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|Digital List Price:||$28.36|
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Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
|Length: 208 pages||Language: English|
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Firestone handles his subject in a neutral way, and that is admirable. This is not a polemic; rather it is a sincere, scholarly attempt to provide greater understanding to an incredibly difficult subject. The only odd thing about this book is that Firestone presents an interpretation that is very similar to the one he's claiming to "fix." The book presents an evolution of the concept of jihad that is quite linear, regardless of the fact that there was not always agreement. Considering this factor, the conclusion he reaches is somewhat confusing. Not because of the content of the book, but because of the conclusion he presents very briefly at the end. This book is not for the beginner; at least some basic knowledge of Islam is required in order to fully grasp the material presented.
Firestone does well but is not "there". He describes views from nearly pacifist, to acceptance of self-defense, to justification of warfare (initially with Muslim, Jewish, and Pagan coalition of Medina against Mecca). He relates this to the growing growth of community sense of the Umma displacing ancient tribal allegiances. He argues that the energy of blood feuds, traditional raiding that was part of Arab culture of the age, and material need coalesced with a new religious identity to concentrate and redirect warfare. He implies, without much discussion or evidence, that this created a new religious aggressive warfare and ideology - although early in the book he does acknowledge those aspects that put personal striving to fight evil in ones own character as the `greater' Jihad and warfare as the `lesser' Jihad.
The failure is that he does not address the critical issues, critical in terms of his own argument about community and warfare, adequately. He does not discuss the deterioration of relations with Jewish tribes that were allies one after another or how the imagined orthodox aggressive ideology became consolidated as he implies. The potential evidence for this analysis for this is not much different than that he uses for the rest of the book. He does recognize that Muhammad was not himself particularly aggressive by nature but also neglects to attempt explanation of his admirable self restraint and restraint of his followers upon capturing Mecca.
The book is incomplete. But it is still worth reading and much better than the polemical multitude of works that claim Islam to be implicitly aggressive and evil. (One note in an early chapter points out that of 274 wars from 1484 to 1945 two thirds were in Christian Europe alone with few in the remainder of the world outside Europe - 187 to 91.)
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