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The True Meaning of Jihad in the Quran

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Jihad is a form of love for Islam. But unfortunately, today, many people misinterpret the meaning of jihad in Islam. Weaknesses and limitations in interpreting jihad make people see Islam as a radical religion. What does jihad mean in the real Quran?


Ibn Taymiyyah defines jihad with the statement, “Jihad means to exert all abilities, namely the ability to get what Allah loves and reject those who are hated by Allah.”

From Ibn Umar he said:

عن ابن عمر قال سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول إذا تبايعتم بالعينة وأخذتم أذناب البقر ورضيتم بالزرع وتركتم الجهاد سلط الله عليكم ذلا لا ينزعه حتى ترجعوا إلى دينكم

I heard the Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam said, “If you have been buying and selling ‘inah, taking the tail of a cow and ridho with agriculture and leaving jihad then Allah will bring you humility (humiliation). Allah does not remove it from you until you return to your religion.” (Narrated by Abu Daud)

Ibn Taymiyyah stated,

“There is no doubt that jihad is done against those who sideline the apostles by directing the sword of the Shari’a to them and carrying out obligations to help the prophets and apostles, and presenting valuable lessons for those who are deviant, including the most important practice that God commands us to make worship closer to Him.”

This proposition shows how important jihad is in Islam. Understanding jihad correctly is very obligatory in Islam.

Allah Almighty himself commands us to carry out jihad,

وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ ۚ هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ ۚ مِلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ۚ هُوَ سَمَّاكُمُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَفِي هَٰذَا لِيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ ۚ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِاللَّهِ هُوَ مَوْلَاكُمْ ۖ فَنِعْمَ الْمَوْلَىٰ وَنِعْمَ النَّصِيرُ

“And strive for you in the way of Allah with true jihad. He has chosen you, and He has not made trouble for you in religion. (Follow) the religion of your ancestor Ibrahim. He (Allah) has named you Muslims since long ago, and (so too) in (Al Quran), so that the Apostle (Muhammad) will be a witness to you and that you all be witnesses of all humanity. So do the prayer and give zakat, and hold fast to Allah. He is your Protector; He is the best protector and best helper.” (Al-Hajj 22: 78)
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَهَاجَرُوا وَجَاهَدُوا بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنْفُسِهِمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ آوَوْا وَنَصَرُوا أُولَٰئِكَ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يُهَاجِرُوا مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ وَلَايَتِهِمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ حَتَّىٰ يُهَاجِرُوا ۚ وَإِنِ اسْتَنْصَرُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ فَعَلَيْكُمُ النَّصْرُ إِلَّا عَلَىٰ قَوْمٍ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَهُمْ مِيثَاقٌ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ

“Indeed, those who believe and emigrate and strive with their wealth and soul in the way of Allah and those who provide residence and help (to the Muhajirin), they protect each other. And those who believe but have not emigrated; there is no obligation for you to protect them, until they emigrate.”

“(But) if they ask you for help in religious affairs, then you must provide help except for those who have been bound by an agreement between you and them. And Allah sees what you do.” (Al-Anfaal 8: 72)

The Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam also called for jihad in his word,

فَإِنَّ دِمَاءَكُمْ وَ أَعْرَاضَكُمْ وَأَمْوَالَكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ حَرَامٌ كَحُرْمَةِ يَوْمِكُمْ هَذَا فِي شَهْرِكُمْ هَذَا فِي بَلَدِكُمْ هَذَا إِلَى يَوْمِ تَلْقَوْنَ رَبَّكُمْ أَلَا هَلْ بَلَّغْتُ قَالُوا نَعَمْ قَالَ اللَّهُمَّ اشْهَدْ فَلْيُبَلِّغْ الشَّاهِدُ الْغَائِبَ فَرُبَّ مُبَلَّغٍ أَوْعَى مِنْ سَامِعٍ فَلَا تَرْجِعُوا بَعْدِي كُفَّارًا يَضْرِبُ بَعْضُكُمْ رِقَابَ بَعْضٍ

“Verily, your blood, honor, and wealth are forbidden from you like holiness today, this month, and in your country, until you meet your Robb. Know if I have delivered?” They answered, “Yes.” So he said, “O Allah, witness, let the people present to those who are not present because sometimes what is conveyed is more understandable than those who hear directly. Then do not come back to Kufr after I leave, some of you kill each other.” (Muttafaqun ‘Alaihi)

Jihad in the time of the Prophet was jihad with the sword fighting the infidels. But now, jihad is interpreted by fighting lust.

Ibnul Qayyim rahimahullah stated,

“Jihad against the enemy of Allah outside (soul) is a branch of jihad against the soul, as said by the Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam,

وَالْمُجَاهِدُ مَنْ جَاهَدَ نَفْسَهُ فِي طَاعَةِ اللَّهِ وَالْمُهَاجِرُ مَنْ هَجَرَ مَا نَهَى اللهُ عَنْهُ

“Mujahid is a person who strives to fight his soul in obedience to Allah and Muhajir is a person who emigrates from Allah’s prohibition.” (Narrated by Ahmad 6/21, his sanad is saheeh)

This is in accordance with the word of Allah SWT,

إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ فَاتَّخِذُوهُ عَدُوّاً

“Surely the satan is a real enemy for you, so consider him an enemy.” (QS. Fathir: 6)

Jihad does not only have to be with real actions. The lightest jihad is to deny in the heart.

The Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam in the hadith Anas bin Malik Radhi Allahu Anhu said,

جَاهِدُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ بِأَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنْفُسِكُمْ وَأَلْسِنَتِكُمْ

“Fight the polytheists with your wealth, soul, and oral.” (Narrated by Abu Daud no. 2504, An Nasai no. 3096 and Ahmad 3/124. Syaikh Al Albani said that this hadith is saheeh)

From the hadith of Abu Saeed Al Khudri Radhi Allahu Anhu that reads,

سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ مَنْ رَأَى مِنْكُمْ مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُغَيِّرْهُ بِيَدِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الْإِيمَانِ

“I heard the Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam said, “Who among you who sees a munkar, then let him change it with his hand; if he is not capable, then by oral. If you cannot, then with your heart and that is the weakness of faith.” (Muslim)

When we have succeeded in jihad against ourselves, we are automatically ready for jihad with unbelievers. This is the true purpose and meaning of jihad in the Koran, namely that the religion of God be established on the face of the Earth.

Allah Almighty said,

وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّىٰ لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ لِلَّهِ ۖ فَإِنِ انْتَهَوْا فَلَا عُدْوَانَ إِلَّا عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ

“And fight them until there is no more slander, and religion is only for Allah. If they stop, then there is no (more) hostility, except for the wrongdoers.” (Al-Baqarah: 193)

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