On this Important issue, the late Sheikh `atiyyah Saqr (may Allah have mercy on him), former Head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, states:
“Jihad is one of the most misunderstood and abused aspects of Islam, by some Muslims who exploit and misuse this concept for their own political objectives on one hand, and many non-Muslims who misunderstand or misinterpret it to discredit Islam and Muslims on the other hand.
The word ‘Jihad’ is derived from the Arabic word jahd which means fatigue or from the word juhd which means effort. A mujahid is the one who strives in the Cause of Allah and exerts efforts which makes him feel fatigued. Jihad means exerting effort to achieve a desired thing or ‘to prevent an undesired one. In other words, it is an effort that aims at bringing about benefit or preventing harm.
Jihad can be observed through any means and in any field whether material or moral. Among the types of Jihad are; struggling against one’s desires, Satan, poverty, illiteracy, and disease, and fighting all evil forces in the world.
There are many religious texts that refer to all these types of Jihad. One of the forms of Jihad is defending life, property or honor. Those who die while engaging in Jihad are considered to be martyrs (Shuhada’), as confirmed by Prophetic Hadiths. Jihad is also done to avert aggression on home countries and on all that is held sacred, or in order to face those who try to hinder the march of the call of truth.”
It becomes clear that Jihad is not a tool of waging war against the innocents or a means of flexing the muscles or bullying the weak and oppressed. Jihad in Islam is something unique that is established to defend the divine message from being eliminated or hindered by its enemies.
Shedding more light on the true concept of Jihad, here is the statement made by Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi:
“Allah says, (And strive in His cause as ye ought to strive (with sincerity and under discipline). He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the religion of your father Abraham. It is He (Allah) Who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation); that the Messenger may be a witness for you, and you be witnesses for mankind! So establish regular Prayer, give regular Charity, and hold fast to Allah! He is your Protector, the best to protect and the Best to help!) (Al-Hajj 22: 78)
Jihad is one of the most misunderstood, and abused aspects of Islam. Let’s know the meaning of Jihad.
The word Jihad does not mean “Holy War”, instead, It means “struggle” or “striving”. The word for war in the Qur’an is “Harb” or “Qital”. Jihad means serious and sincere struggle on the personal as well as on the social level. It is a struggle to do good and to remove injustice, oppression and evil from the society. This struggle should be spiritual as well as social, economic and political. Jihad is to work hard to do right things. In the Qur’an this word is used in its different forms 33 times. It often comes with other Qur’anic concepts such as faith, repentance, righteous deeds and migration.
Jihad is to protect one’s faith and one’s human rights. Jihad is not a war always, although it can take the form of war. Islam is the religion of peace, but it does not mean that Islam accepts oppression. Islam teaches that one should do one’s utmost to eliminate tension and conflict. Islam promotes non-violent means to bring change and reform. Actually, Islam urges that one should eliminate evil through peaceful means without the use of force as much as possible. In Islamic history from the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) until now, Muslims most of the time resisted oppression and struggled for liberation in non-violent and peaceful manners.
Islam teaches proper ethics in the situation of war also. The war is permissible in Islam, but only when other peaceful means such as dialogue, negotiations and treaties fail. It is a last resort and should be avoided as much as possible. Its purpose is not to convert people by force, or to colonize people or to acquire land or wealth or for self-glory. Its purpose is basically: defense of life, property, land, honor and freedom for oneself as well as defense of others from injustice and oppression.
the basic rules of war in Islam are:
1. Be strong so that your enemy fear you and should not attack you.
2. Do not begin the hostilities. Work for peace as much as possible.
3. Fight only those who fight, no collective punishment; non-combatants should not be harmed. Weapons of mass destruction should not be used.
4. Stop hostilities as soon as the other party is inclined to peace.
5. Observe the treaties and agreements as long as the enemy observes them.
Allah says very clearly: (Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress, for Allah loves not the transgressors.) (Al-Baqarah 2: 190); (The prohibited month, for the prohibited month, and so for all things prohibited, there is the law of equality. If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, transgress you likewise against him. But fear Allah, and know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.) (Al-Baqarah 2: 194).
It is to be emphasized that terrorism against the innocent civilians, whether through aggression or suicidal means, is under no circumstances permissible in Islam. Islam encourages the oppressed people to struggle for their liberation and it commands other Muslims to help those who are oppressed and suffering, but Islam does not allow, under any circumstance, terrorism against non-combatants and innocent people. Terrorism is not Jihad, it is Fasad (mischief). It is against the teachings of Islam. There are some people who use their twisted arguments to justify terrorism for their causes, but it has no justification: Allah says: (When it is said to them: ‘Make not mischief on the earth,’ they say: ‘Why, we only want to correct things.’ Indeed they are the mischief doers, but they realize (it) not. ) (Al-Baqarah 2: 11-12).
Islam wants to establish a world order where all human beings – Muslims and non-Muslims – can live with justice in peace, harmony and good will. It gives its followers full guidelines to find peace in their personal and social lives, but it also tells them how to extend the good will on the basis of human relations towards others. Muslims worked under these principles for centuries. People of many faiths lived with them and among them. Islamic societies were known for their tolerance, generosity and humanity.
In our modern society where we are living in a global village, where non-Muslims are living with Muslims in the Muslim countries and Muslims are living with non-Muslims in countries where non-Muslims constitute a majority, it is our duty to bring better understanding among ourselves, work for peace and justice for all people and cooperate with each other in matters of goodness and virtue in order to stop all terrorism, aggression and violence against the innocent people. This is our Jihad today.”