1. The Quranic Concept of Jihad


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(From a fundamentalist download – Young Muslim Organization (UK), abridged but otherwise unchanged)


Jihad is to achieve the complete freedom for all people to accept Islam as a way of life. Therefore, the purpose of Jihad is two-fold. Negatively speaking, it is to eradicate the mischief of Taghut and positively, the purpose is to establish a state of affairs wherein all obedience is rendered to God alone [7]. "Keep on fighting against them until mischief ends and the way prescribed by Allah prevails." (Qur'an 2:193)

"We sent aforetime our messengers with clear signs and sent down with them the book and the balance (of right and wrong), that men might stand forth in justice. And we sent down iron in which there is material for mighty war, as well as many benefits for mankind that Allah may test who it is that will help unseen . . ." (Qur'an 57:25)

Further, the aim of Jihad is to test the Believers. Muslims must go through the process of Jihad in order to prove that they are worthy of Allah’s blessing.4
". . . But if it had been Allah’s will, he would certainly have exacted retribution from them himself; but he lets you fight in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the way of Allah - He will never let their deeds be lost." (Qur'an 47:4)


The true meaning of Jihad has been obscured by many false interpretations, both regarding the meaning of Jihad and its application.

The difference between Jihad and Qital

Jihad is often taken to mean merely war, which is caused by conflicting national interests, from the stresses and strains of monopolistic Capitalism, from philosophical conflicts, and so on. For example, it is asserted that the Futuhat campaigns were made in order to unite and maintain the internal cohesion of the Muslims, or that they were carried out mainly to gain economic prosperity. However, in Islam, Qital can only be undertaken for the sake of Allah, and carried out according to the instructions of the Quran and Sunnah. And thus, these economic or geo-political reasons may explain some positive results and wisdom behind the legislation of Jihad, but they are not the real impetus of Jihad.

Qital is only one of the forms of struggle to achieve the ideal of the overall establishment of Islam. It relies heavily on this broader definition of Jihad (the overall strategy) for its effective application, and thus the ideal application of Qital can only occur if there is a fully functioning Islamic state to carry it out.

War for worldly gains is strictly forbidden in Islam. The majority of the Quranic verses which relate to Jihad, refer to Qital (killing) which is strictly conditional.5 The development of the concept and practice of Qital, in the Quran is as follows:
"O you who believe, . . . do not kill (or destroy) yourself." (Qur'an 4:29)
". . . And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden except for the requirement of justice." (6:152)6
"Whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter, or for spreading mischief in the land, it is as if he had slayed the whole people" (Qur'an 5:32)
"Allah has purchased the lives of the believers . . . They fight (Qatl) in his cause, and slay and are slain . . ." (Qur'an 9:111)
From these Quranic Ayat it is clear that killing is strictly forbidden for Muslims, whether the victim in question is ones own self, from the Muslim nation, or from other nations. In fact, the killing of one person is perceived to be equivalent to killing all the people. However, as verse (9:111) illustrates, both killing others, as well as getting oneself killed is commanded when it is in the cause of Allah.

Defensive and offensive Jihad

Some apologetics declare Jihad to be only defensive, either to give Islam a passive guise in front of non-Muslims, or to exempt themselves from offensive Jihad. However, according to the situation, Jihad can be both offensive and defensive. Therefore, this question is irrelevant.

It is necessary to study the life of the Prophet (pbuh), and observe the development of Jihad during his lifetime. Jihad was not legislated during the Makkan period, the guiding principle at the time being, "Hold back their hands from fighting and establish regular prayers" (Qur'an 4:77)
The Muslims patiently endured the persecution of Mushriks. At this stage, if the  Muslims had declared war, they would have been destroyed, and Islam would be uprooted before it had time to gain strength. There still remained a number of  criteria to be fulfilled before the Prophet (pbuh) was strong enough to wage Jihad. Firstly, the prophet (pbuh) had to win a sufficiently large number of followers who were willing to give up anything for the cause of Islam. Secondly, the followers of Islam were scattered and so were not the concentrated collective force needed to carry out Jihad. Thirdly, there was no region in which Muslims were powerful enough to consolidate their forces and carry out Jihad from that base.

When the Muslims migrated to Madinah with the support of the Ansar, and the Muslims had territory under their control, Jihad was instituted by Allah. At first, permission was given to fight in self defence:
"To those against whom war is made, permission is given to fight because they are wronged . . . and verily God is most powerful for their aid." (Qur'an 22:39) [13]

Then the Muslims were given permission to fight in defence of their beliefs and principles:
"Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loves not transgressors." (Qur'an 2:190) [14]
The third stage came when the Muslims were ordered to fight the Kuffar, and to initiate the fighting:
"Fight them until there is no more tumult and oppression, and there prevails justice and faith in God altogether and everywhere." (Qur'an 8:39)
Therefore, the idea that Jihad is only undertaken in defence of Muslims and the Islamic state is not correct, since if the aim of Jihad is to remove all obstacles which limit mankind’s freedom to obey Allah, which makes aggressive Jihad necessary.

Jihad Asghar and Akbar

It is claimed by some that the Jihad of the soul is greater (Akbar) than the physical jihad, which they claim is the lesser (Asghar) Jihad. They refer to a Hadith saying that in different occasions when the Prophet (pbuh) used to return from campaigns, he used to say, "we have come out of small Jihad to the greater Jihad." However, According to Muhaddithun, this Hadith is weak. It was the situation which dictated which type of Jihad was greater at that point in time. In any case, Jihad against the Nafs is continuous. The prophet (pbuh), in order to emphasise a point in different occasions, would give it the greatest importance, e.g. ‘speaking in front of a tyrant ruler is the greatest Jihad.’ etc. This does not mean that that particular Jihad is the greatest, over all other Jihad.


Obligation of fulfilling the covenant

"Jihad remains obligatory until the day of resurrection. One who has died but did not fight in the way of Allah, nor expressed and desire for Jihad, died the death of a hypocrite." (Sahih Muslim) [15].
According to the Ijma (consensus) of the scholars of Islam, Jihad is Farde Kifaya, which frees the whole community of the obligation so long as it is being carried out by a contingent of people. However, Jihad becomes Farde `Aain, obligatory on every individual, when the help of every individual is required.8

To fight in the cause of Allah (Qital) is one of the obligations that serves to fulfil the covenant between the faithful, and Allah.
"Allah has purchased, of the believers their lives and their properties, and in return gives the gardens of paradise. They fight in his cause. And slay and are slain. A promise binding on him in truth from the Torah . . ." (9:111)9
Qital is a part of the bargain, and only if it is fulfilled, the promise of Allah’s rewards to the believers will be fulfilled [16].

Rank given for participating in Jihad

Those who have died in the way of Allah are given the title, Shahid (witness). They have given the ultimate sacrifice which is their life, as a witness unto the truth.
"Not equal are those believers who sit at home, and receive no hurt and those who fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons . . . unto all in faith has Allah promised good: but those who strive and fight he has distinguished above those who sit at home." (Qur'an 4:95-96)10

Treatment of those who do not participate in Jihad

The treatment of those who do not participate in Jihad is outlined by Allah in Surah Tawbah, referring to the battle of Tabuk.
"Those who were allowed to stay behind rejoiced at remaining behind and not accompanying the messenger of Allah. They were adverse to striving in the cause of Allah with their belongings and their lives and told others; ‘Do not go forth in this fierce heat. ‘Tell them; the hell is far fiercer in heat. ‘Would that they understand!

Consequences for the Ummah of not carrying out Jihad

The consequence for not fighting after it is enjoined is made clear by Allah:
"Believers! . . . If you do not march forth Allah will chastise you grievously and will replace you with another people, while you will be in no way able to harm Him. Allah has power over everything." (Qur'an 9:38-39)


Jihad as an answer to Oppression and Aggression

It is obligatory to wage Jihad when Muslims are attacked and oppressed, when Muslims are turned out of their homes and deprived of their rights, their property and are uprooted.
"Fight in the cause of Allah, those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors, And slay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; For tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; . . . And fight them on until there is no more tumult and oppression and there prevails justice and faith in Allah. But if they cease13, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression." (Qur'an 2:190-193)14

Jihad to protect and preserve the truth (Haq)

"Now when you meet in war with those who are bent on denying the truth, smite their necks until you overcome them fully, and then tighten their bonds; but thereafter set them free, either by an act of grace or against ransom, so that the burden of war may be lifted." (Qur'an 47:4) [18]
The truth, Al-Islam is denied by those who pose obstacles to the propagation of the Islamic Dawah. Allah tells Muslims that the way to deal with those who bar others from the straight path, having denied it themselves, is to declare Jihad against them.