Jihad: Reality and reward

Q309 :What is real jihad? Who is a real mujahed and who is a real shaheed? What is the reward for mujahed, shaheed or a ghazi?

A309 : If we take the linguistic meaning of the word jihad we find that it relates to the exertion of efforts. The effort is intended to accomplish a specific purpose, but the term jihad also implies the presence of strong opposition or resistance. Thus, a pre-Islamic poet may use the word jihad to describe his efforts to get his passion under his control after the departure of his beloved with her tribe, leaving him alone without any hope of reunion. His passion would be the source of resistance to his effort to control himself and try to live a normal life. In its Islamic sense, the term jihad, does not differ greatly in implying the exertion of effort and the presence of resistance. However, the purpose of jihad is clearly defined as the furtherance of the cause of Allah. This means helping the message of Islam spread and helping it being implemented properly in an Islamic community. The sort of effort required in jihad differs according to circumstances and to the particular situation in which a Muslim finds himself. It could be a simple action, such as standing firm in defense of the cause of Islam. This may require speaking out in public, against ignoring Islamic principles, and writing articles or publishing books. It may also take the form of reminding people of their Islamic duties and motivating them to conduct their lives according to Islam. Its top and most noble form is to fight the enemies of Islam in battle in order to foil their attempts to smother the call of Islam. It is this form of fighting which always springs to people's minds when the term jihad is mentioned. This is due to the fact that when a person fights, he demonstrates practically his willingness to sacrifice his life for the cause of Islam. His jihad no longer stops at making efforts which are not likely to cause him any harm. Here he is exposing himself to risks of injury and death. Because this form has been deeply rooted in people's concept of jihad, the word is associated generally with exerting strenuous efforts which could endanger a person's life. Hence, the term 'jihad' is often mistranslated as "holy war." Perhaps it is appropriate to clarify at this point that there is nothing which Islam describes as "holy war". The very description will suggest that Islam approves of two types of war: one holy and the other unholy. This is certainly untrue. If a war is fought for a just cause, such as lifting injustice or freeing people from persecution, then it is a war which Islam approves of, hence, it is jihad. A war against imperialism can be described as jihad if its purpose is to free the Muslim community so that they may conduct their lives according to Islam. A purely patriotic war to achieve national independence cannot be described as jihad if its aim is to retain the secular system imposed by the imperialists, but will simply replace its administrators by nationals. We see that the purpose is of utmost importance. This is perfectly in line with Islamic thinking, because Islam attaches the greatest importance to the intention behind every action. The Prophet says: "Actions are but intentions." This means that the value of any action is determined by the intention behind it and the purpose for which it is done. The Prophet was asked about people fighting the same war with the same army, but one of them is fighting simply because he wants to be with his people against their enemy, another is fighting for personal pride, and one fights simply because he is brave, and yet another in order to maintain appearances: which of them can be described as fighting for Allah's cause. His answer was most revealing: "He who fights in order to make Allah's law supreme fights for Allah's cause." What this Hadith tells us is that it is the propriety of purpose which determined the act of an individual, a community or the state. In other words, the cause for which the war is being fought must be approved by Islam, and the intention of every single fighter must be the right one. In other words, it is possible that a campaign of jihad may be joined by people who cannot be described as mujahed. As you realize, the term mujahed means a person who makes the efforts to support Allah's cause. Some of those who would join a campaign of jihad may have other purposes for doing so. Therefore, they cannot earn the honor of being mujahed simply because they have joined such a campaign. Let me give you a very clear example. The war of liberation that the Muslim people of Afghanistan fought for over a decade was a war which Islam approves. Therefore, it was a war of jihad. The fighters called themselves Mujahedeen, and rightly so. However, in their ranks, there may have been people who did not consider the establishment of Allah's law in a land of Islam as their prime purpose. Those were not Mujahedeen despite the fact that they were fighting with the Mujahedeen. A shaheed, which means martyr, is a person who is killed as a result of the efforts he makes in support of Allah's cause. Whether he is felled by an enemy bullet or assassinated or taken prisoner and executed is immaterial. As long as the prime reason for killing him is the effort he is making in support of Islam, then his death is martyrdom. He is a shaheed and a shaheed is admitted into heaven without having to account for his sins. Allah forgives him all sins that he may have committed previously. A shaheed, however, need not be a fighter in the sense that he is a soldier taking part in war. He is a mujahed as he is making an effort for jihad to make the world of Islam triumphant. I will give you an example. The late Sayyid Qutb, one of the top contemporary Islamic scholars, never fought war and never fired a bullet. He, however, served and defended Islam in the way he knew best. He wrote books and articles making the principles of Islam absolutely clear to modern readers and wrote a commentary on the Qur'an which makes the meaning of its verses easy to grasp. As a result, many young men, all over the Arab world and beyond, turned to Islam advocating its cause, after having been previously semi-ignorant of their faith. He used his powerful style to instill in people's minds the thought that unless a community conducts all its affairs according to Islamic law, it cannot be described as a Muslim community. This was a direct challenge to the authorities in Egypt where Sayyid Qutb lived. At that time, Egypt was writhing under a brutal dictatorship. Sayyid Qutb was arrested and imprisoned for ten years, then released. One year later, he was imprisoned again and his interrogators asked him mainly about his latest book, entitled 'Milestone.' When he was put to trial, his writing of that book was a central issue. He was sentenced to death and executed in 1966. Sayyid Qutb was a mujahed and a shaheed. I say so advisedly because the Prophet says: "The best form of jihad is a declaration of the truth in front of a despotic ruler." He also says: "The master of all martyrs is Hamza ibn Abdul Mutalib (the Prophet's uncle); and a man who stands up to a tyrant, ordering him to do what is right and to desist from doing what is wrong." That was exactly what Sayyid Qutb did and for which he had to sacrifice his life. Nowadays, people tend to describe as shaheed or martyr a person who is killed for any cause. They describe such people in a variety of ways, saying he is a martyr of the fatherland, a martyr of independence, a martyr of revolution, and so on and so forth. In Islam, there is only one type of martyrs: those who lose their lives fighting for the cause of Allah. We have to read the word "fighting" here in its broadest sense. The term ghazi means a person who joins an expedition of jihad. It is more or less synonymous with mujahed but much less frequently used. Allah rewards very generously all those who join a campaign of jihad for His cause.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )