of violence here: physical (or military) violence, “moral” violence or also “inner” violence aimed at one’s own self and one’s conduct of life (in terms of overcoming negative impulses of the soul, instincts etc.). As a secondary aspect of the physical-military concept of jihâd, the associated aspect of death in battle or the so-called martyrdom will also be taken a closer look at here, giving rise to numerous links to related projects in the cluster of excellence which concern the thematic field of “martyrdom and martyr’s cult”.

Reviewing the different concepts of jihâd, which have already been disputed since early Islam, is an obvious desideratum of the research. Even if there already is an extensive body of secondary literature on the larger topic of “jihâd” in Western languages, there is as yet no systematic review of the fundamentals of Islamic concepts of jihâd on the basis of the hadîth transmissions or a review including a translation. Thus, the project provides basic research on the one hand, and on the other hand, it allows a basis for comparative investigations with other religions. In addition, the reviewing of the material in its planned form will set standards in making the hadîth transmissions accessible as no review, translation, annotation or classification of the material has been done so far.

Subproject “Hadîth anthologies”

The project is complemented by a PhD project which is closely associated with the main topic, but which investigates a particular branch of the hadîth transmissions that is independent also as regards genre: the so-called “hadîth anthologies”. These are compilations of a relatively limited number of hadîths – the number 40 playing an important role – which are dedicated to a certain theme, for example the jihâd. As the hadîth transmissions in their main forms, this genre has remained largely unexplored so far. One of the questions arising from the exemplary case of works of the “Forty Jihâd Transmissions” type, which cover many centuries up to the present, is the portrayal of the phenomenon: Do the earlier compilations convey a similar view of what is currently understood by jihâd? Does the selection of certain transmissions broaching the issue of jihâd in contemporary compilations serve as a call to arms? In what way do they legitimise or delegitimise violence? As is already the case in the main project, which is based on the large, thematically open hadîth compilations, the PhD project allows for a specific diachronic overview of the assessments and forms of Islamic concepts of jihâd.