Jihad, a Peaceful Activity. By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
18 Oct 2013
Mulla Ali Qari was a famous Islamic scholar and jurisprudent. He was born in Herat, now in Afghanistan, and died in Makkah in 1606. He was the author of a number of books. One of these is titled Mirqat ul-Masabih, which is a commentary on a Hadith collection titled Mishkat ul-Masabih. In the chapter on jihad in this book, Mulla Ali Qari writes that the word jihad literally denotes struggle and effort. He then goes on to add that at a later time jihad began being used to refer to war in Islam against the ‘infidels’ (ahl-e kufr).
Every word has both a literal as well as a conventional meaning, one that is related to how the word has come to be conventionally used and understood. This is the case with the word jihad, too. The word jihad comes from the root juhd or jahd. The literal meaning of this is ‘exertion’. In ordinary usage, this word is used for various sorts of exertion or struggle, one of which is war. However, it is used only for a particular and exceptional sort of war, which is fought in the cause of God (fi sabilillah). A war that is pursued for wealth and power is not a jihad.
In this regard, the Quran uses two different words: jihad and qital. Where the reference is to a peaceful struggle or exertion, the Quran uses the word jihad. For instance, the Quran (25:52) refers to a peaceful jihad of dawah or inviting others to the faith through the Quran. And when the reference is to physical war, the Quran uses the word qital. However, in the later period, after the demise of the Prophet, the word jihad began being used in most cases as synonymous with qital or war. However, even if this usage of the term jihad is regarded as proper, it would be only an expanded usage of the term, and does not indicate its actual or essential meaning.
Based on the actual or essential meaning of the word, jihad is a term for a peaceful activity, and not a violent one. It is undertaken to transform people intellectually and spiritually, not to kill them!