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Jihad Jihad (Arabic: جهاد ), has several meanings and connotations:

1- Literally it means "to strive" or "to struggle" in Arabic,

2- Jihad is an Islamic term and a duty for Muslims. It is sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam, but it occupies no official status in Sunni Islam. In Twelver Shi'a Islam, Jihad  is one of the Ten Practices of the Religion. There are at least two meanings and several sub-connotations of the term Jihad in Islam:

a- Jihad as an inner spiritual struggle, or the "Greater Jihad."

b- Jihad as warfare against enemies (Jihad bis Seif or "struggle by the sword), the lesser Jihad, which is justified variously as

1- Defense against those attacking Islam

2- Conversion of those who know the truth of Islam and deny it

3- Ordinary aggressive war, waged under one of the above pretexts.

Meaning 2b is the one which has become best known in the West. Almost of the wars of Muhammad and his successors under the Caliphate were considered to be "Jihad," though it cannot be said that the Byzantine empire in Syria for example, or the inhabitants of Iberia, threatened the practice of Islam. Likewise, the  siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Empire was declared a Jihad. The Ottoman Empire again declared a Jihad against the West, during World War I, and the Al-Qaeda extremists have declared a Jihad against the West.

Differences of interpretation arise as to what is a defensive war, that may be justified as Jihad. According to the Islamist interpretation, the West is threatening Islam, and therefore a Jihad against the West is justified.

The non-spiritual nature of Jihad in practice is attested to by the warlike ways of a number of groups called the Islamic Jihad (Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Egyptian Islamic Jihad ) by public calls for "Jihad" against Israel by the late Yasser Arafat  and others, and by such documents as the Hamas charter, which states that Jihad is the only way to "liberate" Palestine. Likewise Osama Bin Laden declared a Jihad against the West in his Fatwas. Both Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Sayyid Qutb were quite explicit that violent Jihad must be waged not only as defensive war, but until all men submit to the rule of Islam. Qutb went farther than al-Banna. He proclaimed that Jihad must also be waged in existing Muslim societies, because none of them are really in conformity with the dictates of Islam. 

Below we present both what is apparently the official  majority Muslim view of Jihad, and also an extremist interpretation. 

Jihad as it is presented by moderate Muslims


Jihad Explained

Source http://www.load-islam.com/artical_det.php?artical_id=534&section=wel_islam&subsection=Misconceptions
By : M. Amir Ali, Ph.D.

In the linguistic sense, the Arabic word "jihad" means struggling or striving and applies to any effort exerted by anyone. In this sense, a student struggles and strives to get an education and pass course work; an employee strives to fulfill his/her job and maintain good relations with his/her employer; a politician strives to maintain or increase his [1] popularity with his constituents and so on. The term strive or struggle may be used for/by Muslims as well as non-Muslims; for example, Allah, the One and Only True God says in the Qur'an:

"We have enjoined on people kindness to parents; but if they STRIVE (JAHADAKA) to make you ascribe partners with Me that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not..." (29:8; also see 31:15)

In the above two verses of the Qur'an , it is non-Muslim parents who strive (jahadaka) to convert their Muslim child back to their religion.

In the West, "jihad" is generally translated as "holy war," a usage the media has popularized. According to Islamic teachings, it is UNHOLY to instigate or start war; however, some wars are inevitable and justifiable. If we translate the words "holy war" back into Arabic, we find "harbun muqaddasatu," or for "the holy war," "al-harbu al-muqaddasatu." WE CHALLENGE any researcher or scholar to find the meaning of "jihad" as holy war in the Qur'an or authentic Hadith collections or in early Islamic literature. Unfortunately, some Muslim writers and translators of the Qur'an, the Hadith and other Islamic literature translate the term "jihad" as "holy war," due to the influence of centuries-old Western propaganda. This could be a reflection of the Christian use of the term "Holy War" to refer to the Crusades of a thousand years ago. However, the Arabic words for "war" are "harb" or "qital," which are found in the Qur'an and Hadith.

For Muslims the term JIHAD is applied to all forms of STRIVING and has developed some special meanings over time. The sources of this development are the Qur'an (the Word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad (S) [(S) denotes Sall-Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, meaning peace and blessings of Allah be upon him]. The Qur'an and the Hadith use the word "jihad" in several different contexts which are given below:


It is human nature to love what is seen with the eyes and felt with the senses more than the UNSEEN REALITY. The Creator of the Universe and the One God is Allah. He is the Unseen Reality which we tend to ignore and not recognize. The Qur'an addresses those who claim to be believers:

"O you who believe! Choose not your fathers nor your brethren for protectors if they love disbelief over belief; whoever of you takes them for protectors, such are wrong-doers. Say: if your fathers, and your children, and your brethren, and your spouses, and your tribe, and the wealth you have acquired, and business for which you fear shrinkage, and houses you are pleased with are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and STRIVING in His way: then wait till Allah brings His command to pass. Allah does not guide disobedient folk." (9:23, 24)

It is indeed a struggle to put Allah ahead of our loved ones, our wealth, our worldly ambitions and our own lives. Especially for a non-Muslim who embraces Islam, it may be a tough struggle due to the opposition of his family, peers and society.


Once a person has made up his mind to put the Creator of the Universe above all else, he often comes under intense pressures. It is not easy to resist such pressures and STRIVE to maintain dedication and love of Allah over all else. A person who has turned to Islam from another religion may be subjected to pressures designed to turn him back to the religion of the family. We read in the Qur'an:

"So obey not the rejecters of faith, but strive (jahidhum) against them by it (the Qur'an) with a great endeavor." (25:52)


Allah says in the Qur'an:

"And STRIVE (JADIHU) for Allah with the endeavor (JIHADIHI) which is His right. He has chosen you and has not laid upon you in the DEEN (religion) any hardship..." (22:78)

"And whosoever STRIVES (JAHADA), STRIVES (YUJAHIDU) only for himself, for lo! Allah is altogether independent of the universe." (29:6)

As for those who strive and struggle to live as true Muslims whose lives are made difficult due to persecution by their opponents, they are advised to migrate to a more peaceful and tolerant land and continue with their struggle in the cause of Allah. Allah says in the Qur'an:

"Lo! As for those whom the angels take (in death) while they wronged themselves, (the angels) will ask: 'In what you were engaged?' They will way: 'We were oppressed in the land.' (The angels) will say: 'Was not Allah's earth spacious that you could have migrated therein?'" (4:97)

"Lo! Those who believe, and those who emigrate (to escape persecution) and STRIVE (JAHADU) in the way of Allah, these have hope of Allah's mercy..." (2:218)

Allah tests the believers in their faith and their steadfastness:

"Or did you think that you would enter Paradise while yet Allah knows not those of you who really STRIVE (JAHADU), nor knows those (of you) who are steadfast." (3:142)

"And surely We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and fruits; but give tidings to the steadfast." (2:155)

We find that the Prophet Muhammad (S) and his clan were boycotted socially and economically for three years to force him to stop his message and compromise with the pagans but he resisted and realized a moral victory [2].


Allah declares in the Qur'an:

"As for those who STRIVE (JAHADU) in Us (the cause of Allah), We surely guide them to Our paths, and lo! Allah is with the good doers." (29:69)

When we are faceD with two competing interests, it becomes jihad to choose the right one, as the following Hadith exemplify:

"Aisha, wife of the Prophet (S) asked, 'O Messenger of Allah, we see jihad as the best of deeds, so shouldn't we join it?' He replied, 'But the best of jihad is a perfect Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah).'" (Sahih Al-Bukhari #2784)

At another occasion, a man asked the Prophet Muhammad (S):

"'Should I join the jihad?' He asked, 'Do you have parents?' The man said, 'Yes!' The Prophet (S) said, 'Then strive by serving them!'" (Sahih Al-Bukhari #5972)

Yet another man asked the Messenger of Allah (S):

"'What kind of jihad is better?' He replied, 'A word of truth in front of an oppressive ruler!'" (Sunan Al-Nasa'i #4209)

The Messenger of Allah (S) said: "...the MUJAHID (one who carries out jihad) is he who STRIVES against himself for the sake of Allah, and the MUHAJIR (one who emigrates) is he who abandons evil deeds and sin." (Sahih Ibn Hibban #4862)


The Qur'an narrates the experiences of a large number of Prophets and good people who suffered a great deal trying to convey the message of Allah to mankind. For examples, see the Qur'an 26:1-190, 36:13-32. In the Qur'an, Allah specifically praises those who strive to convey His message:

"Who is better in speech than one who calls (other people) to Allah, works righteous, and declares that he is from the Muslims." (41:33)

Under adverse conditions it takes great courage to remain a Muslim, declare oneself to be a Muslim and call others to Islam. We read in the Qur'an:

"The (true) believers are only those who believe in Allah and his messenger and afterward doubt not, but STRIVE with their wealth and their selves for the cause of Allah. Such are the truthful." (49:15)


Allah declares in the Qur'an:

"To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to defend themselves), because they are wronged - and verily, Allah is Most Powerful to give them victory - (they are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right - (for no cause) except that they say, 'Our Lord is Allah'..." (22:39-40)

The Qur'an permits fighting to defend the religion of Islam and the Muslims. This permission includes fighting in self-defense and for the protection of family and property. The early Muslims fought many battles against their enemies under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (S) or his representatives. For example, when the pagans of Quraysh brought armies against Prophet Muhammad (S), the Muslims fought to defend their faith and community [3]. The Qur'an adds:

"Fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress limits. Lo! Allah loves not aggressors. ...And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against transgressors." (2:190, 193)


In the late period of the Prophet Muhammad's (S) life, the tribe of Banu Khuza'ah became his ally. They were living near Makkah which was under the rule of the pagan Quraysh, Prophet Muhammad's (S) own tribe. The tribe of Banu Bakr, an ally of Quraysh, with the help of some elements of Quraysh, attacked Banu Khuza'ah invoked the treaty and demanded Prophet Muhammad (S) to come to their help and punish Quraysh. The Prophet Muhammad (S) organized a campaign against Quraysh of Makkah which resulted in the conquest of Makkah which occurred without any battle [4].


Allah orders the Muslims in the Qur'an:

"If you fear treachery from any group, throw back (their treaty) to them, (so as to be) on equal terms. Lo! Allah loves not the treacherous." (8:58)

Prophet Muhammad (S) undertook a number of armed campaigns to remove treacherous people from power and their lodgings. He had entered into pacts with several Jewish tribes, however, some of them proved themselves treacherous. Prophet Muhammad (S) launched armed campaigns against these tribes, defeated and exiled them from Medina and its surroundings [5].


Indeed, it is difficult to mobilize people to fight when they see no invaders in their territory; however, those who are charged with responsibility see dangers ahead of time and must provide leadership. The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (S), had the responsibility to protect his people and the religion he established in Arabia. Whenever he received intelligence reports about enemies gathering near his borders he carried out preemptive strikes, broke their power and dispersed them [6]. Allah ordered Muslims in the Qur'an:

"Fighting is prescribed upon you, and you dislike it. But it may happen that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. And Allah knows and you know not." (2:216)


Allah declares in the Qur'an:

"They ask you (Muhammad) concerning fighting in the Sacred Month. Say, 'Fighting therein is a grave (offense) but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its inhabitants. Persecution is worse than killing. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith, if they can..." (2:217)

"And those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflicted on them, (are not cowed but) fight back." (42:39)

To gain this freedom, Prophet Muhammad (S) said:

"STRIVE (JAHIDU) against the disbelievers with your hands and tongues." (Sahih Ibn Hibban #4708)

The life of the Prophet Muhammad (S) was full of STRIVING to gain the freedom to inform and convey the message of Islam. During his stay in Makkah he used non-violent methods and after the establishment of his government in Madinah, by the permission of Allah, he used armed struggle against his enemies whenever he found it inevitable.


Allah admonishes Muslims in the Qur'an:

"And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? - Men, women, and children, whose cry is: 'Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You, one who will protect; and raise for us from You, one who will help.'" (4:75)

The mission of the Prophet Muhammad (S) was to free people from tyranny and exploitation by oppressive systems. Once free, individuals in the society were then free to chose Islam or not. Prophet Muhammad's (S) successors continued in his footsteps and went to help oppressed people. For example, after the repeated call by the oppressed people of Spain to the Muslims for help, Spain was liberated by Muslim forces and the tyrant rulers removed. After the conquest of Syria and Iraq by the Muslims, the Christian population of Hims reportedly said to the Muslims:

"We like your rule and justice far better than the state of oppression and tyranny under which we have been living." [7]

The defeated rulers of Syria were Roman Christians, and Iraq was ruled by Zoarastrian Persians.


Muslims should remove tyranny, treachery, bigotry, and ignorance and replace them with justice and equity. We should provide truthful knowledge and free people from the bondage of 'associationism' (SHIRK, or multiple gods), prejudice, superstition and mythology. Muslims remove immorality, fear, crime, exploitation and replace them with divine morality, peace and education. The Qur'an declares:

"Lo! Allah commands you that you restore deposits to their owners, and if you judge between mankind that you judge justly. Lo! It is proper that Allah admonishes you. Lo! Allah is ever Hearer, Seer." (4:58)

"O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah's witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety and fear Allah. And Allah is well acquainted with all that you do." (5:8)

"And of those whom We have created there is a nation who guides with the Truth and establishes justice with it." (7:181)

"Lo! Allah enjoins justice and kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbids lewdness and abomination and wickedness. He exhorts you in order that you may take heed." (16:90)

"Those who, if We give them power in the land, establish prescribed prayers (SALAH) and pay the poor-due (ZAKAH) and enjoin right conduct and forbid evil. And with Allah rests the end (and decision) of (all) affairs." (22:41)


The unequivocal and emphatic answer is NO! The Qur'an declares:

"Let there be no compulsion (or coercion) in the religion (Islam). The right direction is distinctly clear from error." (2:256)

Here is a good study of the question of the spread of Islam by a Christian missionary, T. W. Arnold:

"...of any organized attempt to force the acceptance of Islam on the non-Muslim population, or of any systematic persecution intended to stamp out the Christian religion, we hear nothing. Had the caliphs chosen to adopt either course of action, they might have swept away Christianity as easily as Ferdinand and Isabella drove Islam out of Spain, or Louis XIV made Protestantism penal in France, or the Jews were kept out of England for 350 years. The Eastern Churches in Asia were entirely cut off from communion with the rest of Christiandom throughout which no one would have been found to lift a finger on their behalf, as heretical communions. So that the very survival of these Churches to the present day is a strong proof of the generally tolerant attitude of Mohammedan [sic] governments towards them" [8].

Islam does not teach, nor do Muslims desire, conversion of any people for fear, greed, marriage or any other form of coercion.

In conclusion, jihad in Islam is STRIVING IN THE WAY OF ALLAH by pen, tongue, hand, media and, if inevitable, with arms. However, jihad in Islam does not include striving for individual or national power, dominance, glory, wealth, prestige or pride.


[1]. For the sake of simplicity and easy reading, masculine pronouns have been used throughout this brochure. No exclusion of females is intended.
[2]. Haykal, M. H., THE LIFE OF MUHAMMAD, Tr. Ismail R. Faruqi, American Trust Publications, 1976, p. 132.
[3]. Haykal, pp. 216, 242, 299 and 414 for the Battles of Badr, Uhud, Al-Khandaq and Hunayn, respectively.
[4]. Haykal, p. 395 for the conquest of Makkah.
[5]. Haykal, pp. 245, 277, 311 and 326 for campaigns against the tribes of Banu Qaynuqa', Banu Al-Nadir, Banu Qurayzah and Banu Lihyan, respectively. Also, see p. 283 for the Battle of Dhat Al-Riqa'.
[6]. Haykal, pp. 284, 327, 366, 387, 393, 443 and 515 for the Battles of Dawmat Al-Jandal, Banu Al-Mustaliq, Khayber, Mu'tah, Dhat Al-Salasil, Tabuk and the Campaign of Usama Ibn Zayd, respectively.
[7]. Hitti, Philip K., HISTORY OF THE ARABS, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1970, p. 153.
[8]. Arnold, Sir Thomas W. THE PREACHING OF ISLAM, A HISTORY OF THE PROPAGATION OF THE MUSLIM FAITH, Westminster A. Constable & Co., London, 1896, p. 80.

Jihad in Extremist Muslim Ideology

The Muslim Brotherhood formulated the less extreme among the extreme interpretations of Jihad as armed struggle. In practice, while they resorted to assassination attempts, the original Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood did not undertake mass killings of Muslim civilians or suicide bombings. Nonetheless, their doctrine of Jihad calls for armed struggle against the west and all non-believers, until they 'submit to Islam.' This does not mean necessarily that all individuals must convert to Islam, since "there is no compulsion in religion." It does mean however, that westerners must accept Islamic sovereignty and Islamic government under Sha'aria law.

The source materials below are reproduced here for your information, because it is the best way of making the practical meaning of Jihad clear, in its most relevant form for Westerners, through original source documents written by the founders and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. MidEastWeb does not advocate Jihad. Most Muslims may  not support this violent interpretation of Jihad. However, it is the one that is most prominently in the news, and perhaps most prominent in the interface between Islam and the West. It is certainly the most problematic definition of Jihad.  

Sayyid Qutb on Jihad

Sayyid Qutb was leader of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in the 50s and 60s. His concept of Jihad is outlined in his book, Milestones. The main points of his argument is that Islam is a universal religion that must liberate all mankind in stages. Definitions of "defensive" Jihad are adopted in stages when Islam is too weak to overcome all its enemies, but the ultimate goal is conquest of the entire world. Christians and Jews who do not behave as Qutb liked are disobedient to God and therefore they are "fair game," despite Quranic respect for "people of the book." Qutb wrote: : 

The second aspect of this religion is that it is a practical movement which progresses stage by stage, and at every stage it provides resources according to the practical needs of the situation and prepares the ground for the next one. It does not face practical problems with abstract theories, nor does it confront various stages with unchangeable means. Those who talk about Jihaad in Islam and quote Qur'anic verses do not take into account this aspect, nor do they understand the nature of the various stages through which this movement develops, or the relationship of the verses revealed at various occasions with each stage. Thus, when they speak about Jihaad, they speak clumsily and mix up the various stages, distorting the whole concept of Jihaad and deriving from the Qur'anic verses final principles and generalities for which there is no justification. This is because they regard every verse of the Qur'an as if it were the final principle of this religion. This group of thinkers, who are a product of the sorry state of the present Muslim generation, have nothing but the label of Islam and have laid down their spiritual and rational arms in defeat. They say, "Islam has prescribed only defensive war"! and think that they have done some good for their religion by depriving it of its method, which is to abolish all injustice from the earth, to bring people to the worship of God alone, and to bring them out of servitude to others into the servants of the Lord . Islam does not force people to accept its belief, but it wants to provide a free environment in which they will have the choice of beliefs. What it wants is to abolish those oppressive political systems under which people are prevented from expressing their freedom to choose whatever beliefs they want, and after that it gives them complete freedom to decide whether they will accept Islam or not.


When writers with defeatist and apologetic mentalities write about "Jihaad in Islam," trying to remove this 'blot' from Islam, then they are mixing up two things: first, that this religion forbids the imposition of its belief by force, as is clear from the verse, "There is no compulsion in religion"(2:256), while on the other hand it tries to annihilate all those political and material powers which stand between people and Islam, which force one people to bow before another people and prevent them from accepting the sovereignty of God. These two principles have no relation to one another nor is there room to mix them. In spite of this, these defeatist-type people try to mix the two aspects and want to confine Jihaad to what today is called 'defensive war'. The Islamic Jihaad has no relationship to modern warfare, either in its causes or in the way in which it is conducted.


This religion is not merely a declaration of the freedom of the Arabs, nor is its message confined to the Arabs. It addresses itself to the whole of mankind, and its sphere of work is the whole earth. God is the Sustainer not merely of the Arabs, nor is His providence limited to those who believe in the faith of Islam. God is the Sustainer of the whole world. This religion wants to bring back the whole world to its Sustainer and free it from servitude to anyone other than God. In the sight of Islam, the real servitude is following laws devised by someone, and this is that servitude which in Islam is reserved for God alone. Anyone who serves someone other than God in this sense is outside God's religion, although he may claim to profess this religion. The Prophet- peace be on him - clearly stated that, according to the Shari'ah, 'to obey' is 'to worship'. Taking this meaning of worship, when the Jews and Christians 'disobeyed' God, they became like those who 'associate others with God'.... (Qutb, Sayyed, Milestones, Chapter 4)


Hassan al Banna on Jihad

The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and one of the founders of Islamist ideology, Hassan el Banna, wrote the following treatise on Jihad. The long document below seems to agree in all essentials with the brief excerpt from Sayyid Qutb's writing, presented above.

Source: youngmuslims.ca/online_library/books/jihad/



In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, and may his peace and blessings be upon Muhammad and upon his household and companions, and all those who follow him.

The Muslim world today is faced with tyranny and injustice. Indeed oppression and hardship is not just limited to the Muslim world, rather many non-Muslim states are subject to oppression at the hands of the world’s leading military and economic powers. Anyone who cares can only be saddened and hurt by the pain and suffering that accompanies so many faces. Islam has allowed jihad as a means to prevent oppression, yet the Muslims have forgotten this for too long.

Though jihad may be a part of the answer to the problems of the ummah, it is an extremely important part. Jihad is to offer ourselves to Allah for His Cause. Indeed, every person should according to Islam prepare himself/herself for jihad and every person should eagerly and patiently wait for the day when Allah will call them to show their willingness to sacrifice their lives. We should all ask ourselves if there is a quicker way to heaven? It is with this in mind that this booklet is being published.

It may be asked of ourselves and others here as to why we remain in this country while there is so much opportunity for reward. It is our understanding that today’s problems does not require the one solution whether this be jihad, working for the khilafah, purifying ourselves etc. but rather our situation today requires action on all fronts. Everybody has a role to play in today’s great jigsaw, those who are attempting to establish the Islamic state have to continue doing so focusing their minds onto such a project, those who are faced with tyranny at the hands of neighbouring armies have to defend themselves with their lives and those that have the opportunity of giving Islam to the world should do so..

This is an important booklet for three reasons: firstly, it deals with an important issue - that of jihad. Secondly, it is important because it has been written by one of the most prominent Mujahideen of this century - Imam Hasan al-Banna, and thirdly it is important because it deals with an issue that the ummah seems to have misunderstood or forgotten.

Imam Hasan al-Banna is the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and one of the pioneers of today’s Islamic revival. It is a shame that so many people are unaware of this man and his contribution towards what we see today. It is the right of the contemporary Muslim generation that they should have access to the writings of this great reformer; especially on this important topic.

The Imam, may Allah bless him, shows us that ultimately, and insha’Allah (God-willing) time will be a witness to this, only Islam can save mankind from itself. And jihad on the individual and international scale will be a necessary part of this process of change.

The Imam himself was assassinated in 1949, aged 43 years. It is a testimony to his character that Allah answered his duaa’ that he made at the end of this work. May Allah accept our efforts and may Allah similarly accept and answer our duaa’.


Dr A. M. A. Fahmy

International Islamic Forum

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate

All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Universe. May Allah bestow peace and blessings upon our Leader Muhammad, Leader of those who strive in Allah's way and Imam of the pious. May He also bestow peace and blessings upon his family and his companions, and all those who strive for the Sharee’ah until the Day of Judgement.

All Muslims Must Make Jihad

Jihad is an obligation from Allah on every Muslim and cannot be ignored nor evaded. Allah has ascribed great importance to jihad and has made the reward of the martyrs and the fighters in His way a splendid one. Only those who have acted similarly and who have modelled themselves upon the martyrs in their performance of jihad can join them in this reward. Furthermore, Allah has specifically honoured the Mujahideen with certain exceptional qualities, both spiritual and practical, to benefit them in this world and the next. Their pure blood is a symbol of victory in this world and the mark of success and felicity in the world to come.

Those who can only find excuses, however, have been warned of extremely dreadful punishments and Allah has described them with the most unfortunate of names. He has reprimanded them for their cowardice and lack of spirit, and castigated them for their weakness and truancy. In this world, they will be surrounded by dishonour and in the next they will be surrounded by the fire from which they shall not escape though they may possess much wealth. The weaknesses of abstention and evasion of jihad are regarded by Allah as one of the major sins, and one of the seven sins that guarantee failure.

Islam is concerned with the question of jihad and the drafting and the mobilisation of the entire Umma into one body to defend the right cause with all its strength than any other ancient or modern system of living, whether religious or civil. The verses of the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Muhammad (PBUH) are overflowing with all these noble ideals and they summon people in general (with the most eloquent expression and the clearest exposition) to jihad, to warfare, to the armed forces, and all means of land and sea fighting.

We shall not go into exhaustive detail but rather will offer you some Qur'anic verses and Ahaadeeth below as examples since we only wish to show a glimpse of the Islamic message on jihad. Furthermore, we will not delve into the explanation of the Qur'anic verses or Ahaadeeth. You will recognise by the purity of language, the clarity of exposition, the lucidity of ideas and the force of spirituality that explanations and clarifications are not required.

The Qur’an on Jihad

‘Jihad is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike something which is good for you and that you like something which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.’

(Surat-al-Baqarah (2), ayah 216)

‘O you who believe! Be not like those who disbelieve (hypocrites) and who say to their brethren when they travel through the earth or go out to fight: 'If they had stayed with us, they would not have died or been killed,' so that Allah may make it a cause of regret in their hearts. It is Allah that gives life and causes death. And Allah is All-Seer of what you do. And if you are killed or die in the Way of Allah, forgiveness and mercy from Allah are far better than all that they amass (of worldly wealth etc.). And whether you die, or are killed, verily, unto Allah you shall be gathered.’

(Surat-aal-Imran (3), ayah 156-158)

Notice how "forgiveness" and "mercy" are associated with slaying and death in Allah's way in the first verse, and how the second verse is does not refer to this because it is devoid of the idea of jihad. In this verse, there is an indication of the fact that cowardice is one of the characteristics of unbelievers, but not of believers. And notice how today the unbelievers seem to be brave and the believers seem to be the cowards.

‘Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision. They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His Bounty, rejoicing for the sake of those who have not yet joined them, but are left behind (not yet martyred) that on them no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve.’

(Surat-aal-Imran (3), ayah 169-170). Refer up to verse 175 for further information.

‘Let those (believers) who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter fight in the cause of Allah., and whosoever fights in the Cause of Allah, and is killed or is victorious, We shall bestow on him a great reward.’

(Surat-an-Nisaa’ (4), ayah 74)

Refer to the verses (4: 71-78) in the Noble Book to understand how Allah urges the Muslims to remain alert and to acquire experience in warfare, in armies and troops, or as individuals, as circumstances may dictate. Allah also reprimands those who are slack, cowards or opportunists, and He arouses our zeal to protect the weak and prevent oppression. Notice how Allah associates warfare with prayer and fasting, establishing it as one of the pillars of Islam. And how He refutes the false arguments of the waverers, and encourages those who are scared to the utmost degree to plunge into battle and to face death unflinchingly and bravely, showing them that they will welcome death, and that if they die in jihad, they will receive the most magnificent recompense for their lives, and that they will not lose any of their contribution or sacrifice however small.

Surat-al-Anfaal is in its entirety an exhortation to jihad and a command to remain steadfast [while engaged] in it, as well as a clear presentation of many of its rules. It is for this reason that the first Muslims (may Allah's grace be upon them) adopted it as a war chant which they would chant whenever their apprehensions mounted and the battle grew grim. Suffice it to quote what Allah (SWT) says:

‘Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies of Allah and your enemies.’

(Surat-al-Anfaal (8), ayah 60)

up to His words (SWT):

‘O Prophet! Urge the believers to fight. If there are twenty steadfast amongst you, they will overcome two hundred, and if there are be a hundred steadfast they will overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (they disbelievers) are people who do not understand’

(Surat-al-Anfaal (8), ayah 65)

Surat-at-Tawbah too is in its entirety an exhortation to combat and a clear presentation of its rules. It is sufficient to quote what Allah (SWT) says concerning warfare against the treacherous polytheists:

‘Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands and disgrace them and give you victory over them and return calmness in the hearts of the believing people thus relieving their anxiety. Allah accepts the repentance of whom He wills. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.’

(Surat-at-Tawbah (9), ayah 14-15)

And His words (SWT) concerning fighting with People of the Book:

‘Fight against those who believe not in Allah nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the Religion of Truth (i.e. Islam), from among the People of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.’

(Surat-at-Tawbah (9), ayah 29)

The proclamations of the general call in the following verses, end with His words (SWT):

‘March forth, (whether equipped) lightly or heavily, and strive hard with your wealth and your lives in the Cause of Allah! This is better for you, if you but knew.’

(Surat-at-Tawbah (9), ayah 41)

Allah then rebukes those who are cowardly for their attitude and their continuous attempts to escape from jihad, in His words (SWT):

‘Those who stayed away (from Tabuk expedition) rejoiced in their staying behind the Messenger of Allah; they hated to strive and fight with their wealth and their lives in the Cause of Allah, and they said, 'March not forth in the heat.' Say: 'The fire of Hell is more intense in heat,' if only they could understand!' So let them laugh a little (and they will) cry much as a recompense of what they used to earn (by committing sins). If Allah brings you back to a party of them, and they ask your permission to go out (to fight), say: 'Never shall you go out with me, nor fight an enemy with me: you agreed to sit inactive on the first occasion: then you sit (now) with those who lag behind.’

(Surat-at-Tawbah (9), ayah 81-83)

Then Allah praises those who engage in jihad by declaring jihad as Prophet Muhammad's mission and the way of his Companions, as He, the Almighty, says:

‘But the Messenger, and those who believed with him, strove hard and fought with their wealth and their lives (in Allah's cause). The good things are for these people, and it is they who will be successful. For them Allah has got ready the Gardens (Paradise) under which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success.’

(Surat-at-Tawbah (9), ayah 88-89)

Then follows an oath of allegiance, comprehensive and protective leaving no excuses, in His words (SWT):

‘Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their wealth; for the price that theirs shall be the Paradise. They fight in Allah's Cause, so they kill (others) and are killed. It is a promise in truth which is binding on Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur'an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain which you have concluded. That is the supreme success.’

(Surat-at-Tawbah (9), ayah 111)

Surat-al-Qital (commonly known as Surat Muhammad) mentions two key factors that form the foundation of the military spirit: obedience and discipline. Allah has summarised these two factors in the following two verses in His Book. Obedience appears in this Surah where He, the Almighty, says:

‘Those who believe say: "Why is a Surah not sent down (for us)?" But when a decisive Surah (explaining and ordering things) is sent down, and fighting is mentioned (i.e. ordained) therein, you will see those in whose hearts is a disease (of hypocrisy) looking at you with a look of one fainting to death. But it was better for them (hypocrites, to listen to Allah and obey Him). Obedience (to Allah) and good words (were better for them). And when the matter (preparation for Jihad) is resolved on, then if they had been true to Allah, it would have been better for them.’

(Surat-Muhammad (47), ayah 20-21)

As for discipline, it appears in Surat-as-Saff, where He, the Almighty, says:

‘Verily, Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in rows (ranks), as if they were a solid structure.’

(Surat-as-Saff (61), ayah 4)

Surat-al-Fath is also dedicated in its entirety to one of the military campaigns of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), and was a special occasion of jihad, which took place under the shadow of a tree where an oath of allegiance unto steadfastness and death was taken, and this bore the fruit of tranquillity and victory. This is what He (SWT), says:

‘Indeed, Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave their bay’ah (pledge) to you (O Muhammad) under the Tree, He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down As-Sakeenah (calmness and tranquillity) upon them; and He rewarded them with a close Victory; And abundant spoils that they will capture. And Allah is Ever All-Mighty, All-Wise.’

(Surat-al-Fath (48), ayah 18-19)

These, brother, are some examples of the Qur’anic references on jihad. Its virtues are made clear, and those who do jihad are given the good news of the magnificent reward that will be waiting for them. The Book of Allah is filled with examples like these, and anyone who reads the Qur’an and pays attention to its meaning will be astounded at the negligence of the Muslims who have failed to take advantage of this reward.

The Ahaadeeth on Jihad

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: ‘I heard the Prophet (PBUH) say:

‘By the One in whose Hands is my soul, had it not been for the limitation of resources which caused some of the companions to remain behind (much to their displeasure), I would not have prevented any group from striving in Allah’s way. And by the One in whose hand is my Soul, I wish I could be killed in the Way of Allah, then live again so that I may be killed again, then live again so that again I may be killed, then live again so that again I may be killed.’ (Transmitted by Al Bukhari and Muslim)

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘By the One in whose Hand is my Soul, no one is wounded in Allah's way, and Allah knows best who is wounded in His way, except that the colour of his wound appears on the day of judgement as the colour of blood and his scent appears as the scent of musk.’

On the authority of Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: ‘My paternal uncle Anas bin al Nadir was absent from the battle of Badr, and he said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I was absent from the first battle in which you fought the polytheists but if Allah provides me with a second opportunity to participate in a battle with the polytheists, then Allah will witness my actions!’ And when the Day of Uhud arrived and the Muslims retreated, he said: ‘O Allah, I ask you to forgive my brothers for their actions and I excuse myself from the actions of the polytheists!’ Then he rushed forward and met Sa'd bin Mu’aadh and said: ‘O Sa’d bin Mu’aadh, by Allah I smell its scent from below Uhud!’. Sa'd said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I could not do what he did.’ Anas said: ‘We found him with some eighty wounds either from swords, spears or arrows. We found him murdered and mutilated by the polytheists. No one recognised him except his sister, and even she recognised him by his fingers.’ Anas said: ‘We used to think, or suppose, that this verse came down concerning him and people like him: ‘Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah..’ up to the end of the verse (Surat al-Ahzaab (33), ayah 23).’. (Transmitted by Al Bukhari)

On the authority of Umm Haritha bint Suraaqah; she went to the Prophet (PBUH), and said: ‘O Prophet of Allah, can you tell me about Haritha (a stray arrow had struck him before the day of Badrý)? For if he is in Paradise, I will bear his loss patiently. But if he is not there, I shall weep for him’. He said:

‘O mother of Haritha, there are many gardens in Paradise and your son is in Firdaws (the highest level)...’ (reported by Al Bukhari)

Brother, see how Paradise made these companions forget their cares and misfortunes, and enabled them to persevere even through adversities.

On the authority of 'Abdullah bin Abi Awfa, may Allah be pleased with him,: ‘The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘Let it be known that Paradise lies in the shadows of the swords.’ (reported by the Al Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawud)

On the authority of Zayd bin Khalid al Juhani, may Allah be pleased with him: ‘The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘He who provides for a mujahid in the Way of Allah the Almighty, it is as if he himself has made jihad; and he who has supported the family of a mujahid with an act of goodness, it is as if he himself has made jihad.’ (Transmitted by Al Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud and Al-Tirmidhi) (that is to say he obtains the reward for it)

On the authority of Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘He who out of faith in Allah and a firm belief in His promise prepares a horse while waiting for jihad then its feeding and drinking and its dung are all in his favour on the day of Resurrection.’ (Transmitted by Al Bukhari)

This is, of course, true for all types of wealth (like the horse) given in the way of Allah:

On the authority of Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, it was said:

‘O Messenger of Allah, what is equal in reward to jihad in Allah's Way.’ He said: ‘You cannot do it.’ But they brought up the same thing before him two or three times more, and he said: ‘You cannot do it.’ Then he said: ‘The equal of the mujahid in Allah's way is he who fasts and stands in worship throughout the night reciting Allah's verses without becoming tired until the mujahid in Allah's way returns.’ (Transmitted by Al Bukhari, Muslim, An-Nisaa’i , Ibn Majah, and At Tirmidhi)

On the authority of Abu Sa’eed al Khudari, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘Shall I tell you who is the best of men and who is the worst? Among the best of men is he who is active in Allah's way on the back of his horse or camel, or on foot, until death comes to him. And among the worst of men is he who reads the Book of Allah Almighty, and remains unenlightened (he does not check himself, nor does he admonish and reprove himself).’ (Transmitted by An-Nisaa'i)

On the authority of Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: "I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say:

‘There are two eyes which the Fire shall not touch: the eye which wept for fear of Allah, and the eye which passed the night on guard in the way of Allah Almighty.’ (From At Tirmidhi)

On the authority of Abu ‘Umayra, May Allah be pleased with him who said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘It is dearer to me that I die in the Way of Allah than that if the entire wealth of the world were to become mine.’ (Transmitted by An Nisaa’i)

On the authority of Rashid ibn Sa’d, May Allah be pleased with him, on the authority of one of the companions, that a man said:

‘O Messenger of Allah, how is it that the believers will be put to the test in their graves, but the martyr is free?’ The Messenger said: ‘The glittering of swords over his head is a sufficient test for him!’ (Transmitted by An Nisaa’i)

On the authority of Abu Hurayra, May Allah be pleased with him: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘The martyr feels nothing more from the pain of slaughter than any one of you feels from the sting of a gnat.’ (Transmitted by At Tirmidhi, An Nisaa’i and Al Darmi. At Tirmidhi designates this as Hasan Gharib)

On the authority of Ibn Mas’ud, May Allah be pleased with him, who said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘Our Lord (SWT) is pleased with a man campaigning in Allah 's way, who, when his companions are driven back, and knowing that the odds are against him, nevertheless returns to the battlefield until he is killed. Then Allah says to the angels: "See how My servant returned to the battle field out of his desire for the reward that I provide and out of his fear from my punishments until he was killed. I call on you to witness that I have forgiven him.’

On the authority of ‘Abd al Khayr bin Thabit, on the authority of his father, on the authority of his grandfather, who said: "A woman came to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) named Umm Khalid, wearing a veil, in order to ask him about a son of hers who had been slain in the way of Allah Almighty....The Prophet of Allah (PBUH) said to her:

‘Your son has the reward of two martyrs.’ She asked: ‘Why?" He said: ‘Because he was killed by People of the Book.’ (Transmitted by Abu Dawud)

On the authority of Sahl bin Hunayf (May Allah be pleased with him): "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘He who asks Allah Almighty for martyrdom with sincerity, will be brought by Allah to the mansions of the martyrs, though he may die on his bed.’ (transmitted by Muslim, An Nisaa’i, Ibn Majah, and At Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud)

On the authority of Khuraym ibn Fatik, who said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘He who spends a sum in the way of Allah Almighty will have it accredited to his account seven hundred fold.’ (Transmitted by At-Tirmidhi, who classed it as hasan and also by An Nisaa’i).

On the authority of Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: "One of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) passed by a ravine in which there was a small fount of fresh water. He was greatly pleased by this, and said to himself: ‘What if I were to withdraw from mankind and live in this ravine?’ He mentioned this to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), who said:

‘Don't do it! When one of you takes his place in Allah's way, it is more excellent than if he prayed in his house for seventy years. Do you not wish for Allah to forgive you and bring you into Paradise? Campaign in Allah's way: he who fights in Allah's way mounted on a camel must necessarily enter Paradise.’ (Transmitted by At Tirmidhi.)

On the authority of Al-Miqdam ibn Ma’ad ibn Yakrib, who said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘The martyr possesses six distinctions with respect to Allah: he is forgiven, amongst the first to be forgiven; he is shown his place in Paradise; he is not punished in the Grave; he is secure from the supreme terror of the day of judgement; the crown of dignity is placed on his head, a single ruby of which is more precious than the entire world and all it contains; he is wedded to seventy-two of the women of heaven; and he may intercede for seventy of his relatives.’ (Transmitted by At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, may Allah Almighty be pleased with him, who said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘He who meets Allah with no trace of jihad on him will meet Allah with a flaw in him.’ (Transmitted by Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

On the authority of Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘He who seeks martyrdom sincerely will be granted it, though it may never touch him.’ (Transmitted by Muslim)

On the authority of Uthman ibn Affan, may Allah be pleased with him, on the authority of the Prophet (PBUH), who said:

‘He who keeps guard for one night in the way of Allah (SWT) will be credited with a thousand nights of fasting and standing in prayer.’ (Transmitted by Ibn Majah)

On the authority of Abul-Dardaa’, may Allah be pleased with him, "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘A campaign by sea is the equivalent of ten campaigns by land: he who is tossed about at sea is like one who wallows in his blood in the way of Allah (SWT).’ (Transmitted by Ibn Majah)

This tradition honours the sea campaign, and the ummah must proceed from this to protect its coastline and strengthen its fleet. This applies by analogy to the air as well, and Allah will increase the reward of those who campaign by air in His way many times over.

On the authority of Jabir ibn Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: "When Abd Allah bin ‘Amr bin Haram was slain on the Day of Uhud, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘O Jabir, shall I tell you what Allah (SWT) said to your father? I said: ‘Yes indeed!’ He said: ‘Allah speaks to no-one save from behind a veil, but He spoke to your father face-to-face, saying: "O My servant, ask of Me what thou wilt, and it shall be granted." He said: "O Lord, grant me life, that I may be slain for Thee for a second time!" He said: "But I have already decreed that they shall not return unto it." He said: "O Lord, let them know who are [left] behind me." So Allah (SWT) sent down these verses "Think not of those who are killed in the way of Allah as dead..." (Surat-aal-Imran (3), ayah 169) And so on up to the end of the verse. (Transmitted by Ibn Majah)

On the authority of Anas, on the authority of his father (may Allah be pleased with them), on the authority of the Prophet (PBUH), who said:

‘It is more pleasing to me to accompany a fighter in Allah's way and to help him on his journey, departing or returning, than this world and what it contains.’ (Transmitted by Ibn Majah)

On the authority of Abu Hurayra, who said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘Allah's guests are three: the mujahid, the haji, and the one who intends to perform umra.’ (Transmitted by Muslim)

On the authority of Abul-Dardaa’, who said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘The martyr will intercede on behalf of seventy of his family.’ (Transmitted by Abu Dawud)

On the authority of Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, who said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘When you deal in hidden Riba, and are fully occupied in your own life and give up jihad; Then Allah shall cover you with such disgrace, as would not be removed, until you would return to your religion again.’ (Transmitted by Ahmad and Abu Dawud, and attested as to its authenticity by Al-Hakim)

On the authority of Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, who said:

"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and his Companions set out in a hurry so that they reached Badr ahead of the polytheists. The polytheists arrived, and the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘Rise to the Paradise, whose width embraces the heavens and the earth!" Umayr bin al Humam said: ‘Hurrah!’ The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘What impels you to say "Hurrah! hurrah!" He said: ‘Nothing, O Messenger of Allah, except the hope that I may be one of its people.’ He said: ‘You are indeed one of its people.’"

He (Abu Hurayrah) said:

"And he [Umayr] took out some dates from his quiver and began eating them. Then he said: ‘If I live long enough to eat all my dates, my life will indeed be a long one!’ So he flung away the remaining dates, and fought until he was slain." Transmitted by Muslim.

On the authority of Abu Imran, who said:

"We were at the city of Rum, and they sent out a mighty regiment of Byzantinian soldiers against us. A like number of Muslims, and even more, came out against them. ‘Uqbah ibn Amir was at the head of the Egyptians, and Fadaala bin Ubayd was the head of the entire force. One of the Muslims rushed and attacked the Byzantinian regiment until he passed through it. The Muslims shouted and said: ‘Glory be to Allah! He has cast himself into annihilation!’ But Abu Ayyub al Ansari rose and said: ‘Men, you interpret this verse in this manner, but it was sent down concerning only us, the band of the Ansar. When Allah made Islam powerful and its defenders grew numerous, some of us said to others in secrecy, but not to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH): "We lost our wealth at the earlier periods, and then later Allah Almighty made Islam powerful and its defenders became many. What if we were to settle down to regain our lost wealth?" So God Almighty sent down an answer, rebutting what we had said, to His Prophet: ‘and make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction.’ (Surat al-Baqarah (2), ayah 195). The destruction referred to our settling down with our wealth, while working to increase it, and abandoning jihad. And Abu Ayyub continued in God's way until he was buried in the land of Rum." (Transmitted by Tirmidhi)

Notice, brother, that Abu Ayyub said this in his old age, he had passed the evening of life and entered into the night of life yet his spirit remained young while his faith yearned for the return of the might and the grandeur of Islam.

On the authority of Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, on the authority of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), that he said:

‘He who dies without having gone on campaign, and without having exhorted himself to do so, dies in a state of hypocrisy.’ (Transmitted by Muslim, Abu Dawud, and there are many reportings of the same meaning)

There are many precious Ahaadeeth on this subject which contain guidance or commandments regarding jihad. They are so numerous though that even a large book would not suffice to cover them. But otherwise "Al-’Ibrata Feema Warada ‘Anillahi wa Rasulihi fi al Ghazwu wal Jihad wal Hijra" (The Wisdom in What Was Transmitted in the Qur’an and Sunnah about Fighting, Jihad and Hijrah), by Hasan Sidiq Khan, who is specialised in this research, and "Mashari’ alAshwaq ila Masari’ al-’Ashaq wa Matheer al-Gharam ila Dar as-Salam" and what has come in the books of Ahaadeeth, in the sections on jihad, you will see a lot of good.

The Scholars on Jihad

I have just presented to you some verses from the Qur'an and the Noble Ahadith concerning the importance of jihad. Now I would like to present to you some of the opinions from jurisprudence of the Islamic Schools of Thought including some latter day authorities regarding the rules of jihad and the necessity for preparedness. From this we will come to realise how far the ummah has deviated in its practice of Islam as can be seen from the consensus of its scholars on the question of jihad.

The author of the "Majma' al-Anhar fi Sharh Multaqal-Abhar", in describing the rules of jihad according to the Hanafi School, said: "Jihad linguistically means to exert one's utmost effort in word and action; in the Sharee’ah it is the fighting of the unbelievers, and involves all possible efforts that are necessary to dismantle the power of the enemies of Islam including beating them, plundering their wealth, destroying their places of worship and smashing their idols. This means that jihad is to strive to the utmost to ensure the strength of Islam by such means as fighting those who fight you and the dhimmies (if they violate any of the terms of the treaty) and the apostates (who are the worst of unbelievers, for they disbelieved after they have affirmed their belief).

It is fard (obligatory) on us to fight with the enemies. The Imam must send a military expedition to the Dar-al-Harb every year at least once or twice, and the people must support him in this. If some of the people fulfil the obligation, the remainder are released from the obligation. If this fard kifayah (communal obligation) cannot be fulfilled by that group, then the responsibility lies with the closest adjacent group, and then the closest after that etc., and if the fard kifayah cannot be fulfilled except by all the people, it then becomes a fard ‘ayn (individual obligation), like prayer on everyone of the people. This obligation is by virtue of what He, the Almighty, said:

‘Then fight the polytheists...!’

(Surat at-Tawbah (9), ayah 5)

and by what the Prophet (PBUH) said:

‘Jihad is in effect until the Day of Judgement’

If the whole body [of believers] abandons it, they are in a state of sin’ (up to where the author of the book says: ‘If the enemy conquers any territory of Islam, or any regions of it, it becomes a fard ‘ayn, and the woman and the slave shall go forth without the permission of husband or master. In the same way, the child shall go forth without the permission of his parents, and the debtor without the permission of his creditor.’

And in the Kitab al Bahr:

‘Should a Muslim woman be captured in the East, it is incumbent on the people of the West to rescue her unless she is taken to the stronghold cities of the enemies, and it becomes impossible to free her.’

The author of the "Bulghat al-Salik li Aqrab al-Masalik fi Madhhab al-Imam Malik" said:

‘Jihad in Allah's way for the purpose of exalting Allah Almighty's Word every year is a fard kifayah. If some fulfil it, the remainder are absolved of it. It becomes specifically designated (i.e., it becomes a fard ‘ayn like prayer and fasting), when the Imam announces it and the enemy attacks the population of a specific region, whereupon it becomes obligatory on them and if this in sufficient then it becomes obligatory on those in their vicinity. In this case it becomes obligatory on the females and the slaves even though they may not have the permission of their husbands or their masters. It is also obligatory on the debtor even though the lender may not agree to it. It also becomes fard 'ayn on that individual who vows to engage in jihad. Parents have the right to forbid their child from taking part in it only under conditions of fard kifayah. And if a Muslim is held as a prisoner of war by enemies and he does not have enough money to pay to free himself, then it is obligatory on the others to secure his release, even if this requires all of the Muslims' wealth.’

And in Al-Minhaj of Imam Nawawi of the Shafi'i school:

‘Jihad during the time of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was a fard kifayah, though it is also alleged that it was a fard ‘ayn. Since then, there are two conditions relative to the unbelievers:

If they remain in their own territories, then jihad is not an obligation on all Muslims. As long as a sufficient number of Muslims undertake it, the remainder are released from this duty.

If they invade one of our territories, its population are obliged to repel them with all their force. If fighting is possible then fighting becomes an obligation. Every slave, poor person, son and debtor must prepare for war, even though they may not have permission.."

And in Al-Mughni of Ibn Qudama of the Hanbali school, who said:

‘Jihad is a fard kifayah. If a group of people engage in it, the remainder are released. It becomes a fard ‘ayn under three conditions:

If two armies meet and two lines of soldiers confront one another, those present are forbidden to leave the battlefield, and it becomes a fard ‘ayn on each one to remain at his station.

If the unbelievers attack a territory, it is a fard ‘ayn on its population to fight and repel them.

If the Imam calls a group of people to arms, then they must join his military forces. And he should at least announce Jihad once every year.’

Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said:

‘I know of nothing after the divine commandments more excellent than jihad, and campaigning by sea is more excellent than campaigning on land.’

Anas ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him! said:

‘The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was asleep. Then he awoke laughing, and Umm Haram said: "What makes you laugh, O Messenger of Allah?" He said: "People of my ummah embarked on a military campaign in Allah's way, riding on the surface of this sea as kings on their thrones,"

and at the end of the Tradition, Umm Haram asked the Prophet (PBUH) to beseech Allah on her behalf that she might be one of them. So he prayed for her, and she lived long enough to ride upon the sea in the Muslim fleet which conquered the island of Cyprus. She died and was buried there, may Allah be pleased with her.

And it says in Al-Muhalla of Ibn Hazm:

‘Jihad is obligatory on the Muslims, but if the borders of the Muslims can be protected, the enemy can be repelled and fought within his own territory then the remainder of the people are released from it. And if not, then the obligation remains. God Almighty said:

‘Go ye forth, (whether equipped) light or heavily, and strive and struggle, with your goods and your persons, in the Cause of Allah!’

(Surat at-Tawbah (9), ayah 41)

It is not permissible to participate in jihad without the permission of the parent. But if Muslim land is invaded, then it is obligatory on those who can help even if their parents do not grant them permission. However, it is not lawful for him to abandon his parents if his parents would suffer in his absence.

And Al-Shawkani said in Al-Sayl al-Jarrar:

‘The arguments regarding the jihad being a religious obligation, both in the Qur’an and in the Sunnah, are too numerous to be set down here. Nevertheless, it is a fard kifayah as long as some people are fulfilling this fard kifayah then the rest are absolved from the duty. Otherwise, it is an fard ‘ayn incumbent on every adult by law until the duty is fulfilled. Similarly, it is a fard ‘ayn also on those people who are ordered to jihad by the Imam.’

The scholarly people are of one opinion on this matter as should be evident and this is irrespective of whether these scholars were Mujtahideen or Muqalideen and it is irrespective of whether these scholars were salaf (early) or khalaf (late). They all agreed unanimously that jihad is a fard kifayah imposed upon the Islamic ummah in order to spread the Da’wah of Islam, and that jihad is a fard ‘ayn if an enemy attacks Muslim lands. Today, my brother, the Muslims as you know are forced to be subservient before others and are ruled by disbelievers. Our lands have been besieged, and our hurruma'at (personal possessions, respect, honour, dignity and privacy) violated. Our enemies are overlooking our affairs, and the rites of our din are under their jurisdiction. Yet still the Muslims fail to fulfil the responsibility of Da’wah that is on their shoulders. Hence in this situation it becomes the duty of each and every Muslim to make jihad. He should prepare himself mentally and physically such that when comes the decision of Allah, he will be ready.

I should not finish this discussion without mentioning to you that the Muslims, throughout every period of their history (before the present period of oppression in which their dignity has been lost) have never abandoned jihad nor did they ever become negligent in its performance, not even their religious authorities, mystics, craftsmen, etc. They were all always ready and prepared. For example, Abdullah ibn al Mubarak, a very learned and pious man, was a volunteer in jihad for most of his life, and 'Abdulwahid bin Zayd, a sufi and a devout man, was the same. And in his time, Shaqiq al Balkhi, the shaykh of the sufis encouraged his pupils towards jihad.

And Al Badr al Ayni, the commentator on Al Bukhari (scholar and muhaddith), would take part in jihad one year, study for one year and go on pilgrimage one year, while the judge Asad ibn al Furat of the Maliki School was an admiral in his day and Imam Shafi'i would shoot ten arrows and not miss once.

Such was the example set by the early generations of Muslims, may Allah's grace be upon them! My brother, how do we compare with them?

Why Do the Muslims Fight?

Islam allows jihad and permits war until the following Qur'anic verse is fulfilled:

‘We will we show them Our signs in the universe, and in their ownselves, until it becomes manifest to them that this (the Qur'an) is the truth.’

(Surat al-Fussilat (41), ayah 53)

People have for some time now ridiculed this but today these same people acknowledge that preparation for war is the surest way to peace! Allah did not ordain jihad for the Muslims so that it may be used as a tool of oppression or tyranny or so that it may be used by some to further their personal gains. Rather jihad is used to safeguard the mission of spreading Islam. This would guarantee peace and the means of implementing the Supreme Message. This is a responsibility which the Muslims bear, this Message guiding mankind to truth and justice. For Islam, even as it ordains jihad, it extols peace: the Blessed and Almighty said:

‘But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and (put your) trust in Allah.’

(Surat al-Anfal (8), ayah 61)

The Muslims in war had only one concern and this was to make the name of Allah Supreme, there was no room at all for any other objective. The wish for glory and reputation were forbidden to the Muslims. The love of wealth, the misappropriation of the benefits of war and striving to conquer through unjust methods are all made forbidden to the Muslim. Only one intention was possible and that was the offering of sacrifice and the taking of pains for the guidance of mankind.

On the authority of Al-Harith bin Muslim, on the authority of his father, who said:

‘The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) sent us on a military expedition. When we reached the area to be raided, I urged on my horse and got ahead of my companions. The people of that area met me with cries of lamentation, and I said to them: "If you say: ‘There is no god but Allah’ you are safe." So they said it. My companions reproached me and said: "You have prevented us from taking any spoils!" When we came back to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), they told him what I had done. He called me over and found what I had done praiseworthy. Then he said to me: "Allah Almighty has indeed decreed for you so much and so much reward for every human being." And he said: "I myself shall write something for you in the way of a bequest after my death." He did so, sealed it, and handed it over to me.’ (Transmitted by Abu Dawud.)

And on the authority of Shaddad bin al Hadi (may Allah be pleased with him):

‘A man of the [nomad] Arabs came and believed in the Prophet (PBUH). Then he said: "I shall emigrate with you." And the Prophet (PBUH) put him into the charge of some of his Companions. In a campaign the Prophet (PBUH) took some booty and this was divided up, and he gave him his share. And he [i.e., the Arab] said: "What is this?" He said: "I have apportioned it to you." He said: "It was not for this that I followed you; rather I followed you that I might be pierced here (and he motioned with his hand to his neck) with an arrow, and that I might die and enter Paradise." He said: "If you are truthful in what you have just said, then Allah will fulfil your desire." So they remained there for a space; then they rose to do battle with the enemy. He was carried over to the Prophet, having been struck with an arrow exactly where he had pointed. The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Is it he?" They said: "Yes." He said: "He was truthful in what he said, so Allah answered him." Then he was shrouded in the garment of the Prophet (PBUH), and he [i.e., the Prophet] walked before him and prayed over him. This is part of what he said in his prayer: "O Allah, this is your servant who went forth as an Emigrant in your way and was slain a martyr. And I am a witness unto it." (Transmitted by An-Nisaa'i)

On the authority of Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him:

‘A man said: "O Apostle of Allah, what of a man who wants to engage in jihad in Allah's way, but desires the goods of this world?" He said: "There is no reward for him." And he [i.e., the man] repeated this question to him three times, but he said: "There is no reward for him."’ (Transmitted by Abu Dawud)

On the authority of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, may Allah be pleased with him, who said:

‘The Apostle of Allah (PBUH) was asked about a man who fights courageously, one who fights zealously, and one who fights hypocritically. Which of these was in the way of Allah? He said: "He who fights so that Allah's Word is the most exalted is in Allah's way."’ (Transmitted in Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, An-Nisaa'i and Ibn Majah)

The companions’ (may Allah's grace be with them) behaviour in the battles and in the territories they conquered indicates the extent to which they abstained from indulging in their personal desires and cravings, and the extent of their dedication to their fundamental and original goal: the guidance of mankind to the truth until Allah's Word is the most exalted. The charge of some people who accuse the companions of being covetous of power and authority, desirous of grabbing countries and ascendancy or that a passion for earning a living was driving their activities is ludicrous.

Mercy in the Islamic Jihad

The Islamic jihad is the noblest of endeavours and its method of realisation is the most sublime and exalted. For Allah has forbidden aggression. He, the Almighty, has said:

‘But transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors.’

(Surat al-Baqarah (2), ayah 190)

and He commanded that justice be observed, even towards the enemy and the adversary. He, the Almighty, has said:

‘And let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety.’

(Surat al-Maa’idah (5), ayah 8)

Allah instructs the Muslims to act with the utmost mercy. For when they fight, they do not instigate hostilities, nor do they steal nor plunder property, nor do they violate someone's honour, nor do they indulge in wanton destruction. In their warfare they are the best of fighters, just as in peace they are the most excellent of peacemakers.

On the authority of Burayda, may Allah be pleased with him, who said:

‘Whenever the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) appointed a commander over an army or a band of raiders, he told him to remain conscious of Allah Almighty in his inward self and to remain concerned for the care of the Muslims who were with him. Then he [i.e., the Prophet] said: "Strive in the name of Allah in Allah's way! Fight those who disbelieve in Allah: campaign, but do not indulge in excesses, do not act treacherously, do not mutilate, and do not slay children."’ (Transmitted by Muslim.)

On the authority of Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, who said:

‘The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: "When one of you fights, let him avoid [striking] the face."’ (Transmitted by Bukhari and Muslim)

On the authority of Ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

‘The most self-restrained from amongst mankind even at the time of killing are the people of iman.’ (Transmitted by Abu Dawud)

On the authority of Abdullah bin Yazid al Ansari, may Allah be pleased with him, who said:

‘The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) forbade plundering and mutilation.’ (Transmitted by Al Bukhaari)

It is forbidden to slay women, children, and old people, to kill the wounded, or to disturb monks, hermits, and the peaceful who offer no resistance. Contrast this mercy with the murderous warfare of the ‘civilised’ people and their terrible atrocities! Compare their international law alongside this all-embracing, divinely ordained justice!

O Allah , bless the Muslims with a correct understanding of the deen, and save the world from these injustices with the enlightenment of Islam!

Associated Matters Concerning Jihad

Many Muslims today mistakenly believe that fighting the enemy is jihad asghar (a lesser jihad) and that fighting one's ego is jihad akbar (a greater jihad). The following narration [athar] is quoted as proof: "We have returned from the lesser jihad to embark on the greater jihad." They said: "What is the greater jihad?" He said: "The jihad of the heart, or the jihad against one's ego."

This narration is used by some to lessen the importance of fighting, to discourage any preparation for combat, and to deter any offering of jihad in Allah's way. This narration is not a saheeh (sound) tradition: The prominent muhaddith Al Hafiz ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said in the Tasdid al-Qaws:

‘It is well known and often repeated, and was a saying of Ibrahim ibn 'Abla.’

Al Hafiz Al Iraqi said in the Takhrij Ahadith al-Ahya’:

‘Al Bayhaqi transmitted it with a weak chain of narrators on the authority of Jabir, and Al Khatib transmitted it in his history on the authority of Jabir.’

Nevertheless, even if it were a sound tradition, it would never warrant abandoning jihad or preparing for it in order to rescue the territories of the Muslims and repel the attacks of the disbelievers. Let it be known that this narration simply emphasises the importance of struggling against one's ego so that Allah will be the sole purpose of everyone of our actions.

Other associated matters concerning jihad include commanding the good and forbidding the evil. It is said in the Hadeeth: "One of the greatest forms of jihad is to utter a word of truth in the presence of a tyrannical ruler." But nothing compares to the honour of shahadah kubra (the supreme martyrdom) or the reward that is waiting for the Mujahideen.


My brothers! The ummah that knows how to die a noble and honourable death is granted an exalted life in this world and eternal felicity in the next. Degradation and dishonour are the results of the love of this world and the fear of death. Therefore prepare for jihad and be the lovers of death. Life itself shall come searching after you.

My brother, you should know that one day you will face death and this ominous event can only occur once. If you suffer on this occasion in the way of Allah, it will be to your benefit in this world and your reward in the next. And remember brother that nothing can happen without the Will of Allah: ponder well what Allah, the Blessed, the Almighty, has said:

‘Then after the distress, He sent down security for you. Slumber overtook a party of you, while another party was thinking about themselves (as to how to save themselves, ignoring the others and the Prophet) and thought wrongly of Allah - the thought of ignorance. They said, "Have we any part in the affair?" Say you (O Muhammad): "Indeed the affair belongs wholly to Allah." They hide within themselves what they dare not reveal to you, saying: "If we had anything to do with the affair, none of us would have been killed here." Say: "Even if you had remained in your homes, those for whom death was decreed would certainly have gone forth to the place of their death: but that Allah might test what is in your hearts; and to purify that which was in your hearts (sins), and Allah is All-Knower of what is in (your) hearts."’

(Surat al-Imran (3), ayah 154)

You should yearn for an honourable death and you will gain perfect happiness. May Allah grant myself and yours the honour of martyrdom in His way!


Controversial issues about Jihad and Jihadist Extremism

Because of the political implications of the interpretation of Jihad, it is the subject of controversy both among Muslims and western scholars. A number of issues remain open questions or accusations:

1- Is the extremist interpretation "correct" according to the Quran and the Hadiths?

According to some views (eg Andrew Bostom and Professor Moshe Sharon), the Quran itself and Islamic tradition as exemplified in various Hadiths calls for holy war to conquer the world, for which they can find ample proof, which others refute. For example, the farewell address of the prophet, Muhammad, supposedly stated, "I was ordered to fight all men until they say, "There is no God but Allah." This could be interpreted as a call to Jihad until world dominion is achieved, or it could be interpreted as requiring combat only against idolaters, excluding "people of the book," Jews and Christians.

2- Is the extremist interpretation of Jihad correct according to modern Islamic practice?

There is no unanimity of opinion among Islamic scholars on this point. Some believe that Muslims are enjoined to fight only if threatened (defensive Jihad) or to regain lost territory that had once been part of "Dar al Islam," (the Muslim empire), others enjoin Muslims to be peaceable, while others follow the dictates of extremist theology exemplified by Hassan al-Banna and Qutb. Islamism/Jihadism has drawn opposition both from moderate Muslims and from Salafi fundamentalists.

3- What portion of the Muslim population accepts the extremist interpretation of Jihad?

Most authorities believe that "Jihadism" is accepted by only a small proportion of Muslims, perhaps 10 or 15%. The immense popularity of Jihadist leaders such as Osama Bin Laden and Hassan Nasrallah may contradict this belief, though many discount it as simply a protest sentiment.

Ami Isseroff

Revised December 20, 2008

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:   Qutb, Sayyid  History of Islam and the Arabs  Islamism Al-Banna, Hassan Maududi, Abul ala

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

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Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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