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The Misunderstood Doctrine of Jihād
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

Unfortunately, Jihād has become one of the most misunderstood doctrines of Islam. To many Muslims, Jihād is the answer to all their sufferings, but to non-Muslims it is perhaps become the primary reason to dread Muslims. In a world that is populated by almost 1.5 billion Muslims, this issue assumes phenomenal importance. In the opinion of this writer, in addition to other factors, world peace is threatened by a handful of Muslims because of some erroneous concepts about Jihād. In an effort to remove these misconceptions and to clarify the stance of Islam regarding Jihād, this issue of the journal has been dedicated to what we think is the true concept of Jihād in Islam.

Following are some important points that are discussed in the articles which appear in this issue:

First and foremost, only an Islamic state has the authority to wage Jihād. No independent group or organization has the right to launch an armed struggle in any way.

Secondly, after the departure of the Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta), the only legitimate reason for an Islamic State to wage Jihād is to curb oppression and persecution in another country – whether Muslim or non-Muslim.

Thirdly, Jihād is or was never carried out for territorial aggrandizement or for forcibly converting people to Islam. People who erroneously justify either or both of these two bases draw their arguments from the Jihād carried out by the Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta). It needs to be appreciated that the Jihād carried out by the Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta) after him was governed by a specific law meant only for the Prophets of Allah and their immediate addressees, and has nothing to do with later Muslims. A study of the Qur’an reveals that the purpose of their Jihād was neither territorial aggrandizement nor forcible conversion of people to Islam: contrary to both, it was Divine punishment meted out to people who had arrogantly denied the truth in spite of being convinced about it.1

Fourthly, Muslims can rise against their rulers only in certain circumstances. In case, they intend to resort to armed warfare to dislodge them, then the following conditions must necessarily be fulfilled:

a. Muslim rulers are guilty of openly and knowingly denying Islam or any of its directives.

b. The government should be a despotic one, which neither came into existence through the opinion of the people nor is it possible to change it through their opinion.

c. The person who leads this uprising should have a clear majority of the nation behind him and they are willing to accept him as their future ruler in favour of the existing one.

d. The rebels are able to establish their authority in an independent piece of land.

It is hoped that this issue of the journal is able to provide some food for thought for our readers.







1. According to the Qur’an, one of the reasons for which people will be punished in the Hereafter would be denying the truth that had come to them in this world even though they were convinced about its veracity. Such people are also punished in this world by the Almighty directly and sometimes through His Rusul (Messengers) and their companions. Since it is humanly impossible for a Rasūl to determine whether his addressees were deliberately denying the truth or not, it was only on the basis of information provided by the Almighty that this punishment was carried out. He chose to impart this information to his Rusul through Wahī (Divine Revelation). However, after the departure of the last Rasūl Muhammad (sws), people who have deliberately denied the truth cannot be pinpointed since the institution of Wahi has been terminated. Therefore, after his time and that of his immediate Companions (rta), no one has the right to punish people on such grounds. (For more details see: Islam and Non-Muslims: A New Perspective, Renaissance: March 2002, Daru’l Ishraq, Lahore. For the internet version see

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