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chapter seven

Jihad In Theory

I have laid down certain principles in the last chapter which can justify the use of force. In this chapter I will quote verses from the Quran and traditions of the Holy Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to show that the principles which I have laid down are exactly those upon which the doctrine of jihad is essentially based.

The first requisite is patience; one should not hurry in going to war, but must first exhaust all other resources. This is clearly enjoined in the following verses:

“And for the sake of your Lord be patient.” (74: 7)

“Consider the succession of ages; Most surely man is in loss; Except those who believe, and do good and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience.” (103: 1-3)

“(Paradise is for) those who guard against evil and those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straitness, and those who restrain their anger and pardon men; and Allah loves the doers of good to others. (3: 133)

“Surely the men who submit and the women who submit, believing men and believing women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women, and the humble men and the humble women, and the almsgiving men and the almsgiving women, and the fasting men and the fasting women, and the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard their private parts, and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember Allah much- Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty reward.” (33: 35)

“… Only the patient will be paid back their reward in full without measure.” (39: 10)

“And those who shun the great sins and indecencies, and whenever they are angry, they forgive.” (42: 37)

“The way (to blame) is only against them who oppress men and revolt in the earth unjustly; these shall have a painful chastisement. And whoever is patient and forgiving, that most surely is of the affairs, the doing of which should be determined upon.” (42: 42-43)

“O you who believe! Be patient and vie in endurance and remain steadfast, and be careful of your duty to Allah, that you may be successful.” (3: 199)

Not only has patience been so strongly recommended and enjoined that it would not allow hasty action, but was has been plainly discouraged:

“Yet surely your Lord with respect to those who fly after they are persecuted, then they struggle hard and are patient, most surely your Lord after that is Forgiving, Merciful.” (16: 110)

“And the (good) servants of the Beneficent God are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them (insolently), they say, ‘Peace’.” (25: 63)

“And they who do not call upon another god with Allah and do not slay the soul which Allah has forbidden except in the requirements of justice, and who do not commit fornication, and who does this shall find a requital of sin.” (25: 68)

“These shall be rewarded with high places because they were patient, and shall be met therein with greetings and salutation, abiding therein; goodly the abode and the resting place!” (25: 75-76)

“And do not obey the bidding of the extravagant, who make mischief in the land and do not act aright.” (26:151-152)

Arbitration is definitely encouraged:

“So be careful of your duty to Allah, and set aright matters of your difference.” (8: 1)

“There is no good in most of their secret counsels except (in his) who enjoins charity or goodness or reconciliation between people; and whoever does this, seeking Allah’s pleasure, We will give him a mighty reward.” (4: 114)

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once said to his companions, “Shall I inform you of the deed which is better than prayers, fasting and alms?” The companions said, “Surely!” The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied, “It is to make peace between men- one who creates dissentions perishes.”

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is reported to have said, “Abstain from causing dissentions, because this obliterates good deeds.” (Mishkaat)

Umm Kulthum says, “I heard from the Prophet of Allah that he who makes peace between men and says a good word, or bears a good news (for peace) is on the right path.” (Mishkaat)

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “The least charity is to make peace amonst men.” (Mishkaat)

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to Abu Ayyub, Allah be pleased with him, “Shall I tell you of a charitable deed which would please Allah and his Prophet? Make peace between men when they are fighting and unite them when they are disunited.” (Kanz)

Thus a Muslim is to do all that he can do to avoid war himself and to induce others to avoid it. But if he is forced, he can fight:

“And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits; surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.” (2: 190)

It would be worth while to quote the commentary upon this verse by the learned Moulvi Muhammad Ali:

“Rabi and Ibni Zaid are of opinion that this verse is the earliest revelation regarding the permission to fight. (Imam Fakhruddin Razi) A remarkable point about the injunction to fight in the way of Allah is that it is very often mentioned in connection with the subject of pilgrimage, as here and in the 3rd and 22nd surahs. From this circumstance may be concluded what is clearly stated many times, viz., that fighting was permitted or ordained as a measure of self-defence and to put a stop to religious persecution, the pilgrimage to Mecca which is one of the four fundamental principles of Islam, being impossible so long as the holy place was in the hands of unbelievers, who had driven the Muslims from Mecca by cruel persecutions.

“The first restriction to which fighting in the way of Allah is made subject to is that the Muslims should fight only against those ‘who are fighting against you.’ These words so clearly show that the Muslim wars were a measure of self-defence that they need no comment. It shows that the enemy had first taken up arms with the object of extirpating Islam, and this fact is borne out by history; it was only after this that the Muslims were allowed to fight. This restriction further shows that women, children and old men who could not take up arms against the Muslims were not to be molested. A similar exception was also made in favour of monks and hermits. And under the new conditions, the civil population of towns and villages would be treated similarly, for only those are to be fought against who actually take part in fighting. The second restriction is that the Muslims should not exceed the limits of the necessity of war. This direction was the sore need of a community which had been subjected to the cruelest persecutions and the severest tortures at the hands of tyrants, who had neither a law nor any authority over them which should keep them within bounds. The Muslims would have been quite within their rights if in case of victory they had taken their revenge upon their persecutors. But they were warned beforehand that they should not exceed the limit of the bare necessity of the war.

“These directions were faithfully followed by the Muslims. They were by no means the aggressors. In the very first important battle they were forced to fight against an army advancing upon Medina, and which was only three days’ journey from that city. And in all their fighting they only killed or captured the armed foes, and never harmed undefended women and children or old men, though their own women and children had been mercilessly put to death by their persecutors. If they had done so, they would have gone beyond the necessity of war and exceeded the previously prescribed limits.

“It should be noted that it is this defensive fighting which is called fighting in the way of Allah. Fighting for the propagation of faith is not once mentioned in the whole of the Quran and is solely the product of the inventive brains of Christian missionaries. The hatred which Islam had for fighting is shown by the fact that the Muslims were not allowed to fight until the very existence of Islam was in danger. The excuses for which wars are undertaken in civilized countries had long existed in the case of the Muslims, but such excuses were deemed insufficient.

“The injunctions relating to fighting are given in this chapter to show their lenity as contrasted with the Israelite law. The first point of contrast is that in Israelite law, fighting was ordained to turn a people out of a land of which they had been the rightful owners for centuries; it was not the enemy who had taken up the sword first; whereas in Islam the Muslims were forbidden to fight except against those who first took up the sword. The second point of difference lies in the treatment of the enemy. The Muslims were forbidden to go beyond the bare necessity of war, and thus, not only women, children and old men were always safe in their fighting, but even the enemy’s habitations, their gardens and their tillage and everything else, were equally safe. In the Jewish wars, however, men, women and children were all put to death and cities were destroyed. In fact, the Jewish wars were wars of extermination, while the Muslim wars were undertaken as a defensive measure against extermination by the enemy.”

Moulana Muhammad Ali has given the theory of jihad in a nutshell; and therefore I have quoted him at length. The next verse which is to be read together with the first, conclusively lays down that jihad is to be in self-defence only:-

“And kill them (who fight against you) wherever you find them, and drive them out from where they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter…” (2: 191)

This is reinforced by the following:

“And whoever defends himself after his being oppressed, these it is against whom there is no way (to blame);

“The way (to blame) is only against those who oppress men and revolt in the earth unjustly; these shall have a painful chastisement.” (42: 41-42)

“(The good are) they, therefore, who fled and were turned out of their homes and persecuted in My way and who fought and were slain…” (3: 194)

These verses clearly show that the enemy is to be driven out from the land he has wrongfully seized and where he is persecuting Muslims. That the war is not to be prolonged indefinitely to exterminate the enemy is clear from the verses which follow:

“But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

“And fight with them (who fight with you) until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah; but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against those who (still) oppress.” (2: 192-193)

“Religion should be only for Allah” may cause some misunderstanding in the mind of the unwary, therefore it must be fully understood that the words mean that no earthly power may take it upon itself to enforce its ideals and faith upon others, and that there may arise a state of affairs in which a man may be able to follow the religion which he thinks will satisfy the inner craving of his soul and please Allah. A man’s religion should be only for Allah and for no one else. Thus what may be construed as implying an order to fight for enforcing Islam upon an unwilling world is really an injunction to fight for the prevalence of the principles of the broadest toleration. The fact that this is the right sense of the words is confirmed by other teachings of Islam which abhors any compulsion in religion. This contention is also borne out by the early history of Islam. The unbelievers of Mecca and other places had determined to force Muslims back to heathenism, and it was in the face of this determination that the above order was given. This is made clear in the following:

“They ask you concerning the sacred month- about fighting in it; Say: Fighting in it is a grave matter; and hindering (men) from Allah’s way and denying Him and (hindering men from) the sacred mosque and turning its  people out of it are still graver than slaughter, and they will not cease fighting with you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can…” (2: 217)

“If they find you, they will be your enemies and will stretch forth towards you their hands and their tongues with evil, and they ardently desire that you may disbelieve.” (60: 2)

This verse of course implies that the unbelievers were ready to use not only persuasion but persecution as well to make the Muslims change their religion.

That a Muslim is to fight for religious toleration and not for the forcible conversion of others to Islam is clear from the following verses as well:

“Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made, because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them;

“Those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah. And had there not been Allah’s repelling some people by others, certainly there would have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is remembered much; and surely Allah will help him who helps His cause; most surely Allah is Strong, Mighty;

“Those who, should We establish them in the land, will keep up prayer and pay the poor rate and enjoin good and forbid evil; and Allah’s is the end of affairs.” (22: 39-41)

These verses are an excellent commentary upon the words “till religion be for Allah.” Had Allah not enjoined jihad- had there been “no repelling of some people by others”- there could not be that tolerance which is the only guarantee of religious freedom which should be so dear to a Muslim that he should be ready to lay down his life not only to secure it for himself, but for others as well. He is not to fight for mosques only, but for ‘cloisters and churches and synagogues’ as well- in short, he must be ready to defend the sanctity of all the places where the name of the Almighty is mentioned. Could there exist a greater inducement to toleration? To revert once again to the problem of minimum violence, the following verses show that war is not to be prolonged merely for the sake of precaution:

“Say to those who disbelieve, if they desist, that which is past shall be forgiven to them; and if they return (to hostilities), then what happened to the ancient (oppressors and fighters again Truth) is quite at hand (i.e. they are doomed).” (8: 38)

“And if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in Allah; surely He is the Hearing and the Knowing;

“And if they intend to deceive you- then surely Allah is sufficient for you; He it is who strengthened you with his help and with the believers;

“And united their hearts; had you spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah united them, surely He is Mighty, Wise.

“O Prophet! Allah is sufficient for you and (for) such of the believers as follow you.” (8: 61-64)


“And if they intend to act unfaithfully towards you so indeed they acted unfaithfully towards Allah before, but He gave (you) mastery over them; and Allah is Knowing, Wise” (8: 71)

Nothing could be more clear than this. Nothing was to be made the pretext of prolonging a war when the enemy had offered peace- not even the consideration that the enemy might just be wanting to get breathing time to renew his energy. Had Allah not done wonders for Muslims? He would do the same if they acted according to His injunctions, and remained forbearing and just.

The high ideals for which a Muslim is asked to fight are really worth fighting for, and there will be hardly any sensible person who will not agree with the spirit of the following beautiful verse:

“And what has happened to you that you would not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, of those who say: Our Lord! Cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper!” (4: 75)

A Muslim should always fight for justice, he is not worth his salt if he fights for injustice:

“Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the Devil. Fight therefore against the friends of the Devil; surely the struggle of the Devil is but weak.” (4: 76)

This is but another way of saying that the believer should ever fight for the right cause; it is the Devil, not the believer in Allah, who would fight for an unjust cause. This is reinforced by the following stern saying of the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):

“He who fights for a cause about which he does not know whether it is righteous, and who is angry owing to partiality only and induces others to fight for the same reason shall die a non-Muslim if he is killed therein.” (Mishkaat: Abu Huraira)

It was perhaps to stop Muslims from hastily joining a cause which might be unjust, that the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “O people! Be moderate! Be moderate! Be moderate!” (Kanz: Jaabir)

It should have become quite clear from the above that every unbeliever is not to be considered the enemy of Islam; but if there be lurking any doubt even now, it ought to be removed by the following:

“O you who believe! When you go to war in Allah’s way, make investigations, and do not say to any one who offers you peace: You are not a believer. Do not seek goods of this world’s life! But with Allah there are abundant gains; you too were such aforetime, then Allah conferred a benefit upon you, therefore make investigations; surely Allah is averse of what you do.” (4: 94)

This verse means that Muslims are not to take every unbeliever to be their enemy, but they must make investigations. They should not kill unbelievers simply because they are unbelievers and have not accepted the Faith, but those of them only who have persecuted them. Surely before the early Muslims themselves were converted, they were unbelievers, and who would have become believers if the non-believers were all extirpated and their goods seized by the handful of believers who first accepted Islam! History shows that some of the most enthusiastic Muslims, like the great caliph ‘Umar, Allah be pleased with him, were enthusiastic unbelievers before they accepted the Truth. In every non-believer, therefore, there is a potential believer, and therefore he should not be killed if he is innocent of open hostility and war against Islam.

Even when it has become absolutely necessary to fight, mercy should not be forgotten:

“So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite their necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favour or let them ransom (themselves) until the war ends.” (47: 4)

The opponents are not to be butchered when it is possible to take them prisoners, killing is to be reduced to the necessary minimum. No non-combatants are to be killed whatsoever. The prisoners of war are to be humanely treated, it is better if they are set free as a favour, but if circumstances do not allow this, they are to be allowed to ransom themselves until the war ends, after which, of course, they are to be set free.

The following traditions of the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) show how a jihad is to be conducted:

“Do not kill women or labourers.” (Ibni Majah)

“Do not kill old men, nor women, or children.” (Bukhari: Ibn Omar)

“Do not kill children or monks of monastries.” (Ibni Abbas)

Anas, Allah be pleased with him, reports that whenever the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) went out to fight, he never attacked a people in the night and always waited for morning.

Peace and amity are to continue with the people who do not fight:

“Allah does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of your religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes that you show them kindness and deal with them justly, surely Allah loves the doers of justice.

“Allah only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account of your religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up others in your expulsion that you make friends with them and whoever makes friends with them, these are unjust.” (60: 8-9)


I hope I have been able to show that the jihad ordained by Islam entirely fulfils the conditions laid down in the previous chapter under which alone the use of force can be justified. A Muslim can fight only in self-defence, and for a just cause, and what is more important, only as the last resort. He is to use only the minimum of force which is required in enforcing justice, and should ever be ready to stop fighting when there is made an offer of peace from the other side. Wars are to be conducted as humanely as possible, and no non-combatants are to suffer. A Muslim should be ready to defend the poor and the weak from oppression and all places of worship from desecration, and to fight for this noble cause. He should fight against oppression and to establish justice and the broadest principles of religious toleration. Surely, if Allah has not created force in vain, if there is a purpose behind its existence in the world, Islam has given us the right use of it, and no religion could do more. The world has never been able to dispense with force; this shows that it can, perhaps, never be dispensed with. It is a mighty weapon which should be used with wisdom and discretion which, to my mind, consists in using it according to the law of Islam.