The Struggle on the Path of Al Rahman: Rethinking Jihad in the Cause of Mercy

By Ben Hardman.

Published by The International Journal of Literary Humanities

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This paper seeks to explore the possibility of interpreting “jihad” as a holistic approach to the working out of God’s mercy in history. Drawing from the works of Mohamed Arkoun and Nasr Abu Zayd, it establishes the nature of revelation as an integral dialogue with God on both transcendent and immanent planes. While the Qur’an constitutes a “closed official corpus,” to borrow a phrase from Arkoun, according to Abu Zayd, it engages the ever-active human mind along a path of increased understanding which necessarily entails a constant re-examination of religious teaching and belief in light of greater knowledge. The next stage of the investigation examines jihad in terms of a “human theodicy,” as a force of mercy in a pluralistic global culture in which religion is increasingly devoid of geographical barriers. The convergence of various traditions in the same space invites a consideration of the “goals” or “intentions” (maqâṣîd) of the Qur’an regarding human felicity. This implies a larger sphere of action in the modern world since it allows for possible alliance with like-minded groups who have similar goals. An example of this line of thought is found in the work of Farid Esack as he considers the role of Muslims in the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. This study contributes to the notion of jihad, or religious effort, as a constructive force in a pluralistic society. A new vision of jihad as an active and inclusive struggle for human dignity reflecting God’s mercy is particularly relevant in an age when political Islam has come to the forefront of the Arab Spring. Rooted in the notion of a divinely-ordained dignity of all humanity, the struggle can prove genuinely liberatory.

Keywords: Islam, Jihad, Arab Spring, Human Rights

The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp.9-19. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 672.553KB).

Dr. Ben Hardman

Assistant Professor, Philosophy and Religion, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA

Ben Hardman is an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi specializing in Islam. He has taught for several years in Tunisia and Algeria and is particularly interested in modern spirituality as a basis for social action.