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Is Jihad All About Fighting?

06 February, 2017
Q I refer to the verse 22:78 "And make jihad in God's cause with true jihad. It is He who has chosen you, and has laid no hardship on you in religion; the creed of your forefather Abraham. It is He who has named you Muslims, in bygone times and in this [book], so that the Messenger might bear witness for you, and that you might bear witness for all mankind. Thus, attend regularly to your prayer, and pay out your zakāt (alms), and hold fast to God. He is your Guardian: the best of guardians and the best to give support". On the part: "has laid no hardship on you in religion", all the tafseer (interpretation of Quran) that I have researched basically gives the explanation of the concessionaires that are given. For instance, when performing one's ablution or standing erect due to establishing prayers requires much pain, provision is given in tayammun (dry ablution) and prayers in sitting position. However, I believe a different perspective can be made: Basically the main theme of this verse is about jihad: 1. It starts out with the exhortation "And make jihad in God's cause with true jihad." 2. The previous verse says, "Believers! Bow down and prostrate yourselves, and worship your Lord alone, and do good, so that you might be successful". Some mufassir (interpreters) say the command of prayer is a preparation for jihad. 3. The last part of this verse: "He is your Guardian: the best of guardians and the best to give support", could also indicate that making jihad is "difficult", but Allah is here to give support. So, we could see the statement: "has laid no hardship on you in religion", in the context of jihad. Jihad could be perhaps be regarded as the aspect of deen (religion) that seemingly brings the most hardship, more so with true jihad. Even though that Allah is implying that in the real sense, jihad would actually bring ease not hardship! For example, if we make jihad to pray tahajjud (night prayer), at first it will be hard to wake-up extra early in the cold morning. But if we make the jihad, after some time, we will actually find ni'mah (blessing) in the tahajjud prayer. Also, we will find ourselves more energetic in the day. However, if we succumb to sleep, we will sooner or later become lazier and more lethargic. Another example is giving charity. We might think we will be more "hard up" if we are not well off. However, if we do give, we will find Allah will make our rizq (provision) more than before. This concept would be consistent with the meaning of the verses: "So, verily, with every hardship, there is ease: Verily, with every hardship there is ease." [Surah Inshirah 94: 5-6] What is your comment? Please give your arguments whether you agree or disagree with this perspective.


Asalamu Alaikum sister,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

We appreciate your intense search in the books of Tafseer (explanation of Quran) to have a better understanding of the Quran.

The verse you quoted in the question is translated as follows in one of the contemporary translations which take the modern context into consideration:

{Strive hard for God as is His due: He has chosen you and placed no hardship in your religion, the faith of your forefather Abraham. God has called you Muslims ––both in the past and in this [message]––so that the Messenger can bear witness about you and so that you can bear witness about other people. So keep up the prayer, give the prescribed alms, and seek refuge in God: He is your protector––an excellent protector and an excellent helper.} (Al-Hajj 22:78)

This is the translation of Dr. Muhammad Abdel Haleem, Oxford University Press, 2005.

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Here he translated the verb “wa jahidu” as “strive”. Usually the word “jihad” is translated as “holy war”, though this is not the meaning of the word.

And even when it does mean to defend oneself in battle, jihad is not limited to fighting. Fighting is one aspect of the many aspects of jihad

Jihad also means doing one’s best or striving hard or struggling against one’s own self. The explanation you have given is in conformity with the actual meaning of jihad.

If you like sleeping a lot and you want to wake up for fajr (early morning) prayer, you have to strive to go to bed early and be sure you will wake up for the time of fajr. This certainly is a kind of jihad because you are struggling against your love for sleep.

What supports your understanding of jihad is the following narration:

A man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) asking his permission to take part in jihad. The Prophet asked him, “Are your parents alive?” He replied in the affirmative. The Prophet said to him, “Then exert yourself in their service.” (Al-Bukhari)

Here the Prophet (peace be upon him) considers taking care of one’s parents a kind of jihad. This goes hand in hand with your understanding of the verse.

Also, this verse gives the same meaning of the verse you quoted:

{But We shall be sure to guide to Our ways those who strive hard for Our cause: God is with those who do good.} (Al-`Ankabut 29:69)

Some modern commentators on the Quran maintain that the verse you quoted and the previous verse give the lifestyle that Allah wants from the believers.

{Believers, bow down, prostrate yourselves, worship your Lord, and do good so that you may succeed.} (Al-Hajj 22:77)

The role of the believers is to bow down and prostrate themselves before Allah the Almighty. These two actions are the main movements that a Muslim does while performing the daily prayer.

This is because prayer is what connects a Muslim with Allah the Almighty. After prayer comes other acts of worship such as fasting, zakah (alms giving), and hajj (pilgrimage).

After the obligatory acts of worship comes any other good deed that a Muslim does. Therefore, the concept of good deeds is wide and includes everything that benefits the community; such as helping the poor and the needy, visiting the sick, etc.

The following verse talks about the issue of striving hard for the right cause. This right cause can be any good thing or good manner. A Muslim is to struggle against all kinds of evil. A Muslim is to do his utmost to end injustice, corruption, intolerance, etc.  A Muslim is to resist his whims, bad thoughts, laziness, etc.

The instruction to establish the prayer and pay the zakah is repeated in this verse where we read:

{[…] So keep up the prayer, give the prescribed alms, and seek refuge in God […]} 

This is because of their role in building a society according the principles of equality and compassion, social justice, and harmony.

As for the issue of placing no hardship in the religion, the scholars maintain that this is one of the main objectives of the Shari`ah, i.e. facilitation in matters related to religion.

The examples of not fasting while traveling, making dry ablution when there is no water, shortening the prayer while traveling, eating unlawful stuff when necessary, etc. are cases in point.

Again, we would like to emphasis that Muslims are not blood seekers. The original principle is the state of peace not the state of war. Peace is the key meaning of Islam.

Fighting is the last resort. Jihad is to rage war on terrorism. Jihad is meant to end oppression. Muslims never initiate fighting. Muslims are to fight back when they are attacked. 

Islam respects the sanctity of life. Protecting one’s life is one of the objectives of the Shari`ah.

I hope this answers your question.

Salam and please keep in touch.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Did Islam Grow by Killing Non-Believers?

A Guide to Refuting Jihadism And Radical Claims

All About Objectives of Shariah