Opinion of Islamic scholars on Jihad

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Jihad connotes a wide range of meanings: anything from an inward spiritual struggle to attain perfect faith to a political or military struggle. This article presents opinions of different scholars on Jihad.

Classification by Islamic scholars[edit]

al-Ghazali says:

"[God] has perfected the pleasures for the martyrs who have fought in God’s path, for they have not embarked boldly upon fighting, save that they [first] sundered their attention from worldly affairs, desiring [only] to meet God, [they are] willing to be killed for His satisfaction… blessed is the paradise that the martyr reaches…"[1]

Ibn Rushd, in his Muqaddimāt, divides Jihad into four kinds:

"Jihad by the heart; Jihad by the tongue; Jihad by the hand and Jihad by the sword." He defines "Jihad by the tongue" as "to commend good conduct and forbid the wrong, like the type of Jihad Allah ordered us to fulfill against the hypocrites in His Words, “O Prophet! Strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites” (Qur'an [Quran 9:73]). Thus, Seraj and Ahmad Hendricks have expressed a view that Muhammad strove against the unbelievers by sword and against the hypocrites by tongue[2]

Ibn Arabi says:

"I counsel you to fear God and uphold the requirements of the outer aspects of the sharia and its statutes. The greater jihad is incumbent upon you, which is the jihad against the passions, and when you wage this jihad against your lower self the other jihad against the enemies will be [easy] for you, for if you should be killed [in the martial jihad] you will be among the living martyrs for whom God provides. The merit of the one who wages jihad (mujahid) in God’s path is like that of the devout one who fasts in God’s signs … strive to participate actively [in jihad] in God’s path… beware… if you do not take part in military campaigns and if you are not resolved to go forth [for this purpose] then you will be among the hypocrites…"[3]

Ibn al-Qayyim says:

Jihad is of four kinds: jihad an-nafs (jihad against one’s self), jihad ash-Shaytan (jihad against Satan), jihad against the kuffar and jihad against the hypocrites.
1. Jihad an-nafs (jihad against one’s self) is of four kinds:
a. Striving to learn the teachings of Islam b. Striving to make oneself act in accordance with what one has learned.c. Striving to call others to Islam, teaching those who do not know about it. d. Striving to bear patiently the difficulties involved in calling people to Allah and the insults of people, bearing all that for the sake of Allah. If a person achieves all four of these levels, then he will be one of the rabbaniyyin -- learned men of religion who practice what they know and also preach to others. (see [Quran 3:79]). The salaf (righteous predecessors) were agreed that the scholar does not deserve to be called a rabbani unless he knows the truth, acts in accordance with it, and teaches it to others. Whoever teaches, acts in accordance with his knowledge, and has knowledge will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
2.Jihad ash-Shaytan (jihad against Satan) is of two types:a. Warding off the doubts that Satan stirs up to undermine faith. b. Striving against Satan to ward off the corrupt desires that he provokes. The first jihad is followed by certainty of faith, and the second is followed by patience. Allah says: “And We made from among them [Children of Israel], leaders, giving guidance under Our Command, when they were patient and used to believe with certainty in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) ” ([Quran 32:24]). Allah tells us that leadership in religion is attained through patience and certainty of faith. Patience wards off desires and certainty wards off doubts.
3. Jihad against the munafiqin (hypocrites) and kuffar (disbelievers) is of four kinds: with the heart, the tongue, one’s wealth and oneself. Jihad against the disbelievers is more along the lines of physical fighting, whereas jihad against the hypocrites is more along the lines of using words and ideas.

Ibn Taymiyya defines jihad as:

It comprehends all sorts of worship, whether inward or outward, including love for Allah, being sincere to Him, relying on Him, relinquishing one’s soul and property for His sake, being patient and austere, and keeping remembrance of Almighty Allah. It includes what is done by physical power, what is done by the heart, what is done by the tongue through calling to the way of Allah by means of authoritative proofs and providing opinions, and what is done through management, industry, and wealth.[4][better source needed]

Ibn Baz says:

Jihad is of various kinds, with one’s self, one's wealth, by making dua, by teaching and guiding, by helping to do good in any way. The greatest form of jihad is jihad with one’s self (i.e., going oneself and fighting,--This is a completely disingenuous transliteration. Jihad 'alaan-Nafs or Jihad 'alaal-Hawaa' is unanimously accepted as the struggle against oneself, i.e., the lower desires. There are not sources for this, this is simple Arabic grammar.]), followed by jihad with one's wealth, jihad by speaking out and guiding others. Dawah is also part of jihad. But going out oneself to fight in jihad is the highest form. (Fatawa ash-Sheikh Ibn Baz, 7/334, 335)[5]

Majid Khadduri says:

″The Islamic faith, born among a single people and spreading to others, used the state as an instrument for achieving a doctrinal or an ultimate religious objective, the proselytization of mankind. The Islamic state became necessarily an imperial and an expansionist state striving to win other peoples by conversion. At the very outset, the law of war, the jihad, became the chief preoccupation of jurists. The Islamic law of nations was essentially a law governing the conduct of war and the division of booty. This law was designed for temporary purposes, on the assumption that the Islamic state was capable of absorbing the whole of mankind; for if the ideal of Islam were ever achieved, the raison d’être of the law of war, at least with regard to Islam’s relations with non-Islamic states, would pass out of existence. ..The Islamic law of nations, however, is not a system separate from Islamic law. It is merely an extension of the sacred law, the shari’a, designed to govern the relations of Muslims with non-Muslims, whether inside or outside the territory of Islam. In a word, an Islamic law of nations does not exist as a separate system in the sense that modern municipal (national) law and international law, based on different sources and maintained by different sanctions, are distinct from one another″[6]
″Thus the jihad may be regarded as Islam’s instrument for carrying out its ultimate objective by turning all people into believers, if not in the prophet-hood of Muhammad (as in the case of the dhimmis), at least in the belief of God. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have declared "some of my people will continue to fight victoriously for the sake of the truth until the last one of them will combat the anti-Christ." Until that moment is reached the jihad, in one form or another will remain as a permanent obligation upon the entire Muslim community. It follows that the existence of a dar al-harb is ultimately outlawed under the Islamic jural order; that the dar al-Islam (Islamic community) are permanently under jihad obligation until the dar al-harb is reduced to non-existence; and that any community accepting certain disabilities- must submit to Islamic rule and reside in the dar al-Islam or be bound as clients to the Muslim community. The universality of Islam, in its all embracing creed, is imposed on the believers as a continuous process of warfare, psychological and political if not strictly military.″[7]

Nawawi in his book al-Minhaj, when defining Jihad and its different categories, said,

"one of the collective duties of the community as a whole (fard kifaya) is to lodge a valid protest, to solve problems of religion, to have knowledge of Divine Law, to command what is right and forbid wrong conduct".[2]

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a renowned scholar based in Qatar writes in his book Fiqh of Jihad,"The third category is the "moderate Ummah" which Almighty Allah has guided to the approach of moderation and granted knowledge, wisdom, and deep understanding of the Shari`ah and reality. Hence, it has not slipped into the negligence of the first category that seeks to keep the right of the Ummah unarmed with power, its Qur'an unguarded by the sword, and its home and sanctuaries with no guards to protect and defend them.

Likewise, it has not fallen into the excess and extremism of the second group that seeks to fight those who are peaceful and declare war against all people without discrimination; white and black, in the East or in the West. Their alleged aim by doing so is to shepherd people to (the way of) Almighty Allah, drive them shackled toward Paradise and take them coercively by the hand to the Straight Path.

They further add that their aim is to remove the obstacles set in front of those people by despotic regimes that do not allow them to convey the Word of Allah and the Call of His Messenger to the people, so that they can hear it loud and clear and free from all stains."[8]

Ramadan Buti, a contemporary Orthodox scholar from Syria, in his work on the subject Jihad in Islam says

Even before Muhammad conducted Jihad by sword against the unbelievers, there is no doubt the Prophet (s) invited these unbelievers peacefully, lodged protests against their beliefs and strove to remove their misgivings about Islam. When they refused any other solution, but rather declared a war against him and his message and initiated the fight, there was no alternative except to fight back"[2]

Imam al-Dardir in his book Aqarab al-Masalik says

Jihad is propagating the knowledge of the Divine Law commending right and forbidding wrong. He emphasized that it is not permitted to skip this category of Jihad and implement the combative form, saying, "the first [Islamic] duty is to call people to enter the fold of Islam, even if they had been preached to by the Prophet (s) beforehand."[2]

Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid, imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, NY, defines three levels of jihad—personal, verbal and physical. Considering each in turn:

Personal Jihad: This is the most important form. This type of jihad, called the Jihadun-Nafs, is the intimate struggle to purify one's soul of evil influences -- both subtle and overt. It is the struggle to cleanse one's spirit of sin. Putting "Allah ahead of our loved ones, our wealth, our worldly ambitions and our own lives." Resisting pressure of parents, peers and society; strive against "the rejecters of faith..." (Qur'an [Quran 25:52]) "...strive and struggle to live as true Muslims..." "Striving for righteous deeds."Spreading the message of Islam. "The (true) believers are only those who believe in Allah and his messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their selves for the cause of Allah. Such are the truthful." ([Quran 49:15])
Verbal Jihad: To strive for justice through words and non-violent actions. Muhammad encouraged Muslims to demand justice in the name of Allah. When asked: "'What kind of jihad is better?' Muhammad replied, 'A word of truth in front of an oppressive ruler (Nisai). According to M. Amir Ali, Jihad explained[full citation needed]
The life of the Prophet Muhammad was full of striving to gain the freedom to inform and convey the message of Islam. During his stay in Makkah Mecca he used non-violent methods and after the establishment of his government in Madinah Medina, by the permission of Allah, he used armed struggle against his enemies whenever he found it inevitable.
Physical Jihad: This relates to the use of physical force in defense of Muslims against oppression and transgression by the enemies of Allah, Islam and Muslims. Allah commands that Muslims lead peaceful lives and not transgress against anyone. If they are persecuted and oppressed, the Qur'an recommends that they migrate to a more peaceful and tolerant land: "Lo! Those who believe, and those who emigrate (to escape persecution) and strive (Jahadu) in the way of Allah, these have hope of Allah's mercy..." ([Quran 2:218]). If relocation is not possible, then Allah also requires Muslims to defend themselves against oppression by "fighting against those who fight against us." 2 The Qur'an states: "To those against whom war is made, permission is given [to defend themselves], because they are wronged — and verily, Allah is Most Powerful to give them victory." ([Quran 22:39])[9]

Imam Bahouti commences the chapter on Jihad in his book Kashf al-Kinaa by showing the injunctions of collective religious duties (kifaya) that the Muslim Nation must achieve before embarking on combative Jihad, including preaching and education about the religion of Islam, dismissing all the uncertainties about this religion and making available all the skills and qualifications which people might need in their religious, secular, physical and financial interests because these constitute the regulations of both this life and the life to come.[2]

Mohammad Noor:[10]

In his paper "The Doctrine of Jihad: An Introduction",[11] Mohhammad Noor establishes the difference between Harb (secular war) and Jihad (to strive with one's power in God's (Allah's) path). Noor clearly states that scholars of Islam agree that secular wars are a condemnable evil that violate divine law.[12] He further states that Islam permits Jihad, and not Harb. The concept of Jihad, pertains to the Islamic way of pursuing God's purpose through the acts of the Heart, the Tongue, the Hand, and the Sword.

The most misconstrued way of accomplishing one's Jihad obligation to Allah is that of the Sword. Noor states that the early history of Islam, Jihad of the Sword was only applied full force when faced with pagans and polytheists, who were invited to join Islam or face war. People of the Book of Scriptures, however, were only subject to a moderate form of Jihad of the Sword, which required them to pay Jazia, a poll-tax that allowed them to practice their religion under Muslim polity.[13] Christians, Jews and Sabians are the recognised people of the Book, and are believed to be exempt from full Jihad because they followed a distorted message. But those who believe there is no God (atheists), and those who believe that there is more than one almighty God (polytheists) shall not be spared the power of the Sword should they refuse to convert to Islam.

The other forms of Jihad have been discussed exhaustively in the above postings, and the one that has influenced the spread of Islam in North America the most has been Jihad of the Tongue. It involves educating others in the way of Allah, and to strive with one's tongue to support good and correct what is wrong. To defend and spread Islam through scholarly lectures, speeches and debates. Da'awa is a concept that constantly reflects the Islamic Jihad of the Tongue.

Permission for warfare according to Islamic jurists[edit]

It is important to note that there are four differing schools of thought (see Madhhabs). These schools of thought may differ in their interpretations of basic Islamic precepts, Jihad being one of them. Madhhabs generally agree on the main issues of Islam.

According to Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani a 10th-century Maliki jurist:[14]

Jihad is a precept of Divine institution. Its performance by certain individuals may dispense others from it. We Malikis maintain that it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them.

According to Al-Mawardi an 11th Century Shafi`i jurist:[15]

The mushrikun [infidels] of Dar al-Harb (the arena of battle) are of two types: First, those whom the call of Islam has reached, but they have refused it and have taken up arms. The amir of the army has the option of fighting them…in accordance with what he judges to be in the best interest of the Muslims and most harmful to the mushrikun… Second, those whom the invitation to Islam has not reached, although such persons are few nowadays since Allah has made manifest the call of his Messenger…it is forbidden to…begin an attack before explaining the invitation to Islam to them, informing them of the miracles of the Prophet and making plain the proofs so as to encourage acceptance on their part; if they still refuse to accept after this, war is waged against them and they are treated as those whom the call has reached…

According to Ibn Taymiya, a 14th Century Hanbali jurist:[16]

Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God's entirely and God's word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought. As for those who cannot offer resistance or cannot fight, such as women, children, monks, old people, the blind, handicapped and their likes, they shall not be killed unless they actually fight with words (e.g. by propaganda) and acts (e.g. by spying or otherwise assisting in the warfare).

In the Hidayah, vol. II. p. 140 (Hanafi school):[17]

It is not lawful to make war upon any people who have never before been called to the faith, without previously requiring them to embrace it, because the Prophet so instructed his commanders, directing them to call the infidels to the faith, and also because the people will hence perceive that they are attacked for the sake of religion, and not for the sake of taking their property, or making slaves of their children, and on this consideration it is possible that they may be induced to agree to the call, in order to save themselves from the troubles of war… If the infidels, upon receiving the call, neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax, it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them, because God is the assistant of those who serve Him, and the destroyer of His enemies, the infidels, and it is necessary to implore His aid upon every occasion; the Prophet, moreover, commands us so to do."

According to Ibn Khaldun, the 15th century Tunisian historian:[18]

In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force... The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense... Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.

Javed Ahmed Ghamidi writes in Mizan:[19]

There are certain directives of the Qur’an pertaining to war which were specific only to the Prophet Muhammad against Divinely specified peoples of his times (the polytheists and the Israelites and Nazarites of Arabia and some other Jews, Christians, et al.) as a form of Divine punishment -- for they had persistently denied the truth of the Prophet's mission even after it had been made conclusively evident to them by God through the Prophet, and asked the polytheists of Arabia for submission to Islam as a condition for exoneration and the others for jizya and submission to the political authority of the Muslims for exemption from death punishment and for military protection as the dhimmis of the Muslims. Therefore, after the Prophet 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 jihad through arms is to end oppression when all other measures have failed. Islam only allows Jihad to be conducted by a Government[20] with at least half the power of the enemy.[21][22]

According to Imam Al-Suyuti (c. 1445-1505 AD), a famous Egyptian writer, religious scholar, juristic expert, teacher and one of the latter-day authorities of the Sunni Shafi'i School, wrote:

"Fight those who don't believe in God nor in the Last Day [Unless they believe in the Prophet God bless him and grant him peace] nor hold what is forbidden that which God and His emissary have forbidden [e.g., wine] nor embrace the true faith [which is firm, and abrogates other faiths, i.e., the Islamic religion] from among [for distinguishing] those who were given the Book [i.e., the Jews and Christians] unless they give the head-tax [i.e., the annual taxes imposed on them] (/'an yadin/) humbly submissive, and obedient to Islam's rule."

— Suyuti, Durr al-Manthur (Beirut Edition), vol. 3, p. 228

According to Shaykh Aḥmad Sirhindī (d. 1624), an Islamic scholar, a Hanafi jurist, and a prominent member of the Naqshbandī Sufi order. He is regarded as having rejuvenated Islam, due to which he is commonly called "Mujaddid Alf Thānī", meaning "revival of the second millennium". He wrote:[23]

"Shariat can be fostered through the sword.

Kufr and Islam are opposed to each other. The progress of one is possible only at the expense of the other and co-existences between these two contradictory faiths in unthinkable.

The honor of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One who respects kafirs, dishonors the Muslims. To respect them does not merely mean honouring them and assigning them a seat of honor in any assembly, but it also implies keeping company with them or showing considerations to them. They should be kept at an arm's length like dogs. ... If some worldly business cannot be performed without them, in that case only a minimum of contact should be established with them but without taking them into confidence. The highest Islamic sentiment describes that it is better to forego that worldly business and that no relationship should be established with the kafirs.

The real purpose in levying jizya on them is to humiliate them to such an extent that, on account of fear of jizya, they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling. It is intended to hold them under contempt and to uphold the honor and might of Islam. . . . Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam".

According to Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, a Sunni Islamic scholar, theologian and founding member of al-Qaeda,[24] wrote:[25]

"Jihad Against the Kuffar is of two Types: Offensive Jihad (where the enemy is attacked in his own territory) ... [and] Defensive Jihad. This is expelling the Kuffar from our land, and it is Fard Ayn [personal religious obligation on Muslim individuals], a compulsory duty upon all ... ...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 (Caliph) 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 [Islamic preaching] with a force, and is obligatory to perform with all available capabilities, until there remains only Muslims or people who submit to Islam."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harry Neale, Jihad in Premodern Sufi Writings, Springer (2016), p. 64
  2. ^ a b c d e Shaykh Hisham Kabbani; Shaykh Seraj Hendricks; Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks. "Jihad — A Misunderstood Concept from Islam". The Muslim Magazine. Retrieved 16 August 2006. 
  3. ^ Harry Neale, Jihad in Premodern Sufi Writings, Springer (2016), p. 66
  4. ^ Bin Bayyah, The Concept of Jihad.
  5. ^ Muhammad Saleh Al-Munajjid (2003-05-12). "Jihad: Not Only Fighting". Living Shari'ah. Retrieved 16 August 2006. 
  6. ^ Muḥammad Ibn-al-Ḥasan aš- Šaibānī; Majid Khadduri (2002). The Islamic law of nations : Shaybānī's Siyar. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. pp. 5–6. ISBN 9780801869754. 
  7. ^ Khadduri, Majid (2007). War and peace in the law of Islam (2. print. ed.). Clark, NJ: Lawbook Exchange. p. 64. ISBN 1584776951. 
  8. ^ http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1248187409877&pagename=Zone-English-Living_Shariah%2FLSELayout#6/
  9. ^ B.A. Robinson (2003-03-28). "The Concept of Jihad "Struggle" in Islam". Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Retrieved 16 August 2006. 
  10. ^ Professor of Law, University of Baltimore School of Law, Baltimore MD (1985)
  11. ^ Noor Mohammad. “The Doctrine of Jihad: An Introduction”. Journal of Law & Religion Vol. 3, No. 2, St. Paul, MN. Journal of Law and Religion Inc. 1985, pp. 381-397. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1051182?seq=9&Search=yes&term=striving&term=name&term=allah&list=hide&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dstriving%2Bin%2Bthe%2Bname%2Bof%2Ballah%26wc%3Don%26dc%3DAll%2BDisciplines&item=13&ttl=349&returnArticleService=showArticle&resultsServiceName=doBasicResultsFromArticle
  12. ^ Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. III, No. 2 (1985) pp. 384
  13. ^ Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. III, No. 2 (1985) pp. 389
  14. ^ Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam (English translation), Cranston, NJ, 1996, p. 295
  15. ^ Al-Mawardi, The Laws of Islamic Governance [al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah], (London, United Kingdom: Ta-Ha, 1996, p. 60)
  16. ^ Ibn Taymiya, in Rudolph Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam, (Princeton, NJ. : Markus Wiener, 1996, p. 49)
  17. ^ Thomas P. Hughes, “A Dictionary of Islam,” “Jihad” p.243-248. (London, United Kingdom: W.H. Allem, 1895)
  18. ^ Ibn Khaldun, The Muqudimmah. An Introduction to History, Translated by Franz Rosenthal. (New York, NY.: Pantheon, 1958, vol. 1, p. 473)
  19. ^ Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Mizan, The Islamic Law of Jihad , Dar ul-Ishraq, 2001. OCLC 52901690.[1]
  20. ^ 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].
  21. ^ Qur'an [Quran 8:66], ...if there are a hundred patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a thousand they shall overcome two thousand by Allah's permission, and Allah is with the patient.
  22. ^ Misplaced Directives, Renaissance, Al-Mawrid Institute, Vol. 12, No. 3, March 2002.[2]
  23. ^ |2=A. Sirhindi|3=Excerpted from Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements in Northern India in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Agra, Lucknow: Agra University, Balkrishna Book Co., 1965), pp.247-50; and Yohanan Friedmann, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: An Outline of His Thought and a Study of His Image in the Eyes of Posterity (Montreal, Quebec: McGill University, Institute of Islamic Studies, 1971), pp. 73-74.
  24. ^ "Bill Moyers Journal. A Brief History of Al Qaeda". PBS.com. July 27, 2007. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  25. ^ |2=A. Y. Azzam|3=Offensive Jihad Vs. Defensive Jihad