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Christian and Islamic Views on War: Just War Theory and Jihad

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War is a state of open armed conflict between countries or groups of people. Typically, these arise from the fight to obtain access and influence over numerous natural resources, such as soil, minerals, and water, and from diverse political economic, religious, or social beliefs. Usually there are disputes between the parties involved that can lead to wars. Thus, in contrast peace is widely used to indicate lack of confrontation (such as war) and freedom from threats and violence. There are the vast majority of human beings who want peace and few wish to continue violence, war, and strife. The purpose of this report will investigate and further discuss two specific Christian and Islamic views on the aspect of armed conflict and peace.

This report will look into peace and conflict by giving an in-depth analysis in the chosen topics of Jihad and the Just War theory. When conducting research to obtain information about these topics, sources and references were used throughout this report. Various internet searches/websites was accessed, specifically the ‘BBC bitesize’ website which provided school-age friendly definitions. As well as finding and using holy texts from the Bible and the Qur’an. Classwork and teachings weeks prior about Islam, Christianity, peace, and war were also used.

Jihad is a core concept in the Muslim religion, there are numerous meanings of the term Jihad, but to ‘struggle’ and ‘striving’ are the most common and direct translation from the Arabic word jahada to English. Many understand Jihad though the controversial translation of ‘Holy War’ but Jihad, in its primary context is an ideological movement fighting for self-advancement under the principles of Islam. Striving for the advancement of all humanity by increasing the influence of Islam and the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

There are two basic religious understandings of the term within Islam: “Greater Jihad” and “Lesser Jihad.” The Greater Jihad is defined as moral warfare, a struggle between us between two powers: the body and the mind. This spiritual conflict within each of us is a continuous jihad. Islam expects its followers to give soul and consciousness a preference over the body and its desires. The fasting in the month of Ramadhan is an example of the annual training for this major jihad. The Lesser Jihad is the armed struggle, however, that does not automatically mean unjustified use of violence. The Lesser Jihad may be divided into two: aggression and defence. Aggression against any people is not permitted in Islam; however, defence is an absolute right of every individual and nation.

The Holy Qur’an teaches that when war breaks out, it should be waged in such a way as to cause the least possible amount of damage to life and property; and that hostilities should be brought to an end as quickly as possible. “To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid.’ {(Qur\primean\ 22:39)}^2 The use of phrase ‘permission has been given’ also indicates towards as defensive warfare. Qur’an commands Muslims to give shelter to the enemies who seek peace. The Qur’an commands being kind towards captives, as the command to feed the captives is mentioned along with feeding the poor. ‘But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou [also] incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that hears and knows [all things].’ {(Qur\primean\ 8:61)}^2 The preceding verse emphasises Muslims ‘preparation for defence and their military strengthening, but this verse also insists on adversaries’ acceptance of the peace proposals.

Christian philosophy of The Just War Theory developed from Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, Christian theologians. Christians still also use the principle of Just War, with some modifications, as a reference to whether or not a conflict should be justified. Since Christianity had its roots in Judaism, the development of Christian Just War Theory was heavily influenced by Jewish texts and traditions. The formation of the Christian Just War tradition were also from the efforts of the ancient Jewish, Greek, and Roman cultures that would attempt to restrict violence, establish rules and hoping to limit the destruction of people. The idea of Just War in these ancient cultures came largely out of the idea that war should be fought for the restoration of peace and justice.

The criteria developed three main categories of Just War principles: jus ad bellum which addresses the morality of going to war, jus in bello which addresses how a war may be fought justly and the recently proposed category of jus post bellum which concerns justice after a war. Each category contains moral principles by which a war may be measured. Some of the justifiable factors include self-defence, defending the innocent, upholding the unfairly violated civil rights and supporting a friend in self-defence. The benefit of going to battle must outweigh the devastation and death which fighting can bring. All these conditions have to be followed before a country can justify going to war. Since these standards are open-ended and subject to interpretation, however, it is always a matter of dispute among Christians as to whether the requirements are reached before war was declared or entered.

While the Bible doesn’t approve of war for every cause, it does encourage peace with all people, such as this direct quote “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) but it also commands Christians to obey their government. For example, regarding the Iraq war, Pope Francis said that the use of force can be justified to stop “unjust aggressors” as he remarks, “it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor” While this is far from a positive view of warfare, it is one that allows its existence and the possibility that it may be fought justly. The key thing to remember is that the just war theory does not try to justify war, rather “The purpose of all wars, is peace.” – Saint Augustine.

For many Muslims, jihad is accepted as the inner struggle to improve one’s moral values and the effort for a just governance, although it is also often connected with war. Which explicitly states that in order to be legitimate the central purpose of fighting war must be to please God and to obey a specific set of laws. The principle of the Just War Theory notes that sovereign nations must have the legitimate moral and ethical justification to use military violence under such circumstances. An initial comparison shows that the two have a common basis for determining why, where, and how to go and fight in a legal war but vary in their foundations and specifics. More specifically, if not taken into consideration, such differences could lead to conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims.

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Just War Theory: Modern Ethical Applications. (2022, December 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from
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