May 18, 2021


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What is the true meaning of jihad in ISLAM

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What is the true meaning of jihad in ISLAM
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It is an undisputable fact that jihad is an Islamic teaching that is explicitly mentioned in Quran,
Hadith, ijma’as well as various fiqh literature from classical time to the contemporary time. Jihad term often
used for things that are destructive by western scholars and society. For them, jihad is synonymous with
terrorism. The similarization of the word Jihad with the word terrorism in the Western perception is strongly
reinforced by a series of terror committed by Muslims in the name of jihad. These acts have been increasingly
affecting the interpretation of the word jihad in a negative way although in reality that is not the case in a
contemporary context. Jihad in contemporary understanding is not just a war against visible enemies but also a
war against the devil and carnality. Even a war against visible enemies that are written in classical fiqh books
has now replaced by a contemporary interpretation of jihad against the enemies, as was done by Dr. ZakirNaik

When the 9/11 attack hit the United States more than a decade ago, the term jihad became a trending
topic worldwide. The US and other Western countries in general claim that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack
were following the doctrine of Jihad in Islam in order to fight against America and its allies around the world.
Since that time the doctrine of jihad serves as a common enemy to be fought with terror by America and its
allies against some Islamic countries that are allegedly harboring terrorists. Nowadays, there are two poles of
thought that see jihad from two very different points of view. The first is the terrorists’ who interpret jihad
terminology textually without looking at the context so that the classic concept of jihad as interpreted by the
juries long time ago still used today. Secondly, the opinion of those who consider jihad as something that would
endanger human life and needs to be eradicated from the roots. With this opinion, Western oppressors tried to
eradicate Muslim countries in the name of terrorist control without no further detailed explanation sought.It is
Interesting to study deeper how the actual concept of jihad in the perspective of both classical and contemporary
Islamic fiqh interpretation. It is also interesting to explore some legal basis of the jihad concept emergence in


The concept of jihad can be viewed from linguistic and theological views. The meaning of the concept
of jihad in Islamic law is made based on the Koran and the hadith. Etymologically, the word jihad is derived
from the Arabic, the second form of isimmasdar of jaahada, yujaahidu, mujaahadatan and hihaadan which
means “Work wholeheartedly”. (Mansur, 1992: 9). Another meaning of the word jaahada is sincerity or great
effort. (Ghafur. 2005: 183). Al Munjid fi lughahwa al-‘Alam dictionary further mentioned the word jahadaaladuwwa, meaning qatalahumuhamatan ‘aniddin which means “Attacking the enemy in order to defend the
religion.” (Ma’luf, 1986: 106). According to Ibn ‘Arafah, al-jahd is interpreted as “to exert a full effort”, whereas
al-Juhd is interpreted as al-Mubalaghahwa al ghayah / redundant and aiming. (Romli and Sjadzili, 2004: 3).
Munawwir said, etymologically the word jihad derived from the word jahada, meaning power or
abilities, while the word jihad means struggle. (Munawwir, 1984: 234). Manzhur in Lisan al-Arab stated that
jihad is to fight the enemy, to devote all the ability and energy in the form of words, deeds or anything, someone
could. (Manzur, .: 198). IbnFaris in his book al-MaqayisMu’jam fi al-lughah, as quoted by QuraishShihab,
stated that all words consisting of letters jim, ha and dal initially imply difficulty, hardship or those with similar
meanings. (Shihab, 2005: 501). According to al-Raghib al-Ashfahani as quoted by Rohimin, the word al-jihad
and mujahadah mean devoting capability in facing the enemies. (Rohimin, 2006: 17).
In Arabic, the term jihad etymologically is “devoting all ability and efforts”. This is if the word jihad is
taken from the word al-juhdu, but if the word jihad comes from the basic word of al-jahdu, it means “doing the
job superfluously”. (Zuhaili, 2011: 25). These words, however, contain three derivatives whose meanings are

often separated and seemed to have no connection to each other. Those three words are jihad itself, mujahadah,
and ijtihad. (Ghafur, 2005: 183). Jihad misunderstood as “using the muscles earnestly”. So, it often defines as a
physical war. Mujahadah interpreted as “earnest in the soul”. This meaning is often used by the Sufis in the
processes they go through in their lives purifications while ijtihad defined as “earnestly maximizing the mind in
establishing a law”.Terminologically, there are many definitions of jihad that are different from each other,
sometimes. Sabiq said that jihad is making the fullest efforts, going to greatest lengths, and enduring all the
difficulties in the fight against the enemies to resist aggressions, which by definition is now known as al-harb
(war), which means an armed battle between two or more countries. (Sabiq, 1987: 50).
According to Shafi’iyah scholars, jihad is fighting the infidels for the purpose of glorifying Islam
(Zuhaili, 2011: 6). Muhammad Ismail in BungaRampaiPemikiran Islam (the Anthology of Islamic Thoughts)
mentioned that jihad is the effort to do all the ability to make war in Allah’s way, either by involving directly or
by assisting in the financial sector, expressing opinions (of jihad), or uplifting the spirits. According to him, the
understanding of jihad is closely related to terms of war or such affairs. (Ismail, 1998: 117).
Lexically, jihad means devoting the fullest efforts and ability to get through difficult and serious
problems. In this case, the jihad also means delivering the right advice before tyrants. (Nur, 2010: 27).
According to Zuhaili, the definition of jihad that is in line with the Shari’a law is devoting all the capabilities and
efforts to fight the infidels and to defend ourselves (against them), either with life, property or oral account.
(Zuhaili, 2011: 26).SeyyedHusen Nasr said that the basic meaning of jihad is the exertion of effort, and only a
small proportion of jihad refers to affairs of “war”. In this case, jihad means fighting in the way of Allah against
the forces of evil with life and property to triumph God’s way in the face of the earth and definitely not fighting
for worldly purposes. (Afahani, t. th .: 45-46). Yusuf Qardhawi divided jihad into three levels. First, jihad
against the visible enemies. Second, jihad against Satan’s temptation and third, jihad against worldly lust.
(Qaradawi, 2010: 3).According to Sutan, commands on jihad in the form of war is very limited. As in times of
peace, jihad means establishing, enforcing and composing. So jihad in times of peace is actually the great jihad
because this type of jihad is willed the strength of brain power, the sincerity of sacrifice of treasures and objects
in educating the community. (Mansur, 1982: 9).Because the meaning of jihad in Islam is very extensive and
monolithic, jihad can be interpreted as an attempt of improvement that is fully deployed by someone. Therefore,
inviting someone to the right path with a sincerity and gentleness is jihad. Making improvements in the areas of
education and culture is jihad. Doing the repair or improvement of the economic and social level is jihad. Doing
good deeds to parents, children, and wife is jihad. Giving attention to the social life of the community is jihad.
Inviting people to the righteousness and forbidding them from digressions is jihad. Treating the non-Muslims
who do not fight Muslims is jihad. Even doing good and behaving gently to the animals, plants and natural
things is jihad. (Arake, 2012: 191).According to Habib Rizieq, jihad in the sense of syar`i has a general and
specific meaning. The general meaning is to devote ability and sincerity in obedience to Allah. In this sense,
jihad has a broad and common scope encompassing worldly passions jihad, political jihad, verbal jihad,
worshipping jihad, knowledge jihad, propaganda jihad, and so forth. Specific Jihad is a holy war in the way of
Allah, as referred to in the Koran verses that talk about jihad. As for the notion of shar’i (Shari’a), jurists define
jihad as an effort to mobilize all forces in the war of fi sabilillah, either directly or by providing financial
assistance, opinions, or logistics propagations, and other means (to win the battle). Therefore, the war in order to
elevate the word of Allah is called jihad. (Saidurrahman, 2012: 57).
Hasan al-Bana, as quoted by Muhammad Chirzin, said that jihad is a Muslim obligation that continues
until the end of time. The lowest level of jihad is the rejection of hearts on vices or digression and the highest
level of jihad is the fighting in the way of Allah. Between them is a struggle with oral means, pen, and hands in
the form of a statement of truth before a despotic ruler. (Chirzin, 1997: 12).
AzyumardiAzra gives the sense that jihad means a willingness to exert oneself earnestly. In English, it is
referred to as “to exert oneself” which means making great efforts to achieve objectives that are consistent with
the religious teachings, such as building a prosperity for mankind. Furthermore, Azra said that Jihad can be
made in any way such as studying overseas or inside the country earnestly. People who seek knowledge are
called those who strive in the path of Allah, jihad fi sabilillah. (Azra, 2000: 14).
Jihad is a unique, thorough activity, and cannot be equated with other religious activities. There is no
religious practice performed without the component of jihad. At the very least, jihad is required to inhibit the
worldly temptations and passions that always invite humans to the perfidy and neglect of religious persecution.
The interpretation of jihad is often understood simply as a physical struggle / war. However, Based on the hadith
of the Prophet when returning from the battle of Uhud, although physical warfare is also a form of jihad, but it is
just a small part of the jihad itself. In addition, the meaning of jihad that is no less important is the jihad against
the devil, and the jihad against the worldly passions for they are enemies of every human soul. (Shihab, 2001:
501-502, 506).


In Islam, jihad is the top of religious teachings or fences that keep the fundamentals of religion, and
also the protector of the Islamic nations and Muslims. Jihad is one of the most important basic teachings of
Islam because jihad is a medium to achieve greatness, glory, and sovereignty. On that basis, jihad is compulsory
and enforced until the Day of Judgment. Every nation that leaves the obligation of jihad would be insulted, and
attacked by the enemies, their dignity would be humiliated by Allah and they will be controlled by despised and
immoral people (Zuhaili, 2011: 26).Jihad is a rule that must be followed by Muslims. This is confirmed in alQur`an that specifically mentioned jihad as much as forty-one times in various tenses, (Ja’far, 2004: 311); 8
times in the Meccansurahs and 33 times in the Madaniyahsurahs (Baqi, t.tth. : 183) with the intention that jihad
is a basic concept for Muslims in running their lives. As regards to the talks about the conception of jihad and an
explanation of the substance of jihad as a religious teaching,it is written in 3 verses of 3 Meccansurahs and 24
verses in 13 Madaniyyahsurahs. The rest only used in other contexts that do not relate to the substance of jihad
as Islam haq. However, systematically it is still used in the sense of jihad according to the etymological meaning
which is “the earnestness in achieving the goals”. (Rohimin, 2006: 16).
Based on the period of revelation, the term jihad rooted in the Qur’an are more revealed in Medina
period than Mecca period. This fact suggests that in the Mecca period, the teaching of jihad has not been much
responded by the Koran. Even at eight times of mentions, only four verses talk about jihad doctrine, the rest is
used in other contexts. (Rohimin, 2006: 17) The amount of the mentions of the term jihad in the Medina period
shows that the teaching of jihad in the Koran just got full responses after the Muslims were in a period of
Medina, where the period is in accordance with the conditions of stronger and independent Muslims.
According to Muhammad Solikin, the word jihad with various modifications is mentioned 41 times in
the Qur’an. Of the 41 times mentions, Solikin divided them into two groups. First, the mentioning of the level of
words, contained in 5 verses, coupled with 1 verse with prefix and suffix. Those six verses refer to the jihad
meanings: “The earnest attitude of living together with other believers” (QS. Al-Maidah verse 53), “sincerity in
swearing by Allah” (QS. Al-An’am verse 109 and an-Nahl verse 38), “strengthening the oath to obey the
Messenger” (QS. Al-Fatir verse 42), “the ability to do good individually” (QS. Al-Tawbah verse 79), “vow to
fight the war, in certain circumstances “(QS. An-Nur verse 53). Of those five components, we can conclude that
jihad is “earnestly implement the faith and obedience to Allah and His Messenger”. (Sholikhin, 2009: 93).
Secondly, the mention of jihad with various forms of word, containing 9 meanings which are; courage
and patience to face the test of Allah (QS. Ali Imran verse 142, and Muhammad verse 31), defending the
prophet argumentatively from wrong public opinions (QS. Al-Mumtahanah 1), fighting for religion optimally
with wealth and lives as evidence of faith (QS. Al-Nisa ‘verse 95, Al-Tawbah verse 41, 44, 81, 86, 88. Al-Shaff
verse 11 and Al-Hujurat verse 15), earnestly seeking the blessings of Allah (QS. Al-Tawbah verse 16. AlAnkabut verse 6 and 69), soothing yourself to the law based on the Koran (Qur’an, Al-Furqan verse 52), living
in the path of Allah (QS. Al-Nisa ‘verse 35, 54. Al-Tauba verse 19, 24 and al-Hajj verse 78), stabilization of the
heart in tawhid as the process of hijra (QS. Al-Baqarah verse 218. Al-Anfal verse 72, 74, 75. Al-Tauba 20 and
Al-Nahl verse 110), fighting against the disbelievers, polytheists, and hypocrites who openly fought the
Muslims (QS. Al-Tawbah verse 73. Al-Tahrim verse 9) and lastly, going against other parties who coercively
conduct coercion to associate Allah (QS. Al-Ankabut verse 8 and Lukman verse 15). (Sholikhin, 2009: 94-95).
Then, there is a big question coming; where exactly the fundamentalists (the term used by western
scholars for extreme Muslims who hate the West) get the argument about the war as part of jihad? The text of
verses of the Koran which talk about the theme of jihad, a religious war, shirk combat and law enforcement has
always become a major theme for this fundamentalist groups. The Slogan “back to the Qur’an and Sunnah” and
the shouts of “Allahu Akbar” always echoed in every movement and the mass demonstrations they title. Some
verses about jihad and the war theme can be found in Allah’s word in QS. Al-Baqarah [2]: 190, which means:
“Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors”.
This is the first verse revealed about war. According to al-Rabi ‘and Anasr.a. (Al-Tabari, 2000: 561),
this verse, which comes from the Medina period, is also the first war verses that will be found when opening the
holy book of the Koran from the front. The verse text is clearly the command of Allah S.W.T. to fight the
unbelievers who deliberately been doing evictions and fighting the believers. According to QuraishShihab, verse
190 of surah Al-Baqarah speaks about the time when it is permissible for Muslims to start the war. It can begin
when and enemy/enemies attack. (Shihab, 2007: 126).
Many interpretations explaining the war verses like the one above is the response of the Muslims and their
reactions to the arbitrary actions committed by the infidels. All historians agree that in the life of the Prophet
Muhammad in Makkah, war was forbidden, and it is mirrored by many verses of the Koran from that period,
which did not even talk about the war but rather emphasized a gentle approach. (Asa, 2000: 119). As the word
of Allah S.W.T. in QS: Fushilat (41): 34, which means:
“And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better, and thereupon the one
whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend”.

The majority of Muslims consider jihad as fardkifayah which is based on the proposition of the Qur’an
and the hadiths of the Prophet. (Ismail, 1998: 111). The verses of the Qur’an that mention the importance of
jihad among others, can be found in Al-Baqarah (2) verse 218, which means:
“Indeed, those who have believed and those who have emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah – those expect
the mercy of Allah. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful”.
The verse above tells us that the true believers who remained in the faith and joined the prophet
together in such emigration or joined the prophet in jihad to defend Islam, raised Kalimatullah, and fought the
infidels with a vengeance, are worth expecting the grace and pleasure of Allah. (Maraghi, 1984: 257).
SuratAl-Baqarah (2) verse 244 states:
“And fight in the cause of Allah and know that Allah is Hearing and Knowing”.
Fighting fi sabilillah means fighting with the intention of elevating Kalimatullah, securing the
preaching of Islam. The purpose is to make sure that its adherents are not disturbed and prevented from religion
or religious instructions. In addition, the aim is also to defend the country from enemies’ attacks that wanted to
colonize the wealth and the independence. (Maraghi, 1984: 389).
It is undeniable that the “extreme” textual understanding of jihad nowadays is strongly influenced by
the ideas of classical scholars, especially the classical interpreters, for example, the classic interpretation of
Zamakhsyari. Nasikh-mansukh theory said that wars of the Prophet Muhammad’s were wars against all infidels:
“Because they are all against the Muslim community and intend to fight. So they are in a legal battle, whether
they fight or not. “(Zamakhsyari, 2012: 231).
One of the most important thing to note is the number of erroneous interpretations of the Qur’anic
verses themed jihad or war in Islam though the term jihad and war are two different words with two different
HamkaHaq said that there are verses that explicitly refer to a physical war with “qitaal”, not “jihad”,
(Haq 2009: 202) as in verse of Al-Baqarah [2]: 190, which means:
“Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors”.
Most scholars state that since the revelation of the verse above, for the first time the war is allowed by
sharia law, because previously war is agreed to be an abomination in Islam (Qurtuby, 1372 H: 347) Thus, the
Prophet was given permission to defend the people who fight against the Muslims ever since, but they should
stop the war against those who were willing to live in peace. (Kathir, 1401: 227).
Thus, physical battles called al-qital can only be justified if it aims to defend and protect the safety and
lives of many people. Usually, such war was forced to be taken as a last resort when people run into incredible
chaos (fitna) that already threatens the security and peace so that God commanded to dampen the threat. (Haq
2009: 203). Others say the war al-qital is also part of jihad.
In Qital Jihad (war), there is the system adopted namely defensive and offensive jihad. Defensive jihad
is done when the Muslims or their countries are attacked by infidels’ people or countries such as Afghanistan
and Iraq that are occupied by the United States until now and Palestine that is occupied by Israel. Offensive
jihad is done through war. This is done when the Jihad Islamic propaganda carried out by the Islamic state are
blocked by the infidels with their physical power. Da’wah(speech) is a non-physical act which should not be
confronted with physical force. However, if that happens, Muslims are required to protect the da’wah and
eliminate physical obstacles blocking it. (Iskandar, 2006: 32).
According to Abdurrahman Wahid, there are several kinds of jihad, namely:
a. Jihad in the sense of war (qital) that if we only fight in the way of Allah or we are attacked and fight
otherwise if no war was eliminated
b. Jihad means to uphold the oneness of Allah, tawhid or anthologies,how Almighty God can be proven
c. Jihad must be able to prevent damage to those who have been protected by religion. (Wahid, 1982: 48).
While the hadiths that referenced the importance of jihad in Islam can be seen in the hadith narrated by
Abu Hurairah whose validity agreed upon by al-Bukhari and Muslim as follows: Messenger of Allah asked,”
what is the most important deed? “He replied:” Faith in Allah and His Messenger “. Then, he was asked again,
“Then what else?” The Prophet replied, “Jihad in the way of God” (H.R. Al-Bukhari and Muslim). (Bukhari, t.
th.: 243).
Then the hadith narrated by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri whose validity is agreed upon by Bukhari and
Muslim: “A man came to the Prophet. and said, “who is the best man? ‘Messenger of Allah said,” A believer
who strive with their wealth and soul in the way of Allah “. The man asked again, “Then who else?” The
Prophet replied, “A believer in Syi’ab (road in the hills; a kind of refugee camp), worshipping Allah and leaving
the man from their crimes” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim from Abu Sa’id al-Khudri). (Bukhari,


[1] Abdurrahman Wahid, 1982, MenelanCakrawala, Shalahuddin Press, Yogyakarta.
[2] Ahmad WarsonMunawwir, 1984, Kamus Arab-Indonesia, Yogyakarta, Al-Munawwir.
[3] Al-Tabari, 2000, Jami’ al-Bayan fi Ta’wil al-Qur’an, Jilid III, Muassasah al-Risalah, Beirut, Cet. ke-2.
[4] AlwiShihab, 1999, Islam Inklusif: MenujuSikapTrebukadalamBeragama, Mizan, Bandung.
[5] Asfahani, Raghib al-,, al-Mufradat li Gharib al-Qur’an, Daar al-‘Ilmiyah, Beirut.
[6] AzyumardiAzra, 2000, Islam Substantif: Agar UmatTidakJadiBuih, Mizan, Bandung,.
[7] Bana, Gama al-, 2006, al-Jihad, penterjemah Tim Mata Air Publishing, Mata Air Publishing, Jakarta,
[8] Baqi, Muhammad Fuad ‘Abdul,, al-Mu’jam al-Mufahras li al-Faz al-Qur’an al-Karim, Dar Ihya alTuras al-‘Arab, Beirut.
[9] Bukhari, Muhammad bin Ismail al-,,Shahih al-Bukhari, Juz. II, Dar al-Ihya al-Kitab al-‘Arabiyah,
[10] Esposito, John L., 2010, MasaDepan Islam AntaraTantanganKemajem

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