The Directive of Jihad

And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight against you and do not transgress bounds [in this fighting]. God does not love the transgressors. Kill them wherever you find them and drive them out [of the place] from which they drove you out and [remember] persecution is worse than carnage. But do not initiate war with them near the Holy Ka‘bah unless they attack you there. But if they attack you, put them to the sword [without any hesitation]. Thus shall such disbelievers be rewarded. However, if they desist [from this disbelief], Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Keep fighting against them, until persecution does not remain and [in the land of Arabia] Allah’s religions reigns supreme. But if they mend their ways, then [you should know that] an offensive is only allowed against the evil-doers. A sacred month for a sacred month; [similarly] other sacred things too are subject to retaliation. So if any one transgresses against you, you should also pay back in equal coins. Have fear of Allah and [keep in mind that] Allah is with those who remain within the bounds [stipulated by religion]. (2:190-4)
    Once the permission to wage Jihad was revealed in the verses of Surah Hajj stated earlier, a detailed directive regarding Jihad was basically revealed in the above quoted verses of Surah Baqarah. All other ones which mention Jihad actually elucidate and emphasize what is stated here as well as elaborate upon the right course in certain issues8 which arose once the Muslims set about following this directive.
    The context of the verses cited above is that when Muslims were told that it was their obligation to offer Hajj and since they were the true heirs of Abraham’s religion it was only their right to journey to the House of God to worship Him, the correct line of action was also spelled out to them in case they encountered resistance from the Quraysh regarding the fulfillment of this obligation. They were told that they should fight them to crush their resistance. This is what the context says; however, the directive does not end here and the Qur’an goes on to extend it by adding certain other details to it. It clarifies the nature of responsibility the Muslims have been entrusted with viz a viz Jihad, the real force from which they should derive their motivation in waging Jihad, the moral and ethical limits of this undertaking and finally the real objective of Jihad. Through these details, the two categories of Jihad referred to earlier in this article are clearly set forth.
    These details will now be explained:
i. Nature of the Obligation
    The first thing that is evident from these verses is that Muslims should not merely fight the Quraysh if they resist them in offering Hajj, but the Qur’an goes on to say that they should continue to fight the Quraysh until the persecution perpetrated by them is uprooted and Islam prevails in the whole of Arabia. This, obviously, was a very big responsibility and could not have been imposed on an Islamic state without giving due consideration to its moral as well as military might. Consequently, the Qur’an explained that this aspect had been taken into account, and as a result the extent of responsibility would vary in different phases of the Prophet’s struggle.
    In the initial phase, when the Muslim ranks basically consisted of the pioneers among the Muhajirun and the Ansar and their faith and moral character were of an exemplary degree, they were required to fulfill this responsibility even if the enemy was ten times their might. The Qur’an says:
Prophet! Rouse the believers to wage war. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will subdue two hundred: if a hundred, they will subdue a thousand of the disbelievers: for these are a people without understanding. (8:65)
    While explaining the word  بصيرت(basirat: understanding), Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, writes:
It is this بصيرت (basirat) which is man’s real quality. When a believer who is equipped with it sets foot in the battle field he finds within his solitary soul the power of a whole army. He experiences Divine help around him and death becomes dearer to him than life. The reason is that his بصيرت(basirat) illuminates before him the exalted destination in Paradise reserved for martyrs. It is this very بصيرت (basirat) which produces in him the perseverance and strength that make him equal in might to ten people who are devoid of it.9
   This was the first phase. After it, many people entered the folds of Islam. Though the number of Muslims increased significantly as a result, yet the converts did not have the same بصيرت (basirat: understanding) as their forerunners before them. Consequently, the Almighty reduced the burden of this responsibility also:
[From] now, God has lightened your [task] for He knows that there is now weakness amongst you: But [ever so], if there are a hundred of you, patient and persevering, they will subdue two hundred, and if a thousand, they will subdue two thousand, with the leave of God: for God is with those who patiently persevere. (8:66)
    A similar policy was adopted by the Almighty regarding the extent of requirement that arose in wars that the Muslims had to fight. In the battles of Badr, Uhud and Tabuk, the responsibility was much more and each Muslim was required to present his services as a combatant. Those who tried to shirk this responsibility were severely reprimanded by the Almighty. They were told that if they hold their life, wealth and kin dearer than Jihad, then they should wait for the Almighty’s decision against them Who would punish them in the same manner as He has decided to punish those who have deliberately rejected Muhammad (sws)10. However, in military campaigns in which it was not necessary that each Muslim offer his services, the Almighty informed the Muslims that now presenting one’s self for Jihad though carried great reward – which by no means is ordinary –, it was not compulsory for each Muslim to participate in them:
Not equal are those of the believers who sit [at home] without any [genuine] excuse and those who strive hard and fight in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has given preference by a degree to those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit [at home]. [In reality], for each, Allah has made a good promise and [in reality] Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight above those who sit [at home] by a huge reward. Degrees of [higher] grades from Him and forgiveness and mercy. And Allah is Ever Forgiving, Most Merciful. (4:95-96)
    At another place, the Qur’an has unequivocally stated that showing cowardice and running away from the battlefield once a person has stepped into it is not befitting for a believer. So great is this sin, that the Almighty has promised the fateful doom of Hell fire on such an act of cowardliness:
O you who believe! When you meet those who disbelieve in a battlefield, never turn your backs to them. And [you should know that] whoever turns his back to them on such a day – unless it be a stratagem of war, or to retreat to a part of his army, – he indeed has drawn upon himself wrath from Allah. And his abode is Hell, and worst indeed is that destination! (8:15-6)
    While explaining these verses, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, writes:
Now the Muslims are being given directives regarding imminent wars. They are told that when they encounter the enemy army in formal warfare, they must never turn their backs. This directive has been given in the light of the background delineated earlier in which the Almighty had promised divine help. It is an anathema for people who have the support of Allah and His angels to run away from the battlefield.
’و من يولهم يومئذ دبره‘: in such a situation, those who desert the battlefield would invite the wrath of God and Hell shall be their abode. This shows that the crime is no less than the crime of apostasy and disbelief. Obviously, the severity of this crime hinges on the fact that, at times, a person who runs away from the battle field poses a great threat for the whole army and sometimes for the whole Muslim collectivity.
‘الا متحرفا لقتال او متحيزا الى فئة’ : ie only those measures are an exception which a soldier adopts as military tactics or, as in some cases, the need arises that he must vacate his front and join some other one. In other words, what is forbidden is to show one’s back in order to flee from the battlefield. Showing one’s back as a war strategy is an exception [and is not forbidden].11
    Three things are very obvious from the stipulations that all these verses mention:
    Firstly, even if the sole ground to wage Jihad in these times – oppression and injustice in a country – exists in a particular case, Jihad never becomes obligatory unless the military might of the Muslims is up to a certain level. In the times of the Prophet (sws), when large scale conversions took place in the later phase, the Almighty reduced the Muslim to enemy ratio to 1:2. It cannot be imagined that in later periods it can be more than this. Consequently, Muslims should not only consolidate their moral character, but it is also imperative for them to build their military might if they want to wage Jihad when the need arises. The Qur’an gave a similar directive to Muslims of the Prophet’s times in the following words:
Muster against them all the men and cavalry at your disposal so that you can strike terror into the enemies of Allah and of the believers and others beside them who may be unknown to you, though Allah knows them. And remember whatever you spend for the cause of Allah shall be repaid to you. You shall not be wronged. (8:60)
    Secondly, abstaining from participating in Jihad becomes a sin only when a Muslim sits at home in spite of the fact that an Islamic State has given a call to each and every Muslim to participate in Jihad. In religious terminology, such an appeal is called ‘نفير عام’  (nafir ‘am). In such instances, the sin is as grave as hypocrisy. In the absence of this situation, participating in Jihad, no doubt, is a very desirable deed if the need arises; however, it is not obligatory and a person who does not undertake it cannot be called a sinner.
    Thirdly, deserting the battlefield of Jihad is totally forbidden. No believer should show such feebleness. It is tantamount to showing distrust in Allah, giving priority to this world over the next and trying to make life and death dependent upon one’s own strategy – all of which cannot exist with true faith.
ii. The Driving Force
    The second thing which is evident from the above quoted verses (2:190-4) is that the  
‘قـتال’ (qital: armed warfare) mentioned therein must neither be undertaken to gratify one’s whims nor to obtain wealth and riches. It must also not be undertaken to conquer territories and rule them or to acquire fame or to appease the emotions of communal support, partisanship and animosity. On the contrary, it should be undertaken only and only for the cause of Allah as is evident from the words  ‘فى سبيل الله’ (fi sabilillah: in the way of Allah) after the word  ‘قاتلوا’ (qatilu: fight). Consequently, in the very beginning, the Qur’an has clarified that such a sacred undertaking has no relation with personal and selfish motives. This is the war of the Almighty which His servants undertake at His behest and according to the guidelines provided by Him for His cause. They themselves act as mere agents and implementers of the will of God. They have no objective of their own before them in this undertaking; rather they have to fulfill the objectives of the Almighty. Consequently, they cannot deviate in the least from this capacity:
Those who believe, fight in the cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Satan. So fight you against the friends of Satan. Ever feeble indeed is the plot of Satan. (4:76)
    The Prophet (sws), at various instances, also explained very forcefully this purport of the Qur’an:
    Abu Musa Ash‘ari (rta) narrates that once a person came to the Prophet (sws) and said that some people fight for the spoils of war, some for fame and some to show off their valour; he then asked the Prophet (sws): ‘Which one of them fights in the way of Allah’. The Prophet (sws) replied: ‘Only that person fights in the way of Allah who sets foot in the battlefield to raise high the name of Allah’.12
    Abu Imamah Bahili (rta) narrates that a person came to the Prophet (sws) and asked: ‘What is your opinion about a person who fights for monetary benefits and fame’. The Prophet (sws) replied: ‘He will gain nothing’. The person repeated his question three times and each time the Prophet (sws) gave the same answer and then said: ‘The Almighty never accepts a deed until it is pure and done merely to please Him’.13
    Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates that once the Prophet (sws) said: ‘The fate of three types of people shall be decided first on the Day of Judgement: A person who was martyred while fighting. The Almighty will remind him of His favours. Once the person remembers them, the Almighty will ask: "What did you do for me?" He will reply: "I fought for you until I embraced martyrdom". The Almighty will say: "You have told a lie; you fought so that people would acknowledge your bravery and this has [already] taken place". The Almighty would then order for his punishment and he would be dragged by his face and thrown into Hell’.14
    ‘Ubadah Ibn Samit (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): ‘A person who fought in the way of Allah with the intention that he would gain a rope [from the war booty] to tie a camel in the battle will only get that rope and nothing else’.15
    Mu‘adh Ibn Jabal (rta) narrates that once the Prophet (sws) said: ‘Wars are of two types: a person who fought merely to please Allah, obeyed his ruler in the war, spent the best of his wealth, was affectionate with his fellow fighters and abstained from spreading disorder and evil, then all the time he spent in the war whether he was awake or was asleep – all would earn reward for him. And a person who fought for fame and to earn the praises of the world and disobeyed his ruler during the war and thereby created disorder, he would not be spared’.16
    It is this special status of the
 ‘قتال’ (qital: armed warfare) that makes it an act of great reward for the believers. The Almighty says:
Consider not those who are killed in the way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive with their Lord, and they will be provided for. They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty and rejoice for the sake of those who have not yet joined them, but are left behind [not yet martyred] that on them too no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve. They rejoice in a grace and a bounty from Allah, and that Allah will not waste the reward of the believers. (3:169-171)
    Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): ‘A person who wages Jihad in the way of Allah – and Allah knows full well who wages Jihad in His way – is like a person who fasts during the daytime and stands in prayer during the night, and for such a person [who fights in His way], Allah has taken upon Himself to take him to Paradise in case He ordains death for him, [and if this is not the case], He will reward him and send him back home safely with the spoils of war’.17
    He also narrates that once a person came to the Prophet (sws) and asked: ‘Tell me of a deed whose reward is equivalent to that of Jihad.’ The Prophet (sws) replied: ‘There is no such deed.’ The Prophet (sws) then asked that person: ‘Is it possible for you that once the Mujahidin (warriors) depart for Jihad, you go to the mosque and keep standing in prayer without pausing and also keep fasting [simultaneously] without breaking the fast?’ The person replied: ‘How can anyone do this?’18
    At another instance, Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates from the Prophet: ‘There are hundred levels in Paradise which the Almighty has prepared for those who wage Jihad in His way. Each of these levels is separated from one another with a distance equivalent to that between the earth and the sky’.19
    Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): ‘I swear by the Almighty that a person who is wounded in the way of Allah – and Allah knows full well who is actually wounded in His way – he would be raised on the Day of Judgement such that his colour be the colour of blood with the fragrance of musk around him’.20
    Ibn Jabr narrates from the Prophet (sws): ‘A person whose feet become dust ridden because of [striving] in the way of Allah will never be touched by the flames of Hell’.21
    Sahal Ibn Sa‘ad says that the Prophet (sws) once said: ‘To reside in a border area for a day to protect [people] against  an enemy [invasion] is better than this world and everything it has’.22