بسم اللہ الرحمٰن الرحیم

True Concept of Jihad

Sagher Mahmood Bajwa

The Arabic word Jihad is derived from the verb Jahada – meaning to strive or struggle. In Islamic terminology it means to make an effort, to endeavour and to strive for a noble cause. The word is generally used to describe any type of striving in the cause of Allah (God). According to Islamic teachings there are three main types of Jihad and they all seek to establish and promote peace in society, as explained below.

Types of Jihad

According to Islamic teachings there are three main categories of Jihad:

(i) Jihad-e-Akbar i.e. jihad of the highest order.

This is the jihad (struggle) for self-reformation. The struggle is against our own temptations such as greed, lust and other worldly temptations. This is a journey of a person from an ‘animalistic’ state of existence i.e. living for immediate gratification or gain to one where his psyche is disciplined enough to exercise moral control. This type of jihad is obligatory on every Muslim throughout his life.

(ii) Jihad-e-Kabir i.e. major jihad.

This is the jihad of propagation of the truth, the message of the Qur’an. The Qur’an also instructs us to spread this message with wisdom, tolerance and respect to others and their beliefs. Allah refers to this Jihad in various places of the Holy Quran:

اُدۡعُ اِلٰی سَبِیۡلِ رَبِّکَ بِالۡحِکۡمَۃِ وَ الۡمَوۡعِظَۃِ الۡحَسَنَۃِ وَ جَادِلۡھُمۡ بِالَّتِیۡ ہِیَ اَحۡسَنُ

Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation and argue with them in a way that is best.[1]

وَ لَا تَسُبُّوا الَّذِیۡنَ یَدۡعُوۡنَ مِنۡ دُوۡنِ اللّٰہِ فَیَسُبُّوا اللّٰہَ عَدۡوًۢا بِغَیۡرِ عِلۡمٍ ؕ کَذٰلِکَ زَیَّنَّا لِکُلِّ اُمَّۃٍ عَمَلَھُمۡ ۪ ثُمَّ

[1] The Holy Quran 16:126


اِلٰی رَبِّھِمۡ مَّرۡجِعُھُمۡ فَیُنَبِّئُھُمۡ بِمَا کَانُوۡا یَعۡمَلُوۡنَ

And revile not those whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they, out of spite, revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus, unto every people have We caused their doing to seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return; and He will inform them of what they used to do.[1]


Allah prohibits the use of any coercion or force,

لَاۤ اِکۡرَاہَ فِی الدِّیۡنِ ۟ۙ قَدۡ تَّبَیَّنَ الرُّشۡدُ مِنَ الۡغَیِّ ۚ فَمَنۡ یَّکۡفُرۡ بِالطَّاغُوۡتِ وَ یُؤۡمِنۡۢ بِاللّٰہِ فَقَدِ اسۡتَمۡسَکَ بِالۡعُرۡوَۃِ الۡوُثۡقٰی ٭ لَا انۡفِصَامَ لَھَا ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ سَمِیۡعٌ عَلِیۡمٌ

There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so, whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.[2]


According to the Qur’an anyone who devotes his time, effort, wealth or knowledge to the cause of righteousness is practising Jihad-e-Kabir. This is also obligatory on all Muslims.

(iii) Jihad-e-Asghar i.e. jihad of the lower order.

This is the jihad of a defensive battle. The Qur’an has clearly restricted this type of jihad to certain conditions while forbidding transgression of any sort.

The battle can only be defensive and not an offensive one.

وَقَاتِلُوۡا فِیۡ سَبِیۡلِ اللّٰہِ الَّذِیۡنَ یُقَاتِلُوۡنَکُمۡ وَلَا تَعۡتَدُوۡا ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ لَا یُحِبُّ الۡمُعۡتَدِیۡنَ

And fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Surely Allah loves not the transgressors.[3]

[1] The Holy Quran 6:109

[2] The Holy Quran 2:257

[3] The Holy Quran 2:191


Furthermore, nearly all measures must be taken to try and keep peace. First and foremost, Muslims have been instructed to tolerate all oppression with patience and prayer. If the opponent continues to oppress and forcefully wishes to put an end to religious freedom, then Muslims are instructed to migrate in search of a land where they can peacefully practice their faith. But if the enemy leaves no choice, then Allah, as a last resort has taught Muslims to stand up gallantly and fight for their God given rights. Allah has clearly referred to this scenario in the following verses:

اُذِنَ لِلَّذِیۡنَ یُقٰتَلُوۡنَ بِاَنَّہُمۡ ظُلِمُوۡا ؕ وَ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ عَلٰی نَصۡرِھِمۡ لَقَدِیۡرُ ۣ ﴿ۙ۴۰﴾ الَّذِیۡنَ اُخۡرِجُوۡا مِنۡ دِیَارِھِمۡ بِغَیۡرِ حَقٍّ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡ یَّقُوۡلُوۡا رَبُّنَا اللّٰہُ ؕ وَ لَوۡ لَا دَفۡعُ اللّٰہِ النَّاسَ بَعۡضَھُمۡ بِبَعۡضٍ لَّھُدِّمَتۡ صَوَامِعُ وَ بِیَعٌ وَّ صَلَوٰتٌ وَّ مَسٰجِدُ یُذۡکَرُ فِیۡھَا اسۡمُ اللّٰہِ کَثِیۡرًا ؕ وَ لَیَنۡصُرَنَّ اللّٰہُ مَنۡ یَّنۡصُرُہٗ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ لَقَوِیٌّ عَزِیۡزٌ ﴿۴۱﴾

Permission to fight 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 did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated. And Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah is indeed Powerful, Mighty —[1]


In addition to this, it is also necessary to discuss the clear directions in what can and cannot be done in a battle fought by the Muslims. We find the following instruction of the Prophet Muhammad (sa):

  • Civilians who are not fighting against Muslims are not to be attacked or killed at all.
  • Crops or other sources of food and water and cattle or other animals are not to be destroyed.
  • Hospitals, orphanages and other places of safety and refuge are not to be destroyed.
  • Mosques, churches, synagogues or other places of worship are not to be destroyed.
  • Women, children, old and disabled are to be left untouched.
  • If the aggressor stops the aggression or offers a treaty it should be accepted, and the fighting stopped forthwith.
  • Fleeing oppressors need not be pursued to any unnecessary length and should be allowed to return to their home.
  • Prisoners of War should be treated with respect and their basic needs be fulfilled and they should be freed or ransomed as soon as possible after the battle.[2]

Hence it is very clear that the purpose of any such battle is still to restore peace and not to promote aggression. It is important to note that starting of such a battle is not in the hands of the Muslims but can only be initiated by an oppressor fulfilling the aforementioned conditions.


[1] The Holy Quran 22:40-41

[2] The Life and Character of the Seal of Prophets (sa), Mirza Bashir Ahmad M.A. (ra)