Jihad and its correct intepretation

Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. (Qur’an 5:32)

The word jihad is derived from the root juhdor jahd(jahada), which means to exert the most effort. The definition of jihad in the Quran is a general one; an individual can exert effort in a variety of areas, from work and study to striving towards the peace and security of the humankind.

Jihad is divided into two levels – Akbar (major level) andAsghar(minor level). The major level of jihad is jihad al-nafs or the internal struggle against one’s self and its lustful desires in order to seek self-improvement. The minor level of jihad is jihad al-qitalor armed struggle that is subjected to strict rules and regulations in the Islamic law.

The concept of jihad in Islam is widely misunderstood and has been manipulated to the extent that it is now often associated with terrorism and violence. The term ‘holy war’ has also become synonymous to jihad. This supposition originated as a propaganda among non-Muslims during the Salib War to invoke hatred against Islam, which was ignited again after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Terrorists often exploit the concept of jihad to justify their violent acts by subscribing to distorted interpretations of the Quran and the Hadith. The Quranic verses are often interpreted literally without making any considerations on the historical context in which it was revealed to Muslims (asbabunnuzul).

These individuals have misunderstood jihad fi sabilillah (for the sake of God) as an obligatory act for every Muslim (i.e. Fardu ‘Ain) when the Quran has stated that it is FarduKifayah, an obligation for only an individual or a group of individuals (9:122). Terrorists have also manipulated the concept of martyrdom or syahidin Islam by extending its meaning to include suicide bombers. In contrast, Islam forbids the act of committing suicide or any other forms of self-harm (6:151).

As mentioned, there are rules and regulations that govern jihadal-qital. Islam permits warfare only for defensive purposes and warns against the use of excessive violence, as stated in the following verses:

“And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits… But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (2:190-192)

One of the important conditions for engaging in warfare laid out by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is that women, children and the elderly should not be killed or harmed. Other conditions are as follows:

1. No personal interests or private gains should be the aim behind which jihad is being waged.
2. Fighting should be only against warriors, not defenseless civilians.
3. Captives should be kept alive and treated humanely.
4. Killing animals or destroying the environment is prohibited.
5. Religious freedom for clergy and worshippers must be preserved.
6. Killing and attacking people by surprise is prohibited.
7. Permission to enter a country is considered a non-verbal security agreement not to cause corruption in the host country.
8. The enemy must be from among those whom Muslims are permitted to fight (i.e. not those whom Muslims have a truce with).
9. It is impermissible to use human shields.

Jihad does not necessarily mean to wage a war. It is a very broad concept encompassing various aspects of an individual’s life. In Singapore’s context, Muslims should carry out jihad in the following areas:

1. Social – to overcome various social problems and challenges (e.g. high divorce rates, drug abuse)
2. Economy – to constantly improve themselves and learn new skills to stay relevant in the job market and keep up with the demands of their jobs
3. Education – to acquire knowledge in both religious and secular schools
4. Moral or akhlak– to protect one’s akhlakby being courteous and showing commendable traits


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