Diz2rb09’s Weblog

June 13, 2008, 11:03 am
Filed under: JIHAD

by Dr. Hussein Naguib
Member of MuslimBridges

  • Meaning of Jihad
  • Forms of Jihad
  • Islamic Rules of Engagement in Warfare
  • Some Misquoted Verses Regarding Islamic Warfare
  • References & Further Readings

Meaning of Jihad [1 & 2]

The Arabic word Jihad has a root verb: jahada, which in Arabic means exerting maximum efforts or striving. The theological connotation is striving for betterment. The other meanings are: endeavor, strain, exertion, diligence, fighting to defend one’s life, land and religion.

Jihad should not be confused with the term ‘Holy War” (Al Harb Al Moqadassah); the latter does not exist in Islamic terminology. There is no mention of a “holy war” in either the Quran or the Hadith (teachings of Prophet Muhammad) which are the primary sources of Islamic teachings. In fact the term holy war was introduced by the Crusades in their fighting against the Muslims to recaptured Jerusalem and the sacred “Holy Land” (1095-1291 AD).

Forms of Jihad [1 & 3]

Muslim scholars described different forms of Jihad fi sabilillah (struggle in the cause of God) including the followings:

  • Jihad of the soul/heart (jihad bin nafs/qalb) is an inner struggle of good against evil in one’s mind and within oneself for self improvements, elevation, purification and getting closer to God. This form of jihad is referred to by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as al-jihad al-akbar (the greater jihad).
  • Jihad by the tongue (jihad bil lisan) is struggle of good against evil through talks, dialogues, debates and speeches such as in the form of dawah (proselytizing), Khutbas (sermons) or lectures.
  • Jihad by the pen (jihad bil qalam) is the struggle for good against evil through scholarly study of Islam and ijtihad (legal reasoning) which is exerting maximum effort to drive solutions and rulings from the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, to be implemented in different and dynamically changing contexts. This form of jihad also covered scientific and medical studies to show the signs (ayatt) of God in His creatures and to use science in the service and betterment of human beings.
  • Jihad by the hand (jihad bil yad) is the struggle in the cause of God using economic power to uplift the conditions of the downtrodden, to finance the struggle for justice and liberation and to fund political activities for furthering the cause of Islam.
  • Jihad by the sword (jihad bis saif) referred to it as qital fi sabilillah (armed fighting in the cause of God) where people actually fight against oppression. This form of jihad is what referred to by Prophet Muhammad as al-jihad al-asghar (the lesser Jihad). The intention of the prophet was not to minimize the importance of jihad by the sword, if needed, but to maximize the importance of inner jihad or jihad al-nafs which is the struggle against lust and evil desires.

It is obvious that the concept of Jihad is too comprehensive to be reduced simply to “war” even if described erroneously as “holy”. The word jihad has been incorrectly translated or rather twisted in order to give the impression that Islam and Muslims are inclined towards violence, that they have a dark side.

Islamic Rules of Engagements in Warfare

  • Islam allows fighting only against those oppressors who attack Muslims to force them to convert away from their faith or to drive them out of their homelands.

“Permission to take up arms is hereby given to those who are attacked because they have been oppressed-Allah indeed has power to grant them victory* Those who have been unjustly driven from their homes, only because they said: “Our Lord is Allah” (22:39-40)

“And how could you refuse to fight in the cause of God and the utterly helpless men and women and children who are crying: O our Sustainer! Lead us forth (to freedom) out of this land whose people are oppressors…” (4:75)

“Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those (unbelievers) who do not fight you on account of your faith nor drove you out of your homelands. Verily Allah loves those who deal with full equity* God only forbids you to turn in friendship towards those who fight against you because of (your) faith, and drive you forth from your homelands, or help (others) in driving you forth; and as for those (from among you) who turn towards them in friendship, it is they, they are truly the wrongdoers” (60:8-9)

  • Islam strictly forbids aggression in the battle field and excesses of any kind

“And fight in God’s cause those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression for verily God does not love aggressors” (2:190)

This means that a) the distinction between combatants and non-combatants and respect for those who are no longer engaged in the battle-the dead, the wounded and the prisoners- and neutralization of medical personnel and supplies; and b) no use of treacherous means of weapons of mass and indiscriminate destruction.

  • The Prophet commanded that the life of civilians, foliage, livestock, clergy, and places of worship are to be protected. The same message was carried out by the Prophet’s successors. For example, we have the record of what Abou Bakr the first of the Rashidun Caliphs said to his army before they departed for battle [4]:

“Stop, O people! That I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the straight path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Do not kill a child, or a woman, or an elderly man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Do not slay any of the enemy’s folk, except for food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone”.

If the enemy inclines to peace, peace should be accepted, even at the risk of possible deception by the enemy.

“But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and (put your) trust in God, verily He is all-Hearing and all-Knowing* And if they intended to deceive you, then verily, God is all sufficient for you…” (8:61-62)

  • The dignity and sustenance of the prisoners of war should be guaranteed.

“And who give food-however great be their own want for it-unto the needy, the orphan and the captivity of war (saying in their hearts) ‘We feed you for the sake of God alone. We desire no recompense from you, or thanks'” (76:9-11)

  • Observance of treaties and pacts is stressed in the Quran. When some Muslims were still in Mecca and they could not migrate to Medina, the Quran stated:

“And to those who accepted faith but did not migrate (to Medina), you owe no duty of protection to them until they migrate; but if they seek your help in religion, it is your duty to help them except against people with whom you have a treaty of mutual alliance; and Allah is the all-Seer of what you do” (8:72)

  • Freedom of religion is fundamental to Islamic principles; therefore non-Muslims cannot be forced to accept Islam:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion; truth stands out clear from error; whoever rejects the powers of evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never breaks. And God hears and knows all things.” (2:256)

“If it has been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed (in God’s message), all those who are on earth. Will you then compel people against their will to believe? (10:99)

“And you (Muhammad) can by no means force them to believe; just remind them through the Quran such as they may fear my warnings” (50:45)

According to Islamic theology, no embracement of faith can be accepted by God unless it is meant intentionally through a free will, since this is the basis for judgment on the Day of Judgment [4]

Some Misquoted Verses Regarding Islamic Warfare

  • The fundamental principle applied to the interpretation of the Quran is that all of its statements and ordinances are mutually complementary and cannot be correctly understood unless they are considered as part of one integral whole.
  • Accordingly, all verses regarding fighting for the cause of God must be read in the context of the clear-cut Quranic rules of engagements that were described in the previous section.
  • Ignoring this fundamental principal, some verses of the Quran were incorrectly translated or misquoted to discredit Islam and Muslims by claiming that the Quran is advocating violence and hostilities against Non Muslims.
  • “Fighting is ordained for you though it is hateful unto you, but it may happen that you hate a thing that is good for you; and it may happen that you like a thing that is bad for you. God knows and you know not” (2:216)

This verse addresses the need for Muslims during Prophet Muhammad’s time to answer a draft. The Quran highlighted the fact that Muslims hated fighting. Yet, the newly formed Islamic state need to establish a defense force to be prepared against aggression.

  • “O you who have attained to faith! Do not take for you bosom-friends people who are not of your kind; they spare no effort to corrupt you; they would love to see you in distress. Vehement hatred has already come into the open out of their mouths, but what their hearts conceal is yet worse. We have indeed made the signs (thereof) clear into you, if you would but use your reason” (3:118).

The political and military situation at the time of revelation of this verse was such that the Muslims needed to be careful whom they trusted with their information. The verse does not forbid Muslims to show kindness and fairness to people who neither fought against them nor drove them out of their homes. The verse is intended to alert them during a state of war, particularly those who show signs of hatred and resentment.

  • “Those who have attained to faith fight in the cause of God, whereas those who are bent on denying the truth fight in the cause of the powers of evil. Fight, then, against those friends of Satan; verily, Satan’s guile is weak indeed!” (4:76).

This verse is related to the two preceding verses (see 4:74-75) where it was stated that those who fight for God’s cause would be rewarded whether they are victorious or slain. Fighting for God’s cause includes the libration of the oppressed, meaning the helpless men and women who are yearning and praying for freedom. The believers fight for God’s cause and the disbelievers fight for the sake of their idols. An idol may be taken conceptually. For example, evil or greed may figuratively be constructed as idols. The believers should put all of their trust in God Almighty and Powerful and fear not the disbelievers and their evil plans. Evil plans are always inferior to goodness.

  • “O you who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians for your allies; they are but allies of one another and whoever of you allies himself with them become one of them. Behold, God does not guide such wrong doers.” (5:51)

The term “your allies” is used to translate the Arabic word “awleya” which means protectors. In the environment of war Muslims who are under attack were admonished to seek their protection with God and to keep their community ware of the danger of leaking secrets that may benefit the enemy. So this is not an absolute permanent attitude. Otherwise it will contradict the permission of Islam to marry women from the People of the Book, which is relationship goes far beyond friendship or alliance.

  • “You will surely find that of all people, the most hostile to those who believe (in the divine writ) are the Jews and the Polytheists; and you will find the nearest of them in affection to the believers are those who say: ‘Behold we are Christians.’ That is because there are among them priests and monks and because they not arrogant.” (5:82)

Because of the oppression under the Mecca’s polytheists, some Muslims migrated to Abyssinia (currently Ethiopia), a Christian country. The Muslims had a chance to recite the Quran in the presence of the King, priests and monks whose eyes overflowed with tears because they recognized something of its truth. The King granted asylum to the Muslims. Meanwhile in Medina, the Jews showed hostility and hatred to the Muslims. The above verse (5:82) was revealed to compare the treatment of the Muslims by the Jews and the polytheists in one hand, and the Christians on the other hand. God reprimanded the Jews I Medina for allying themselves with polytheists over monotheists. Thus, this verse relates specifically to Christians and Jews in the context of that particular era. As a matter of fact, , history have shown that , with the exception of Palestine, the Jews generally have good relations with the Muslims while Christians waged crusades against Muslims and colonized Muslim lands and people [1].

  • “And fight against them until there is no more oppression and all worship is devoted to God alone. And if they desist-behold, God sees all that they do.” (8:39).

The people of Mecca prosecuted Muslims for thirteen years. After the migration of Muslims to Medina in the second year of higra (migration), the Battle of Badr took place between the Muslims and the Meccans. The Muslims won the battle and were directed in this verse to continue fighting them until they end the persecution and allow freedom of religion to worship God alone.

  • “Then, when the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. And take them captive, and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush, but if they repent and establish prayers and pay alms, then let them go their way. Verily God is forgiving, merciful.” (9:5).

According to pre-Islamic custom prevalent in Arabia, the months of Muharam, Rajab, Zul-Qa’dah and Zul-Hijjah were considered “sacred” in the sense that all tribal warfare had to cease during those months. It was with a view to preserving these periods of truce, and thus to promoting peace among the frequently warring tribes that the Quran did not revoke, but rather confirmed this ancient custom.  Read in conjunction with the two preceding verses (9:3-4) as well as with (2:190-194), the above verse (9:5) relates to warfare already in progress with people who have become guilty of a breach of treaty obligations and of aggression. One is inspired to note that even in this context of war, the verse concludes by emphasizing that the divine attributes of mercy and forgiveness.

  • “Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His messenger have forbidden and do not follow the religion of truth among the people of the scripture until they pay the exemption tax with a willing hand and have been humbled.” (9:29)

The term jizyah, translated as “exemption tax”, is intimately bound up with the concept of the Islamic state as an ideological organization [5]. In this Islamic state every able-bodied Muslim is obligated to take up arms in jihad (in a just war in God’s cause) whenever the freedom of his faith or the political safety of his community is imperiled, i.e. every able-bodied Muslim is liable to compulsory military service. Since this is primarily a religion obligation, non-Muslims citizens cannot in fairness be expected to assume a similar burden but their safety is statutorily assumed by the Muslim community. Thus, jizyah is no more or less than an exemption tax in lieu of military service and in compensation for the ‘covenant of protection’ accorded to such citizens by the Islamic sate. No fixed rate has been set either by the Quran or the Prophet for this tax. But based on all available traditions the jizyah is considerably lower than the tax called Zakah which Muslims are obligated to pay while non-Muslims are not obligated to pay. Only such of the non-Muslim citizens who, if they were Muslims, would be expected to serve in the armed forces of the state are liable to the payment of jizyah provided that they can easily afford it. Accordingly, non-Muslims exempted from jizyah tax include (a) all women, (b) males who have not yet reached full maturity, (c) old men, (d) all sick or crippled men, (e) priests and monks. All non-Muslims who volunteer for military service are obviously exempted from the payment of jizyah. If Non-Muslims refuse to pay this jizyah tax to the Islamic state and rebel against the state, then it is the obligation of the state to confront them until they pay it. The same goes for Muslims; if some do not pay the Zakah the state must confront them until they pay it.  This is what Caliph Abou Bakr did after the death of the Prophet when some people refuse to pay their Zakah [1].

  • “And fight against the polytheists collectively as they fight you collectively, and know that God is with those who are conscious of Him.” (9:36)

Wars against polytheists must follow the same divine rules of fighting for God’s cause described in the previous section. Once more the justifications for these wars are: (a) Fighting in self defense or in defense of others against those who try to drive Muslims out of their homelands; (b) Fighting in defense of freedom of religion; and (c) Fighting for the freedom of the oppressed and persecuted.

  • “O Prophet! Strive hard against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be firm with them, and their ultimate abode is Hell and what a miserable end.” (9:73)

This verse refers to the rebel tribes around Mecca who were rejecting any central authority and attacked the Muslims in a guerrilla war manner [1]. Be firm with them means do not compromise with them in matters of principle. Although the imperative is addressed in the first instance to the Prophet, it is considered to be morally binding on all believers [5].


June 11, 2008, 1:42 pm
Filed under: JIHAD
Guidance from the Holy Qur’an

Jihad – Supreme Efforts in the Way of Allah

Jihad means, exerting one’s utmost power contending with an object of disapprobation, and this is of three kinds, namely, (1) with a visible enemy, (2) with Satan, and (3) with one’s self.

The Quran teaches that when war breaks out, it should be waged in such a way as to cause the least possible amount of damage to life and property; and that hostilities should be brought to a close as quickly as possible.

22:40 Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged – and Allah indeed has power to help them -22:41 Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ – And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated. And Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah is indeed Powerful, Mighty –

60:9 Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable.

60:10 Allah only forbids you – respecting those who have fought against you on account of your religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and have helped others in driving you out, that you make friends of them, and whosoever makes friends of them-it is these that are the transgressors.

61:11 O ye who believe! shall I point out to you a bargain that will save you from a painful punishment?

61:12 That you believe in Allah and His Messenger, and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your persons. That is better for you, if you did not know.

29:70 And as for those who strive in Our path-We will surely guide them in Our ways. And verily Allah is with those who do good.

9:20 Those who believe and emigrate from their homes for the sake of God and strive in the cause of Allah with their property and their persons have the highest rank in the sight of Allah. And it is they who shall triumph.

9:111 Surely, Allah has purchased of the believers their persons and their property in return for the Garden they shall have; they fight in the cause of Allah, and they slay and are slain – a promise that He has made incumbent on Himself in the Torah, and the Gospel, and the Qur’an. And who is more faithful to his promise than Allah? Rejoice, then, in your bargain which you have made with Him; and that it is which is the supreme triumph.

4:96 Those of the believers who sit still, excepting the disabled ones, and those who strive in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their persons, are not equal. Allah has exalted in rank those who strive with their wealth and their persons above those who sit still. And to each Allah has promised good. And Allah has exalted those who strive above those who sit still, by a great reward.