Offensive jihad

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Offensive jihad (Arabic: جهاد الطلب‎‎, Jihād al-ṭalab), in contrast with defensive jihad, is armed Jihad meant to expand the realm of Islam (Dar al Islam)[citation needed] at the expense of the House of War (Dar al-Harb). Offensive jihad is the instrument to transform the Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam so as to achieve the ultimate aim of universalization of the Islamic faith and to establish its social order, sharia law.[1] This is seen by its advocates first as a collective duty but also an individual one. Since the goal can be accomplished by peaceful as well as by violent means, the participation could be fulfilled by the heart, the tongue, the hands, as well as the sword. Offensive jihad accordingly is a form of religious propaganda carried out by spiritual or material means.[2] Offensive jihad requires the authorization and supervision of a "legitimate Muslim leader".[clarification needed][3]


The beginnings of Jihad are traced back to the words and actions of Muhammad and the Quran.[4] This encourages the use of Jihad against non-Muslims.[5][page needed] The Quran, however, never uses the term Jihad for fighting and combat in the name of Allah; qital is used to mean “fighting.”[citation needed] According to Jonathan Berkey, jihad in the Quran was may originally intended against Muhammad's local enemies, the pagans of Mecca or the Jews of Medina, but the Quranic statements supporting jihad could be redirected once new enemies appeared.[6]


Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`i (d. 820), founder of the Shafi'i school of thought, was the first to permit offensive jihad, limiting this warfare against pagan Arabs only, not permitting it against non-Arab non-Muslims.[7] This view of al-Shafi'i is mitigated by the fact that an opposite view, in agreement with the majority, is also attributed to al-Shafi'i.[8]

Islamic law[edit]

Islamic scholars have differed on the issue of offensive jihad, to pursue non-Muslims in their own lands without any aggression on their part. Some scholars have even gone so far to say that it is illegitimate, while others say it is legitimate and even required. Most scholars[who?] agree that offensive jihad cannot be totally prohibited, since two schools of Islamic jurisprudence have ruled that offensive jihad is permissible in order to secure the borders of the Islamic lands, to spread the Islamic religion to people in cases where the governments do not allow it, and to remove every religion other than Islam from the Arabian peninsula.[9][unreliable source][10][unreliable source]

Classically and in the modern era however, a large number of jurists have upheld Islamic ideas,[citation needed] concepts and texts to justify offensive jihad against non-Muslims.[citation needed] Most prominent of these among classical scholars is Imam ash-Shafi`i, and among modern-day thinkers are Sayyid Qutb and Mawdudi, who support their view with evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah, and from historical practice.[11][verification needed]

The basic principle of fighting in the Qur'an is that other communities should be treated as one's own. Fighting is justified for legitimate self-defense, to aid other Muslims and after a violation in the terms of a treaty, but should be stopped if these circumstances cease to exist.[12][13][14][15]

Notable Proponents[edit]

Abdullah Yusuf Azzam[edit]

Abdullah Yusuf Azzam was a Sunni scholar, preacher and contemporary proponent of Jihad, and the founder of al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Azzam issued a fatwa Defense of the Muslim lands, The First Obligation After Iman,[16] and other work on behalf of jihad against Afghan Marxists and Russian invaders in Afghanistan. Azzam's fatwa is primarily a call for defensive jihad in Afghanistan, but it also briefly describes offensive jihad, arguing that "jihad against the Kuffar is of two types" - defensive and offensive.

Azzam argued that although offensive jihad does not have the very high priority that jihad to defend Muslim lands has, it is a religious obligation. Offensive jihad differs from defensive in being fard al-kifaya - a religious obligation on Muslim society as a whole, rather than on every individual Muslim (fard al-ayn). According to Azzam, if the Islamic leader does not send out "an army at least once a year to terrorize" infidels, he "is in sin." Azzam believes that the goal of the jihad is to compel non-Muslims to pay Jizya, a tribute tax. Non-Muslims would not, however, pay the Zakah, which is for Muslims only.

Where the Kuffar ("infidels") are not gathering to fight the Muslims, the fighting becomes Fard Kifaya [religious obligation on Muslim society] with the minimum requirement of appointing believers to guard borders, and the sending of an army at least once a year to terrorise the enemies of Allah. It is a duty of the Imam to assemble and send out an army unit into the land of war once or twice every year. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the Muslim population to assist him, and if he does not send an army he is in sin. - And the Ulama have mentioned that this type of jihad is for maintaining the payment of Jizya. The scholars of the principles of religion have also said: "Jihad is Daw'ah with a force, and is obligatory to perform with all available capabilities, until there remains only Muslims or people who submit to Islam." [16]

Sayyid Qutb[edit]

In his famous book Milestones, Islamist theoretician Sayyid Qutb angrily and repeatedly denounces the idea that Jihad war "is merely for defense," blaming this foolish misconception on those Muslims "defeated by the attacks of the treacherous [Western] Orientalists!"

There is no room to say that the basic aim of the Islamic movement was `defensive` in the narrow sense which some people ascribe to it today, defeated by the attacks of the treacherous Orientalists! [17]

... Those who say that Islamic Jihad was merely for the defense of the `homeland of Islam` diminish the greatness of the Islamic way of life ...[18]

A.E. Stahl purports that "an understanding of Qutb’s endorsement of jihad begins with an explanation of his immutable tenets", which are understood to be Hakimiyya (sovereignty), Ubudiyya (worship), and Jahiliyya.[19] Stahl writes, "to Qutb, man’s sovereignty had supplanted Allah’s sovereignty, causing man to worship leaders and their ideologies, rather than the Divine. This was the illness, and offensive jihad would serve as the cure for societal reformation."[20]

Qutb believes Muslims were restrained from fighting for a brief time "in Mecca and in the early period of their migration to Medina," but that following this "Muslims were permitted to fight, then they were commanded to fight against the aggressors; and finally they were commanded to fight against all the polytheists," (which Qutb believes to include Christians and Jews). According to Qutb, this command is the final one for Muslims and is the one operative today.[21]


Javed Ahmad Ghamidi believes that after Muhammad and his companions, there is no concept in Islam obliging Muslims to wage war for propagation or implementation of Islam. The only valid basis for military jihad is to end oppression when all other measures have failed. Islam only allows jihad to be conducted by a government.[22][23][24]

According to Abdulaziz Sachedina, offensive jihad raises questions about whether jihad is justifiable on moral grounds. He states that the Qur'an requires Muslims to establish just public order, increasing the influence of Islam, allowing public Islamic worship, through offensive measures. To this end, the Qur'anic verses revealed required Muslims to wage jihad against unbelievers who persecuted them. This has been complicated by the early Muslim conquests, which he argues were although considered jihad by Sunni scholars, but under close scrutiny can be determined to be political. Moreover, the offensive jihad points more to the complex relationship with the "People of the book".[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Although these world divisions were derived by jurists, they are not mentioned in the Qur'an and hadith. See Campo, Juan Eduardo (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Infobase Publishing. p. 182. 
  2. ^ Khadduri, Majid (2002). The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani's Siyar. JHU Press. pp. 15–17. ISBN 978-0-8018-6975-4. 
  3. ^ Feldman, Noah (October 29, 2006). "Islam, Terror and the Second Nuclear Age". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  4. ^ Rudolph Peters, Jihād (The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World); Oxfordislamicstudies. . Retrieved February 17, 2008.
  5. ^ Jonathon P. Berkey, The Formation of Islam; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2003
  6. ^ Berkey, Jonathan Porter (2003). The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800. Cambridge University Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-521-58813-3. The Koran is not a squeamish document, and exhort the believers to jihad. Verses such as "Do not follow the unbelievers, but struggle against them mightily" (25.52) and "fight [those who have been given a revelation] who do not believe in God and the last day" (9.29) may originally have been directed against Muhammad's local enemies, the pagans of Mecca or the Jews of Medina, but could be redirected once a new set of enemies appeared. 
  7. ^ Afsaruddin, Asma (2007). Views of Jihad Throughout History. Religion Compass 1 (1), 165–169.
  8. ^ H.R.H. Prince, Ghazi Muhammad; Ibrahim, Kalin; Mohammad Hashim, Kamali (2013). War and Peace in Islam: The Uses and Abuses of Jihad (PDF). The Islamic Texts Society Cambridge. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-903682-83-8. 
  9. ^ RUBIN, BARRY. "The Region: Revolutions, walk-outs and fatwas". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 23 June 2011. 
  10. ^ Mustafa, 'Imad. "متى يجوز قتال غير المسلمين ومتى لا يجوز؟". IslamOnline. Retrieved 25 June 2011.  Archive of the page in available here
  11. ^ Al Qaradawi, Yusuf (Sep 2009), What is New about Al-Qaradawi’s Jihad?, Ikhwan Web (Muslim brotherhoods official English website)  Archive of the page in available here
  12. ^ Patricia Crone, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, War article, p.456. Brill Publishers
  13. ^ Micheline R. Ishay, The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era, University of California Press, p.45
  14. ^ Sohail H. Hashmi, David Miller, Boundaries and Justice: diverse ethical perspectives, Princeton University Press, p.197
  15. ^ Douglas M. Johnston, Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik, Oxford University Press, p.48
  16. ^ a b Defense of the Muslim lands The First Obligation After Iman
  17. ^ Qutb, Milestones, p.69
  18. ^ Qutb, Milestones, p.71
  19. ^ Stahl, A.E. "‘Offensive Jihad' in Sayyid Qutb's Ideology." International Institute for Counter-Terrorism. Commentary. 24/03/2011.
  20. ^ Stahl, A.E. "‘Offensive Jihad' in Sayyid Qutb's Ideology." op. cit.
  21. ^ Qutb, Milestones, p.64
  22. ^ Sahih Bukhari, 2957, 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].
  23. ^ Ghamidi, Mizan.
  24. ^ Misplaced Directives, Renaissance, Al-Mawrid Institute, Vol. 12, No. 3, March 2002.[1]
  25. ^ Sachedina, Abdulaziz (1988). The Just Ruler In Shi'ite Islam. Oxford University Press US. p. 106. ISBN 0-19-511915-0.