Fiqh of Jihad: Book Review of Shaykh al-Islam al-Qaradawi’s Masterpiece on Jihad

by Dr. Rashid al-Ghannushi

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Beneficent

The importance of this conference is due to its focus on the most critical concept in contemporary Islamic thought- that of Jihad, which occupies an important position in the edifice of Islam. Jihad is “the summit of Islam and its pinnacle” according to the hadith, and is the subject of widely divergent views and stances from within and outside Islam, views which have serious consequences for international relations, in view of Islam’s growing role internationally.


Those views, moreover, have an effect on relations between Muslims themselves, with their governments, and with non-Muslims, in view of the awakening witnessed across the Muslim world, both at the level of faith and the level of practice. This has led to a greater connection between Islam as a religion (creed, rituals, morals) and an ideology of great influence on the thought and behaviour of Muslims, socially and politically, or what is known as “political Islam”, in which jihad occupies a central position in one way or another.

This paper owes its importance to the position of the figure whose views on this crucial concept it attempts to present – that is Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who occupies an important position in contemporary Islam, as testified by his role at various levels: at the intellectual level, his writings have exceeded 150 works, covering all aspects of Islamic thought. In addition to his membership of the major intellectual and juristic councils, he was elected President of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, as well as being the chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research and a number of charity organisations, and a member of various Islamic Studies academic committees, including the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. As for “political Islam”, he grew up inside one of its groups, the “Muslim Brotherhood”, occupying leading positions within it. He is also a rising star in the world of modern media, through his patronage of the most important Muslim website Islam-online, and through his famous weekly program on Aljazeera channel “Shar`iah and Life” which is followed weekly by over 60 million viewers.

Al-Qaradawi has developed a principal theory in contemporary Islam, from which all his views and stances emanate, and to which he tirelessly calls, widening its appeal and marginalizing its opponents – that is the principle of Islamic Wasatiyya or moderation. This was inspired by the verse in the second chapter of the Quran, “And thus we made you into a middle (wasat) nation.” Thus, he presents Islam as the middle position between opposing and conflicting rigid positions; as the middle ground that brings all together, – a middle position between materialism and spiritualism, between individualism and collectivism, between idealism and realism, etc. Starting from this wasati viewpoint, he presents all his ijtihads in all aspects of Islamic thought, including his ijtihad on the question of jihad, as revealed in his latest book “The Fiqh of Jihad: a comparative study of its rulings and philosophy in light of the Quran and Sunnah”. This study was described by its author as one which “took several years of continuous work, and occupied his thought for decades”. The fruits of this work are presented in a momentous book of two volumes, in which he puts forward, from the wasati perspective, his views on this critical issue, elaborating his theory on jihad, which he hopes will contribute towards forming consensus on this grave matter.  The book springs from the conviction that “it is dangerous and wrong to misunderstand jihad, to shed inviolate blood in its name, to violate property and lives and to taint Muslims and Islam with violence and terrorism, while Islam is completely innocent of such an accusation. However, our problem in such grave matters is that the truth gets lost between the two extremes of exaggeration and laxity.”

Our exposition of this momentous work will focus on clarifying the general view of jihad in Islam according to Shaykh Qaradawi based on the Quran and the Sunnah and their interaction with the tafsir and fiqh heritage as seen in the historical contexts in which it emerged, and through the current state of the Muslim ummah as it is engaged in major conflicts with the forces of despotism or with external forces, under the current power balances, a modern culture that glorifies the value of freedom, and an international law that recognises state sovereignty and limits legitimate war to self-defence. Within these contexts, Al-Qaradawi’s view of jihad was formed. What we wish to explore is not its details, but the general picture – what is novel in it, particularly in relation to major questions, such as jihad’s relation to freedom, and to relations between Muslims and others, whether it is inside or outside Muslim societies. So, what are the foundations of this methodology? What is jihad? What are its forms? What are its goals? Defensive or offensive? Between Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Kufr? What are the rulings regarding captives in Islam? Is there jihad within the ummah? Where is jihad in the ummah’s current causes?

1. Issues of methodology:

In the introduction, the author defined the foundations for his study thus:

a. Relying on the Quran as the absolutely authentic text which serves as the criterion for other sources including the Prophetic Sunnah. It is to be understood using the logic of its original language, Arabic, without forcing meaning onto the text, and on the basis that all its verses were revealed to be applied, “thus we questioned at length the claim of those who say that there is a verse in the Quran, which they called Ayat al-Sayf (the verse of the sword), which has allegedly abrogated one hundred and forty verses or more, although they differed over which verse that is”. The author almost entirely invalidates the principle of abrogation in the Quran, depriving the extremists of a sharp weapon with which they have disabled hundreds of verses promoting kindness, forgiveness, dealing with non-Muslims with wisdom and beautiful preaching and distinguishing between a hostile unjust minority amongst non-Muslims with which defensive jihad can be used, and a peaceful majority towards which justice and kindness are due.

b. Relying on authentic Sunnah which does not contradict stronger evidence, such as the Quran. Thus the author judges as weak sayings such as “I was sent with the sword” and others, using the tools of the science of Hadith. He also interprets an authentic hadith which commands fighting against people until they say “there is no God but Allah”, by taking the generic word “people” as being used to mean a specific group, that is the hostile Arab polytheists.

c. Benefiting from the rich heritage of fiqh, without bias towards a particular school, and without restricting oneself to the well-known schools, basing himself on the methods of comparative law, analysis, critique and selecting the most suitable opinion. He distinguishes between Fiqh and Shariah: the latter being of divine origin, and the former the product of intellectual effort to deduce the rulings of Shariah. True fiqh is not what is copied from books, but rather the jurist’s own ijtihad (intellectual exertion) to produce something suitable for his specific time and place, particularly as in our time, major changes have taken place.

d. Using the method of comparison between Islam and other religions and legal systems.

e. Relating fiqh to the current reality: The Muslim faqih (jurist) when speaking about jihad must realise the fixed principles in this matter, such as the law of tadaafu` (mutual checking), the obligation to prepare all possible sources of power to ward off the enemies, and to fight against those who initiate fighting against the Muslims, the prohibition of transgression, etc. There are, however, other matters that have emerged (considered mutaghayyirat, or changing factors), such as condemnation of war, seeking peace, and the emergence of international law, human rights conventions, the United Nations, and the sovereignty of states. In this respect, the author affirms that “we can live, under Islam, in a world that promotes peace and security rather than fear, tolerance rather than fundamentalism, love rather than hatred. We can live with the United Nations, international law, human rights conventions and environmentalist groups. In truth, our main problem with our rigid brothers who have closed all doors and insisted on a single viewpoint is that they live in the past and not the present, in books rather than reality”.

f. Adopting the methodology of wasatiyya (moderation) in da’wah (preaching), teaching, ifta’ (issuing legal edicts), research, reform and revival. Among the principles of this methodology in fiqh is to revive religion from within, through new ijtihads for our time, just as our previous scholars did for their time, through understanding secondary texts in the light of primary objectives, being firm when it comes to usool (fundamentals) and flexible in furu` (secondary matters), seeking wisdom whatever its source, and balancing between contemporary changes and Shariah fundamentals.

g. While studying “Fiqh al-Jihad”, one can easily perceive its author’s care not to present himself as the sole proponent of the above views amongst jurists. Instead he is very keen to refer to supporting views amongst old and contemporary scholars, even if such views were neglected or ignored, removing the dust that had collected and shedding light on them, presenting them in a more attractive appearance, and thus giving them new life. He is also careful to support his views with relevant values and expertise from modern culture, benefiting from his profound knowledge of the sources of Islamic culture and his familiarity with modern culture. Thus he constructs a new, coherent, well-rooted yet contemporary view of Islamic jihad, one which shares a wide common space with contemporary culture in relation to war and peace. What is new in this view is not the details, for its parts are scattered and buried deep inside books, but rather the whole picture, making this work a meeting point and a point of consensus, wherein all – or most – parties can find something familiar that facilitates their acceptance of what is unfamiliar. This ability to build consensus is a traditional characteristic of the great scholars. Thus the author does not exaggerate when describing the dire need among jurists, lawyers, Islamists, historians, Orientalists, diplomats, politicians, military men, and the educated masses for such a study.

2. The essence of jihad and its forms:

No Islamic concept has been the target of a continuous flow of attacks, and has brought a constant flow of attacks to Islam and Muslims, as much as that of jihad. It has fallen into the two extremes of exaggeration and laxity. The latter is promoted by a group that wants to abolish jihad from the life of the ummah, spreading the spirit of submission and surrender, under the guise of various calls such as tolerance and peace, described by the author as “agents of colonialism whose hostility to jihad is such that it has gone as far as creating groups which fabricated an Islam without jihad, and devoted themselves to promoting it, such as Bahais and Qadianis… At the other extreme, there is another group that makes of the concept of jihad a raging war it wages against the whole world, taking the natural state of things in relation to non-Muslims to be that of war, and regarding all people as enemies of Muslims, as long as they are not Muslim”. This latter group may agree with those Orientalists who define jihad, as in the encyclopaedia of Islam as “spreading Islam by the sword, an individual duty upon all Muslims, such that it is almost a sixth pillar of Islam” (Encyclopaedia of Islam, Arabic Translation, p. 2778).

The author tackles this extremism on both sides, through the linguistic analysis of the word jihad, which essentially means exerting oneself, making an effort, and through its occurrence in the Quran and Sunnah and its use by Muslim jurists. He concludes that there is a clear distinction between jihad and qital (fighting), as the command to engage in jihad was revealed in Mecca where there was no fighting, but rather jihad of da’wah (preaching) through the Quran, “And strive against them with the utmost endeavour with it (the Quran)” (p. 50-52). The word is also used in the Quran and Sunnah with various meanings, including exerting oneself in resisting the enemy, resisting the devil, resisting one’s desires, etc. Thus the word jihad is much wider than just fighting, for jihad, as the author quotes from Ibn Taymiyya, “can be with the heart, by calling to Islam, by countering invalid arguments, by advising or facilitating what is beneficial to Muslims, or by one’s body, that is fighting”.

The author further seeks support from a fourteenth century scholar, the eminent Ibn al-Qayyim, student of Ibn Taymiyya, in order to clarify the vast scope of jihad, which makes every Muslim a mujahid – but not a muqatil (fighter) by necessity. Ibn al-Qayyim concluded from his study of the process of Islamic da’wah that there are 13 levels of jihad: first, jihad al-nafs (jihad of the self) which comprises 4 levels, exerting oneself to learn the guidance, to act upon it, to call to it, and to persevere on those actions; second, jihad against shaytan, which includes 2 levels, struggling against the doubts in one’s faith which Satan instigates, and resisting the desires and corruption to which he calls; third, jihad against the non-believers and hypocrites, including 4 levels: with one’s heart, tongue, wealth, and self; and fourth, jihad against the oppressors and the corrupt, comprising 3 levels: with one’s hand if possible, if not then with one’s tongue, if not then with one’s heart. The author differs in regarding jihad against oppression and corruption as preceding jihad against disbelief and external transgression, while stressing that peaceful confrontation is to be adopted against oppressors “profiting from the reasonable forms which others have developed in confronting unjust rulers, such as elected parliaments, parties, and the separation of powers” (p. 198).

The author also stresses the importance of intellectual and cultural jihad “through the establishment of specialist Islamic academic centres, catering for exceptional youth – academically and morally – in order to prepare them academically and intellectually in a methodology that unites our heritage and modern culture… We do not call for isolation from the rest of the world, but rather to cultural and civilisational interaction. We choose what to take or leave based on our own philosophy and criteria, just as they had borrowed from us in the past concepts and inventions which they then developed and used to build their civilization. What we take will be imbued with our own spirit, character and moral heritage such that it becomes a part of our intellectual and moral system, losing its original character” (p. 190-192).

The author concludes in his study of the fiqh of jihad in Islam that there are two types of jihad: civil and military – meaning fighting against enemies who attack Muslims, which necessitates preparing for it when there is a need; this type is a matter for states. Spiritual civil jihad “encompasses the academic, scientific, cultural, social, economic, educational, health, medical, environmental and civilisational fields. The objective of this civil jihad is to exert oneself for Allah’s sake in order to educate the ignorant, employ the unemployed, train workers, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, treat the ill, achieve self-sufficiency for the needy, build schools for pupils, universities for students, mosques for worshippers, clubs for sports lovers to practice their hobbies” (p. 215).

3. Objectives of jihad

Islam is a call to peace; it abhors war, but cannot prevent it, hence it prepares for it, but does not wage it unless it is forced upon it, which is due to Islam’s realistic nature and its recognition of sunnat al-tadafu`, the law of mutual checking. However it has sought to limit its consequences by surrounding it with rules and ethics. Islam has not been the exception in recognising war of necessity amongst other religions, including Christianity, whose followers have been among the most frequent participants in conflicts and wars, both against other Christians and against others. Luke’s Gospel reads “I have come to bring fire on the earth… Do you think I came to bring peace on earth?”. The Old Testament contains numerous calls to genocide, against 7 nations that inhabited Palestine that had to be completely eradicated- such that the modern calls to “transfer” and massacres committed by modern Zionist gangs are but miniature versions.

Jihad in Islam has specific objectives which Al-Qaradawi summarises as repelling transgression; preventing fitna- that is guaranteeing freedom of faith for Muslims and others; saving the oppressed; punishing those who break treaties, and enforcing internal peace within the ummah. Thus, expansion and appropriation are not amongst the objectives of jihad, nor is the eradication of disbelief from this world, for that is against God’s law of difference and mutual checking. Nor do the objectives of jihad include imposing Islam on those who do not believe in it, for that contravenes God’s law of diversity and pluralism (pp. 423).

4. Military Jihad: Between Daf’ and Talab (Defensive and Offensive Jihad)

Following the tradition of classical and contemporary jurists, Al-Qaradawi questions the nature of jihad and its status in Islam: Is it of a religious nature, meaning it is obligatory upon Muslims to fight non-believers until they embrace Islam or submit to its authority, which they call jihad al-talab, that is voluntary offensive jihad? Or is it of a political nature, necessitated by the need to defend the lands of Islam against transgressors and to defend Muslims against those who prevent them from freedom of faith, and the oppressed generally- which they have termed jihad al-daf`, that is necessary defensive jihad, which, if Muslims must engage it, should be engaged in with pure intentions, for God’s sake, and following strict ethical guidelines which cannot be neglected.

Classically, and in the modern era, jurists have been divided between two groups, which al-Qaradwi calls the hujumiyyin (proponents of offensive jihad) and difa`iyyin (proponents of defensive jihad), proclaiming his proud adherence to the second group. The hujumiyyin consider it an obligation for the Muslim nation to attack the land of the non-believers at least once a year in order to call to Islam and expand its territories. They hold disbelief per se as a sufficient reason to initiate war and legitimate killing, even if non-believers do not attack or harm Muslims, to the extent that Muslims would be sinful if they do not do so. The proponents of this view, a large number of jurists, most prominent of which among classical scholars is Imam al-Shafi`i, and among contemporary thinkers are Sayyid Qutb and al-Mawdudi, support their view with evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah, and from historical practice. The Quranic texts used call for fighting against all polytheists, such as verse 36 of surat al-Tawba “and fight the polytheists all together as they fight you all together”, verse 5 “Kill the idolaters wherever you find them”, and verse 29 “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day… until they pay the Jizya with willing submission”. They differed as to which of those verses is the one they called Ayat al-Sayf, or verse of the sword, which, according to them, abrogated all contradicting verses, over 200 such verses calling for mercy, forgiveness and freedom of belief, prohibiting compulsion in faith and severity, and considering the judgment of people’s faith a matter to be left to God alone. They also sought support from prophetic sayings such as “I have been commanded to fight people until they say ‘there is no God but Allah’” (narrated by Bukhari). They also consider the early Islamic conquests as evidence for their view that war, rather than peace, is the natural state in Muslims’ dealings with others.

Al-Qaradawi’s disagreement with the above group does not prevent him from looking for excuses for them, particularly classical scholars, due to the relations between states at their time, which were based on power and war, and due to the existential threat to which Islam had been subjected since its birth in the Arab peninsula.

Al-Qaradawi stresses, alongside classical and contemporary scholars, the consensus that jihad becomes obligatory upon every Muslim if a Muslim land is attacked, or Muslims suffer fitna (are prevented from freedom of faith), and that every Muslim must practice some form of jihad, be it striving against one’s desires, against evil and corruption, and striving to promote good and support religion, as much as one is able to. However, Al-Qaradawi, through his study and analysis of the various texts related to jihad and the views of classical and contemporary scholars concluded the following:

1. That Quranic verses, particularly those of surat al-Tawba commanding fighting against all polytheists, are to be understood as a reaction and an equal retribution, just as the verse says “as they fight you all together”, and not a general command or a basis for dealing with all non-Muslims, but was rather concerning a specific group of the Arab polytheists which declared war on Islam since its emergence, chased it out and followed it to its new home, broke treaties and mobilized everyone to eradicate it “Will you not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and took the aggressive by being the first to assault you?” (The Quran, 9:13). Within the same chapter, as well as in other chapters, there are limits and conditions restricting the above –seemingly general- command: “And if they incline to peace, then incline to it” (8:61). There is no need to set one verse of the Quran against another; rather one should look at all relevant verses and ahadith, all of which confirm the rule that Islam seeks peace with those who are peaceful towards it, and fights those who fight it.

2. Military jihad is not an individual obligation upon every Muslim, of the same level as the obligations of the testimony of faith, prayer, fasting, alms giving and pilgrimage, for despite its importance within Islam, it was not included in the inherent characteristics of the God-conscious in surat al-Baqara, nor in the characteristics of the believers as described in surat al-Anfal or surat al-Mu’minun, nor in the characteristics of those with true understanding as described in surat al-Ra`d, nor in the characteristics of the servants of the Most Merciful as described in surat al-Furqan, nor in the characteristics of the pious in surat al-Dhariat, nor of the righteous ones described in surat al-Insan. Thus, the practice of military jihad only becomes an obligation upon Muslims when its conditions arise such as an attack on Muslims, their land or their religion. Preparing for such an incidence, on the other hand, is an obligation upon them, according to their ability, in order to deter enemies and maintain peace.

3. There is no obligation upon Muslims to invade the lands of non-Muslims, if they are safe from them. It is sufficient for them to have a powerful army in possession of the latest weapons and trained soldiers guarding their borders and deterring enemies such that the latter do not thing of attacking Muslims, for the collective duty to be fulfilled (p. 91). It is worth noting that Al-Qaradawi prefers using the term non-Muslims instead of kuffar or disbelievers, for that is the way of the Quran which uses the terms “O people of the Book”, “O people”, “O Man”, “O Children of Israel”, “My people”, “O Children of Adam”. It never addressed non-Muslims as disbelievers, except in a few exceptional cases where there were negotiations regarding creed.

4. Islam recognised freedom of belief and each individual’s responsibility for his belief before God. On that basis, its societies, on the whole, did not experience religious wars. Under it, various monotheistic and pagan religions coexisted and continue to coexist, under the system of Dhimma which granted citizenship to non-Muslims regardless of religion. All they needed to do in order to enjoy the rights of protection by the Muslim state alongside Muslims was for those able to pay the jizya tax to do so, which is equivalent to the military service tax in some modern systems. According to Al-Qaradawi, unifying the tax rate and generalising military service make such a system which has been misunderstood and misused unnecessary.

5. It was historical conditions, rather than the texts of Islam, that made many jurists believe offensive jihad to invade non-Muslim lands to be obligatory. The ummah was constantly threatened by its powerful neighbours, the Persians and Romans (p. 82), and there were no international laws based on mutual recognition of state sovereignty and prohibition of hostility as is the case today- despite their contravention by the powerful.

6. The natural state of affairs in relations between Muslim and others is peace and cooperation in goodness. Islam abhors war and only engages in it unwillingly and as a necessity “Fighting is prescribed for you, though it is hateful to you” (Quran, 2:216). Peace is the essential character of Islam; it is the greeting of Muslims, the greeting of the people of Paradise, it is one of the names of Allah. The most hated name in Allah’s sight is Harb- which means war, one of the ancient Arab names, as Arabs were warriors. However, when the Prophet, peace be upon him, was told by his son-in-law that his daughter Fatima had given birth to a boy and that he called him Harb, he commanded him to name him Hasan (meaning good).

7. Islam welcomes international conventions that prohibit transgression and promote peace between nations, and welcomes international bodies that protect such laws, such as the United Nations, UNESCO, etc. However, the West still maintains its belief in the principle of power in its relation with other states and other nations. An example of that is the exclusive enjoyment of its major states of the right to veto, in a flagrant disregard for the principle of equality, thus guaranteeing the protection of their interest and the avoidance of any condemnation of its violations, as the US and UK did in their invasion of Iraq, without any legitimacy, with full impunity from any condemnation, and similarly with their continuous protection of the Zionists’ various forms of hostility against Palestine and its people.

8. Under international recognition of human rights, including freedom of belief and preaching, as well as freedom to establish institutions and protect minorities, one of the principal justifications of jihad al-talab becomes redundant, that is invasion in order to enable the call to Islam by dismantling oppressive regimes which used to prevent their people from thinking freely or choosing beliefs that are different to those of their rulers, such as the Pharaoh who reprimanded the Children of Israel for believing without his permission: “He said: You believe in him before I give you leave?” (Quran, 20:71). In contrast, today, unprecedentedly, in any previous era of Islam history, mosques and Muslim minorities are found everywhere, making our need greater for “huge armies of competent preachers, teachers, media experts, all suitably trained and able to address the world in its different languages, and using methods of this modern age, which, unfortunately, we possess less than a thousandth of what is required”, (p.16). Al-Qaradawi laments that you may find many who are ready to die for Allah’s sake, but very few who are willing to live for His sake.

9. The sources of Islam reveal that, according to Islam, the world is three abodes: dar al-Islam, the abode of Islam, where its law reigns, where its rituals are publicly practiced, and where its adherents and preachers are secure; Dar al-`ahd- the abode of accord, that is states between which and the Muslim state there is mutual recognition and prohibition of hostility; and finally dar harb, or the abode of war. Al-Qaradawi regards Muslims, in view of their being part of the system of the United Nations, as being in a state of accord/pact with other states, except with the Zionist state, because of its usurpation of the land of Palestine and its dispossession of its people, which unfortunately took place with the support of major states. Thus Al-Qaradawi considers the greatest problem in our relation with the West to be its constant and unlimited support of Israel and its continuous aggression against Palestine and its people.

10. Al-Qaradawi distinguishes between jihad and irhab- terrorism, or between legitimate irhab -being feared by the enemy to deter it from any aggression, and illegitimate irhab, that is terrorizing innocent people as done by groups using the name of Islam, which declare world on the whole world in an illegitimate use of jihad in an inappropriate setting, terrorizing innocent people- Muslims and non-Muslims- in order to achieve alleged political ends inside or outside Muslim lands, flagrantly contravening the principles and ethics of jihad in Islam. Hence Al-Qaradawi condemned violent acts committed by extremist groups in Muslim and non-Muslim countries against innocent people, whether tourists or others. He further stripped the indiscriminate killing and shedding of innocent lives committed by these groups of any legitimacy.

11. Al-Qaradawi is extremely careful to distinguish between extremist groups that declare war on the whole world, killing indiscriminately, tainting the image of Islam and providing its enemies with fatal weapons to use against it, on the one hand, and on the other groups resisting occupation. And as much as he condemns the former and delegitimizes its foundations, he defends the latter, and calls on the ummah to support them, particularly in Palestine, as long as their operations are against military targets. He does not hesitate to justify martyrdom operations, considering them to be the weapon of one with no other options, who is deprived of equivalent weapons to those of the enemy, in order to defend his home and his land. God’s justice does not allow the weak to be completely deprived of any weapon, hence the latter’s use of his own body as a deterrent weapon. In any case, the ethics of jihad must always be respected, and only combatants can be targeted.

12. As he stresses that the first jihad to be obligatory upon the ummah in this age is liberation from colonialism, particularly in Palestine, Al-Qaradawi warns and stresses the fallacy of those who wrongly believe that the conflict between us and Zionists is due to the fact that they are Semites- for we are also Semites, both of us coming from the progeny of Abraham- or that it is a religious conflict- for Muslims regard Jews as People of the Book, whose food is lawful, with whom marriage is lawful, and who have lived amongst Muslims in safety and have sought refuge in our lands when Spain and other European countries expelled them, finding refuge nowhere but among Muslims. In reality, the conflict between us and Zionists started for one single reason: their appropriation of the land of Palestine, dispossessed its people, and imposed their presence with violence. The conflict will continue as long as its causes remain. No one can give up any Muslim land, but it is possible to have a truce with Israel for an agreed period of time. As for the principle of “Land for Peace”, it is indeed a bizarre principle imposed by the logic of the enemy’s brute force, for the land is our land, not the enemy’s, so that it can bargain it in return for peace (p. 1090).

13. Just as he, and his mentor Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali, had a leading role in confronting those extremist groups and preventing them from hijacking Islam and diverting it from its mainstream towards the margins, through stripping their actions of any legitimacy based on jihad, both inside and outside Muslim lands, Al-Qaradawi praised the important revisions made by the most important of those groups, which found great support in his writings- after having attacked and rejected his views- in order to engage in their revisions, which he described as brave and enlightened (p. 1168).

5. Ethics of Jihad:

“War in Islam is ethical, just like politics, economics, science and work, none which is divorced from ethics, in contrast to war in western civilisation, which is not necessarily bound by ethics.” For Muslims, war is governed by a moral code, because morals are not an option, but rather an essential part of religion. That includes: a) Islam’s prohibition of the use of unethical methods to infiltrate the enemy and obtain their secrets- including sex, intoxicants, etc. b) prohibition of transgression, as the Quran commands “Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.” (2:190). The author interprets transgression to mean killing non-combatants, by killing women, children, the elderly, the ill, farmers, and others not engaged in fighting (p. 728). The ethics of jihad also include the prohibition of mutilation of the enemy. c) the fulfilment of agreements and prohibition of treachery and betrayal. d) Prohibition of cutting down trees and demolishing buildings. e) The non-legitimacy, islamically, of what is called weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical, biological or nuclear weapons which kills thousands or millions at once, without discriminating between the guilty and innocent, destroying life and all living beings. Islam prohibits the use of such weapons, because Islam prohibits the killing of non-combatants, as the Prophet, peace be upon him, strongly condemned the killing of one woman in one battle. However, that does not prevent the ummah from seeking to acquire such deterrent weapons, since others are in possession of them and can threaten Muslims nations with those weapons, particularly as the Zionist enemy which has usurped its land is in possession of such weapons, and their scripture legitimises the obliteration of all their neighbours. What is astonishing is that America and other great nations prohibit other nations from possessing these weapons, while they themselves possess them. They prevent Arab and Muslim states from acquiring them, while Israel possesses over two hundred nuclear heads. The mutual deterrence between the western and eastern blocks had contributed to the maintenance of world peace, and similarly between India and Pakistan. Such weapons cannot be used, except in the most exceptional circumstances, when a nation is subject to an existential threat (p. 592). F) Islam enjoins its mujahidin to treat captives kindly. After a detailed discussion of all texts and all juristic opinions concerning war captives, particularly on the question of whether they can be killed, the author concluded that the final ruling is that revealed in surat Muhammad “either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves)” (47:4), possibly with the exception of war criminals. On the whole, the author approves the articles of the Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of captives.

In conclusion: Al-Qaradawi’s study on the fiqh of jihad can be regarded as an authentic Islamic ijtihad, upholding the principle of jihad as an eternal Islamic mechanism of defence in its wider meaning, one which has suffered a great number of misrepresentations leading to tainting the image of Islam. Al-Qaradawi recuperates the effectiveness and moderation of this mechanism, taking it out of the hands of extremists. His courage in standing up to the campaigns waged against the concept of Islam has been just as great as his courage in rejecting the arguments of extremist groups who declare war against the entire world. He did not shy away from criticising the great number of jurists who uphold the principle of offensive war (jihad al-talab), nor was he ashamed of his proud adherence to the group believing in jihad as defensive only. He continues to counter the arguments of the former group, without fear or hesitation, without injustice, undermining or misrepresenting the views of those he disagrees with, but rather he seeks excuses for them. He has continued to do so, until he almost destroyed what is known as jihad al-talab, establishing instead defensive jihad in its wider meaning, jihad with no trace of relation to the charge of terrorism -which he clearly distinguishes from legitimate resistance of occupation-, a jihad with ethics that agree with international conventions and their principles, values and laws prohibiting aggression, occupation, the use of weapons of mass destruction and the torture of captives; a jihad that welcomes an open world in which ideas and persons move freely, dealing through proofs and arguments rather than violence and power, until the most valid triumphs. Through such a presentation of jihad, Al-Qaradawi has opened a vast space for dialogue, tolerance, agreement and coexistence between Islam and other religions, human values, and international accords, enabling a response to the eternal Quranic call “O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct.” (49:13)

Originally from a lecture at Edinburgh University on September 9, 2009

Print Friendly


  1. Syed says:

    Yusuf Qaradawi and most of the Al Azhar contemporary scholars need to be refuted for their sayings when they speak which goes against Quran and Sunnah. These scholars are trying to accommodate Islam with the present system of secular democratic system in the name of Ijtihad. They are modern/secular Muslims as per the RAND report and supported by the enemies of Islam.

    Even a muslim child knows that Ijtihad took place when there is no text in the Quran and Sunnah and when a thing is not clear and need to derive a ruling from both.

    It was narrated that Abdullah bin Masud RA said, “There was a time when we did not pass so many judgements, but now that time is over. Now the Allah the mighty and sublime has decreed that we reach a time when as you see (we are asked to pass many judgements). Whoever among you is asked to pass a judgement after this day, let him pass judgement according to what is in the Book of Allah. If he is faced with a matter that is not mentioned in the book of Allah let him pass judgement according to the way his Prophet passed judgement. If he is faced with a matter that is not mentioned in the Book of Allah and concerning which his prophet PBUH did not pass judgement, then let him pass judgement according to the way the righteous passed judgement. And let him not say ‘I am afraid, I am afraid’ for what which is lawful is clear and that which is unlawful is clear and between them are matters which are not as clear. leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt”. Sunan Nasai 5398, Sahih Lighairah by Albani

    It was narrated from Shuraih that he wrote to Umar RA to ask him (a question) and Umar RA wrote back to him telling him “Judge according to what is in the Book of Allah, if it is not mentioned in the Book of Allah then judge according to the Sunnah of the messenger of Allah PBUH. If it is not mentioned in the Book of Allah or the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah PBUH then pass judgement according to the way the righteous passed judgement. If it is not mentioned in the Book of Allah or the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah PBUH and the righteous did not pass judgement concerning it, then if you wish go ahead (and try to work it out by yourself) or if you wish leave it. And I think that leaving it is better for you. And Peace be upon you” Sunan Nasai 5399, Sahih by Albani

    The ahadith which he refer above “sent with sword” etc are all authentic, and declared Sahih by Dhahabi and Albani (refer to Jami Sagheer 5142 declared Sahih by Albani)

    Abu Dhar RA said, “I was in the presence of the Prophet PBUH one day and I heard him saying, ‘There is something more I fear for my Ummah than the Dajjaal.’ It was then that I became afraid, so I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Which thing is it that you fear for your Ummah more than the Dajjaal?’ He [the Prophet ] said, ‘Misguided and astray scholars.’ Ahmad 21335 and 22447, Sahih by Shoaib al Aranout.

    May Allah protect all Muslims from these types of scholars and from their interpretations.

    We have to interpret Quran and Sunnah as interpreted and understand by the companions, Tabain and Tab at Tabain as they are the best generations attested by the Prophet PBUH.

    Imaam al-Barbahaari (d.329H) – rahimahullaah – said, “May Allah have mercy upon you! Examine carefully the speech of everyone you hear from, in your time particularly. So do not act in haste, nor enter into anything from it, until you ask and see: Did any of the Companions of the Prophet PBUH speak about it, or any of the (early) Scholars? So if you find a narration from them about it, cling to it and do not go beyond it for anything, nor give precedence to anything over it and thus fall into the Fire.’’ Sharah As Sunnah No. 8

    Al-Awza’e (d. 158H) said, “Patiently restrict yourself to the Sunnah and do not go beyond the limits held by the decisions of the Companions; and speak with what they spoke with, hold their positions and avoid what they avoided. Hold to the path of the pious predecessors (As-Salaf As-Saalih), for verily what was sufficient for them is sufficient for you.” Itiqaad Ahle Sunnah wal Jamah by Laalikai No. 315

    Ibn Taymiah said, “From the methodology of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamah is adherance to the narration of the Mesenger of Allah PBUH outwardly and inwardly and following those who first embraced Islam from amongst the Muhajireen and the Ansaar”. Majmu Fatawa 3/157

    And Allah Knows best.

    • Nomad78 says:

      Brother Syed,

      I take offense in the way you present your argument. The “labeling” of a sheikh of such status as al-Qaradawi as someone who goes againsts the Quran and Sunnah is an unwarranted aggression. Plus in all honesty who are you to compare and pass judgment like this? So now, if you read a book about open heart surgery does this qualify you to do the surgery? you can present your argument but please be careful of the tone and labelling. Intolerance, expecially towards each other, is the greatest of crimes.
      I ask Allah to guide us all to the right path.


    • Suhaib Webb says:

      Br. Syed,

      Asalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh:

      I pray you are well and wanted to thank you for your comments. While I don’t agree with them, and fail to see the logic or adab in them, I know that you love Islam and want only what’s best for the faith and its followers.

      There are a few issues that I would like to focus on, but I am not certain that I understand your points so, if you don’t mind, I would like you to clarify?

      I’m a simple student who hopes to find the truth manifest from your keyboard and want nothing save we arrive to the truth if it is one, or respect for each others opinion if differences are allowed.

      I will focus on one point you made and ask for clarification regarding the others.

      Your wrote:

      “The ahadith which he refer above “sent with sword” etc are all authentic, and declared Sahih by Dhahabi and Albani (refer to Jami Sagheer 5142 declared Sahih by Albani)”

      Sh. al-Bani (Allah’s mercy be upon him) was a great servant of the sunna and hadith who dedicated his life to what he thought was best and most pleasing to Allah. However, many of our teachers and scholars of hadith recommend that we do not simply rely upon his takhrij of hadith, but check it with other scholars and books to insure that he was correct. Sadly, in a number of instances, the sheikh relied on weak manuscripts of texts that caused him to judge a hadith based on the information he had. As one of our teachers noted, “that takes nothing away from his service to the sunna” and he noted that “Whenever we informed the Sheikh he would correct his mistakes.” The reality is that there are a number of such errors that the sheikh was unable to correct before his death.

      An example:

      Abu Hurairah relates that a group of Jews came to the Prophet while he was sitting in the masjid with his companions. They said, “What is the case of a man and a woman guilty of adultery?”

      Sheikh al-Bani in his collection of weak hadith he extracted form the Sunnan of Abu Dawud declared this hadith as “Weak.” See Da’if Sunan Abi Dawud 45/92, 359/780-781.

      The Sheikh’s concern was with a man in the chain from Muzayna and the actual text.

      As for the man in the chain, Imam al-Zuhri and Imam Sa’id bin Musayyib considered him reliable. In fact, al-Zuhri declared him as “A person who wrote hadith and understood them well.” Both of these great imams testified that he heard hadith from Abu Hurairah which they related from him. Thus, although his name was unknown, his qualifications as a narrator were well known (‘Adalah, Dabt and absence of Shududh).

      As you well know, when a tab’i meets such a description, even if his name is unknown, his narrations are accepted. This was noted by Imam al-Nawwawi in al-Irshad pg. 113 when he said, “If a person’s truthfulness is known while his name is not, his narrations are used for proof.” This was also noted by al-Khatib in al-Kifayah pg. 321 who attributes this to the great Mujadid al-Baqilani al-Maliki.

      From the point of the actual text, then there are a number of texts with different chains, which are authentic without a doubt. An example is the narration of Malik from Nafi, from Abdullah bin ‘Umar (the golden chain) in a raised form and related by al-Bukhari (2/285), Muslim (3/1326) and Malik (2/819).

      Thus, one finds it strange that the Sheikh, Sheikh al-Bani (ra), considered this hadith weak in its text and chain?

      As for your statement:

      “The ahadith which he refer above “sent with sword” etc are all authentic”

      Then I would suggest you have a look at al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar’s takhrij of this hadith as well as Ibn Hajar al-Haythami’s. Both considered it weak and dedicated a good discussion regarding one of the people in its chain, Ibn Tawban who was charged with being a Khawarij and a Qadari in aqida (see al-Mizi’s Tahdhib al-Kamal #. 3775 as well as al-Dhahabi’s descriptin of him in al-Mizan)

      Thus, dear brother, the issue is not as simple as you have presented it.

      One thing about Dr. al-Qaradawi, is that his writings, although written for the masses, need to be read by those students of knowledge who have studied a number of texts as well as memorized the Qur’an and a large number of hadith. This is because the sheikh writes at a level that requires a strong understanding and feeling for the noble texts of Islam and familiarity with its objectives and principles.

      I would appreciate you clarifying the following as I am not sure what you meant, and would hate to answer you based on suspicion. This is not in any way a challenge to you, but a simple request to better understand your positions that I might benefit and answer them correctly.

      “Yusuf Qaradawi and most of the Al Azhar contemporary scholars need to be refuted for their sayings when they speak which goes against Quran and Sunnah. These scholars are trying to accommodate Islam with the present system of secular democratic system in the name of Ijtihad. They are modern/secular Muslims as per the RAND report and supported by the enemies of Islam.”

      The Prophet said, “The burden of proof is on the claimer.” The scholars of jarh noted, “There is no jarh without giving details.” Such accusations towards most of al-Azhari’s scholars as well as Dr. Q without following the proper adab could certainly lead to the grave sin of backbiting.

      Scholars exercised great effort in laying down rules for critiquing others in order to avoid the major sins and harming another Muslim’s honor. I would appreciate you detailing this and relating this all back to RAND, and the enemies of Islam thing, since the burden of proof is on you. In fact, in an Islamic system, Dr. Q could have you brought to a Qadi and charged with slander. Ponder!

      “Even a muslim child knows that Ijtihad took place when there is no text in the Quran and Sunnah and when a thing is not clear and need to derive a ruling from both.”

      I would appreciate a detailed explanation of this.

      And how it relates to:

      “May Allah protect all Muslims from these types of scholars and from their interpretations.”

      Akhi, please explain why their interpretations are off?

      “We have to interpret Quran and Sunnah as interpreted and understand by the companions, Tabain and Tab at Tabain as they are the best generations attested by the Prophet PBUH.”

      Again, It would be awesome if you could shed some light on who the sheikh, most of al-Azhar and other went against this?

      I appreciate your time and thank you for reading this,


      • Suhaib Webb says:

        Asalamu alaykum,

        Response to a question:

        assalamu alaikum,

        “I was wondering who Al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali al-Barbahaaree is. I see him quoted by the hardcore salafis all the time and have never heard of him or heard him quoted except by them. Wikipedia has minimal info. Is he an acceptable source for knowledge and his roughness was simply a reaction to his time? Or is he too rough to be considered as acceptable?”

        Asalamu alaykum,

        Here are al-Dhaاhabi’s word about him:

        البربهاري * شيخ الحنابلة

        القدوة الامام، أبو محمد الحسن بن علي بن خلف البربهاري الفقيه كان قوالا

        بالحق، داعية إلى الاثر، لا يخاف في الله لومة لائم

        صحب المروذي وصحب سهل
        بن عبد الله التستري

        “al-Barbahari: the shaykh of the Hanbalis, the example and the Imam: Abu Muhammad al-Hasan bin ‘Ali bin Khalaf al-Barbahari the erudite jurist who spoke the truth and did not fear the blame of anyone when it came to Allah’s rights. He was the companion of al-Marwuzi and Sahl bin ‘Abdillah al-Tustari (ra).

        From his famous quotes is:

        “Be cautious of the minor innovations, because the small ones will be counted as the major ones. Speaking about our Lord, the Most High, is a new matter, an innovation and deviance. Thus, don’t speak about Him save with what He described himself, and do not say about his attributes, why or how. The Qur’an is the speech of Allah, His revelation, His light, it is not His creation, and arguing about it is kufur.”

        He had his enemies al-Dhahabi doesn’t elaborate this point only quoting someone::

        وكان المخالفون يغلظون قلب السلطان عليه.
        ففي سنة إحدى وعشرين [ وثلاث مئة ] أرادو حبسه، فاختفى.
        وأخذ كبار أصحابه،

        “Those who differed (with the orthodox way) instigated the sultan against him, and in the year 321 he wanted him detained (imprisoned), and he disappeared, however his major supporters were seized.”


        وفي تاريخ محمد بن مهدي أن في سنة ثلاث وعشرين، أوقع بأصحاب البربهاري فاستتر

        “It is written in the historical account of Muhammad bin Mahdi that in the year 323 his companions were seized and he disappeared and they, his followers and other headed towards al-Kufa.”

        al-Dhahabi notes that after the death of Ibn Muqla, al-Barbahari and his follower returned triumphant to Baghdad and the number of his follower and supporters increased.

        Finally he notes that the sheikh was met by his followers with great admiration and clamor until ultimately the Caliph, pushed by the evil folks, decided to smash them to the extent that the following executive order was given in Baghdad:

        لا يجتمع اثنان من أصحاب البربهاري، فاختفى

        “Two followers of al-Barbahari are not allowed to assemble.” After that, al-Dhahabi notes, “he disappeared and died in exile (hidden) with his servant praying over him only 328 A.H.”

        al-Dhahabi also mentions some of his karamat which are quite amazing mashallah!

        Not sure what to make of this, save he was obviously a popular sheikj with some very devote followers. Thos kind of things always angered rulers and given the political state of affairs at that time, no one wanted a potential uprising in his capital. Keep in mind the uprising that took place between the madhab’s and the Hanbalis in particular during that time, one could understand that there were some serious things happening.


        • omar says:

          Sallamu Alakum,

          I thought whoever asked the question about al-Barbahari (RA) might be interested in a book translated into english by ibn Ronald Burbank, called “Explanation of the Creed”. It’s a good read on Aqeedah.


    • Nawawi619 says:

      As Salamu Alaykum

      Is this book going to be translated into English?

  2. zakat says:

    so, if this is accurate, Imam Shafi’ was alone amongst the Imams in supporting “offensive jihad” ? I find this strange, because in all of the classical works of the Shafi’s – and the scholars in general – the term “offensive jihad” isn’t used. Perhaps this can be explained?

    Certainly, they mention jihad as being either fard ayn or fard kifaya, depending on the situation, but i haven’t ever seen “jihad talab” or “jihad difa’a” in any pre-modern book.

    from what i understood in fiqh studies and reviewing the classical works, there was “individually obligatory jihad” which was when a muslim nation was under attack from a foreign invader and one lived in that land, and “communally obligatory jihad” which was for the purpose of removing oppression of other lands, and could only be called for by a khalifa or his representative. since there is no one like this now, this type of jihad is currently not present, but it is the category into which fit all of the conquests of the companions and those who followed them.

  3. Omar says:

    Assalamu Alaykum,

    The book sounds very interesting, may God bless the shaykh. Does anybody know if there is a translation out yet?

    Jazakumullah Khairan!

  4. Brother says:

    Shiekh Suhaib Webb, this was a fascinating read. Jazkallah for posting.

    Question: What is your opinion on Shiekh Qaradawi making the Palestinian cause exceptional, in which martyrdom by way of one’s body (i.e. suicide) is allowed?

  5. ahmad bashir says:

    lol, i’ve read so many posts similar to syed’s that now i just ignore them. They’re all the same, opying and pasting random quotes and trying to use them to back up their arguments. May Allah reward you Sheikh Suhaib and all the other students of knowledge for your service to the ummah.

  6. Syed says:

    Dera Suhaibwebb,
    Assalamualaikum wrwb,

    I just want to know I am not able to find my last comment, did you delete it. ?

    take care,

  7. Iesa Washington says:

    As-Salaamu alaikum

    Are you speaking of the same Imam Barbaharee who stated in his Aqeedah that the Prophet sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam is seated physically on the throne of Allah next to Allah ?

  8. zuma says:

    Sahih Bukhari, (Book #3, Hadith #104), “Narrated Said: Abu Shuraih said, “When ‘Amr bin Said was sending the troops to Mecca (to fight ‘Abdullah bin Az-Zubair) I said to him, ‘O chief! Allow me to tell you what the Prophet said on the day following the conquests of Mecca. My ears heard and my heart comprehended, and I saw him with my own eyes, when he said it. He glorified and praised Allah and then said, “Allah and not the people has made Mecca a sanctuary. SO ANYBODY WHO HAS BELIEF IN ALLAH AND THE LAST DAY (i.e. a muslim) SHOULD NEITHER SHED BLOOD IN IT NOR CUT DOWN TREES. If anybody argues that fighting is allowed in Mecca as Allah’s Apostle did fight (in Mecca), tell him that ALLAH GAVE PERMISSION TO HIS APOSTLE, BUT HE DID NOT GIVE IT TO YOU….”

    The phrase, So anybody who has believe in Allah and the last day (i.e. a muslim) should neither shed blood in it nor cut down trees, in the above extract conveys a clear message that Allah forbids muslims to be involved in violence or fighting or shedding blood or even cutting trees.

    The phrase, Allah gave permission only to his apostles but he did not give it to you, in the above extract implies that Allah only gave permission to his apostles instead of to us. As Allah does not permit muslims to fight and to shed blood except to his apostles, there should not be any reason for muslims today to fight or shed blood. As Allah gave permission only to his apostles but not unto us, it implies that the word, fight, in the book of Quran is meant only for Prophet Muhamad and the apostles instead of to muslim people nowadays.

    • Gibran says:

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      SubhanAllah, fear Allah.

      Muhammad bin Jarir reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said that the Prophet Peace be upon him said,
      (For this, and the previous quotes, see At-Tabari 1:90-91)

      [Whoever explains the Qur'an with his opinion or with what he has no knowledge of, then let him assume his seat in the Fire.]

      At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Abu Dawud also recorded this Hadith. At-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan”.

      “Allah and not the people has made Mecca a sanctuary. SO ANYBODY WHO HAS BELIEF IN ALLAH AND THE LAST DAY (i.e. a muslim) SHOULD NEITHER SHED BLOOD IN IT”

      This is in Mecca. We do not shed blood in Mecca.

  9. zuma says:

    Quran never teaches muslims bad to create violence, havoc, jihad and etc. in the society. Muslim extremists have mis-interpreted the word, fight, in Quran so as to suit their taste to created havoc in the society.

    An-Nisa, Chapter #4, verse #90 in Mohsin Khan translation, “…So if they withdraw from you, and fight not against you, and offer you peace, then Allah has opened no way for you against them.” This verse has guided the fact that muslims should be in the defensive role in fighting. Or in other words, if the opponents cease in fighting with muslims, they should not retaliate.

    Even though the word, fight, is mentioned in the Quran and An-Nisa, Chapter #4, verse 90 has restricted fighting to be in defensive role, Allah only granted his permission to fight to apostles instead of to muslims people nowadays. Other than his apostles, he demands them not to shed blood or even cutting down trees as mentioned in Sahih Bukhari,(Book #3, Hadith #104), “”(that)…SO ANYBODY WHO HAS BELIEF IN ALLAH AND THE LAST DAY (i.e. a muslim) SHOULD NEITHER SHED BLOOD IN IT NOR CUT DOWN TREES…ALLAH GAVE PERMISSION TO HIS APOSTLE, BUT HE DID NOT GIVE IT TO YOU….”

    Let’s conclude the right teaching of Quran. No doubts the Quran mentions the word, fight, numerously, it has no value nowadays since the word, fight, could only be applicable to his apostles instead of to muslim people nowadays. Not only that, the word, fight, for the apostles in the past was only meant for defensive role.

    • Ahmed says:

      You are correct and I agree in general but that hadith is referring specifically to Mecca I believe. So for instances if fighting Jihad in Palestine it would be ok if you cut a tree I suppose.

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

More in Islamic Studies, Ummah (Community) (752 of 1353 articles)