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Jihadism refers to any Islamic fundamentalist movement that uses violence to propagate itself. Jihadis often have an extreme interpretation of Salafi Islam, a traditionalist sect. Jihadi groups include Al-Qa'ida and Islamic state. Only a tiny minority of Muslims are Jihadis.



Isis and other Jihadi groups propagate adherence to and belief in obscure and supposedly neglected teachings and incidents, such as the massacre of captives after the battle of Ullais, to support their claims that they are attempting a revival of true Islam. Extremists also cite Muhammad as a role model and use this as a justification for their actions.

"Muslims can say that slavery is not legitimate now, and that crucifixion is wrong at this historical juncture. Many say precisely this. But they cannot condemn slavery or crucifixion outright without contradicting the Koran and the example of the Prophet. [...] To call [Jihadists] un-Islamic appears, to me, to invite them into an argument that they would win. [1]"

Mainstream Muslim leaders consider violent episodes to be isolated incidences and not to be viewed as evidence of acceptance by mainstream Muslims, as a general rule. However, their reluctance to address these issues may play into the hands of extremists. [2] Followers of this theology point to verses in the Qur'an that seemingly support the spread of Islam by force. Mainstream Muslims reject this view, saying the Qur'an only supports defensive wars in response to oppression.

The Qur'an does call for excessive and brutal punishments in some cases (within a given context) as part of sharia law. Their implementation by extremist groups is viewed to be subsequently legitimized by Islam.

"Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition [1]"

Some commentators have argued that extremist groups like ISIS have been influenced by non-Islamic and modern political and military ideas, such as the state being an extension of divine sovereignty and humiliation of defeated enemies. [3]


Jihadism generally advocates the following policies: [4] [5]

  • The only purpose for human life is to worship God
  • Imposition of Sharia law by force
  • Establishment of a theocratic Caliphate by force, either immediately or some time in the future
  • expelling Westerners and non-Muslims from the Caliphate by force
  • Antagonizing Western governments into military conflicts by terrorism and committing atrocities [1]
  • Attaining martyrdom in the cause of God
  • Believing they have a significant role in the end of the world [1]
  • The appearance of a messianic Mahdi that will lead Muslims to ultimate victory [1]
  • "Purifying" Islam by following the example set by Muhammad and his followers (Salafi Islam)
  • Reliving the early conquests of Muhammad by conducting territorial wars [1]
  • Refusal to recognize borders [1]
  • Opposition to Western imperialism and economic control
  • Opposition to "usurious" paper money
  • Muslims have a duty to pledge allegiance to a valid Caliphate or be an apostate [1]
  • Peace treaties are only of limited duration, expansionism is the norm [1]
  • Belief that other religions and Islamic denominations are misguided or infidels
  • Condemnation of materialism and capitalism
  • A return to a "simple society", both materially and in knowledge
  • Opposition to science, except that which helps "facilitate the lives of Muslims and their affairs". "Muslims do not need to spend long parts of his short life learning of the worldly sciences that give no spiritual reward, apart from that which repulses the might of the infidels and benefits Muslims." "the ideal Islamic community should refrain from becoming caught up in exploring [science,] the depths of matter, trying to uncover the secrets of nature and reaching the peaks of architectural sophistication" "Much of the worldly sciences have no use for Muslims"
  • Industrial societies were "built upon the ideology of an atheist"
  • Theology is the only valid educational pursuit "Knowledge is what came to the Companions from the Prophet (pbuh) so that which did not is not knowledge"
  • Opposition to making friendships or alliances with infidels
  • Women were "was made from Adam and for Adam" and should be submissive to their husband
  • A male dominant society
  • Women are responsible for child rearing
  • Education of women sometimes forbidden but an exception is sometimes made for religious education
  • Women should say in their home, since women are characterised by "sedentariness, stillness and stability". "It is always preferable for a woman to remain hidden and veiled, to maintain society from behind this veil."
  • Opposition to fashion and cosmetic surgery
  • Opposition to women having jobs outside their home
  • Support for theocracy and opposition to secularism.
  • People should marry while young
  • Women may serve the community but should have limited responsibility to prevent her from being way from home
  • Wearing of head coverings for women
  • Women can work to alleviate poverty: "Women, for example, can now offer their wares in markets" (which contradicts the policy that women should remain at home)
  • Support of the poor by the zakat tax (which I guess is a form of socialism)
  • Taxing believers in Christians and Jews with a religious jizya tax.
  • Segregation of genders in society, at work and in education
  • Opposition to nationalism if it interferes with Islam
  • Opposition to women having photo ID
  • Reviving slavery [1]

Differences between jihadist groups

In contrast to al-Qaeda, Islamic State is willing to declare other self professed Muslims as apostates based on their "un-Islamic" behavior:

"The distinction between apostate and sinner may appear subtle, but it is a key point of contention between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. [...] These include, in certain cases, selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates. [1]"

al‑Qaeda does not acknowledge that Islamic State is a valid Caliphate.


Mainstream Islam

Many mainstream Muslim leaders have criticised Jihadism, saying it cherry picks and oversimplifies scripture and distorts the overall message of the Qur'an and Hadith. [6] Not all Muslims consider jihad to necessarily entail violence.

Secular movement

The secular movement is opposed to virtually all aspects of Jihadism.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 [1]
  2. Hassan Hassan, The secret world of Isis training camps – ruled by sacred texts and the sword, The Observer, 25 January 2015
  3. Isis jihadis aren’t medieval – they are shaped by modern western philosophy
  4. [2]
  5. [3]
  6. Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi, 19 Sept 2014
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