Written By: Nasser El-Morshidy
One who reads the Holy Qur’an and the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) will recognize that Jihad is misinterpreted by some Muslims and misunderstood by majority of non-Muslims at the same time.The word Jihad is an Arabic word that means struggle or strive. Thus Jihad in the Islamic concept means to struggle or strive to gain the pleasure of Allah.
Jihad is not restricted to fighting on a battlefield. Many good deeds are considered as types of Jihad. Taking care of orphans, struggling to achieve a higher standard of moral behavior and serving one’s parents are types of Jihad. A man asked the Prophet (P.B.U.H): “Should I join Jihad?’ The Prophet asked him: ‘Are your parents still alive?’ The man said: ‘Yes!’ The Prophet said:‘Then strive by serving them.” Bukhari
Working to support oneself, one’s family or one’s parents is equal to Jihad on a battlefield. A man passed by the Prophet (PBUH), and seeing that he was a strong man, the companions said: “Had it been that he uses his strength in the cause of Allah.” The Prophet (PBUH) said: “If he went out to get livelihood for his young children, he is in the cause of Allah, If he went out to get livelihood for his old parents, he is in the cause of Allah, If he went out to get livelihood for himself, he is in the cause of Allah, but If he went out boasting about his strength, he is in the cause of the Devil.” Tabrani
Islam encourages Muslims to support justice and equity and standing against oppression and injustice. Thus, saying the truth to an unjust ruler and struggling against him is a great action of Jihad. Islam gives high credits to the person who confronts a dictator knowing that he might lose his life for such a good deed.Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “The best Jihad is a truthful word in the presence of an unjust ruler.” Tirmzi
Jihad, through fighting on a battlefield, is permitted for Muslims to stop aggression and stand against oppression. Islam focuses on the defense of the weak, the humble and the oppressed and enjoins Jihad for their protection. “To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight) because they are wronged and verily Allah is Most Powerful for their aid. They are those who were expelled from their home in defiance of right, (for no cause) except that they say: ‘Our Lord is Allah….” Qur’an 22:39-40
Jihad on a battlefield is the last resort and is subject to certain conditions. Jihad must be launched against the enemy who attacks Muslims. Islam forbids fighting against people who did not launch aggression or prepare to launch attack against them. The Holy Qur’an makes it clear that Allah does not love the aggressors. "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; Allah loves not transgressors." Qur’an 2:195
Following the media these days makes a person gets the feeling that the Muslims are looking for fighting and that Islam motivates Muslims to go for fighting without any good cause. This is absolutely wrong and was totally against the guidance of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) who said: “O people! Do not desire a combat with the enemy, but pray to Allah for safety. But when you are face to face with the enemy be steadfast. ” Bukahri
Furthermore, Muslim soldiers should follow the rules of Islam during fighting. The Prophet (PBUH) instructed Muslims not to kill old people, women, children, and monks. Fighting should be against those who carry the weapons to fight the Muslims. Mutilation of dead bodies is absolutely forbidden and prisoners of war should be dealt with kindly. The Prophet (PBUH) once instructed a Muslim army: “Go in Allah’s name. Do not kill an old man, a child, or a woman, do not be dishonest and collect together your spoils of war, behave well and do good, for Allah loves those who do good.” Abu Dawud
While Muslims are struggling against their enemy, it should be clear that war is not their main aim. Therefore, if the enemy decides to stop aggression against them and offers peace, the Muslims should respond positively and accept peace. “But if they incline towards peace, you also incline towards it and (put your) trust in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.” Qur’an 8:61
How strange that there are some people who connect between Jihad and terrorism! There are clear differences between Jihad and terrorism: Jihad is limited to fighting with the combatants while terrorism involves indiscriminate killing of civilians. Jihad is declared openly, while terrorism is committed secretly. Islamic mannersregulate Jihad while terrorism is not bound by any rules.
Islam has nothing to do with terrorist attacks launched in the name of Islam in different parts of the world. Muslim scholars in different countries of the Muslim world always condemn the violent actions committed by some Muslims in the name of Islam which includes kidnapping and killing innocent civilians in Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
There are two verses in the Holy Qur’an that set the general rules organizing the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. The first verse made it clear that Muslims should deal with non-Muslims kindly and justly as long as they do not fight against them or derive them out of their homes. “Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity.” Qur’an 60:8
According to the second verse, a Muslim should not be a friend or be an ally to the enemies of his country. This is because they launched aggressions against Muslims and drive them out of their homes. “It is only as regards those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, that Allah forbids you to befriend them. And whosoever will befriend them are the wrong-doers.” Qur’an 60:9
Through reading the Holy Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) with a sound understanding, we can easily conclude that the horrific actions committed nowadays by Islamic extremists in some parts of the Muslim world such as Iraq and Syria, contradict the main principles of Islam. Undoubtedly the killing of tourists, reporters or human aid workers; because they are not Muslims; has nothing to do with Islam whatever the justifications or slogans used by the extremists.