The Spiritual Jihad

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While in the past, under certain conditions, Muslims were ordered to engage in jihad against their enemies as a defence, in today’s world of chaos, uncertainty and lack of final authority, Muslim individuals are responsible for disciplining their own  souls and fighting an intellectual battle against unbelief.

“O you who have believed, shall I guide you to a commerce that will save you from a painful punishment? [It is that] you believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive (make jihad) in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is best for you, if you should know. He will forgive you your sins and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow and pleasant dwellings in gardens of perpetual residence. That is the great attainment.” (Saf, 61:10-12)

“And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.” (Anfal, 8:60)

“Fight against the mushriks (polytheists) with your wealth, your lives and your tongues.” (Abu Dawud)

“When you leave jihad, Allah makes abasement fall upon you (He makes you abased and disgraced). You cannot get rid of it until you return to your religion again.” (Abu Dawud)

In these verses and hadiths, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala shows us the way of mujahada (striving) which is a commerce that makes us gain happiness in this world, an eternal abode, an eternal happy life, and especially being able to see the divine beauty of Allah. It is only by such commerce and by no other means that we can gain these valuable things.

The word ‘jihad’ in the verses and hadiths is derived from the word ‘jahada’. Jahada means ‘to endeavour, to strive, to make an effort, to exert oneself’; and perseverance, zeal, and sacrifice. As a term jahada is defined in the following way, “Bazlu’l-majhudi fi husuli’l-maqsud”. In other words, it is to exert oneself to the utmost in order to achieve a goal. And this means to struggle against the nafs (soul), Satan, enemies of religion, and against mischief and immorality, evil and oppression. (Jihad wa’l-Qital Fi Siyasatu’l-Shariya, C:1, Beirut-1997, p. 38)

There are many verses and hadiths about the value and merit of mujahada. Those two verses and two hadiths we have given above clearly explain it. Now we will discuss the parts of the jihad and the ways it is implemented.

As it is well-known, an administration has to have a system which will protect the rights and the law, support the oppressed, and prevent the tyranny of the oppressor. Otherwise, that administration will either exist applying its own oppression and pressure, or be destined to collapse. It does not matter if this system is called jihad, or human rights, or a treaty like Hilf al-Fudul (Alliance of the Virtuous) defending the oppressed and the weak. To fulfil this duty, Islam, which is different from man-made systems in many ways, made jihad obligatory, which means guaranteeing the happiness in the world and hereafter, and preventing any kind of oppression and trouble.

Jihad is not oppression, but justice; not transgression, but defence; not to kill, but to protect life; not to violate the law and people’s rights, but to defend them. The proof of this is that during the 1400 years of Islamic rule, the lives of the innocent, the old, women, and children were protected thanks to jihad, whereas the world witnessed great atrocities and oppressions occurring under European dominance after the decline of Islamic rule. This fact is enough to prove our claim because over 75 million people were killed in the two World Wars, when the European civilization was dominant. This shows how much people are in need of the justice of jihad.

Where does this difference come from? It is because Islam is a divine religion, which encourages people to practise the mercy and compassion of the Prophets. The way of the Prophets is to show mercy and affection to everyone from lowest to the highest, so all people love it and accept it.

When the leaders follow the way of the Prophets, they rule with mercy and justice. But when the European civilization takes over the leadership, since it considers that the strong have the right to do as they please, it makes power a means of pressuring people, and tries to make itself accepted among the public by oppressing and dominating people.

We must pay attention to the point that ‘convincing the mind with proof and evidence’ is the principle of Islam. It is called spiritual jihad which is based on tabligh (conveying a message) and nasihah (sincere advice). Islam does not permit jihad with weapons, unless there is a definite necessity.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) instructed the commanders he sent for jihad to do three things: “…When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya tax (paying which also means they must not harm anyone and must obey the state). If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands from them. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.” (Muslim, Jihad 3, [1731]; Tirmizi, Seerah 48, [1617])

An important event occurred regarding this matter in the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), which is related in a hadith. Usama bin Zayd (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: “Rasulullah (PBUH) sent us to some tribes. Having learned that we were coming, they escaped. We chased one of their number. When we caught him, he said ‘La ilaha illallah’, but we killed him. Upon our return, we told the Prophet (PBUH) what happened.

He said, ‘Who will help you on the Judgement Day in the face of the value and greatness of the word that that man said?’

‘O Messenger of Allah, that man said it because of the fear of death,’ I answered.

The Prophet (PBUH) said, ‘Have you opened his heart and looked at it that you know that he said it for any other reason? In the face of this ‘La ilaha illallah’, who will help you?’

He repeated this so many times that I said to myself, ‘If only I had accepted Islam after that day.’” (Muslim, Abu Dawud)

As we understand from the hadiths mentioned above, jihad is two parts: material and spiritual.

‘Material jihad’ is done when the army of Islam is compelled to fight to defend the honour of Islam and the rights of the oppressed. This is a means to save Muslims from worldly disasters and the pains of hereafter. This jihad is fardh al-kifayah (obligation of sufficiency). That is, if the army has the power to defend the religion and the sacred, and the country and the nation, jihad is no longer fardh (obligatory) for the general public. But if the army cannot carry out this duty, or, God forbid, if the country is occupied by enemies, the ‘material jihad’ becomes fardh al-ayn (an obligation on the self) for all. Every Muslim has to fight. Whoever dies in this jihad becomes a martyr which is a high degree. The wounded or the victorious become ghazi (a title given the Muslim warriors or champions).

‘Spiritual jihad’ is to convince people with ideas, and with logical and reasonable proofs, instead of using power and weapons against an enemy. And with the goals of real civilization and happiness, which are the cores of Islam, ‘spiritual jihad’ is also to work to rehabilitate our  own nafs (soul) first of all, and then other people who knowingly or unknowingly harm themselves and others materially or spiritually. In other words, it is to learn the commands and prohibitions of Allah and to apply them in our own lives. And it is to teach Islam to others and to strive to help them to live Islam themselves.

The ‘spiritual jihad’ is called the jihad al-akbar ( the greater jihad) in hadiths. Regarding the importance of ‘spiritual jihad’, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said the following while returning from the Battle of Tabuk, which had been full of great difficulties and hardships:

“Now we are coming from the lesser jihad and going to the greater jihad!”

His companions asked in astonishment, “O Messenger of Allah! Our situation is so bad. Is there any other jihad greater than this?”

And the Prophet (PBUH) answered, “Now we are going to the great jihad against the nafs (soul) and Satan.” (Suyuti, 2:73)

In another hadith the Prophet said, “Seeking knowledge is superior to performing prayers, fasting, going to hajj, and jihad for the sake of Allah.”(Kanzu’l Ummal, 10:28655) This is because to correctly perform the duties like prayers, hajj, or fasting, one has to ‘know’ that they are fardh (compulsory) and how they are performed. Moreover, if one become a means to someone’s embracing Islam, he does something which is ‘blessed than anything on which the sun rises and sets.’(Tabarani)

Some scholars say the following when explaining these hadiths: When engaging in the material jihad, a mujahid deals a blow to just one aspect of unbelief. If he wins, he can only defeat one part of unbelief. The student of knowledge, on the other hand, deals blows to every aspect of unbelief with the sword of spiritual jihad. If he wins, he can defeat unbelief in all its aspects.

As Sayyed Abdul Kareem al-Cili mentioned briefly in his book ‘Insan al-Kamil’ (The Perfect Man), since the ‘material jihad’ is the lesser jihad, someone who dies for the sake of it becomes a lesser martyr (shahid al-asgar). The ‘spiritual jihad’, however, is the greater jihad; so whoever dies for the sake of it becomes a greater martyr (shahid al-akbar).

The spiritual jihad is so much esteemed that the following verse clearly states it: “And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful.” (Al Imran; 3:104)

We must also know that the most pleasurable life is the one spent struggling in the way of iman (faith). Therefore, wise people sacrifice their lives, their world and everything without hesitation for the sake of it.

The ‘spiritual jihad’ becomes fardh al-kifayah (obligation of sufficiency) on condition that there are enough scholars, and that the community’s demand for Islamic knowledge is met. When the scholars do this duty, ‘spiritual jihad’ is no more compulsory for the public. But if the scholars are not enough for this duty, or, God forbid, immorality and vice become common in the country, the ‘spiritual jihad’ becomes fardh al-ayn (an obligation on the self). Every Muslim has to learn knowledge and practise it in his life, and teach knowledge to others so that they practise it too.

Imam Bediuzzaman Said Nursi said the following while giving a sermon in Damascus in 1911: “In the past, Islam’s progress occurred through smashing the enemy’s bigotry and obstinacy, and through defence against their aggression, through weapons and the sword. Whereas in the future, in place of weapons, the immaterial and moral swords of real civilization, material progress, truth and justice will defeat and scatter the enemies.”(The Damascus Sermon) He also says that the ‘spiritual jihad’, which is the great jihad, is a doubled fardh al-ayn (obligation on the self) in this day and age.(The Damascus Sermon, Second Addendum)

Some years later, Imam Bediuzzaman explained this truth to his students as follows:

“My dear brothers! Our duty is to have a positive attitude, not a negative one. It is only to serve belief for the sake of Allah, and not to interfere in the work of the Creator. We are obliged to be patient and thankful in the face of any trouble in this service of faith which results in establishing order and tranquillity.

I have never submitted to any oppression or insult since my childhood. There have been many incidents showing that I do not bow to oppression. I did not stand up in the presence of the Russian commander, for instance. And I did not pay heed to the questions of the court-martial judges threatening me with execution. These show that I did not give in to oppression. However, for the last 30 years, for the sake of a positive attitude, and not to behave negatively, and not to interfere with the divine decree, I have responded with patience and acceptance to the cruel treatment I have received, like Cercis (peace be upon him), and like the Sahaba who suffered at the battles of Badr and Uhud.

An example of this is the fact that I did not curse the prosecutor, whom I proved wrong, showing his 80 mistakes in the court, who gave decision against us with his false claims. Because the real issue is the ‘spiritual jihad’; to help to put up barriers against the spiritual destruction of the time, and to help inner security by that means. Yes, our way has power, but this power is for protecting tranquillity. And it is a principle that “No bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.” (Fatir, 35:18) And ‘his brother, his descendants, or his children bear no responsibility for a criminal’s wrongdoings.’ For this reason I have worked for the protection of security my entire life. Our duty is to help to secure the inner safety. That is why there have hardly ever been civil wars threatening the security of the Islamic world. The indispensable condition of the ‘spiritual jihad’ is not to interfere with the divine role. Our duty is to serve; the result is given by Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala. We are only responsible for carrying out our duty.

I have drawn the lesson of acting with sincerity from the Qur’an, and I have said, like Jalaluddin Harzemshah, “My duty is to serve the faith; being successful depends on Allah’s will.” Attacks from outside are responded to with power, but inside it is not so. The correct inner attitude is to respond to spiritual destruction with spiritual manners like sincerity. The inner jihad and the outer jihad are totally different. Now that Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala has given me millions of real students, we will maintain a positive attitude in order to protect the inner security. We do not run after worldly matters. But when we deal with them, we try to help people. We contribute to protecting the security in a positive manner.”(Emirdağ Appendix)

As a result, there are two fields of struggle to rid ourselves of our enemies’ harm, to protect our rights and to protect the oppressed. One is the material struggle with weapons. “The powerful become victorious,” is the principle of this struggle. So the only way to be triumphant in this field is to be powerful. Although it is obligatory that Muslim armies have material power to defeat the enemies, today’s Muslims have unfortunately failed to perform this obligation. For this reason, Muslims lose the struggle in the material arena. And since their enemies know this fact, they always try to draw the Muslims to that ground.

We have to be careful, and must not enter that field as long as we do not have to. Unfortunately some Muslims say, “The enemy has weapons, but we have our Lord,” and prefer to enter that arena contrary to the rules and practices of Allah. That is, although they do not have sufficient power, they try to fight against the enemy in vain. They do not know that someone may be rejected by Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala by being made to fail, if they do not obey the rules and practices of Allah.

The second field of struggle is the spiritual one. It is the field of knowledge and thought, proof and evidence, real civilization and understanding, and the means to happiness in the world and the hereafter. In this arena we have the Word of Allah (the Qur’an), the hadith of the Prophet, and Islam, which organizes the life of the Muslims. No fault has appeared in these things for more than 1,400 years. Throughout history, Muslims have advanced and become civilized as long as they have held firmly to these three things. And whenever Muslims have been led astray from these things, they have declined and become underdeveloped.

This proves that thanks to reason and science, which will rule in future, Islam will become the real ruler. Because of this power, we as Muslims do not have any doubt that, with the help of Allah, we will always be victorious in this field of ‘spiritual jihad’ as we have been till today. It makes sense for us to draw our enemies to the second field. We must not enter the first where they can defeat us.

We ask Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala to bestow upon us the awareness of faith and Islam which will be the ruler of the future. Amin!

One thought on “The Spiritual Jihad

  1. Ameen !!! Alhamdulllilahi Rabbil Alameen…jezakAllahukharyn for this great article…MashaAllah 🙂

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