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What is Jihad?

 Vinod Kumar

 

Jihad has been going on in the world ever since Islam was born in the seventh century but its latest manifestation has been, among other places, most notably in Palestine, Chechnya, and Kashmir. Even, in February 1998, when World Islamic Front issued a fatwa and a call for Jihad to "every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it", it did not arouse much interest in the general public. It took direct assault on 9/11 on the fundamental symbols of what America stands for that it created some curiosity. Today, Jihad is, no doubt, one of the most discussed terms in America, if not the world.

What is Jihad? What drives a man to commit such horrendous acts against humanity? What motivates Islamic terrorists? Why do they operate under the name of Jihad?

And "Why do Muslims blow themselves up?" are common question everyone is seeking answers for.

Dr. Eyad Sarraj, a Palestinian psychiatrist answers (Newsweek, April 8, 2002)

"This is the influence of the Koran, the most potent and powerful book for the past 14 centuries. God promised Muslims who sacrificed for Islam. that they would not die. They will live on in paradise. Muslims hold to the promise literally."

How valid is this assertion?

What is Jihad?

View of traditionalists:

Dictionary of Islam defines jihad as "a religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad. It is an incumbent religious duty, established in the Quran and in the Traditions as a divine institution, enjoined specially for the purpose advancing Islam and repelling evils from Muslims."

In an introductory note to an article "Jihad in the Qur’an and Sunnah" by Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, ex-Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia and of the Sacred Mosque of Mecca, Abdul Malik Mujahid, General Manager of Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, Saudi Arabia on the website (www.islamworld.net) writes:

"Jihad is regarded as the best thing, one can offer voluntarily. It is superior to non-obligatory prayers, fasting, Zakat, Umra and Hajj as mentioned in the Qur'an and the Ahadith of the Prophet(pbuh). The benefits of Jihad are of great extent and large in scope, while its effects are far-reaching and wide-spreading as regards Islam and the Muslims."

Sheikh Abdullah, ex-Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia defines Jihad as:

"Praise be to Allah swt Who has ordained Al-Jihad (the holy fighting in Allah's Cause):

1. With the heart (intentions or feelings),

2. With the hand (weapons, etc.),

3. With the tongue (speeches, etc., in the Cause of Allah)

Allah has rewarded the one who performs it with lofty dwellings in the Gardens (of Paradise)."

Other contrary Views

Many non-Muslim modernists in the West deny that it has anything to do with violence.

Many academic Muslims also dissociate Jihad with "Holy War". "In its primary sense it is an inner thing, within self, to rid it from debased actions or inclinations, and exercise constancy and perseverance in achieving a higher moral standard" – they claim. "Jihad is not a declaration of war against other religions and certainly not against Christians and Jews as some media and political circles want it to be perceived. Islam does not fight other religions" – they emphasize.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based group, asserts that jihad "does not mean 'holy war.'" Instead, jihad is "a central and broad Islamic concept that includes the struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defense . . . or fighting against tyranny or oppression." CAIR even denies that Islam includes any concept of a "holy war."

Many other who go under the banner of modernists hold similar views on the nature of jihad.

How is one to conclude what Jihad really means in Islam?

Ironclad definition of anything to do with Islam and its practical manifestations can only be derived from what the basic scriptures of Islam have to say on any particular issue.

What are the basic scriptures of Islam and why are they so important?

The single most basic scripture of Islam is indeed the Qur’an. The next after the Qur’an are the traditions – the Sunnah -- of the Prophet -- also known as Ahadith. The Qur’an is compilation of the Revelation from Allah to Prophet Muhammad and the Sunnah is what Prophet Muhammad did or said. Of the traditions, the ones compiled by Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim are the most authentic.

Authenticity of Imam Bukhari’s work can be judged from the fact that he is reported to have collected over 300,000 Hadiths (traditions of the Prophet) but "chose only approximately 7275 of which there is no doubt about their authenticity." Each Hadith comes with its line of transmission that leads directly to Prophet Muhammad or his companions.

Why are the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet so important to Muslims? Instead of giving my personal opinion let me say what Rafiq Zakaria, an eminent Islamic scholar and also known as modernist progressive secular Muslim has to say on this.

"To Muslims, the Quran is the creation of god. However, it is equally important to remember that there could have been no Quran without Muhammad. He is not only its transmitter but also the embodiment of its teachings… Muhammad and the Quran are inextricably intertwined."

"The Quran is, therefore, regarded by Muslims as immutable and unchangeable, not metaphorically but literally. This is a matter of faith for them, and reason can never deflect them from it." (Italics mine) He went on to say.

After enumerating the five pillars of Islam, he echos the sentiments expressed above in another book and goes on to observe "it (the Quran) contains guidelines a Muslim must follow."

Maulana Mawdudi, a great Islamic scholar and thinker expresses similar views. Islam stands for complete faith in the prophet’s teachings. It stands for complete obedience to the system of life shown to us by the prophet and any who ignores the medium of the prophet and claims to follow God directly is not a Muslim.

Maulana Wahiduddin has also expressed similar opinions.

Human reason or direct approach to God without the medium of the prophet makes one sinner, if not apostate from Islam. No freedom of slightest deviation is allowed. One has to follow the teachings of the Quran and of the Prophet.

If we want to understand why the Muslims carry out jihad, we have to understand what the Quran and the Sunnah have to say on this topic. The opinions of Islamic scholars and other commentators are not valid if they are not in conformity with the above.

What do the Quran and the Sunnah have to say on the subject of Jihad?

There is no chapter devoted exclusively to the subject of jihad in the Quran. The Ayats pertaining to jihad are spread throughout the Quran. If one were to sort them out and present them in a concise manner, one would, in all likelihood, be accused of quoting them out of context. But in each of the authentic Hadis – the Sunnah of the prophet -- there is a section dealing with the practice of jihad. So let us turn our attention to the Sunnah. On close scrutiny of the Sunnah as compiled in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, apart from the traditions of the prophet, frequent reference is made to the Quran. So what is recorded in these two books is both, the Sunnah of the Prophet as well as the revelations from God. Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim have facilitated our work in informing us, in a concise form, what the concept of jihad in Islam is?

Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan of Islamic University, Medina Al- Munawwara, Saudi Arabia, the translator of Sahih Al-Bukhari, in the glossary of Arabic words translates Jihad as "Holy fighting in the cause of Allah or any other kind of effort to make Allah’s word (Islam) superior which is regarded as one of the principles of Islam."

Jihad defined:

Let us first try to find out what is Jihad? We don’t have to too far.

The section on Jihad starts with invocation to Allah and Chapter I opens quoting verses 9:111-112 of the Quran:

"Verily

Allah has purchased of the believers

Their lives and their properties;

For theirs (in return)

Is Paradise. They fight in His cause, so they

Kill (others) and are killed

It is a promise in truth which is binding on Him."

Allah has made a binding promise with His believers to kill in His cause and if they are killed they will get Paradise in return.

And again it repeats in chapter 2 "the best among the people is that believer who strives his utmost in Allah’s cause with both his life and property and goes on to quote verses 61:10,11,12 . It says "it (fighting in Allah’s cause) is a bargain that will save you from a grievous punishment….. He will forgive you, your sins and admit you into Gardens beneath which rivers flow, and to beautiful Mansions in gardens of Eternity." And calls it "The supreme achievement."

Indeed the promise of Gardens with Rivers and Mansions must have sounded very alluring in the harsh desert climate of Arabia. Evidently, it does even today.

The superiority of Jihad:

"A single endeavor (of fighting) in Allah’s Cause in the forenoon is better than the world and whatever is in it." Says Hadis 50 in chapter 5.

And "a place as small as a bow in Paradise is better than all that on which the sun rises and sets (i.e. all the world)." And continues, repeating, "A single endeavour in Allah’s Cause is better than all that on which the sun rises and sets."

The superiority of martyrdom is so great that "nobody would wish to come back even if he were given the whole world and whatever 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.)"

And what is there in Paradise? Houris. "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." Who would not like to die to be in company of such houris?

Obligations of a Believer to Jihad

What are the obligations of a Muslim of a general call to arms and what sort of Jihad and intentions are compulsory? Most people don’t like to fight and Muslims are no exception to it. But what are they to do when Allah says:

"March forth, whether you are light (young, healthy and wealthy) or heavy (ill, old and poor)

And strive with your wealth and your lives

In the way of Allah; that is better for you

If you but knew. Had it been a near gain (booty in front of them)

And an easy journey they would have followed you,

But the distance (Tabuk expedition) was long for them and they would Swear by Allah (saying)

"If we only could, we would have surely have come out with you."

 

Allah reprimands:

"They destroy their own souls, and Allah knows

That they are liars." (9:41-42)

Allah continues His reprimand:

"O you who believe! What is the matter with you that when you are asked to march forth in the Way of Allah, (i.e. Jihad), you cling heavily to the earth? Are you pleased with the life of this world rather than the hereafter? …. (the verse). If you march not forth, He will punish you with a painful torment and will replace you by another people and you cannot harm Him at all, and Allah is Able to do all things." (9:38-39)

Is Jihad obligatory:

This is best explained by Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid:

"So at first "the fighting" was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory- ( 1 ) against them who start "the fighting" against you (Muslims)... (2) and against all those who worship others along with Allah... as mentioned in SurahAI-BaqaraSl (II), Al-lmran (III) and Baraat (IX)... and other Suras (Chapters of the Qur'an).

Allah made "the fighting' (Jihad) obligatory for the Muslims and gave importance to the subject-matter of Jihad in all the Suras (Chapters of the Qur'an) which were revealed (at Medina) as in Allah's Statement:

March forth whether you are light (being healthy, young and wealthy) or heavy (being ill, old and poor), strive hard with your wealth and your lives in the Cause of Allah. This is better for you if you but knew. (V.9:41).

Rewards of Jihad:

Where would one killed in Jihad go? The Muslim killed in Jihad would go to Paradise and "their’s (i.e. those of the Pagan’s) will go to Hell Fire.

What are the special benefits of fighting in Allah’s cause?

Whoever believes in Allah and His Messenger and lives the life of a good Muslim will rightfully go to Paradise, no matter if he fights in Allah’s cause or not. But there is a special place for those who do. Paradise has hundred grades which Allah has reserved for Mujahidin. The distance between each grade is like the distance between the Heaven and the Earth.

And what will those who fight in Allah’s cause get in Paradise?

Bat Ye’Or well known writer on Islam notes "the ideology of jihad was formulated by Muslim jurists and scholars, including such luminaries as Averroes and Ibn Khaldun, from the 8th century onward. For example, Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) stated, "..the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universality of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everyone to Islam either by persuasion or by force...".

Modernists views refuted:

As noted above, Council of American Islamic Relations asserts that Jihad is "struggle in the battlefield for self-defense . . . or fighting against tyranny or oppression" But Sahih Muslim, one of two most authentic traditions does not agree with it.

Self defense or oppression has nothing to do with the concept of Jihad. It quotes Prophet Muhammad saying:

"I have been commanded to fight against people, till they testify to the fact that there is no god but Allah, and believe in me (that) I am the messenger (from the Lord) and in all that I have brought. And when they do it, their blood and riches are guaranteed protection on my behalf except where it is justified by law, and their affairs rest with Allah."

Quoting Koran (9:39) "If you march not forth, I will punish you with a painful torment and will replace you by another people and you cannot harm Me at all, and Allah is able to do all things.", Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Hamid of Sacred Mosque of Mecca (Saudi Arabia) writes "Allah disapproved of those who abandoned Jihad (i.e. they did not go for Jihad) and attributed to them hypocrisy and disease in their hearts, and threatened (all) those who remain behind from Jihad and sit at home with horrible punishment. He (Allah) accused them with the most ugly descriptions, rebuked them for their cowardice and spoke against them (about their weakness and their remaining behind).

Had Jihad been just "striving" and "an inner thing, within self, to rid it from debased actions or inclinations" where was the need to "march forth"? Why would Allah accuse those who did not "march forth" of "cowardice", and "hypocrisy and disease in their hearts"?

To scholars of Islam the message of the Koran and Ahadith is clear.

It is true that not every Muslim is engaged in Jihad. It is true not only today; it was true during the time of Prophet Muhammad also. Those who did not were called hypocrites and their fidelity to Islam was in question.

And if Jihad, indeed, is "mental struggle against passion or internal struggle" – it would be welcome, I am sure, by all non-Muslims. What a non-Muslim is primarily interested in is Jihad that affects his (non-Muslim’s) survival. However, there is no evidence in the core scriptures of Islam that Jihad is an internal struggle within the self.

Yes, like any other religious ideology, Islam also would like to improve the like of its followers, in its own way but that is nowhere called what is known as Jihad.

Also read Shah Waliullah on Jihad and Jihad in India.

Warraq, ibn. Why I am not a Muslim. New York, 1995, pp.12

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 1, pp. xxiv

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 1, pp.xvii

Zakaria, Rafiq, Muhammad and the Quran, Penguin Books, New York, 1991, pp. 3

Zakaria, Rafiq, Muhammad and the Quran, Penguin Books, New York, 1991, pp. 4

Zakaria, Rafiq, The Struggle within Islam, Penguin Books, New York, 1988, pp. 304

Mawdudi, Abul A’la, Towards understanding Islam, Islamic Circle of North America, Montreal, 1986, pp. 61 (First published in Urdu in India in 1932)

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 1, pp. lxxiv

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol.4, pp. 34

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 4, pp. 36-37

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 4, pp. 41

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 4, pp 41

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 4, pp. 42

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 4, pp. 42

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 4, pp. 58-59

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 4, pp. 59

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 1, pp. xxvi

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 4, pp. 55

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 4, pp. 40

Sahih Muslim, Translated by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, New Delhi, 1994, vol. 1, pp.17

Al-Bukhari, Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by M. Muhsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, vol. 4, pp.xxx-xxxi

 

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