What Jihad NOT IS!

If you open a modern Oxford English dictionary, you would probably

find the definition of Jihad as “a holy war undertaken by Muslims against

non-believers”. This is a very poor definition. Before trying to define what

Jihad is, we should first define what it is NOT.

Jihad is NOT Holy War

Jihad is NOT blowing up one’s self  (Suicide is a sin in Islam)

Hadith  : Shahi Bukhari.
Book 23. Funerals (Al-Janaa’iz).

Volumn 002, Book 023, Hadith Number 445.
Narated By Thabit bin Ad-Dahhak : The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, “Whoever intentionally swears falsely by a religion other than Islam, then he is what he has said, (e.g. if he says, ‘If such thing is not true then I am a Jew,’ he is really a Jew). And whoever commits suicide with piece of iron will be punished with the same piece of iron in the Hell Fire.” Narrated Jundab the Prophet said, “A man was inflicted with wounds and he committed suicide, and so Allah said: My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him.”

Jihad is NOT killing innocent people

Jihad is NOT flying a plane into a building packed with civilians

Jihad is NOT fighting out of anger and hatred

Jihad is NOT killing others just because they don’t agree with you

Jihad is NOT killing others just because they are not Muslims

The real meaning of Jihad

Jihad is an Arabic word from the root Jee Ha Da. It literally means to

struggle or strive. Jihad is struggling or striving in the way or sake of

Allah. Jihad takes a very important status in the doctrine of Islam and is

one of the basic duties for every Muslim.

Though, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the term Holy War. Such

a term, or its equivalent doesn’t exist in the Islamic doctrine. The Christian

Crusaders in the mid-ages invented this ideology of Holy War.

There is nothing “Holy” about wars. Wars only involve killings and disasters!

Jihad has many forms,

  • Jihad of the heart/soul (jihad bin nafs/qalb)
  • Jihad by the tongue (jihad bil lisan)
  • Jihad by the pen/knowledge (jihad bil qalam/ilm)
  • Jihad by the hand (jihad bil yad)
  • Jihad by the sword (jihad bis saif)

Jihad of the Heart/Soul

Jihad of the heart/soul; in Arabic: jihad bin nafs/qalb. It is referred as

the greater Jihad” (al-jihad al-akbar).

It is one’s inner struggle of good against evil; refraining oneself from the

whispers of Shaitan (Satan).

This process involves allowing Islam to transform one’s soul to achieving

internal peace; and forgoing the hatred and anger.

“Jihad is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may

be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a

thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.”

{Quran, Surah 2: Al-Baqarah, Verse 216; Mohsin Translation}

Jihad by the tongue

Jihad by the tongue; in Arabic: jihad bil lisan.

It is defending Islam and spreading Islam by scholarly lectures, speeches

and debates. It often overlaps with Da’awah (invitation to Islam, or

spreading the message of Islam).

In The Last Sermon, Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) asked the

listeners whether he has passed on the message to them; and they

confirmed affirmatively.

Then the Messenger of Allah ordered all those present today to pass on

the same message to those who are not here today; and the last person to

hear the message should understand it better than the people here.

Jihad by the pen/knowledge

Jihad by the pen/knowledge; in Arabic: jihad bil qalam/ilm.

This form of Jihad involves scholarly research of Islam in aiding the

spread and defence of Islam; and publishing written articles in clearing

misconceptions and correction lies against Islam.

Examples of such Jihad include the research and discovery of scientific

evidences, literature miracles and mathematical miracles from the Quran.

Messenger of Allah once stated that the ink of a scholar is holier than the

blood of a martyr; and one who is reading looks handsome in front of


Jihad by the hand

Jihad by the hand; in Arabic: jihad bil yad.

This is a Jihad of action rather than words. At certain areas, it overlaps

with Zakart (charity) and Hajj (pilgrimage).

Some of its examples include giving charity to the poor and needy,

performing Hajj or Ummrah, helping those who need help, saving

people’s lives, etc. These are more of physical deeds instead of words.

“A person whose feet become dust ridden because of [striving] in

the way of Allah will never be touched by the flames of Hell”

{ Sahih Bukhari 2811}

The most beautiful of all Jihad is a perfect Hajj. It involves testing of

one’s patience and piety to the apex. The whole period of Hajj, with just

one intention and aim, worshiping Allah!

Jihad by the sword

Jihad by the sword; in Arabic: jihad bis saif. In contrary to Jihad of the

heart/soul; this form of Jihad is referred as “the lesser jihad” (al-jihad alasghar).

Sometimes it is necessary to undertake Jihad by the sword. This would

include usage of arsenals and engaging in a combat. This could be simply

a bunch of freedom fighters or an organised campaign of army.

Jihad by the sword is use of arms to engage into a combat. It is not

misuse of arms to create violence.

There are only two situations were Jihad by the sword is allowed to be


1) For self-defence. When someone attacks you or when your

nation has been attacked. Engaging into combat due to self defence.

2) Fighting against evil and unjust. It is also a sin if a Muslim

sees unjust been done, capable of stopping it, yet not doing

anything about it. This can include war on drug, war on child

labour as well as war on terror!

The American administration today seems to be launching a global war

on terror, but are they the first to launch the war on terror?

The Muslims already announced the war on terror fourteen centuries ago,

under the name of Jihad bis saif!

There are many rules and limitations when engaging in combat under the

title of Jihad. For example, civilians are not to be harmed; trees are not to

be cut down; asylum should be granted to surrendering enemy soldiers;


“And if anyone of the Mushrikun seeks your protection then grant

him protection, so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and then

escort him to where he can be secure, that is because they are men

who know not.”

{Quran, Surah 9: At-Taubah, Verse 6; Mohsin Translation}

The above verse states that when an enemy soldier surrenders during a

battle, the Muslim soldiers must grant asylum and in addition, escort him

to safety!

The treatment for prisoners of war is also clearly stated in the Quran.

Prisoners of war under Muslim prisons are to eat, drink and dress the

same Muslim soldiers eat, drink and dress.

And even under the unfortunate event of shortage of food, it is the

prisoners who are to eat first before the Muslim soldiers guarding them!

A closer look at the Sword

Despite the fact that Jihad by the sword is the lesser Jihad, it is the only

form of Jihad that most of the people in the world perceive Jihad as.

This is unfortunate, especially for the Muslims. Many so-called “teachers

of Islam” have been misusing this to assemble their so-called “holy

army” to fight their so-called “holy war”.

But you can’t blame the religion for what a few of its people do. In every

society, there is a black sheep.


Since Jihad by the sword has been overwhelmingly magnified in the

wrong angle, let’s take a closer look at it in the right angle. What is

wrong with Jihad by the sword if it is fighting for self-defence?

In the early years of revelation of Islam in Mecca, Muslims were not

granted permission from Allah to fight. So the Muslims suffered both

moral and physical humiliations from the non-Muslims in Mecca.

The first verses regarding Jihad were then revealed allowing Muslims to

undertake self-defence.

“And fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress

not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors.

{Quran, Surah 2: Al-Baqarah, Verse 190; Mohsin Translation}

Many of the Quranic verses are being quoted out of context to

wrongly justify terrorist actions. Yet, most of those verses are only

referring to a particular situation; such as Battle of Badr or Battle of


Intention and war against Satan:

“Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who

disbelieve, fight in the cause of Satan. So fight against the friends

of Satan. Ever feeble indeed is the plot of Satan.”

{Quran, Surah 4: An-Nisa, Verse 76; Mohsin Translation}

Now the second question is, what is wrong in fighting against evil and

liberating people from sufferings?

“Once a person came to the Prophet (sws) and said that some people

fight for the spoils of war, some for fame and some to show off

their valour; he then asked the Prophet (sws): “Which one of them

fights in the way of Allah”. The Prophet (sws) replied: “Only that

person fights in the way of Allah who sets foot in the battlefield to

raise high the name of Allah”.

{ Sahih Bukhari 2810}

Who is a Holy Warrior?

According to the Quran, a martyr who died in the way of Jihad is

promised Paradise. But what are the criteria of martyr, or in other words,

what are the criteria of a Holy Warrior undertaking the True Jihad?

The most famous of all Hadith is the one regarding everything we do are

judged by our intensions; so as it is mentioned in the previous chapter.

So who is an example of a Holy Warrior?

Ali bin Abu Talib, cousin of Prophet Mohammed (s.a.w) and the fourth

Caliph of the Islamic Ummah is a good example.

During one of the battles, Ali was about to give a deathblow to an enemy

soldier. Just then, that enemy soldier spat at Ali. Ali then suddenly

stopped, threw down his sword and refused to kill that enemy soldier.

After the battle, Ali’s soldiers asked Ali why he suddenly stopped

and refused to kill that enemy soldier on the battlefield.

Ali explained that he got angry when that enemy soldier spat at him. So

if he had killed that enemy soldier right then, he would be killing out of

his own anger and no longer fighting for Justice. In the sight of Allah, he

would then be no different from a murderer.

Brothers and Sisters that is how we should see a Holy Warrior!


5 thoughts on “What Jihad NOT IS!

  1. Thank You,
    Very good explanation of word Jehad.
    The dictionary should be corrected, ASAP.

    The meaning of this word ……. is…….”Effort”, “Effort to achieve some results.”

  2. Congratulations, for detailed explanation of Jehad.


    Dictionary is wrong and probably this meaning was supplied by Allama Abu Al-Aullah Moadoodi of Pakistan to the compilers of Dictionary.

    Certianly meaning is to be changed to “effort” , which is the correct meaning of this word.

  3. Aw, this was a really nice post. In concept I want to put in writing like this additionally – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and under no circumstances seem to get one thing done.

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