According to Islamic law, Jihad is warfare to spread the religion and is obligatory for all Muslims everywhere until such time as “there is no more Fitna [resistance to Islam] and the religion will all be for Allah alone.” (Q 8:39) Jihad against the infidel (kuffar) is of two types: offensive and defensive. The offensive kind, called “Fard Kifaya,” is conducted under the leadership of the Caliph and is for the purpose of defending the borders of Islam and sending out the armies of Islam at least once a year to terrorize the enemies of Allah. Offensive Jihad is a collective duty and when enough Muslim fighters respond to the call of the Caliph, the remainder of the Muslim population is relieved of this duty.
Defensive jihad is a compulsory duty upon all Muslims primarily when the kuffar enter Muslim lands. It is considered so critical to repulse the invader that Ibn Taymia even asserted it took precedence over making the hajj. This defensive jihad duty is called “Fard ‘Ayn” and means that there is a personal obligation for all Muslims in the land which has been attacked to join the fight. The scholars agree that children may march forth without permission of their parents, wives without permission of husbands, and slaves without permission of their masters. If the Muslims of the land attacked by the kuffar cannot expel the enemy for whatever reason, then the Fard ‘Ayn obligation expands outward to include other Muslims nearby and then at increasing distances from the center of the invasion. Eventually, Fard ‘Ayn can become obligatory across the entire world until the kuffar is expelled from Muslim land.
Abd Allah ibn Abbas, a cousin of the Muslim prophet Muhammad and the author of an authoritative Tafsir (Qur’anic commentary), explained why Fard ‘Ayn is taken so seriously in Islam:
“When the Kufaar attack and control a [Muslim] country, the Ummah is endangered in its Religion, and it becomes susceptible to doubt in its belief. Fighting [the Kufaar] then becomes an obligation, to protect the Religion, the lives, the land and wealth.”
Given Islamic doctrine about offensive and defensive jihad, Fard Kifaya and Fard ‘Ayn, then, it becomes clear that the increasing number of so-called “lone wolf” attacks in the American homeland and even from within the ranks of the U.S. military in fact, are by Muslim jihadis, conducting individual jihad (Fard ‘Ayn).
Academia and the mainstream media, with their focus on “root causes” of such behavior, and U.S. national security leadership, whose main concern is to preserve the illusion that these attacks are somehow disassociated from Islamic doctrine, are all failing to describe accurately what is actually happening. The so-called “radicalization process,” of course, is nothing more than the process of “progressive revelation” as individual Muslims learn more about the obligations of their faith, become more devout, and make the decision to answer the call to violent jihad.
American troops on bases and battlefields in a number of Muslim countries may provide a convenient excuse for individual jihadis to invoke the Islamic doctrine on Fard ‘Ayn, but if it were not Fard ‘Ayn, it would be Fard Kifaya. As long as non-Muslims live free of shariah anywhere on earth, the obligation to jihad remains in effect.
Clare M. Lopez, a senior fellow at the Clarion Fund, is a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on Middle East, national defense, and counterterrorism issues.