Islamic Authority and the Articulation of Jihad: Approaching Jihadist Authority through the Islamist Magazine Inspire

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Virginia Tech

This thesis examines the impact of changing views of legitimate Islamic authority on conceptions of jihad. Spearheaded by militant Sunni movements, jihad in the modern era has taken on new purposes and practices that more closely resemble general understandings of terrorism than the regulated forms of warfare cemented during the classical period of Islam. Contrasting the historical authority of the caliph or political leader and the ulama over the concept of jihad with the modern state and ulama's lack of control over the concept offers a partial explanation of the divergence of contemporary jihad from the classical or traditional views. This thesis uses the concept of individual jihad as communicated through the jihadist magazine Inspire, to counter the dismissal of radical articulations of jihad as un-Islamic and therefore illegitimate, and to demonstrate how such forms instead reflect the opportunistic replacement of traditional political and religious authority by the jihadist as the true defender of Islam and consequently the rightful interpreter of Islamic law.

Islamic authority, jihad, Inspire Magazine, terrorism