Fiqh of Jihad- What's New?
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Written by Rashid Al-Ghannoushi   
Saturday, 31 October 2009 13:15

                Sheikh Rashid Al-Ghannoushi


The importance of this topic 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 organizations, 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 programme on Aljazeera channel “Shari'ah 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 Qur'an, “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 Qur'an 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 Sheikh Qaradawi based on the Qur'an 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 recognizes 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 preemptive? 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?


Issues of Methodology


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

  1. Relying on the Qur'an 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 Qur'an, 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 Qur'an, 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.
  2. Relying on authentic Sunnah which does not contradict stronger evidence, such as the Qur'an. 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.
  3. 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 Shari'ah: the latter being of divine origin, and the former the product of intellectual effort to deduce the rulings of Shari'ah. 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.
  4. We can live, under Islam, in a world that promotes peace and security rather than fear, tolerance rather than fundamentalism, love rather than hatred 
    Using the method of comparison between Islam and other religions and legal systems.
  5. 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”.
  6. 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 Shari'ah fundamentals.
  7. 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.


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 Baha'is 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 word jihad is much wider than just fighting 

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 Qur'an 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 Makkah where there was no fighting, but rather jihad of da’wah (preaching) through the Qur'an, ( And strive against them with the utmost endeavour with it (the Qur'an))  (Al-Furqan 25:52) (p. 50-52). The word is also used in the Qur'an 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 civilisation. 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).


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.
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).


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). 


Military Jihad: Between Daf’ and Talab (Defensive and Preemptive 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 preemptive 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 preemptive 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 Qur'an and the Sunnah, and from historical practice. The Qur'anic texts used call for fighting against all polytheists, such as verse 36 of surat al-Tawba (And wage war on all of the idolaters as they are waging war on all of you. ), (At-Tawbah 9:36), (slay the idolaters wherever ye find them ) (At-Tawbah 9:5), and (Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day … until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low ) (At-Tawbah 9:29). 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 Qur'anic 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 ye not fight a folk who broke their solemn pledges, and purposed to drive out the messenger and did attack you first? ) (At-Tawbah, 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, incline thou also to it ) (Al-Anfal, 8:61). There is no need to set one verse of the Qur'an against another; rather one should look at all relevant verses and hadith, 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 think 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 Qur'an 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 recognized 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 jizyah 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 generalizing military service make such a system which has been misunderstood and misused unnecessary.
                    Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi
  6. It was historical conditions, rather than the texts of Islam, that made many jurists believe preemptive 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. 
  7. 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” (Qur'an, 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, blessing band peace be upon him, was told by his son-in-law that his daughter Fatimah had given birth to a boy and that he called him Harb, he commanded him to name him Hasan (meaning good).
  8. 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.
  9. 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: ( Ye put faith in him before I give you leave.)  (Ta-Ha 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.
  10. 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 al-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.
  11. 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 war 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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).
  14. 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).
For Muslims, war is governed by a moral code, because morals are not an option, but rather an essential part of religion.  

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 Qur'an commands(Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.) (Al-Baqarah 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 fulfillment 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 kill 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 Muslim 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 criticizing the great number of jurists who uphold the principle of preemptive 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 Qur'anic 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. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware. ) (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

* Speech given by the author at The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, on September 8th. 2009

Rashid Al-Ghannoushi is head of the Al-Nahda Islamic movement of Tunis and is one of the most important Islamic thinkers today. After obtaining political asylum, he has resided in Britain. He is considered one of the more pragmatic Islamic leaders and supporters of coexistence and cooperation among cultures.