Thursday, November 7, 2013

JIHAD in Islam: Concept and Practice

Friday Sermon of 01 November 2013:

“O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be harsh upon them.” (9: 73).

This verse is a clear call to Jihad, but does not mention the taking of arms. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) indeed engaged in defensive wars against the non-believers of Makkah, but never took up arms against the hypocrites of Medina, even after their betrayal in the battle of Uhud. It is therefore clear that the above mentioned jihad is not the armed jihad. The term jihad is derived from Jahada which means making intense efforts to the ultimate limit (29: 6). Jihad is an important injunction for Muslims; it is mentioned in no less than 36 places in the Holy Quran.

Jihad, as it is apparent from reading the Holy Quran denotes three types of battles:

1) The battle against the self (nafs).
2) The battle against evil in all its forms.
3) The armed battle against the visible enemy.


We can differentiate between the three types of jihad by respectively calling them Jihad-i-Akbar (the supreme jihad), Jihad-i-Kabir (the greater jihad) and jihad-i-Saghir (the lesser jihad). The Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) believed that the Jihad-i-Akbar is the ultimate battle, the noblest and he said, to his troops upon returning from the campaign of Tabuk: “We have returned from the lesser Jihad to the greater Jihad”. In which sense did he say that?


Jihad-i-Akbar is the tireless struggle against oneself (our nafs), against one’s evil tendencies and inclinations. It is therefore not a battle of the State (the government), but specific to the individual struggle against his baser instincts, such as fornication, adultery, lying, dishonesty and materialism.

The state however has the obligation to help the citizen in this fight, by creating the conditions for the internal purification of the latter. It is the duty of the state to rid the social environment of any potential obstacle which can hinder the progress of the individual toward inner purity (e.g. alcoholic beverages, drugs, debauchery and gambling practices). The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said: purity is half of faith.

So do not obey the disbelievers, and strive against them with the Quran a great striving.” (25: 53).

In this verse, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was ordained to fight with the most powerful weapons, that is, the word of Allah, and this demonstrated the true purpose of Jihad-i-Kabir. It is a noble battle/fight, which is to explain the beauty of the teachings of the Holy Quran and to invite people to Islam. At individual level, it is a battle that cannot be successfully engaged except when the jihad-i-Akbar (struggle against the self) has been completed.

Incidentally and contrary to a widespread belief among non-Muslims, the believers were never asked to resort to arms for the propagation of Islam. Islam is full of convincing arguments and it would be a lowly thought as to think that it needs to be spread by force and coercion. Besides, the Quran itself is guarantor of freedom of worship.

“There should be no compulsion in religion” (2: 257).

Jihad-i-Saghir is the minor jihad, and it mainly concerns the State. Allah says in the Holy Quran: Permission (to fight) is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged and surely Allah has power to help them (22: 40).

There is consensus among scholars (interpreters of the Quran) that the verse 40 is the first verse in which permission was given to Muslims to resort to arms for their defence. Verse 40 uncovers the principle that a defensive war can be engaged, and it is this principle that led a handful of Muslim badly equipped (for war) to get into a conflict against a well-organized army of Mecca: because they have been treated unfairly and attacked.

A Dream pertaining to JIHAD

Therefore, in the heart of the context of the present sermon, I would like to mention an important dream seen by one of our brothers Wednesday morning before Fajr. It is not at all a coincidence that beforehand I decided to expound on Jihad for today’s sermon. Therefore Wednesday morning he made that dream. He related:

This morning, before I got up Namaz-e-Fajr, I saw myself in a dream, walking on the street outside our Mosque…, along with my wife. On the walk, we see there are others on the road, people who are inimical to us and want to finish us off, with their daggers. Although they are walking close by, they don't realise who I am. I have a glistening dagger in my hand, but they have the advantage of numbers and strategic angles, yet they are somehow not able to reach me because of an invisible field of separation/unseen barrier of protection and I walk forward, without even really looking behind to see that they are close by and could or should normally speaking, be able to do what they want to.

Scene 2: I see myself standing outside the Mosque on its courtyard, with a lot of shining Swords. Nearby is a vast field, in which preparations are afoot for a major war/battle against the enemy forces. I could identify my father, but there are large number of others as well in the team, and banners identify different troop formations of ours, one is clearly named “AL-AMIN” Forces; others have spiritually-infused names from the Qur’an itself. And we were all waiting for, with confidence and courage to take on, the enemies in battle, Alhamdulillah.

So we see from this dream that come what may, we have the duty to do Jihad, be it with ourselves, against our own nafs so as to purify ourselves and to thus receive the grace of Allah, and be it also at the level where we have to protect ourselves against the physical attacks which are made against us. In the case of physical attacks against us, therefore it is our duty to protect ourselves and our Jamaat, and it is in this way that the battles in Islam were waged in the time of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). He defended himself and the Religion and Ummah which Allah entrusted to him because the enemies used to physically attack them, to finish them off. Those enemies thought that by exterminating the Muslims they could succeed in finishing off Islam, but on the contrary, Allah came to the rescue of His prophet and his disciples and gave them the permission to fight so as to protect their lives and religion so as tomorrow, from generation to generation, Islam does not dim and fade, and verily it is never fade, in whatever way.

As for those who attain to physical martyrdom in these battles (Jihad-i-Saghir), therefore, they shall attain to elevated ranks, not because they killed the disbelievers, but because they gave their life to protect the prophet, Muslims like themselves and to protect their religion (Islam). The enemies wanted to finish them off, but when the help of Allah came, along with the angels, despite their few numbers, therefore the Muslims went from victory to victory, and all that the enemies stole from them, Allah returned them all that they lost, mundanely-speaking in the form of spoils of war. But verily, that which is with Allah and which is permanent is best for them, and it will be best for us also in the Jamaat Ul Sahih Al Islam to seek the eternal (that which is eternal), and come what may, if ever there is physical attacks upon us, and if Allah gives us the command to fight/ to retaliate against these people, then we shall do so.

The following Hadith explains to us the cases wherein there is no blame on us Muslims:

Hazrat Abu Huraira (ra) reported: A man came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and asked, “O Messenger of Allah! What shall I do if someone comes to me with the intention of taking away my property? He replied, “Do not hand over it to him.” The man asked, “What shall I do if he fights me?” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “Then fight him.” – “What will be my position in the Hereafter if he is to kill me?” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) replied, “In that case you are a martyr.” The man asked: “What if I killed him?” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) replied, “He will be in the Hell-fire.” (Muslim).

Therefore, we deduce from this Hadith that if a Muslim is not harming anyone, is at peace in his own home, and others come to seek a fight with him and harm or kill him, or to steal away his belongings, therefore the Noble Prophet (pbuh) gave clear instructions that we must protect our belongings (wealth), life and even our family and religion (Islam) against those who come forward to attack us first. This is what we call nowadays: Self-Defence.

But generally speaking, foremost, we must fight against our own selves, whereby we seek to purify ourselves and we propagate Islam, not by coercion and force but with solid arguments. Physical attacks has its place only when the enemies has cross all boundaries and when they are killing our Muslim brothers and sisters all because they are Muslims, and want to finish off Islam.

In my humble opinion, only is valid today, the jihad of the people of Palestine, Syria, Egypt, etc., because they were force in exile (expelled from their countries) and persecuted. Had the aggression of Iraq against Iran a defensive aim against the oppressor? With the dictators of this world, there can be no dialogue other than weapons. Still, it must be that in an Islamic setting, the permission is given by the supreme authority to engage in a holy war, and this authority cannot be other than the Caliph of Allah with a divine instruction and direction. Could you imagine, at the height of Islam, the outbreak of armed jihad without the permission of the Prophet (pbuh) or that of his caliphs, or his representatives in each era and the representatives of Allah who come in his Ummah?


We must admit that the Islamic world can only partly function without a divinely guided caliph. Either the community (Ummah) is headed by a caliph of Allah, who makes incumbent decisions based upon the requirements of the hour, or many things, including armed conflicts are simply prohibited in his absence. There is food for thought for those who want to reflect. Insha-Allah.

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