Holy War Definition and Meaning
As holy war is designated all that war that is made for religious reasons against the enemies of a faith. As such, they are an extreme resource used by the fundamentalists of any religion to justify the use of violence.
Among the motivations of the holy war we can mention the idea of protecting a religion, its dogmas and its sacred places from those that are considered, for various circumstances, a threat. Likewise, holy war is waged with the idea of receiving a spiritual reward.
Holy wars are born of discord and differences between religions and peoples, between certain doctrines and values. They are the product of disrespect and intolerance towards the other who thinks or has different beliefs.
However, holy wars, like every war, also respond to different political and economic interests. In fact, at certain moments in history, holy wars have been used for the expansion of a religion.
Holy war and jihad
The concept of holy war is commonly confused with that of jihad, although the latter is a much broader term within Islamic doctrine. Jihad can be translated into Spanish as ‘effort’, and refers to the sacred duty to work for Allah and according to the doctrine of Muhammad. Hence, it is rather a spiritual struggle to improve the life of the people of Allah, which does not rule out the defense against tyranny and external threats. In this sense, jihad, rather than war, would refer to resistance against the aggressions of the enemies of faith.
In recent times, however, the concept of jihad has once again been invoked in reference to the struggles carried out by certain extremist Islamic organizations against those they consider enemies of Islam, mainly the Western powers (United States, France, United Kingdom , etc.). With this, they have tried to justify terrorist acts and crimes in an alleged defense of Muhammad’s doctrine.
Holy War in Islam
Within Islam, the Holy War coincides with the period of expansion of Islam from the Arabian peninsula, which extended from the Middle East to North Africa and most of the Iberian Peninsula, between the seventh and fifteenth centuries. As such, it is a historical process that begins in the year of 622, with the consolidation of Muhammad’s power that would lead to the capture of Mecca and subsequent wars to propagate Islamic doctrine. This expansion would continue during the following centuries. These wars were carried out against non-Muslim peoples, such as Arabs, Jews and Christians.
Holy war in Christianity
The holy war also had its expression in Christianity during the Middle Ages with the crusades. The crusades consisted of military expeditions organized by the Church and by some kings, with the purpose of recovering the holy lands (especially Jerusalem) from Muslim rule. They took place between 1095 and 1291. Other military campaigns, such as the Spanish reconquest, also against Muslims, or religious wars in France against Protestants, also came to take the appellation of holy war.