Jihad From Qur’an to Bin Laden by Richard Bonney (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.)

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Rumee Ahmed



Richard Bonney laments what he deems a misappropriation of the term
jihad by both pundits in the West seeking to portray Islam as inherently violent,
and a small faction of Muslim fanatics seeking political gain. Jihad, he
contends, has been perverted from its original intent of encouraging spiritual
athleticism and allowing for physical defense when transgression occurs. He endeavors to return to the term’s roots to detail how and why it has been manipulated over time to take on exclusively violent and
aggressive connotations. By doing so, Bonney hopes to empower Muslim
moderates to publicize the concept of jihad as purely defensive, as well
as to enlighten non-Muslims of Islam’s true message of peace, balance,
and pluralism.
The author goes back to the original sources, the Qur’an and the
Sunnah, to make his case. He demonstrates his familiarity with the Qur’an
by citing verses on jihad, contextualizing them in purely spiritual and
defensive terms, and briefly mentions how they could be misinterpreted if
one did not view the Qur’an holistically and in its proper context. However,
Bonney betrays his ignorance of the Qur’anic sciences in his rather superficial
description and application of classical hermeneutics and abrogation
theory. Rather than engage the prolific tradition of Qur’anic exegesis, he
relies on a few modern commentators (e.g., Qamaruddin Khan and Reuven
Firestone) to promote his views. He acknowledges that these interpretations
may differ with the tradition, but he does not address or attempt to resolve
the tension between the two ...

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