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Jihad Is Not Holy War

Murad Ali Baig

Islam changed significantly over the years. After the sacking of Baghdad Ahmad ibn Tamiyya (1263 – 1328) was driven out of Iraq by the Mongols under Genghis Khan’s grandson Halagu who destroyed Baghdad and reportedly slaughtered some 90,000 Muslims in 1258 or six centuries after the death of Muhammad. Halagu was evidently a Buddhist married to a Christian but the sack of Baghdad was a matter of brutal political expediency with no religious significance. The Mongol destruction of Baghdad however marked the end of what had been described as Islam’s Golden Age and Muslims became more belligerent.

The word Jihad is found only four times in the Quran but is referred to 199 times in the Hadis. In the beginning Jihad was just an Arabic noun that had simply meant struggle. Muhammad’s own words had made it clear that he had meant a struggle to overcome one’s own inner weaknesses. The word “jihad” is derived from the Arabic word “jahd” which meant “striving hard”. An early Arab authority had said that “Jihad can be of three kinds. Against a visible enemy, against the devil or against the self (nafs)”. By no stretch could jihad to be termed as an offensive holy war.

The four quotes concerning jihad in the Quran are revealing:

Sura 29: 69 says… “Those who strive hard for us, we shall certainly guide them in our ways and Allah is surely with the doers of the good”.

Sura 29: 6 says… “Whoever strives hard (jihada), he strives only for his soul”.

Sura 16: 110 says… ”Thy Lord, with respect to those who flee after they are persecuted, then they strive hard (jahadu) and are patient. Thy Lord after that is surely Forgiving, Merciful”.

Sura 2: 190 says… “And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you but begin not hostilities: surely Allah does not love the aggressors”.

These Suras make it very clear that there was nothing warlike about the word Jihad. The Mujahidin were not holy warriors but only those who strive. There were also two Jihads. In the Quran the greater Jihad meant a struggle against one’s own weakness while a lesser Jihad was to fight against injustice. Both enjoined adherents to struggle on regardless of the odds with the certain belief that Allah would come to the aid of the sincere devotee. But there were also strict rules and a Jihad could not be declared by anybody but only by an authority of widely accepted repute. 

In later years Muslim clerics would further elaborate his words and declare that when Muslims were in a hopeless minority, they must follow the Sira, make a deal with the majority and make no demands (Dar ul Ahad) and not ask for separate Shariat or personal law. If Muslims were a substantial minority they should encourage subversions and act to leverage their position (Dar ul Harb) to influence the polity and to ultimately become the rulers. Misguided Muslims are unaware that the very concept of Dar ul Ahad and Dar ul Harb were only composed six hundred years after the Prophet and were the work of a radical revisionist. The word sharia had actually just meant `method’ and had no religious sanctity.

The identity of “Believers” and non believers, or Kafirs, was to become a crucial question. Narrow-minded theologians now said that only the “People of the Book” were believers. In their opinion these are only the people of the Quran and the Bible that included the Jewish Torah. The people of Persia and India who also believed in the oneness of a supreme God should have therefore also been considered believers especially as the Quran’s Sura 35:24 clearly says… “To every race, great teachers have been sent. God has not left any community without a prophet, warner and true guide.” The Quran’s Sura 23:24 further says… “To people after people have we sent Apostle after Apostle: mostly, though the people have rejected or even killed them.”

Concerning India, Al-Biruni (973 – 1048) had said that the Hindus were unlike the ancient idolaters of Arabia because they too believed in one supreme creator and worshipped before other images, merely for the purpose of concentration. Later, in the Mughal period, Abul Fazl wrote in the A’in-I-Akbari… “The inhabitants of this land… one and all… believe in the unity of God, and as to reverence they pay to the images of stones and wood and the like, which simpletons regards as idolatry… it is not so”.

In the nineteenth century Islam was completely hijacked by Mohammad Abd Al Wahhab who started the Sunni Wahhabiya movement. It accepted the Quran and Hadis but opposed innovations, superstitions and deviances with very narrow puritanical and legalistic beliefs. They considered the veneration of pirs, the intercession of Imams, religious holidays, and other devotional acts as heresies and condemned music, art and all celebrations. They even desecrated the tomb of Muhammad at Madina. With the support of the ibn Saud family they created a new interpretation of Jihad to promote this extreme form of Islam that later led to the Taliban, Al Qaida and IS.

Jun 22, 2017


Murad Ali Baig [email protected]

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