Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

Does Islam allow offensive Jihād? Are Muslims required to conquer the world even when, for instance, other nations are desirous of peaceful and friendly coexistence? Also, is the existence of a strong Muslim state a necessary pre-requisite for carrying out Jihād? So is Jihād applicable only when Muslims are strong enough to pay back in the same coin?


Quite unfortunately, Jihād has become one of the most misunderstood directives of Islam. The following points about it may help in clarifying the stance of Islam:

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

Secondly, apart from self-defence (which is an entirely different matter) the only legitimate reason for an Islamic State to launch Jihād is to curb oppression and persecution in any other 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. It needs to be appreciated that the Jihād carried out by the Prophet (sws) and his companions 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 us. A study of the Qur’ān 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, Jihād against countries who are guilty of oppression and persecution too only becomes compulsory after all diplomatic level negotiations have failed and if the ratio of Muslim war heads to their opponents is 1:2. It seems that in the 1:2 situation, the Almighty would be providing the remaining support Himself for this noble cause of curbing oppression:

Now Allah has lightened your [task] for He knows that there is weakness among you. So if there are of you a hundred steadfast person, they shall overcome two hundred, if there are a thousand of you, they shall overcome two thousand with the leave of Allah and Allah is with the patient. (8:66)

In the light of these details, it is evident that Muslims today have no right to carry out Jihād to subjugate other countries or to forcible convert people to Islam.


1. According to the Qur’ān, 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 the hands of His Rusul (Messengers) and their companions. Since it was humanly impossible for a Rasūl to determine whether his addressees are knowingly 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 knowingly denied the truth cannot be pinpointed since the institution of Wahī has been terminated. Therefore, after his time and that of his immediate companions, no one has the right to punish people on such grounds. (For more details see my article ‘Understanding the Qur’ān -- A Fundamental Premise’ in the Nov2000 issue of Renaissance).


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