Reclaiming Jihad

jihad of jesusReview by Stefanie Pearce

Book | The Jihad of Jesus: the sacred nonviolent struggle for justice | Dave Andrews

See the word jihad in the title of a book and you guess that it’s likely to be a confronting read. After all, we think of jihad as an Islamic term for ‘holy war’, synonymous with terrorism, abhorrent acts of violence and genocide.

Dave Andrew’s book dispels that Western simplification of the meaning of jihad on page 1 (it means ‘struggle’, referring to the believer’s inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle against oppression). Nevertheless this is not a book for the faint-hearted.

Mr Andrews begins with a fast-paced account of the evils done in the name of Christianity and in the name of Islam. It’s a nightmare list of horrific cruelties. He concludes that “overall in the conflicts between Christians and Muslims, there have been more devastating wars among Christian states fighting each other than between Christian and Muslim states; and predominantly Christian states have killed more Jews and Muslims than predominantly Muslim states have killed Christians or Jews”. The truth is uncomfortable; the slaughter continues.

The central question, which Andrews seeks to answer, is Why? Is violence a true indicator of the nature of religion? Have we constructed our religions so that violence is the inevitable consequence? And if so, then what can we do?

Mr Andrews considers why people of faith might be persuaded to act violently towards others, and then proposes new ways of reclaiming both the Muslim concept of jihad/struggle, and the Christian model of non-violence personified by Jesus. He proposes that the example of Jesus, known as Isa to Muslims, can help Muslims rightly pursue jihad, and likewise asks whether Christians can rightly follow Jesus without a real understanding of jihad?

Is his vision of Christians and Muslims practicing “the radical, alternative, participatory, empowering, non-violent jihad of Jesus” an impossible dream? “Improbable”, Andrews admitted in an interview, but surely worth the attempt.

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