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What is jihad? Does it mean violence, as many non-Muslims assume? Or does it mean peace, as some Muslims insist? Because jihad is closely associated with the early spread of Islam, today's debate about the origin and meaning of jihad is nothing less than a struggle over Islam itself. In Jihad in Islamic History, Michael Bonner provides the first study in English that focuses on the early history of jihad, shedding much-needed light on the most recent controversies over jihad.
To some, jihad is the essence of radical Islamist ideology, a synonym for terrorism, and even proof of Islam's innate violence. To others, jihad means a peaceful, individual, and internal spiritual striving. Bonner, however, shows that those who argue that jihad means only violence or only peace are both wrong. Jihad is a complex set of doctrines and practices that have changed over time and continue to evolve today. The Quran's messages about fighting and jihad are inseparable from its requirements of generosity and care for the poor. Jihad has often been a constructive and creative force, the key to building new Islamic societies and states. Jihad has regulated relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, in peace as well as in war. And while today's "jihadists" are in some ways following the "classical" jihad tradition, they have in other ways completely broken with it.
Written for general readers who want to understand jihad and its controversies, Jihad in Islamic History will also interest specialists because of its original arguments.
From the Inside Flap:
"Michael Bonner's book is by far the best treatment of this important subject in English, and very useful to general historians of the Middle East."--Roy P. Mottahedeh, Harvard University
"This is an excellent and erudite contribution to the field that, due to Bonner's pleasant and clear style, is easily accessible to students and nonspecialists. The book's value lies in its contextualizing of the notion of jihad. It covers the entire Islamic era, tracing how the notion of jihad emerged and developed within a certain historical framework."--Rudolph Peters, University of Amsterdam, author of Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam: A Reader
"A fine contribution to the literature on jihad."--John Kelsay, Florida State University, author of Islam and War
"Jihad in Islamic History is a very helpful overview of the various appropriations of jihad and concepts of warfare and fighting in Islamic history, especially the early period. It is particularly good on the sources, their varying purposes, and the debates today over their validity in trying to explain the rise of Islam and early Islamic history in general. As the only major overview of jihad focusing on the premodern period, the study will stand alone."--Paul Heck, Georgetown University, author of The Construction of Knowledge in Islamic Civilization
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