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Jihad ( ; ), an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād is a noun meaning "struggle." Jihad appears frequently in the Qur'an and common usage as the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of Allah (al-jihad fi sabil Allah)". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid, the plural is mujahideen.

A minority among the Sunni scholars sometimes refer to this duty as the sixth pillar of Islam, though it occupies no such official status. In Twelver Shi'a Islam, however, Jihad is one of the 10 Practices of the Religion.

According to scholar John Esposito, Jihad requires Muslims to "struggle in the way of God" or "to struggle to improve one's self and/or society." Jihad is directed against Satan's inducements, aspects of one's own self, or against a visible enemy. The four major categories of jihad that are recognized are Jihad against one's self (Jihad al-Nafs), Jihad of the tongue (Jihad al-lisan), Jihad of the hand (Jihad al-yad), and Jihad of the sword (Jihad as-sayf). Islamic military jurisprudence focuses on regulating the conditions and practice of Jihad as-sayf, the only form of warfare permissible under Islamic law, and thus the term Jihad is usually used in fiqh manuals in reference to military combat.

Meaning of word

Many scholars argue that Jihad means to "struggle". Sunni Islams most famous Imam Sahih al-Bukhari and the compiler of the Hadith (the sayings of the prophet), decided that after collecting all the hadith, he will list them in chapters giving them all titles.

He listed all the hadith regarding Jihad in one chapter and decided to call that chapter regarding Jihad:

"Fighting for the Cause of Allah (Jihaad) ".

This suggests that Al-Bukhari believed Jihad meant fighting for the cause of Allah at the time of the prophet.

Usage of the term

The term "Jihad" used without any qualifiers is generally understood in the West to be referring to holy war on behalf of Islam. In broader usage and interpretation, the term has accrued both violent and non-violent meanings. It can simply mean striving to live a moral and virtuous life, spreading and defending Islam as well as fighting injustice and oppression, among other things. The relative importance of these two forms of jihad is a matter of controversy.

Greater Jihad (controversial)

Within Islamic belief, Muhammad is said to have regarded the inner struggle for faith the "greater jihad", prioritizing it over physical fighting in defense of the Ummah, or members of the global Islamic community. One famous hadith has the prophet saying: "We have returned from the lesser jihad (battle) to the greater jihad (jihad of the soul)." However this hadith is of questionable origin. This notion has however been challenged by many prominent Muslim scholars. The contenders hold that the view that war is lesser Jihad is not based on sound sources. The terms Jihad-i Akbar and Jihad-i Asghar are supposedly attributed to the Prophet. However, this attribution does not have a sound basis. The chain of narrators of this narrative is very weak. Authorities of Hadith like Ibn Hajr, Ibn Taymiyyah and Al-Bani have convincingly challenged the authenticity of this narrative1. So one can safely conclude that there is no such thing as a greater Jihad or a lesser one. The word Jihad is used in the Qur’an to connote striving in the way of Allah. One particular form of such a struggle is that in which one might have to fight for Allah’s cause. This is also termed as ‘Qital’. In other words, striving in the way of Allah in whatever form one is able to in accordance with the needs that arise is what is required from a believer. Whether striving in His way in a particular form is more superior than some other one has not been indicated in any authentic source. Is Qital a lesser Jihad?

Muslim scholar Mahmoud Ayoub states that "The goal of true jihad is to attain a harmony between islam (submission), iman (faith), and ihsan (righteous living)." Greater jihad can be compared to the struggle that Christians refer to as "resisting sin", i.e. fighting temptation, doubt, disbelief, or detraction. The greater jihad is about holding fast against any ideas and practices that run contrary to the Muhammad's revelations (Qur'an), sayings (Hadith) and the examples set by how he lived his life (Sunnah). This concept of jihad has does not correspond to any military action.

In Modern Standard Arabic, jihad is one of the correct terms for a struggle for any cause, violent or not, religious or secular (though كفاح kifāḥ is also used). For instance, Mahatma Gandhi's struggle for Indian independence is called a "jihad" in Modern Standard Arabic (as well as many other dialects of Arabic); the terminology is applied to the fight for women's liberation.

In modern times, Pakistanimarker scholar and professor Fazlur Rahman Malik has used the term to describe the struggle to establish "just moral-social order", while President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisiamarker has used it to describe the struggle for economic development in that country.

Lesser Jihad (Jihad bil Saif)

Within Islamic jurisprudence jihad is the only form of warfare permissible under Islamic law, and may be declared against apostates, rebels, highway robbers, violent groups, non-Islamic leaders or non-Muslim combatants, but there are other ways to perform jihad as well, including civil disobedience. The primary aim of jihad as warfare is not the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam by force, but rather the expansion and defense of the Islamic state.

In the classical manuals of Islamic jurisprudence, the rules associated with armed warfare are covered at great length. Such rules include not killing women, children and non-combatants, as well as not damaging cultivated or residential areas. More recently, modern Muslims have tried to re-interpret the Islamic sources, stressing that Jihad is essentially defensive warfare aimed at protecting Muslims and Islam. Although some Islamic scholars have differed on the implementation of Jihad, there is consensus amongst them that the concept of jihad will always include armed struggle against persecution and oppression.

Jihad has also been applied to offensive, aggressive warfare, as exemplified by Muhammad's own policies and the entire subsequent history of the spread of Islam. From the first generation of Islam, jihad ideology inspired the conquest of non-Muslim populations, forcing them to submit to Muslim rule or accept outright conversion (although conversion was not generally demanded of "Peoples of the Book," this too could be forcibly imposed on non-"Peoples of the Book"). Jihad ideologies also inspired internal civil conflict, as can be seen in early movements like the Kharijites and the contemporary Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization (which assassinated Anwar Al Sadat) as well as Jihad organizations in Lebanonmarker, the Gulf states, and Indonesiamarker. When used to describe warfare between Islamic groups or individuals, such as al-Qaeda's attacks on civilians in Iraqmarker, perpetrators of violence often cite collaboration with non-Islamic powers as a justification. Terrorist attacks like that of September 11, 2001, which was planned and executed by radical Islamic fundamentalists, have not been sanctioned by more centrist groups of Muslims.

Many believe that there is no such thing as lesser jihad, and jihad by the sword is considered most important. This hadeeth about lesser jihad also contradicts clear verses of the Qur'an.

Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons.
Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home).


Controversy has arisen over whether use of the term jihad without further explanation refers to jihad of the sword, and whether some have used confusion over the definition of the term to their advantage.

The hadith in which Muhammad is said to speak of "greater" vs. "lesser" jihad is of doubtful authenticity.It does not appear in any of the six collections of the Hadith, this quote from the hadith is considered a forgery by many scholars.

"There is a Hadith related by a group of people which states that the Prophet said after the battle of Tabuk: 'We have returned from Jihad Asghar [lesser jihad] to Jihad Akbar [greater jihad].'
This hadith has no source, nobody whomsoever in the field of Islamic Knowledge has narrated it.
Jihad against the disbelievers is the most noble of actions, and moreover it is the most important action for the sake of mankind."
-Ibn Taymiyyah said in Al-Furqan PP. 44–45

One of the counter-hadith with a better chain of transmissio (and the author quotes others as well) goes like this:A man asked [the Prophet]: "...and what is Jihad?" He replied: "You fight against the disbelievers when you meet them (on the battlefield)." He asked again: "What kind of Jihad is the highest?" He replied: "The person who is killed whilst spilling the last of his blood."This seems to leave little doubt as to how Muhammad understood jihad. There are many hadith on jihad, and they make its meaning quite clear. First and foremost, jihad meant combat on the battlefield, and specifically against non-Muslims.

The hadith is said to be made by Yahya bin Al-Ula who is known for making false hadith, his hadith are heavily renounced.

Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Hadith scholar) said:
This was a saying of Ibraaheem bin Abee Ablah, a Taabi’ee, and not a hadeeth of the Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
-Kashf al-Khafaa’ (no.1362)]

Regarding this hadith it is said to be fabricated due to one 'Khalaf bin Muhammad bin Ismael al-Khiyam'.

Hujr ibn Adi (Companion of the prophet) says: "His hadith are false"-[Tahzeeb ut-Tahzeeb 11/261]

Middle East historian Bernard Lewis argues that "the overwhelming majority of classical theologians, jurists, and traditionalists [i.e., specialists in the hadith] ... understood the obligation of jihad in a military sense."

Scholar David Cook writes:
In reading Muslim literature -- both contemporary and classical -- one can see that the evidence for the primacy of spiritual jihad is negligible.
Today it is certain that no Muslim, writing in a non-Western language (such as Arabic, Persian, Urdu), would ever make claims that jihad is primarily nonviolent or has been superseded by the spiritual jihad.
Such claims are made solely by Western scholars, primarily those who study Sufism and/or work in interfaith dialogue, and by Muslim apologists who are trying to present Islam in the most innocuous manner possible.

And according to Douglas Streusand, "in hadith collections, jihad means armed action; for example, the 199 references to jihad in the most standard collection of hadith, Sahih al-Bukhari, all assume that jihad means warfare."

Some fundamentalist Muslim traditionalists see that the world is divided into two houses: the House of Islamic Peace (Dar al-Salam), in which Muslim governments rule and Muslim law prevails, and the House of War (Dar al-Harb), the rest of the world, still inhabited. The presumption is that by natural law these domains will compete and fighting is inevitable therefore the duty of jihad will continue, interrupted only by truces, until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule. Those who fight in the jihad qualify for rewards in both worlds — treasure in this one, paradise in the next. For most of the recorded history of Islam, from the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad onward, the word jihad was used in a primarily military sense.

Nevertheless, the hadith is there, and the fact remains that ideas regarding which hadith are to be considered "controversial" are more often than not based upon the preconceived ideology of certain factions rather than the consensus of the ummah, or even historical or theological exegesis. Furthermore, all of the greatest saints (wali) of Islam and the majority of the ummah have supported Muhammad's interpretation of jihad according to this hadith, as well as that of the Qur'an itself, as being critical to daily religious practice in which the believer is urged to engage in struggle (jihad) within oneself (nafs) against the incessant promptings of the evil one.

A number of Islamic scholars have distinguished jihad, as legitimate struggle, from fasad, as illegitimate violence and troublemaking, and argue that terrorism should be called fasad, not jihad.

History of Jihad


The beginnings of Jihad are traced back to the words and actions of Muhammad and the Qu’ran. This word of Allah explicitly encourages the use of Jihad against non-Muslims. Sura 25, verse 52 states: “Therefore, do not obey the disbelievers, and strive against them with this, a great striving.” It was, therefore, the duty of all Muslims to strive against those who did not believe in Allah and took offensive action against Muslims. The Qu’ran, however, never uses the term Jihad for fighting and combat in the name of Allah; qital is used to mean “fighting.” The struggle for Jihad in the Qu’ran was originally intended for the nearby neighbors of the Muslims, but as time passed and more enemies arose, the Qu’ranic statements supporting Jihad were updated for the new adversaries. The first documentation of the law of Jihad was written by ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Awza’i and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani. The document grew out of debates that had surfaced ever since Muhammad's death.

Early Instances of Jihad

The first forms of military Jihad occurred after the migration (hijra) of Muhammad and his small group of followers to Medinamarker from Meccamarker and the conversion of several inhabitants of the city to Islam. The first revelation concerning the struggle against the Meccans was surah 22, verses 39-40:

At this time, Muslims had been persecuted and oppressed by the Meccans. There were still Muslims who couldn't flee from Mecca and were still oppressed because of their faith. Surah 4, verse 75 is referring to this fact:

The Meccans also refused to let the Muslims enter Mecca and by that denied them access to theKa'abamarker. Surah 8, verse 34:{{cquote|But what plea have they that Allah should not punish them, when they keep out (men) from the sacred Mosque - and they are not its guardians? No men can be its guardians except the righteous; but most of them do not understand.|4=Abdullah Yusuf Ali}

However hadith from Sahih Bukhari formalized the rules for warfare, which legitimized warfare based on disbelief.
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 holy war..."

Which takes as its basis the quranic verse 9:29

The main focus of Muhammad’s later years was increasing the number of allies as well as the amount of territory under Muslim control. The Qu’ran is unclear as to whether Jihad is acceptable only in defense of the faith from wrong-doings or in all cases.

Major battles in the history of Islam arose between the Meccans and the Muslims; one of the most important to the latter was the Battle of Badrmarker in 624 AD. This Muslim victory over polytheists showed “demonstration of divine guidance and intervention on behalf of Muslims, even when outnumbered.” Other early battles included battles in Uhud (625), Khandaq (627), Meccamarker (630) and Hunayn (630). These battles, especially Uhud and Khandaq, were unsuccessful in comparison to the Battle of Badrmarker.. In relating this battle, the Qu’ran states that Allah sent an “unseen army of angels” that helped the Muslims defeat the Meccans.

Jihad and the Crusades

The European crusaders conquered much of the territory held within the Islamic state, dividing it into four kingdoms, the most important being the state of Jerusalemmarker. The Crusades originally had the goal of recapturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land (former Christian territory) from Muslim rule and were originally launched in response to a call from the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire for help against the expansion of the Muslim Seljuk Turks into Anatoliamarker. There was little drive to retake the lands from the crusaders, save the few attacks made by the Egyptianmarker Fatimids. This changed, however, with the coming of Zangi, ruler of what is today northern Iraqmarker. He took Edessa, which triggered the Second Crusade, which was little more than a 47-year stalemate. The stalemate was ended with the victory of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (known in the west as Saladin) over the forces of Jerusalem at the Horns of Hattin in 1187. It was during the course of the stalemate that a great deal of literature regarding Jihad was written. While amassing his armies in Syriamarker, Saladin had to create a doctrine which would unite his forces and make them fight until the bitter end, which would be the only way they could re-conquer the lands taken in the First Crusade. He did this through the creation of Jihad propaganda. It stated that any one who would abandon the Jihad would be committing a sin that could not be washed away by any means. It also put his amirs at the center of power, just under his rule. While this propaganda was successful in uniting his forces for a time, the fervor burned out quickly. Much of Saladin's teachings were rejected after his death.

Islamic Spain and Portugal

Medieval Spain was the scene of almost constant warfare between Muslims and Christians. Periodic raiding expeditions were sent from Al-Andalusmarker to ravage the Christian Iberiamarker kingdoms, bringing back treasure and slaves. In raid against Lisbonmarker in 1189, for example, the Almohad caliph Yaqub al-Mansur took 3,000 female and child captives, while his governor of Córdobamarker, in a subsequent attack upon Silves in 1191, took 3,000 Christian slaves.

The Almohad Dynasty (From Arabic الموحدون al-Muwahhidun, i.e. "the monotheists" or "the Unitarians"), was a Berber, Muslim dynasty that was founded in the 12th century, and conquered all Northern Africa as far as Libyamarker, together with Al-Andalusmarker (Moorish Spainmarker). The Almohads, who declared an everlasting Jihad against the Christians, far surpassed the Almoravides in fundamentalist outlook, and they treated the dhimmis harshly. Faced with the choice of either death or conversion, many Jews and Christians emigrated. Some, such as the family of Maimonides, fled east to more tolerant Muslim lands, while others went northward to settle in the growing Christian kingdoms.

Indian subcontinent

Sir Jadunath Sarkar contends that several Muslim invaders were waging a systematic Jihad against Hindus in Indiamarker to the effect that "Every device short of massacre in cold blood was resorted to in order to convert heathen subjects." In particular the records kept by al-Utbi, Mahmud al-Ghazni's secretary, in the Tarikh-i-Yamini document several episodes of bloody military campaigns. In 1527, Babur ordered a Jihad against Rajputs at the battle of Khanwa. Publicly addressing his men, he declared the forthcoming battle a Jihad. His soldiers were facing a non-Muslim army for the first time ever. This, he said, was their chance to become either a Ghazi (soldier of Islam) or a Shaheed (Martyr of Islam). The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb waged a Jihad against those identified as heterodox within India's Islamic community, such as Shi'a Muslims.


Timur Lenk, a 14th century Turco-Mongol conqueror of much of western and central Asia, thought of himself as a ghazi, although his wars were also against Muslim states.

Fulani jihads

The Fula or Fulani jihads, were a series of independent but loosely connected events across West Africa between the late 17th century and European colonization, in which Muslim Fula took control of various parts of the region. Between 1750 and 1900, between one- to two-thirds of the entire population of the Fulani jihad states consisted of slaves.


In 1784, Imam Sheikh Mansur, a Chechen warrior and Muslim mystic, led a coalition of Muslim Caucasian tribes from throughout the Caucasus in a ghazavat, or holy war, against the Russianmarker invaders. Sheikh Mansur was captured in 1791 and died in the Schlusselburg Fortress. Avarian Islamic scholar Ghazi Muhammad preached that Jihad would not occur until the Caucasians followed Sharia completely rather than following a mixture of Islamic laws and adat (customary traditions). By 1829, Mullah began proselytizing and claiming that obeying Sharia, giving zakat, prayer, and hajj would not be accepted by Allah if the Russians were still present in the area. He even went on to claim that marriages would become void and children bastards if any Russians were still in the Caucasus. In 1829 he was proclaimed imam in Ghimrymarker, where he formally made the call for a holy war. In 1834, Ghazi Muhammad died at the battle of Ghimri, and Imam Shamil took his place as the premier leader of the Caucasian resistance. Imam Shamil succeeded in accomplishing what Sheik Mansur had started: to unite North Caucasian highlanders in their struggle against the Russian Empiremarker. He was a leader of anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War and was the third Imam of Dagestanmarker and Chechnyamarker (1834-1859).

Mahdists in Sudan

During the 1870s, European initiatives against the slave trade caused an economic crisis in northern Sudanmarker, precipitating the rise of Mahdist forces. Muhammad Ahmed Al Mahdi was a religious leader, who proclaimed himself the Mahdi - the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will appear at end times - in 1881, and declared a Jihad against Ottoman rulers. He declared all "Turks" infidels and called for their execution. The Mahdi raised an army and led a successful religious war to topple the Ottoman-Egyptianmarker occupation of Sudan. Victory created an Islamic state, one that quickly reinstituted slavery. In the West he is most famous for defeating and later killing Britishmarker general Charles George Gordon, in the fall of Khartoum.


The Saudimarker Salafi sheiks were convinced that it was their religious mission to wage Jihad against all other forms of Islam. In 1801 and 1802, the Saudi Wahhabists under Abdul Aziz ibn Muhammad ibn Saud attacked and captured the holy Shia cities of Karbalamarker and Najafmarker in Iraqmarker, massacred the Shiites and destroyed the tombs of the Shiite Imam Husayn and Ali bin Abu Talib. In 1802 they overtook Taifmarker. In 1803 and 1804 the Wahhabis overtook Mecca and Medina.

Ottoman Empire

Upon succeeding his father, Suleiman the Magnificent began a series of military conquests in Europe. On August 29, 1526, he defeated Louis II of Hungary (1516–26) at the battle of Mohácsmarker. In its wake, Hungarian resistance collapsed and the Ottoman Empire became the preeminent power in Central and Eastern Europe. In July 1683 Sultan Mehmet IV proclaimed a Jihad and the Turkish grand vizier, Kara Mustafa Pasha, laid siege to the Vienna with an army of 138,000 men.

On November 14, 1914, in Constantinoplemarker, capital of the Ottoman Empire, the religious leader Sheikh-ul-Islam declares Jihad on behalf of the Ottoman government, urging Muslims all over the world - including in the Allied countries - to take up arms against Britain, Russia, Francemarker and Serbia and Montenegro in World War I. On the other hand, Sheikh Hussein ibn Ali, the Emir of Meccamarker, refused to accommodate Ottoman requests that he endorse this jihad, a requirement that was necessary were a jihad to become popular, on the grounds that:
'the Holy War was doctrinally incompatible with an aggressive war, and absurd with a Christian ally: Germanymarker'


Ahmad Shah, founder of the Durrani Empire, declared a jihad against the Marathas, and warriors from various Pashtun tribes, as well as other tribes answered his call. The Third battle of Panipat (January 1761), fought between largely Muslim and largely Hindu armies who numbered as many as 100,000 troops each, was waged along a twelve-kilometre front, and resulted in a decisive victory for Ahmad Shah.

In response to the Hazara uprising of 1892, the Afghan Emir Abdur Rahman declared a "Jihad" against the Shiites. The large army defeated the rebellion at its center, in Oruzgan, by 1892 and the local population was severely massacred. According to S. A. Mousavi, "thousands of Hazara men, women, and children were sold as slaves in the markets of Kabul and Qandahar, while numerous towers of human heads were made from the defeated rebels as a warning to others who might challenge the rule of the Amir". Until the 20th century, some Hazaras were still kept as slaves by the Pashtuns; although Amanullah Khan banned slavery in Afghanistan during his reign, the tradition carried on unofficially for many more years.

The First Anglo-Afghan War (1838–42) was one of Britain’s most ill-advised and disastrous wars. William Brydon was the sole survivor of the invading British army of 16,500 soldiers and civilians. As in the earlier wars against the British and Soviets, Afghan resistance to the American invaders took the traditional form of a Muslim holy war against the infidels.

During September 2002, the remnants of the Taliban forces began a recruitment drive in Pashtun areas in both Afghanistanmarker and Pakistanmarker to launch a renewed "jihad" or holy war against the pro-Western Afghan government and the U.S-led coalition. Pamphlets distributed in secret during the night also began to appear in many villages in the former Taliban heartland in southeastern Afghanistan that called for jihad. Small mobile training camps were established along the border with Pakistan by al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives to train new recruits in guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics, according to Afghan sources and a United Nations report.

Most of the new recruits were drawn from the madrassas or religious schools of the tribal areas of Pakistan, from which the Taliban had originally arisen. As of 2008, the insurgency, in the form of a Taliban guerrilla war, continues.

Alhough there is no evidence that the CIA directly supported the Taliban or Al Qaeda, some basis for military support of the Taliban was provided when, in the early 1980s, the CIA and the ISI (Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence Agency) provided arms to Afghan mujahideens resisting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the ISI assisted the process of gathering radical Muslims from around the world to fight against the Soviets. Osama Bin Laden was one of the key players in organizing training camps for the foreign Muslim volunteers. The U.S. poured funds and arms into Afghanistan, and "by 1987, 65,000 tons of U.S.-made weapons and ammunition a year were entering the war."


In 1830, Algeriamarker was invaded by France; French colonial domination over Algeria supplanted what had been domination in name only by the Ottoman Empire. Within two years, `Abd al-Qādir was made an amir and with the loyalty of a number of tribes began a jihad against the French. He was effective at using guerrilla warfare and for a decade, up until 1842, scored many victories. He was noted for his chivalry. On December 21, 1847, Abd al-Qādir was forced to surrender.

Abd al-Qadir is recognized and venerated as the first hero of Algerian independence. Not without cause, his green and white standard was adopted by the Algerian liberation movement during the War of Independence and became the national flag of independent Algeria.

The Algerian Civil War (1991–2002) was an armed conflict between the Algerianmarker government and various Islamist rebel groups which began in 1991. By 1997, the organized jihad in Algeria had disintegrated into criminal thuggery and Algeria was wracked by massacres of intense brutality and unprecedented size.

Views of Jihad of different Muslim groups

Sunni view of Jihad

Jihad has been classified either as al-jihād al-akbar (the greater jihad), the struggle against one's soul (nafs), or al-jihād al-asghar (the lesser jihad), the external, physical effort, often implying fighting (this is similar to the shiite view of jihad as well).

Gibril Haddad has analyzed the basis for the belief that internal jihad is the "greater jihad", Jihad al-akbar. Haddad identifies the primary historical basis for this belief in a pair of similarly worded hadeeth, in which Mohammed is reported to have told warriors returning home that they had returned from the lesser jihad of struggle against non-Muslims to a greater jihad of struggle against lust. Although Haddad notes that the authenticity of both hadeeth is questionable, he nevertheless concludes that the underlying principle of superiority internal jihad does have a reliable basis in the Qur'an and other writings.

On the other hand, the Hanbali scholar Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya did believe that "internal Jihad" is important but he suggests those hadith as weak which consider "Jihad of the heart/soul" to be more important than "Jihad by the sword". Contemporary Islamic scholar Abdullah Yusuf Azzam has argued the hadith is not just weak but "is in fact a false, fabricated hadith which has no basis. It is only a saying of Ibrahim Ibn Abi `Abalah, one of the Successors, and it contradicts textual evidence and reality."

Muslim jurists explained there are four kinds of jihad fi sabilillah (struggle in the cause of God):Majid Khadduri: War and Peace in the Law of Islam, p.56

  • Jihad of the heart (jihad bil qalb/nafs) is concerned with combatting the devil and in the attempt to escape his persuasion to evil. This type of Jihad was regarded as the greater jihad (al-jihad al-akbar).
  • Jihad by the tongue (jihad bil lisan) is concerned with speaking the truth and spreading the word of Islam with one's tongue.
  • Jihad by the hand (jihad bil yad) refers to choosing to do what is right and to combat injustice and what is wrong with action.
  • Jihad by the sword (jihad bis saif) refers to qital fi sabilillah (armed fighting in the way of God, or holy war), the most common usage by Salafi Muslims and offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some contemporary Islamists have succeeded in replacing the greater jihad, the fight against desires, with the lesser jihad, the holy war to establish, defend and extend the Islamic state.

Sufic view of Jihad

The Sufic view classifies "Jihad" into two; the "Greater Jihad" and the "Lesser Jihad". Muhammad put the emphasis on the "greater Jihad" by saying that "Holy is the warrior who is at war with himself". In this sense external wars and strife are seen but a satanic counterfeit of the true "jihad" which can only be fought and won within; no other Salvation existing can save man without the efforts of the man himself being added to the work involved of self-refinement. In this sense it is the western view of the Holy Grail which comes closest to the Sufic ideal; for to the Sufis Perfection is the Grail; and the Holy Grail is for those who after they become perfect by giving all they have to the poor then go on to become "Abdal" or "changed ones" like Enoch who was "taken" by God because he "walked with God". (Genesis:5:24) here the "Holy Ones" gain the surname "Hadrat" or "The Presence".

Jihad as warfare

The Qur’an asserts that if the use of force would not have been allowed in curbing the evils by nations, the disruption and disorder caused by insurgent nations could have reached the extent that the places of worship would have become deserted and forsaken. As it states:

Javed Ahmed Ghamidi divides just warfare into two types:
  1. Against injustice and oppression
  2. Against the rejecters of truth after it has become evident to them

The first type of Jihad is generally considered eternal, but Ghamidi holds that the second is specific to people who were selected by God for delivering the truth as an obligation. They are called witnesses of the truth (Arabic: , see also Itmam al-hujjah); the implication being that they bear witness to the truth before other people in such a complete and ultimate manner that no one is left with an excuse to deny the truth. There is a dispute among Islamic jurists as to whether the act of being "witness" was only for the Companions of Muhammad or whether this responsibility is still being held by modern Muslims, which may entitle them to take actions to subdue other Non-Muslim nations. Proponents of Companions of Muhammad as being "the witness" translate the following verse only for the Companions while others translate it for the whole Muslim nation. As in Qur'an:

Similarly, proponents of Companions of Muhammad as being "the witness" present following verse to argue that the Companions were chosen people as witnesses just as God chooses Messengers from mankind. As in Qur'an:

Following is the first verse of the Qur’an in which the Companions of Muhammad, who had migrated from Mecca, were given permission to fight back if they were attacked:

The reason for this directive in Medina instead of Mecca considered by most Muslim scholars is that without political authority armed offensives become tantamount to spreading disorder and anarchy in the society. As one of Islamic jurist writes:

Directive of warfare

The directive of the Jihad given to Muslims in Qur'an is:

These verses told Muslims that they should not merely fight the Banu Quraish if they resist them in offering Hajj, but the Qur’an goes on to say that they should continue to fight them until persecution is uprooted and Islam prevails in the whole of Arabia. Initially Muslims were required to fulfill this responsibility even if the enemy was 10 times stronger. Afterwards, the Qur'an reduced the burden of this responsibility. As in Qur'an:

Some interpret above verses that Jihad never becomes obligatory unless the military might of the Muslims is up to a certain level. In the times of Muhammad, when large scale conversions took place in the later phase, the Qur'an reduced the Muslim to enemy ratio to 1:2. It seems that Muslims should not only consolidate their moral character, but it is also imperative for them to build their military might if they want to wage Jihad when the need arises. The Qur’an gave a similar directive to Muslims of Muhammad times in the following words:

While other scholars consider the later command of ratio 1:2 only for a particular time.

A policy was adopted regarding the extent of requirement that arose in wars that the Muslims had to fight. In the battles of Badrmarker, Uhud and Tabukmarker, the responsibility was much more and each Muslim was required to present his services as a combatant. As in Qur'an:

Qur'an also states that turning backs in the battle field, except for tactical purposes, is a big sin and will bring wrath of God. As in Qur'an:

The driving force

Islamic scholars agree that Jihad should not be undertaken to gratify one’s whims nor to obtain wealth and riches. Many also consider that it must also not be undertaken to conquer territories and rule them or to acquire fame or to appease the emotions of communal support, partisanship and animosity. On the contrary, it should be undertaken only and only for the cause of Allah as is evident from the words. As in Qur'an:

Prophet Muhammad, at various instances, also explained very forcefully this purport of the Qur’an:
  • Abu Musa Ash‘ari (rta) narrates that once a person came to the Prophet (sws) and said that some people fight for the spoils of war, some for fame and some to show off their valor; he then asked the Prophet (sws): “Which one of them fights in the way of Allah”. The Prophet (sws) replied: “Only that person fights in the way of Allah who sets foot in the battlefield to raise high the name of Allah”. Sahih Bukhari 2810
  • Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): “I swear by the Almighty that a person who is wounded in the way of Allah – and Allah knows full well who is actually wounded in His way – he would be raised on the Day of Judgement such that his colour be the colour of blood with the fragrance of musk around him”. Sahih Bukhari 2803
  • Ibn Jabr narrates from the Prophet (sws): “A person whose feet become dust ridden because of [striving] in the way of Allah will never be touched by the flames of Hell”. Sahih Bukhari 2811
  • Sahal Ibn Sa‘ad says that the Prophet (sws) once said: “To reside in a border area for a day to protect [people] against an enemy [invasion] is better than this world and everything it has”. Sahih Bukhari 2892.

Similarly as a reward for participation in such a strive, the Qur'an states:

Ethical limits

Islamic Law, based upon the Quran and practices of Muhammad has set down a set of laws to be observed during the lesser Jihad.

Qur'an forbids fighting in sacred month and similarly within the boundaries of Haram. But if non-Muslims disregard these sanctities, Muslims are asked to retaliate in equal measure. It is stated in Qur'an:

Observance of treaties and pacts is stressed in Qur'an. When some Muslims were still in Mecca, and they couldn't migrate to Medina, the Qur'an stated:

Similar reports are attributed to Muhammad:
  • Abu Sa‘id (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): “On the Day of Judgment, to proclaim the traitorship of a traitor and the betrayal of a person who betrayed his words, a flag shall be hoisted which would be as high as [the extent of his] traitorship”, and [the Prophet (sws) also said]: “Remember that no traitor and betrayer of promises is greater than the one who is the leader and ruler of people”. Sahih Muslim 1738

The basic principle in fighting in the Quran 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. The principle of forgiveness is reiterated in between the assertions of the right to self-defence.

During his life, Muhammad gave various injunctions to his forces and adopted practices toward the conduct of war. The most important of these were summarized by Muhammad's companion, Abu Bakr, in the form of ten rules for the Muslim army:

These injunctions were honored by the second Caliph, Umar, during whose reign (634–644) important Muslim conquests took place. These principles were also honoured during the Crusades, as exemplified by sultans such as Saladin and al-Kamil. For example, after al-Kamil defeated the Franks during the Crusades, Oliverus Scholasticus praised the Islamic laws of war, commenting on how al-Kamil supplied the defeated Frankish army with food:

During the Battle of Siffin, the Caliph Ali stated that Islam does not permit Muslims to stop the supply of water to their enemy. In addition to the Rashidun Caliphs, hadiths attributed to Muhammad himself suggest that he stated the following regarding the Muslim conquest of Egypt:

The early Islamic treatises on international law from the 9th century onwards covered the application of Islamic economic jurisprudence, ethics and military jurisprudence to international law, and were concerned with a number of modern international law topics, including the law of treaties; the treatment of diplomats, hostages, refugees and prisoners of war; the right of asylum; conduct on the battlefield; protection of women, children and non-combatant civilians; contracts across the lines of battle; the use of poisonous weapons; and devastation of enemy territory.

Objectives of warfare

According to verses , the Qur'an implies two objectives:
  1. Uproot fitnah ( ) or persecution
  2. Establish supremacy of God, through Islam, in the Arabian Peninsula

Against persecution

Directives for action against persecution and unbelief:


Most Muslim scholars consider it an eternal directive and believe that all types of oppression should be considered under this directive. Similarly, if a group of Muslims commit unwarranted aggression against some of their brothers and does not desist from it even after all attempts of reconciliation, such a group according to the Qur’an should be fought with:

When asked what to do in the event that Muslims did not have a state, Muhammad directed Muslims to dissociate themselves from all other groups:
I asked: If there is no state or ruler of the Muslims? He replied: In this situation, dissociate yourself from all groups, even if you have to chew the roots of a tree at the time of your death. Sahih Bukhari 7084

Supremacy of Islam in the Arabian peninsula

It is stated in Qur'an:

After Itmam al-hujjah (clarification of religion to the addressees in its ultimate form), Jews were subdued first, and had been granted amnesty because of various pacts. Those among them who violated these pacts were given the punishment of denying a Messenger of God. Muhammad exiled the tribe of Banu Qaynuqa to Khyber and that of Banu Nadir to Syriamarker. The power they wielded at Khyber was crushed by an attack at their strongholds. Prior to this, Abu al-Rafi and Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf were put to death in their houses. The tribe of Banu Qurayza was guilty of treachery and disloyalty in the battle of the Ahzab. When the clouds of war dispersed and the chances of an external attack no longer remained, Muhammad laid siege around them. When no hope remained, they asked Muhammad to appoint Sa'd ibn Mua'dh as an arbitrator to decide their fate. Their request was accepted. Since, at that time, no specific punishment had been revealed in the Qur’an about the fate of the Jews, Sa'd ibn Mua'dh announced his verdict in accordance with the Torah. As per the Torah, the punishment in such situations was that all men should be put to death; the women and children should be made slaves and the wealth of the whole nation should be distributed among the conquerors. In accordance with this verdict pronounced, all men were executed. John Esposito writes that Muhammad's use of warfare in general was alien neither to Arab custom nor to that of the Hebrew prophets, as both believed that God had sanctioned battle with the enemies of the Lord.

No other incident of note took place regarding the Jews until the revelation of At-Tawba, the final judgement, was declared against them:

This directive related to both the Jews and the Christians. The punishment mentioned in these verses is a show of lenience to them because they were originally adherents to monotheism. The story holds that they did not benefit from this lenience because, after Muhammad's death, they once again resorted to fraud and treachery. Consequently, the Jews of Khyber and the Christians of Najranmarker were exiled once and for all from the Arabian peninsula by Umar. This exile actually fulfilled the following declaration of the Qur’an about them:

When the polytheists of Arabia had been similarly subdued, it was proclaimed in At-Tawba that in future no pact would be made with them. They would be given a final respite of four months and then they would be humiliated in retribution of their deeds and would in no way be able to escape from this punishment. After this time limit, the declaration is made in the Qur’an:

After the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, Muhammad himself singled out nations by writing letters to them. In all, they were written to the heads of eight countries. Consequently, after consolidating their rule in the Arabian peninsula, the Companions launched attacks against these countries giving them two options if they wanted to remain alive: to accept faith or to accept a life of subjugation by paying Jizya. None of these nations were considered to be adherents to polytheism, otherwise they would have been treated in the same way as the Idolaters of Arabia.

Warfare in Muslim societies

History records instances of the "call for jihad" being invoked by Islamic leaders to legitimate wars of conquest. The major imperial Muslim dynasties of Ottoman Turkey (Sunni) and Persiamarker (Shia) each established systems of authority around traditional Islamic institutions. In the Ottoman empire, the concept of ghaza was promulgated as a sister obligation to jihad. The Ottoman ruler Mehmed II is said to have insisted on the conquest of Constantinople (Christian Byzantium) by justifying ghaza as a basic duty. Later Ottoman rulers would apply ghaza to justify military campaigns against the Persian Safavid dynasty. Thus both rival empires established a tradition that a ruler was only considered truly in charge when his armies had been sent into the field in the name of the true faith, usually against giaurs or heretics — often meaning each other. The 'missionary' vocation of the Muslim dynasties was prestigious enough to be officially reflected in a formal title as part of a full ruler style: the Ottoman (many also had Ghazi as part of their name) Sultan Murad Khan II Khoja-Ghazi, 6th Sovereign of the House of Osman (1421 - 1451), literally used Sultan ul-Mujahidin .

The so-called Fulbe jihad states and a few other jihad states in western Africa were established by a series of offensive wars.

The commands inculcated in the Quran (in five suras from the period after Muhammad had established his power) on Muslims to put to the sword those who will neither embrace Islam nor pay a poll-tax (Jizya) were not interpreted as a general injunction on all Muslims constantly to make war on the infidels (originally only polytheists who claimed to be monotheists, not "People of the Book", Jesus is seen as the last of the precursors of the Prophet Muhammed; the word infidel had different historical uses, notably used by the Crusaders to refer to the Muslims they were fighting against). It was generally supposed that the order for a general war can only be given by the Caliph (an office that was claimed by the Ottoman sultans), but Muslims who did not acknowledge the spiritual authority of the Caliphate (which is vacant), such as non-Sunnis and non-Ottoman Muslim states, always looked to their own rulers for the proclamation of a jihad; there has been in fact no universal warfare by Muslims on non-believers since the early caliphate. Some proclaimed Jihad by claiming themselves as mahdi, e.g. the Sudanese Mahommed Ahmad in 1882.

Jihad as the 3rd best deed

When Prophet Muhammed was asked about the best deeds, he replied that jihad was the third best.

In the hadith it is said that when asked "O Allah's Apostle! What is the best deed?" He replied, "To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times." I asked, "What is next in goodness?" He replied, "To be good and dutiful to your parents." then further asked, what is next in goodness?" He replied, "To participate in Jihad in Allah's Cause."

Non-Muslim opinions

Modern views

The United States Department of Justicemarker has used its own ad hoc definitions of jihad in indictments of individuals involved in terrorist activities:
  • "As used in this First Superseding Indictment, 'Jihad' is the Arabic word meaning 'holy war'. In this context, jihad refers to the use of violence, including paramilitary action against persons, governments deemed to be enemies of the fundamentalist version of Islam."
  • "As used in this Superseding Indictment, 'violent jihad' or 'jihad' include planning, preparing for, and engaging in, acts of physical violence, including murder, maiming, kidnapping, and hostage-taking." in the indictment against several individuals including José Padilla.

In her book Muhammad: a Biography of the Prophet, B.A. Robinson writes:

"Fighting and warfare might sometimes be necessary, but it was only a minor part of the whole jihad or struggle."

Maxime Rodinson, an Orientalist, wrote that "Jihad is a propagandistic device which, as need be, resorts to armed struggle – two ingredients common to many ideological movements."

In English-speaking countries, especially the United Statesmarker, the term jihadist, technically a derogatory term for mujahid, is frequently used to describe militant Islamic groups, including but not restricted to Islamic terrorism.

See also

Political and military aspects

Related concepts

Philosophers of Jihad doctrine


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