Jihad means to struggle or strive, sometimes with weapons (lesser jihad), other times with inner force against vices in the soul (greater jihad).
Starting off, this post has a companion post:
Now let’s get to the study of jihad.
Qital has a much narrower definition: it means only warring, fighting, and killing–all with weapons in armed conflict.
As for this present post, if you would like to see a commentary on the verses, go the the one by Maududi (d. 1979), titled English Tafsir (Commentary). The linked verses in this post are now dead. Just click on English Tafsir.
This post is divided into two parts:
Meccan Chapters (verses “revealed” in the city of Mecca)
Medinan Chapters (verses “revealed” in the city of Medina)
When Muhammad lived in Mecca, his hometown, he didn’t have any military, not even raiders. So the verses are peaceful or non-militaristic from his practical point of view.
And they swear their strongest oaths by Allah, that if there came to them a sign, they would surely believe therein. Say: “Signs are but with Allah and what will make you (Muslims) perceive that (even) if it (the sign) came, they will not believe?”
And they swear by Allah their strongest oaths, that Allah will not raise up him who dies. Yes, (He will raise them up), a promise (binding) upon Him in truth, but most of mankind know not.
Note: this one verse may be Medinan:
Then, verily! Your Lord for those who emigrated after they had been put to trials and thereafter strove hard and fought (for the Cause of Allah) and were patient, verily, your Lord afterward is, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Note: chapter 22 may be part Meccan, part Medinan
And strive hard in Allah’s Cause as you ought to strive (with sincerity and with all your efforts that His Name should be superior). He has chosen you (to convey His Message of Islamic Monotheism to mankind by inviting them to His religion, Islam), and has not laid upon you in religion any hardship, it is the religion of your father Ibrahim (Abraham) (Islamic Monotheism). It is He (Allah) Who has named you Muslims both before and in this (the Qur’an), that the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) may be a witness over you and you be witnesses over mankind! So perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), give Zakat and hold fast to Allah [i.e. have confidence in Allah, and depend upon Him in all your affairs] He is your Maula (Patron, Lord, etc.), what an Excellent Maula (Patron, Lord, etc.) and what an Excellent Helper!
So obey not the disbelievers, but strive against them (by preaching) with the utmost endeavour, with it (the Qur’an).
And whosoever strives, he strives only for himself. Verily, Allah is free of all wants from the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinns, and all that exists).
And We have enjoined on man to be good and dutiful to his parents, but if they strive to make you join with Me (in worship) anything (as a partner) of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not. Unto Me is your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do.
But if they (both) strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and in obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do.
And they swore by Allah their most binding oath, that if a warner came to them, they would be more guided than any of the nations (before them), yet when a warner (Muhammad SAW) came to them, it increased in them nothing but flight (from the truth)
After Muhammad migrated to this city in 622, he developed a military, beginning with a band of raiders and and growing them to a large army, in a mere eight years.
Here he discusses battles, notably two: the Battle of Badr (in 624) and the Battle of Uhud (in 625). He won the first, but lost the second, though the loss was insignificant. He still preaches fighting and possibly dying the the way or cause of Allah. In other word,s it’s a call or encouragement to jihad or qital.
Do you think that you will enter the garden while Allah has not yet known those who strive hard from among you, and (He has not) known the patient.
Here Muhammad is consolidating his Muslim community, by laying down the law. And sometimes he commands them to strive in the way or cause of Allah.
Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame, etc.), and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home). Unto each, Allah has promised good (Paradise), but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home) by a huge reward….
This chapter come somewhere in the middle of Muhammad’s career in Medina, probably after the Treaty of Hudaibiyah in 628 that allowed him to go on a pilgrimage to the pagan shrine in Mecca the following year. Islam is developing a military and a state.
O you who believe! Do your duty to Allah and fear Him. Seek the means of approach to Him, and strive hard in His Cause as much as you can. So that you may be successful.
And those who believe will say: “Are these the men (hypocrites) who swore their strongest oaths by Allah that they were with you (Muslims)?” All that they did has been in vain (because of their hypocrisy), and they have become the losers.
O you who believe! whoever from among you turns back from his religion, then Allah will bring a people, He shall love them and they shall love Him, lowly before the believers, mighty against the unbelievers, they shall strive hard in Allah’s way and shall not fear the censure of any censurer; this is Allah’s Face, He gives it to whom He pleases, and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing.
This chapter refers only to the Battle of Badr, in 624, which the Muslims won, even though they were outnumbered.
Surely those who believed and fled (their homes) and struggled hard in Allah’s way with their property and their souls, and those who gave shelter and helped — these are guardians of each other; and (as for) those who believed and did not fly, not yours is their guardianship until they fly; and if they seek aid from you in the matter of religion, aid is incumbent on you except against a people between whom and you there is a treaty, and Allah sees what you do.
And (as for) those who believed and fled and struggled hard in Allah’s way, and those who gave shelter and helped, these are the believers truly; they shall have forgiveness and honorable provision.
And those who believed afterwards, and emigrated and strove hard along with you, (in the Cause of Allah) they are of you. But kindred by blood are nearer to one another regarding inheritance in the decree ordained by Allah. Verily, Allah is the All-Knower of everything.
Here is the last chapter to be revealed. It has the sharpest and strongest verses on jihad and qital. Muhammad is powerful militarily. In early 630 he conquered Mecca, and in late 630 he even led 20,000 jihadists or qitalists north to Tabuk because he had heard that the Byzantines were going to attack. The rumor was wrong.
What! do you think that you will be left alone while Allah has not yet known those of you who have struggled hard and have not taken any one as an adherent besides Allah and His Apostle and the believers; and Allah is aware of what you do.
What! do you make (one who undertakes) the giving of drink to the pilgrims and the guarding of the Sacred Mosque like him who believes in Allah and the latter day and strives hard in Allah’s way? They are not equal with Allah; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.
Those who believed and fled (their homes), and strove hard in Allah’s way with their property and their souls, are much higher in rank with Allah; and those are they who are the achievers (of their objects).
Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight … are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His Cause then wait until Allah brings about His Decision (torment). And Allah guides not the people who are Al-Fasiqun (the rebellious, disobedient to Allah).
March forth, whether you are light (being healthy, young and wealthy) or heavy (being ill, old and poor), strive hard with your wealth and your lives in the Cause of Allah. This is better for you, if you but knew.
They do not ask leave of you who believe in Allah and the latter day (to stay away) from striving hard with their property and their persons, and Allah knows those who guard (against evil).
O Prophet (Muhammad SAW)! Strive hard against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be harsh against them, their abode is Hell, – and worst indeed is that destination.
Those who point at such of the believers as give the alms willingly and such as can find naught to give but their endeavours, and deride them – Allah (Himself) derideth them. Theirs will be a painful doom.
Those who stayed away (from Tabuk expedition) rejoiced in their staying behind the Messenger of Allah; they hated to strive and fight with their properties and their lives in the Cause of Allah, and they said: “March not forth in the heat.” Say: “The Fire of Hell is more intense in heat”, if only they could understand!
And when a Surah (chapter from the Qur’an) is revealed, enjoining them to believe in Allah and to strive hard and fight along with His Messenger, the wealthy among them ask your leave to exempt them (from Jihad) and say, “Leave us (behind), we would be with those who sit (at home).”
But the messenger and those who believe with him strive with their wealth and their lives. Such are they for whom are the good things. Such are they who are the successful.
This was “revealed” in about 626-637, when slander emerged about Muhammad’s marriage of his adopted son’s ex-wife. A second slander happened when a tribe accused Muhammad’s girl-bride with associating too closely with a young man. Whatever the case, Muhammad is laying down the law.
And they swear by Allah with the most energetic of their oaths that if you command them they would certainly go forth. Say: Swear not; reasonable obedience (is desired); surely Allah is aware of what you do.
This chapter can be titled either Muhammad or Qital (War). Appropriate.
And We shall try you until We test those among you who strive their utmost and persevere in patience; and We shall try your reported (mettle).
This chapter was written late in Muhammad’s life, when he is still consolidating his community and laying down the law.
Only those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives for the Cause of Allah. Those! They are the truthful.
This chapter covers the years between the Treaty of Hudaibiyah in 628 and the Conquest of Mecca in early 630.
O you who believe! do not take My enemy and your enemy for friends: would you offer them love while they deny what has come to you of the truth, driving out the Apostle and yourselves because you believe in Allah, your Lord? If you go forth struggling hard in My path and seeking My pleasure, would you manifest love to them? And I know what you conceal and what you manifest; and whoever of you does this, he indeed has gone astray from the straight path.
It’s not clear when it was written, but perhaps after the Battle of Uhud in 625, which Muslims lost, but the loss was insignificant in the bigger picture of the growth of Islam.
You shall believe in Allah and His Apostle, and struggle hard in Allah’s way with your property and your lives; that is better for you, did you but know!
1 Introduction to the Sword in Early Christianity and Islam (begin a twelve-part series)