An Exegesis on ‘Jihad in Islam’
[Author’s note: I apologize to the readers for writing such a lengthy essay on Jihad. Jihad is extremely serious matter in the Islamic history. There is abundance of valuable literatures depicting Islamic Jihad which I could not include in order to keep the size within limit. However, I tried my best to make it as plausible as possible by many important literatures dealing with Jihad. Some Islamists are trying to fool the western readers by their deceitful and elusive meanings of Jihad. I urge the readers to have patience to read the entire article in order to learn about the true meaning of Islamic Jihad.]
September Eleventh’s horrific episode has come as the big thunder out of the blue to strike the core meaning of Islam. Since then, Islamists were busy defending Islam, which according to them was hijacked by militant Islamists. For quite a while, they spent time in their futile efforts to make Islam a peaceful religion. Now they are busy again to give a wishful new meaning of Jihad. My today’s essay will be dedicated to explore the practical meaning and purpose of Islamic Jihad.
What is the meaning of Jihad?
The meaning of Jihad in the Webster Dictionary: is Holy war. The meaning of “Crusade” is also Holy war. Entire humanity knows—historically both “Jihad” and “Crusade” was soaked with blood. Now why then we are debating and trying to redefine Jihad at this juncture?
Now in the Arabic language the word “Jihad” literally means, “to strive,” and “to struggle.” Some Muslim scholars further classify Jihad into following categories: 1. Jihad-an-nafs or Jihad against one’s self; 2. Jihad ash-shaitaan or Jihad against Satan; 3. Jihad al-kuffar or Jihad against disbeliever; 4. Jihad al-munafiqeen or Jihad against hypocrites; 5. Jihad al-faasiqeen or Jihad against corrupt Muslims. Now, can we make people fool by these semantic loopholes of the various meanings of Jihad? Certainly not!
Honestly, I am not very much impressed by the various bookish meanings of the Arabic word “Jihad.” We know very well that in every language certain words may have many different meanings depending on its usage. That does not mean one can elude people the actual meaning of the word with some different meanings of a particular word. Because the word meaning is always understood by its practical or circumstantial use only. Consider the word Jihad that means struggle. This struggle may have various circumstantial effects. Struggle can be in your mind, in your own life, in your work, in your way to office with the traffic, or struggle may be fighting with the enemy. You can say: “I am fighting with my mind whether I should accept it or not,” or “I am fighting with my wife over the decision of changing our house” or you can say—“I am fighting a war with my enemy.” Now, a simple human being will see the meaning of the word “fight” (usual meaning of which is armed collision) varies greatly with it’s circumstantial use.
Sometimes the actual meaning of a particular word may even change by the circumstantial use. Consider the Perso-Indian (Urdu) word “Razakar” means “helper of King.” However, by its circumstantial and historical use, the meaning may have changed greatly. In 1971, Bangalee’s freedom struggle (War of Freedom or Muktijuddha) the Razakars killed, raped, and tortured millions of freedom loving Bangalees. Now, in Bangladesh, calling some body a Razakar is not salutary, but on the contrary it is an epithet or it is an outright demeaning, to put it mildly. If you call somebody Razakar, he may come to physically assault you. Why? The circumstantial and historical effects have changed the meaning and nuances of the word Razakar from helper to vile conspirator and Fifth Columnist. That is a valid reason why we must take the meaning of Jihad from its historical and circumstantial effects. I shall search for the meaning of the Jihad from its (a) History, (b) Qur’an referrals, (c) Hadiths’ mentioning of it, and (d) Historians and Islamic scholars interpretation of it.
A. Historical meaning of Jihad:
Historically, Jihad means Holly War (Dharma Juddha in Bangla). For 1400 years, Muslims always understood the meaning of Jihad as Islamic Holy War. Every Islamic scholar, Mullah, maulana, Imam, etc., of the whole world will agree with this meaning of Jihad. Technically, Jihad is war against non-Muslims (Jihad al-kuffar or Jihad against disbeliever; and Jihad al-munafiqeen or Jihad against hypocrites) only, since Muslims are forbidden to fight the Muslims. Hundreds of books were written by the Islamic scholars (Islamic Chintabid) on Jihad and everybody unanimously used the word Jihad as the religious war called holy war (Dharma Juddha). In the Islamic history, more than 80% of the texts are filled with Holy War (Jihad). Early Islam was spread in the Arabian Peninsula solely by holy wars (Jihad). Islam was propagated as a religion by series of wars/battles –both defensive as well as Offensive. As many as 78 historic battles were fought by the Prophet Muhammad himself. And out of 78, only one (battle of ditch) was defensive war, and the rest were simply offensive wars. Did Muslim soldiers go to Syria, Iran, and Egypt to fight defensive war? What about those great historical BATTLES – Battle of Oho’d, Battle of Bad’r, Battle of Khayber, signing of peace-pacts such as “Hudaibya Peace Pact,” etc.? Were those wars fought with the so-called struggle only? Alternatively, were those wars fought with the heart-piercing sharpened swords?
Prophet Mohammed and his successors initiated series of offensive wars against pagan Arabs, Jews, Christians, etc., to spread or to impose Islam by force as well as to seize the abundance (booty) of these lands. However, it was quite possible that there had been some small numbers of conversions by sheer greatness of Prophet himself or due to some other miracles. Nevertheless, a great majority was converted by force, and people of Arabia did not have freedom to choose. After Prophet Muhammad gained enough might in his force while in Medina, the tradition was to send an invitation of Islam to various Arab Tribes or countries. First, an invitation to pagans to accept Islam, then war against those who refuse to accept Islam. A typical invitation to the people of the book (Christians and Jews) was: “Embrace Islam, or pay the poll-tax (Ziziya), or fight to death.” Undoubtedly, the concept of an offensive war to spread the faith of Islam is a genuine Islamic concept: Holy War (Jihad) for the sake of God. I can write hundreds of pages of authentic Islamic history of wars in which tens of thousands of life was lost; tons of human bloods were shed.
Prophet Muhammad was injured seriously (lost some teeth) in one of those wars he fought relentlessly. Prophet’s uncle Amir Hamzah was killed and dismembered and his liver and heart were eaten by the wife of a pagan tribe leader Abu Sufian. Now may I ask what kind of so-called “struggle” might have caused these above misery? It was obviously by Jihad (Holy War) and not by any peaceful struggle, indeed.
B. What Qur’an Says about Jihad?
Jihad was mentioned in the Qur’an most frequently with the meaning of “warfare,” often coupled with “fi sabil Allah” (in the way of Allah). Jihad as warfare is a pivotal concern for the Qur’an, the Hadith and the Shari‘ah which we shall explore later in this essay.
All most all the hateful, coercive, intimidating and tempting verses in the Quran were made in respect to the Jihad—Holy war.
Important to note: Prophet Muhammad while he was in Mecca did not have too many supporters; hence, he was very weak in power compare to the Pagans. It was at that time he brought some soft verses (maximum one dozen in the whole Qur’an) which our hypocritical Islamists use them to elude the truth of Islam. But in Medina Muhammad quickly assumed both religious and political power and leadership over the whole Median community. It was at that time he brought all those harsh/hateful (several hundreds of them) Qur’anic verses just to incite his followers to fight.
In the Holy Qur’an one can find hundreds of verses (Ayats) which dictates to fight holy wars (Jihad) against non-Muslims infidels. Let me cite here a few of them:
Qur’an-(9:5): “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, And seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war) ; but if they repent (accept Islam) and establish regular prayers and practices regular charity then open the way for them; for God is oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”
Qur’an-(8:65): “ O Apostle ! Rouse the believers to the fight, if there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering , they will vanquish two hundred; if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the unbelievers; for these are a people without understanding.”
Quran-2:216: Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you
Qur’an-(2:191): “And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out………such is the reward of those who suppress faith.”
Qur’an-(9:29): “Fight those who believe not the Allah nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and his apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth even if they are the people of the book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”
Qur’an(48:20): “….Allah promises you much booty (spoils of war) that you will capture from the defeated infidels….”
Quran-8:38 “And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression”
Quran-8:12: I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them
Quran-8: 15,16: O ye who believe! when ye meet the Unbelievers in hostile array, never turn your backs to them. If any do turn his back to them on such a day – unless it be in a stratagem of war, or to retreat to a troop (of his own)- he draws on himself the wrath of Allah, and his abode is Hell,- an evil refuge (indeed)!
Quran-9:111: Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the
Qur’anQuran-9:73: O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them. Their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless journey’s end.
Quran-9:123: O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).
Quran-4:95: O ye who believe! Shall I show you a commerce that will save you from a painful doom? You should believe in Allah and His messenger, and should strive for the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is better for you, if ye did but know. … Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than those who sit (at home).
C. Jihad as per Hadiths:
Fighting for the Cause of Allah (Jihad) was sanctioned widely in sahi hadiths. Almost one-third of the fourth of nine volumes of Bukhari, Islam’s principal collector of Hadith, focused on jihad as physical war. There are thousands of sahi hadiths that simply talk about Jihad—the holy war in Islam. I cannot include them all in this short essay in order to keep to a minimum. I will only mention however some of them in this essay. The following are a few examples:
Sahi Bukhari# 35, page-102:
Prophet Muhammad (sa) narrated, “ He who is out at war Allah becomes the protector for him. Because, he only joins the fight when he put his solid belief upon Allah and his Apostle. Allah provides him wealth and much booty (Maal-e-goni-mat) with which he returns home. Or, place him in the paradise by making him a Shaheed (martyrdom).
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 46:
Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, “The example of a Mujahid in Allah’s Cause– and Allah knows better who really strives in His Cause—-is like a person who fasts and prays continuously. Allah guarantees that He will admit the Mujahid in His Cause into Paradise if he is killed, otherwise He will return him to his home safely with rewards and war booty (maal-e-gani-maat).”
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 53:
Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said, “Nobody who dies and finds good from Allah (in the Hereafter) would wish to come back to this world even if he were given the whole world and whatever is in it, except the martyr who, on seeing the superiority of martyrdom, would like to come back to the world and get killed again (in Allah’s Cause).”
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 48:
Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, “A single endeavor (of fighting) in Allah’s Cause in the afternoon or in the forenoon is better than all the world and whatever is in it. A place in Paradise as small as the bow or lash of one of you is better than all the world and whatever is in it. And if a houri from Paradise appeared to the people of the earth, she would fill the space between Heaven and the Earth with light and pleasant scent and her head cover is better than the world and whatever is in it.”
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 44:
Narrated Abu Huraira: A man came to Allah’s Apostle and said, “Instruct me as to such a deed as equals Jihad (in reward).” He replied, “I do not find such a deed.” Then he added, “Can you, while the Muslim fighter is in the battle-field, enter your mosque to perform prayers without cease and fast and never break your fast?” The man said, “But who can do that?” Abu- Huraira added, “The Mujahid (i.e. Muslim fighter) is rewarded even for the footsteps of his horse while it wanders bout (for grazing) tied in a long rope.”
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 49:
Narrated Samura: The Prophet said, “Last night two men came to me (in a dream) and made me ascend a tree and then admitted me into a better and superior house, better of which I have never seen. One of them said, ‘This house is the house of martyrs.”
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 50:
Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said, “A single endeavor (of fighting) in Allah’s Cause in the forenoon or in the afternoon is better than the world and whatever is in it.”
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 42:
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: Allah’s Apostle said, “There is no Hijra (i.e. migration) (from Mecca to Medina) after the Conquest (of Mecca), but Jihad and good intention remain; and if you are called (by the Muslim ruler) for fighting, go forth immediately.
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 54:
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “By Him in Whose Hands my life is! Were it not for some men amongst the believers who dislike to be left behind me and whom I cannot provide with means of conveyance, I would certainly never remain behind any Sariya’ (army-unit) setting out in Allah’s Cause. By Him in Whose Hands my life is! I would love to be martyred in Al1ah’s Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred.
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 55:
Narrated Anas bin Malik: Prophet of Allah said, “Zaid took the flag and was martyred, and then Ja’far took the flag and was martyred, and then ‘Abdullah bin Rawaha took the flag and was martyred too, and then Khalid bin Al-Walid took the flag though he was not appointed as a commander and Allah made him victorious.” The Prophet further added, “It would not please us to have them with us.” Aiyub, a sub-narrator, added, “Or the Prophet, shedding tears, said, ‘It would not p ease them to be with us.”
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 61:
My uncle Anas bin An-Nadr was absent from the Battle of Badr. He said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I was absent from the first battle you fought against the pagans. (By Allah) if Allah gives me a chance to fight the pagans, no doubt. Allah will see how (bravely) I will fight.” On the day of Uhud when the Muslims turned their backs and fled, he said, “O Allah! I apologize to You for what these (i.e. his companions) have done, and I denounce what these (i.e. the pagans) have done.” Then he advanced and Sad bin Muadh met him. He said “O Sad bin Muadh ! By the Lord of An-Nadr, Paradise! I am smelling its aroma coming from before (the mountain of) Uhud,” Later on Sad said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I cannot achieve or do what he (i.e. Anas bin An-Nadr) did. We found more than eighty wounds by swords and arrows on his body. We found him dead and his body was mutilated so badly that none except his sister could recognize him by his fingers.”
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 63:
Narrated Al-Bara: A man whose face was covered with an iron mask (i.e. clad in armor) came to the Prophet and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Shall I fight or embrace Islam first? “The Prophet said, “Embrace Islam first and then fight.” So he embraced Islam, and was martyred. Allah’s Apostle said, A Little work, but a great reward. “(He did very little (after embracing Islam), but he will be rewarded in abundance).”
Sahi Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 64:
Narrated Anas bin Malik: Um Ar-Rubai’bint Al-Bara’, the mother of Hartha bin Suraqa came to the Prophet and said, “O Allah’s Prophet! Will you tell me about Hartha?” Hartha has been killed (i.e. martyred) on the day of Badr with an arrow thrown by an unidentified person. She added, “If he is in Paradise, I will be patient; otherwise, I will weep bitterly for him.” He said, “O mother of Hartha! There are Gardens in Paradise and your son got the Firdausal-ala (i.e. the best place in Paradise).” [What could be a bigger bluffing and exploitation of a poor ignorant mother (who lost her son in Jihad) by our merciful Prophet?]
Mishkat al-Masabih, trans. by James Robson (Lahore: Ashraf, 1975) Vol. 1:807.
Abu ‘Abs reported God’s messenger as saying, “No man whose feet become dusty in God’s path will be touched by hell.” Bukhari transmitted it.
Mishkat al-Masabih, Vol. 1:814.
Al-Miqdam b. Madikarib reported God’s messenger as saying, “The martyr receives six good things from God: he is forgiven at the first shedding of his blood, he is shown his abode in paradise, he is preserved from the punishment in the grave, he is kept safe from the greatest terror, he has placed on his head the crown of honour a ruby which is better than the world and what it contains, he is married to seventy-two wives of the maidens with large dark eyes, and is made intercessor for seventy of his relatives.” Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah transmitted it.