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Moving away from received ideas and apologetic readings, this article deals with the notion of 'just war' in Islam as it appears in a series of different texts (religious, legal, philosophical and political) in order to demonstrate how thought on this subject has evolved from the birth of Islam in the seventh century through to the recent developments of the twenty-first century. Moving beyond a theoretical framework that analyses the criteria of just war according to Western definitions, this article traces its discursive presence throughout various Islamic textual traditions. It thus problematizes a reading of warfare in Islam as necessarily imbued with sacred or holy dimensions, showing that it is impossible to systematically translate 'jihad' as 'holy war' or to conflate it with 'just war', as has been done in numerous contexts, both academic and otherwise. Indeed, this article explains how thought on war has been influenced not only by religion but also by ethics, law and politics. It demonstrates the validity of such a reading by analysing the thought of several authors who have shaped > the representation of the enemy as much as they have the conception of sovereignty and the rules of warfare. Such an illustration leads to the de-essentialization of 'jihad' in particular, and of war in Islam more generally, allowing us to establish comparisons with universalist conceptions which approached warfare in a realist manner or with Western traditions that viewed just war in terms of morals.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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