Jihad In Islam


The meaning of jihad


The term jihad is derived from the Arabic rootword jahada, which means ‘to strive’ or ‘to struggle’. In Islam, jihad essentially means to strive with our utmost energies and to the best of our abilities in carrying out God’s commands, be it to perform righteous deeds or to refrain oneself from evil deeds with the overall objective of safeguarding the well-being of all creations. Jihad is part of the overarching Islamic teaching of peaceful submission to God and peaceful relations with all others. Jihad against a hostile enemy is just one of the forms of jihad as stated above.


Various forms of jihad in Islam


Jihad can take many forms. It can take the form of verbal jihad, which means to offer advice to those who need it or jihad with strength and service, as in performing community service for the less fortunate. Hence, armed jihad is just one of many forms of jihad in Islam and not the only one.


Objectives of jihad


Just as the meanings of jihad are wide, its targets are also multiple. Among them are:


a. Subjugation of Self-Desires


Muslims are asked to develop moral and spiritual strength, in order to overcome the challenges in life with confidence. Thus, they need to perform jihad to fight and control their self-desires, which may urge man towards evil deeds. This can be done by purifying oneself from negative traits and replacing them with virtuous traits through acts of worship like reading the Quran, performing zikr (remembrance of God), fasting, giving alms and cultivating beautiful manners in social interactions. This form of jihad actually precedes the other forms of jihad including armed jihad, as it is difficult to perform virtuous deeds and sacrifice in the name of Allah if one is controlled by his desires and his heart is void of sincerity.


b. Uplifting Intellects


Muslims need to perform jihad to upgrade their intellectual capacities and sharpen their minds to contribute towards the benefit of all. This should be done by being open to learning from one’s own civilisation and from others, and the preparedness to receive, process and develop knowledge so that a Muslim becomes a source of blessing for others.


c. Advising those who perform evil deeds or follow their desires


Muslims should perform jihad to guide and engage this group of people with wisdom and beautiful preaching to bring them back to the correct path.


d. Advising those who cause destruction to lives, property and the world


Muslims need to perform jihad, by means of pursuing appropriate legal means to prevent this group from continuing their destructive path.


e. Self-defence


When a country in which Muslims reside is unjustly attacked or illegally occupied, it is obligatory upon them to defend it even if it means taking up arms.


Does the term jihad apply to jihad against poverty, intellectual jihad, jihad against illiteracy, to develop economy etc.?


No doubt the usage of these terms with respect to jihad is new but this does not render them null and void, as their meanings are in-line with that of the wider jihad and the precepts of Syari’ah. However, the introduction of these meanings of jihad is not to replace, obscure or deny the other forms of jihad, including armed jihad. Its purpose is just to guide us to refocus our energies and realign our priorities based on today’s context.


Types of jihad that remain relevant today


The types of jihad that remain relevant today are dependent upon the different needs and situations of Muslims in a particular area and can therefore change from one place to another. The leaders of the Muslim community in that area should make an evaluation of the most pressing problems facing the particular community and assign their priorities. Based on this argument, armed jihad is not an obligation upon every Muslim community in all parts of the world, as each area would have their own unique set of problems and thus, a differing order of priorities. Social and economic problems and the lack of education beset many Muslim societies the world over. These are certainly priorities that must be addressed immediately and the responsibility of doing so falls upon both leaders and communities. All these are also great jihad.





Source: "Questions & Answers on Jihad"

- A booklet written by Ustaz Muhammad Haniff Hassan and Ustaz Mohamed Bin Ali.


Questions & Answers on Jihad - Click here to download the booklet