Contesting violence in radical Islam: Sayyid imām al-sharīf's ethical perception

Meir Hatina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The emergence of al-Qāida in the mid-1990s was followed by a redefinition of moral standards and the legitimation of jihād that does not differentiate between enemy soldiers, prisoners of war, or civilians. Several Islamist ideologues affiliated with global jihād, troubled by the absence of traditional ethical norms of Islamic warfare, attempted to redefine the legitimacy of jihād in terms of what is strictly permissible or prohibited. The main proponents of this redefinition were Abū Muammad al-Maqdisī of Jordan and Sayyid Imām al-Sharīf of Egypt. Al-Sharīf, a prolific writer, is the focus of this study. Using both pragmatic and ethical arguments, al-Sharīf asserted that the conduct of contemporary jihād deviates from traditional legal boundaries, brings no benefit to the Muslim world, and constitutes pure violence. The correct direction of Islamic activity, he argued, lies in adjusting to the prevailing reality and in advocating dawa (communal activity). By analyzing al-Sharīf's discourse, I seek to shed light on crucial debates within the ranks of radical Islam over the legal and ethical constraints of jihād and violence, while also highlighting the connections between jihād, ethics, and religious authority.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)120-140
Number of pages21
JournalIslamic Law and Society
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.


  • Egypt
  • Islamic law
  • Middle East
  • al-Qā'ida
  • da'wa
  • ethics
  • jihad
  • non-combatants
  • religious authority
  • takfir
  • the West


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