The Hadith about minor and major Jihad is neither authentic nor good. It was not recorded in the authentic books of hadith. There are two interpretations for the Hadith, the first is rejected as it undermines Jihad for the cause of Allah and underestimates its significance, virtues, and necessity. The second interpretation is accepted as it stresses paying attention to striving against one’s desires, training one’s soul, and restraining its aspirations and lusts.
In this regard, the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states:
“Speaking from the point of isnad (chain of transmission) criticism the Hadith about minor and major Jihad is neither authentic nor good. It was not recorded in the authentic books of hadith: it is neither mentioned in the two authentic Books of Al-Bukhari and Muslim, the six books, the Muwatta’ of Malik, nor was it mentioned in Ahmad’s Musnad, though it contains many hadiths.
Ibn Hajar said: “That Hadith is frequently repeated by people, and it was among the sayings of Ibrahim Ibn `Aylah. Al-`Ajluni said in his book (Kashf Al-Khafa) that this hadith is mentioned in the book of Ihya’ `Ulum Ad-Din by Al-Ghazali. Furthermore, Al-`Iraqi said that Al-Bayhaqi narrated it with a weak chain of transmission on the authority of Jabir. As well as this, Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi in his book Tarikh Baghdad recorded this hadith on the authority of Jabir who said: “The Prophet (peace and ble
ssings be upon him) returned from an expedition, so he (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘You have returned from the best place, and you have returned from the minor Jihad to the major Jihad.’ The companions asked: ‘What is the major Jihad?’ He (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘Striving against one’s desires.’ ” The version that is repeatedly heard is the one that goes: “We have returned from the minor Jihad to the major Jihad.”
There are two interpretations for the abovementioned Hadith. The first is totally unacceptable whereas the second could be legally accepted. The first interpretation, which is rejected undermines Jihad for the cause of Allah and underestimates its significance, virtues, and necessity in maintaining the Ummah’s safety against any attack launched by the enemies of Islam.
In addition, there are various Qur’anic verses as well as Hadiths, which are concerned with the desirable qualities and merits of Jihad. Allah says: “Count you the slaking of a pilgrim’s thirst and attendance at the Inviolable Place of Worship as (equal to the worth of) him who believes in Allah and the Last Day, and strives in the way of Allah? They are not equal in the sight of Allah. Allah guides not wrongdoing folk. Those who believe, and have left their homes and striven with their wealth and their lives in Allah’s way are of much greater worth in Allah’s sight. These are they who are triumphant. Their Lord gives them good tidings of mercy from Him, and acceptance, and Gardens where enduring pleasure will be theirs; therein they will abide forever. Lo! with Allah there is immense reward.” (At-Tawbah: 19-22)
There are more than one Hadith that highlight the meaning that the significance of Jihad exceeds that of the one who continues to fast without breaking the fast and the one
who continues to stand in worship without getting tired. Additionally, in the famous Hadith in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to Mu`adh ibn Jabal: “Shall I inform you about the most essential matter, its pillar and its highest point? The most essential matter is Islam, its pillar is prayers, and its highest point is Jihad in the cause of Allah.”
In another Hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Taking place in the line of fighters is better than praying for sixty years in one’s house.”
Returning to the second meaning intended in the Hadith about Jihad, which is accepted, it stresses paying attention to striving against one’s desires, training one’s soul, and restraining its aspirations and lusts until one succeeds in changing one’s soul from the ‘soul enjoining what’s evil’ to ‘the self-reproaching soul’ and finally to ‘the soul at peace.’
Achieving this state necessitates exerting great effort, which ends in incomparable and supreme results. Similarly, toiling against such hardships must end with being guided by Allah. Allah says: “As for those who strive in Us, We surely guide them to Our paths, and lo! Allah is with the good.” (Al-`Ankabut: 69)
In another hadith the Prophet is reported to have said: “The Mujahid is the one who strives against his desires.” It refers to one of the types of Jihad, which all Muslim are required to do. Ibn Al-Qayyim divided Jihad into thirteen types, four of which are concerned with striving against one’s desires and two are concerned with fighting against the whispers of Satan.”