Essay by MJ33College, UndergraduateA-, May 2008

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Muslims who take part in 'jihad,' are ensured of "God's forgiveness and His mercy" (The Qur'an: 3:155) should they "die or be slain in the cause of God" (The Qur'an: 3:157). This aspect of Islam is confined only to those believers who take up armed struggle against foreign threats to 'Dar-al Islam' or regimes within Islam that are deemed oppressive by an Imam (Bonner 15). Martyrdom is of high importance in Islamic theology. Female participation in this endeavor has become noticeable in recent years with the rise of 'militant Islam.' To identify whether women are permitted to becoming involved in violence against the enemies of Islam, it is crucial to examine past Jihad along with more recent uses of the idea. More importantly, discussion of Jihad in scripture is vital to understanding if female participation is encouraged or a mere invention of recent fanaticism. Another major issue worth examining is whether Islam changed the status of women in relation to war.

To do this, pre-Islamic Arabia must be given consideration. Although Jihad has taken on non-violent connotations, for the purposes of comprehending the recent developments in Islam, the violent form of this principle will be focused upon.

In Arabia, prior to Islam, tribalism reigned and perpetual warfare existed at the frontiers of this territory and in the interior (O'Leary 153). Military enterprise was popular among Arab rulers and evidence shows that those involved in this trade were men. Blood feuds between tribes were common and this greatly reduced the male population. Proof of women not being involved in intra-tribal warfare and not being used in frontier protection is the existence of infanticide, along with polygamy. Although scholars have argued of the existence of female kinship in pre-Islamic Arabia, the selling of women was a hideous practice that was also...