What is jihâd?

This term denotes “applying every psychological and physical effort possible.” The Qur’anic use of the term “jihâd” cannot be diminished to only mean “holy war,” for it is not the precise meaning the revelation intends to ascribe to this word. As is known, the Qur’an uses the word “qitâl” (“war”), which is different from jihâd. The Qur’an only allows waging qitâl, not jihâd, even in cases of utmost self-defense necessity (see: Haj 22:39 and Baqarah 2:216).

Jihâd can also denote “human’s extraordinary effort for Allah’s cause.” The following âyah, which allows waging “jihâd” (effort, striving), was revealed in the Meccan period of prophethood when no wars or battles were waged by Muslims nor were they permitted by Allah to do so for self-defense, and it precisely illustrates our point: “Do not defer to [the likes and dislikes of] those who deny the truth, but strive hard against them, by means of this [divine writ], with utmost striving (jihâd)” (Furqan 25:52).

It is extremely important to note that the “weapon” for waging jihâd here is not arms or weapons, but “this divine scripture.” According to the Qur’an, the main prerequisite for a permissible war is not the opponent’s religion, but their attack and assault (Baqarah 2:190; Mumtahanah 60:8-9).

If Allah willed that everyone on the face of Earth believed in Him, having them do so would be indeed easy for Him: “And [thus it is:] had thy Sustainer so willed, all those who live on earth would surely have attained to faith, all of them: dost thou, then, think that thou couldst compel people to believe?” (Yunus 10:99) Allah let humans to freely and consciously choose to have faith (Kahf 18:29).

Allah does not force humans to believe in Him, but urges them to do so by the means of prophets and Holy Scriptures (‘Ali`Imran 3:110).

The goal of lawful wars is not exterminating those who are not Muslim. According to the Qur’an, such a war is only permissible “until there is no more oppression” against faith (Baqarah 2:193).

To be sure, resisting and fighting one’s own inner desires and corrupting wishes are also a jihâd.

Is jihâd equal to war?

No, they are not. According to the âyah 78 of Surah Al-Haj, “jihâd” is “commanded” irrespective of time and space, whereas in the âyah 39 “wars” are only “permitted to wage” pursuant to conditions. Jihâd cannot be limited into the notion of “war.” For instance, “O prophet! Strive hard [wage jihâd] against the deniers of the truth and the hypocrites, and be adamant with them. And [if they do not repent,] their goal shall be hell – and how vile a journey’s end!” (Tahrim 66:9)

This âyah proclaims jihâd not only against deniers of truth, but also against hypocrites. As is historically known, there was no war waged against hypocrites who reared their heads in Medina. Let alone declaring war, Allah harshly reprimanded and strongly criticized His Messenger for being too lenient toward the leaders of hypocrites (Tawbah 9:84).

What Is “enjoining the right and forbidding the evil?”

The Qur’an calls the universally accepted good deeds and attitudes “al-ma’ruf” and calls the universally rejected bad deeds and attitudes “al-munkar.” The revelation does not only command believers to enjoin the good, but also demands that they strive to ensure that the good reigns in their society.

The revelation does not only forbid the evil, but also urges believers to keep others from committing evil actions. Here are several âyahs in this regard: “And [as for] the believers, both men and women – they are close unto one another: they [all] enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and are constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and pay heed unto Allah and His Apostle. It is they upon whom Allah will bestow His grace: verily, Allah is almighty, wise!” (Tawbah 9:71)

“You are indeed the best community that has ever been brought forth for [the good of] mankind: you enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and you believe in Allah…”
(‘Ali `Imran 3:110)

“They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and vie with one another in doing good works: and these are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, they shall never be denied the reward thereof: for, Allah has full knowledge of those who are conscious of Him.” (‘Ali `Imran 3:114-115)

“The hypocrites, both men and women, are all of a kind: they enjoin the doing of what is wrong and forbid the doing of what is right and withhold their hands [from doing good]. They are oblivious of Allah, and so He is oblivious of them. Verily, the hypocrites – it is they, they who are truly iniquitously!” (Tawbah 9:67)

Does Islam encourage Muslims to become missionaries as in Christianity?

It does not. Missionary organizations are institutions under churches’ patronage. Because there is no church in Islam as an institution, there are no missionaries as such. However, there is calling to monotheism (da’wah) in Islam, which is different from Christian missions.

In Islam, Muslims call people to Allah and His religion: “And who could be better of speech than he who calls [his fellow humans] unto Allah, and does what is just and right, and says, ‘Verily, I am of those who have surrendered themselves to Allah?’” (Fussilat 41:33)

In contrast to this call, missionaries call fellow humans to join their respective churches. After all, Paul argued, “The Church is salvation.” On the contrary, the Qur’an does not offer humans guarantees of salvation just for joining the ranks of Muslims.

On the contrary, it speaks in the following âyah to Muslims, Jews, Christians and Sabians saying, “Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians – all who believe in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.” (Baqarah 2:62)

In a different âyah, which carries a similar meaning, Allah says: “Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Sabians, and the Christians – all who believe in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve” (Ma’idah 5:69)

What is da’wah (call to Islam); who and what does one make da’wah to?

“And who could be better of speech than he who calls [his fellowmen] unto Allah, and does what is just and right, and says, ‘Verily, I am of those who have surrendered themselves to Allah?’” (Fussilat 41:33) “Say [unto them, O Prophet]: ‘I have only been bidden to worship Allah, and not to ascribe divine powers to aught beside Him: unto Him do I call [all mankind], and He is my goal!’” (Ra`d 13:36) “O our Sustainer! Behold, we heard a voice call [us] unto faith, ‘Believe in your Sustainer!’ – and so we came to believe. O our Sustainer! Forgive us, then, our sins, and efface our bad deeds; and let us die the death of the truly virtuous!.” (‘Ali `Imran 3:193) 

“O you who have attained to faith! Respond to the call of Allah and the Apostle whenever he calls you unto that which will give you life; and know that Allah intervenes between man and [the desires of] his heart, and that unto Him you shall be gathered.” (‘Anfal 8:24) “But if they turn away, say: “I have proclaimed this in equity unto all of you alike; but I do not know whether that [judgment] which you are promised [by Allah] is near or far [in time]” (‘Anbya’ 21:109)

How is da’wah carried out?

“Call thou (all mankind] unto thy Sustainer’s path with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the most kindly manner – for, behold, thy Sustainer knows best as to who strays from His path, and best knows He as to who are the right-guided.” (Nahl 16:125)

“But [since] good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou [evil) with something that is better – and lo! he between whom and thyself was enmity [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [unto thee], a true friend!” (Fussilat 41:34)

“And no reward whatever do I ask of you for [this da’wah]: my reward rests with none but the Sustainer of all the worlds.” (Shuàráa 26:109)

“Just as thou canst not lead the blind [of heart] out of their error; none canst thou make hear save such as [are willing to] believe in Our messages, and thus surrender themselves unto Us.” (Naml 27:81)

What is the status of Jews and Christians according to the Qur’an?

The Qur’an grants Jews and Christians a special status compared to other faith systems, by calling them “The Peoples of the Book” and recognizing the divine source of their later altered scripts.

The Qur’an grants a special status to Jews and Christians, which Arab polytheists are not given, despite the fact Prophet Muhammad emerged in that region and the Qur’an itself is in their language.

The Qur’an allows Muslim men to marry Jewish and Christian women and makes their food (slaughtered animals included) lawful for Muslims (Ma’idah 5:5).

Is there a special kind of da’wah for Jews and Christians described in the Qur’an? 

It does. But this da’wah does not call them to abandon one affiliation and assume another. On the contrary, this da’wah urges Jews to follow Moses’ teachings and Christians to follow Jesus’ teachings.

Because, according to the Qur’an, Moses and Jesus were prophets who called unto monotheism and worshiping Allah alone, and prohibited polytheism. After all, the Qur’anic call is the same da’wah to monotheism, to which all of the previous prophets called unto: “Say: ‘O followers of earlier revelations!

Come unto that tenet which we and you hold in common: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall not ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, and that we shall not take human beings for our lords beside Allah.’ And if they turn away, then say: ‘Bear witness that it is we who have surrendered ourselves unto Him.’” (‘Ali `Imran 3:64)

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