Aint Cricket,  Islamism

Greater and Lesser Jihad

By Jon MC



In a previous article I described the various types of jihad and demonstrated that Jihad encompasses warfare/fighting and terror and indeed this forms the vast majority of “jihadi activity”. Some Muslim writers and commentators and their (non-Muslim) “useful idiots” have made the argument that the “real jihad” is all about “battling one’s inner demons” as it were and that “real jihad” has little to do with fighting anybody and that when jihad does involve fighting it is only in defence of Muslims and/or Islamic lands.
In this article I intend to show that not only does jihad include fighting, it is sword-jihad that is the primary meaning of jihad and that far from being defensive, it is offensive in nature. The full article on this is over 9000 words and provides a complete refutation (and I am using the word correctly here) of the Taqqiya-based argument made by many that Jihad is really about self-improvement.
I have reduced this to the bare bones to make it more digestible.

The apologetic argument:

It has been said that the opinion of many Muslims regarding Jihad is that it is of two sorts, namely “Jihad Akbar” (greater Jihad) and “Jihad Asghar” (lesser jihad). Al-Ghazali (11th century) was one of the first to make this assertion, though his characterisation of “greater jihad” differs from the one given below, which is based on Ahadith. Apologists state that Jihad Akbar means “Jihad against the desires and Satan (Shaitan)” (jihad bil nafs/qalb or “jihad of the soul/heart”) whilst Jihad Asghar is violent jihad against non-Muslims (jihad bis saif – “sword jihad”, or a combination of hand and sword jihad).
The classification of Jihad as given above is based upon a Hadith (recorded in two versions) which states that on an occasion when Mohammed returned home from the fighting he said: “We have all returned from Jihad Asghar to Jihad Akbar.” Some companions asked: “What is Jihad Akbar Rasulullaah?” He replied: “Jihad against the desires.”
A third hadith is You have returned from Jihad Asghar so is the Jihad Akbar you intend to do Jihad ul qalbi (Jihad of the heart)?” [ Siyaru A’laamin Nubala 6/325]. Note that strictly this Hadith does not define what Jihad Akbar is, nor what Jihad Asghar had been performed.
A second argument is based on the Sahih hadith collected in Bukhari (Vol.2 bk.26 No.595): Narrated `Aisha: ‘I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! We consider Jihad as the best deed.” The Prophet said, “The best Jihad is Hajj Mabrur. “‘ [Note: the numbering of the Ahadith vary from source to source]

A word on Ahadith classification:

Ahadith are primarily classified into four groups: “Sahih” (true/genuine), “Hasan” (good), “Da’if” (weak) and “murdhu” (fabricated/false).
Thus the Sahih collection of Muslim and Bukhari are the most trusted within Sunni Islam, with (e.g.) the Sunan ibn Majah forming a collection “of the second rank”, but such Hasan Ahadith are trusted unless contradicted by a Sahih hadith. Da’if and murdhu Ahadith are (or should be) rejected as untrustworthy and in addition if a Hadith is contradicted by one of higher rank, then the lower ranked Hadith is rejected as unreliable. Thus even a “Hasan” Hadith would be rejected if a “Sahih” Hadith contradicted it.

Rejecting the Ahadith (above) on greater and lesser Jihad by the Ahadith:

Commentators on the first of the Ahadith quoted above reject it as being either da’if or murdhu. In other words, the provenance of that Hadith (which is NOT recorded in any of the Sahih or Sunan collections) is suspect at best and false at worse. See for example: Risalah Jihad, Hasan al-Banna; Tarikh al Baghdadi 13/493; Mashariul ‘Ashwaq ila Masuril ‘Ushshaq 1/31 to name but three of many.
The Hadith quoted in Siyaru A’laamin Nubala 6/325 has the advantage of being an early one, but it too is Da’if, because the chain of narration (who said what to whom) is broken and so the attribution to Mohammed is uncertain, so the Hadith is weak (unreliable).

The Sahih hadith of Bukhari quoted above (Vol.2 bk.26 No.595) states that “the best Jihad is Hajj Mabrur”. Were this all it said, it would support the apologists’ case. However, when the whole context of the Hadith is understood, it is clear the Mohammed is referring solely to women in this Hadith – indeed many interpreters interpolate “for women” into the text to clarify this point.
Thus this part of the argument falls on the basis that it does not apply to Mussalmen who form the vast majority of (violent) Jihadists.
We can then dismiss the argument based on Sahih Bukhari as an outright deliberate falsification of the meaning of the hadith – i.e. a lie.
The other Ahadith are at best weak/unreliable, but to reject them fully it should be established that “stronger” Ahadith contradict them.
So what, then, do the Sahih and Sunan collections have to say about the relative “value” of Jihad bis saif and Jihad bil qalb?
A brief reading of the “two Sahihs” (Muslim and Bukhari) shows Mohammed extolling Jihad bis Saif (and even suicide attacks) as the greatest thing (not merely the greater – “Akbar”) a Mussalman can do.

To give just two instances from many in the collections:

Muslim [No. 4636] from Abu Hurairah who said: The Prophet  was asked: “O Rasulullaah! What deed could be an equivalent of Jihad Fi Sabilillaah [“jihad in the way of Allah”]?” He answered: “You do not have the strength to do that deed.” The narrator said: They repeated the question twice or thrice. Every time he answered: “You do not have the strength to do it.” When the question was asked for the third time, he said: “One who goes out for Jihad is like a person who keeps fasts, stands in prayer (constantly), (obeying) Allah’s (behests contained in) the Aayah (of the Qur’an), and does not exhibit any lassitude in fasting and praying until the Mujahid returns from Jihad Fi Sabilillaah.
Musnad Ahmed 4:114: ‘A man asked Rasulullaah : “..and what is Jihad?” He  replied: “You fight against the disbelievers when you meet them.” He asked again: “What kind of Jihad is the highest?” Mohammed replied: “The person who is killed whilst spilling the last of his blood.” [Sahih Sanad]

A third illuminating example is the Hadith narrated by Al-Hakim in “Al Mustadrak” 2/73. Sahih Sanad agreed upon by Az Zahabi. Narrated from Muaz bin Anas who said: A woman once came to the Prophet  and asked: “O Rasulullaah! My husband has departed for war and usually if he prays I follow him in his Salat and I follow him in all his acts of worship. Because of that inform me of an act which can equal his until he returns.” He  said to her: “Are you able to stand without sitting, perform fasting without breaking it and read the Quran until your husband returns?” She replied: “I am not strong enough, O Rasulullaah.” So Mohammed said to her: “By Allah in whose hand I am, even if you were strong enough it would surely not attain one tenth of your husbands deeds.” Here we see that no amount of prayer, fasting and Quran recitation by a woman is worth even one tenth of the ‘Allah’s brownie points’ scored by a Mussalman who goes out and kills non-Muslims. Remember that all Mohammed’s wars/raids were against various non-Muslims.
So much for the Jihad-Akbar in the Ahadith being Jihad bil qalb!

A question that can arise from some of the Ahadith is whether or not Jihad Fi Sabilillaahi [“jihad in the way of Allah”] is the same as Jihad bis saif.

Take for example: ‘A man asked Rasulullaah : “..and what is Jihad?” He replied: “You fight against the disbelievers when you meet them..” He asked again: “What kind of Jihad is the highest?” He replied: “The person who is killed whilst spilling the last of his blood.” [Narrated by Ahmad in his Musnad 4/114 – Hadith Sahih. Al Haithami states: “Narrators upheld it.” Majmauz Zawaid 1/59].

Here Mohammed states quite clearly that Jihad is fighting non-Muslims and that the highest form of said jihad is becoming a “Shaheed” (“martyr” in Islam-speak) by being killed whilst killing non-Muslims.

From this and many other examples in the Sahih and Sunan collections it is clear that the primary meaning of Jihad and the highest form of Jihad is Jihad bis Saif which is also Jihad Fi Sabilillaahi.

Note that Jihad bis Saif is not the only Jihad Fi Sabilillaahi, all four forms are this, but the context of the vast majority of the Ahadith relating to Jihad shows that the primary meaning of Jihad Fi Sabilillaahi, is Jihad bis Saif or Qital Fi Sabilillaahi (fighting in the way of Allah).

Next we consider how sword-jihad is treated in the Koran itself. Two key verses amongst many corroboratory ones are:

9.111: “Allah has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of Allah; they kill, and are killed. It is a promise binding on Him in the Torah, the Injil and the Quran and who is truer to his contract than Allah? Rejoice then in the bargain you have made. That is the great victory.This verse is significant in two ways: it shows clearly that to “fight in the way of Allah” means to kill non-Muslims in sword-jihad. Secondly, it sets up the “war covenant” between Muslims and Allah: Allah has bought them to fight non-Muslims and (as we shall see) fighting grants them paradise.

61:10-12: “O believers! Should I tell you of a bargain that will save you from a painful punishment? It is to believe in Allah and His Messenger and wage jihad to your utmost in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your persons. That is best for you, if you but knew it. He will forgive you your sins and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow, and will lodge you in beautiful mansions in the gardens of Eden, which will be a supreme achievement.” This verse adds another element to the “war covenant”: Muslims who wage sword-jihad will have all their sins forgiven. Thus, presumably, if a Mussalman commits un-Islamic “war crimes” he need not worry – Allah has forgiven him already, or if not, just do more “Kaffir whacking” and bingo! – sins forgiven. Furthermore since  sword-jihad is the “supreme/greatest” thing to do for Allah, sword-jihad must be the “holiest” occupation for a Mussalman.

Thus the Koran (the ultimate authority Islamically speaking) tells us the Jihad-Akbar is indeed Jihad bis Saif / Jihad Fi Sabilillaah carried out against non-Muslims. Since the Koran, which is purportedly the literal word of Allah, states that waging sword-jihad is the “best for you” and the only certain means to guarantee paradise for a Mussalman then sword-jihad cannot be the “lesser jihad”. To suggest so is, in fact, to make Allah a liar – which is blasphemy in Islam.

Finally we consider how Jihad is treated in Sharia law. Shariah law is the Muslim “lawbook”. It defines what is right and wrong (halal and haram) within Islam. In many ways Shariah law is the evolution of the commands in the Koran, the statements of Mohammed (the Ahadith) and his example (the Sirat) into a codified form. As such it should, perhaps, have (almost) the last word on this subject.
“Allah has ordained jihad (fighting in the cause of Allah) in order to render His word the Highest, His religion the victorious, His enemies the defeated… In Islam jihad enjoys a a great importance, as it is the highest level in religion and one of the best acts of worship, to the extent that some scholars consider Jihad the sixth pillar of Islam.” So writes Dr. Salih al-Fawzan of Saudi Arabia in his Jihad chapter introduction, thus stating that in Islam killing non-Muslims is a holy “act of worship” for Allah. He goes on to say amongst the “noble purposes” of jihad are getting rid of all things worshipped other than Allah and to “humiliate the disbelievers, take revenge on them and weaken their power” – i.e. to wage an offensive sword-jihad.

In the “Muqhtasar al-Quduri” jihad is classed amongst the “Acts of Worship” but this chapter isn’t translated in English versions (I wonder why not?).

In “The distinguished jurist’s primer, Vol.1” by Ibn Rushd there is a lengthy chapter on Jihad. The salient points are: that all non-Muslims are to be fought; that before declaring war they must hear the invitation to Islam upon which they can avoid war by conversion, complete acceptance of Islamic law (it’s hard to see how, ultimately, they could retain their own faiths under this stricture) or payment of Jizya. Otherwise the Muslims will attack i.e. this sword-jihad is offensive in nature. The purpose of Jihad is threefold: to gain converts, lands and wealth (jizya and Kharaj – this latter is a “rent” on land still worked by non-Muslims. Let me add that they also have to pay “ushr” – a 10% tax – on the land’s produce). It is worth noting that ibn Rushd says of the Jizya “it is a substitute for slaughter and slaying” at the hands of the Muslims. Thus we truly see from what Dhimmis are “protected”.

“The Reliance of the Traveller” in section o9.8 states that:

“The caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim head tax jizya) …and the war continues until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax … o9.9 The caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim”. Again we see that this is offensive sword-jihad against all non-Muslims.



Those hadith that support the apologists’ position are weak (“da’if”) or fabricated (“murdhu”), whereas those that refute this position are all Sahih or Hasan – that is they are stronger (more reliable and authoritative) Ahadith and a rule of Hadith interpretation is that the stronger abrogates the weaker.

Not only that, the Koran states definitively that sword-jihad is the best thing for Mussalmen and their supreme achievement for the many rewards that accrue to the Mussalman for killing non-Muslims which is both a form of good deeds and an act of piety (i.e. it is a “holy” thing to kill non-Muslims); namely: forgiveness of sins, war-booty and entry into paradise at a high status. No other deed guarantees these rewards. Nothing else that a Muslim can do ensures their entry to paradise.

Furthermore, this same evidence also shows that jihad means primarily “jihad bis Saif” or sword-jihad (almost all the references in the Bukhari Hadith – 98%, not merely those quoted here, demonstrate this fact) and the evidence is that this sword-jihad is offensive in nature, since its main aims are threefold, to gain: lands, wealth and (ultimately) converts for Islam.

All of the points above show that to interpret Jihad Akbar as being the Jihad against desire and Satan, whilst Jihad Asghar is the Jihad against the disbelievers is irrational, even blasphemous, or else a lie intended to deceive, because this notion is contradicted by the Koran, Sahih Ahadith and Sharia law.

Thus we may definitively say that “Jihad Fi Sabilillaah” – jihad in the way of Allah – means primarily “jihad bis saif” – sword jihad, that this is the “jihad Akbar” and that it primarily entails offensive wars against non-Muslims.

Of course, some could argue that I have “misinterpreted” all of this information and “misunderstood” the ‘true message’ of all the sources I’ve quoted, so I’ll give the last words to two Imams:

Hassan al-Banna the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood  wrote in a pamphlet titled “Jihad” that “Many Muslims today mistakenly believe that fighting the enemy is jihad asghar (a lesser jihad) and that fighting one’s ego is jihad akbar (a greater jihad).”

Australian Imam Musa Cerantonio: “What is more superior: Jihad on the battlefield or Jihad of the soul? You can’t compare the two. Everyone makes Jihad of the soul. Everyone goes through this. This is something for every Muslim, but not every Muslim is honoured to be a mujahid for the sake of Allah”.

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