Is Jihad Only For Self-Defence?

Question

There are some scholars who believe that all wars fought by the Prophet of Islam were defensive. Muhammad (sws) never carried out unprovoked attacks. Please comment.


Answer

There are indeed scholars who hold this view Sir Thomas Arnold is one prominent authority who holds this view. He writes:

There are no passages to be found in the Qur'an that in any way enjoin forcible conversion, and many that on the contrary limit propagandist efforts to preaching and persuasion. It has further been maintained that no passage in the Qur'an authorizes unprovoked attacks on unbelievers, and that, in accordance with such teaching, all the wars of Muhammad were defensive.9

It seems that this view point has emerged because of a misunderstanding of certain verses of the Qur'an. Following is a typical verse10 that is quoted in support of this stance:11

وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا

Fight in the way of Allah with those who fight against you and do not transgress bounds. (2:190)

The verse apparently says that Muslims should only fight their enemy when the enemy initiates the attack. However, if the context of the verse is kept in consideration, this seems to be an erroneous interpretation. The verse is not talking about war in general. It is talking about war in the vicinity of the Baytullāh and that too in the forbidden months. The succeeding verses read:

وَلَا تُقَاتِلُوهُمْ عِنْدَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ حَتَّى يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِيهِ فَإِنْ قَاتَلُوكُمْ فَاقْتُلُوهُمْ

But do not initiate war with them near the Baytullāh unless they attack you there. But if they attack you, put them to the sword [without any hesitation]. (2:192)

الشَّهْرُ الْحَرَامُ بِالشَّهْرِ الْحَرَامِ وَالْحُرُمَاتُ قِصَاصٌ فَمَنْ اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ فَاعْتَدُوا عَلَيْهِ بِمِثْلِ مَا اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الْمُتَّقِينَ

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]. (2:194)

So, in other words, verses like 2:190 have a specific context and do not relate to Jihad waged in general.

Moreover, the propounders of the view that Jihad is only for self-defence must reflect on other verses of the Qur'an which explicitly ask the Muslims to wage offensive war. Perhaps the most explicit of these verses are 4:75 and 9:29.

9. Thomas Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, 4th ed. (Lahore: Ashraf Publications, 1979), 451.

10. Maulvi Chiragh Ali, Jihad, 1st ed. (Karachi: Karimsons, n.d.), 17.

11. For a complete list of verses that are used by the advocates of this stance, see Maulvi Chiragh Ali, Jihad, 1st ed. (Karachi: Karimsons, n.d.), 225-227.

About the Author

Dr. Shehzad Saleem


 

 

EDUCATION

University of Wales, Lampeter, United Kingdom
  Ph.D. Title of dissertation: Collection of the Qur’ān: A Critical and Historical Study of al-Farāhī’s View (2010)
  Under the tutelage of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi for religious studies (1988-)

University of Engineering and Technology,  Lahore, Pakistan
  B.Sc Electrical Engineering (1990)

The Government College, Lahore, Pakistan
  Intermediate, Pre-Engineering (1983)

 

RESEARCH WORK

Special Area of Interest
  History of the Qur’ān and the Previous Scriptures

Projects
  Associate Fellow (1992-2008) / Fellow (2008 to present) at Al-Mawrid, A Foundation for Islamic Research and Education, Lahore,  Pakistan (www.al-mawrid.org)

•      Recently completed (2018) an eighteen year research project on the history of the Qur’ān that attempts to address the issue of multiple versions of the Qur’ān and some nagging questions regarding its collection.

•      Completed translation of a five volume Qur’ān commentary (Urdu to Eng) of Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī  titled Al-Bayān. (1998-2018).

•      Currently working on translating a nine volume Qur’ān commentary (Urdu to Eng) of Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī titled Tadabbur-i Qur’ān (2008 to present).

•      Currently working on a critical study of the corpus of Ḥadīth literature, including the “Hagar-Zamzam” narratives, “First Revelation”  narratives and “Return of Jesus” narratives.

 

EXPERIENCE

On Campus Work for Al-Mawrid
  •      Vice President (1995-1996/2013-2019). I assisted the president in organizing academic research work on Islam, its subsequent publication and various educational activities. Also oversaw administrative and financial spheres of the foundation.
  •      Secretary General (CEO)  (2012-2016). As a representative of the Board of Governors of Al-Mawrid,  was required to run the foundation comprising more than thirty staff members.
  •      Headed a graduate program of Islamic Studies (1999-2001) offered in affiliation with a private university (MA Jinnah University, Karachi). Work included organizing staff affairs and also supervising the syllabus and its effective instruction.
•      Instructor for Qur’ānic studies (1999-2001). Besides teaching,  responsibility involved developing the pedagogy and curriculum for teaching the Qur’ān to graduate students of the foundation.
•      President, Centre for Islamic Communications (1997). The objective of this centre was organization and marketing of various media of Al-Mawrid as journals, audio-video cassettes, lectures and seminars.
  •      Director General (1993-1995 / 1998-2003). Job responsibility as Director involved development of the institute and management of all its affairs.
  •      Director Admin (1992-1993). Job responsibility involved assisting the President in the administration of the institute.
  •      Editor of Renaissance Journal (1991-1995/ 1998 to present)
Oversaw the management of a monthly Islamic journal and all aspects of its publication.  Over the course of almost three decades, the journal has published several hundred articles on various aspects of Islam.

Online Work for Al-Mawrid
  •        Launched in 2014 http://www.abdus-sattar-ghauri.org, a website on the Biblical scholar Abdus Sattar Ghauri (1935-2014).
  •        Launched in 2012 http://www.tadabbur-i-quran.org, a website on the exegesis of Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī (1904-1997), a Qur’ānic scholar of the sub-continent.
  •        Launched in 2010 http://www.hamid-uddin-farahi.org, a website on life and works of the Qur’ānic scholar Ḥamīd al-Dīn Farāhī (1863-1930)
  •        Launched in 2004 http://www.amin-ahsan-islahi.org, a website on life and works of the Qur’ānic scholar Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī
  •        Launched in 2003 http://www.studying-islam.org, a website that offers online courses on Islam in English and in Urdu. Currently, there are over fifteen thousand registered students from around the globe and about 50 courses on Islam in English and Urdu.
  •        Launched in 1999 http://www.monthly-renaissance.com, the website of the monthly Islamic Journal Renaissance. Besides regular issues, special issues on Islam and Non-Muslims: A New Perspective, Islam and Women, Political Directives of Islam, Economic Directives of Islam, Understanding Islamic Punishments and Collection of the Qur’ān have been published.
  •        Launched in 1998 a comprehensive distance learning program for Al-Mawrid. It was well received in an era where online religious education was not that common.
•        Founded an Islamic Query Service (IQS) in 1997-2003), an email based service meant to answer questions on or about Islam. By 2003, more than 3000 questions had been answered by this service.

 

PUBLICATIONS

1. A New Economic Framework, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 1995.
  2. Common Misconceptions about Islam, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2008.
  3. Playing God: Misreading a Divine Practice, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2010.
  4. Islam and Women:  Misconceptions and Misperceptions, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2010.
  5. Essays on Character Building, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015.
  6. Qur’ān Workshops on Character Building,  1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2016.
  7. Lessons on Character Building, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2016.
  8. Selections from the Qur’ān, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015.
  9. Selections from the Bible, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015.
  10. Selections from the Ḥadīth, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2014.
  11. Introduction to the Qur’ān: Insights from Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī, 1st ed., Lahore:
  Al-Mawrid, 2019
.
  12. A Treasury of Prayers from Qur’ān and Ḥadīth,  1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2017.
  13. The Good Human, 1st ed.,  US: Amazon, 2019.
  14. Modern Challenges to Parenting, 1st ed., US: Amazon, 2019.
  15. History of the Qur’ān: A Concise Study,  1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2018.
  16. History of the Qur’ān: A Critical Study, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2019.
  17. From the Core of my Heart (poems), 1st ed., US: Amazon, 2019.

Translations (Urdu to Eng) (Published)
  1. Selections from the Tadabbur-i Qur’ān,  Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2004.
  2. Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī, Mīzān (Islam: A Comprehensive Introduction), 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2010.
  3. Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī, Al-Islam (Islam: A Concise Introduction), 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2009.
  4. Selected Essays of Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī,  1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015. (co-translator)
  5. Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī, Al-Bayān, 1st ed., vol. 1, Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015.
6. Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī, Al-Bayān, 1st ed., vol. 5, Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015.

Translations (Urdu to Eng) (Unpublished)
  1. Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, “Tadabbur-i Qur’ān”  (Pondering on the Qur’ān), vol. 6, (Al-Mawrid, 2016)
  2. Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, “Tadabbur-i Qur’ān”  (Pondering on the Qur’ān), vol. 7, (Al-Mawrid, 2015) 
  3. Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, “Tadabbur-i Qur’ān”  (Pondering on the Qur’ān), vol. 8, (Al-Mawrid, 2015)
  4. Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, “Tadabbur-i Qur’ān”  (Pondering on the Qur’ān), vol. 9, (Al-Mawrid, 2014)

Works in Print
  1. History of the Qur’ān: A Critical Study
  2. From the Core of my Heart (poems)

PRESENTATIONS

I have lectured in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Pakistan. Some important topics include:
  1. Critical History of the Qur’ān
  2. Misconceptions about Women in Islam 
  3. Interfaith dialogue
  4. Selected Biblical Verses
  5.  Question on the Qur’ān by Serious Students 
  6.  Misconceptions about Islam 
  7.  Muhammad (sws): The Misunderstood Prophet of Islam
  8.  Marriage and Married Life
  9.  Basic Morality
  10.  Islam and Islamic Welfare State 
  11.  Misconceptions about Divorce in Islam 
  12.  Misconceptions regarding Jihad of the Companions of the Prophet (sws) 
  13 Imbalanced Religious Attitudes
  14.  Intellectual Freedom and Critical Thinking
  15.  Parenting
  16.  Challenges faced by the Youth of Today
  17.  The Mind of a Muslim Militant

I have also conducted several activity-based workshops for adults and sessions on Character Building and Personality Development for teenagers. Topics include:
  1. Charity 
  2. Pride and Arrogance
  3. Remembering God   
  4. Civic Sense 
  5. Kindness to Parents
  6. Gratitude
  7. Forgiveness 
  8. Moral Courage 
  9.  Truthfulness  
  10. Showing Off 
  11. Humility
  12. Sympathy
  13. Sinful Speech
  14. Honesty
  15. Justice

Most lectures are available at:
  http://www.youtube.com/shehzadsaleem / www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=562019607

Have also recorded a 90 lecture series on the history of the Qur’ān that is available at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sNWx-SSvc8&list=PL7oYOZNO0kHwDzi9P4UmSremVOVKzku7s

PERSONAL
  An avid tennis player besides being a swimmer, cricketer,  golfer and a chess player.
  Hobbies include reading books on religion, philosophy,  literature and history and writing poetry.
  Born on 18th June, 1966. Married with one son.

Answered by this author