The Practice of Jihād

Please recite a Sūrat al-Fātiḥah for the 1700 cadets of Camp Speicher who were brutally murdered on this day last year (6/12), and for all the righteous mujahideen past, present, and future, who have laid down their lives fi sabil Allah (in the way of God).

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The Practice of Jihād

When studying religions one will ultimately arrive at the understanding that all religions comprise of two fundamental things, which are principles and practices. Similarly the religion of Islam, specifically Shi’i Islam, too consists of these two divisions. The principles being the Uṣūl ad-Dīn and the practices being the furūʿ ad-dīn, for a Shi’i to properly follow his/her religion it is compulsory to adhere to the principles and performing the said practices, neglecting them or rebuffing them would be tantamount to disbelief. Of the compulsory practices one such practice is rather infamous, it is the practice of jihād. This blog-post will attempt to answer three essential questions on jihād and they are:

What is jihād?

What are the different forms of jihād?

What are the consequences of not performing jihād?

What is jihād?

In the simplest of definitions jihād means ‘to strive,’ in Islamic terminology it denotes to any form of activity, either personal or community-wide, of Muslims in attempting to strive for the cause of God and for the sake of Islam. And when you strive for the sake of something your goal is to preserve that thing, to protect it from dangers; hence to further understand what jihād is an example must be given of dangers currently threatening Islam, the greatest threat to Islam today is an internal threat, the threat of extremism. Extremists, specifically under the tutelage of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda have put the entire Islamic world in a state of crisis thus in continuing this discussion on jihād the example of extremists will be used as to whom jihād must be performed against.

What are the different forms of jihād?

The practice of jihād has many forms, of which 5 are most notable, they are:

  • jihād bil-qalb/nafs – jihād of the heart/soul

This form of jihād is also known as al-jihād al-akbar, or ‘the greater jihād,’ it is the individual’s internal struggle to protect his/her faith from the temptations of Shaytan. In a time when the image of Islam is being tarnished by extremists it is very easy for one to become disaffected by Islam, in this case jihād bil-qalb/nafs requires the individual to do whatever possible to strengthen and guard his/her iman, or faith in Islam. When the world is shunning Islam and life begins to become increasingly difficult for Muslims a practical way to perform this jihād is to delve into a state of tazkiyah al-nafs, ‘self-purification,’ by studying and acting upon the sharīʿah as found in the traditions of the Holy Prophet (s) and his purified progeny (s). By doing such one will be able to achieve a qalb salim, tranquil heart, thus affirming one’s faith and ultimately deflecting the temptations of Shaytan.

“Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.” (Qur’an 2:16)

Shahrokh_Rezvani_Tranquil_Heart_1

  • jihād bil-lisan – jihād by the tongue

This form of jihād is an external jihād, wherein Islam is defended by the use of one’s speech. How can Islam be defended by one’s speech? Easy, by talking to those in one’s reach one can rid the misconceptions and lies about the religion, this can extend to giving lectures and debating. And since social media now has become an extension of one’s speech it too falls under this format of jihād. Therefore in context of the given example one can debunk the falsity of extremist Islam by presenting the true teachings of the Holy Prophet (s) and his purified progeny (s); of which a simple method would be sharing factual articles on facebook/twitter. Inviting to the religion of Islam, da’awah, too falls under this category.

“By (the Token of) Time (through the ages), Verily Man is in loss, Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.” (Qur’an 103)

“Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.” (Qur’an 16:125)

Microphone and stand in the spotlight

  • jihād bil-qalam/’ilm – jihād by the pen/knowledge

This jihād requires the individual to engage in scholarly research in order to defend Islam from said misconceptions and lies, therefore this jihād goes hand in hand with the jihād bil-lisan. How can one share factual articles on social media if there is no one to write the articles in the first place? Hence, becoming a bookworm in order to distinguish truth from falsehood is an act of jihād bil-qalam/’ilm. The Imams from the Ahl al-Bayt (s) have repeatedly emphasized the importance of this jihād.

Amir al-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (‘a) has said: ” …The reward of a religious scholar is greater than the reward of a person who is fasting on days and establishes prayers during the night and fights in the Holy War for the sake of Allah. And, when a religious scholar dies, there will appear a gap in Islam which cannot be compensated except by a replacement of that (kind).” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 2, p. 43)

Imam Hasan al-‘Askari (‘a) has said: “The scholars of our followers are the guards of the bounds of Islam. Then, anyone of our followers who undertakes this (duty) is superior to the one who fights in the battle against the Romans, (because this one defends the theological bounds of our followers).” (AI-Ihtijaj, vol. 2, p. 155)

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  • jihād bil-yad – jihād by the hand

This form of jihād requires physical action. If one witnesses wrongdoing/injustice the action taken to stop it is this jihād. Examples in practice would be stopping a thief, saving a life, aiding the homeless, etc. This jihād fundamentally is to stand up for what is right, always.
no-trespassing-stop-hand-and-not-symbol

  • jihād bil-sayf – jihād by the sword

This form of jihād, perhaps the most misunderstood and maligned, deals with the usage of violence or qital fi sabilillah, or fighting in the way of God. This form of jihād tends to be a last resort and only situationally compulsory, therefore it is fittingly known as al-jihād al-asghar. In the plethora of misconceptions about Islam this jihād is precisely why the term jihād itself is infamously mistranslated as ‘holy war,’ therefore being aware to the realities of this format is crucial. The only two situations where jihād bil-sayf is permissible is:

  1. Initiated jihād (fighting against oppression/evil)
  2. For self-defense

Furthermore there are a number of rules of engagement that must be upheld when conducting jihād bil-sayf. Some of which are:

-jihād must only be in the name of Allah, and in the case of Initiated jihād declared only by His Prophet (s), the Imam/Hakim, or their deputies. The current jihād in Iraq against ISIS only became valid after the maraj’e, the representatives of the Imam al-’Asr (‘a), declared it so.

-Offensive war is not allowed, jihād bil-sayf is defensive in nature.

-jihād is only in the cause of God and for the sake of Islam, it is not allowed to wage violence for personal gain, wealth, vengeance, etc.

-The sick, elderly, women and children should not be harmed, neither should the natural world (trees, vegetation, animals).

-Places of worship are not be demolished.

-Indiscriminate killings should be avoided and the corpses of the enemy must not be disfigured.

-The prisoners of war must be treated humanely and not be tortured.

Even though this form of jihād is situational it is also a requirement to be in a state of preparedness for said situation, meaning one needs to remain physically fit, be knowledgeable in the art of war, know how to use weaponry and artillery.

imam-hussain-in-battle-of-karbala

What are the consequences of not performing jihād?

First and foremost the neglecting or abstaining from one’s duty of jihād is considered a major sin in Islam. Doing so of the lesser jihād, jihād bil-sayf, incurs the wrath of the Almighty hence the consequence of not performing the greater jihād, jihād bil-qalb/nafs must too be equally if not more unpleasant.

“O you who believe! When you meet those who disbelieve marching for war, then turn not your backs to them. And whoever shall turn his back to them on that day- unless he turn aside for the sake of fighting or withdraws to a company then he, indeed, becomes deserving of Allah’s wrath and his abode is hell; and an evil destination shall it be.” (Qur’an 8:15-16)

Similarly the great martyred scholar Sayyid ‘Abd al-Husayn Dastghaib Shirazi has reported that Amir al-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (‘a) has said:

“Those who flee from the battlefield should know that they have angered their Lord and have damned themselves to destruction because fleeing from the battle causes Allah’s anger. And one who flees from the Holy war will be certain to face calamities and eternal degradation and his fleeing will not prevent death, and his life cannot be prolonged. That is, if the time of his death has arrived, his fleeing will not delay it. He will die due to some other reason. On the other hand, if the time of his death has not yet arrived and he participates in jihād he will not die. Thus it is better for one to pledge his life to Allah rather than live in Allah’s anger, degradation and dishonour.” (Greater Sins Vol 2, The Twenty-Seventh Greater Sin, p. 191)

Discussion
The practice of jihād should be given utmost importance, especially in this day and age when extremists are bent on hijacking Islam. In this past year 40,000 of our comrades, in Iraq alone, have been martyred in the performance of jihād bil-sayf, therefore no excuses should be given for not performing the other 4 forms of jihād especially when the format and methodology have been thoroughly explained. The dangers posed by extremists are real and must be combatted, be it with our hearts, tongues, pens, hands, or lives.

Written by:

Agha Shabbir Abbas

One thought on “The Practice of Jihād

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