Declarations of Sunni and Shiite jihad in World War I and their legacy.

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Dutch scholar Christiaan S. Hurgronje published a book during World War I, The Holy War "Made in Germany" that blamed the German cofounder of modern Islamic studies, Carl Heinrich Becker, for World War I's German-Ottoman jihad. A century later, contributors to this multi-author volume confirm his point.

That jihad attempted to mobilize Muslims against Europe's colonies even though this represented a genocidal threat to non-Muslim minorities living in Muslim ruled areas. The kaiser and his Islamic scholars had discussed this problem since 1908 but saw no way to stop the deadly side effects against the Armenians and other minorities, such as the Jews. This was no regional jihad, like that against the Ottomans and British in Sudan in 1881, or local jihads against Russians in Iran in 1910, or Italians in Tripolitania in 1911; it was a full-bore interfaith war coalition.

Among the most important chapters is that by M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, who writes of a double jihad: the Ottoman global jihad for the Sunnis and the kaiser, and the regional Shiite jihad beyond Iraq to defend Istanbul's provinces. Critical to these was the Egyptian Sunni Abd al-Malik Hamza, who published the first Arab theory of Islamism in 1917.

Hanioğlu names a dozen Shiites who issued jihad fatwas against the Allies, among them Mustafa al-Kashani. Even earlier, in Iran in 1915, as-Sayyid Hibat ad-Din Muhammad ash-Shahrastani issued a jihad fatwa. That German scholars were behind it is clear: Helmut Ritter of the Sixth Army in Baghdad translated it from Persian to German; Becker conveyed it to Berlin where Martin Hartmann and Carl Brockelmann checked the translation, and the Berlin journal Die Welt des Islams printed it.

After World War I, this jihad concept deeply affected Muslim politics as Muslims adopted and refashioned it in many variations, as did Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who adapted it in the 1979 Islamist revolution in Iran.

Jihad and Islam in World War I adds greatly to a new area of research.

Wolfgang G. Schwanitz
Middle East Forum