Muhammad’s conquests: During his years in power, the prophet engaged in an average of nine military campaigns a year, or one every five to six weeks; thus did jihad help define Islam from its very dawn. Conquering non-Muslims was a main feature of the prophet’s jihad.
The Arab conquests and after: During the first several centuries of Islam, “the interpretation of jihad was unabashedly aggressive and expansive.” After the conquests subsided, non-Muslims hardly threatened and Sufi notions of jihad as self-improvement developed in complement to the martial meaning.
Cook’s erudite and timely study has many implications:
*The current understanding of jihad is more extreme than at any prior time in Islamic history.
*This extremism suggests that the Muslim world is going through a phase, one that must be endured and overcome, comparable to analogously horrid periods in Germany, Russia, and China.
*Jihad having evolved steadily until now, doubtless will continue to do so in the future.