The three conditions of just war—legitimate authority, just cause, and right intent—are not unique to Christianity; they are also found in Islamic thought and are most often studied in relation to jihad, or striving for God. The Qur’an mentions jihad as a struggle entered into by the believer, and is most often characterized as a moral struggle that takes place within his soul. However, it also has acquired a specific connotation of armed and violent struggle against people who refuse to submit to God; it is this connotation that is of specific interest today.
The concept of jihad as an armed struggle has always been closely tied to the ruler of the Muslims and their state. The identity, role, and authority of the ruler has been an important question in Islam since the death of Mohammed. Numerous Islamic scholars, philosophers, and clerics have taken it upon themselves to explicate this issue. Ibn Rushd, also known as Averroes, is one of the few Islamic philosophers to have become famous in Western circles. Born in 1126, he is especially known for his commentaries on Aristotle as well as his treatment of various metaphysical issues. However, he was also interested in political theory and left behind some important works on the Islamic state and its specific duties, as well as details relating to jihad. His work became quite popular and continued to influence other medieval Islamic thinkers.
Two centuries later, his work was still being studied. Ibn Khaldun was a philosopher and historian of the fourteenth century in the classical tradition. He was acquainted with the major Greek philosophers as well as with the earlier Muslim scholars. Ibn Khaldun spent much of his life in the Maghrib (North Africa), traveling between various courts as he fell in and out of favor with the rulers. He was deeply interested in political theory and often found himself closely tied to various courts. These political interests led him to write the Muqaddimah, a treatise on the history of the Arab people that sought to understand civilization through the science of culture. His great work dealt in depth with theories of development, as well as of the ideal state, its leader, and his duties.
Both Ibn Rushd and Ibn Khaldun posit just war principles that are similar to the ones found in Christianity. While some of the details about these conditions vary between Islam and Christianity, they are broadly the same. However, before examining the aspects of Islamic just war, it is important to understand the sort of mindset and philosophical framework Muslim scholars operated under.
Up next…the context of Islamic political theory.
Other posts in the Jihad and Justice series: