The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) stated in one hadith, "The head of its matter is Islam and its pillar is the Salah and its highest peak is the Jihad."
The discussion concerning Jihad is taking place throughout the Ummah and indeed many misunderstandings and distortions, some deliberate, have come forth. Some of these have been propagated by the likes of the government scholars both in the West and in the Muslim World, such as Jihad an-Nafs, Jihad against oneself and Jihad as a defensive war only. …
Myth: Jihad is only defensive
Another distortion that is promoted is the idea that Jihad is only defensive. The protagonists of this idea again utilise certain misinterpretations to justify their positions.
"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress the limits. For Allah loves not the transgressors" [TMQ Al-Baqarah: 190].
"And if they incline to peace, you incline to it also, and trust in Allah. Verily! He is the hearer, the knower" [TMQ Al-A’raf: 61].
These two verses however, cannot abrogate the 119 other verses of Qur’an that suggest that Jihad is not merely limited to defensive war alone. These 119 verses, which are general and absolute, indicate that Jihad encompasses all of the following types of war:
…The verses concerning Jihad were revealed as general and absolute without limitation. Accordingly an evidence from Shari’ah is required to limit these verses concerning Jihad. However there are no evidences from Qur’an or Sunnah that place limitations on Jihad. Thus, Jihad encompasses all of the aforementioned types of war.
There are many verses concerning Jihad that could be drawn upon to illustrate this understanding. It is sufficient to focus on Surah At-Taubah (Repentance), which is one of the last Surahs to be revealed. Thus no one can claim that the verses are abrogated, limited or specified by later revelations.
"Fight against such of those who have been given the scripture as believe not in Allah nor the last day, and forbid not that which Allah hath-forbidden by his messenger, and follow not the Deen of truth, until they pay the Jizya readily, being brought low" [TMQ At-Taubah: 29]. [Jizya is extra tax non-Muslims must pay]
"…And wage war on all the idolaters as they are waging war on all of you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto him)" [TMQ At-Taubah: 36].
"O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them, their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless journey's end" [TMQ At-Taubah: 73].
"Verily! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain. It is a promise which is binding on him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. Whoever fulfils his covenant better than Allah? Rejoice then in your bargain that you have made, for that is the supreme triumph" [TMQ At-Taubah: 111].
"O you who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto him)" [TMQ At-Taubah: 123]. … [Rashid, the author, then lists many details of these verses, which are self-evident to the objective reader.]
These verses of At-Taubah were revealed under certain circumstances. The following verses chronologically precede these verses of Surah At-Taubah. They provide an insight into the circumstances in which Surah At-Taubah was revealed.
"Let not the unbelievers think that they can outstrip (Allah's purpose). Verily! They cannot escape" [TMQ: At-Taubah: 2]. …
When we examine the verses of Jihad we see that they refer to the same subject but in different situations. …
Hence according to As-Sadi and Ibn Zaid it is incorrect to say that the "sword verses" abrogate the "peace verses". Abu Bakr Ibn Arabi in his Tafseer of the Qur’an, Ahkam ul Qur’an comments; "The answer here differs…Allah says, ‘don't weaken, don't call for peace whilst you have the upper hand. If Muslims are mighty with strength, invincible, and numerous in groups let there be no peace’ [TMQ Muhammad: 35]."
Thus peace may be accepted but not if Muslims have the upper hand. In addition to the evidences of the Qur’an, Sunnah and Ijma-as Sahabah present clear evidences of the reality of Jihad. …
In the nine years that followed the Hijrah to Madinah (where permission was given to fight) the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) personally led 28 military campaigns, and during the same period the Companions (ra) embarked on another 51 military campaigns.
If one looks in detail at these expeditions and battles one finds clear evidence that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and the companions undertook both defensive and offensive action. The battles of Uhud and Ahzab are clear examples of defensive battles - on the other hand, Tabuk and Mutah are clear examples of offensive wars. Indeed the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) took part in thirteen expeditions and eleven major battles in which he took the initiative and launched offensive action. Likewise of the 51 Sariyah (campaigns), 39 were offensive. How can one say, therefore, that Jihad is only defensive?
… Transgression would also arise if a nation was attacked without first calling them to Islam. Muslims are ordained to call their enemies to Islam before fighting against them. If they refuse, Muslims should call them again to pay Jizya and submit to the laws of Allah (Subhanahu Wa ta’ala)….
Jihad is the removal of obstacles, by force if necessary, that stand between people and Islam. It is the practical method of spreading Islam. The call to Islam is compulsory on Muslims. Jihad is included within this compulsory action. Like the call, Jihad is to be performed by the nation (Ummah).
Jihad is continuous and will always be so. This is an obligation imposed on Muslims by Shari’ah. … The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) stated, "This Deen will never cease to exist. A party of the Muslims shall always fight for it until the Hour comes to pass" [Al Jami us Sahih of Imam Muslim].