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Jihad in Islam Part I

(Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC, delivered this Friday speech on December 2, 1994)

Nowadays the term jihad that is used by the media is greatly misunderstood by not only non-Muslims, but Muslims as well. It is important for us to learn about the true meaning of jihad in Islam. Today we shall learn the truth about jihad and the different types by exploring its correct definition from the Noble Qur’an and the Sunnah of the messenger Muhammad. We will benefit greatly by understanding the truth about jihad, and we can begin to clear up any myths that may exist about it.

Linguistically, the term jihad derives from the Arabic word jahaad, which means to strive or struggle. The Islamic definition of jihad is "To struggle to the utmost of one’s ability and to make great efforts at striving to please Allah, and to uphold His word."

Three different ways we can practice jihad are by speaking with good words, spending our wealth for the sake of Allah, or by using our physical strength to do good. We can practice these three different types of jihad depending on the time, place, situation, or the individual. We may apply these different types of jihaad all together or individually.

Now we will discuss the different categories of Jihadand what they encompass.

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim has said in his Book Zaadul Ma'aad : “Jihad can be classified into four categories:

  • The first type of jihad is to struggle against one's own self and desires.
  • The second type of jihad is to struggle against the temptation of Satan.
  • The third type of jihad is to struggle against the disbelievers.
  • The fourth type of jihad is to struggle against the hypocrites.

Struggling against one's self desires means forcing yourself to follow the orders of Allah and to stay away from what Allah has ordered us to stay away from. This includes performing the obligatory and the voluntary, and to abandon all acts that are Haram (unlawful) or Makrooh (disliked). This type of jihad also includes forcing oneself to behave with the best manners, the best morals, and to stay away from bad behavior at a time when our desires tell us the opposite.

Struggling against Satan means to defend ourselves from his evil whisperings that make us doubt our beliefs, and that tempt us into evil or lustful sins. This type of jihad is an obligation for all individuals and no one can do it on another's behalf. We should understand that Satan's whisperings will never go away, and therefore, we must keep struggling throughout our lives.

The next type of jihad is the struggle against the disbelievers and the hypocrites which is divided into four levels: the heart, the tongue, one's wealth and one's soul. When struggling with the disbelievers, more than likely, we will use our hands or physical strength. On the other hand, when struggling against hypocrites, we will practice jihad by using our tongue to preach to them. These two types of jihad are called Fard Kifaayah, which basically means if some Muslims successfully perform these two types of jihad then it will no longer be obligatory upon other Muslims. Otherwise, it remains obligatory upon all Muslims until the goal of jihaad is achieved.

Practicing Jihad with Words

Verbal jihaad means giving Da'wah patiently to convey the message of Islam. This type of jihad started early on when Allah ordered the prophet Muhammad in what may be interpreted as, "O you (Muhammad) enveloped (in garments)! Arise and warn!" [Surat Al-Muddaththir, (Verse 1)]

Allah ordered the Prophet to give Da'wah six months after he received the first revelation; the prophet and his companions practiced Da'wah all their lives, and generations of Muslims must carry on this task until the Day of Judgment. We should make the message of Islam clear to our offspring, our relatives, all Muslims and ourselves so that we may follow the rules of our Deen. Verbal jihad also includes calling non-Muslims to Islaam and approaching them with the words of Allaah and His teachings, among these teachings are enjoining good and forbidding evil.

Prophet Muhammad said: "The most excellent type of jihad is speaking a true word against a tyrant ruler in his presence." [Reported by Imaams Abu Daood, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Maajah]

And He also said: "The most excellent type of jihad is to practice jihad against your own self and your own desires for the sake of Allah." [A good and sound Hadeeth reported by Imaam At-Tirmidhi]

All scholars of Islaam have agreed that jihaad using physical force against the disbelievers was not allowed at the time in Makkah before immigration to Madinah, and there is a lot of evidence to prove this:

For example, in a verse from Allah says what may be interpreted as, "Have you not seen those who were told to hold their hands (from fighting) and offer prayers perfectly, and give Zakaat (obligatory charity). But when the fighting was ordained for them, behold! A section of them fear men as they fear Allah or even more…." [Surat An-Nisa’, (Verse 77)]

Imam Ash-Shawkaani in his explanation of this verse said: "These were a group of companions who wished to fight the disbelievers in Makkah, yet the prophet ordered them not to fight."

Also Abdul Rahman ibn Awf and some other companions came to the prophet and said: 'O prophet of Allaah we were honored while we were polytheists and since we became believers we have been getting humiliated.' Therefore, the prophet replied: “I have been ordered to forgive them (the polytheists) and not to fight them." Later, when they reached Madinah and Allaah ordered them to fight, they turned away, and then Allah revealed this preceding verse from suurat An-Nisa." [Recorded by Imams An-Nassai’, Ibn Jareer and Al-Haakim]

Other evidence shows that fighting was not permitted before immigration to Madinah. For example, one of the companions from the people of Madinah, the Ansaar, said to the prophet after the pledge of Al-‘Aqaba [during Hajj on a night pilgrims spend in Mina]: "I swear by the one who sent you with the truth, if you order us to use swords against the people of Mina (who were polytheists), we would do it." Then the prophet said: “We have not been ordered to do that yet."

There were Qur'anic verses revealed during the period when the prophet was in Makkah that discussed jihad. Some of these verses that Allah sent down strictly talked about the jihad against one's desires, against Satan, and the jihad to give Da'wah using verbal means with patience and forgiveness, because at that time, jihad in the form of physical fighting was not yet permitted.

Allah says what may be translated as, "[O' Muhammad] Obey not the disbelievers, but Jaahidhum strive against them (by preaching) with the utmost endeavor, with it (the Qur'an)." [surat Al-Furqaan, (Verse 52)] Imaam Ash-Shawkaani said: "do not obey the disbelievers when they call you to worship their gods, but continue to strive by preaching and calling them to Allah and read to them from the Qur'an and warn them. Imaam Ash-Shawkaani then said: This surah was revealed in Makkah and the order to fight was revealed after migration to Madinah.

In other evidence revealed during the Makkan period, Allah praises the believers for practicing jihaad using words rather than fighting the disbelievers in what may be interpreted as, "As for those who Jaahado strive hard in our cause. We will surely guide them to our paths..." [surat Al-Ankabout, (Verse 41)] Imaam Ash-Shawkaani explained this by saying those who strive in the cause of Allah, to earn the pleasure of Allah, and to hope for good things from Him, will be guided to the path that will lead them to Allah. Imam Ibn 'Attiyyah said this verse was revealed during the Makkan period when jihaad in the form of fighting was not yet permitted. In this verse, jihad meant to work hard to spread the Deen of Allah and to ask for His pleasure. Imam Ibn Al-Adhem described those who practiced this type of jihad as: "Those who apply their knowledge and practice what they learn."

And also Allah says what may be interpreted as, "Then, verily Your Lord – for those who emigrated after they had been put to trials and thereafter strove hard (for the Cause of Allah) and were patient, verily, your Lord afterward is Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful.” [surat An-Nahl, (Verse 110)] This was another verse that was revealed in Makkah. According to most scholars, the immigration to Abyssinia occurred during the time when torture from the Quraysh was at an all time high for Muslims.

During the Makkan period, Allah ordered the Prophet (S.A.W.) and the believers to spread the message of Islam among people even if they were met with accusations, bad behavior, and emotional and physical torment. Allah ordered them to be patient and to forgive those people that reject the message. Allah says what may be interpreted as, "So turn away from them (O Muhammad), and say: Salaam (peace)! But they will come to know.” [surat Az-Zukhruf, (Verse 89)] And also Allah says what may be interpreted as, "…So overlook (O Muhammad), their faults with gracious forgiveness." [surat Al-Hijr, (Verse 85)] And also Allah says what may be interpreted as, "Say (O Muhammad) to the believers to forgive those who (harm them) and do not hope for the Days of Allah (i.e. His recompense)…" [surat Al-Jaathiyah, (Verse 14)]

Da'wah should be given with patience and forgiveness to those who reject the message. This is the most practical strategy for giving da’wah, which was established during the 13 years of the Makkan period. Although those Muslims were met with disapproval or oppression, not using violence made the best atmosphere for the Muslims to convey the message openly and effectively. They did not have to waste their time and energy responding to every harsh comment or action with similar behavior. This bad behavior would only contaminate the environment, and how many people would listen to the truth if they were busy fighting? Violence only fills people's hearts with hatred.

Jihad is misconceived today as a term that suggests violence. Today we learned that our jihad means to struggle against our desires, against the evil whisperings of Satan, and to carry out the message of Islam to all people. Always carry the message of Islam to people using the best words, as well as with patience and forgiveness, even if we are hurt in the process.

Next week "Insha Allaah" will explore the type of jihad that uses physical force. We will explore the wisdom behind the order, its goals, stages, rules and conditions.

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