Terrorism and Extremism

What is Jihad?

We present below the transcript of part of a question & answer session held with Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru), Khalifatul Masih IV, Fourth Successor to the Promised Messiah(as) held on 5th November 1995 in London.

Question: What is Jihad?

Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru): What is Jihad, this is the issue. Is it Islamic Jihad what they represent it to be, to take up [the] sword on the excuse of religious differences and to murder people for the crime of not agreeing with Islam? If that is Jihad then, of course, we do not agree with that, because the Holy Qur’an doesn’t agree with that either, because Hadhrat Muhammad Rasoolullah(saw) (the Holy Prophet) never murdered people just because of the religious differences. People came to meet him; he lived with the Jews, with the Christians, with the idolaters throughout his life and never murdered or ordered anyone to be murdered because he did not agree with the faith in which he (the Prophet) believed. So there is no justification whatsoever for any scholar of Islam to misinterpret Islam from the issue of Jihad and attribute a concept of Jihad to the Holy Qur’an and to the conduct of Hadhrat Muhammad Rasoolullah(saw) which has no relationship with them.
So what is Jihad? The first Jihad which is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an is the Jihad with the Qur’an. So, the Holy Qur’an addressing Hadhrat Muhammad Rasoolullah(saw), says: Wa Jahid Hum Bihi Jihadun Kabira (Ch.25:V.53); with this Book strive against them, with the help of this Book, the great striving. So the greatest Jihad of every Muslim is to strive for the victory of Islam with whatever lies in his capacity by way of the Qur’anic teachings or by way of an example, beautiful example, set before the people by acting upon the Qur’anic teaching. This is the most wonderful Jihad that one can think of – and this is Islamic Jihad.

Number two, the second Jihad mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and also in Hadith is Jihad against your own evil dispositions, evil inclinations etc. and to continue to wage a war against your bad-self which would continue to drag you to all that is satanic and that is the Jihad between light and darkness. And that Jihad begins within a man individually and within a woman – by [the] word ‘man’ I mean both man and women – and this is a Jihad in which seldom we find people genuinely and seriously involved, yet they claim at the loudest of their voices “Jihad, Jihad, Jihad!

So these are the primary two Jihads, which I have mentioned, which they totally ignore.

The third, in order, comes Jihad with [the] sword; and what is that Jihad? Can a fight with sword or bullets or guns be called holy and if so in what context? The Holy Qur’an is so clear on that, that there is no room for any ambiguity left if you read the Qur’an with due care and attention, and honesty of course. I have been quoting so often the fundamental verse concerning this Jihad, the third type of Jihad which can be carried out with sword – by sword I mean all weapons – and this is found in a verse in Surah Al-Hajj. This is the first verse found in the Holy Qur’an which speaks of a permission to wage a war against those who…which ‘those’?…I am going to explain now. Not against those who disagree with your faith; not against those who having heard your message, reject it, not at all. The words [of the Qur’an] when you hear, you will be surprised how they could be misinterpreted by anyone: (I seek refuge with Allah from Satan the Accursed. In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful) Udhina Lilladheena Yuqaataluna bi Annahum Dhulimu. Wa Innallaha ‘Ala Nasrihim La Qadeer (Ch.22:V:40).

Udhina Lillazeena, permission is granted to those against whom the sword is already raised. Yuqaataluna – any Arab can understand the meaning, no one can fail to understand the import of this verse because it’s [a] simple injunction expressed in simplest terms. The raising of sword, the fighting, is permitted to those against whom the sword has already been raised – first condition; Bi Annahum Zulimu, despite the fact that they have not committed any crime; they have given no cause of offence to anyone. But it is not over yet; Wa Innallah Ala Nasrihim La Qadeer, verily, God has full power to help such people when they raise [the] sword under the permission of God. Now this is also a very significant part of this verse and also of Jihad because the scenario presented to us is that of a very weak people, so weak and apparently defenceless, that any Tom, Dick and Harry begins to raise [the] sword against them and trample upon their rights, despite the fact that they had not given anybody a genuine cause of offence.

So, the Holy Qur’an is so wonderful when it says We are permitting you, and We take the responsibility that if you use this permission you’ll find God at your back. However weak you may be, when We grant permission, We are responsible that you will emerge victorious. This is exactly the promise made; Innallah ‘Ala Nasrihim La Qadeer, to help them to victory is a small thing for Allah. He is capable of doing [this] whenever He so decides. But, the story of their persecution still continues; runs on. It says: Alladheena Ukhriju Min Diyarihim Bighayri Haqqin…. (Ch.22:V.41) Such innocent people against whom the atrocities have been committed, even to the extent they were turned out of their homes, out of their country, out of their birth places; Bighayri Haqqin, without any right of the people who turned them out.

Then the Holy Qur’an tells us: Illa Ayyaqulu Rabbunallah, the only crime they committed was they said God is our Lord, the Provident – Allahu Rabbuna. And this is the only claim they made which annoyed the opponents to degree that they started committing all sort of cruelties against them. And they are not yet satiated, they are not satisfied having turned them out of their homes – they’re still after them. Now this is in a sort of prophecy, in fact. It says you have come to Madinah, you have been turned out of your homes, but the war is not over against you, the sword will yet be raised, and this time if they come pursuing you, We permit you to fight back. This was indeed a prophecy of what happened at Badr [the first war fought by the Muslims and the Holy Prophet(saw), fought in self-defence], and the promise of Allah was kept so beautifully. Being small in number, being weak in other respects, you know, pitched against an army of trained soldiers, the very pick of Makkah, who were one thousand, who were mounted, who had all sorts of equipment available at that time; and this small number of 313, who also included among them some lame people, some old people, some young boys who had not yet reached maturity; and the promise is so positive, so clear; this time let them come; this time if they wage a war We have permitted you, and We are capable of defeating them. So God is with you; don’t care.

And then the principle of Jihad is mentioned. If these ‘Ulama (Muslim clergy) who cry out “Jihad, Jihad” for political ends; if they read this verse it’s impossible for them to misrepresent Islam anymore. The Holy Qur’an says:

Wa lau la Daf‘ullahinnasa Ba’dahum Biba‘din Lahuddimat Sawaami‘u Wabiya‘un wasalaatun Wamasajidu Yudhkaru Fihasmullahi Kathira (Ch.22:V.41);

If God had not permitted some to defend themselves against some others, then what would happen; Lahuddimat Sawaami‘u, the churches and Christian places of worship will be destroyed; the places of worship of the Hermits and the Recluse would also be demolished and destroyed; places of worship of the Jews will be destroyed. And then also the mosques will be destroyed where God is remembered so often.

Now have you understood the message and the magnanimity of this message? According to this, Jihad is to protect the right of worship. Basically, if anyone interferes with the right of worship of even a Christian, any defender of that right, if killed, will be a martyr, because it is the right of freedom of religion; right of freedom of worship. So, instead of mentioning the mosques in the first place, the mosques are mentioned in the end of the list. [A] fantastic thing – the magnanimity of the Holy Qur’an finds no equal in the world of religious scriptures.

So, this is the basic philosophy of Islamic Jihad. Everything which should have been told by Jihad has been told. If any claim of Jihad, any interpretation of Jihad, contradicts this basic teaching and this comprehensive teaching, how can we agree with that?