First, we would like to start with stating that Islam does not call for violence; rather it abhors all forms of violence and terrorism, whether against Muslims or non-Muslims. Islam, moreover, calls for peace, cooperation, and maintaining justice, and provides for the happiness and welfare of humanity as a whole. This fact is declared in the Qur’an when Allah says: (Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition.) (An-Nahl 16: 90)
Islam makes it obligatory upon Muslims to stand by the oppressed regardless of their race, color, religion or affiliation and say NO to the oppressor and ask him to respond to the voice of reason and justice.
The eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh `AtiyyahSaqr, former Head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, stated that: Jihad is one of the words that have been misused due to misunderstanding its true meaning. The word “Jihad” is derived from the Arabic word “Jahd” which means fatigue or the word “Juhd” which means effort. A Mujahid is he who strives in the Cause of Allah and exerts efforts which makes him feel fatigued. The word “Jihad” means exerting effort to achieve a desired thing or 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, the accursed Satan, poverty, illiteracy, disease, and fighting all evil forces in the world.
there are many religious texts that refer to these types of Jihad. Among the forms of Jihad is defending life, property or honor. Those who die while engaging in Jihad are considered to be martyrs, as confirmed by Hadith. 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.
In Islamic Shari`ah, Jihad in the Cause of Allah means fighting in order to make the Word of Allah most high, and the means for doing so is taking up arms in addition to preparation, financing and planning strategies. A large number of people are supposed to take part in Jihad including farmers, craftsmen, traders, doctors, engineers, workers, security men, preachers, writers and all those who directly or indirectly participate in the battle.
this type of Jihad was a major concern of Muslims in the beginning of the formation of the Islamic community, and a lot of verses of the Glorious Qur’an and the Hadith advocated and encouraged it. Almighty Allah says: (March forth, whether you are light (being healthy, young and wealthy) or heavy (being ill, old and poor) and strive with your wealth and your lives in the Cause of Allah.) (At-Tawbah 9: 41) Jihad is considered an individual duty (Fard `Ein), on all Muslims who are capable and fit to fight, in the event of being invaded by the enemy, and is considered a collective duty (FardKifayah) in the event of not being invaded. However, if the Imam (leader) calls to Jihad, people must respond to his call. This is evident from Allah’s Saying, (O you who believe! What is the matter with you, that when you are asked to march forth in the Cause of Allah (i.e. Jihad) you cling heavily on the earth?) (At-Tawbah 9: 38), and the Hadith narrated by Al-Bukhari and Muslim, “When you are called to Jihad, then go forth.”
a question arises: is taking up arms the only means to spread Islam? Fighting originally had two main objectives: the first one was to ward off an actual or an anticipated aggression, and the second one was to clear the hurdles in the path of Da`wah (call for Islam). The battles of Badr, Uhud, Al-Khandaq and others are examples of staving off actual aggression and some of them were fought in order to aid the oppressed. Almighty Allah says: (But if they seek your help in religion, it is your duty to help them…) (Al-Anfal 8: 72). The conquest of Makkah was undertaken for the purpose of staving off an expected aggression after the Quraish had violated its covenant with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in Al-Hudaybyah; this was also the case of the expedition of Tabuk and other expeditions. It also cleared the obstacles placed in the path of Islam by enabling the Muslims to leave Madinah and spread the call to Islam all over the world because Islam is a universal message. Since Jihad was legalized in Islam and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that he was sent by Allah to wage war against disbelief and that his sustenance was “tied” to his spear, as related by Ahmad on the authority of Ibn `Umar, then we have to understand that Islam advocated acquiring the highest degree of power, and the reason for this is that Islam, at that time, was a newly rising power and was expected to be “attacked” by the already existing powers to prevent it from competing with them over power – a conflict that is common to all ages.
therefore, the new entity had to be defended in order to prove its strength and deliver its message. If Islam were a local temporary call, taking up arms would be just for the purpose of defense, but Islam is a universal call that had to reach the whole world. However, the only means at that time was traveling, which was, and still is fraught with dangers; so taking up arms was necessary to prevent the enemies from standing in the path of the Islamic call.
While arms were necessary to remove the hurdles in the past, their sole mission now is to defend Islam against those who want to harm it and harm those who embrace it. As for spreading Islam, there are several means that spare people the trouble of traveling, such as newspapers, books, the Internet and other means that have known no boarders, although they may be controlled to some extent. However, radio stations have become of such power and prevalence that they can reach people while being at home or even in bed, and they can neither be prevented by any authority, nor held back by any door or border.
the superficial understanding of the legality of fighting contained in the verses of the Glorious Qur’an and the Prophet’s hadiths may give the impression that Islam has been spread by force and that if it had not been for force, Islam would not have existed or become predominant in many countries or embraced by such a large number of people. But how could this be said about Islam which is the religion of mercy? Allah Almighty says: (But if the enemy inclines towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace and trust in Allah.) (Al-Anfal 8: 61) .The Prophet also says: “O people! Do not wish to face the enemy (in a battle) and ask Allah to save you (from calamities) but if you should face the enemy, then be patient and let it be known to you that Paradise is under the shades of swords.”
the call to Islam is not meant to be imposed on anyone, people are completely free to make their choice. In fact, creeds can never propagated by a dagger. Allah Almighty says to Noah: (Shall We compel you to accept it when you are averse to it?) (Hud 11: 28). Allah says to Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him): (Wilt thou compel mankind against their will to believe!) (Yunus 10: 99); many other
verses convey the same meaning.
While there are texts that explicitly indicate the absolute order to fight, there are others that restrict it to whether it is for the purpose of staving off an aggression, preventing an expected aggression or making it a punishment for violating a covenant. Allah Almighty says: (Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits.) (Al-Baqarah 2: 190). And says: (But if they violate their oaths after their covenant and taunt you for your faith, fight thee the chiefs of unfaith.) (At-Tawbah 9:12). In fact, the previous verse specifies the meaning of the verses: (And fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together.) (At-Tawbah 9: 36), And: (And slay them wherever ye catch them.”
as for those who call for taking up arms to change the current state of the Islamic communities, we have previously said that any means of reform based on violence will not achieve its goals. In addition to this, exercising power requires extensive preparation and planning including a careful study of all existing circumstances before taking such a step, i.e. calling arms. However, this should not be understood as undermining the importance of Jihad in its general sense. Jihad will continue till the end of days in all its forms and through all its means. This is evident from the Hadith narrated by Abu Dawud: “Jihad will continue from the day I was sent by Allah till the last people of my nation fight against the Antichrist (Dajjal), it will neither be stopped by oppression nor abstention”. This Hadith denotes the continuance of Jihad in all fields including armed Jihad, is an integral element; this fact is evident from referring to fighting against the Antichrist.