Jihād means to exert oneself fully in an
endeavour. Just as this term appears in the Qur’ān for a general struggle in the
way of God, it also appears as a term for waging war in His way (qitāl fī
sabīl-Allāh). Two forms of this war have been described:
1. War against the denial of Islam
2. War against oppression and injustice
The first kind of war does not concern the sharī‘ah (Divine
law); instead, it relates to the Divine principle of conclusive argument from
God, which principle manifests itself in this world on the basis of God’s direct
decree and through those personalities whom He grants the status of risālat.
In human history, this status was given for the last time to the Prophet
Muḥammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The battles that the Prophet and
his companions fought under this principle against the defiance of Islam were
not just battles; instead, they were Divine punishment which, exactly in
accordance with God’s ways and His Judgement, visited first the polytheists of
Arabia and the Israelites and the Nazarenes there and then, after them, some
peoples outside the Arabian Peninsula. The Divine scheme of sending prophets and
messengers ended with Prophet Muḥammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Therefore, with the passing away of the Prophet and his companions, that Divine
process has ended in which a certain people could be declared as infidels,
battles and wars could be done against them, and the vanquished in such fighting
could be killed or subjugated and made subservient through jizyah (a tribute).
No one until the Judgement Day has any right now to wage a war against any
nation for this purpose or to subjugate a vanquished people by making them
subservient through jizyah.
The second form of war, however, does relate to the
sharī‘ah. Therefore, the only possibility for Muslims to wage a war as jihād is
in a fight against oppression and injustice. In the sharī‘ah, this is the only
reason for an armed jihād. This jihād is not done for self-interest, wealth,
conquest, rule, fame, honour, affiliation, partisanship, or animosity. It is
God’s war that His servants fight in His way on His command and in accordance
with His directives. They are only His instruments in this war. They have no
personal objective; just the objectives of God, which they intend to achieve.
Therefore, they are not supposed to deviate from this position to the slightest
Important sections of the law given by the Qur’ān for this
form of war are summarized below:
1. The directive of war and jihād has been given to the
Muslims as a collectivity. None of the pertinent verses in the Qur’ān addresses
the Muslims in their individual capacity. As in the case of the verses related
to hudūd-o ta‘zīrāt (legal punishments in the sharī‘ah and Islamic law), the
Muslims become addressees of these verses too as a collectivity. Therefore, in
these matters also, only their collectivity has the right to take any steps. No
individual or group from amongst their collectivity has the right to take any
steps in this regard on their behalf.
2. In the Qur’ān, this directive is actually for ending
religious persecution. Religious persecution means that, through oppression or
torture, a person is coerced into renouncing his or her faith. All other
violations of people’s rights in relation to life, wealth, intellect and opinion
fall under the same category. Therefore, this kind of jihād can be done against
any form of oppression and injustice.
3. Jihād does not become obligatory for the Muslims until
their military strength against their enemy reaches a certain level. Therefore,
it is imperative that, to fulfill this responsibility, they should strive for
consolidation of their moral and ethical fabric and also do their best in the
endeavour to augment their military strength to the extent that the Qur’ān
requires in the directive that it gave when, in view of the situation the
Muslims were facing in the times of the Prophet, it specified 1:2 as the
proportion between them and their enemies.
4. Shirking from jihād becomes a crime only when a Muslim
chooses to sit back even after the general call has been made. In this
situation, aversion is indeed a crime similar to a great transgression. If such
call has not been made, this jihād is still a great privilege that every Muslim
should try to have. However, in this case, it is just a privilege in its import.
It is not the kind of obligation which, if left unfulfilled, makes a person a
5. Jihād cannot be waged in
disregard of ethical bounds. Basic ethical and moral imperatives remain
effective in all situations and precede every directive. God has not permitted
any person to violate these ethical and moral principles even in battle or war.
In this regard, the most important guideline that the Qur’ān has given pertains
to the sanctity of treaties and pacts. God has placed violation or breach of
pact amongst the worst of sins. Therefore, help, in violation of a treaty,
cannot be provided to Muslims even if they are persecuted by another nation with
whom the treaty has been made. Similarly, no steps can be taken against people
who are not involved in war or choose to remain neutral in that situation. This
jihād can be done only against the combatants.
(Translated by Asif Iftikhar)