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From the Glorious Qur’ān
I S S U E N O . 1 9 1 S T S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 9

Understanding Jihad
ِ ِ ‫ُون َّاَّل َين آ َمنُوا ِِب َّ َِّلل َو َر ُس‬
‫وِل‬ َ ‫ِإه َّ َما الْ ُم ْؤ ِمن‬ has certain analogies to Judaism's notion of jihād as holy war, and far
milhemet hovah (“the prescribed *by less to the idea of continuous war-
‫ُ َُّث ل َ ْم يَ ْراتبُوا َو جاه َُدوا ب َِأ ْموا ِله ِْم َو‬ the Torah+ war”) as it is discussed in fare against infidels, how did the
the Talmud and in some aspects of discrepancy between the text and
‫اَّلل ُأول ِئ َك ُ ُُه‬
ِ َّ ِ‫أَه ْ ُف ِسه ِْم يف َسبيل‬ kiddush ha-Shem (the sanctification of the later interpretations of the

‫الصا ِد ُقون‬
َّ God’s name). Judaism also distin-
guishes between two types of war:
concept arise?
Ayesha Jalal, in her book Partisans
discretionary war and obligatory war.
PONDER The believers are only those who have of Allāh, posits that in the first cen-
attained faith in Allāh and His Messen- According to Maimonides, an obliga- tury of Islam, the extremist Kharijite
ger and then have not doubted, and tory war is like that fought by Joshua sect defined jihād as legitimate
 What is the (those who) strive hard with their to liberate the land of Israel from the violence against the enemies of
meaning of the wealth and their lives in the way of Seven Nations, the war to eradicate Islam, both internal and external,
term Jihād? Allāh. It is they who are truthful. Amalek, or a war “to defend Israel and declared it a pillar of the faith.
(al-Hujurāt [49]:15) against an enemy that attacks them.” In the Kharijite view, Muslims devi-
 Why has jihād A discretionary war is one undertaken ating from ‘their’ interpretation of
been misunder- to extend the borders of the state, the Qur’an and Sunna could not
stood and misin- The word jihād is derived etymologi- such as the wars fought by King David. remain part of the community. A
terpreted as cally from the Arabic root jahada jihād had to be waged against these
holy war? Turning to Christianity, we find that in
meaning to struggle and strive - nonbelievers and against all infidels.
the fifth century, St. Augustine of
mostly against an undesirable oppo-
 What are the Hippo came up with the concept of This, coupled by the need for an
nent, an external enemy, Satan, or the
Jewish and Bellum Justum or ‘Just War’ which was ideology to legitimate the wars of
base inner self. The traditional Arab
Christian views inspired by Cicero’s works. This term conquest fought by the Umayyad
society interpreted jihād as any en-
on holy war? was later commonly used by the Pope (661–750) and Abbasid (750–1258)
deavor in the service of a worthy
when calling for the crusades against dynasties, induced Muslim legists to
cause; other words such as qitāl or
the Muslims. Those who fought in the define jihād as armed struggle.
harb were more commonly used for
name of God were recognized as the Classical juridical texts skirted
warfare. Semantically, jahada cannot
Milites Christi, warriors or knights of around the moral and spiritual
be interpreted as armed struggle,
Christ. meanings of jihād to concentrate on
much less holy war, without twisting
the material facets of warfare. Such
its Qur’anic meaning. Christian fighters believed that victory
stipulations were matched by the
was achieved through divine interven-
The root word jahada appears forty- invention of traditions extolling
tion or aid from God, and they took
one times in eighteen chapters of the jihād as armed struggle.
great pride in their beliefs. These
Qur’an while prohibitions against
‘blessed warriors’ were highly admired One popular tradition that shows
warring occur more than seventy
by the Church and the State. Usually, the spiritual and ethical dimension
times. Apart from verses specifically
the ideals and duties of religion were of jihād is worthy of note. Upon
linking jahada to fighting in the way of
used as tools to legitimize warfare. returning from one of the early wars
God, all its derivative terms are most
Religion essentially gave the armies an in defense of Islam, the Noble
often used in relation to striving in the
excuse for their conquests under the Prophet (s) is said to have told his
cause of faith. Even verses employing
guise of "Christianization", but their companions that they had come
that term to mean legitimate armed
holy conquests turned out to be a back from waging jihād al-asghar, or
struggle are typically followed by
long, violent series of raids for territo- the lesser war, to fight the jihād al-
exhortations to patience in adversity
rial expansion, trade and worldwide akbar, or the greater war - a war
and leniency in strength - the essence
dominance, in the name of God. against those base inner forces
of being of gentle disposition.
which prevent man from becoming
In looking at the subject of jihād, an
According to the Encyclopaedia Ju- ‘human’ in accordance with his
important question arises: If the
daica (2nd ed.), The concept of jihād primordial and God-given nature.
Qur’an does not lend itself well to the