The Permission for Jihad

Permission to take up arms is hereby given to those who are attacked because they have been oppressed – Allah indeed has power to grant them victory – those who have been unjustly driven from their homes, only because they said: ‘Our Lord is Allah’. (22:39-40)
    This is the first verse of the Qur’an in which the Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) who had migrated from Makkah (the Muhajirun) were given permission to fight back if they were attacked. The Qur’an says that these Companions (rta) were driven out of their homes because they believed that Allah was their Lord and as such were totally innocent. A little deliberation shows that this one sentence depicts the whole charge-sheet against the Quraysh. The reason for this is that no one is willing to leave his home unless he is oppressed for living there and thereby utterly compelled to migrate. The words ‘‘بانهم ظلموا’ (bi annahum zulimu: because they have been oppressed) refer to this very aspect and it is because of this ruthless and unfounded oppression that the Qur’an allowed Muslims to resort to power against aggression.
    The words 
‘الذين اخرجوا من ديارهم’ (alladhina ukhriju min diyarihim: those who have been driven out of their homes) clearly show that Muslims were not allowed to wage war before migration. The reason for this is that without political authority armed offensives become tantamount to spreading disorder and anarchy in the society. Therefore, no group or gang of people is authorized to wage war unless it wields political authority in an independent piece of land. In Makkah, Muslims were never able to attain this position but once they migrated to Madinah and, as a result of the treaty of Madinah, were invested with political authority, they were given permission to wage war. There is no doubt that the Almighty had the full authority to help the Muslims in Makkah when they were subjected to grave oppression and torture, but, in spite of this, engaging in warfare was prohibited. So much so that after many years of persecution and oppression, they were forced to leave their homes. At that time, had they waged war against the enemy and even been outnumbered by 1:10, they would have been victorious according to the principle of Divine Help stated in the Qur’an (8:65-6). But the question arises: Why were they not allowed to wage war before migration? From whatever aspect this question is analyzed, the answer to it most surely is what is pointed out above: they had no political authority. The whole history of the Prophets of Allah bears witness to the fact that they never took up arms unless they had political authority. It is known about the Prophet Moses (sws) that he never launched an armed offensive until he was able to bring forth the Israelites from Egypt and organize them in an independent piece of land. The Prophet Jesus (sws) was never able to acquire political authority, so he never undertook any armed struggle. This was in spite of the fact that he himself claimed that he had not come to repeal the directives of the Torah but to fulfill them,4 and it is known that the directive of Jihad is very clearly written in the Torah5. The preaching missions of the Prophets Salih (sws), Hud (sws), Shu‘ayb (sws), Lot (sws), Abraham (sws) and Noah (sws) also endorse this premise. For this very reason, the Makkan Surahs of the Qur’an are devoid of any such directive. Had the Prophet Muhammad (sws) not been able to acquire political authority, no verse of Jihad would have been revealed in the Qur’an as is the case with the Injil (the New Testament).
    Consequently, there is absolutely certainty that, in their individual capacity, Muslims are not the addressees of the verses of Jihad. Like the verses which mention punishments for criminals, the real addressees of these Jihad verses are the Muslim rulers. No one other than them has any authority to wage Jihad. The word 
‘اذن’ (udhina: permission is granted) in the above quoted verse of Surah Hajj also points to the fact that the very first question in an armed offensive is that of permission. The Almighty permitted the Muslims of those times to fight back the Quryash only when Muslims had political authority in spite of the tremendous oppression let lose upon them. Consequently, in these times also, this is an essential pre-requisite of war6. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:
A Muslim ruler is the shield [of his people]. An armed struggle can only be carried out under him and people should seek his shelter [in war]. (Bukhari: No. 2957)
    The jurists also hold this view:
Among Kafayah obligations, the third category is that for which the existence of a ruler is necessary e.g., Jihad and execution of punishments. Therefore, only a ruler has this prerogative. Because, indeed, no one else has the right to punish another person.7