In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.
Jihad is one of the most misconstrued concepts, both by some Muslims and by Islamophobic Occidentalists and confused Orientalists, in particular. The only meaning these people could give to the word ‘Jihad’ is ‘war’ or ‘battle’ to propagate the religion of Islam. Is this assertion correct? Has the word jihad not featured in the Holy Qur’an or Ahadith of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w)? Does it have no root word in Arabic etymology? I think, if the Orientalists and their confused Muslims translate this word from its root word may be the issue of using ‘Harb’ which means ‘War’ in Arabic and Jihad interchangeably will not arise.
Etymologically, jihad is derived from ‘Juhd’, ‘Jahd’ or ‘Jahada’. According to Al-Mawrid, Modern Arabic-English Dictionary written by Dr. Rohi Baalbaki, ‘Jahada’ (predicate case) means, to: strive, endeavour, try hard, make every effort, take pains, be diligent, industrious, hardworking, work hard, exert oneself etc.
Imam Abdl-Qasim al-Hussain ibn Abdl-l-Fadzl al-Raghib also says in his Al-Mufridat fi Gharibi-l-Qur’an: “The word Jihad is derived from ‘Jahd’ or ‘Juhd’ meaning: ability, exertion or power and ‘Jihad’ and ‘Mujahida’, means “the exerting of one’s power in repelling the enemy”. (Alli, 1971, p. 450)
From the above two authorities, among others, it is clear that Jihad is not synonymous with war as this interpretation defaces Islam and misrepresents its inherent beauties of converting people through peaceful and respectable means. It’s rather unfortunate to even see some Muslims among the Orientalists who also believe that Islam was spread by Holy Prophet (s.a.w) and his companions through force or compulsion, when Holy Qur’an declares in Q2 vs 257:
“There is no compulsion in Religion…”
At this juncture, I will like to present two of the statements that have painted Muslims and Islam unbefitting colours amidst adherents of other religions.
Klein (1906) asserts that:
“Jihad – The fighting against unbelievers with the object of either winning them over to Islam, or subduing and exterminating them in case they refuse to become Muslims, and the causing Islam to spread and triumph over all religion is considered a sacred duty of the Muslim nation”.
The most hurtful part of this criticism was the submission of a renowned Muslim scholar- Maulana Abul ‘Ala Maududi, in his book ‘Al-Jihad fil Islam’, where he says:
“…When every method of persuasion had failed, the prophet (saw) took to the sword. That sword removed evil mischief, the impurities of evil and the filth of the soul. The sword did something more – it removed their blindness so that they could see the light of truth, and also cured them of their arrogance; arrogance which prevents people from accepting the truth, stiff necks and proud heads bowed with humility. As in Arabia and other countries, Islam’s expansion was so fast that within a century a quarter of the world accepted it. This conversion took place because the sword of Islam tore away the veils which had covered men’s hearts”. (Ahmad, 1990, p.13).
It is so disheartening that the above quoted statements concluded that Holy Prophet (saw) used sword purposely for the propagation of Islam.
However, Ahmad (1990) gave English translation of an extract from the original Urdu speech of an Hindu, even Arya Samajist – Pandit Gyanandre Dev Sharma Shastri which was delivered at a Gorakhpur (India) meeting, 1928, to commemorate the prophet’s (saw) birth as thus:
“Biased critics of Islam and especially those who want to provoke Hindu-Muslim riots in the country say that Hazrat Muhammad after acquiring power in Medina could not maintain his facade of mercy and kindness. There he used force and violence and become a murderous prophet to achieve his life-long aim of power, status and wealth. He fell short of his own ideal of patience, moderation and endurance. But this is the view of those observers who are prejudicial and partisan, who are narrow-minded and whose eyes are covered by a veil of ignorance. They see fire instead of light, ugliness instead of beauty and evil instead of good. They distort and prevent every good quality or a great vice. It reflects their own depravity…….The critics are blind. They cannot see that the only ‘sword’ Muhammad wielded was the sword of mercy, compassion, friendship and forgiveness – the sword that conquers enemies and purifies their hearts. His sword was sharper than the sword of steel”.
Also, another Hindu, the editor of the Sat Updaish wrote:
“Some people say that Islam was preached by the sword, but we cannot agree with this news. What is forced on people is soon rejected. Had Islam been imposed on people through oppression, there would have been no Islam today. Why? Because the prophet of Islam had spiritual power, he loved humanity and he was guided by the ideal of ultimate good” (Ahmad, 1990, p.16).
With the above critics’ allegations and their corresponding rejoinders, I think it is now pertinent to bring ourselves back to the memory lane, so as to know whether or not the religion of Islam was preached and forced on people by Holy Prophet(saw) and his followers.
HISTORICAL ANTECEDENTS OF THE SO CALLED ‘JIHAD’
Before Muhammad’s(saw) call to prophethood in 610A.D., everybody in Arabia knew him as a man of high integrity, peace loving, worthy of emulation, paragon of virtues, and of course, a young man with high level of morality and spirituality. Even he was generally nicknamed: ‘Al-Ameen’ (The Trustworthy) and ‘As-Siddeeq’ (The Truthful). However, the problem started immediately he announced that God has commissioned him as a prophet for the whole universe. Some of the Meccans disbelieved him, called him a blatant liar and forgot what they used to call him- (As-Siddeeq, Al-Ameen) before his proclamation. To buttress the truthfulness of the Prophet to prophethood, Allah instructed him to tell the Kuffar in Surat Yunus, Q10 vs 16 that, ‘… I have indeed lived among you a whole lifetime before this; will you not understand?’ In fact, this verse embodies an infallible criterion to test the truth of a claimant to prophethood. History affirms that none of the then Arabs ever came out and said that Prophet Muhammad(saw) fell short of the extraordinary high standard of truthfulness and integrity he was known for, before and after claim to prophethood. The people that accepted him were minority, yet they were sincere, pious and loyal followers. When the Meccans saw this, they started vehement hostility towards him and his followers.
There were a number of severe persecutions of highest order in different forms. Some companions like Bilal and Khabbab bin Al-Arat were exposed to hottest weather of Mecca under the intensive sun heat. The first woman to be killed by the enemies of Islam was Samiyya, mother of Ammar Yasir. She was murdered by Abu Jahl, who gruesomely killed her with a spear. Zinnira, a woman-slave, lost her eyes due to severe torment of these disbelievers. Abu Fukaih Safwan was vehemently punished until his tongue dropped out. Prophet(saw) himself was not spared of such inhuman treatment. At a time, disbelievers put a mantle round his neck and he was being dragged around not until when Abu Bakar(r.a) came and rescued him. Remains of slaughtered animals, garbage and other refuses were at a time being thrown into his house. At times, some urchins used to torment him while walking on the street. (Ahmad, 1989, p. 146-147; 149)
When the persecution reached its apogee, Holy Prophet(saw) had to advise some of his followers to leave Mecca for Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia). The emigrants were led by Imam Jafar As-Sadeeq to seek refuge with a just king – Negus, in 615A.D. This movement was since then, being called lesser Hijra in Islam. By 619 A.D. when the persecution was vehemently increasing and seemed that nobody wanted to listen to him or associate him/herself to him(saw), he(saw) then travelled to Taif, a small town about sixty miles to the South-East of Mecca, accompanied by one companion – Hazrat Zaid bin Harith. Yet, he(saw) was chased out of the city with stones by the defiants and rascals and Zaid was also severely wounded.
Nevertheless, the Meccans wanted to complete their stages of chastisement by killing prophet but Allah granted him safety from their plot and, under divine instruction, he had to leave Mecca for Medina in the company of his best friend – Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddeeq(ra) in 622 A.D., a year that was later called or known as year of Hijrah. Yet, the Meccans never stopped wanting the light of Islam extinguished; they pursued him and his companions to Medina and still wanted to continue their cruelty and unjust persecution of the Muslims. Then, God intervened! God tells his Prophet in Suratul Hajj, Q22 vs. 39 – 40:
“Permission to take up arms is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged and Allah, indeed, has power to help them – Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly, only because they said, “Our Lord is Allah; And if Allah had not repelled some people by means of others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft remembered, would surely have been destroyed. And Allah will surely, help him who help Him. Allah is, indeed, powerful mighty”.
The above quotation is incontrovertible evidence that Holy Prophet did not wield sword against the enemies of Islam to get or have them converted, but he did raise his sword just to defend himself, his followers and his new city (Medina) against the offensive wars by the Meccans. Allah gave him permission to take up arms in defense not for the purpose of forcing people to Islam. A common adage says: “There is a limit to human endurance”. God saw that the Prophet’s endurance, patience, perseverance have reached the climax, for these Kuffar to desist from this barbaric acts. However, they were waxing stronger everyday. Then, God intervened and this brought about a number of defensive wars fought by the prophet and other faithfuls.
CONTEMPORARY REALITIES ABOUT THE SO CALLED ‘JIHAD’
Nowadays, there are still a number of Muslims who believe that those inherent qualities of Islam which won thousands of millions of people into Islam during the days of Muhammad(saw) were no more relevant. They are still wandering in their old-age error of using force to propagate Islam. They believe they are waging holy war against non-Muslims by killing thousands of innocent minds under the pretence of promoting Islam. In fact, this is but a wanton destruction in the name of religion. These people murder in the name of Allah(swt).
One even wonders whether or not these sets of misinformed fellows know anything about the categories of Jihad as a concept in Islam. Did they know that we have: Jihadul Akbar (biggest jihad), Jihad Kabeer (big jihad) and Jihads-Sagheer (smallest jihad)?. In the Holy Qur’an and in a number of Ahaadith, we were made to know that kindness to parents, fighting one’s evil thoughts, preaching Words of Allah with wisdom and bringing clues from it (Qur’an), saying the truth in the presence of tyrannical leader are all categorized under the first two types while the last one, which is the least of all is raising arms in protection of Muslims against the enemies, if situation arises.
Painfully, they find it so difficult to detach terrorism from Islam being a religion of peace. These groups are found across the world today e.g. Al-Qaeda of Iraq, Taliban of Afghanistan, Boko Haram of Nigeria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Turkey, Hamas of Palestine, al-Nusra Front of Syria, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/Syria (ISIL or ISIS), etc. (10 Terror Groups Alone Threatens The Existence of Over A Billion people of the World. Retrieved from: https://topyaps.com/top-10-terrorist-groups-in theworld)
Conclusively, it is a reality that Islam is still under persecution of orientalists via media, press and other contemporary technologies. We Muslims must also wake up from our slumber, pick up our pens and fight back via the media and press. This is time for “Jihad of pen”, and not of sword. There are a number of allegations against Islam and our Prophet(saw) on ‘net’ and ‘social media’. The enlightened and upright Muslims should not fold their arms; we must write rejoinders, show them the inherent qualities of Islam and let them know that we are peace – loving and not terrorists. Let us make them realized that we are dynamic, versatile, enlightened and educated adherents of Islam; and our strongest weapons is our pen not swords or gun. We are not blood sucking fellows but peace-makers and that religious matters should not be under compulsion or coercion and that we are nothing but “Jihadists of the pen”.
Ahmad, B. M. (Ed.) (1989). Introduction To The Study of The Holy Qur’an, U.K: Islamabad International Publications Limited
Ahmad, T. (Ed.) (1990). Mruder in the Name of Allah. Great Britain: Lutterworth Press.
Alli, M. (1971). The Religion of Islam: A comprehensive Discussion of the sources, principles and practices of Islam. Pakistan: Ripon Printing Press Ltd.
Baalbaki, R. (1995). Al-Mawrid, Modern Arabic – English Dictionary, Lebanon: Dar – El – Ilm Ulmalayin.
Editor, (2010, Dec.). these 10 Terror Groups Alone Threatens The Existence of Over A Billion people of the World. The Topygaps, Retrieved from: https://topyaps.com/top-10-terrorist- groups-in-theworld.
Farid, M. G. (Ed.) (2000). The Holy Qur’an – Arabic text with English translations and short commentary: Islamabad, UK: Islam International Publications Ltd.
Klein, F. A. (1960). The Religion of Islam. Madras: S.P.C.K Press.
Written by: MIKAIL, S.O.