Journal Article

Sanctified Violence: Monotheist Militancy as the Tie That Bound Christian Rome and Islam

Thomas Sizgorich

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 77, issue 4, pages 895-921
Published in print December 2009 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online December 2009 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Sanctified Violence: Monotheist Militancy as the Tie That Bound Christian Rome and Islam

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The history of jihad is often cited by modern critics of Islam as proof of the essential irrationality of Islam as a system of belief. This conceit has a long history in anti-Muslim polemic, and is part of the earliest Christian responses to Islam's appearance. In fact, however, close reading of our earliest Muslim texts suggests that as Muslims of the first centuries after the appearance of the Prophet Muḥammad sought to understand and explain the place of jihad within Islam, they frequently described the institution and practice of jihad as closely kindred with well-established modes of Christian piety, whether these were holy war waged by Christian Roman emperors, or the ascetic labors and zealous, sometimes violent, striving of Christian monks. Accordingly, this article argues, if, as some now suggest, the institution of jihad underscores within Islam some penchant for fanaticism or violence undertaken in God's name, so too is the call to jihad legible as an echo of the penchant for violence individual Christians and whole Christian communities have manifested since long before the birth of Muḥammad.

Journal Article.  9801 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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