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Hamas wants global jihad

A Hamas leader calls for Muslims around the world to continue the violence

Rockets are fired toward Israel from Gaza. Associated Press/Photo by Hatem Moussa

Hamas wants global jihad
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Hamas launched a full-scale war against Israel last Saturday, and this war will not stop anytime soon.

While Israel is responding with a sequence of military retaliations, Hamas isn’t backing down. Despite the disastrous situation for civilians in Gaza, Hamas and its allies (especially Hezbollah in the north) don’t seem to care. They are clearly digging in their heels and calling for escalating the conflict.

A brazen announcement by a Hamas leader is setting the stage for escalated global conflict. In a recorded statement sent to Reuters, Khaled Meshaal, former Hamas chief who currently heads its diaspora office in Qatar, calls for Muslims all over the Arab world to take to the streets today, Oct. 13, in support of Hamas. He instigated this call as he exhorted Muslims to “head to the squares and streets of the Arab and Islamic world” to propel the Muslim governments to join war against Israel. Importantly, Meshaal frames his message in explicitly Islamic terms, as he calls Muslims “who teach jihad” to apply it right now because “this is a moment for the application.”

Meshaal’s statement is quite alarming. Not only does it show how Hamas is adamant about prolonging and escalating the war, but the statement itself serves as a global call for Muslims to wage jihad against Jews and anyone who would support them. His statement will likely lead to violence in many countries, including some beyond the Muslim-dominated world. Since the West supports Israel on many levels, the Islamic logic goes, it is a legitimate target of jihad.

There is no doubt that his use of “jihad” is very significant, especially for numerous Muslims who share and value Meshaal’s dispositions and opinions. The term jihad is cherished by all Muslims and points to explicit commands in the Quran and illustrations from Muhammad’s life. While modernist and liberal Muslims may attempt to paint jihad as striving for piety and godliness against one’s fleshly desires, the authoritative Muslim texts clearly designate jihad as waging armed warfare against non-Muslims.

In the Quran, Muhammad is instructed to strive in jihad against non-Muslim unbelievers and be firm against them. Muslims are commanded to resist the infidels and struggle in jihad mightily with them. To encourage Muslims to wage jihad against unbelievers, the Quran states that true Muslims not only believe in Allah and Muhammad but strive in jihad with their possessions and their selves for Allah’s cause. This statement alone leads many to become suicide bombers, especially because the Quran insists that those who wage jihad are of a higher rank in eternity.

Meshaal’s statement appears to be a clear call to apply violence in the form of religious activity—it’s a call to wage war under religious banners.

When inhumane atrocities and insane brutality are sanctioned by religion, the world should be alarmed.

But the Quran is not alone. Muhammad’s statements are more explicit and full of clear exhortations for Muslims to obey Allah by waging armed jihad against non-Muslims.

When a Muslim man asked Muhammad, “Instruct me as to such a deed as equals Jihad (in reward),” Muhammad answered, “I do not find such a deed.” This statement creates an intense urgency for jihad.

This is why Muhammad’s statements introduced an important Islamic term, mujahid, which refers to a Muslim who strives in jihad for Allah, a Muslim fighter (plural, mujahidin). To exhort Muslims for the eternal reward of jihad, Muhammad reportedly declared, “Know that Paradise is under the shades of swords.” Undoubtedly, the most honorable dream for any Muslim is to be identified as mujahid—a fighter, applying jihad for Allah’s cause.

But what about all these dead bodies? How does Hamas’ worldview interpret massacring people and enslaving women and children?

In reporting the horror of Hamas’ attacks, CNN highlights that children found “butchered” in an Israeli kibbutz, while the New York Times reveals various videos of Israeli hostages under Hamas: An elderly woman, Yaffa Adar, age 85, was taken by Hamas fighters in a cart into Gaza. A young Israeli mother holding her two sons was seen surrounded by armed militants. The videos also show a father limping—after Hamas’ fighters shot his legs—while militants dragged him across the border into Gaza after using his wife’s phone to livestream the abduction of the entire family, including his two daughters.

While any sane human being would be horrified upon seeing such appalling scenes, Hamas views them differently—as acts of jihad for Allah’s cause.

When inhumane atrocities and insane brutality are sanctioned by religion, the world should be alarmed. And the fact that last weekend’s events are now being leveraged into global involvement is an ominous sign of what’s likely to come.

A.S. Ibrahim

A.S. Ibrahim, born and raised in Egypt, holds two PhDs with an emphasis on Islam and its history. He is a professor of Islamic studies and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught at several schools in the United States and the Middle East, and authored A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad (Baker Academic, 2022), Conversion to Islam (Oxford University Press, 2021), Basics of Arabic (Zondervan 2021), A Concise Guide to the Quran (Baker Academic, 2020), and The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (Peter Lang, 2018), among others.

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