There is a lot of confusion about Jihad. One such misunderstanding is that the Muslims consider it their religious duty to bring other nations under their subjugation whenever they get an opportunity. If this happens to be the religious obligation of the Muslims, they are obviously a threat to the world peace. It is, therefore, necessary to analyze the concept of Jihad in the light of the Quran.


The real meaning of the word “Jihad” is struggle. In this sense it is a must for every Muslim to contribute and struggle for his “Deen” through the offering of money and time.


“The true believers are those who have faith in Allah and His Prophet and never doubt; and who struggle for His cause with their wealth and persons. Such are the truthful ones”. (Al-Hujrat-49:15)


The actual word used for war in the Holy Quran is “Qital”. This word has been used in Quran at fifty-four places. As far as the word “Jihad” is concerned, it has been used in the Quran at Twenty nine places. Out of these, it is used for a peaceful struggle at twenty one places and at eight places; it also includes war as a part of struggle. 


Qital is of two kinds. One kind was specific to the Holy Prophet while the other one is forever. The Qital specific to the Holy Prophet was purposed to defeat the unbelievers and affirm the dominance of Islam in the soil of Arabia to make it a centre of Islam. It was a special task from God to be accomplished through the Holy Prophet:


“It is He who sent His prophet with guidance and the Faith of truth, so that He may exalt it above all religions, much as the pagans may dislike it”. (Al-Saff 61:9)


Therefore, after having completed all the formalities in the communication of the message to the pagans, the Holy Prophet, was granted the right to abolish their power by force, although this right was never exercised.  It is important to mention the fact that all the battles fought in the lifespan of the Holy Prophet, were either in defense; or against those who were busy in playing havoc with the belongings and peace of the Muslims; or those who joined hands with the pagan invaders; or who had violated treaty of peace, or those who had evil designs against the Muslim to attack them, but conspiracy was unveiled before time. Thus all these battles were justified and were fought in self-defense:       


“(O’ Prophet) make war on them until persecution is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme”. (Al-Anfal-8:38)


So far as the conquest of Makkah is concerned it had a logical justification. The immediate reason was the attack of a tribe allied to the Quraysh against one of the tribes allied with the Muslims. The Muslims had entered into an agreement with that tribe binding both the parties to fight against an invader jointly. The Quraysh had helped their allied tribe in terms of armament, violating the agreement. Therefore, the Muslims had a moral justification to punish them. But the other reason was more significant. The Prophet Ibraham as per orders of God built the Ka’bah so that it would be used for the worship of the Almighty only.


The city of Makkah was constructed with an objective that its inhabitants would meet the requirements of the pilgrims. But the Quraysh turned a deaf ear to the message of God and transformed Ka’bah into a centre for paganism. It was, therefore, an obligation that the idols must be taken off the Ka’bah and it should be left specifically for the worship of God.


“Follow the faith of Ibraham. He was an upright man, not a polytheist. The first house ever to be built (as sanctuary) for people was that at Makkah, a blessed place, and a beacon for the nations. In it, there are clear signs and the spot where Ibraham stood. Whoever enters it is safe”. (Al-Imran-3:95, 97)


“And why should Allah not chastise these pagans, when they have debarred others from the sacred Mosque, although they were not its guardians? Its only guardians are those that fear Allah, though most of them do not know it” (Al-Anfal-8:34)


It should be kept in mind that according to the Quran, the people of Arabia would have embraced Islam on their own will, if there was no fear of persecution from their leaders. This is evident from the Peace Treaty of Hudaibia. With in two years of this treaty, a large majority of the people of Arabia converted to Islam. 


War of a normal Muslim State


As far as the war of a normal Muslim state is concerned, there are two grounds where war is admissible.


First: for self defense. The Holy Quran says,


“War is allowed for those on whom war is imposed because it is a tyranny.” (Al Haj 22:39)

Second: for the help of the oppressed people (esp. Muslims) and persecution in some tyrannical state. The Holy Quran says:


 “And why should you not fight for the cause of Allah, for the helpless old men, women, and children who say: Deliver us, Lord, from this city of oppressors; send forth to us a guardian from your presence; send to us one that will help us. (Al-Nisa-4:75)


The Holy Quran further says:


“Fight them on until there is no more persecution, and the religion becomes God’s. But if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.” (Al-Baqara:2-193)


In the above verse God’s religion means that every person on earth should exercise his free will to choose his beliefs without any persecution.


The war fought for the above two conditions is called “War in the way of God” (Qital-Fi-Sabeellilah).


There are six important conditions laid down in the Holy Quran for a war.


First, a war can be announced only by a state. No militant group has the prerogative to proclaim and wage a war. This point will be dealt with in later paragraphs in detail.


Second, honoring an international agreement is most important. No war can be announced in violation of a treaty with another state, even if the other state is brutal towards its Muslim subjects. The Muslim state is prohibited to accord armed help to the tormented Muslims of another state with whom there is a peace treaty.  The Holy Quran says:

“If they (the Muslims out side your state) seek your help in the cause of your religion, it is your duty to aid them, except against a state you have a treaty with” (Al-Anfal-8: 72)


            Third, a war should only be fought when the Muslim state has got sufficient resources to defeat the enemy. The Holy Quran says:


“Against your enemy, make ready your strength to the utmost of your power” (Al-Anfal-8:60)


The Holy Quran further says:


“God has lightened your task, because He knows that there is weakness in you. If there are one hundred patient and persevering among you, they will vanquish two hundred, and if there are one thousand among you, they will vanquish two thousand, with the order of God: for God is with those who patiently persevere”. (Al-Anfal-8:66)


            It mean that a Muslim state must have at least half the resources of the enemy, before announcing and waging a war.


            Fourth, if the enemy offers to enter in a peace accord, then it is a must to make a treaty with him.


The Holy Quran says:


“If they incline to peace, make peace with them, and put your trust in Allah. He is the Hearing, the Knowing. If they seek to deceive you, then Allah is All-sufficient for you”. (Al-Anfal-8: 61,62).



The Holy Quran further says:


“(the peace treaties are) not dissolved with those Pagans with whom you have entered in to accords, and who have not subsequently failed in there pledge, nor aided anyone against you. So fulfill your agreements with them to the end of their term”. (Al-Tawbah-9:4)


“As long as the idolaters, with whom you have made treaties near the Sacred Mosque, keep the treaty, you should also honor the treaty with them”. (Al-Tawabah-9:7


Fifth, it is prohibited to harm or kill non-combatants.


The Holy Quran says:


“Fight in the cause of Allah, only those who fight you. Do not transgress the limits because God does not love the transgressors.” (Al-Baqara-2:190)


The Holy Quran further says:


“(Do not fight those) who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from either fighting you or fighting their people….. Therefore if they withdraw from the fight and instead offer for peace, then God has opened no way for you to war against them.” (Al-nisa-4:90)


“Allah does not forbid you to be kind and equitable to those who have neither made war on your religion nor driven you from your homes. Allah loves the equitable. But He forbids you to make friends with those who have fought against you on account of your religion and driven you from your homes or abetted others to do so”. (Al-Mumtahinah-60:8,9)


Sixth, it is prohibited to wage a war in specific four months i.e. Rajab, Zee Qaad, Zil Haj and Muharram. The Holy Quran says:


“They ask you concerning fighting in the Prohibited months. Say: Fighting there in is a grave offence.” (Al-Baqara-2: a part of verse 217)


Seventh, if there is a transgression from the enemy in the use of force, the Muslim state can also reply in the same coin. The Holy Quran says:


“There is a law of equality. If anyone transgresses the prohibition against you, your can transgress likewise against your enemy.” (Al-Baqara-2:194


            Today, all the Muslim countries have entered into a peace agreement with all nations of the world through U.N.O. From Islamic point of view, it is now obligatory that they don’t have to make aggression against any other country of the world. Now the world’s conscience has reached a stage where they deem it their duty to help the oppressed ones. Same is the message of the Quran. Still there is room for improvement in the attitude of the world. If the whole world adopts the Islamic concept of War, all oppression in the world will be abolished naturally because War, in Islam, means nothing else but answer to aggression and oppression.


After having discussed ‘Qital’ it is necessary to find out what the “terrorism” is. It has three components. First an organization or an individual makes an armed struggle without the consent of the state. Secondly there is an intentional adoption of such measures that might claim lives of some innocent people. Thirdly the warfare is not against oppression rather it has different designs. If any one of the above mentioned factors is found in a war, it is not Qital Fi-Sabillilah. It is rather the “terrorism”. If all of the three factors are there, it is an absolute form of “terrorism”.


The second and third components of the “terrorism” mentioned above do not need any more explanation. However, the first component needs a bit of more explanation.   


According to Islam, it is the prerogative of the state only to declare the “Qital”. Even Prophets did not declare war unless they were in power. They did not make an armed struggle before that time. They did not avenge themselves upon the oppressors. The Holy Prophet did not take a single armed action even in self-defense throughout his Makkah life. In fact it was prohibited by the Holy Quran at that time.  Afterwards when the state of Madina got its ground, the Holy Prophet was allowed war for self-defense.


The Prophet Moses also declared Qital at the time when he established his government in the desert of Sinai with the assistance of the Israelites. Since the Prophet Jesus Christ did not form a government he was directed to show tolerance to the extent that he was to offer his other cheek to his enemy if he was slapped on the one.


The Prophet Muhammad (SWS) also taught patience to his followers during his Makkah days. When one female follower of the Prophet, Sumayyah, was martyred along with her husband, he, instead of taking their revenge, promised paradise for the martyrs to their relatives. Thus as per Islamic principles, war can only be declared by a Muslim state.


Wars after the Holy Prophet


In this context the next question is, what was the nature of the conquests and the battles fought by the companions of the Holy Prophet after his death. In fact all these wars were fought in self defense. The newly established Muslim state was confronted with many enemies on its borders who were not ready to tolerate this state. 


The Holy Prophet, four years before his death, invited through letters, all rulers of the nearby countries to embrace Islam. He also dispatched his envoys to them so that they could guide them about Islam in detail. The reason behind writing letters to the monarchs was that it was the time of monarchy all around. The subjects could not even think of accepting a religion, which was not acceptable to their king. Therefore the only way to communicate the message of Islam to the people of that country was to invite first their rulers to embrace Islam.


These letters had three direct effects. First, Najashi, the king of Habsha (Ethiopia) embraced Islam. (He embraced Islam but could not proclaim it publicaly). Second, the monarchies of Egypt and Bahrain did not immediately accept Islam but promised to consider the offer lately and treated the ambassadors of Islam with respect and nicety. Third, the ruler of Persia not only looked down upon the message of the Holy Prophet but also treated the envoy in an insulting manner. But the message of Islam kept infiltrating in those countries through the traders of Arabia going there. Since the rulers everywhere were well informed, therefore they came to know about Islam in a detailed manner.


After the demise of the Holy Prophet the circumstances witnessed some changes of fundamental nature. Firstly, there seemed to be no scope of communicating the message of Islam to the subjects of neighboring countries, and providing opportunities of embracing Islam to the desirous masses. Secondly, some neighboring states had started assembling their armies in order to wipe out the Muslim state from the map of the world. Thirdly, there were certain tribes involved in piracy and lawlessness in the Muslim state. These trouble mongers used to get asylum in the neighboring countries after their unlawful activities. All these circumstances demanded a serious notice of them and some steps to safeguard the newly born state of Islam. Therefore it was decided as a policy that there would be absolute peace with the countries like Habsha, which did not offer a threat to Islamic state. The friendly states like Egypt and Bahrain were picked up to make treaties. The states, which showed open animosity to Islam, were declared the enemies against whom the wars could be fought.


In this way, wherever the Muslims set their feet, Islam spread rapidly. It is important to note that the people of those states were not made Muslims forcibly but they witnessed such a distinctive change between the character and mannerism of the old and the new rulers that they embraced Islam willingly and happily. It is a historically proven fact that not even a single person was made Muslim against his will.