Jihad: Perception & Reality

Lecture by: Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
Edited and summarized by: Muhammad Farooq Rana

Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri spoke on the issue in the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in November 2010. Here we present the summary of his lecture to our readers.

The extremists and terrorists have hijacked certain terms and expressions that suit their purpose. The word Jihad is the most exploited one. They misinterpret these words to radicalize the Muslim youth in particular, and other Muslims in general. They also supply radical and extremist meanings to some of the verses of the Qur’an and traditions of the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). They take them out of context, and misuse and misapply them. So those who are influenced by them parrot some verses and traditions for frequent use and employ words like Jihad, martyrdom, Khilafa, of Islam, Dar al-Harb, Dar al-Islam to assure the people of their deep affinity to Islam. And by putting these terms together, they have developed an ideology declaring it true Islam claiming that it originates from the texts of the Qur’an and the texts of the traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him). But in truth, this is the ideology of terrorists and extremists and has absolutely no link or relation with Islam and Islamic teachings and the classical interpretations of Islamic authorities. So the crux of our talk is that this concept is totally a wrong accusation against Islam.

When the word Jihad is uttered or heard, the image of fighting and killing automatically comes to mind because that is what they do and call it Jihad; their wrong actions and wrong interpretations supply this word the same meanings. This causes disrepute to Islam and distorts its identity. It must, therefore, be made clear that the term ‘jihad’ does not denote or connote any kind of fighting, combating, torturing or killing. On the contrary, it means extreme exertion, effort, and struggle for a good cause.

There are, in total, 36 verses of the Holy Qur’an, where the word ‘jihad and its derivatives such as jahada, jaahada, yujahid or yujahiduna have been used, including the commandment of jihad. Out of these 36 verses, 31 verses have absolutely no mention of fighting anywhere, neither in the text nor context. There are three ways of deriving the meaning or significance of a particular command in a verse. You understand certain commandment, teaching or prohibition either from the text of a verse, or its context, or historical context—what were the circumstances when this commandment was revealed, on what date, in which year, and the particular situation, and what was the historical background of the text, context or historical background in which 31 verses out of 36 do not make any direct or indirect mention of the commandments of jihad, not even the defensive war, or a fair or lawful war. There is absolutely no mention of fighting or combating.

I would like to explain one thing before moving ahead. Keep in mind that there is not a single verse in the Holy Qur’an, from the first chapter to the last, which contains, in the text of the same verse, two commandments, jihad and qital, together. The word qital means fighting and combating. As for ‘jihad’, it is used in a broad perspective. So jihad and qital (fighting) have never been used even in a single text anywhere in the Holy Qur’an. Meanwhile, according to the Qur’an, jihad does not necessarily mean fighting even for self-defence; it does not necessarily mean it. Unfortunately, this term has been hijacked by the radicals, the extremists and terrorists, and they have applied it wrongly for their own criminal and terrorist activities of mass killing.

Now, after giving the description of 31 verses, which do not mention fighting at all, I now explain the remaining five verses out of 36. These five verses do not contain any reference to fighting and using the word ‘jihad’ in the text, but there is a reference to lawful fighting, defensive war, and just and lawful war of defense. This is mentioned just in the context of five verses. I am very specific. Now we come to the chapter nine, Sura al-Tawba of the Holy Qur’an. There are only two places in this chapter containing the five verses where there is a contextual reference to the lawful fighting using the word ‘jihad’.

The next very important aspect in this regard is that when qital, the lawful fighting, was allowed for self-defense, the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) had spent 13 years of his life in Mecca. This period was full of cruelty, violence, militancy, terrorism, killing and persecution against the Muslims. They were a very weak minority, but in spite of all these injustices and atrocities, patience was the command of the Qur’an, and the Muslims were not allowed, including the Prophet of Islam and His companions, to take up arms against cruelty, oppression and aggression. There was no self-defense and no resistance against torture, brutality, cruelty and tyranny; it was a rock-solid display of patience for long 13 years. It was after his migration to Medina when the verses about lawful defensive fighting were revealed. In Mecca, taking up arms was prohibited. Standing up for your own defence as a matter of resistance against oppression was prohibited. There was no permission for self defense even at that particular time when the verses of jihad were there. I would just quote the reference for your further studies. The verses revealed in the Holy Qur’an in Meccan time are: al-Furqan, verse 52, al-‘Ankabut, verse 6, al-‘Ankabut, verse 8, al-‘Ankabut, verse 69 and Luqman, verse 15. I just quote as a reference one or two of them. The Holy Qur’an says:

وَمَن جَـٰهَدَ فَإِنَّمَا يُجَـٰهِدُ لِنَفْسِهِ.

And whoever strives hard (for the cause of Truth) strives for his own (benefit). (al-‘Ankabut, 29:6)

It is stated:

وَجَـٰهِدْهُم بِهِ جِهَادًا كَبِيرًا.

And launch a large-scale struggle against them by means of (logic and preaching of the Qur’an). (al-Furqan, 26:52)

You should perform great jihad. So major jihad or great jihad was the command of Almighty God in Mecca, when Muslims were not allowed to take up arms and stand up in self-defense; they were not allowed to resist against the oppression. Even then the commandments of great jihad were there in Mecca. This is sufficient evidence to establish that jihad does not necessarily include even the war of defense. Although it is included in the broader term of jihad, yet it does not necessarily mean that. Jihad was revealed much earlier than the command of the permission of war in self-defense. So if this is the case, then we have to understand what jihad means. When this is a commandment revealed in Meccan period where resistance against oppression was prohibited— that you are not allowed to raise the arms, then what was the meaning of jihad in Qur’an? The same meanings continue to date.

Kinds of jihad

As for meaning of Jihad, it has five dimensions.

The first meaning of the greatest of jihad actions connote spiritual dimension. It is known as jihad bi al-Nafs—your struggle for self-purification. It is a fight against the evil desires of your lower self, to purify your inner self, to make one a good moral and ethical personality who could work for the sake of Allah, get rid of arrogance, greed, lies, aggression, aggressive attitude, negative propensities and who could work for the betterment of human society and purify his inner self too. This is purely spiritual dimension, which has no link with arms.

The second dimension of its meaning is academic and intellectual. On intellectual plane, it is ijtihad; and mujtahid is a scholar, a great jurist, an expert of juristic sciences who can derive and deduct legal values and meanings from the bases, and can apply it in accordance with the changes and newly emerging situation of modern time. So in this dimension of jihad, mujtahid is he who connects the old with the new, and the past with the future through academic, intellectual and juristic efforts. Purely an academic and juristic work is jihad bi al-‘Ilm and jihad bi al-Fiqh.

The third one is the social dimension and this is jihad bi al-‘Aml. This can be political. This can be social. This can be cultural. This can be educational and, in a way, this is for the social reforms of society, to purify society of social evils, and to eradicate corruption. This deals with all kinds of evil attitudes individually at first level and collectively at this third level. So the work for social and political reforms, democratic struggle, political struggle, and peaceful struggle comes within the range or ambit of jihad bi al-Qawl, i.e., al-amr bi al-ma‘ruf wa al-nahy ‘an al-munkar to promote the good and to abstain from evil. This is social dimension.

The fourth dimension is jihad bi al-Mal. It is financial dimension of the word ‘jihad’ and concept jihad. This is just an act of charity and Qur’an has emphasized particularly in two areas of jihad. The first jihad bi al-Nafs, the purification of lower self, the spiritual one and the second is socio-economic and financial jihad. The Holy Qur’an has emphasized these two and there is a full-fledged chapter of the Holy Qur’an, which explains this concept and it is said that even negation of act of charity is negation of Din, the total sum of Din. It is spending money to remove economic misery of the poor, spending your own economic resources to provide ease to eliminate the poverty from the society. This is exactly the work, which is done by the charitable organizations, western countries, the Muslim countries, by the UN whatever, to help humanity and take it out of the financial crises. It is the struggle for the equal distribution of wealth and the provision of all facilities and the privileges of life as human beings. This is jihad. So the Qur’an says:

أَرَءَيْتَ ٱلَّذِى يُكَذِّبُ بِٱلدِّينِ. فَذَالِكَ ٱلَّذِى يَدُعُّ ٱلْيَتِيمَ. وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ ٱلْمِسْكِينِ.

Have you seen him who denies the Din (Religion)? So he is the one who pushes away the orphan (i.e., rejects the needs of the orphans and deprives them of their right), And does not promote the cause of feeding the poor (i.e., does not strive to end the economic exploitation of the poor and the needy). (al-Ma‘un, 107:1-3)

Those people who do not work for their economic betterment and welfare are the people who are the nullifiers of the faith. So this act of charity is jihad bil-Mal. This is one of the best jihads.

And the fifth dimension is the defensive dimension. This relates to the defensive war when you are attacked. Then there is a war of self-defense, and a defensive war. As a student of law and as a humble student of international law, I can say and declare this fact with full confidence as far as my studies throughout my life are concerned that I have not seen a minor difference between a lawful war or jihad and a war which is known as qital. According to Islam and the definitions and the conditions given by the UN charter, it is exactly the same concept and same definition with same conditions; there is no difference. The only difference is the term or the word ‘jihad’ or ‘qital’ is used in Arabic language and we say just wars and lawful wars derived from the time of Aristotle till today’s UN charter. Throughout the history, the concept of just wars and lawful wars has existed continuously in every era. This is the defensive dimension of jihad.

When the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) migrated to Medina, two verses were revealed in order to provide the permission of lawful war in self-defense. The first was revealed in the first year of migration. So these are the two verses where the commandments of fighting are available. There are further clauses and two basic articles, which provide the permission of fighting i.e. one is in Sura al-Hajj, verse no. 39; the words are:  أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَـٰتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُواْ.. It is stated that now the permission is granted to pick up the arms to fight against those who have already imposed war on you because you have been wronged and because an act of aggression has been committed against you. So, today the permission is given to you to fight a war for your self-defense. This is the first verse. Look at the words udhina, permission is granted, lilladhina only to those, yuqatiluna against whose aggression and war has already been imposed; bi annahum zulimu, because they have faced an act of aggression, militancy, terrorism, killing, and the act of attack has been already committed on them. So now they can resist the attackers for their self defense. This is the foundational article of jihad meaning of qital. I mean self-defense. This has nothing to do with the four meanings I have already explained.

War is the right of state

This is very interesting point which I have elaborated here. Very few scholars would have mentioned it. When the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was in Mecca, there was no Islamic state there. Nobody was allowed to take up arms for an armed conflict. When he migrated to Medina, Islamic state came into existence. He was the head of the state elected through the constitution. He established an alliance with the Jewish tribe, and with their support, he was selected and appointed as the head of the state and promulgated the first constitution of Medina. Since the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was the head of state, rising against the oppression was allowed and the defensive war was permitted because the state was already there. So this difference between Mecca and Medina explains the fact that, in any case, if it is a defensive war, no person, no organization and no community can take up arms individually. None of them is allowed to launch a defensive war.

War is a privilege and a prerogative or a lawful right of a state. No organization and no person has any authority or privilege to start a war and declare its terrorist acts as jihad. Since it was not done by the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) and his Companions, how can it be legalized or considered legitimate for an organization that exists nowadays and claim its criminal and terrorist activities as jihad. It is totally against the teachings, practice and the conduct of the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him).

The second verse, which is the foundation of second article, was revealed. This foundational article of jihad means qital. The word ‘qital’ has been used as lawful, just and defensive war in Sura al-Baqara, the Medinan chapter verse 190. The words are: wa qatilu. Sometimes people take a few words from the verse, and sometime they take the verse out of the context and use specific words for their own meanings. They may be Muslims or some of the western scholars and orientalists who do not have full grasp and comprehensive command on the subject. So the Qur’an says:

وَقَـٰتِلُواْ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّذِينَ يُقَـٰتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوۤاْ‌ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُعْتَدِينَ.

This is the second foundation. This was revealed in 7th year of migration. It means that twenty years had already passed after the promulgation of Islam, and the commencement of the revelation of the Qur’an—13 years of Meccan and 7 years of Medinan period. 20 years had passed when the command of defensive war was revealed. At that time, only three years were left of Holy Prophet’s life. When the treaty of peace was breached by the Meccans, only as a result of the breach of treaty of peace, treaty of Hudaybiyya, which was a ten year no war agreement. The no war pact for ten years was done and signed by the Meccans and Medinans. The Meccans breached that treaty of peace within one year. This was the historical background when the war for defense was allowed for the Muslims, and whenever there was a war of defense, it was fought by the state. It was between states. The word ‘in the way of Allah’ is misused and misinterpreted and exploited; where it is said  فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ, in the way of Allah, it means for a just cause, and not for expansionist objectives. You may fight with those  ٱلَّذِينَ يُقَـٰتِلُونَكُمْ, who are already fighting against you and imposed war on you. So fight in defense.  وَلَا تَعْتَدُوۤاْ —and even in war of defense, you are not allowed to transgress the limits, for transgression is prohibited. Transgression means that even in the event of war, in the battlefield, you cannot kill women. This is categorically narrated in Bukhari, Muslim and dozens of other books of Hadith. These references can be found in my book Fatwa on Suicide Bombings and Terrorism. So you cannot kill women during war; you cannot kill children, kids, the priests, pastors, bishops, and religious leaders of the Jewish or Christian or other faiths. You cannot kill farmers, agriculturists and growers. You can't kill the business community because they are lynchpin of economy, and provide livelihood to society. You can’t kill traders, diplomats and ambassadors. They are categorical injunction of Holy Prophet, not only in one single book but in hundreds of books and hadith reports. The classical literature is full of these references and the same was the practice of the rightly guided caliphs. You cannot demolish the churches and houses; and you cannot burn houses. You cannot kill animals except for need of food even during war in the land of your enemy. You can't attack the civilian people. You can't attack non- combatants. These are the rules of the lawful war, and lawful jihad. All classical authorities whether Hanafis, Malikies, Shafi‘ies, or Hanbalies or Ja‘faries, enjoy consensus on this point during the history of 1400 years. So no one is allowed to attack the non-combatants even in war. You are not allowed to kill the non- combatant, and civilians who belong to a state or country against which you are fighting and they are fighting against you.

So there is neither any justification nor approval for suicide bombings or killing civilian population, terrorist attacks on civilian population, on embassies, and kidnapping them and killing them. All these acts are criminal acts, anti-Islamic and anti-Qur’anic acts, but unfortunately, the extremists and terrorists have hijacked the Islamic teachings. They create news and news shape minds. Then views on the news make a mindset. So concluding this aspect, fighting in self-defense or fighting against aggression and persecution is very important. That is lawful fighting in defense and should be in just proportion  وَلَا تَعْتَدُوۤا. You cannot transgress limits. There should be a just proportionality and a moral conduct of war, as I mentioned some of the things. The categorical letters and instructions were issued in written form by the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) and by the Caliphs that these things are prohibited. Fighting for the restoration of peace and harmony is what constitutes a just war. And in spite of war, truces and treaties of peace are to be honored. According to the Qur’an and Sunna, the Muslims were neither allowed then nor today to break or to breach the truces and treaties of peace in any case. These were the main conditions.

Verse of the Sword

And now a very important thing— there is another confusion which is normally and frequently used by the terrorists, the extremist people—they quote a verse from Sura al-Tawba, chapter 9, verse 5. The same verse has created some confusion in the minds of some western authors and writers too. This is  آيَةُ السَّيْف, the verse of sword. There are references from 70 to 120 verses that ban taking up arms in Meccan period when the permission of self-defense was accorded. The extremist people, the terrorist people and some of the western writers who are again confused and have no clarity on the subject, say that this verse of Sura al-Tawba, verse 5 آيَةُ السَّيْف repealed all verses which were revealed for self defense and that this enjoined just to kill the non-Muslims.

The terrorists exploit the meaning of this verse, take it out of context, and misinterpret it. So I want to clarify this misunderstanding from both the sides, the Muslims and the western side. I am analyzing this verse of sword. This is verse number 5 chapter 9. So we have to be very clear that we can't segregate or isolate a particular verse, taking it out of the context and then interpreting it in its physic situation. We have to try to understand every single verse in full context of the Qur’an and in the historical background in which it was revealed. So this is a verse in chapter 9 known as Sura al-Bara’a and Sura al-Toba. This is a chapter of renunciation, absolution and this was revealed in 9th year of Hijra. That’s why they say this is the last verse and this has repealed all verses of peace and commandments of treaties and commandments of self defense. This is the biggest misunderstanding. The terrorist are using this verse, which is the biggest silly argument used by them. This whole chapter of war was revealed in 9th year of migration and its first word is that the treaty of peace which was signed in Hudayibiyya in the 6th year of Hijrah and the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) went there with 1400 Companions and was not allowed to enter Mecca.

This situation concluded on a treaty of peace, a truce. So there was a specific condition, a written article in that treaty that neither Mecca nor Medina would attack each other nor their allies and none of these two states would be allowed to help any ally in order to attack Medina or attack the ally of Medina. In the same way, Medina would not be allowed to help their allies to attack any ally of Mecca. So this was the comprehensive treaty for ten years. What happened soon after this treaty? There was Banu Bakr, a very big tribe, among the allies of Meccans and there was a big tribe Banu Khuza‘a, it was the ally of Medinans. So Banu Bakr attacked the Banu Khuza‘a and committed a great act of killing and massacre and the Meccans provided them with arms, money and physically participated in this attack and killing. So the Meccans breached the treaty of peace by this attack and a collective act of killing of the tribe Banu Khuza‘a. So the treaty of Hudaybiyya stood nullified and came to naught as a result. This chapter 9 was revealed in this historical context to announce, till this time that the breach of treaty was committed by the Meccans.

The Qur’an is declaring annulment or renunciation that treaty of peace which was done in Hudaybiyya under which both sides were bound and held responsible not to war against each other or against their allies now  بَرَأَةٌ مِّنَ اللهِ وَرَسُوْلِهِ,. God and His Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) are announcing that the treaty has been cancelled and there is no liability on both sides. This is an announcement of no liability remaining after the breach has taken place by the Meccans. This was the whole Sura.

The next verse is important  وَأَذَانٌ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ. Then God commanded the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) since the treaty has been breached so there should be no warfare unless it should be properly and publically announced. So second verse and third verse include the public announcement of the breach of the treaty and both parties have come out of their responsibilities because the Meccans breached the treaty. Second verse is  وَأَذَانٌ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ, so it is announced that the treaty is no more in existence. It is stated that those who have breached the treaty and still there are some tribes who were allies of Meccans, they have not yet breached their allies. So Qur’an says:

إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ عَـٰهَدتُّم مِّنَ ٱلْمُشْرِكِينَ.

So the treaty of peace would remain intact for the tribes who are peace-loving and have not participated in the breach. Medina will honour the treaty with them. This was the third article. Then forth article was that only those Meccans and allies who initiated war against Medina and Medinan allies have particularly breached the treaty, so this renunciation and annulment of treaty would affect only their position. They would no more be under guarantee because they have breached a pact. In verse number 4 and 5 that ultimatum was given even after breach of trust that we will not fight against you in spite of your breach; four month ultimatum was given  فَإِذَا ٱنسَلَخَ ٱلْأَشْهُرُ ٱلْحُرُمُ and in Qur’an it comes  مِنْهَا اَرْبَعَةٌ اَحْرُم four months were given to them as ultimatum. Those who abuse human rights and violate the treaties of peace, ultimatum of four months was given and stated that we are giving you the period of four months so that you may return to peace. You may restore peace and revise your policy. If the treaty of peace is restored and policy of peace is again made, these four months are given for peace making. Even after four months, if you don’t revise the policy, still you prepare attacking us. Then this verse number 5, the verse of sword, revealed: then you are allowed to fight them in self-defense. Some people among the terrorists think and there is some misunderstanding in the west as well. They think that this verse repealed all verses communicated before. This is wrong. This verse did not repeal any verse. This verse just repealed the treaties which were already breached by the Meccans. All commandments of the Qur’an remain intact and this is reported by ‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Abbas. So does al-Dahhak b. Mihsan. ‘Ali b. Talha say the same thing. They say that this verse of sword elaborates that you cannot take up sword against those people who have not breached the treaty of peace.

So it was still for those who are peace loving countries and are not going to attack you; you cannot fight them in your defense. Again if there is a war going on and a state of war is restored even during warfare, it is said: if any person kills a non-combatant belonging to a state which is fighting you, and if that non-combatant comes to you, you are under obligation to provide peace and security to him. Verse number 6, immediately after the first verse 5, said that you are under the obligation to provide security and safety to all non-combatants. So this is an explicit Qur’anic commandment to provide safety and security to all non-combatants. And up to verse 12, it is again instructed to fight against those who commit aggression on you, fight you, impose war on you except those people who, as per their agreement of peace, don't fight. This is the verse no 12 of the same chapter. So this was an analysis of the whole subject of the verse known as the verse of sword.

Division of Abodes

One last point— the terrorists and extremists declare the whole world as Dar al-Harb. They say that we are under obligation to fight them irrespective of whether they are Muslims or non-Mulims. This is against the Qur’an and Sunna. The basic relationship between the Muslim countries and non-Muslim countries is not the relationship of war, it is the relationship of neutrality. The Muslim countries are neutral countries. These are known as Dar al-Hiyad,  دار الحياد, relationship of  اَلْمُحَايِدَة, neutrality. If they fight, you they become a part of war directly; if they enter into a treaty of peace, they become Dar al-‘Ahad  دار العهد; if they establish friendly relationship with you and conclude an agreement of conciliation, they become Dar al-Salm  دار السلم, the abode of conciliation. Because of a multinational treaty through UN, every state, and every single member of the UN has entered into a multinational international treaty of peace. The UN has become the treaty maker and peace maker for the whole world. So every single country, Muslim or non-Muslim, is bound by the UN charter. So all countries of the world have become Dar al-‘Ahad  دار العهد under the UN and the injunctions of the Qur’an and Sunnah and Islam of Dar al-‘Ahad are the same as Dar al-Isalm. All jurists such as Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Tahawi, Imam Sarakhsi, Imam Kasani and Hanbali and Shafi and Malki scholars even Imam Shafi agreed to this idea that the word  دار الاسلام does not mean the land of Islam. This is wrong translation. Dar al-Islam means the abode of peace.

In every county where people live their free lives and enjoy the security of life, property, wealth, religion, culture, getting benefit of freedom everywhere, those countries are Dar al-Islam. It means countries of peace. So neither any individual nor any organization has a right to declare any act as jihad or wage war. Secondly, the whole world under the UN according to the injunctions of the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) has become Dar al-‘Ahad similar to Dar al-Islam. So nobody has the right to fight against anyone unless the UN decides or the state decides as a defensive war, a matter between states and these are the things or collective resistance against an aggression. So these are the basic concepts which were misunderstood, misinterpreted and hijacked by the terrorists. We need to be clear about these concepts. I have tried to convey my message of peace and counter-terrorism and clarification of the concept of Islam and reclaiming the terms from the terrorists in respect to Islam. I hope Almighty God will help us understand one and another more and more. Thank You.