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Usama bin Ladin, the Qur'an and Jihad


ReligionJournal abstract

Does Usama bin Ladin speak for all Muslims? Is he qualified to interpret the Qur’an? Does ‘jihad’ really mean ‘holy war’? Most Muslims answer ‘No!’ to all three questions, especially in the war of 9/11, but on what basis? Western mass media have in effect allowed bin Ladin to set the agenda by not examining the reasoning on all sides of the issue. This article analyses the Qur’anic basis for bin Ladin's arguments in two crucial pre-9/11 documents: his three-part Declaration of War of August 1996, and the ‘fatwa’ (legal opinion) of 23 February 1998, of which the formal title is The Statement of the World Islamic Front Urging Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders. It shows that, while bin Ladin does not use the commonly abused exegetical technique of abrogation, he also does not hesitate, whenever convenient, to ignore the authoritative sources that he often cites, to take Qur’anic verses or passages out of context, and to define key words in ways that seem to lend scriptural support to his extremism.

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