The Actual Concept of Jihad in Islam

Media has often depicted Jihad in the negative sense. The actual concept of Jihad in Islam is a positive concept, and not a negative one. It is something which is beneficial for humans and the society they live in. Its constructive, and not destructive. It’s a positive force and not a negative one.

The problem starts with the translation itself. The Qur’anic Arabic term Jihad has been commonly mistranslated as “Holy War”. The original Qur’an is in Arabic, not English. The Arabic equivalent of the English expression “Holy War” is “Harbum Muqaddasah”, an expression which is not found anywhere in the Qur’an or in the authentic sayings of the Prophet of Islam.

Even when the Qur’an speaks about defensive war, it never glorifies it or calls it “Holy”, but as something which is inherently hated [2:216-217]. However, as a last resort, it may be better [than doing nothing in the face of aggression or oppression].

Furthermore, the term “Holy War” means, lexically, a fight on behalf of one religion against the other(s). There is no verse in the Qur’an that condones fighting any peaceful non-Muslim on the sole ground that he/she is a non-Muslim.

Jihad is an Arabic term derived from the root “JHD” which means, literally, to strive or exert effort. The term Jihad and other similar terms derived from the same root are used in the Qur’an and in Hadeeth in three contexts.

Firstly, it is used in the context of prayers, doing righteous deeds and self-purification; inward Jihad or struggle against evil inclinations within oneself [Al Qur’an 22:77-78, 29:4-7].

Secondly, it is used in the context of social Jihad, or striving for truth, justice and goodness in one’s relationship with other humans. Examples of this usage include the payment of charity to the needy [49:15] and striving to persuade those who reject God’s prophets by referring to the arguments presented in the Qur’an [25:51-52].

Thirdly, it is used in the context of the battlefield, which is often called, more specifically, Qital, which means fighting. That later form; the combative Jihad, is allowed in the Qur’an for legitimate self-defense in the face of unprovoked aggression or in resisting severe oppression, on religious or other grounds [2:190-194].

No other verse in the Qur’an, when placed in its proper textual and historical context, permit fighting others on the basis of their faith, ethnicity or nationality [60:8-9]. The Qur’an recognizes plurality in human societies, including religious plurality, as part of God’s plan in creation [10:19; 11:118-119]. It calls for peaceful and respectful dialogue, not forced conversion whether through war or other forms of coercion [3:64, 16:125, and 29:46].

Combative Jihad is not only restricted in terms of what may or may not justify it, it is also strictly regulated. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught how to behave in the battlefield. As an “hated act”, war should not be resorted to if other peaceful and just means may stop aggression or oppression. Intentions must be pure and no selfish personal or nationalistic agenda should be the driving force. There must be a declaration of war by a legitimate authority after due consultation. No non-combatants should be hurt. All must refrain from looting and unnecessary destruction. Prisoners of war and the injured must be treated humanely.

It should be noted, in the long history of Muslim people, there were times when such conditions and rules were adhered to and other times where there were violations in differing degrees. There were also some misinterpretations of the concept by some scholars, possibly influenced by the circumstances of the world in which they lived. The fact remains, however, that Islamic teachings are not to be driven by either what some Muslims did or are doing today, nor by misinterpretations, past or present. It is a duty of Muslim scholars to clarify these issues to both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. Some are already doing that in the pursuit of the true Qur’anic vision of a peaceful and just society and world.


About Kashif Zuberi

Student of Knowledge

17 comments on “The Actual Concept of Jihad in Islam

  1. JazakAllahu khayr very beneficial article.
    Indeed there is no salvation without Jihad,Jihad against our own inner selves and base desires or as you have mentioned,the inward Jihad.

  2. These things need to be popularized

  3. media is not 100% responsible for it!!!
    even some so called ‘jihadi’ groups r, i think, mainly responsible 4 it!!!

  4. U r right mr. avnish…but its not that such terrorist groups exist only in a particular community, they exist in all communities..but their activities r not so popularised by media…media does not propagate against them so extensively and dedicatedly as is done against “jihadi” groups in the name of muslim terrorism…what about the attrocities committed against muslims all over the world?…the terrorist activities of “non-jihadi” or “non-muslim terrorist” groups r hardly highlighted by media….

  5. There are many terrorist groups/nations that terrorize innocent civilians in the name of spreading secularism and democracy. Why doesn’t the media equate secularism with terrorism? Why not call them ‘secular terrorists’ or ‘Democratic terrists’and defame the word ‘secular’ and ‘democracy’ like they have done for the word ‘Jihad’?

  6. simple becoz musilm terrorist groups r saying it
    “hum jihad karenge..”

    watch this
    nd there r thousands of videos like that..
    u ever watch any other community member s speech bout killing ppl with the name of any thing…

    i m not saying media is right or wrong..
    media is bias .. 100% bias..
    but what my point is,.. if they r doing this then u have 2 accept it…

    • Assalamu alaikum brother, You used the words – Muslim Terrorists are saying this…….. I think you should rein in the RIGHT WING SAFFRON TERRORIST GROUPS ACTIVE IN INDIA first before you tar all the muslims as terrorists. Jihad is a fight against the wrong wishes ( galat nafsani khwahishaat ) as well as JUST STRUGGLE against the enemies of Islam who aim to annihilate Islam and the Muslim Ummah and hate us from the core of their hearts. Here have a reality check :-

      I can go on and on and the space here will become less, but the PROOF LINKS won’t stop. So, better clean your own backyard before you lend water and soap to your neighbors. Allah Hafiz .

  7. ND these speeches are the real nd only source where we, media nd all first ever listen the word “jihad”…

  8. There are some who are on the ideology of khawarij that do say such things brother Avnish and khawareej are outside the fold of Islam,brother Kashif has written about them in hi previous post about Terrorism.

    Still that is the case with many other terrorist groups,but the media still hesitates to call them terrorists.

    So do the so called “nationalists”
    Still media calls him a mass killer and not a terrorist!

  9. u r saying they r outside,,
    they r saying u r outside…
    nd if some one posting or just saying what they say…
    nd u have 2 clarify bout them 1..
    nd i said earlier k im not saying media is 100% right or wrong..
    just understand my point!!!
    m saying bout the mango man!!!
    who watch these videos nd understand it as they are!!!

  10. nd 1 of all i lik this article!!!!

  11. It’s a good idea to take into account the difference between Jihad and Qital….

  12. (It is told here that “The Qur’an recognizes plurality in human societies, including religious plurality, as part of God’s plan in creation [10:19; 11:118-119]. It calls for peaceful and respectful dialogue, not forced conversion whether through war or other forms of coercion [3:64, 16:125, and 29:46]. Doubt s are: (a) if plurality of religon is recognized by Qurran, why shouild there be any competitive dialogue on the subject with other religionists ? Cant they be left alone to practice their faith as they believe ? ( It is felt that the concept of inner jihaad is imporessive and it equates to the antar yaaga of hindu thought & Of the paarayana of many puraanic literature like durgaasaptashati etc I do reccommend this self introspection technique to purify the individual soul) (b) Is it correct to say that most of the combative jihaad events in history have been caused by oppression of/or persecution of one religionist by the other? Or is the goals political and economic imperialism the cause ?

  13. 1. Of the three “uses “ of Jihad as “ striving “ or extra effort” the first use appears non interfering and in fact has parallells in Hindu worship of the Iswara and/or Atman- called antarmukha samaaraadhana or at a higher level of consciousness, as antaryaaga. The initiate in upaasana uses for eg;Durgaasaptashati to condition his will to fight his inner weaknesses such as laziness, irrational pride, obstinacy, ignorance/foolishness etc The advamvced upaasaka uses the inner yaaga where he burns all evil tendencies in the imagined fire of knowledge- the chidagni and achieves a creative intellect

    2. The second “use “ that is striving to “persuade “ the olther type of believers is interference , and sometimes or most times thi takes the shape of pressure and or physical inducement etc . this part is not fair at all

    3. The third use-“combative jihaad” is totally irrelevant to India that is Bhaarat. Here is a land where spirituality runs in the gene of everyone From time immemorial, all postulates of religion are figuring in the schools of thought, Monistic, Dualistic, qualified Monistic, and even nihilistic. If you look carefully, the Dualistic postulate of religion in Hindu thought, with surrender in between , is nothing but Islam and as such it is as much a a hindoo panth as any long before its being patented. There cannot be any patent on postulates . . The point is that man’s striving to understand the whole is a free, undictated, continuous process and there can be NO DOGMA- which point/approach is well accepted in Hindu thought of India that is Bhaarat. Realizing truth of life is an individual’s process and not one of rigid dictat.Those born in this land therefore do not have any justification for “combative jihaad” or persuasive pressure or marketing.

  14. Of the three jihad uses the first is aninternal prayer for destruction of one’s evil thinking ; that is good and exists in all religions. The second and third uses are not at all applicable to India that is bhaarat, which is basically spiritual. Further it is irrational to adopt the processes of persuasion, sale or coercion in creating grops in religion.b religiuon has to be open and not dogmatic.The relationship in religion should be evolutionary and not military. All approaches lead to truth so no approach need be denigrated and imposed

    • Good feedback, but the third one is applicable in some places of Bharat where the SAFFRON TERRORISTS are making life hell for our innocent muslim brothers and sisters. Watch the videos I shared with Avnish and you will understand what I am saying. Its our sheer decency that despite the situation demanding it, we have reposed our faith in the law and judiciary instead of waging QITAL JIHAD against these SAFFRON THUGS AND TERRORISTS. Islam is a religion of the book and we are not allowed to be creative or have opinions of our own regarding what Allah commands in Quran and what is proved from Sahih Muslim and Bukhari Hadith, Seerah of Prophet Muhammad SAW PBUH. Have a good day sir.

  15. Assalamu alaikum brother. Great article, I completely agree with you and sincerely hope that Anti Islamic non muslims who read this will change their mindset about Jihad and stop insulting our dearest Nabi and Islam on the basis of the actions of a few misguided tanzeems. Jazak Allah Khair. Allah Hafiz .

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