Vol. 11 / January 2008 /  Shvat 5768                       A JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND THE ARTS


Defensive or Offensive Jihad: Classical Islamic Exegetes vs. the New Islamists’ Propaganda

David Bukay

 The issue at stake is the deep gap between the horrific acts of terrorism coming from the Global Jihad groups, and at the same time the propagation coming from the Islamists in eloquent English and in total terms: firstly, that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance hijacked by extremists; secondly, that there is only one Jihad, the spiritual, that means to worship Allah; and thirdly that the Muslims are ordered to fight their enemies only defensively, as they are themselves attacked.

The stunned “free world witnesses the hideous and atrocious acts of terror, slaughters, beheadings and extreme violence, and at the same time is being told that this is retaliation for the Western colonialism and neo-imperialism, or that these groups are a small minority, mere weeds in a bigger garden. The “free world is also being told that the acts of terror of the Jihadists and the threats of demolishing modernity of the 21st century and bringing it back to the 7th century are only because they defend their lands and their families and their honor against Western aggression.

The question that we must answer is, Jihad defensive or offensive? The answer will be given by analyzing Islamic sources and Muslim exegetes as compared to contemporary Islamist propagators of ideas in the West.

The Arab-Islamic terrorist organizations’ strategy against the “free world is comprised of two parallel but coordinated arms: Jihad – a holy war against the infidels, and Da`wah – the persuasion and conviction means by which to join Islam. Both are intended to achieve the same objectives; both are used at the same time by different perpetrators and against different targets; both are important stages in the march of Islamic rule; and between both, Da`wah is the more dangerous to the “free world.

Jihad1 appears 41 times in 18 Surah in the Qur`an, mostly coupled with fi sabilillah (in the way of Allah), which gives it a religious sanctioning. Da`wah2 is the concept of missionary activity in Islam, the invitation to all human beings to believe in Allah and Islam as the supreme religion. Da`wah is the opening address to approach and persuade the unbelievers to submit to Islam, in a moderate, graceful way, and if da`wah fails, it is the duty of Jihad to achieve the Islamic targets.

The process of Arabization of the occupied territories of the Middle East was no less important than the Islamization process, most probably even a preferable strategy, since it fitted the salient features of Arab cultural behavior and personality.3 It is crucially important to understand that Islam is an “Arab religion”: It was brought to the Arabs by an Arab, with an Arab mission; the Qur`an is written in Arabic; the language of prayer of all the Muslims is Arabic; and the great conquests of Islam were carried out by Arab armies.

You are the best of all the peoples raised among man, enjoying the good, forbidding the wrong, and believing in Allah...4

Today I have perfected your system of belief and bestowed my favors upon you in full, and have chosen submission (al-Islam) as the creed for you.5

It is He who sent his Messenger with the guidance and the true faith in order to make it superior to other systems of belief...6

Say: O peoples, I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, whose kingdom extends over the heavens and the earth. There is no God but Allah, the giver of life and death, so believe in Allah and his Messenger.7

We love the Arabs, because Muhammad was an Arab; the Qur`an is written in Arabic and those living in Paradise speak Arabic... He who loves the Arabs loves me, and he who hates the Arabs hates love the Arabs means to believe in Allah and his Messenger, to hate the Arabs means infidelity...if the Arabs are humiliated, Islam is humiliated...8

According to Qatadah9 there are seven major features of the superiority of Arab Muslims over others, based on the Qur`an, in shaping distinctive Islamic identity: first, they are the best Ummah ever brought forth to men, bidding good (ma`ruf) and forbidding evil (munkar): you were the best Ummah ever brought forth to men10; second, the Muslim are the last (akhirun) of all nations in history and the first (sabiqun) on the day of resurrection; third, their Scriptures are in their breasts (they know it by heart); fourth, they take their own alms, eating them, yet they are rewarded as if they give them away; fifth, they are beneficiaries of the privilege of intercession (shafa`ah), which is a pillar of the superiority of the Islamic community over all other communities; sixth, they answer (mustajibun) and are answered (mustajab lahum), which means that they are distinguished from other communities in obedience to Allah, as well as in having their invocations answered by Allah; seventh, they will wage war on the people of error and the Anti-Christ.

Muhammad’s aim was originally to unite those Arabs dwelling in Arabia under one religion and one command; yet the successful expansion, by occupying the areas around Arabia, eventually led to the perception of the whole world as doomed to be a target of conquest or domination by Islam. Until today, the most important element, the Arab role in Islamic performance, stems mainly from their political culture. As the Muslims see it, Islam is for everyone in the human race and should be expanded as a winning religion everywhere around the world, until all human beings proclaim that “there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.”

Islamic classical exegetes put the da`wah together with Jihad. It is formulated in absolute terms: the fight (Jihad fi sabilillah) is obligatory, even if the unbelievers did not start it. Jihad is universally understood as war on behalf of Islam, and its merits are described plentifully in the most respected religious works.11 It is sometimes called “the neglected duty” or “the forgotten obligation”. Muslim scholars regard it as the sixth undeclared pillar of Islam.12 Lewis finds that “the overwhelming majority of classical theologians, jurists and traditionalists... understood the obligation of Jihad in a military sense.”13

All four Islamic Schools of Jurisprudence (Madhahib al-Fiqh) and most of the Islamic exegetes agree that the aims of Jihad are at removing the infidel’s oppression and injustice; eliminating the barriers to the spread of Allah’s truth; and establishing Islamic justice. The elevation of Allah’s word cannot be achieved without Jihad, which is actually the protector of all Muslim deeds.14 There are four different ways in which the believer may fulfill the Jihad obligations: a) by his heart (belief); b) by his tongue (preaching); c) by his hands (good deeds); d) by the sword (fighting the unbelievers and the enemies of Allah).15

Three of the four relate to Da`wah, and one to Jihad, which gives Da`wah more importance than Jihad. However, a closer examination shows clearly that the three are intended to serve Jihad, mainly because they fit the relationship’s framework in which the Muslims are ordered to treat the unbelievers. As a doctrine, Jihad is aimed to establish Allah’s rule on earth through military efforts against non-Muslims, until either they embrace Islam (as a result of da`wah), or agree to pay the tax poll, the jizyah,16 or be killed in the battleground (as a result of Jihad war). From the Islamic vantage point, all wars in Islam are religious; there is no concept of secular war”.17 So, according to Islam, one can wage the most aggressive war using atrocious evil deeds and still see it as a defensive war.18

The Muslim legal theory states that Islam cannot exist together with idolatry. This is shirq, meaning association of other gods and idols with Allah.19 According to a hadith related to Muhammad, he declared: “I am ordered to fight polytheists until they say there is no God but Allah.” Muslims are under the Qur`anic Commandments’ obligation to slay the idolaters.20 Terrorizing Islamic enemies is Allah’s commandment. Muslims succeed since Allah commands acts of terror against the unbelievers by Jihad war as the means of creating the Islamic Ummah. The reason needed for action against them is that they do not accept Islam and Muhammad believed that terror had been one of Allah’s distinctive favors upon him, making him superior to other prophets.21

The Shahid is one who is killed and has achieved martyrdom in the battle of Jihad.22 In its primary source, Shahid is eyewitness,23 also one of Allah’s names.24 He is called Shahid because Allah and the angels are witnesses that he deserves paradise, and that his means and motives were pure. This is very different from the Jewish and Christian notion of martyrs, as those who voluntarily endure torture and death rather than renounce their belief.25 Islamic exegetes claim that the Shahid is granted seven glorious gifts: a) He is forgiven at the first drop of his blood; b) He is dressed in the clothes of Imam and sees his status in paradise; c) He is protected from the punishment of the grave; d) He will be safe from the great fear of the Day of Judgment; e) A crown of glory will be placed on his head; f) He will intercede on behalf of 70 members of his family; g) He will be married to 72 houris. Above all, Islamic exegetes take the Qur`anic statements that the Shuhada` are alive (ahya) living beside Allah and enjoying all his grace.26

There are four Qur`anic “sword verses” relating to different types of people against whom the believers are obliged to fight: a) Surah 9 verse 5: Fighting the Idolaters: “When the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters whenever you find them, and take them captive or besiege them”; b) Surah 9 verse 29: Fighting the People of the Book, Ahl al-Kitab: “Fight those people of the book who do not believe in Allah and in the last days, who do not prohibit what Allah and his Apostle have forbidden, nor accept divine law. Until all of them pay the poll tax (Jizyah) in submission”; c) Surah 9 verse 73: Fighting the Hypocrites (Munafiqun): “Jahid, O Prophet, against the unbelievers and hypocrites, and deal with them firmly. Their abode is Hell;” and d) Surah 47 verse 4: Fighting the Enemies of Islam whoever they are and whenever they can be found: “So when you clash with the unbelievers smite their necks (fadarb al-riqab) until you overpower them...until war shall have come to an end.”

There are four categories of Qur`anic verses,27 of these, Surah 9 ayah 5 is considered to be the most important, and is most cited of all Qur`anic verses relating to Jihad. Most Islamic exegetes claim that this verse abrogates 124 other un-militant verses from Mecca.28 The issue of abrogation means, according to the Qur`an itself, that Muhammad had the permission of Allah to substitute a verse or a passage for one previously given, thus superseding it.29

Al-Bukhari, in the chapter headed “‘The statement of Allah” related to Surah 9 verse 5, claims: “Narrated Ibn `Umar: Allah’s Apostle said: I have been ordered to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Mohammad is Allah’s apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give obligatory charity [Zakah]. If they perform all that, then they save their lives and property from me, and then their reckoning will be done by Allah.”30 Later on, “Paradise is under the blades of the swords,” he declares:

Our Prophet told us about the message of our Lord that “... whoever amongst us is killed, will go to Paradise.” `Umar asked the prophet, “Is it not true that pure men who are killed will go to Paradise and their enemies will go to the [Hell] fire?” The Prophet said, “Yes”.31

Ibn Hazm deals in detail in the Qur`an wherein there appears to be conflict and/or contradiction. Through every Surah he points out verses which have been canceled and the verse(s) which replace them. He notes that there are 114 versus that call for tolerance and patience which have been cancelled and replaced by Surah 9:532 Islam is unanimous about fighting the unbelievers and forcing them to accept Islam, or submitting them to Islam by their paying the Jizyah, or by their being killed. All verses about forgiving the unbelievers are abrogated unanimously by the obligation of fighting them or subduing them to Islamic governance.

The Sudanese scholar, Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, has contended that Meccan Islam alone and not Medinan Islam, qualifies to be the substance of a relevant and universal religion today. He admitted that the Medinan textual abrogation’s (naskh) of Meccan texts exists, but he believed that to be temporary only. The Muslims can develop a new Shari`ah which is based on the morality of Meccan Islam, which would abandon the various forms that characterize Islam’s present Shari`ah, which is aggressive and warlike.33 However, for that he was executed. We still are left only with Medinan Jihad and morality.

Indeed, Majid Khadduri, who is considered the world’s leading authority on Arab definitions of peace and war, states that “in early Mekkan revelations the emphasis was on persuasion (da`wah) in the Medinan revelations, the Jihad is often expressed in terms of strife and there is no doubt that in certain verses the conceptions of Jihad is synonymous with war and fighting.”34 Arabs view peace as a tactical means for achieving their strategic objective, by defeating the enemy. Peace constitutes a temporary break in the ongoing war against the enemy, until Islam controls the whole world. If a catastrophe befell the Muslims, they might come to terms with the enemy; provided that they would resume the Jihad after the expiration of the treaty. Defeated Muslims always maintained that their battle with the enemy would be resumed, however long they had to wait for the second round. If the leader entered into treaty arrangements which provided terms he was incapable of fulfilling, the treaty was regarded as void. By their very nature, treaties must be of temporary duration, for the normal relations between Muslim and non-Muslim territories are not peaceful, but warlike.35

Khadduri states that Muhammad had set the classic example by concluding the Hudaibiya treaty with the Meccans: A peace treaty with the enemy is a valid instrument if it serves Muslim interests. Muhammad and his successors always reserved their right to repudiate any treaty or arrangement which they considered as harmful to Islam...Muslim authorities might come to terms with the enemy, provided it was only for a temporary period. A temporary peace with the enemy is not inconsistent with Islam’s interests. Thus, Jihad, reflecting the normal war relations existing between Muslims and non-Muslims, was a product of a warlike people. Islam could not abolish the warlike character of the Arabs who were constantly at war with each other; it indeed reaffirmed the war basis of inter-group relationships by institutionalizing war. Transforming inter-Muslim war was turned into a holy war, designed to be declared ceaselessly, against those who failed to become Muslims. The short intervals, which are not war, are periods of peace. In practice, however, Jihad underwent certain changes in its meaning to suit the changing circumstances of life. This change, as a matter of fact, did not imply abandonment of the Jihad duty; it only meant the entry of the obligation into a period of suspension – it assumed a dormant status, from which the leader may revive it at any time he deems necessary. There is no permanent compromise with non-believers.36

In spite of this extensive agreement among Islamic classical exegetes, Islamists in the West state that Islam is defensive and the fighting injunctions in the Qur`an are only in self-defense. Ali Cheragh brings verses from the Qur`an which he claims are limited or conditional,37 “only two verses in the Qur`an containing an absolute or non-conditional injunction for making war against the unbelievers”.38 But, for him there is a rule in the exegesis of the Qur`an, that when two commandments, one conditional and the other general or absolute, are found on the same subject, the conditional is to be preferred.39 Indeed, for Cheragh, it is very simple: wherever you find verses contradictory to his opinion about the interpretation of the Qur`an, it is ruled out as non-operative. If you summon your enemies to embrace Islam and they refuse, then all your wars are defensive. Moreover, all those who disagree with him are wrong in history, chronology, as well as in understanding the general scope of the Qur`an and the tenor of the Surahs.40

Mahmoud Shaltut’s comments are also indicative:

People would do well to learn the Qur`anic rules with regard to fighting, its causes and its ends, and so come to recognize the wisdom of the Qur`an in this respect: its desire for peace and its aversion against bloodshed and killing for the sake of the vanities of the world and out of sheer greediness and lust.41

Concerning war verses in the Qur`an, for Shaltut they all deal with the defense of the Islamic community, and are fully legitimate. The role of the Qur`an is to summon humanity to submit to Allah, as the natural process.42

However, the very consideration of offensive or defensive Jihad has no moral or legal foundation in Islam. Jihad is in the way of Allah and therefore to be conducted in accordance with Allah’s commandments. Wars in Islam are imperative and obligatory. The classical doctrine of Jihad, until the 11th century, considered all wars against the unbelievers as legal and just wars, sanctioned by the Shari`ah.

The idea of Jihad incorporated a powerful motivational tool for mobilizing the people to make all the needed sacrifices for the Islamic struggle by the able, mature and free Muslims43 to fight the infidels.44 Of all the Islamic duties (a`mal), Jihad is considered the noblest, next to belief (Iman) and prayer (Salah).45 The one who died without waging Jihad, nor intended to fight Jihad in the way of Allah in his heart, he then died like a hypocrite (munafiq).46 From its beginning, the Islamic movement had struggled aggressively to subdue religiously, to conquer politically, and to expand territorially other peoples and to bring the Islamic mission to all mankind. This was an offensive Jihad proper, and nobody recognized any other kind of Jihad.

The conquered areas were taken in two violent waves of offensive Jihad wars between the years 634 and 750 by the Arabs, and in the 14th-16th centuries by the Ottomans. These conquered areas were subjected to a regime of military administration – the division of the territories into military districts (ribat), and its policy maintained by slaves. Other aspects of the policy included deportations of peoples from their homes; expropriations of lands and goods; imposing obligations, which limited the freedoms and activities of the conquered; and imposing a direct discriminating tax system. These two periods were marked by offensive Jihad, while in between there came the Crusader period of defensive Jihad.


Stage One: Defensive Jihad Ordered

Muhammad’s teachings initially contained a single theme: to be grateful for Allah’s direction and guidance. The believers must not develop a compulsive rivalry to acquire wealth, as had the Arabs, especially the Qureish and their commerce,47 but must develop a social integrity and egalitarian attitude.48 He asserted that these faults would lead to eternal punishment and be condemned on the Last Day.49 Al-Tabari and Ibn-Ishaq have described the steady escalation of conflict between Muhammad and the Qureish50: At Mecca, Muhammad kept moderation with regard to war, preaching to Arabs on the spiritual level, as a da`wah. Being small in number the followers of Muhammad would have been wiped out if they had tried to retaliate. His main order to his small band of followers was: no retaliation, whatever the circumstances were. The Arabs of Mecca resisted Muhammad’s preaching, and treated him as if he was crazy or a story teller.51 They claimed that these were old stories which were written by others and read to him, or that he was just a poet.52

Muhammad tried hard to convince them that all his words were true could be testified to by the evidence of the People of the Book.53 He told the Arabs what happened to those who did not listen to the prophets’ preaching: the deluge generation and Noah, the Sodom people and Lot, Pharaoh who did not listen to Moses.54 Yet, the people of Mecca and at the beginning even in Medina too, asked Muhammad to show them the Book from which he told these stories.55 Even his followers complained that they did not have a Torah like the Jews and Christians.56 He responded that it is written in foreign language by pure writers, and nobody can compose such a Qur`an. It is the same as the Book of Moses, and the Qur`an is kept beneath the Tablets of Testimony.57 The Arabs had no such a book and there was nothing like the Qur`an.58

Yet, Muhammad tried hard to establish himself and to increase his followers and his power, not to perish politically and religiously. His message to the believers was clear: to be patient and bear with those who deny the truth; wait patiently in the knowledge that they are not forgotten by Allah, but constantly under his eyes, care and protection; and not to be in a hurry to fight, since Allah will lead the idolaters to destroy themselves. The task of the prophet is only to warn.59

The tiny Muslim Community in Mecca was an object of oppression by the Qureish from the time of the proclamation of Islam, and they were continuously subjected to torture, repression and persecution. They were ridiculed and assaulted, they were mocked and beaten. Some of them were put into chains and cast into prison. Others were boycotted and shut out of their businesses and social intercourse, and even denied access to the Ka`bah, to fulfill their religious obligations. This culminated in an open declaration of war upon Islam, and eventually compelled the Muslims to migrate to Medina. When Muhammad found it critically dangerous to his community to continue staying in Mecca, and his life was threatened,60 he fled with his followers to Yathrib (later called Medina), where he hoped to find a much more open and tolerant approach to his religion, since there were Jewish and Christian tribes there.61

The Hijrah marked, according to Lewis, a turning point in the career of Muhammad and a revolution in Islam. Muhammad became the chief magistrate and governor of the community and practiced his new religion.62 It was not so unusual, since there were many “prophets” in Arabia, who led regions or tribes to the activity which was well familiar to the Arabs – protracted war conducted by the various tribes.63 The Hijrah meant that the believers had to abandon their blood relations of Qureish, and to accept the protection of tribes to whom they were not related by blood. It was really an unprecedented move in the social life of the Arabs. While in Mecca, the believers’ community had neither been proclaimed an Ummah, nor were they granted permission to take up arms against their oppressors, whereas in Medina, they were proclaimed as an Ummah and were granted permission to fight against their oppressors. This permission, soon afterwards, was converted into a divine command to make war a religious obligation for the believers.64


Stage Two: Defensive Jihad Requested

When the idea of Jihad as the legitimate just war against the infidels was raised, between March 623 and August 623,65 the verse sanctioning fighting was: Permission is granted to those who fight because they were oppressed.66 The expedition to Nakhlah, on December 623, was the first shedding of blood in war by a Muslim.67 All of a sudden, Muhammad had raised the issue of the holiness of the Ka`bah, and the permission to fight in the holy months. The event in Nakhlah was accompanied by a commandment of Muhammad, which is considered the general Jihad declaration against the unbelievers:

Fighting is prescribed on you, and this you abhor... tell them: to fight in that month is a great sin, but a greater sin in the eyes of Allah is to hinder people from the way of Allah, and not to believe in him, and to bar access to the holy mosque...oppression is worse than killing...they are inmates of hell and shall there abide forever.68

At that time, permission was given to the community of believers to defend themselves by fighting and killing the unbelievers of the Qureish tribe and their supporters.69 Another symbol of the new faith was revealed in late January 624, in a Friday sermon, when Muhammad made the Islamic congregation turn round and pray facing Mecca, as the new direction (qiblah).70 This change was a symbol of the new Muslim common identity, and the message was to allow the righteous believers to fight against a ferocious people as a justified policy. War became a religious obligation, still only permissible in self-defense, and under well-defined limits.71

The first defensive battle was in Badr, in March 624. Muhammad decided to send a military expedition in the month rajab, which was a holy month among the Arabs. When the believers hesitated, since fighting in a holy month was considered as a crime and a violation of Arab good conduct, Muhammad drew his winning card: fi sabilillah. Everything can be done for the sake of Allah:

They ask you of war in the holy month. Tell them to fight in that month is a sin. But a greater sin in the eye of Allah is to hinder people from the way of Allah and not to believe in him and bar access to the Holy Mosque.72

First and foremost, Muhammad gave firmness to the believers, ordered them to instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers and opened a surprised war, with a surprise tactic: his warriors fought in line formation (saff) and the Arabs used a series of duels. The results were stunning and anarchy prevailed in the Qureish camp. The victory of Badr marked the first great victory over the infidels, and the Islamic exegetes labelled it the day of the deliverance (furqan).73 The Qur`an celebrates the victory of Badr twice,74 yet the most important result was the impressive increase of propaganda for the holy war. Jihad became the most important slogan,75 and the Jews were the first victim: the deportation of the Qaynuqa` tribe from Medina.76

The second defensive war was in Uhud, in March 625,77 which was almost a military defeat, and Muhammad took advantage against the hypocrites, ordered that they be put to the sword,78 and deported the Jews of Nadir tribe.79 To cover up the defeat Muhammad put strong emphasis on ideological commitment to fighting Jihad wars in the way of Allah by repeated promises of rewards in paradise and living close to Allah forever.80 Starting with the aftermath of the Battle of Uhud, there was established an order to the enemies of Islam, firstly the idolaters, the unbelievers (kuffar); in the second place, the hypocrites (munafiqun); and in the third place, the Jews, by refusing to accept Muhammad as a prophet.

The third defensive battle was the Trench War (Ghazawat al-Khandaq), in 627, which testifies to Muhammad’s creativity, non-conformist and innovative thinking, and his abilities of statesmanship, taking power, brinkmanship, and coercive diplomacy, symbolized by the slogan din Allah bil-sayf (the religion of Allah is through the sword).81 The Qureish troops were defeated, and Jews of the Bani-Quraythah tribe paid the price82: They were offered conversion to Islam, but preferred death.83


Stage Three: Offensive Jihad Commanded

The most important outcome from the Trench War was that from a defensive situation Muhammad had moved to an offensive Jihad. From that time on until the year 743, the offensive holy war, Jihad fi sabilillah, was the customary, characterizing phenomenon of Islam. Jihad, as a holy war against the infidels, became the only accepted instrument of the believers’ policy, the only means for the spread of Islam as a grand strategy. The spirit of Jihad was to reorder matters according to their religious values. This was marked by Muhammad’s declaration: from now on, we will attack them and they will not attack us.84 To deepen his leadership among the Islamic community, he took from his believers an oath of loyalty (mubaya`ah) on the borders of the holy area (haram) of Mecca.

The Meccans resisted all his direct approaches and mediators, and since Muhammad appreciated that the Meccans were still stronger, he decided to act as a statesman, and presented to them a diplomatic suggestion, to sign a truce agreement for ten years. After deliberations and hesitations, they agreed.85 Most of the believers saw this agreement as a political defeat and questions concerning his “unfit” Arab behavior arose.86 Again, Muhammad succeeded in diverting their frustrations towards the disloyal infidel Jews, and to the possibility to gain booty. The victims were the Jews of Khaybar, the richest and most fertile oasis in the Hijaz.87 The conquering of Khaybar and its surroundings was the first aggressive Jihad war and marked ‘the first territory conquered by the Muslim state and brought under its rule.88

However, the climax of Muhammad’s achievements was the conquest of Mecca. What is noticeable with the “Hudaibiya Agreement”, which gave it an historical importance with immense implications up to our days, is that after 22 months Muhammad had broken the agreement and violated its terms. The message was clear: there is no legal commitment and any other obligation whatsoever, even agreed by contract, to the unbelievers.89 Muhammad decided to march with his believers into Mecca, in the sacred fasting month of Ramadan, on January 11, 630, almost without resistance from the Meccan army, headed by Khalid bin al-Walid: only three believers and 20 Meccans were killed, including one person, al-Huwarith, who had insulted Muhammad while he was in Mecca, and two poetesses who were executed on Muhammad’s direct order on the charge of denouncing him of his traitorous and unethical behavior of fighting in the holy month. After the Meccans surrendered, most of the pagans of the city became Muslims, so Muhammad and his followers were able to take over the city and cleanse the Ka`aba of 360 idols resident there.90

The Hudaibiya affair and the conquest of Mecca were a crucial turning point in the history of Islam, according to all Islamic exegetes, and they identify it with the term fath, opening, and hence conquest.91 Commenting on these events, Ibn-Ishaq claimed that no previous victory in Islam was greater.92 The most important town of Arabia, Mecca, came under Islamic rule, and Muhammad established his control over most of the area of Arabia as a head of a religious community, a military leader, and above all a political statesman. The army became the melting pot of the new community, and the Jihad as a holy war was the chief means to the Islamic ends.93

Muhammad phrased the Islamic law to underline the theory that the world was divided into two entities: the house of Islam (Dar al-Islam), which comprises all the areas dominated by Islam; and the house of war (Dar al-Harb), which comprises all the areas dominated by infidels, the regions where polytheism reigns, which are in potential endless total war with Islam. This was promised to the community of Islamic believers: That Islam prevails and will dominate all other religions.94

It is no longer just defensive fighting, but aggressive Jihad against all unbelievers, which serves as the arbitrator line between Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. Indeed, what we find in the Qur`an is a gradual, developmental and staged strategy, according to Muhammad’s situation and achievements: in the first period he ordered withdrawal, forgiveness and summoning.95 In the second period, he ordered to prosecute Jihad in self defense.96 In the third period, the eighth year after the Hijrah and the victory over Mecca, Muhammad ordered to fight Jihad war aggressively for territorial and religious expansionism.97 The result was that most of the Arabian tribes came under Islamic rule by conversion, yet, the allegiance (Mubay`ah) given to Muhammad was more as a result of his political power and military success. This is revealed in Surah 9, the only one to open without the names of Mercy, because of the stern commandments against the idolaters, as exemplified in verses 5 and 29.


Stage Four: Total Offensive Jihad under the Khulafaa

After Muhammad’s death, on June 8, 632, at the age of 62,98 his four successors, al-Khulafaa al-Rasheedun,99 started with a long period of Islamic Jihad wars that extended Islam into much of Western Asia, North Africa and parts of Europe. The official purpose of the polity of Islam incubated, established and developed by Muhammad was to transmit and to expand the ideology of Jihad and Da`wah, as the main instruments of foreign policy. The Arab empire under the Khulafaa carried on the doctrine of Jihad, the struggle to establish Allah’s rule on earth, through continuous military efforts against the non-Muslims, until they either embraced Islam or agreed to pay the poll tax, to be under domination in exchange for protection. Almost to the end of the Umayyad caliphate, despite a few interruptions, the policy of Jihad was applied all the way, as one of the main underpinnings for the constitution of the Islamic state.

The emphasis put on Jihad from its earliest times is one of the best attested facts of early Muslim history. He who wishes to comprehend the Arab spirit of violence, that the sword has never stopped being employed in Arab politics, the rebellious character of the Arabs, will find the fact that three out of the first four Khulafaa al-Rasheedun were murdered; that between 632, after Muhammad’s death, and 690, there were three large revolts, as national domestic wars, and one huge schism: the division of the Shiite from the Sunnah. This is the tradition of the Arabs passed on to Islam, and Jihad almost “personified” this reality. We can examine this from another angle: the expansion of the Arab empire had stopped in 743, during the reign of the Umayyad Khalifah, Hisham, after Jihad, as the spirit of the Arab conquerors’ foreign policy, had disappeared.

The beginning of the Arab conquests in the Khulafaa era, the aggressive war of Jihad was in the Battle of `Aqraba, near al-Hirah in eastern Najd, in 633, against Persia (called “the Battle of the Bridge”), and against Iraq, conducted in 637 in Qadissiyah. The battle over Persia, conducted in 641 near Hamdan, brought the whole area of Persia into being a part of the Islamic state in 650.100 The conquest of Greater Syria occurred in three stages,101 beginning with the defeat of the Christian army in Marj-Rahit (April 634). Eretz Israel was conquered in July 634, and Damascus in September 635. In the Yarmukh battle, in July 636, the Arab troops inflicted a crushing defeat on the Byzantines. The siege around Jerusalem lasted for two years, and only in 638 was it conquered by Khalid bin Thabit. The capture of Caesarea, the capital town, in 640 was a symbol of the end of Byzantine rule in the area.

The Islamic invasion of Egypt had begun in December 639, by `Umar ibn al-`Aas. The important battles took place in Heliopolis, in July 640, and afterwards, in 641, in Babilon (al-fustat). Alexandria, the capital, had been conquered only in November 641, by an armistice agreement. The final conquest of Egypt ended in 642, by bringing the Nubyah area under Islamic rule and enslaving the inhabitants.

Khalid Blankinship puts it very clearly: in view of its ideology, the simplicity of its functions, and the actual course of its history, it is right to designate that the Islamic state through Umayyad times is the Jihad state par excellence.102 From 623 to 740, with three interruptions, the Muslim state was engaged in hostilities against all those who were defined as infidels, and who did not have a specific treaty with it.103

The Jihad expansion, from December 623 to 656, accomplished the original establishment of the Islamic state followed by the subjugation of Arabia and the Fertile Crescent lands of Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Persia. This expansion was ended by the first civil war (Fitnah) between 656 and 661, culminated by the truce with the Byzantines. The second Jihad expansion lasted from 661 to 683, and involved conquering Tunisia and Khurasan, and was ended by the second civil war between 683 and 692. Again, all conquests were suspended and another truce was concluded with the Byzantines. The third wave of Jihad expansion, from 692 to 718, witnessed the conquest of the entirety of North Africa, Spain, and India in the east. This time the Muslim expansion was thwarted by military defeats at the hands of the Byzantines, between 718 and 720. The forth and last wave of Jihad expansion lasted from 720 to 740 and culminated in almost total failures on nearly all fronts. It was stopped finally by the great Berber revolt in North Africa, in 740, which led to the end of Muslim unity and contributed to the collapse of the Umayyad dynasty in 750.104

Summarizing these four stages, which are described in many Islamic exegetes’ traditions, suggests as follows: At the beginning Allah held back Muslims from fighting in Mecca and in the early period of their migration to Medina, and told them, “Restrain your hands, and establish regular prayers, and pay zakat.” Next, they were permitted to fight in a defensive war: “Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they are oppressed, and Allah is able to help them. These are the people who were expelled from their homes without cause.” The next stage came when the Muslims were commanded to fight those who fight them: “Fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight you,” as an aggressive assault. And finally, the war of Jihad was declared against all the polytheists: “And fight against all the polytheists, as they all fight against you;” “Fight against those among the People of the Book who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day, who do not forbid what Allah and his Messenger have forbidden, and who do not consider the true religion as their religion, until they are subdued and pay Jizyah.” Thus, the Muslims were first restrained from fighting; then they were permitted to fight Jihad war; then they were commanded to fight Jihad war; and finally they were commanded to fight offensive-aggressive Jihad war against all the polytheists.




There are 14 variations to the word, in 36 verses: For the full listing see: Moulavi C. Ali Cheragh, The Critical Exposition of the Popular “Jihad”, Karachi: Karimsons, 1977, pp. 166-167. All the quotations of the Qur`an are from Ahmed Ali, al-Qur`an: A Contemporary Translation, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.  


M. Canard, “da`wa”, The Encyclopedia of Islam, 1960, vol. 2, pp. 168-170.


M.J. Kister, “Land, Property and Jihad”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 34 (1991), pp. 270-311.


Surah 3 verses 110, 114. It is recommended to ask the right (al-ma`ruf) and to prohibit the wrong (al-munkar). See also: Surah 9 verses 71, 112; Surah 22 verses 41; Surah 31 verse 17.  


Surah 5 verse 3.


Surah 9 verse 33.


Surah 7 verse 158.


Ahadith related to Muhammad, without any authentic exegetical authority.


As formulated by: Rubin Uri, Between Bible and Qur`an, Princeton: The Darwin Press, 1999, pp. 102-109.


According to Surah 3 verse 110.


Reuven Firestone, Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.


Muhammad S.R. al-Buti, al-Jihad fil-Islam, Beirut: Dar al-Ma`arif, 1993; See: Abdallah ibn al-Mubarak, Kitab al-Jihad; Beirut: Hammad, 1971; Majid Khadduri, The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani’s Siyar, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966.


Bernard Lewis, The Political Language of Islam, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, p. 72.


Surah 2 verse 251; Surah 4 verse 75; Surah 8 verse 39; Surah 57 verse 25.


Muhammad b. Isma`il, al-Bukhari. Saheeh al-Bukhari. Lahore: Kazi, 1979, vol. 2, p. 199.


Claude Cahen. “Jizyah”, The Encyclopedia of Islam, 1960, vol. 3, pp. 559-562.


Rudolph Peters, Islam and Colonialism: The Doctrine of Jihad in Modern History, The Hague: Mouton, 1979, p. 4.


Subhash C. Inamdar, Muhammad and the Rise of Islam, Madison, CT: Psychological Press, 2001, pp. 222-223.


Surah 4 verse 48, 166; surah 28 verse 17; surah 31 verse 13; surah 36 verse 74; surah 37 verse 158; see D. Gimaret, “shirk”, The Encyclopedia of Islam, 1960, vol. 9, pp. 484-486.


Surah 2 verse 193; Surah 9 verse 5; Surah 3 verses 167-168; Surah 4 verses 84, 88-89.


Surah 3 verse 151; Surah 8 verses 12, 60; Surah 59 verse 2.


According to Surah 3 verse 140.


According to Surah 24 verse 4.


According to Surah 5 verse 117.


Lewis, Islam and the West, p. 163.


Surah 2 verse 154; surah 3 verses 169-71.


Surah 2 verse 191, 193, 217; surah 8 verse 39; surah 9 verse 5, 29, 73, 123; surah 47 verse 4-5; surah 66 verse 9.  


Abu Muhammad `Ali Ibn Ahmad Ibn Sa`id, Ibn Hazm, al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyah, 1986, pp. 19, 27; `Abdallah Ibn `Umar Al-Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil wa-Asrar al-Ta`wil. al-Riyadh: Dar al-Tiba`ah, 1997, pp. 22, 116, 117, 244; Abu al-Fadl `Abd al-Rahman Jalal al-Din Al-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fi `Ulum al-Qur`an. Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, 1973, part 1, p. 8; part 2, pp. 20-23; part 3, pp. 59, 60, 61, 69, 70, 72, 74; Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Nahhas, Al-Nasikh Wal-Mansukh. Cairo: Maktabat `Ilam al-Fikr, 1986, pp. 2-3, 5-7; Abu al-Kasim Hibat-Allah Ibn Salama, al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh. Cairo: Dar al-Ma`arif, 1966, pp. 4-5, 7, 11, 26-27, 37, 46, 123, 130, 142-143; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur`an Vol. 4, pp. 375, 377. <>.


Surah 2 verse 106; Surah 16 verse 101; Surah 13 verse 39.


Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, no. 24. See also: vol. 6, nos. 6, 19, 193.     


Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 4, no. 55. See also: Vol. 4, no. 386.


Ibn Hazm, Al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh, pp. 19, 27. Ibn Salama, al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh, p. 130.


Mahmoud M. Taha, The Second Message of Islam, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1987, pp. 21-25, for his comments on Jihad, see: pp. 132-137. For these views, Taha was considered by the Sudanese government as murtadd, accused of blasphemy, and that eventually cost him his life.


Majid Khadduri, War and Peace in the Law of Islam, Baltimore: John’s Hopkins University Press, 1979, p. 56.


Khddurie, War and Peace in the Law of Islam, pp. 134-136, 203-212, 220-221.


Ibid, pp. 53-54, 64-65.


Surah 2 verses 186-189, 212, 214; Surah 4 verses 76-78, 86, 91-93; Surah 8 verses 39-41, 58-66, 73-74; Surah 9 verses 1-15, 29, 36; Surah 22 verses 39-49.


Surah 2 verse 244; Surah 9 verse 123.


Cheragh, A Critical Exposition of Popular Jihad, paragraphs 92-93, pp. 117-119.


Ibid., paragraph 97, pp. 122-123.


Mhmoud Shaltut, al-Qur`an wal-Qital, Cairo: Matba`at al-Nasr wal-Ittihad al-Sharqi, 1948. See: Rudolph Peters, Jihad in Mediaeval and Modern Islam, Princeton: Markus Weiner, 1996, p. 27. 


Ibid, pp. 58, 60.


Surah 9 verse 91; Surah 48 verse 17.


Surah 8 verse 39; Surah 47 verse 4.


Muslim Ibn al-Hajjaj, Saheeh Muslim. Cairo: Dar al-Kitab al-Misri, n.d., vol. 5, pp. 2016-17; al-Nasa`i Abu `Abd al-Rahman, al-Sunan al-Kubra. Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 1987, vol. 2, p. 14.


al-Sijistani Abu-Dawud, Sunan Abu Dawud. Cairo: Dar al-Misriyah-al-Lubnaniyah, 1988, p. 593. See also pp. 598-599.


Montegomery W. Watt, Muhammad at Mecca, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960, pp. 106-107; Surah 89 verses 18-21; Surah 93 verses 9-11.


Surah 9 verses 101-103; Surah 92 verses 4-24, esp. verse 18.


Surah 69 verses 33-35.


Muhammad Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, Albany: State University of New York Press 1988, pp. 93-94, 98-99, 105, 112-113, 115, 118, 121-122, 124-127; Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: Ibn Ishaq’s Seerat Rasul Allah, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955, pp. 143, 145.


Surah 34 verses 45-46; Surah 52 verse 33; Surah 74 verses 24-25; Surah 83 verse 13.


Surah 25 verses 4-5; Surah 52 verse 30; Surah 69 verse 41.


Surah 2 verse 146; Surah 5 verses 44, 48; Surah 10 verse 94; Surah 26 verses 196-197; Surah 28 verses 52-53; Surah 46 verse 10; Surah 81 verses 19-23.


 Surah 26 verses 10-12; Surah 54 verses 17-19, 32-34.


Surah 17 verse 93.


Surah 6 verses 155-159. At the beginning, even the people of Medina said that all the evil came from him, Surah 4 verses 78, 80; Surah 8 verse 6.


Surah 6 verse 7; Surah 13 verse 43; Surah 16 verses 101-103; Surah 17 verses 88-90; Surah 41 verse 42; Surah 43 verses 1-4; Surah 46 verse 12; Surah 56 verses 78-79; Surah 80 verse s 13-16; Surah 85 verses 21-22.


Surah 43 verse 21; Surah 68 verse 37.


Surah 20 verse 130; Surah 22 verse 49; Surah 38 verses 15, 17; Surah 52 verses 45, 48; Surah 52 verses 45, 48.


al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, 1988, pp. 139-140, 142, 144. 


Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: Ibn-Ishaq’s Seerat Rasul Allah, pp. 171, 199-202, 208.


Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History, New York: Harper and Row, 1958, p. 41.


Julius Wellhuasen, The Religio-Political Factions in Early Islam, Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Co., 1975.


Malik, The Qur`anic Concept of War, p. 11.


See note no. 34.  


Surah 22 verse 39.


Ibn Hisham, al-Seerah al-Nabawiyah, vol. 1, pp. 601-604; al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari: The Foundation of the Community, Albany State University of New York Press: 1987, vol. 7, pp. 18-19.


Surah 2 verses 216-217.


Surah 22 verse 39. yuqataluna means the passive voice – against whom war is made.


Surah 2 verses 136-138, 142-145. See also: Arent Jan Wensinck, “kiblah”, The Encyclopedia of Islam, 1960, vol. 5, pp. 82-83.


Surah 2 verse 190-191.


Surah 2 verse 217.


Surah 21 verse 47. The story of the campaign of Badr is recorded in Ibn-Hisham, al-Seerah al-Nabawiyah, vol. 2, pp. 266-267; al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, vol. 1, pp. 48-49.


Surah 8 verses 13, 123.


Surah 8 verses 15-17, 39, 50, 57, 65.


Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: Ibn-Ishaq’s Seerat Rasul Allah, pp. 262-265. Two verses in the Qur`an justify the harsh action, Surah 8 verses 57-58.


A lengthy account of the battle is in al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, 1987, pp. 114-129; Surah 3 verses 140-143, 169-171, 185.


 Surah 3 verse 155; Surah 4 verse 9.


al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, 1987, pp. 157-160; Ibn-Hisham, al-Seerah al-Nabawiyah, pp. 437-445.


Surah 3 verses 172-174.


Which is detailed in Surah 33. 


Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: Ibn-Ishaq’s Seerat Rasul Allah, pp. 461-464; Ibn-Hisham, al-Seerah al-Nabawiyah, pp. 461-469. Surah 33 verses 12-13, 20, 24, 26-27.


Surah 59 verses 2-4, 11, 15-17. 


al-Bukhari Muhammad b. Isma`eel, Saheeh al-Bukhari,  Lahore: Kazi, 1979, vol. 3, p. 33.


Montgomery W. Watt. “al-hudaybiya”, The Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. 3, 1960, p. 539.


The Muslim tradition emphasizes Muhammad’s way of negotiating as a flexible, patient and a realistic leader, who knew how to achieve his goals even while retreating, contrary to the temperaments of the Arabs. See: Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: Ibn-Ishaq’s Seerat Rasul Allah, pp. 502-505.


Muhammad promised a rich victory of spoils, Surah 48 verse 19. 


Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984, pp. 10-11; Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: Ibn-Ishaq’s Seerat Rasul Allah, pp. 521, 523.


Surah 2 verses 189-191, 194; see also Surah 48 verse 27.


Ibn-Hisham, al-Sirah al-Nabawiyah, pp. 411-413; al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, pp. 831-838; Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: Ibn-Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, pp. 540-553.


Ibn-Sa`d Muhammad, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabeer, Leiden: Brill, 1917-40, vol. 2, pp. 104-105; see also G.R. Hawting, “al-Khudaybiya and The conquest of Mecca”, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, vol. 8, 1986, pp. 1-23.


Guillaume, The Life of the Prophet: Ibn-Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, p. 507.


 Surah 9 verses 81, 84, 88-89, 122.


Surah 9 verse 33, the same as Surah 61 verse 9; Surah 48 verse 28.


Surah 2 verse 94; Surah 16 verses 125, 128; Surah 73 verse 10.


Surah 2 verse 190; Surah 22 verse 39.


Surah 2 verse 193; Surah 9 verse 5.


al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, 1990, pp. 184-185.


One of the best analyses on the Khulafaa era is, Wilfred Madelung, The Succession of Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. On their conquest, Fred Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981. The meaning of rasheedun is “rightly guided”. The root rashada means “to follow the right path”.


Donner, Early Islamic Conquests, pp. 173-220.


Ibid, pp. 111-155.


Lewis takes a different opinion by stating that the great Arab conquests were an expansion of the Arab nation: Lewis, The Arabs in History, pp. 55-56.


Khalid Y. Blankinship, The End of the Jihad State, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994, p. 18. al-Tabari, Ta`rikh al-Rusul wal-Muluk, vol. 1, pp. 1559-1575.


Blankinship, The End of the Jihad State, pp. 19-35.