JihadThere are misconceptions about the meaning of the word 'Jihad' not only among the Non Muslims, but even amongst the Muslims. Most of the people think that any war fought by any Muslim for any reason whatsoever is Jihad. Wheter it be for personal reasons, political gains, for regions, for language or for any other reasons. This misconception is found among Non Muslims and Muslims alike.

Note:- This is part of our series answering the top 3 misconceptions about Islam, which are:

1 - Jihad

2 - Muslims are Fundamentalists & Terrorists

3 - Islam was spread by the sword


What is Jihad?

Jihad comes from the Arabic word 'Jahada', which means "to strive, to struggle, to exert effort." In the Islamic context Jihad means to strive against one's own evil inclinations. Jihad in Islamic terminology also means to strive to make the society better. Jihad even also includes fighting in the battlefield in self defense and it also includes fighting against tyranny and oppression.

Jihad means 'to strive, to struggle.'

For instance, If a student strives to pass in his examination, in Arabic we say he is doing Jihad. If an employee strives to satisfy his employer, irrespective wheter the work he is doing is good or bad, it is called Jihad. If a politician strives to get votes, irrespective wheter he is good or bad, it is referred to as Jihad in Arabic. Jihad merely means to strive.

Who can do Jihad?

Another misconception about Jihad is, people think that Jihad can only be done by Muslims. But there are verses in the Qur'an, in which Almighty God says that even the Non Muslims did Jihad. The Qur'an says in Sura Luqman Chapter 31 Verse 14 that And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him and in years twain was his weaning. In the next verse, Sura Luqman Chapter 31 Verse 15 Almighty God says, but if your parents do Jihad (strive, struggle) and force you to worship anyone besides Me, of which you have no knowledge, then do not obey them. But live with them in compassion and love. Here the Qur'an says that even the Non Muslim parents of Muslims children do Jihad to force their children to worship things beside Almighty God. So even the Non Muslims do Jihad. Further the Qur'an says in Sura an-Nisa Chapter 4 Verse 76 that the believers strive in the way of Almighty God and the unbelievers strive in the way of the Satan. So strive against the brothers of the Satan. Here the word Jihad is being used for both the believers doing Jihad in the way of God and for the unbelievers doing Jihad in the way of the Satan. So even the evil people can do Jihad (strive).

Jihad in the way of Almighty God & Jihad in the way of the Satan

The believers strive in the way of Almighty God, it is called 'Jihad fi sabilillah' and the evil people strive in the way of the Satan, it is called 'Jihad fi sabi Shaitan'. So Jihad is of two types, good Jihad and bad Jihad also. Striving for a good cause and striving for an evil cause. But in the Islamic context if Jihad is not precisely specified as 'Jihad for the Satan as in 4:76, then it is taken for granted that whenever Jihad is mentioned it means 'Jihad fi sabilillah', Jihad in the way of God Almighty, Jihad for a good cause.

Jihad does NOT mean 'Holy War'

Most of the people think that Jihad means 'Holy War'. In fact the word 'Holy War' is not mentioned anywhere in the Qur'an and authentic sayings of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). The Arabic translation of the word 'Holy War' is 'Harbon Muqadasa' and this word 'Harbon Muqadasa does not occur anywhere in the Qur'an and authentic sayings of the prophet. The word 'Holy War' was first coined by the orientalists when they started writing about Islam. But unfortunately even many Muslim scholars have also used the word 'Holy War' thinking that it is the most appropriate translation for Jihad, which is totally wrong.

Qital - Fighting

The word used for fighting in the Qur'an is 'Qital'. Again fighting can be of two types, fighting for a good cause and fighting for an evil cause. Fighting for a good cause is 'Qital fi Sabilillah' Fighting in the way of God Almighty and Fighting for an evil cause is 'Qital fi sabi Shaitan' Fighting in the way of the Satan.

Jihad in the Qur'an & Ahadith (Sayings of the prophet)

The word 'Jihad' is used in several places in the Glorious Qur'an and in several sayings of prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). Qur'an says in Sura al Haj Chapter 22 Verse 78, "Strive in the way of Allah as you ought to strive with sincerity and discipline." Further it is mentioned in the Qur'an in Sura at Tauba Chapter 9 Verse 20, "As for those believers who suffer exile and who strive with might and main in the way of Allah with their body and wealth and possession, these are the people who will attain the highest rank in the hereafter and will attain salvation." It is mentioned in a saying of the prophet in Sahih Bukhari Volume 4 Hadith 46 that a person who strives in Allah's way and Allah alone knows who really strives in His way with true intentions, is like a person who continuously fasts and prays. If he is killed, he will go to pradise and if he returns back, he will come back with a great reward as well as the booty of war. It is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an in Sura Ankaboot Chapter 29 Verse 6, "Strive in the way of Allah, but Allah is free from all wants." It means that if you are striving and struggling in the way of Almighty God, it is for your own benefit, it is not for the benefit of Almighty God because Almighty God is not dependant on any of His creation. Almighty God says in the Qur'an in Sura Tauba Chapter 9 Verse 24, "Say: If it be that your fathers your sons your brothers your mates or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline; or the dwellings in which ye delight are dearer to you than Allah or His apostle or the striving in His cause; then wait until Allah brings about His decision: and Allah guides not the rebellious."

The Best Type of Jihad Keeps on Differing Depending Upon the Situation

The best type of Jihad keeps on differing according to the situation. It is mentioned in Sahih Bukhari Volume 4 Hadith 2784 that Hazrat Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), the wife of the prophet asked the prophet that shouldn't we (women) go for Jihad and the prophet (peace be upon him) replied that the best type of Jihad for you is the perfect Haj. It is recorded in Sahih Bukhari Hadith 5792 that a person approaches the prophet and asks, Should I go to Jihad (referring to fighting against evil people). The prophet (peace be upon him) asks the man, do you have parents? The man replies, yes! The prophet tells him that the best type of Jihad for you is to serve your parents. On another occasion mentioned in Sunan Nisai 4209, a person asked the prophet that what is the best Jihad? The prophet said that the best Jihad is to speak a word of truth against a tyrant ruler. So the best Jihad keeps on differing depending upon the situation. It is recorded in Sahih Ibne Habban Hadith 4685 that Mujahid (a person who strives) is a person who strives against his own self for the cause of Allah and Muhajir (a person who migrates) is a person who migrates from evil to good.

Jihad Against the Devil

Almighty God says in the Qur'an Sura al Baqara Chapter 2 Verse 208, "O you who believe enter Islam whole heartedly and do not follow the foot-steps of the Devil." Now what is the difference between following Devil and follow the footsteps of the Devil? For example, if a young lady tells a believer that lets spend the night together and a person who has faith would say No! But if a young lady calls the same person, he would talk to her thinking what's the harm in speaking to a young lady on the phone! After talking for a few days, they would go to MacDonald, the believer thinking there is no problem in just meeting. Then they may go to a movie and someday they would even spend the night together. So all these are the footsteps of the Devil and a believer has to strive against the Devil 24/7.


One of the best type of Jihad is Dawah, conveying the message of truth to those who are not aware of it. Allah says in the Qur'an Sura Ale Imran Chapter 3 Verse 110, "O you Muslims, you are the best of people evolved for mankind." So it is a honor and honor comes only with responsibility and Allah continues and gives us our responsibility, "Because you enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong." And if a person does not enjoin what is good and forbid what is bad then he is not fit to be called a Muslim, to be called the best of people. Qur'an says in Sura Isra Chapter 17 Verse 81, "when truth is hurled against falsehood, falsehood perishes for falsehood by its nature is bound to perish." So it is the duty of every person, who has the truth that he should convey the truth to those people who do not have it. That's why it is one of the criteria to attain salvation. Qur'an Sura al Asr Chapter 103 Verses 1-3, "By the token of time, man is verily in a state of loss. Except those, who have faith, righteous deeds, extort people to the truth and exort people to patience and perseverence." So only faith will not save you. You must also have righteous deeds, exort people to the truth and patience and perseverence. In normal circumstances if any of these criteria is missing one would not enter paradise.

Does Qur'an tell the Muslims to kill the Non Muslims wherever they find them?

The critics of Islam pick up verses of the Qur'an out of context saying that Qur'an says that everywhere you find a Kafir kill him. The most misquoted such verse of the Glorious Qur'an is that of Sura Tauba Chapter 9 Verse 5. If you start reading from the first verse of Chapter 9, you would get the context. There was a peace treaty between the Muslims and the pagans of Makkah and it was unilaterally broken by the pagans of Makkah. In the Glorious Qur'an Chapter 9 Allah tells the pagans of Makkah to put the things straight in a period of 4 months or it is declaration of war and in the battlefield fight them and if required kill them. So Qur'an 9:5 is revealed in the battlefield. In order to boost up the morals of his soldiers any Army General would tell his soldiers to fight the enemy and kill them. He will not tell them to get scared and run away. These critics do not quote the verse 6, but jump to verse 7. Why? Because Verse 6 has the answer to their allegation. Verse 9:6 of Qur'an says that if the enemies want peace, grant them peace and escort them to a place of security so that they may hear the word of God Almighty. The most generous Army General today would say, Leave the enemy. But Allah says escort/take the enemy to a place of security.

All Major World Religions Encourage Doing Jihad against Evil

All major religious scriptures talk about fighting against falsehood. Same thing is mentioned in the Bible. Book of Exodus Chapter 22 & Chapter 32 talk about fighting. Book of Numbers Chapter 31 talks about fighting. Even Jesus Christ tells his disciples to take the sword and go and fight in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 22 Verse 36 and in Gospel of Mark Chapter 14 Verse 47. Same in the Hindu Scriptures. Marbharat is all about fighting. Bhagwad Geeta, the most widely read Hindu scripture is an advice that Shri Krishna gives to Arjun to fight. It does not mean that we should quote verses out of exodus or Bhagwad Geeta out of context to give any wrong impression. To get communal harmony, we should go back to our religious scriptures, which are the most authentic sources for every religion. So if a Christians reads his Bible carefully, he would have any problem with the Qur'an saying that we should fight for the truth against falsehood. Same with the Hindu, who would read his own Bhagwad Geeta.

Qur'an Condemns the Killing of Any Innocent Human Being

Qur'an says in Sura al Maidah Chapter 5 Verse 32 that if anyone kills any human being, whether it be a Muslim or Non Muslim, unless it be for murder or for spreading corruption in the land it is as though he killed the whole humanity and anyone who saves any innocent human being it is as though he saved the whole humanity. So according to the Qur'an, if anyone kills any innocent human being, it is as though he killed the whole humanity.

Guidelines for doing Jihad

Allah says in the Qur'an in Sura al Baqara Chapter 2 Verse 190 that fight against those who fight you and commit not transgresses for Allah does not like transgressors. Allah says in Sura al Buqara Chapter 2 Verse 194 that fight those who fight you until there is no tumult and tyanny. Even if as a last resort you have to fight against the evil people, there are certain guidelines laid down in the Qur'an and in the sayings of prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), which you have to follow. When you fight, you should not harm the women and children. You should not harm the elderly people, who are at their home. You should not break monasteries. You should not harm the religious people. You should not cut down or uproot the trees. You should not burn the crops. You should not harm the cattle.

Number of people killed in all the fighting at the time of prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him)

According to a book written by Rama Krishna Rao about the life history of prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). He says that in all the fighting that took place at time of the prophet in 23 years, 1018 people were killed. Do you know the number of people killed in the two world wars. In the First World War 20 million people were killed, 10 million soldiers and 10 million civilians. In the second World War 30 million people were killed and another 34 million were injured. Just compare!

About Liaqat Qazi

Student of BA in Islamic Studies at the Islamic Online University. Can be reached at @LiaqatQazi
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