Definition of Jihad

Posted: April 30, 2012 in Definition of Jihad, Muslim Discussion Forums


The literal definition of jihad:

The word jihad is derived from ‘juhd’, which means ‘to make substantial effort’. Jihad itself has been defined in the Arabic dictionary as: ‘To make the utmost effort to attain something beloved or to save oneself from something disliked’.

The explanation of Jihad in Shari’ah terms:

The scholars of fiqh (jurisprudence) have agreed that Jihad in shari’ah terms means, ‘To fight in the path of Allah or anything aiding this course’. The four major schools of fiqh have explained a more detailed understanding of the term Jihad as follows:

Hanafi fiqh:
a) Jihad means to be involved in fighting in fighting in the path of Allah by one’s life, wealth and speech. (Al Bada’I Us Sana’i).

b) It is further explained to call the unbelievers towards the true Religion of Islam and to fight against them, if they are unwilling to accept this true Religion. (Fathul Qadeer)

Maliki fiqh:
a) The Muslims are to fight with the disbelievers to advance Allah’s Religion. (Hashiyatul Adwi/Ash Sharhus Sagir).

Shafi fiqh
a) The meaning of Jihad in shari’ah terms is to make utmost effort in fighting in the path of Allah. (Fthul Bari)

Hanbali fiqh:
a) Jihad means to fight against the unbelievers. (Matalibe Ulin Nuha)

The Ruling of Jihad:

Imam Saraksi states: ‘Jihad is obligatory and commanded by Allah. Any person who denies Jihad is a disbeliever and people who doubt the obligation of Jihad have gone astray’ (Fathul Qadeer, P191, V.5).

Sahibul Ikhtiyar states: ‘Jihad is an ordained obligation (Fareedah). One, who denies it, is a disbeliever. The obligation of Jihad has been clearly substantiated in the Qur’an and Sunnah and by the consensus of the Ummah (Ijma) (Fathul Qadeer P191, V.5).

Different Types of Jihad:

There are two types of Jihad against the disbelievers:

1) Offensive Jihad.
2) Defensive Jihad.

1) Offensive jihad is when the Muslims launch an offensive attack. If this attack is on the disbeliever who has previously received the message of Islam, then to call then towards Islam before commencement of the attack is considered preferable. If the message of Islam has not reached them, then they will have to pay tax then the Muslims are to fight against them.
With this type Jihad the disbeliever whom plots against the Muslims are repelled and their hearts are filled with fear, so that they do not succeed in their plans. The offensive Jihad is Fardh Kifayah, the purpose of which is to ensure the disbeliever remains constantly aware, such that they stay away from mischief, thereby, allowing the message of Islam to be conveyed without obstruction.
Those Muslims not fulfilling this obligation are regarded as sinful.

The majority of Jihad undertaken at the time of our prophet Muhammed (pbuh) was within the category of offensive Jihad.

The Qur’an has called upon the Muslims to undertaken the offensive Jihad and when this obligation is satisfactorily fulfilled there would be no apparent need for the Defensive Jihad. When Muslims neglect this important obligation then they are subjected to the defensive Jihad and this has become, with great regret, widely common in our time.

2) Defensive Jihad is when the disbeliever enemy attacks, the Muslims, forcing them into a defensive position. This is one of the most important obligations upon the Muslims. In researching and studying the Jihad or our predecessors, we understand that Jihad is considered Fardh Ayn under the following conditions:
a) When the unbelievers attack upon a country or city belonging to the Muslims or if they gain control of a Muslim country.
b) When the unbelievers take Muslim captives
c) When the disbelievers hold a Muslim woman, to ensure her freedom is fardh upon the whole Muslim Ummah.
d) When the Imam (leader) of the Muslims orders the Muslims to go for jihad
e) When the disbelievers and Muslins face each other in the battlefield and the battle takes place. (The situation in Palestine is an exemplary)

The explanation of Fardh Ayn is that every person will go for Jihad to such an extent that the son will march forth without the permission of his father, the wife without the permission of her husband, the debtor without the permission of the creditor.

The Jihad becomes fardh, firstly upon all the Muslims in the area being attacked. If the Muslims are not sufficient or they do not fulfil this Jihad, then it is obligatory upon the Muslims in the next town or country to assist. If they too are not sufficient, then it will be fardh upon the next country until the fardh extends from the East to the West.

We understand from the writings of our scholars that Jihad does not only become fardh Ayn when the enemy attacks, but also when the enemy is at a distance of shari’ah journey (48 miles). Jihad then becomes fardh upon that town. (Nihayatul Muhtaj, p58, V.8)

Jihad in the Qur’an:

The subject of Jihad has been discussed with particular emphasis and in considerable detail in the Qur’an. There is consensus of opinion amongst researchers of the Qur’an, that no other particular action has been stated in such great detail as jihad. Allah has revealed many Surahs (chapters) in the Qur’an primarily to guide the believers towards this path. The subject of Jihad has been expressed in many different ways, in numerous verses of the Qur’an. The verses explain in detail the clear objectives and benefits of Jihad. The status of the Mujahid is honoured in the Qur’an and there are many verses, which warns of the dangers of leaving Jihad. There is such great emphasis of this subject, that some commentators and scholars of the Qur’an have remarked that the topic of the Qur’an is Jihad.

The terminology of ‘Jihad fi sabilillah’, which means Jihad in the path of Allah, has been used in the Qur’an 26 times and the specific word, Qital (fighting), used in the context of fighting in the path of Allah, is mentioned in the Qur’an 79 times.

There are whole surahs in the Qur’an, which have been revealed, explaining the ruling and virtues of Jihad and admonishing those leaving Jihad; such as surah Anfaal consisting of 10 Rukus (also known as surah badr) and surah Brah’ah, which consists of 16 Rukus.

The surah Baqarah, Nisa and Maidah has large sections on the topic of Jihad and in surah Hadid, the weapons of Jihad are detailed. There are surahs, which are named after battles, such as, surah Ahzab (Trenches), Qital (fighting), Fath (victory) and Saff (rows). The title of these surahs clearly illustrated the subject matter of Jihad.

Jihad in the Ahadith

Allah (swt) commanded his beloved prophet Muhammed (pbuh) to fight and to urge the believers to fight. The prophet (pbuh) fulfilled both these duties completely. For this reason there are thousands of Ahadith of the Prophet (pbuh) regarding Jihad.
The experts in the field of Hadith have compiled the sayings and actions of the Prophets (pbuh) relating to Jihad. To develop a better understanding of this subject is by studying these collections, which clearly give evidences to the importance of Jihad. There are chapters of Jihad in various hadith books, such as:

1) Sahih Bukhari
2) Sahih Muslim…


  1. dajjal says:

    The legalistic definition of jihad is found in Reliance of the Traveller, Book O9.0.

    The communal & individual obligations are found in O9.1.

    Hilali & Khan have a more detailed definition in their footnote to 2:190. 2&l=eng&nAya= 190# 2_ 190

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