Jihad in Islam

Sami Zaatari


Indeed in today's age one of the most maligned Islamic principle has been none other than Jihad, this term has been constantly attacked and abused by Christian missionaries, Secularists, and your common anti-Islamic Islamophobes such as Robert Spencer and his kind.

All of these opponents of Islam claim that Jihad is Holy war, Holy violence, the right for Muslims to go and murder innocent civilians who happen to be non-Muslims, and the accusations go on and on.

Now what is the truth, what indeed is Jihad, is Jihad a concept of violence and oppression, or is it a concept justice and mercy that all people can admire? Well this is what we will examine in this current article, I shall give an over-view of Jihad, what it is, when it is allowed, and how it's supposed to be done, by doing all of this it will give both Muslims and none-Muslims a more clear and truthful picture of Jihad.


What is Jihad?

A good starting place would be to ask what is Jihad? What does it mean and signify? Well Jihad simply means to strive, or to struggle, so to basically strive and struggle in God's path. A Muslim who goes on a program to stop smoking is doing a Jihad, a Muslim who goes on a program to cure their alcohol addiction is doing a Jihad, any of these sorts of acts is a Jihad!

What I myself am doing is a Jihad, when I write the hundreds of articles, have public debates, and paying for all of these expenses is all considered to be a Jihad.

There are literally hundreds and hundreds types of Jihad, and one of those Jihad's is physical Jihad, when a Muslim fights for the sake of God, and it is this specific type of Jihad that is constantly attacked and vilified.

So to clarify, Jihad comes in all forms, Jihad does not simply mean war, or holy war, or a person going on a battle or a fight, this is simply one form of Jihad. So with that said let us now get into the specifics of physical Jihad, we will discuss when a Muslim is allowed to make a physical Jihad, and how he is supposed to conduct this Jihad.


When can Physical Jihad be done?

Indeed Islam is the perfected religion, as Allah has told us in the Quran:

This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5:3)

Islam is the perfected religion, it has rules and regulations for everything, and this is no different to when it comes to warfare, Islam has laid down strict guidelines on how a Muslim is to carry himself during such a period.

Now indeed Muslims are allowed to fight for the sake of God, but when are they allowed to do so, can they simply go out and fight for no reason? The answer is no, and the rules are found within the Quran, the Quran explicitly tells us when we are allowed to fight:

Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. (2:190)

So here we have a clear stipulation as to when Muslims can fight, and it is when the Muslim himself is attacked, thereby he has a right to defend himself and fight back. Surely one cannot attack such a principal? In what part of that verse do we see any teaching that is vile, evil, or wrongfully violent?

Elsewhere in the Quran this same message is repeated, fight if you are fought, we read:

To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid;- (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right,- (for no cause) except that they say, "our Lord is Allah". Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will). (22: 39-40)

Once again we see a clear stipulation of when physical Jihad can be done, which is when a person attacks you,  oppresses you, and kicks you out of your home on account of your religion. If such an act is done against a Muslim, and the Muslim has the power to fight back, then the Muslim has every right to do so. Surely there is no evil and wrong in that, if a person comes and declares war on you, and fights you, all on account of your religious faith, then surely you have a right to fight back and defend yourself. This is common sense, common logic, and how reality works, this is what we call justice.

In fact these two verses were the first verses whereby Muslims were finally allowed to fight, these verses were revealed after the Muslims had emigrated to Madinah, and God had finally given the Muslims the right to fight back against the pagan oppressors who were living in Makkah, the pagans who had forced the Muslims out.

Hence Muslims in the present day must follow this same example, apply the verses in the same manner in which they were applied and meant for, and that is to fight back when someone fights you, oppresses you, and kicks you out of your land based on your religious identity.

Islam is indeed a religion of peace, but it is not a pacifist religion, and people seem to mix the two together. Whenever a Muslim says Islam is a religion of peace, none-Muslims assume were saying that Islam is pacifist, no, we are not saying that, what we are saying is that Islam is not here to cause you trouble, or to kill you. However so Islam does allow the Muslims to physically fight, in a self defence situation.

In fact it would be completely illogical and UN PEACEFUL if Islam had taught the opposite, if Islam had said don't fight back at all while you are oppressed, that would be the true definition of going against peace, because whether one likes it or not, when one allows oppression and murder to freely walk, it will only increase, and by you remaining silent and doing nothing about it, you become complicit in it because you did nothing to stop it when you could have. If someone were to come to your house, and rape your family, would you stop by and do nothing about it? Of course not, so why any different when it comes to a person who is oppressing and killing you off your own land? There is no difference between the two, pacifists have no moral high ground at all, they just have a very illogical ideology which itself is cruel, unjust, and against peace.

True mercy and justice is when you are allowed to fight back against tyranny and oppression, that is the definition of justice, to fight against evil and to completely crush it out  and replace with good and something better. This is what physical Jihad is for, to fight against tyranny and oppression:

And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?- Men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!" (4:75)

Indeed, why should you not fight for the oppressed people who are crying for help and justice?

So with all of this we have seen when physical Jihad can be done, now let us move onto explaining how a Muslim is to conduct himself.


Rules of War

Now we know that Muslims are allowed to fight, yet how are Muslims supposed to fight, are we allowed to simply go out and kill everyone in sight? Well Islam yet again gives strict guidelines concerning this issue. We read the following rule:

Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. (2:190)

We have already quoted this verse above, and as you can see, Allah tells the Muslims to not transgress the limits, this means that Muslims should not act like savages, should not kill innocent women and children, should not kill the elderly, should not kill anyone who is not involved in the war etc. As the prophet Muhammad taught:

Bukhari Volume 004, Book 052, Hadith Number 257.


Narrated By 'Abdullah : During some of the Ghazawat of the Prophet a woman was found killed. Allah's Apostle disapproved the killing of women and children.


Bukhari Volume 004, Book 052, Hadith Number 258.


Narrated By Ibn 'Umar : During some of the Ghazawat of Allah's Apostle a woman was found killed, so Allah's Apostle forbade the killing of women and children.


The prophet Muhammad would also give the following commands to Muslims before they were sent out for a raid:


Muslim Book 019, Number 4294:


It has been reported from Sulaiman b. Buraid through his father that when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and to be good to the Muslims who were with him. He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of Muhairs and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajirs. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muilims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai' except when they actually fight with the Muslims (against the disbelievers). If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them. When you lay siege to a fort and the besieged appeal to you for protection in the name of Allah and His Prophet, do not accord to them the guarantee of Allah and His Prophet, but accord to them your own guarantee and the guarantee of your companions for it is a lesser sin that the security given by you or your companions be disregarded than that the security granted in the name of Allah and His Prophet be violated When you besiege a fort and the besieged want you to let them out in accordance with Allah's Command, do not let them come out in accordance with His Command, but do so at your (own) command, for you do not know whether or not you will be able to carry out Allah's behest with regard to them.


So as you can see from this hadith, the Muslim army is supposed to conduct itself in a very good manner, not to mutilate bodies, not to kill children, and not to simply go and massacre everyone in sight.


We also see that a Muslim must give the enemies two choices that can avoid a conflict, 1) the enemies come to Islam, which indeed is a great choice, here you have the Muslims giving these none-believers the chance to come to salvation, to come to the truth, and to be saved and have great joy in the hereafter, what better option could these people want?! 2) They should pay the jizya, the jizya is a tax imposed on none-Muslims who are living under Islamic rule, the jizya applies to none-Muslim states that have been captured through war, for instance if a nation attacked the Muslims, and the Muslims fought back and were victorious, the enemy nation would be forced to pay the jizya tax. So there are these two choices the enemies can take, if they refuse both, then they are to be fought and kicked out so their oppression is ended once and for all.


Further rules of war are also given by Abu Bakr, the prophet Muhammad's right hand man, and the first Islamic ruler to come after the prophet Muhammad, he said the following:


Maliks Muwatta Book 021, Hadith Number 010.


Section : Prohibition against Killing Women and Children in Military Expeditions.


Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn Said that Abu Bakr as-Siddiq was sending armies to ash-Sham. He went for a walk with Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan who was the commander of one of the battalions. It is claimed that Yazid said to Abu Bakr, "Will you ride or shall I get down?" Abu Bakr said, "I will not ride and you will not get down. I intend these steps of mine to be in the way of Allah."


Then Abu Bakr advised Yazid, "You will find a people who claim to have totally given themselves to Allah. Leave them to what they claim to have given themselves. You will find a people who have shaved the middle of their heads, strike what they have shaved with the sword.


"I advise you ten things| Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly."


So as you can see, the Muslims are to not act like savages, the Muslims are to fight with honour, not killing the women and children, not killing the elderly, not killing those who aren't involved, not even to kill the insects! Islam is so merciful it tells the Muslims to be mindful of even the insects! And this is a religion of terrorism? Who is the one lying here?


In fact during warfare a person from the enemies can even come to the Muslims and ask for protection:


If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge. (9:6)


So even during war, a person from the enemy camp can come to the Muslims seeking protection, and the Muslims are to take him in and grant him protection.


Now what about captives of war, as we know, during warfare people are captured, so how are we to treat those who come under our control? Well Islam gives strict rulings yet again, we read:


Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: "When the slave of anyone amongst you prepares food for him and he serves him after having sat close to (and undergoing the hardship of) heat and smoke, he should make him (the slave) sit along with him and make him eat (along with him), and if the food seems to run short, then he should spare some portion for him (from his own share) - (another narrator) Dawud said:" i. e. a morsel or two". 4097.   (Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Oaths (Kitab Al-Aiman), Book 015, Number 4096)"

Narrated Al-Ma'rur: "At Ar-Rabadha I met Abu Dhar who was wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied, "I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names." The Prophet said to me, 'O Abu Dhar! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help them.'  (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Belief, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 29)"


We cannot even beat them:


Abu Mas'ud al-Ansari reported: "When I was beating my servant, I heard a voice behind me (saying): Abu Mas'ud, bear in mind Allah has more dominance over you than you have upon him. I turned and (found him) to be Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him). I said: Allah's Messenger, I set him free for the sake of Allah. Thereupon he said: Had you not done that, (the gates of) Hell would have opened for you, or the fire would have burnt you.  (Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Oaths (Kitab Al-Aiman), Book 015, Number 4088)"

We are not allowed to rape or sexually abuse the female captives:

Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allah gives them means out of His grace. And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them: yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you. But force not your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, is Allah, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them), (24:33)

And here the two statements by two of the top Islamic scholars:

In our view the man who rapes a woman, regardless of whether she is a virgin or not, if she is a free woman he must pay a "dowry" like that of her peers, and if she is a slave he must pay whatever has been detracted from her value. The punishment is to be carried out on the rapist and there is no punishment for the woman who has been raped, whatever the case.  (Imam Maalik, Al-Muwatta', Volume 2, page 734)

"If a man acquires by force a slave-girl, then has sexual intercourse with her after he acquires her by force, and if he is not excused by ignorance, then the slave-girl will be taken from him, he is required to pay the fine, and he will receive the punishment for illegal sexual intercourse." (Imam Al Shaafi'i, Kitaabul Umm, Volume 3, page 253)

Now what about the issue of peace? Well Islam gives rules regarding this as well, we read:

And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression. (2:193)

So if the enemies end their fighting, then there shall be no hostility and the Muslims will hold back as well. This is repeated elsewhere in the Quran:

But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things). (8:61)



So this my friends is Jihad, there is nothing evil about it, nothing barbaric, as we have seen Physical Jihad is filled with justice and mercy, it is to end oppression and tyranny, and indeed all people should praise such a doctrine.

Now I know some none-Muslims who are reading this article will probably be thinking about some other verses which they think are violent and evil, if so, then please visit the following articles which address the commonly brought up verses from the Quran which are supposedly violent:







And Allah truly knows best!