Jihad and Its Meaning
By Dr. Bashir Ahmad
Wildwood, MO

The recent wanton killing of innocent commuters in London by AL-Qaeda operatives was a contemptible abomination. AL-Qaeda operatives are engaged in killing innocent people in different countries on the basis of their absolutely false interpretation of the Qur’anic verse about jihad. The Al-Qaeda has debased, depraved and defiled the honor of the Islamic faith in the world, and has made it a target for the media to sully and mock at it.
Not surprisingly, Jonah Goldberg, a syndicated columnist has written the following under the caption of terrorism.
“---like fascism and communism, radical Islam provides a sense of purpose and meaning for losers and misfits who blame their misfortunes on ‘the system’”. (St. Louis Post Dispatch 8/8/05)
One is amazed to see that Muslim scholars have not, so far, in my opinion forcefully refuted, rebutted or repudiated the false interpretation of ‘Jihad’ by Al-Qaeda!

Jihad , as ordained in the Qur’an, does not consist of killing and being killed, but entails striving hard to win the pleasure of God by reforming one’s self and conveying His message to mankind. It is of three kinds:
1. Jihad against one’s evil desires and propensities for self-reform and purification.
- Qur’an 22/79 and 29/7.
2. The greater jihad is to preach the message of the Holy Qur’an. Qur’an 25/53.29/70,16/126,3/105-111/
3. Jihad against the enemies of truth, which includes fighting in self-defense.
Qur’an 22/40-41.
Prophet Muhammad (SAS), after migrating to Medina, was forced to take up arms in self-defense to fight the enemies of truth. On returning from one such expedition, he observed with a sigh of relief, “We have returned from a lesser jihad to a greater jihad”. emphasizing that the real jihad is self purification and spreading the message of the Qur’an.
I shall be presenting below the translation of the few verses related to jihad.
“So obey not the disbelievers and strive by means of it (i.e. Qur’an) a great striving” - Qur’an 25/53.
The highest jihad, therefore, is jihad or striving with the help of the Qur’an. The Qur’an, the message of God, does attract people by its intrinsic beauty.
According to the Qur’an it is a sin to try to convert people through fear or favor.
“There shall be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right had become distinct from wrong”. - Qur’an 2/257/
Every individual, according to the Qur’an, is free to believe or not to believe. He is free to follow reason.

“And fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Surely Allah loves not the transgressors”. Qur’an 2/191.
A religious war is to be waged against those who make war on Muslims because of religion, who seek to convert Muslim by force. Even in such a war Islam forbids transgression of limits. Islam sanctions war, it is not in order to destroy or harm any religion. It is to promote religious freedom. The following verse clarifies this point.
“Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged. And Allah indeed has the power to help those who have been driven out of their homes unjustly only for saying ‘Our Lord is Allah’. And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques would have been pulled down wherein the name of Allah is often remembered. And Allah will surely help him who help Allah. Allah is indeed powerful, mighty.” Qur’an 22/40-41/
A religious war, even when permitted is not intended to force people to give up their faith nor is its purpose to desecrate or destroy places of worship, or to kill. The purpose of the religion war is to protect every religion, and to save from disgrace and destruction all places of worship irrespective of denomination to which they belong. Islam is no party to violence or cruelty.

Following are the sayings of Prophet Muhammad ( SAW) on the subject of war and peace.
1. Muslims are forbidden altogether to mutilate the dead. (Muslim)
2. Muslims are forbidden to resort to cheating. (Muslim)
3. Children are not to be killed, nor women. (Muslim)
4. Priests and religious functionaries and religious leaders are not to be interfered with. (Tahavi).
5. When Muslims enter enemy territory they should not strike terror into the general population. They should permit no ill-treatment of common folk. (Muslim).
6. The old and decrepit and women and children are not to be killed. The possibility of peace should always be kept in view. (Abu Daud).
7. A Muslim army should not camp in a place where it causes inconvenience to general public. When it marches it should take care not to block the road nor cause discomfort to other wayfarers.
8. No disfigurement of the face is to be permitted. (Bukhari and Muslim).
9. The least possible losses should be inflicted upon the enemy. (Abu Daud.)
10. When prisoners of war are put under guard, those closely related should be placed together. (Abu Daud).
11. Prisoners should live in comfort. Muslims should care more for the comfort of their prisoners than for their own. (Tirmidhi)
12. Emissaries and delegates from other countries should be held in great respect. Any mistakes or discourtesies they commit should be ignored. (Abu Daud, Kitabul-Jihad)
13. If a Muslim commits the sin of ill treating a prisoner of war, atonement is to be made by releasing the prisoner without ransom.
14. When a Muslim takes charge of a prisoner of war, the latter is to be fed and clothed in the same way as the Muslim himself. (Bukhari).
Prophet Muhammad (SAW)was insistent that any Muslim who did not follow these rules would be fighting not for God but for his own mean self.
Hazarat Abu Bakr, the first Khalifa, supplemented the prophet’s orders with a few of his own.
15. Public building sand fruit-bearing trees are not to be damaged. (Mu’atta).
When we closely study the teaching of the Qur’an and the tradition and practices of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) it becomes manifestly clear that Islam is indeed a religion of absolute peace and justice for humanity.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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