Jihad as a word needs no introduction but its meaning (definitions) and implications are misunderstood for variety of reasons and Jihad as a concept remains esoteric to the general Non Muslim public.
In the print media or e-media one hears some Muslims saying Jihad means spiritual struggle and others saying it means a defensive war. On the other hand Muslim Extremists and Terrorists say Jihad means a war on all Non Muslims to bring the whole world under Sharia Law, but our Politicians, Media, intellectuals and Muslim apologists rush to say that these are misunderstanders of Islam, otherwise a religion of peace.
So from where one can know about these two dimensions to Jihad, definition and as a concept? It makes a great common sense if we do not base our deductions from 30 second media bytes or from a few lines of an article in Media and it will be excellent if we know these definitions of Jihad from sources of Islam i.e. Islamic scriptures and well known Muslim scholars.
Note: Here Hadiths and Explanations to Koranic verses are avoided in this article because these will be discussed in detail later. Whole sequence of violence will be constructed in later articles.
Jihad is an Arabic word and has derived from JAHADA, which in turn means literally ‘to strive, to struggle’. And it is in this form, JAHADA, it appears in Koran. But we do not see these two words, Jihad or JAHADA, in available English translations of Koran, instead we see the word ‘fight’ or a phrase like ‘to strive hard’ replacing Arabic word JAHADA depending on the Translator and the situation.
It, JAHADA, appears in about 40 verses in Koran and these are: 3:136,142; 4:95,97; 5:35,54,59; 8:72,74,75; 9:16,19,20,24,41,44, 73,74,81-82, 86,87,88; 16:110-111; 22:77-78; 25:52; 29:5,6,7,8,69; 31:14-15; 47: 31,33; 49:15; 60:1; 61:11; 66:9.
So Jihad in the form of JAHADA appears in Koran but as Koran does not give or explain context and meanings of verses; one needs to look at the other Islamic scriptures which explain Jihad based on Koran and Hadith. It means we are trying to understand what Islamic scholars say about Jihad as it is mentioned Koran and Hadith. These scriptures could be Tafsirs by reputed Islamic scholars, views of some famous Islamic scholars and Sharia law. Among these scriptures Sharia is the most important one.
Note: Tafsir (Exegesis) is a written work by an Islamic scholar in which the scholar explains the context and the meaning for all verses in Koran. Some of the famous Tafsirs are of Ibn Kathir, Jalaluddin Al-Suyuti and Abul Ala Maududi.
Here concept of Sharia law needs an explanation. Sharia literally means pathway or path to be followed or clear way to be followed. Sharia has come to mean the path upon which the believers have to tread. Nearly all Muslims believe that Sharia is God’s word or God’s law. From where did this Sharia come? After the Qur'an and the Hadith were given, the Muslim community felt the need to apply these teachings to every aspect of life. Thus scholars and theologians assembled a set of rules and guidelines relating the teachings of Islam to everyday situations. During the eighth and ninth centuries these rules were codified, and the result is the sharia. Essentially the rules, laws and guidelines present in sharia are derived from Koran and Hadith. These rules are not the result of one Islamic scholar or two but many. But Sharia doesn’t cover every aspect of life so it was expanded to include laws for certain situations, which are not covered in Koran and Hadith, based on Ijma (Consensus) and Qiyas (Analogy) and this complete set of rules is called Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence). Fiqh is just an expansion of sharia. For a law in Islam, Koran and Hadith are primary sources while Ijma and Qiyas are secondary sources.
So when we look at what sharia says on Jihad, we are looking at how Islam understands Jihad and what it says on Jihad. Sharia is nothing more than a condensation and extrapolation of the Koran and the Sunna. It is easy to know and understand Islam from Koran and Hadith when one sees direct application and examples of Islamic law. You find these in sharia law.
The classical manual of fiqh (Islamic law) for the Shafi'i (One of the four schools of Sunni) school of Islamic jurisprudence is called 'Umdat as-Salik wa 'Uddat an-Nasik’ (14th century) in Arabic. In English it reads ‘Reliance of the traveler and tools of the worshiper’. Originally it was written in Arabic and it was translated in to English by an American Muslim Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller in 1991 and its title is Reliance of the traveler and this translation is certified by Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the supreme authority in Sunni Islam.
Note: The four major schools of Islamic Jurisprudence in Sunni Islam are Shafi’i, Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali. For over about 75% of laws in Sharia they agree and on Jihad they are all unanimous.
This manual of Islamic law is divided in to divisions marked by letters a, b, c, d…… and in each division you find sections and sub sections. For example division with index letter ‘L’ deals with laws of inheritance, ‘M’ deals with marriage and ‘N’ deals with divorces.
If any one has a doubt about what is Jihad ,the way it was explained and defined in this manual, found in the division with index ‘O’ and the section 9, is enough to make them to rub their sleepy eyes. Jihad in this manual starts with an introductory note by Sheikh Umar Barakat.
@ o9.0: Jihad: Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion. And it is the lesser Jihad. As for the great Jihad, it is spiritual warfare against the lower self, (nafs), which is why the Prophet said as he was returning from Jihad, “We have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad”.
The scriptural basis for Jihad, prior to scholarly consensus is such Koranic verses as:
1) Fighting is prescribed for you (2:216)
2) Slay them wherever you find them (4:89)
3) Fight the idolaters utterly (9:36)
and such hadiths as the one related by Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet said:
“I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay zakat. If they say it, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them. And their final reckoning is with Allah'';
and the hadith reported by Muslim,
“To go forth in the morning or evening to fight in the path of Allah is better than the whole world and everything in it.''
Details concerning jihad are found in the accounts of the military expeditions of the Prophet, including his own martial forays and those on which he dispatched others. The former consist of the ones he personally attended, some twenty-seven (others say twenty-nine) of them. He fought in eight of them, and killed only one person with his noble hand, Ubayy ibn Khalaf, at the battle of Uhud. On the latter expeditions he sent others to fight, himself remaining at Medina, and these were forty-seven in number.
@ o9.1: The Obligatory Character of Jihad: Jihad is a communal obligation. When enough people perform it to successfully accomplish it, it is no longer obligatory upon others (O: the evidence for which is the Prophet's saying "He who provides the equipment for a soldier in jihad has himself performed jihad"
and Allah Most High having said:
"Those of the believers who are unhurt but sit behind are not equal to those who fight in Allah's path with their property and lives. Allah has preferred those who fight with their property and lives a whole degree above those who sit behind. And to each, Allah has promised great good" (Koran 4:95).
If none of those concerned perform jihad, and it does not happen at all, then everyone who is aware that it is obligatory is guilty of sin, if there was a possibility of having performed it. In the time of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) jihad was a communal obligation after his emigration (hijra) to Medina. As for subsequent times, there are two possible states in respect to non-Muslims.
The first is when they are in their own countries, in which case jihad (def: o9.8) is a communal obligation, and this is what our author is speaking of when he says, "Jihad is a communal obligation," meaning upon the Muslims each year.
The second state is when non-Muslims invade a Muslim country or near to one, in which case jihad is personally obligatory (def: c3.2) upon the inhabitants of that country, who must repel the non-Muslims with whatever they can).
@ o9.8: The Objectives of Jihad: The caliph (o25) makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (N: provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya, def: o11.4) -which is the significance of their paying it, not the money itself-while remaining in their ancestral religions) (O: and the war continues) until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax (O: in accordance with the word of Allah Most High.
"Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden-who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book-until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled" (Koran 9.29)
@ o9.9: The caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim (O: because they are not a people with a Book, nor honored as such, and are not permitted to settle with paying the poll tax (jizya) )
@ o9.12: Whoever enters Islam before being captured may not be killed or his property confiscated, or his young children taken captive.
@ o9.13: When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman's previous marriage is immediately annulled.
From reading these it is clear that Jihad is both defensive and offensive and when it is offensive it is nothing but an effort to convert others to Islam or to establish Allah’s rule as supreme law. Regarding the concept of greater Jihad, it is enough to say that one will not find a single verse in Koran substantiating it. In fact Al-Banna, the founder of Muslim Brotherhood, says this hadith, talking about greater and lesser jihad, is not reliable at all. Yes, this hadith can not be found in 6 major collections of hadith which are accepted universally by all Muslim scholars.
Jihad as such is a divine duty and those who undertake it are above those who do not undertake it in the eyes of Allah, as the verse 4:95 says. Here the choice before Non Muslims when conquered is three or two fold depending on who you are; If you are from People of Book (Christians, Jews and Farsis) the choice is between Death, conversion to Islam or Paying Jizya and for others it is death or conversion to Islam. This is the stand of Shafi’i school of Islamic thought on Jihad. Other three schools do not differ much on Jihad, but it is worth examining their positions also.
Maliki School (Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani, 10th century Jurist): Jihad is a precept of divine institution. Its performance by certain individuals may dispense others from it. We Malikis... maintain that it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them. The jizya can only be accepted from them if they occupy a territory where our laws can be enforced. If they are out of our reach, the jizya cannot be accepted from them unless they come within our territory. Otherwise we will make war against them.
Hanbali School (Ibn Taymiyya, 14th century Jurist): In ordering jihad Allah has said: "Fight them until there is no persecution and religion becomes Allah's" [2:191]....
Allah has, in fact, repeated this obligation [to fight] and has glorified jihad in most of the Medina suras: he has stigmatized those who neglected to do so, and treated them as hypocrites and cowards....
It is impossible to count the number of times when jihad and its virtues are extolled in the Book and the Sunna. Jihad is the best form of voluntary service that man consecrates to Allah....
Therefore, since jihad is divinely instituted, and its goal is that religion reverts in its entirety to Allah and to make Allah's word triumph, whoever opposes the realization of this goal will be fought, according to the unanimous opinion of Muslims.
Jews and Christians, as well as Zoroastrians (Magians), must be fought until they embrace Islam or pay the jizya without recriminations. Jurisconsults do not agree on the question of knowing if the jizya should be imposed on other categories of infidels; on the other hand, all consider that it should not be required of Arabs [hence they should convert to Islam or be killed or expelled].
(Here again, in the both the schools, Jihad is divine and choice before Non Muslims (People of Book) is death, conversion to Islam or paying Jizya (subjugation is a better word). In Hanafi School, choice of paying Jizya was given to all Non Muslims who do not convert to Islam.)
Hanafi School, Hidayah, vol. II, p. 140 : "It is not lawful to make war upon any people who have never before been called to the faith, without previously requiring them to embrace it, because the Prophet so instructed his commanders, directing them to call the infidels to the faith, and also because the people will hence perceive that they are attacked for the sake of religion, and not for the sake of taking their property, or making slaves of their children, and on this consideration it is possible that they may be induced to agree to the call, in order to save themselves from the troubles of war… If the infidels, upon receiving the call, neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax, it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them, because God is the assistant of those who serve Him, and the destroyer of His enemies, the infidels, and it is necessary to implore His aid upon every occasion; the Prophet, moreover, commands us so to do."From above passages it is more than clear that violence or fighting for establishing Islamic rule or converting Non Muslims to Islam is not only permitted but it is an obligation on Muslims. When this fighting materializes it is Jihad. But Jihad as such need not be violent all the time.
At times one hears some Muslim apologists saying sharia is a man made law and a deviation from Koran and Sunna. It can be honestly said that such people are either ignorant or liars feigning ignorance. It is fiqh which has man made component in its law but not sharia. If some knowledgeable people ask these claimants where sharia contradicts Koran and Sunna, there will only be silence.