In this regard, the following points will perhaps
serve as a clarification.
1. After the departure of Muhammad (sws) and his
Companions, jihād can only be carried out to root out oppression and injustice.
One form of this oppression is persecution. The Qur’ān says:
And what has come over you that you fight not in the
cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women,
and children whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town of oppressors,
and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one
who will help.” [You should know that] those who believe fight in the cause of
Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Satan. So fight against
the friends of Satan. Ever feeble indeed is the plot of Satan. (4:75-6)
Also in this matter there is to be no distinction between a
Muslim state or a non-Muslim state. It can be launched against either for the
purpose of curbing oppression and injustice.
2. The jihād carried out by the Messengers of God had
another dimension which was only specific to them and does not relate to us. It
was governed by a divine law that relates to Messengers of God only. As per this
law, once the truth is communicated to the addressees of a Messenger to the
extent that none of them is left with an excuse to deny it and they still
deliberately deny it, then they are punished in this very world by the Almighty
in either of the following two ways:
i. through natural calamities like storms and earthquakes
ii. through the swords of the believers
Thus, for example, the people of Noah (sws), the ‘Ād and
the Thamūd were punished by the Almighty through natural calamities after they
deliberately rejected the truth communicated to them by their respective
Messengers. On the other hand, the people of Arabia in the times of Muhammad (sws)
were punished through the swords of the believers.
In the first case, when punishment is meted out through
natural disasters, we know from the Qur’ān that all the disbelievers are
destroyed since they subscribe to polytheism.
In the second case, when punishment is meted out by the
followers of the Messengers of God, the polytheists among the disbelievers are
only given the option of accepting faith or facing death, while the monotheists
among them are also given the option of living on their own faith provided they
remain subservient to the Muslims. Those who profess faith and become the
companions of the Messengers are granted success and dominance in this world and
promised great reward in the Hereafter as well. For this very reason, in the
jihād carried out by the Prophet Muhammad (sws) to punish the deliberate
rejecters of the truth, while the Idolaters of Arabia were not given any option
but to accept Islam if they wanted to live, the People of the Book were given
the option of remaining on their faith if they accepted a life of subservience
to the Muslims by paying the jizyah tax.
Moreover, it needs to be appreciated that the deliberate
denial of the truth by a people can only be disclosed by God since it relates to
a person’s intentions. In the times of His Messengers, the Almighty communicated
this deliberate denial to them through divine revelation. However, with the
departure of the Messengers of God, we can no longer be informed of this
deliberate denial because after them divine revelation has ceased. Therefore,
today Muslims cannot wage jihād for the purpose of punishing disbelievers for
denying the truth. Today the only basis for jihād is to root out oppression and
Since the Qur’ān contains many verses which deal with this
dimension of the jihād of the Messengers of God, one must be careful in not
extending their area of application beyond the foremost addressees of the
Messengers. They do not relate to people after them.
3. A question here may arise that if this type of jihād
does not relate to us, then why is it mentioned in the Qur’ān so much. The
answer to this question is that this type of jihād actually substantiates the
reward and punishment which is going to take place in the Hereafter. In the
Hereafter too, people who deliberately deny the truth will be punished. People
need to be reminded of this all important fact. So, by preserving in the Qur’ān,
the details of this worldly judgement meted out to the addressees of a Messenger
we are reminded to not forget the Day of Judgement; on this day, each and every
person will have to face the consequences of his deeds the way the foremost
addressees of the Messengers of God did in this world.