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Understanding Jihad

David Cook (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 328 pages
ISBN: 9780520287327
September 2015
$29.95, £19.95
Other Formats Available:
First published in 2005, Understanding Jihad unravels the tangled historical, intellectual, and political meanings of jihad within the context of Islamic life. In this revised and expanded second edition, author David Cook has included new material in light of pivotal developments such as the extraordinary events of the Arab Spring, the death of Usama b. Ladin, and the rise of new Islamic factions such as ISIS.

Jihad is one of the most loaded and misunderstood terms in the news today. Contrary to popular understanding, the term does not mean "holy war." Nor does it simply refer to an inner spiritual struggle. This judiciously balanced, accessibly written, and highly relevant book looks closely at a range of sources from sacred Islamic texts to modern interpretations, opening a critically important perspective on the role of Islam in the contemporary world.

David Cook cites from scriptural, legal, and newly translated texts to give readers insight into the often ambiguous information that is used to construct Islamic doctrine. He sheds light on legal developments relevant to fighting and warfare and places the internal, spiritual jihad within the larger context of Islamic religion. He describes some of the conflicts that occur in radical groups and shows how the more mainstream supporters of these groups have come to understand and justify violence. He has also included a special appendix of relevant documents including materials related to the September 11 attacks and published manifestos issued by Usama b. Ladin and Palestinian suicide-martyrs.

Preface to the Second Edition


1. Qur an and Conquest
2. The “Greater Jihad” and the “Lesser Jihad”
3. The Crystallization of Jihad Theory: Crusade and Counter-Crusade
4. Jihad during the Nineteenth Century: Renewal and Resistance
5. Radical Islam and Contemporary Jihad Theory
6. Globalist Radical Islam and Martyrdom Operations
7. The Rise of Jihadi States

Appendix: Some Translated Documents

Communiqué from the Armed Islamic Group (Algeria; September 8, 1995)
World Islamic Front for Jihad against Zionists and Crusaders: Declaration of War (February 23, 1998)
A Communiqué from Qa Idat Al-Jihad Concerning the Testaments of the Heroes and the Legality of the Washington and New York Operations (April 24, 2002)
The Importance of Jihad, on the Goals of Jihad (by Ali al- Aliyani)
Under the Shadow of the Spears (by Sulayman Abu Ghayth)
Translation of “The Last Night”
“Our Shari i Stance with Regard to the Government of the Iraqi Karzai” (by Abu Musa b al-Zasqawi¯)
“Proclamation of the Caliphate” (by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, June 29, 2014)
The Revival of Slavery before the Hour (from Dabiq, October 14, 2014)

David Cook is Associate Professor of Religion at Rice University. He is the author of Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature.

“Among the plethora of books on jihad published since 9/11, David Cook’s stands out in its ability to extend readers’ awareness of the breadth of Muslim writing about the topic.”—International Journal of Middle East Studies

"Understanding Jihad is one of the most helpful of the spate of new books to appear since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, on the debate about jihad in Islam. Cook's approach is based on historical and textual analyses, and is enhanced by valuable theoretical discussion. This book will help readers find their way through the vast literature by Muslims and non-Muslim scholars on what we can't seem to get away from calling 'holy war.'"—Richard C. Martin, Professor of Islamic Studies, Emory University

"This book is important to current political and religious discourse on the role of Islam in today's world and increases our understanding of the seemingly odd behaviors we observe through the media. A tremendous contribution."—Reuven Firestone, author of Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam

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