Jihad In Islam: What Is The Meaning Of It?

Jihad In Islam: What Is The Meaning Of It?

Jihad in Islam. Just looking at those words alone without any context stirs up so many different ideas in people.

For people in the west, jihad in Islam seems scary. The concept creates fear.

People see jihad in Islam as a danger to the west. They view it as a threat to national security, freedom and democracy.

You’ll often hear other words (often incorrectly associated with jihad in Islam) thrown in by the media and politicians as well.

  • Extremist
  • Islamist
  • Terrorism
  • Radicalism
  • Infidels
  • Holy war
  • Jihadist
  • ISIL

It gets people asking all sorts of questions:

  • What is jihad in Islam?
  • What is the difference between radical and non-radical peaceful Muslims?
  • What is the reason for Islamic jihad or holy war?

I’m not a scholar of Islam, but I hope I’m able to shed some light on these questions for you.

Literal Meaning Of Jihad In Islam

First of all, let’s put all of the ideas that we might have about jihad in Islam aside.

The word jihad comes from the root word jahada, which means to struggle. In Islam, this struggle is in the way of Allah.

From the Arabic root meaning “to strive,” “to exert,” “to fight”; exact meaning depends on context.

The Oxford Dictionary of Islam

The Best Form Of Jihad

Jihad in Islam
The best kind of jihad is a word of truth spoken before an unjust ruler

It isn’t jihad in war that’s the best form of jihad.

It’s jihad by telling the truth. It’s fighting evil through one’s words rather than through violence.

It was narrated from Tariq bin Shihab that:
A man asked the Prophet, when he had put his leg in the stirrup: “Which kind of Jihad is best?'” He said: “a word of truth spoken before an unjust ruler.”

Sunan an-Nasa’i

Take non-violent action by speaking out against injustice and oppression against people. Write letters to the government. Use your social media platforms and create petitions to make change.

Narrated Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri:
Somebody asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Who is the best among the people?” Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) replied “A believer who strives his utmost in Allah’s Cause with his life and property.”

Sahih al-Bukhari

Those who strive in the way of Allah are the best of the Muslims. They live their whole lives according to Islam. True Muslims pray their obligatory five daily prayers and give zakah (charity) to the poor and needy.

Jihad Against Oneself

This form of jihad is all about fighting the evil desires within oneself.

We’re always at battle with the evil whispering of the Shayatin. A Shaytan can refer to a human, jinn or animal that is evil and harmful. The goal of the Shayatin is to lead mankind astray from the worship of Allah.

And thus We have made for every prophet an enemy – devils from mankind and jinn, inspiring to one another decorative speech in delusion. But if your Lord had willed, they would not have done it, so leave them and that which they invent.

Qur’an 6:112

Inner jihad can also relate to the struggle involved in improving oneself.

Here are some examples:

  • Learning to recite the Qur’an in Arabic
  • Forgiving those who have wronged us
  • Raising pious and righteous children
  • Finding the time to pray at work
  • Wearing hijab for the first time
  • Being patient during difficult times
  • Accepting the decree of Allah
  • Stopping haram habits

For more examples, look up the hashtag #myjihad on Twitter.

Jihad Through Giving Da’wah

Giving da’wah (spreading the message of Islam) is also a form of jihad in Islam.

Without da’wah, how would the message of Islam spread from Arabia to the world?

Me writing posts on this blog in defence of Islam is jihad.

Jihad through giving da’wah can be verbal (e.g. telling friends, family and neighbours; delivering a khutbah; making YouTube videos, etc.). It can also be written (e.g. writing books, blogs, essays on Islam, etc.).

This act of jihad isn’t easy. Islam isn’t the default religion of the world. Islamophobia is widespread. A lot of people don’t want to hear or accept the message of Islam.

Treating Parents Well

Jihad in Islam
[LearningLark / CC BY 2.0]

You weren’t expecting to see a photo of tea and biscuits in a blog post about jihad, were you?

‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘as (May Allah be pleased with them) reported:
A man came to the Prophet (ﷺ) of Allah and said, “I swear allegiance to you for emigration and Jihad, seeking reward from Allah.” He (ﷺ) said, “Is any of your parents alive?” He said, “Yes, both of them are alive.” He (ﷺ) then asked, “Do you want to seek reward from Allah?” He replied in the affirmative. Thereupon Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Go back to your parents and keep good company with them”.

Riyad as-Salihin

Go on, go and have a cuppa with your parents (if you can)! Spoil them and give them gifts. Be kind to them.

Islamic Conditions Of War

Islamic rules of war

War is undoubtedly a form of jihad in Islam. But certain conditions must be met before Muslims can go to war with others.

In Surah Al-Baqarah, Allah commands Muslims to react to violent opposition by fighting back.

Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.

Qur’an 2:190

In the following ayat of Surah Al-Haj, Allah gives the People of the Book (Jews, Christians and Sabians who worship Allah) the right to defend themselves when being fought.

Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory.
[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, “Our Lord is Allah .” And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.

Qur’an 22:39-40

Allah defends the People of the Book by giving them the ability to protect themselves. If He didn’t do so, their places of worship would be destroyed.

Prophet Muhammad’s (ﷺ) Commands In War

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) had specific instructions for the Muslims during the war. These were to be practised once a war was permitted to take place.

Hadith From Sahih Muslim

It has been reported from Sulaiman b. Buraida through his father that when the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment, he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and to be good to the Muslims who were with him. He would say:

Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge, and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of the Muhajireen and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajireen. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muslims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai’ except when they actually fight with the Muslims (against the disbelievers). If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them. When you lay siege to a fort and the besieged appeal to you for protection in the name of Allah and His Prophet, do not accord to them the guarantee of Allah and His Prophet, but accord to them your own guarantee and the guarantee of your companions for it is a lesser sin that the security given by you or your companions be disregarded than that the security granted in the name of Allah and His Prophet be violated. When you besiege a fort, and the besieged want you to let them out in accordance with Allah’s Command, do not let them come out in accordance with His Command, but do so at your (own) command, for you do not know whether or not you will be able to carry out Allah’s behest with regard to them.

Sahih Muslim

The Muslim Shouldn’t Wish To Meet The Enemy

The Prophet (ﷺ) also advised against looking to fight enemies.

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Do not wish to meet the enemy, but when you meet the enemy, be patient.”

Sahih al-Bukhari

Abu Bakr’s Commands In War

Abu Bakr was Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) closest sahabi (companion). He was the first man to accept Islam after the Prophet (ﷺ) first received revelation.

After Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) passed away, Abu Bakr assumed the role of the first caliph (leader of the Muslim community).

It was narrated that Hudhaifah bin Yaman said:
“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘I do not know how long I will stay among you, so follow the example of these two after I am gone,’ and he pointed to Abu Bakr and `Umar.”

Sunan Ibn Majah

He instructed the Muslims to act justly in war.

Hadith From Muwatta Malik

Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn Said that Abu Bakr as-Siddiq was sending armies to ash-Sham. He went for a walk with Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan who was the commander of one of the battalions. It is claimed that Yazid said to Abu Bakr, “Will you ride or shall I get down?” Abu Bakr said, “I will not ride, and you will not get down. I intend these steps of mine to be in the way of Allah.” Then Abu Bakr advised Yazid, “You will find a people who claim to have totally given themselves to Allah. Leave them to what they claim to have given themselves. You will find a people who have shaved the middle of their heads, strike what they have shaved with the sword. “I advise you ten things:
Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.”

Muwatta Malik

The Qur’an On Those Who Have Surrendered

In the Qur’an, Allah makes a prohibition on Muslims killing those who have surrendered in war.

Except for those who take refuge with a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty or those who come to you, their hearts strained at [the prospect of] fighting you or fighting their own people. And if Allah had willed, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them.

Qur’an 4:90

And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah . Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.

Qur’an 8:61

Be Good To The Prisoners

Allah orders the Muslims to be kind to the prisoners and feed them.

And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive,
[Saying], “We feed you only for the countenance of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude.

Qur’an 76:8-9

Jihad For Women

How Islam deals with women of war

The best form of jihad for women is Hajj and Umrah (pilgrimage to the Holy Ka’ba).

It was narrated that ‘Aishah said:
“I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, is Jihad obligatory for women?’ He said: “Yes: Upon them is a Jihad in which there is no fighting: Al-Hajj and Al-‘Umrah.”

Sunan Ibn Majah

At the time of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), women participated in war through providing medical assistance.

Narrated Ar-Rabi’bint Mu’auwidh:
We used to take part in holy battles with the Prophet (ﷺ) by providing the people with water and serving them and bringing the killed and the wounded back to Medina.

Sahih al-Bukhari

Final Thoughts

Terrorists who do evil deeds while claiming they are “fighting in the cause of Islam” have got it all wrong.

The world doesn’t need a blanket ban on Islam. It also doesn’t need people spreading hatred towards Islam online.

Muslims who practise their religion correctly encounter Islamophobia from strangers on the street. It all boils down to peoples’ misconceptions and a lack of proper education about the actual teachings of Islam.

What the world needs is more education. Good education starts with good parenting and proper schooling.

We need to encourage others to consult with people of knowledge.

  • Arrange to see a sheikh or an imam who will answer questions
  • Attend Islamic lectures at a masjid
  • Watch talks by knowledgable scholars on YouTube
  • Read tafsir (interpretations) of the Qur’an from reliable sources

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Jihad In Islam: What Is The Meaning Of It?