Islamic Studies, Islam, Arabic, and Religion
Professor Alan Godlas
University of Georgia

Jihad, War, Terrorism, and Peace in Islam

Table of Contents
Jihad and Violence in Islam
Muslim and Arab Responses to 9/11 and Islamic Criticism of Terrorism
Afghanistan and Muslim Criticism of the Taliban
Bin Laden and His Muslim Critics
Interreligious, Scholarly, Journalistic, and American Governmental Responses to 9/11 and Beyond
Islam and Peace
Al-Qaida, Muslim Terrorists, and Islamic Terrorist Organizations
Global Terrorist Websites
Jihad Videos and Tapes
Understanding Islamic Terrorism and Terrorist Groups

Jihad and Violence in Islam

At no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder.
At no point do they even consider the random slaughter of uninvolved bystanders.

--Bernard Lewis in "License to Kill" (1998)

  • An important component of the anti-Islamic polemic in the modern world is the contention that Islam is a religion of violence. This is refuted by Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr in his article Islam and the Question of Violence. 
  • Jihad (link fixed 11 March 2010), often mistranslated as "holy war," literally means "struggle." While while one of its meanings is a defensive war conducted within the limits of justice, in general it refers to both the struggle to establish justice in the world and the struggle to surrender to one's primordial consciousness, to surrender one's consciousness to God. This short article is found on the website of the University of Northumbria, UK, and appears to be the work of a Muslim students' group there.
  • Jihad Explained, (link fixed March 11, 2010) written by M. Amir Ali, Ph.D., and disseminated widely in pamphlet form by the Institute of Islamic Information and Education (IIIE) of Chicago, discusses jihad in greater detail than the short article listed above and is richly supported by verses from the Qur'an and by hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad).
  • From Defensive to Offensive Warfare:The Use and Abuse of Jihad in the Muslim World (link fixed March 10, 2010)is a nuanced scholarly article by Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina, professor of Religion at the University of Virginia. (original url:" )
  • Islam and the Theology of Power by Khaled Abu El Fadl, professor of Islamic Law at UCLA School of Law, published in Middle East Report (volume 221:Winter 2001). Professor Abu El Fadl discusses both the classical Islamic legal and modern "puritan" Islamic viewpoints on political violence as well as modern Islamic apologetics.
  • The Idea of the Jihad in Islam before the Crusades by Professor Roy Parviz Mottahedeh (Harvard) and Ridwan al-Sayyid. This is a detailed historical study that discusses early divergent Muslim opinions concerning jihad, relating them to their various political contexts. This is a "pdf" file that you can read by means of Adobe Acrobat.
  • Political Islam: Beyond the Green Menace This article, by one of the top non-Muslim scholars of contemporary Islam, John Esposito, asserts that Islam and Islamic fundamentalism need not be militantly extremist (link fixed 15 March, 2006). 
  • The "Green Peril": Creating the Islamic Fundamentalist Threat is a lengthy article written by Leon T. Hadar, a former bureau chief of the Jerusalem Post. Hadar argues that the so-called "Islamic Threat" is not in fact a real threat to the security of the U.S.
  • True Lies: The Construction of "Islamic" Terrorism in Politics and Academia Linked from the University of Colorado's Religious Studies' cutting edge web site, this article by Kelvin Choi skillfully uses Web technology to portray "Islamic" terrorism. (Link fixed March 28, 1999.)
  • Jihad a concise article by Prof. Sohail H. Hashmi of Mount Holyoke College (From Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, ed. Robert Wuthnow. 2 vols. [Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1998], 425-426).
  • Contemporary Islamist Ideology Authorizing Genocidal Murder a report largely consisting of inflamatory and violent statements (and the arguments for such statements) on the part of Muslim militants; authored by MEMRI, a stridently pro-Israeli organization. (MEMRI Sprecial Report, January, 2004)
  • Interpreting the Islamic Ethics of War and Peace by Prof. Hashmi is six-part article that seems to be an excerpt from his book Islamic Political Ethics: Civil Society, Pluralism, and Conflict (Princeton University Press, 2001) (link fixed 23 December 2005).
  • Islamic Perspectives on Peace and Violence (link fixed March 11, 2010) a special report prepared by the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. The primary contributors to this report were Professors Abdul Aziz Said, Muqtedar Khan, Suleyman Nyang, and Muhammad Abu-Nimer.
  • Jihad, a Bibliography of Sources in European Languages by Prof. Jon Brockopp (Penn. State University)
  • Islam, Peace, and Non-violence (link fixed 23 August 2005), an extensive bibliography compiled by Karim Douglas Crow. 
  • The Events of 9/11 and Islam, the Taliban, and Bin Laden
    The Events of 9/11 and Islam Thirty-seven linked articles (arranged in the following categories) that contribute to understanding the tragedy:

  • Muslim and Arab Responses to 9/11 and Islamic Criticism of Terrorism
  • Afghanistan and Muslim Criticism of the Taliban 
  • Bin Laden and His Muslim Critics 
  • Interreligious, Scholarly, Journalistic, and American Governmental Responses to 9/11 and Beyond
  • After September 11: Perspectives from the Social Sciences
    Published by the Social Science Research Council, this link contains categorized essays by numerous scholars. 

    Muslim Critiques of Terrorism

    Leading Islamic Authority, Shaykh al-Azhar, al-Tantawi, Condemns Suicide Bombing (July 11, 2003) (link fixed Oct. 18, 2003)
    Terrorism is at Odds with Islamic Tradition
    by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, holder of the chair of Islamic law at UCLA. (First published in the LA Times.)

    Muslim Voices for Peace, formerly known as "Muslims Against Terrorism"
    The new website has as of January 2004 yet to integrate all of the resources from the old website. But click her to access the old (but still relevant) resources of the Muslims Against Terrorism Website, which is a resource-rich website of a Muslim organization working for alternatives to violent responses to the suffering in the world. (Link fixed, January 15, 2004.)

    Islam and Peace

    President Bush: "Islam is peace." The transcript of his speech at the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C., Sept. 17, 2001. (Fixed, January 15, 2004.)
    President Bush's "Islam is Not the Enemy" speech before the US. congress on September 20, 2001. (Link fixed, January 15, 2004.)

    In these times, a breath of fresh air is provided by The Muslim Peace Fellowship Visit their site! (fixed 30 March 2002)

    Rabbi Michael Lerner, prominent American Jewish leader, speaks out against Israeli militancy in Jews for Justice published in The Nation, May 20, 2002. Lerner, however, only speaks for a minority of Jews.

  • Muslim Peace Fellowship The world "islam" is cognate with the word "salam," which means peace. The Muslim Peace Fellowship is an organization of Muslims who are working for peace.
  • (Link fixed, Nov. 1, 2003.)

  • Love of Allah (link fixed 17 August 2005), a discourse given to the late King Hassan of Morocco in 1999 by Prof. Muhammad Sa'id Ramadan al-Butty (al-Butti), one of Syria's most well-known Islamic scholars. The original Arabic of the discourse (offline as of 23 December 2005) is here on a PDF file readable with Adobe Acrobat.

    In spite of the forces in the world that resist controlling hatred, there are Jewish and Palestinian Christian and Muslim women who are working together for peace. You can become informed of and participate in their work through their website The Jerusalem Link (link fixed 17 August 2005).

    "When you have a Jewish friend who feels that killing someone is justified, remind your friend to think about the following passage: One person was brought forth at the time of creation, in order to teach us that one who destroys a human soul is regarded as though he had destroyed a whole world, while one who preserves one soul within humanity is regarded as if he had preserved a whole world." (Mishnah Sanhedrin, IV, 5)

    When you have a Muslim friend who feels that killing someone is justified, remind your friend to think about the following passage: " We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading corruption throughout the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people." (Qur'an, 5:32)

    When you have a Christian friend who feels that killing someone is justified, remind your friend to think about the following passage: "In everything, do unto others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

    And of course, it is useful to remember Exodus 20:13 "Thou shalt not kill." If You Want Peace, Work for Peace declares The Christian Science Monitor in an article by a former US Naval Captain and Pentagon strategist.

    Al-Qa'ida, Muslim Terrorists, and Islamic Terrorist Organizations

  • The SITE Institute's Publications Libary is an up-to-date source of translations of documents (and in some cases the original documents in Arabic) issued by militant Islamic extremists. SITE stands for "Search for International Terrorist Entities." Researchers on contemporary terrorism looking for communiques from terrorists would do well to start here. (Although to access some of its translations, one needs to be a paid subscriber.) The MEMRI site, at the bottom of this page, is also often a useful source.
  • Jihad Unspun is an enormous resource both for the latest communiques (translated into good English) of jihadist groups, especially those of al-Qa'eda, as well as for articles from the world press that usually do not make it into the media in the US. This site will be disturbing or enraging to most Americans, mainly because it presents the jihadist viewpoint from the mind of the jihadist, yet in a very professionally packaged and media-savvy manner, without the descent into the grotesque that often characterizes easily dismissable presentations of jihad from a Jihadist perspective. The lengthy autobiography of the owner and publisher of Jihad Unspun, Khadija Abdul Qahaar (Bev Giesbrecht), a Canadian citizen, is astonishing. While non-Americans will probably not be too surprised by what Jihad Unspun expresses, I cannot recommend it for Americans unless they wish to get a vastly different view of the war on terror than that which we see on our TV screens and in our newspapers. A brief critical report on Jihad Unspun can be found among the discussion of various jihadist websites in the article Militants wire Web with links to jihad written by Jack Kelley in USA Today, July 10, 2002.
  • TIDES World Press Reports Tranlations published online by the US Department of Defense (DARPA division) is the source of important translations of documents issued by jihadists. (Offline as of 23 December 2005; link is archived).
  • Declaration of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi at the Execution of Nicholas Berg, the English translation and Arabic original, together with statement from Muslim scholars condemning the execution. A link to the video original (from the infamous " militant islamic website " or " islamic militant website ") can be found at the source of the English translation and through links on the Arabic document.
  • Letter from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to al-Qa'ida operatives in Iraq in which al-Zarqawi, a top al-Qa'ida agent, declares al-Qa'ida's intent to attack Shi'ites in Iraq (in addition to Americans). This is an English translation of the original Arabic of al-Zarqawi's letter (Link fixed 23 December 2005).
  • Killing in the Name of Islam: al-Qaeda's Justification for September 11 a scholarly article by Quintan Wiktorowicz and John Kaltner, both professors at Rhodes College in Tennessee. (Journal of the Middle East Policy Council, Volume X, Summer 2003, Number 2.)
  • Al-Qaeda's Statement Justifying Its Actions on Sept. 11 This is an English translation of the following Arabic document, which was issued on April 24, 2002.
  • Arabic text in html of "A statement from qaidat al-jihad regarding the mandates of the heroes and the legality of the operations in New York and Washington" (Bayan min qa'idat al-jihad...); and also in PDF.
  • Another more detailed work attempting to justify Al-Qaeda's actions is The Truth about the New Crusade (Haqiqat al-harb al-salibiyah al-jadidah)
  • Al-Qa'ida: Bin Laden's Terrorist Network This is a history of al-Qa'ida (the "a" is a long "a" and the ' is the Arabic letter 'ayn), meaning "the base," compiled by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). It contains some useful links at the end.
  • The Making of the World's Most Wanted Man Part one of a detailed two-part article on Osama Bin Laden by Jason Burke in the Guardian/Observer. Here is part two of the Making of the World's Most Wanted Man.
  • Bin Laden's statement of Dec. 16, 2004 to the Saudi Rulers (link fixed 23 December 2005) This is identical to what I have titled below as being his statement to "the Muslims in the Country of the Two Harams."
  • A Partial Translation of Bin Laden's communique of Dec. 16, 2004 by the translators of MEMRI.
  • The Arabic original, in html, of Bin Laden's communique of Dec. 16, 2004. (offline Feb, 2005, but see the Arabic original here.
  • The Complete Text of Bin Ladin's Message to the Muslims in the Country of the Two Harams [i.e. Saudi Arabia], in particular, and to Muslims outside of it, in general (offline as of 23 December 2005) (al-Nass al-kamil li-risalat al-shaykh al-mujahid Usamah bin Muhammad bin Ladin -- hafizahu allahu-- ila al-muslimin fi bilad al-haramayn khassatan wa-ila al-muslimin fi ghayriha 'ammatan) A downloadable Zip. file of the written Arabic text of Bin Laden's communique of Dec. 16, 2004.
  • Audio File of Bin Laden's communique of Dec. 16, 2004. It will download onto your computer and then play. One hour and fourteen minutes in length (in Arabic).
  • Bin Laden's Oct. 2004 Communique Translated into English by al-Jazeera (link fixed 23 December 2005).
  • Arabic Original of Bin Laden's Oct. 2004 Communique. Posted on Al-Jazeera.
  • 1998 Interview with Osama Bin Laden by John Miller of ABC News (link fixed 15 March 2006).
  • 1996 Interview with Osama Bin Laden published in 1996 in the extremist journal Nida'ul Islam (link fixed 15 March 2006).
  • 1998 Fatwa of Bin Laden This is an English translation of his declaration urging jihad against Americans, titled "The Text of the Explanation of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders." The original Arabic, titled Nass bayan al-jabhah al-islamiyah al-'alamiyah li-jihad al-yahud wa-al-salibiyun is a pdf file from p. 3 of the February 23, 1988 edition of the newspaper al-Quds al-'arabi. A scanned copy of the article, although less legible, is in a webpage housed at the Cornell University library.
  • License to Kill: 'Usama Bin Ladin's Declaration of Jihad (link fixed 23 December 2005) by emeritus Professor Bernard Lewis, the most highly esteemed scholar among those who cast Islam in a negative light. In spite of Lewis' reputation for portraying Islam as violent, in this article he states "At no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder. At no point do they even consider the random slaughter of uninvolved bystanders" (Foreign Affairs, November/December 1998).
  • Middle East Media Research Institute ( MEMRI ), a very rich although one-sided portrayal of the current Middle East. If a militant or hate-filled statement against Israel or the West occurs in the Arab Middle Eastern or Iranian press, it will probably show up here, translated in good English, and easily accessible.

    Websites of Global Islamic Terrorist and Jihadist Organizations

    (In Arabic unless otherwise noted.) (as of January 2005)
  • Top Jihad Sites This is a linked list of jihad sites favored by readers of that index. (I even voted, accidentally; and I could not replicate what I did.)
  • Global Islamic Media Front (al-Jabhah al-'ilamiyah al-islamiyah al-'alamiyah). Requires Yahoo! login. This is actually on a discussion group. (Current as of 9 January 2005 but offline as of 22 January 2005.)
    The following are all offline and unarchived as of 15 March, 2006
  • Mesawir a jihadist index of largely jihadist websites in English, includings links to Nida' ul-Islam, one of the original al-Qa'ida websites.
  • Meshawir (Arabic) a jihadist index of websites in Arabic.
  • Islamic Assemblies of Usamah (Muntadayat Usamah al-Islamiyah) This page is a well-organized index to the contents of Usamah's Notebook (Mufakkirat Usamah), which contains numerous links to documents of statements, videos, pictures, and sound files made by al-Qa'ida leaders, allied organizations, and Arabic speaking individuals. (Current as of 9 January 2005)
  • The Greater Encyclopedia of the Dispatches of the Mujahidin (Al-Mawsu'at al-kubra li-isdarat al-mujahidin) As of January 9, 2005, this site contained 2891 files. It consists of four primary categories: 1) Videos (mar'iyat); 2) Sound files (sawtiyat); 3) Books and Compositions (kutub wa-mu'allafat); 4) Dispatches (isdarat). It also has all issues of the periodicals, Sawt al-jihad (The Voice of Jihad) and al-Battar (Severing). (Current as of 9 January 2005) in zip files that are accessible through the Sawt al-Jihad and al-Battar icons on the right side of the page.

    Videos and Tapes made by Jihadist Groups

    Many of these (specifically the execution videos) are often quite grotesque, being designed to evoke a sense of power and revenge in Muslim jihadists and a sense of revulsion in a Western audience. All offline as of 23 Decemeber 2005.
  • Films and Tapes of the Assemblies of Wisdom This is a huge and current (January 9, 2005) online collection of jihadist films and tapes.
  • Jihadist Videos A different collection than the one at above link are the videos at These consist of videos in the following categories:
    (1) execution videos, These are organized by place, with convenient headings for operations of slaughtering in each of the following locations: Iraq, Chechnya, Bilad al-Haramayn (Saudi Arabia), Pakistan, Afghanistan. And then the final heading is the "Assembly of the Ansar presents the blessed (al-mubarakah) (sic) operations of slaughter (al-nahr)." In the short run, for the Western audience, the execution videos will succeed only in evoking rage and disgust toward Muslims. In the long run, however, these videos will have the effect of evoking disgust toward Islam and will probably be better than any anti-Islamic propaganda tool that anti-Islamic Islamophobes could have created.
    (2) videos of shaykhs and fighters of jihad (including films of Usamah Bin Laden),
    (3) footage from the lands of jihad,
    (4 martyrs and champions, and
    (5) miscellaneous.

    Understanding Islamic Terrorism and Terrorist Groups

  • Al Qaeda Today: The New Face of the Global Jihad an article based on the work of Marc Sageman (see below) by Marlena Telvick as a part of PBS's Frontline special Al Qaeda's New Front (January 25, 2005).
  • Understanding Terror Networks by Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist, former CIA officer, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of Understanding Terror Networks (Note the informative reviews at the bottom of the previous link.) This paper was published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute, November 1, 2004.
  • Meet the Al-Qaeda Archetype by Brendan O'Neill, a well-written article based on Marc Sageman's statement at a July conference in Washington, D.C.
  • Think Again: Al Qaeda, written by Jason Burke, chief reporter for Britain's Observer explodes a number of myths about al-Qa'ida. Published by Foreign Policy (May/June 2004) and requires a login at that site. A copy of the article is avaiable at this site
  • The Global Salafi Jihad Statement of Marc Sageman to the [U.S.] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States July 9, 2003.
  • Islam and the Theology of Power an insightful article on Salafism/Wahhabism and by Prof. Khaled Abou El Fadl (Middle East Report, Winter 2001).
  • Return to Islam and Islamic Studies Resources