Understanding Jihād

  1. What is Jihād? What is the Concept of Jihād?
  2. Why was Jihād prescribed and legitimized in Islam?
  3. What are the conditions for performing Jihād?

First: The Concept of Jihād:

Jihād in Arabic is a verbal noun of (جَاهد يُجاهِد جِهادا ومجاهدة): Jāhada, Yujāhido, Jihādan wa Mujāhadatan, if someone did his maximum effort and utmost capacity it was called Jihād. It was taken from the root (الجُهْد) al-juhd with (u), to mean effort and ability. And also from (الجَهْد) al- jahd with (a), to mean hardship and to bear hardship at the utmost level. Therefore, the word “Jihād” is derived from the both sources in the form of “mushārakah” partnership of two sides: one’s self and his inner enemy to denote continued peaceful struggle. So, Jihād literally is not synonymous with violence or holy war. It simply means making a great effort or striving hard for a particular purpose, which is common for all human beings.

The term “Jihād” in the prevailing terminology: “Is to fight the enemy (infidels and polytheists) in defense of the religion and homeland”. Here, we will give this term more explanation and clarification.

The word “Jihād” and its derivatives have been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an 33 times, and its semantic concept gradated chronologically to include the following five meanings:

  1. Straightness with Integrity and commitment, “Self Jihād” against one’s own self. It is to adhere to the religion while overcoming all obstacles that hinder the way of choice for this religion, as Allāh said:

[وَمَنْ جَاهَدَ فَإِنَّمَا يُجَاهِدُ لِنَفْسِهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ [العنمبوت: 6﴿

It means: “Whoever strives, he strives only for himself. Allāh is Independent of the Ԑālamīn (mankind, jinns, and all that exists)” [al-Ankabut 6].

  1. To make a great effort in the cause of Islamic call under the evidence and proof, so that the massage of Allah could be understood by his servants, as Allāh said:

[فَلَا تُطِعِ الْكَافِرِينَ وَجَاهِدْهُمْ بِهِ جِهَادًا كَبِيرًا  [الفرقان:52﴿

It means: “So do not obey the unbelievers and struggle by means of this [Qur’an, to convey its message to them] a great Jihād/ struggle” [al-Furqan: 52]. And He said:

[وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ … [الحج: 78﴿

It means: “And strive for Allah, with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you, and has not made in the religion any difficulty for you…” [al-Hajj 78].

  1. To exert an effort to remove a person from his religion to another, as in the verse where Allāh said:

وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حُسْنًا وَإِنْ جَاهَدَاكَ لِتُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ [العنكبوت: 8] وقال نفس المعنى في الآية 15 من سورة لقمان

It means: “We have advised the human being to be good to his parents. But if they urge you to associate with Me something you have no knowledge of, do not obey them. To Me is your return; and I will inform you of what you used to do” And He said the same meaning in the verse 15 of Luqman. This meaning in terms of use is synonymous with the second meaning, but the semantic meaning is exactly the opposite.

  1. The steadfastness, sincerity, patience and strength of determination, as in the verse where Allāh said:

[وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ حَتَّى نَعْلَمَ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ مِنْكُمْ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَنَبْلُوَ أَخْبَارَكُمْ[محمد: 31﴿

It means: “We will certainly test you, until we know those among you who strive, and those who are steadfast, and we will test your reactions”. And He said:

[أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَنْ تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَعْلَمِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا مِنْكُمْ وَيَعْلَمَ الصَّابِرِينَ [آل عمران: 142﴿

It means: “Or do you expect to enter Paradise, before Allāh has distinguished those among you who strived, and before He has distinguished the patient from among you?

  1. To make the utmost effort in fighting the aggressors, and those who rejected and stood against the Islamic call, this meaning is found in most of the verses of Jihād that came down in Medina after the Battle of Badr, including the verse where Allāh said:

[إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَاجَرُوا وَجَاهَدُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أُولَئِكَ يَرْجُونَ رَحْمَتَ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيم) [البقرة: 218﴿

It means: “Those who believed, and those who migrated and struggled/fought for the sake of Allāh – those look forward to Allah’s mercy. Allāh is Forgiving and Merciful” And Allāh said:

[إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَرْتَابُوا وَجَاهَدُوا بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنْفُسِهِمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أُولَئِكَ هُمُ الصَّادِقُونَ[الحجرات: 15﴿

It means: “The believers are those who believe in Allāh and His Messenger, and then have not doubted, and strive for Allah’s cause with their wealth and their persons. These are the sincere”

These are the meanings of Jihād, which are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, all due to the origin of its linguistic meaning, but differed its semantic meanings according to their occurrence in the context and their case, and if we exceed the third meaning and we considered the fourth as in the first and second meanings, it can be grouped in three meanings only. Therefore, it can be summarized in the following:

  1. Self-struggle: straightness, commitment and endurance (the Greatest Jihād). It has four ranks: Learning, Practice, Teaching & Propagation and bearing hardship.
  2. Da’wah struggle: exerting a great effort for the Islamic call (The Great Jihād)
  3. Defense struggle: making the utmost effort in fighting the aggressors and those who practice “Fitnah” sedition act against the Islamic call (The Small/Specific Jihād).

It is worth mentioning here that Jihād in the Holy Qur’an whenever the meaning of defense struggle and fighting is meant, Allāh mentioned after it (Fī Sabīlillah) in the way of Allah; to pay attention and focus on the ultimate goal of Jihād, which is to eradicate the “Fitnah oppression and sedition of polytheism” and everything that stands in the way of the Islamic call, to uphold the word of Allah, so as not to deviate from Jihād and use in the non-divine goals as national goals, tribal and personal.

This meaning of Jihād “defense struggle and fighting” is not inherent or permanent meaning of Jihād, but it is according to the circumstances in which Muslims are forced to fight in the battle; it is the last option. But the real meaning of the Jihād is the first and second which are respectively the “Jihād an-Nafs” the greatest Jihād against one’s self as in the Hadith, and “Jihād ad-Da’wah” the great Jihād for propagating Islam as in the Qur-an.

If we look at these meanings used by the Holy Qur’an for Jihād with a scientific view of its original linguistic meaning, we can derive from all of it a precise scientific definition of Jihād. Therefore, we say the Jihād is: “Exerting of Muslim his utmost effort and capacity in what the religion of Allāh requires, such as learning, straightness, commitment, calling to its path, and defending it against aggressors and those who blocked its way by his knowledge, effort, words and his wealth and self” The three kinds of struggles as mentioned.

The mistake in this concept is as follows:

  1. The term “Jihad” is used in defense struggle only, then subsequently became synonymous with violence or holy war. While the greatest Jihad (self-struggle) and great Jihad (Da’wah struggle) is abandoned/deserted by people and media.
  2. The meaning of enemy is all non-Muslim, because of the term ‘Kuffar’ infidels. While the real enemy are: One’s self sahwal, Satan and aggressors/oppressors.
  3. Jihād is used in what is not required by the religion of Allah, but rather corrupts it, destroys and distorts its image, such as the extremism and terrorism.

The eternal Jihād (self-struggle) is the one that lasts with the believer for his entire life, that is the greatest Jihād of the soul, and the great Jihād enters into that general meaning of Jihād. The external Jihād (defense struggle) is the last option, that is the small Jihād, and our topic is about that Jihād.