Jihad - Qital - Harb - Holy War, Violence and the Hadith

Part 4



Jihad, Qital, Harb, War and Violence in the Hadith

As the Hadith are collections of the saying and deeds of Muhammad it is only natural to expect the same essential concepts of armed jihad or fighting in the cause of Allah to be present and to reflect the Qur'anic text. This is, in fact, the case. Furthermore, as the authentic ahadith 1 are the expression of the thoughts and convictions of the prophet, his guidance after his death they are binding on all true Muslims, on the basis of the Qur'anic injunction to obey Allah and to model their lives on the prophet:
He who obeys the Messenger has obeyed God (Q. 4:80)

You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much. (Q. 33:21)
It is believed that by following Muhammad's example as expressed in the authentic Hadith literature they have the same guidance as the early umma had while the prophet was alive. Being faithful to that example means being a true Muslim, obeying Allah and earning Paradise. The ahadith, therefore, though not having the same importance as the words of God (the Qur'an), are nonetheless foundational, indispensable and are to be followed by all true Muslims. The Hadith literature interprets and explains the Qur'an and shows the believer how to implement the guidance of the Qur'an in daily living.

The following extracts regarding jihad of the sword are taken from canonical, authenticated Hadith collections, the most authentic collection of all, Al-Bukhari.

Allah's Apostle said, "I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.' And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah.2
This text quite clearly expresses the prophet's thoughts on the relation between fighting and conversion. It is interesting to note that Muhammad fights unbelievers in obedience to an order received. That order and that authority, it is maintained, comes from God. Fighting therefore becomes a divine commandment, part of the guidance that Allah provides for the ummah, part of that straight path that leads to salvation, according to the first sura of the Qur'an: "Guide us to the straight path" (Q. 1:6). According to this hadith fighting or armed jihad has to continue until people accept the Islamic faith, worship Allah, pray as Muslims pray in the direction of the Kab'a in Mecca ("our Qibla"), and kill as Muslims kill. Only then will the conversion of believers be accepted and peace prevail. It is interesting to note that when Islam (not necessarily individual Muslims) speaks of peace this is what is meant, after true conversion has taken place. 3 This hadith runs counter to the qur'anic verse of the Meccan phase frequently heard "let there be no compulsion in religion" (Q. 2:256). 4 These words of Muhammad, reported in the Al Bukhari Hadith collection, testify to the regressive process of the doctrine and practice of jihad already mentioned, that is from the apparently 5 tolerant Qur'anic verses, considered by many to advocate religious tolerance, to those that clearly advocate the use of violence in what amounts to the compulsion of religion, the Islamic religion. 6 It must also be noted that the Hadith are binding on all Sunni Muslims and are part of the deposit of faith and all believers should model their lives on this order from God and example of Muhammad to fight.

The following hadith also testifies to the centrality of jihad of the sword in Muslim life:

Narrated Abu Huraira.
Allah's Apostle was asked, "What is the best deed?" He replied, "To believe in Allah and His Apostle (Muhammad). The questioner then asked, "What is the next (in goodness)? He replied, "To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah's Cause." 7
These two ahadith confirm that armed jihad, physical fighting, has as an all important objective, the propagation of the Islamic faith and that this form of jihad is the most important as it comes after the fundamental declaration of faith in Allah and in Muhammad. It is also interesting to note the sacrality of this fighting as it is "jihad" of the sword, it is also "religious fighting" and it is in "Allah's Cause" and therefore it is, from an Islamic perspective a "holy war".

In the Al-Bukhari collection of Hadith we also have confirmation of the close link between jihad, martyrdom and paradise (jannat). To this end it is worthwhile noticing the following hadith:
Narrated 'Abdullah bin Abi Aufa: Allah's Apostle said, "Know that Paradise is under the shades of swords." 8

Those who wage jihad of the sword (Mujahidin) are guaranteed a special place in Paradise:

Narrated Abu Huraira He said, "Paradise has one-hundred grades which Allah has reserved for the Mujahidin who fight in His Cause, and the distance between each of two grades is like the distance between the Heaven and the Earth. 9

War becomes a religious responsibility incumbent on all and only later will jurists establish certain conditions and directives for the implementation of this duty.

As is quite easily discerned, according to Islamic sources, armed jihad is of paramount importance both for the Islamic religion and for the individual. It is beneficial for the Islamic religion here and now in that jihad is the main means of the expansion of Islam (submission). It is also highly beneficial for the individual for his entry into Paradise. The garantee for immediate entry into Paradise overcomes the principal deterrent to jihad, the fear of death, as fighting in the cause of Allah might result in death but the gain is infinitely greater, an eternal life of pleasure.



1 Hadith (plural ahadith), collections of the words and teachings of Muhammad, what he said, did or approved of. There are technically part of the sunna (tradition). It is from this that sunni Muslims derive their name that distinguishes them from other branches of Islam. Sunni Muslims (85%-90% of all Muslims) have 6 authentic collections, of which the most important are Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim and of these two the Sahih Bukhari collection is considered the most important. These collections are:
•Sahih Bukhari, compiled by the Imam Muhammad ibn-Ismail al-Bukhari (810-870).
•Sahih Muslim, compiled by Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj al-Qushayri (821-975).
•Sunan Abu Dawud, compiled by Abu Dawud as-Sijistani (d. 888).
•Sunan ibn Majah, compiled by Muhammad ibn Majah (d. 896).
•Sunan At-Tirmidhi, compiled by Abi 'Eesaa Muhammad At-Tirmidhi (824-893).
•Sunan An-Nasai, compiled by Ahmad ibn Shu'ayb an-Nasai (d. 915).

2 Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 8, Number 387, Narrated Anas bin Malik. It is interesting to note that Islamic prayer was not always in the direcdtion of the Kab'a, Mecca. When Muhammad wanted to convert the Jews in Medina he was instructed by God to face Jerusalem. Only when relations with the Jewish tribes in Medina soured was the direction changed.

3 It is interesting to note that when orthodox Islam talks of struggling or fighting for peace and justice what is meant is the peace that can only come from accepting Islam or being subjected to it, and justice is the implementation of the Islamic law (shariah).

4 Q. 2.256  "Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things." Please see also note 6 below.

5  "Apparently" because it is quoted by many Muslims as proof of religious tolerance.

6 Another alternative was offered People of the Book (Jews and Christians): accept humiliating submission and pay a special tax, the jizya on the basis of the following text: "Fight those who do not believe in God or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what God and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth [i.e., Islam] from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled." (Q. 9:29)

7 Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 2, Number 25. Cfr. Also: Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 46, Number 694: Narrated Abu Dhar: I asked the Prophet, "What is the best deed?" He replied, "To believe in Allah and to fight for His Cause..."; Volume 4, Book 52, Number 41. The whole of volume 4, Book 52 is devoted to Jihad.

8 Ibid. Volume 4, Book 52, Number 73.

9 Ibid., Number 48.





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