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Home > Book reviews > Alfred Morabia, The Ğihâd in medieval Islam, the "sacred struggle" of the origins (...)


Report by Yara El Khoury

Rarely has the book been reissued with so much appropriateness. Twenty years after its first publication in 1993, Alfred Mo
medieval Islam, reappears at Albin Michel, in the collection Library of the Evolution of Humanity, enriched by a preface by G

From the outset, the title takes us off the beaten track. In the jihad of the newspapers is replaced a Ğihâd with the spe
Jihad , "holy war" in the name of Islam, is, at present, a puzzling phenomenon in its logic that seems to arise from another
great temptation to invoke practices from the Middle Ages, a period which, in the Western imagination, remains synonymo
this scholarly book proposes to speak of Ğihâd - the author preferring to "holy war" the most relevant expression of "sac
Ages, to explain, texts in support, its origins historical and its theological and legal foundations. And in order to stand o
Ages, the title speaks of medieval Islam, the golden age of perpetual nostalgia in the Arab-Muslim world.

The first part of the book is historical. The author traces through four chapters the origins of Ğihâd . A complete picture of pre-Islam
and economic structures is masterfully brushed. The reader is immersed in a world where the aridity of the soil and the precariou
social relations based on violence. It is the reign of razzia and vendetta which, very importantly, obey rules, exalt almost chivalr
intervention of the divine. Devoid of a central state, crossed by very old trade routes, under the combined influence of Byzantium a
and Christianity, Arabia of the early 7th century burst into the history of the Near East, then of the world, through the revelation of a n

Revelation is manifested by the preaching of a Prophet, Muhammad, " mixture of Jesus and Charlemagne " according to the formul
from his hometown Mecca by the oligarchy of merchants, he found refuge in Medina, where his mother was born. Here, the nasce
form of a political establishment. An armed prophet, Mohammad combines arms, diplomacy and religious injunction. Under his com
mode of survival and redistribution of wealth, turns into a fight for the Religion of Allah, God providing his bail to men in arms.
enlightening characteristic for our time: the Ğihâd becomes a state affair, led by a head of state, in this case Mohammed himself,
during his lifetime a large part of tribes, thus creating the nucleus of a central Islamic state. For the author, the Prophet was neve
called universality. The Qur'anic message retains the image of an Arab Prophet, who gave the Arabs the monotheism they lack
language: " We have revealed it in Arabic, so that you understand it. "(Sura XII of Joseph, 1, 2).

In fact, after his death, the Prophet leaves the nascent community singularly helpless. The absence of a clearly designated heir giv
schisms, and the insufficient anchoring of the Koranic Message provokes serial defections by tribes whose primary objective is to
Hejaz, Mecca and Medina. It is in the context of the "wars of apostasy" led by the first caliph Abu Bakr that the nascent Islam disco
interest that it has to spread over the northern regions, Iraq and Syria, which have always been a kind of living space for tribes see
Muslim conquests that the author analyzes with great delicacy, demonstrating the respective shares that the different religious,
economic factors could have taken. It is the first which, curiously, seems to have occupied the most minute place. Fighters who ha
were not all perfectly Islamized; the populations of the conquered territories were most often left free to practice their cults, for it w
them to the taxes demanded by the "Infidels". It is only after the fact, once this period is over and the Muslim Empires firmly est
come to light. It is at this moment also that legal science takes hold of the account of the origins, gives it its religious justification
codifies the thought commeihâd as a fight against the infidels.

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