Saturday, March 26, 2011

The True Jihad in Islam

 If you read the Qur’an carefully, so many verses are asking the reader to ponder, to strive for spiritual correction in themselves, (Holy Qur’an 2:177, 2:195, 2:203, 2:219, 2:238, 3:191, 10:5-6, 38:28 – and there are many more).

Prophet Muhammad stated, “the greatest jihad (which means struggle / striving) is with one’s self/ego”. The Prophet said in the Farewell Pilgrimage: "... The mujahid is he who makes jihad against himself (jahada nafsah) for the sake of obeying Allah." (Tirmidhi, Ahmad, Tabarani, Ibn Majah, al-Hakim, and Quda`i also relate it. The contemporary hadith scholar Shu`ayb al-Arna'ut confirmed that its chain of transmission is sound in his edition of Ibn Hibban, Sahih 11:203 (#4862).

Al-Haythami related the following version in the chapter on Jihad al-nafs in his Majma` al-zawa'id and declared it sound:

“The strong one is not the one who overcomes people; the strong one is he who overcomes his ego (ghalaba nafsah).”

Jihad is often mistakenly described as "holy war". If you open a modern English dictionary, you would probably find the definition of Jihad as “a holy war undertaken by Muslims against non-believers”. This is a very poor definition.  Before trying to define what Jihad is, we should first define what it is NOT.

Jihad is an Arabic word from the root Jee Ha Da. It literally means to struggle or strive. Jihad is struggling or striving in the way or sake of Allah. Jihad takes a very important status in the doctrine of Islam and is one of the basic duties for every Muslim. Though, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the term Holy War. Such a term, or its equivalent doesn’t exist in the Islamic doctrine. The Christian Crusaders in the mid-ages invented this ideology of Holy War. There is nothing “Holy” about wars. Wars only involve killings and disasters!

The Arabic word jihad can refer to any form of struggle, in a similar manner to the English word “fight”. You can fight, for instance, for human rights or to protect the environment, each of these is a jihad, requiring much effort and self sacrifice. Jihad when referring to warfare, according to the Holy Qur’an, refers to defensive war, a just war, fought to re-establish peace and security. As Abdullah Yusuf Ali wrote in his commentary on verse 2:190:

“War is permissible in self-defence, and under well-defined limits. When undertaken, it must be pushed with vigour (but not relentlessly), but only to restore peace and freedom for the worship of God. In any case strict limits must not be transgressed: women, children, old and infirm men should not be molested, nor trees and crops cut down, nor peace withheld when the enemy comes to terms.”

Jihad is NOT blowing up one’s self (Suicide is a sin in Islam)

Islam (Submission) condemns suicide as much as it condemns oppression and aggression against others. While the Muslims (Submitters) are commanded to stand for their rights and defend themselves, their properties and their freedom they are told to first resort to peace advocate tolerance and disregard the ignorant. The following verses from the Quran show how the Quran describes suicide.

(2:195) You shall spend in the cause of GOD; do not throw yourselves with your own hands into destruction. You shall be charitable; GOD loves the charitable.

(4:29) O you who believe, do not consume each others' properties illicitly - only mutually acceptable transactions are permitted. You shall not kill yourselves. GOD is Merciful towards you.

(4:30) Anyone who commits these transgressions, maliciously and deliberately, we will condemn him to Hell. This is easy for GOD to do.

The taking of life is allowed only by way of justice (i.e. the death penalty for murder), but even then, forgiveness is better.  "Nor take life - which Allah has made sacred - except for just cause..." (17:33).

In pre-Islamic Arabia, retaliation and mass murder was commonplace.  If someone was killed, the victim's tribe would retaliate against the murderer's entire tribe.  This practice was directly forbidden in the Qur'an (2:178-179).  Following this statement of law, the Qur'an says, "After this, whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave chastisement" (2:178).  No matter what wrong we perceive as being done against us, we may not lash out against an entire population of people.

The Qur'an admonishes those who oppress others and transgress beyond the bounds of what is right and just.  "The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice.  For such there will be a chastisement grievous (in the Hereafter)” (42:42).

Jihad is not perpetual war against non-Muslims, but the struggle to do good on earth for the sake of God.

The Prophet said,
"… And whoever commits suicide with piece of iron will be punished with the same piece of iron in the Hell Fire." Narrated Jundab the Prophet said, "A man was inflicted with wounds and he committed suicide, and so Allah said: My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him." (Hadith: Shahi Bukhari. Book 23. Funerals (Al-Janaa'iz). Volumn 002, Book 023, Hadith Number 445.)

Jihad is NOT killing innocent people
Jihad is NOT flying a plane into a building packed with civilians
Jihad is NOT fighting out of anger and hatred
Jihad is NOT killing others just because they don’t agree with you
Jihad is NOT killing others just because they are not Muslims

The real meaning of Jihad and “the greater Jihad”

One day, during the time when the early Muslim community was struggling for its very existence, the Prophet and his Companions had just returned from a particularly difficult battle. As they were beginning to relax, he turned to his beloved Companions and said, “We have just returned from the lesser jihad, but now we are entering the greater jihad.”

“Oh Prophet of God, what do you mean?”

“I mean,” he said, “that the greater jihad is the struggle with our own egos.” At the heart of Islamic teaching is the idea that there is an aspect of ourselves, the nafs, which can be translated variously as ego, self, or soul, that must be brought into line with our highest understanding and intention. If this is not done, it will enslave us and lead us away from the greater good. If we follow our selfish egoism, if we are enslaved to a myriad of personal likes and dislikes, the reality of the Divine Presence will slip further and further from our consciousness.

Terrorism is Not Jihad:

It is to be emphasized that terrorism against the innocent civilians, whether through aggression or suicidal means, is under no circumstances permissible in Islam. Terrorism is not Jihad, it is Fasad (mischief). It is against the teaching of Islam. Allah said: "When it is said to them: Make not mischief on the earth, they say why, we only want to correct things, Indeed they are the mischief doers, but they realize (it) not." (Al Baqarah 2:11-12)

Jihad has many forms,
·         Jihad of the heart/soul (jihad bin nafs/qalb)
·         Jihad by the tongue (jihad bil lisan)
·         Jihad by the pen/knowledge (jihad bil qalam/ilm)
·         Jihad by the hand (jihad bil yad)
·         Jihad by the sword (jihad bis saif)

Jihad of the Heart/Soul.

Jihad of the heart/soul; in Arabic: jihad bin nafs/qalb. It is referred as “the greater Jihad” (al-jihad al-akbar).

It is one’s inner struggle of good against evil; refraining oneself from the whispers of Shaitan (Satan). This process involves allowing Islam to transform one’s soul to achieving internal peace; and forgoing the hatred and anger.

“Jihad is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” {Quran, Surah 2: Al-Baqarah, Verse 216; Mohsin Translation}

It’s obvious that “Jihad” in this verse means struggle of the heart and soul. When we have to stop or to train our heart and soul from flooding with the pleasure of this world, none of us like to stay away from pleasure; but God says: “it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you”

Jihad by the tongue.

Jihad by the tongue; in Arabic: jihad bil lisan. It is defending Islam and spreading Islam by scholarly lectures, speeches and debates. It often overlaps with Da’awah (invitation to Islam, or spreading the message of Islam). In The Last Sermon, Prophet Mohammed asked the listeners whether he has passed on the message to them; and they confirmed affirmatively. Then the Messenger of Allah ordered all those present today to pass on the same message to those who are not here today; and the last person to hear the message should understand it better than the people here.

Jihad by the pen/knowledge.

Jihad by the pen/knowledge; in Arabic: jihad bil qalam/ilm. This form of Jihad involves scholarly research of Islam in aiding the spread and defence of Islam; and publishing written articles in clearing misconceptions and correction lies against Islam.

Examples of such Jihad include the research and discovery of scientific evidences, literature miracles and mathematical miracles from the Quran. Messenger of Allah once stated that the ink of a scholar is holier than the blood of a martyr; and one who is reading looks handsome in front of Allah.

Jihad by the hand.

Jihad by the hand; in Arabic: jihad bil yad. This is a Jihad of action rather than words. At certain areas, it overlaps with Zakat (charity) and Hajj (pilgrimage). Some of its examples include giving charity to the poor and needy, performing Hajj or Ummrah, helping those who need help, saving people’s lives, etc. These are more of physical deeds instead of words.

“A person whose feet become dust ridden because of [striving] in the way of Allah will never be touched by the flames of Hell” {Sahih Bukhari 2811}

The most beautiful of all Jihad is a perfect Hajj. It involves testing of one’s patience and piety to the apex. The whole period of Hajj, with just one intention and aim, worshiping Allah!

Jihad by the sword.

Jihad by the sword; in Arabic: jihad bis saif. In contrary to Jihad of the heart/soul; this form of Jihad is referred as “the lesser jihad” (al-jihad alasghar). Sometimes it is necessary to undertake Jihad by the sword. This would include usage of arsenals and engaging in a combat. This could be simply a bunch of freedom fighters or an organised campaign of army. Jihad by the sword is use of arms to engage into a combat. It is not misuse of arms to create violence. There are only two situations were Jihad by the sword is allowed to be undertaken.

1) For self-defence. When someone attacks you or when your nation has been attacked. Engaging into combat due to self defence.

2) Fighting against evil and unjust. It is also a sin if a Muslim sees unjust been done, capable of stopping it, yet not doing anything about it. This can include war on drug, war on child labour as well as war on terror!

The western administration today seems to be launching a global war on terror, but are they the first to launch the war on terror? The Muslims already announced the war on terror fourteen centuries ago, under the name of Jihad bis saif! There are many rules and limitations when engaging in combat under the title of Jihad. For example, civilians are not to be harmed; trees are not to be cut down; asylum should be granted to surrendering enemy soldiers; etc.

“If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge. {Quran, Surah 9: 6}

The above verse states that when an enemy soldier surrenders during a battle, the Muslim soldiers must grant asylum and in addition, escort him to safety! The treatment for prisoners of war is also clearly stated in the Quran. Prisoners of war under Muslim prisons are to eat, drink and dress the same Muslim soldiers eat, drink and dress. And even under the unfortunate event of shortage of food, it is the prisoners who are to eat first before the Muslim soldiers guarding them!

In the Qur’an 4:94, it is written:

“O you who have attained to faith, when you go forth [to war] in God’s cause, use your discernment, and do not – out of a desire for the fleeting gains of this worldly life – say unto anyone who offers you the greeting of peace, ‘Thou art not a believer’ [i.e. implying they are one of the enemy] for with God there are gains abundant. You, too, were once in the same condition – but God has been gracious unto you. Use, therefore, your discernment: verily, God is always aware of what you do.” Qur’an 4:94

This verse absolutely forbids treating non-combatants as enemies and using their supposed unbelief as an excuse for attacking them. The key phrase “use your discernment” (tabayyanu) imposes on the believers a duty of making sure, in every case, whether the persons concerned are actively engaged in hostilities or not. The lives of civilians are to be protected, even during wartime when one state is at war with another, even if they are civilians of the enemy state.

A closer look at the Sword.

Despite the fact that Jihad by the sword is the lesser Jihad, it is the only form of Jihad that most of the people in the world perceive Jihad as. This is unfortunate, especially for the Muslims. Many so-called “teachers of Islam” have been misusing this to assemble their so-called “holy army” to fight their so-called “holy war”. But you can’t blame the religion for what a few of its people do. In every society, there is a black sheep.


Since Jihad by the sword has been overwhelmingly magnified in the wrong angle, let’s take a closer look at it in the right angle.

What is wrong with Jihad by the sword if it is fighting for self-defence?

In the early years of revelation of Islam in Mecca, Muslims were not granted permission from Allah to fight. So the Muslims suffered both moral and physical humiliations from the non-Muslims in Mecca. The first verses regarding Jihad were then revealed allowing Muslims to undertake self-defence.

“And fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors. {Quran, Surah 2: Al-Baqarah, Verse 190}

Many of the Quranic verses are being quoted out of context to wrongly justify terrorist actions. Yet, most of those verses are only referring to a particular situation; such as Battle of Badr or Battle of Uhud.

Intention and war against Satan:

“Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Satan. So fight against the friends of Satan. Ever feeble indeed is the plot of Satan.” {Quran, Surah 4: An-Nisa, Verse 76}

Now the second question is, what is wrong in fighting against evil and liberating people from sufferings?

“Once a person came to the Prophet and said that some people fight for the spoils of war, some for fame and some to show off their valour; he then asked the Prophet: “Which one of them fights in the way of God”. The Prophet replied: “Only that person fights in the way of God who sets foot in the battlefield to raise high the name of God”. {Sahih Bukhari 2810}

According to the Quran, a martyr who died in the way of Jihad is promised Paradise. But what are the criteria of martyr, or in other words, what are the criteria of a Holy Warrior undertaking the True Jihad?

The most famous of all Hadith is the one regarding everything we do are judged by our intensions. So who is an example of a Holy Warrior?

Ali bin Abu Talib, cousin of Prophet Mohammed and the fourth Caliph of the Islamic Ummah is a good example. During one of the battles, Ali was about to give a deathblow to an enemy soldier. Just then, that enemy soldier spat at Ali. Ali then suddenly stopped, threw down his sword and refused to kill that enemy soldier.

After the battle, Ali’s soldiers asked Ali why he suddenly stopped and refused to kill that enemy soldier on the battlefield. Ali explained that he got angry when that enemy soldier spat at him. So if he had killed that enemy soldier right then, he would be killing out of his own anger and no longer fighting for Justice. In the sight of Allah, he would then be no different from a murderer.

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