Is Jihād a Collective Obligation?
Question asked by .
Answered by Jhangeer Hanif

May you continue your efforts for propagation of Islam. I have a confusion. At this critical situation when all non-believers are together for crushing Muslims, is Jihād ard-i- Kafāyah (collective obligation)?


This is a very delicate question that you have asked. You are right: the whole non-Muslim world seems to be united against Islam and its followers. But don’t you think that the real responsibility for such withering international relations rests mainly with the Muslims themselves? Except for the Prophet Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta), rest of the Muslims had only been authorized by their Lord to present the message of Islam in a lucid and most appropriate manner; but they went so much further as to threatening the world into subjugation, in case they didn’t embrace Islam. This undoubtedly gave rise to a nameless fear that cannot be overcome even by telling them time and again that Islam is indeed the torchbearer of peace and universal brotherhood.

As far as your question is concerned, it must be kept in mind, that the only Jihād that an Islamic state can undertake is against injustice and persecution. It must be noted that this war against persecution may as well be waged against all the perpetrators of persecution, be it a Muslim country or a non-Muslim one, if diplomatic efforts fail to resolve the crisis. The Qur’ān reads:

What has come upon you that you fight not in the cause of God, and for the oppressed men, women, and children, who pray; ‘Get us out of this town, O Lord, whose people are oppressors; so raise for us from Yourself one who will protect and raise for us from Yourself one who will help. (4:75)

Only a state has the authority to launch an armed struggle against persecution. The directives for Jihād were given when Muslims succeeded to establish an Islamic State in Madīnah. The implication evidently is that the authority to uplift arms rests with an Islamic state only. No individual or a group of individuals have been authorized to undertake this job. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

A Muslim ruler is the shield [of his people]. An armed struggle can only be carried out under him and people should seek his shelter [in war]. (Bukhārī: No. 2957)

The jurists also subscribe to this view. Thus, Sayyid Sabiq has delineated in Fiqhu’l Sunnah:

Among Kafāyah obligations, the third category is that for which the existence of a ruler is necessary e.g. Jihād and execution of punishments. Therefore, only a ruler has this prerogative. Because, indeed, no one else has the right to punish another person.1



1. Fiqhu’l Sunnah, 2nd ed., vol. 3, (Beirut: Daru’l-Fikr, 1980), p. 30


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