Nov 062007
This article is from the second edition of Jihad in the Qur’an: The Truth from the Source. The book is now in its third edition.

As we have already seen, jihad is a lot more than fighting in the way of Allah. The latter is referred to in the Qur’an with the Arabic term “qital,” which literally means “fighting.” Confusing the terms “jihad” and “qital” has been influential in the prevalent misreading of all occurrences of jihad in the Madinite verses as references to armed jihad. “Jihad” and “qital” have significantly different meanings and uses in the Qur’an.

As explained in §3.2, qital is only one, though the most prominent, aspect of armed jihad. The latter is a wider concept that includes every effort involved in both the preparation and execution of war, such as funding it. Armed jihad, in turn, is one form of the broader concept of jihad which involves peaceful jihad also. While it is always true to describe “fighting in the way of Allah” as “jihad,” the opposite is not necessarily true as jihad can also refer to other aspects of armed jihad or to peaceful jihad. This is why the references to “jihad” in the Qur’an cannot be equated with “qital.”

Particularly helpful in dispelling the widespread confusion of jihad and fighting are the following verses: 

Fighting has been ordained for you [O you who believe!], and it is an object of dislike to you; and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you like a thing while it is evil for you; and Allah knows whereas you do not know (2.216).

Have you not seen [O Muhammad!] those to whom it was said: “Withhold your hands [from fighting], keep up prayer, and pay the obligatory alms,” when fighting was ordained for them, a party of them feared people as they ought to fear Allah, or [even] with a greater fear, and said: “Our Lord! Why have You ordained fighting for us? If You have only granted us a delay to a near date?” Say [O Muhammad!]: “The provision of this world is short, and the hereafter is better for he who acts dutifully toward Allah; and you shall not be wronged in the very least” (4.77).

These verses make it absolutely clear that fighting in the way of Allah is started only when it is “kutiba (ordained)”. In other words, fighting in the way of Allah is not a practice that comes by default with religion. This description equally applies to fighting in the way of Allah that previous Prophets and their followers were involved in, as shown in the following verse: 

Have you not considered [O Muhammad!] how the chiefs of the Children of Israel who came after Moses said to a Prophet of theirs: “Set up for us a king and we will fight in the way of Allah”? He said: “May it be that you would not fight if fighting was ordained for you?” They said: “And why would we not fight in the way of Allah having been driven out of our homes, and for the sake of our children?” But when fighting was ordained for them, they turned away except a few of them, and Allah knows the wrongdoers (2.246).

The word “jihad” is never used in a similar way in the Qur’an. There is no verse indicating that jihad is “ordained” at some point before which there would have been no jihad. This confirms my observation that it is qital, not jihad, which refers to fighting in the way of Allah and which was ordained as a duty on the Muslims only in the second year of the immigration to al-Madina.

Note that verse 9.86 which was cited earlier in the chapter is not an exception to the above conclusion: 

And when a chapter is revealed, stating: “Believe in Allah and jahidu (do jihad) with His Messenger,” the wealthy ones among them (the Muslims) ask permission of you [O Muhammad!] and say: “Let us be with those who stay home” (9.86).

Obviously, this verse does not mean that “belief in Allah” and “jihad” would have been first imposed as a duty in the particular chapter that the verse mentions. In fact, the verse does not refer to one particular chapter, but to every chapter that urges the Muslims to do jihad with the Prophet. The aim of this verse is to contrast this repeated emphasis with the failing of some Muslims to obey the given command.
If “qital,” not “jihad,” is the term that specifically refers to fighting in the way of Allah, and “jihad” in fact refers to something more general, then one would expect “qital” to be mentioned more than “jihad” in Madinite chapters. This is indeed the case, with “qital” occurring manyfold more than “jihad” in those chapters.



 Copyright © 2004 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

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