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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Archbishop of Dhimmitude? A press release from Lambeth

The following press release from Lambeth Palace, issued on Tuesday June 14, has some positive features, including its concern for religious freedom and religious rights.  However it has grave weaknesses, quite apart from the mis-naming of the OIC (it is the Organisation for the Islamic Conference, not 'of Islamic Countries').

1. It is true neither of Christianity nor Islam that 'both traditions had been traditionally committed to the path of peaceful co-existence'.  In a moment of extreme irony the release speaks of more violent interpretations as 'revisionist'.  The opposite is true.  On the one hand, in terms of theology, some Christians have espoused violent theologies in the past (e.g. the Holy War of the Conquistadors) but there are no Christian theological revisionists pushing for such theologies to be returned today.  On the other hand, jihad and its evil twin, the dhimma, are well-established core institutions of classical Islamic ideology and political practice.  To claim that these two components of sharia, with their millions of casualties, represent the 'path of peaceful co-existence' is to promote an ugly falsehood.  Christians living in Islamic societies would be justly aggrieved by this revisionist claim.

2. Key terms in the statement are ambiguous because they mean very different things in the two traditions.

One is 'persecution', which in Arabic translates as fitna.  It is precisely objection to fitna which is the basis in Islamic law for punishing apostates from Islam.  This objection is also used by Muslim theologians to justify the worst features of the dhimma pact. Radical Muslims object to 'persecution' – i.e. to fitna – understanding it to be the evil which anti-blaspemy and anti-apostasy laws are designed to combat.  As the Qur'an says (twice!): 'fight them until there is no persecution (fitna)' and 'persecution (fitna) is worse than slaughter'.  From this perspective of  'persecution', does the Archbishop of Canterbury really want to appear to be lending tacit support to the tradition of Islamic 'fighting' and 'killing' as measures to eliminate 'persecution'?

The phrase 'unjust persecution' is particularly regrettable  Does this imply that 'just persecution' is supportable?

Another ambiguous term is 'protection' of other religious communities, such as religious minorities.  In Islamic political ideology this refers to the dhimma.  To imply that the dhimma is a model for peaceful coexistence shows contempt for justice and human rights.

Press release from Lambeth Palace

Tuesday 14th June 2011

For immediate use

Archbishop meets with Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Countries

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, met this morning with the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Countries, Professor Ekemeleddin Ihsanoglu, at Lambeth Palace.  Baroness Warsi, Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office, joined the meeting. Though wide-ranging, their discussion focused in particular on the importance of continuing to build understanding, and personal and community relationships, between Christians and Muslims (and members of other faiths), and particularly among younger members of the faith communities.

In the meeting, it was said that while both traditions had historically been committed to the path of peaceful co-existence, some modern revisionist and extremist tendencies had attempted to replace this with a path of confrontation and violence - this had to be resisted.   It was said that the most positive way forward was to emphasise the duty of every faith community to work for the protection of every other. Religious freedom, and freedom from religious persecution - especially the persecution of minorities - were essential hallmarks of responsible government. For their part, religious leaders had a duty to speak out and stand side by side against the unjust persecution of those of other faiths.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dhimmitude and Ibn Ajibah on the Death of the Non-Muslim Soul

By Mark Durie

I first became intrigued by the situation of non-Muslims under Islam while doing linguistic field work in Aceh, Indonesia in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

This interest was piqued in the 1990's by reading Bat Ye'or's The Decline of Christianity under Islam.  This led to research which culminated in The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom, published in 2010.

There are two stories about non-Muslims living under Islam, who Muslims call dhimmis.  To caricature somewhat, one story is that dhimmis were the fortunate recipients of Islamic benevolence.  The other story is that they had to buy their heads back each year in a legal system designed to degrade and belittle them, and ultimately to bring about their decline.

As I was doing the research for The Third Choice, I found plenty of primary sources which supported the second story.   I was troubled however by the possibility that the sources I had encountered might not be representative.  I mean no disrespect to Bat Ye'or or others, who had painstakingly collected many primary materials from Muslim and non-Muslim writers, but it is just common sense that when sources are selected, there is the possibility of selectivity, and if you must rely on the work of others who have searched out primary sources, you cannot know for yourself what they neglected to report among their findings.

As I was working on The Third Choice, and contemplating this problem of selectivity, a wonderful resource opened up before my eyes.  I discovered that the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute of Islamic Thought had gathered together a collection of classical commentaries on the Qur'an, which they had published on the internet. This is The Great Tafsirs Project of the Holy Qur'an, at  On this site the Aal al-Bayt Institute has published 69 Arabic commentaries of the Qur'an.  These are dated from the earliest centuries of Islam right through to the present day.

I was, I must admit, pleased to note that Aal al-Bayt could not be accused of being a radical or extremist group.  After all this is the same organization which produced the Amman letter to Pope Benedict and the Common Word letter to the Christian world.  The Great Tafsirs Project was not produced by a hotbed of radicalism.  It is just about Islam, pure and simple.

The Great Tafsirs Project provided a wonderful research opportunity for me, as it enabled me to answer the question:  What have Muslim commentators said about the dhimma system down through the ages? This was as simple as working through what the 69 commentaries had to say on one verse, Sura 9:29, which is the Quranic authority for the whole dhimmi system.  Other verses in the Quran are revelant for the treatment of non-Muslims, but this is the key one, the lynchpin verse.  In the translation of Pickthall, the verse is:
Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.
What I found in these commentaries was deeply disturbing.  It was a full and complete endorsement of the 'second story' as described above, from the mouths of the most revered commentators of Islamic tradition.   Virtually without exception these scholars have regarded dhimmi status as a punitive measure.  Again and again they spoke of dhimmis owing a blood debt which had to be redeemed annually in a humiliating ritual involving a blow in the neck, and sometimes also a ritual strangling.  The theology and political ideology projected by these commentaries, from the distant past through to the present day, came through with startling consistency and force.

The commentaries completely vindicated – from a theological perspective – the analysis of Bat Ye'or, and also the sources she had collected.  It was all the more noteworthy that she had made comparatively little use of Quranic commentaries in her research.

A summary of what I found in these commentaries is reported in the sixth and seventh chapters of The Third Choice.  I also explain there how the ideology of the dhimma pact, as expressed by Islam's greatest commentators, continues to exercise a powerful guiding ideological hand for the persecution of non-Muslims in Islamic societies today.

I am painfully aware that one can find unpleasant, indeed evil, statements in the writings of theologians regarded as great by Christian tradition.  One's mind turns to Martin Luther or John Chrysostom on the Jews.  Their statements are utterly repugnant.  If you 'cherry-picked' your way through 2000 years of Christian theology, it would be possible to compile a house of horrors of objectionable statements by eminent Christians.  But what I submit is that it is not possible to find any verse or passage of the Bible which has given rise to such sustained and exceptionless contempt for a category of fellow human beings as has Sura 9:29 in the tradition of Islamic commentaries.

A well-intentioned Christian scholar who approaches Islam while looking at it through the frame of the Christian theological tradition would find it impossible to imagine the character and force of Islamic commentary on this verse.

Here I offer just one of the 69 commentaries on Sura 9:29, in translation.  This is the commentary Tafsir al-Bahr al-Madid fi Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Magid of Ibn Ajibah, who Wikipedia describes as an "18th-century Moroccan saint in the Darqawa Sufi Islamic lineage."

Although this commentary is quite typical in its approach to explaining Sura 9:29, what is noteworthy is the psychological analysis it gives of the intended outcome of the dhimma system, namely the 'death' of the dhimmi's soul.

NB: the bold text in curly braces is translation from the Qur'an. Material in square brackets is my interpolations.  Indented material is my explanation.

Commentary of Ibn Ajibah on Sura 9:29. (The original Arabic can be found here.)

The truth [i.e. Allah] says to the believers:
{fight}: [i.e. to kill] the People of the Book from the Jews and Christians.
The Arabic word for 'fight' actually means 'fight to kill': see my post here
{who believe not in Allah}: for what is due to him [i.e. to Allah], for they associate him with Uzair and Isa [cf Sura 9:30] and they picture him as being incarnated,
I.e. Christians and Jews 'associate' others with Allah, and so cannot be considered to have true belief in him. 
{nor in the last day}, because they deny the physical return, their faith in both respects is not a (true) faith,
It may seem strange to Christians to be told that they do not believe in 'last day' (i.e. in the physical resurrection of the dead).  But this text is not written for Christians to read.   Ibn Ajibah's point here is that the non-Muslims' beliefs are invalid.

{nor forbid which has been forbidden by Allah and his prophet} Muhammad, because they allow alcohol [as legal], eat the flesh of the dead animals [which had not been slaughtered correctly], blood, pork, and other things which the laws of Muhammad have not permitted,
 Christians and Jews do not follow Mudhammad's guidance, of which Ibn Ajibah gives some examples such as eating pork and using alcohol.
{nor adopt the religion of truth} i.e. they do not embrace Islam, which is the [only] true religion, the religion which has abrogated and nullified all other religions.
 Thus Ibn Ajibah explains the justification for fighting (to kill) Christians and Jews:  it is because they reject Islam, which has abrogated their religions, making them invalid.
Then he exposes those he commanded to fight against by saying:
{of the People of the Book}:  these are the Jews and Christians.  When this [verse] was reveled, the prophet of Allah went out to fight [i.e to kill] Christians in the Tabuk raid.  He reached the borders of the enemies’ land, and then he made a treaty with the people of Adruh and Ayla and others for tribute [jizya].  Then he left [them alone] in obedience to the verse.
Here Ibn Ajibah references the example of Muhammad, who went to fight Christians at Tabuk.  This is regarded as the context in which Sura 9:29 was revealed.  The Christians accepted to pay tribute, and so were spared the sword.  Ibn Ajibah is pointing out that Muhammad's actions agree with Sura 9:29.
Allah said:
{until they pay jizya} i.e. what has been determined for them to pay, according to Malik: four dinars for the wealthy, forty dirhams for the poor.  This is to be taken for each head. The scholars have agreed that jizya is to be accepted from the Jews and Christians, followed by the Zoroastrians, in accordance with the saying of Muhammad, “Apply to them the rules of the People of the Book”:  because they have [the benefit of] the doubt of having had a book, they are to be joined with them [Jews and Christians]. They [the scholars] have disagreed on accepting jizya from idol worshipers. Malik said it is to be taken from every infidel with the exception of the apostate, also it is not to be taken from women, young male children, and the insane.
Here Ibn Ajibah gives a neat summary of who is included in the phrase 'people of the book', noting disagreements between the schools.
Allah said:
{out of hand}  i. e. he proceeds to give it with his own hand; he does not send it with another person; and does not delay payment: as you might say “hand to hand”, or out of submission and subjugation; or as you might say, “X has given his hand”.
{and feel themselves subdued}: humiliated and despicable. Ibn Abbas said: jizya is to be taken from the dhimmi, he should be struck on the neck, i.e. struck with a hand on the neck.
Ibn Abbas was a cousin and companion of Muhammad: he is a significant early authority on Qur'anic interpretation.  Many commentaries cite Ibn Abbas in to justify striking the dhimmi on the neck in the tribute collection ritual
It is a standard feature of Qur'anic commentaries to describe the tax collection ritual for dhimmis in terms of a ritual beheading, in which the non-Muslim is struck on the side or the back of the neck.
The first verb for 'strike' (w.j.') means to strike with a hand or a knife.  At this point the phrasing is ambiguous: it could mean 'he should be beheaded'.  The ambiguity is cleared up with the second verb for strike (s.f.‘), which specifically refers to striking with the hand. (Arabic lexicographers have disagreed over whether this means with a fist or an open hand.)
This means: the insolent one [or audacious, rebellious – marid ]  [i.e. the dhimmi] …
Ibn Ajibah first characterizes the dhimmi as an arrogant upstart (marid), someone who has exalted himself from his proper position (by rejecting Allah). Lane defines this as: ‘he went to such an extreme as thereby to pass from out of the general state [or category] of that species [to which he belonged].’  The word marid thus implies that the dhimmi has audaciously and insolently exalted himself above his proper station in life, for which he is to be rightfully humbled under the dominance of Muslims.
[the dhimmi] is commanded to put his soul, good fortune and desires to death. Above all he should kill the love of life, leadership and honour… [He] is to invert the longings of his soul, he is to load it down more heavily than it can bear until it is completely submissive. Thereafter nothing will be unbearable for him. He will be indifferent to subjugation or might. Poverty and wealth will be the same to him; praise and insult will be the same; preventing and yielding will be the same; lost and found will be the same. Then, when all things are the same, it [the soul] will be submissive and yield willingly what it should give. 
Ibn Ajibah is explaining the purpose and meaning of the jizya payment ritual, including the blow on the neck.  This ritual, he says, represents the death of the dhimmi's soul.
 [Only] then is it [the soul of the dhimmi] to be preserved and looked after.
The purpose of this soul suicide is to ensure that the dhimmi will give everything to the Muslims that he is supposed to as a grateful service.  Ibn Ajibah makes the point that protection of the dhimmi by Muslims (including from jihad attack) is only to be provided if the dhimmi has put his soul to death by this means (i.e. he is utterly submissive).
Then he [Allah] mentions the reason for jihad against the people of the Book [in the next verse Sura 9:30]: it is the corruption of their belief...
This is the reason for fighting Christians and Jews:  it is because their belief is corrupt.

Multiple by 69 times, and the reader will have quite a good idea of what Muslim commentators have to say about Islam's policy on the treatment of non-believers in an Islamic state, at least according to the commentaries included in the Great Tafsirs Project of the Aal al-Bayt Institute.

It is of course possible for individual Muslims to take a different view about the dhimma system.  But my point is that the tradition of Qur'anic interpretation – which is tremendously important in stabilizing Islam and establishing its whole ideological framework – leaves little or no room for regarding the dhimma system as a blessing for non-Muslims.

This lack of a genuine tradition of benevolence or grace in dealing with non-Muslims is one of the key ideological problems confronting Islam – and non-Islam – today.  It will simply not do to sweep it under the carpet by a thousand sleights of hand which ignore or gloss over more than a thousand years of Qur'anic interpretation.  The issue is too deep-seated and enduring to be dealt with so dismissively.

Nor will it do to simply wave one's hands and shout as loud as one can that anyone can find bad things in a religious tradition.  The problem of the dhimma system is of a completely different order of magnitude from anything inter-religious polemics could conjure up.

Sharia Britain: the paradox of tolerance

by Mark Durie

This week Baroness Caroline Cox launched a bill in the House of Lords to impose principles of gender equality upon the sharia courts of Britain.

This proposal reflects a growing groundswell of concern about the impact of these courts upon the lives of Muslim women.

This initiative is supported by a diverse coalition of human rights groups, including the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, whose director Dianna Nammi devotes much of her work to assisting British women who are intimidated and discriminated against by the rulings of sharia courts.

The sharia is a system of rules for all of life.

Developed by Islamic scholars in the first centuries of Islam, it not only regulates prayer and worship, but also family relations, welfare, criminal matters, food, financial transactions, politics and even warfare.

The new bill aims to outlaw such practices as valuing a woman's evidence at half that of a man's; it seeks to prevent the intimidation and victimization of women who come before sharia tribunals; it requires religious tribunals to inform women that their sharia marriage or divorce may have no standing in British law, leaving them without legal protection; and it makes it a criminal offense to falsely claim legal jurisdiction.

A study by the think tank Civitas reported in 2009 that 85 sharia courts were operating across Britain, some of which have legal standing as tribunals under the alternative dispute resolution provisions of the 1996 Arbitration Act.

In a pattern being repeated across Western societies, from Sydney to Ontario, Muslim communities have been asking for legal recognition of sharia law, in the name of tolerance and pluralism.

Critics object that sharia courts discriminate against women, and their expansion in Britain is entrenching a system of parallel societies divided along religious lines.

In 2008 the Lord Chief Justice of England, Nicholas Phillips recommended 'embracing Sharia law', saying there was 'no reason' why it could not be used to alternative dispute resolution, and the Archbishop of Canterbury commented, 'it's not as if we're bringing in an alien and rival system'.

On the other hand, the Grand Chamber of the European Human Rights court found in 2003 that a plurality of legal systems which accommodates sharia infringes rights to religious freedom, because a state would thereby pressure individual Muslims to live according to religious rules with which they may not personally agree.

A 2004 report by Marion Boyd, Ontario's former Attorney General, supported Canadian Muslim groups' call for the use of sharia to settle family disputes.

However it was Muslim women such as Iranian immigrant Homa Arjomand who spear-headed resistance to the move, arguing that sharia law denies women equality before the law.

Few governments have been as forthright as Australia, whose Attorney General, Robert McClelland, recently declared that 'Sharia law has no place in the Australian legal system' because 'men and women are equal before the law irrespective of race, religious or cultural background.'

British sharia courts are conducted behind closed doors. Reports indicate that women are severely disadvantaged by their rulings.

It is easy for a Muslim man to divorce his wife under sharia law, for no reason. For a woman divorce is much more difficult.

She must apply to a court, and only on the basis of a limited set of reasons, which do not include domestic violence or rape by the husband.

Often she must pay the husband money in order to be granted her divorce.

Furthermore, under sharia law a divorced woman has no right to a share in family assets, and a father has sole custody of any children after they turn seven.

Women are further disadvantaged by the sharia laws of inheritance and evidence, which value a woman's worth at half that of a man's.

Such principles are not an invention of marginal religious radicals.

The International Fiqh Academy is a group of distinguished jurists which operates under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

In 2009 it issued a formal ruling on domestic violence which endorsed principles such as those being applied in British sharia courts, including the right of a husband to use force to compel his wife to have sexual relations, even if she is 'unwilling', and the right of a man to discipline his wife by what it termed 'non-violent beating'.

It is an irony that a woman can be more vulnerable to discriminatory treatment in a legally authorized British sharia tribunal than she would be in some Islamic jurisdictions.

Islamic states often pass laws to lessen the disadvantage suffered by women under sharia conditions.

For example, since 2000, Egyptian law allows women to divorce their husbands without having to give cause – but not without a financial penalty – and in 2005 a law was introduced to extend the period of a mother's custody of a child beyond the age determined by the sharia.

In Britain tribunals with legal standing dole out a purer strain of sharia.

The proposed new equality bill represents a significant escalation of resistance to sharia creep.

It can only succeed with government support.

If it fails, this will mean perpetuation of second class legal status for many British women.

It is a paradox of tolerance that legal inferiority might to be deemed to be 'good enough' for Muslim women, in the name of minority rights.

Mark Durie is an Anglican pastor and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom.

This appeared first on Jenny Taylor's Blog on 10th June 2011. 
Exclusive UK rights assigned to Lapido Media.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shaikh Al-Qaradawi: Muslim 'Moderates' endorse aggressive jihad

Two important modern reference works on jihad in Islam are Muhammad Haykal's Jihad and Fighting according the the Shar‘i Policy (Al-Jihad wa-l-qital fi al-siyasa al-sharia’iyya) and Yusuf Al-Qaradawi's Jurisprudence of Jihad (Fiqh al-jihad).  Both these works give the lie to apologies offered by many western scholars for Islam's militancy, such as the claim that jihad is purely defensive.

As yet, neither work is available in English translation.  Remarkably, Haykal attempts in his copyright statement to forbid anyone from quoting from or translating his work into any language other than its original Arabic.  (However David Cook's Understanding Islam gives a useful overview of Haykal on pp.124-127).

The TranslatingJihad website has recently posted a translation from a key section in Al-Qaradawi's Fiqh al-Jihad (see here), which discusses the issue of whether 'moderate' Muslims support aggressive jihad.  This was translated from a fatwa posted on The fatwa is by Dr. 'Imad Mustafa, professor at Al-Azhar University, who relies upon a passage from Al-Qaradawi's Fiqh al-Jihad to support his ruling in support of aggressive jihad.

Al-Qaradawi is one of the most influential public intellectuals in the world today.  He is a trustee of Oxford University's Centre for Islamic Studies, and his program on Al Jazeera reaches an estimate audience of 40 million world wide. 

In the passage cited by Dr Mustafu, Al-Qaradawi defends 'moderate' Muslims from the charge, made by 'extremists', that they do not support 'offensive jihad', which is aggressive warfare to conquer non-Muslim territory for Islam.

That Al-Qaradawi feels the need to mount such a defense at all is in itself a matter of considerable interest.

Jihad is a highly prestigious concept in Islam.  The traditional view has always been that Islam's conquest of non-Muslim civilizations was one of its greatest achievements, and certainly not something to be embarrassed about or to resile from.  To accuse a group of Muslims of rejecting aggressive jihad is a tactic which will discredit them in the eyes of many other Muslims.  Thus it is not surprising that Al-Qaradawi feels the need to defend 'moderates' – such as himself – from this charge.  He writes:
I want to clarify here the difference between the moderates and extremists, or the "defensive (jihadists)" and "offensive (jihadists)", as they are called by some.
Some of the offensive (jihadists) have not been fair to those who hold the opposing view. They have put words in their mouths which they did not say, and accused them of that which they are innocent. They say: "They (the defensive jihadists) do not accept offensive jihad under any circumstance, in any form, or for any reason. They do not believe jihad is legitimate except in one condition, which is if Muslims are attacked in their homes and lands." This is how they depict the opinion of the moderates or the defensive (jihadists). 
I think they are not being fair with the opposing side, and are not being precise or honest in presenting their views. Whoever reads their [i.e. the moderates'] opinions, will find that they accept offensive jihad, and attacking the infidels in their lands, for several reasons...
There is a great irony here.  On the one hand, many Western scholars defend 'moderate' Islam on the basis that the concept of jihad is merely defensive, or not even militaristic at all.  On the other hand, as prominent and influential a scholar as Al-Qaradawi feels the need to defend 'moderate' Islam on the grounds that it endorses aggressive jihad. 

Al-Qaradaqi lists four conditions under which aggressive jihad would be supported by 'moderate' Muslims:
  1. To remove all obstacles to the propagation of Islam.
  2. Preemptive warfare in the interests of the Islamic state.
  3. To rescue people (Muslims and non-Muslims) from oppressive rulers.
  4. Religious cleansing of Arabia to eliminate all non-Muslim religions ('Allah's favour to the Arabs').
There is ample provision in these principles to support just about any jihad conquest of non-Muslim lands.  Just as Hitler termed the conquest of Poland an act of 'liberation', since time immemorial ambitious rulers have used the language of benevolence and liberation to justify their acts of aggressive conquest.

Al-Qarawi's point number 1 alone is wide enough to drive a truck through.  In his explanation of point 1, Al-Qaradawi states:
[Aggressive jihad is called for:] To ensure the freedom to propagate the call to Islam, to prevent fitna in the religion (of Islam), and to remove the physical obstacles which prevent the call to Islam from reaching the multitudes of people.
This was the reason for the conquests of the rightly-guided (caliphs) and the companions (of the Prophet), as well as those who followed them in righteousness. (They fought) to remove the power of the tyrants who controlled the necks and minds of men, and who said what Pharaoh said to those of his people who believed (in Islam): "Have you believed before I gave you permission to believe?" This is the embodiment of the goal expressed in the saying of the Almighty: "Fight them on until there is no more fitna." 
Al-Qaradawi's citation of the Quranic verse 'fight them until there is no more fitna' deserves explanation.  The key point is the meaning of fitna.  I reproduce here my comments on this concept in The Third Choice (pp.96-98):


The Arabic word fitna ‘trial, persecution, temptation’ is of crucial importance in understanding Muhammad’s metamorphosis, which was one of the spiritual fruits of the formative Meccan period. The word is derived from fatana ‘to turn away from, to tempt, seduce or subject to trials’. The base meaning is to prove a metal by fire. Fitna can include either temptation or trial, including both positive and negative inducements, up to and including torture. It could encompass seducing someone, or tearing them limb from limb. 
Fitna became a key concept in theological reflection upon the early Muslim community’s experiences with unbelievers. The charge of Muhammad against the Quraysh was that they had subjected him and the rest of the Muslims to fitna – including insult, slander, torture, exclusion, economic pressures, and other temptations – in order to get them to leave Islam or to dilute its claims. Ibn Kathir reports that after the migration to Medina, the first verses revealed concerning fighting made clear that the whole purpose of fighting and killing was to eliminate fitna, because it could cause Muslims to turn away from their faith:
And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you,
but aggress not: Allah loves not the aggressors.
And slay them wherever you come upon them,
and expel them from where they expelled you;
persecution (fitna) is more grievous than slaying
Fight them, til there is no persecution (fitna);
and the religion is Allah’s;
then if they give over [i.e. cease their disbelief and opposition to Islam],
there shall be no enmity save for evildoers.’ (Q2:190-93)
The idea that fitna of Muslims was ‘more grievous than slaying’ proved to be a significant one. The same phrase would be revealed again after an attack on a Meccan caravan (Q2:217) during the sacred month (a period during which Arab tribal traditions prohibited raiding). It implied, at the very least, that shedding the blood of infidels is a lesser thing than a Muslim being led astray from their faith. 
The other significant phrase in this passage from Q2 is ‘fight them until there is no fitna’. This too was revealed more than once, the second time being after the battle of Badr, during the second year in Medina (Q8:39).
These fitna phrases, each revealed twice in the Quran, established the principle that jihad was justified by the existence of an obstacle to people entering Islam, or of inducements to Muslims to abandon their faith. However grievous it might be to fight others and shed their blood, undermining or obstructing Islam was worse.
Some Islamic jurists maintained a more limited and narrower interpretation, namely that ‘fitna is worse than slaughter’ simply meant fighting should continue ‘until no Muslim is persecuted so that he abandons his religion’. However most extended the concept of fitna to include even the mere existence of unbelief, so the phrase could be interpreted as ‘unbelief is worse than killing’. Thus Ibn Kathir equated fitna with what he called ‘committing disbelief ’ and ‘associating’ (i.e. polytheism), alongside hindering people from following Islam:
Since jihad involves killing and shedding of blood of men, Allah indicated that these men [i.e. polytheists] are committing disbelief in Allah, associating with Him (in the worship) and hindering from His path, and this is a much greater evil and more disastrous than killing. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)
Understood this way, the phrase ‘fitna is worse than killing’ became a universal mandate to fight and kill all infidels who rejected Muhammad’s message, whether they were interfering with Muslims or not. Merely for unbelievers to ‘commit disbelief ’ – to use Ibn Kathir’s phrase – was a greater evil than their being killed.
On this understanding the concept of jihad warfare to extend the dominance of Islam was based. Thus Ibn Kathir, when commenting on Q2 and Q8, said that the command to fight means to go to war ‘so that there is no more Kufr (disbelief)’ and the Quranic statements ‘and the religion is Allah’s’ (Q2:193) or ‘the religion is Allah’s entirely’ (Q8:39) mean ‘So that the religion of Allah [i.e. Islam] becomes dominant above all other religions.’
The renowned modern jurist Muhammad Taqi Usmani (b. 1943) reports that religious authorities have universally accepted that jihad is warfare to make Islam dominant:
… the purpose of Jehad … aims at breaking the grandeur of unbelievers and establish that of Muslims. As a result no one will dare to show any evil designs against Muslim on one side and on the other side, people subdued from the grandeur of Islam will have an open mind to think over the blessings of Islam. … I think that all Ulema (religious scholars) have established the same concept about the purpose of Jehad. (Islam and Modernism, pp. 133-134)