In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Ever Merciful.

Love for All, Hatred for None.

Browse Al Islam


Jihad with Sword


One of the reasons for which Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Sect in Islam has been branded as Kafir is that he has denounced Jihad. We give below an excerpt from his writings in which he has given an exposition of the kind of Jihad which he has forbidden. It is easy to see from it that the Jihad which he has denounced consists in propagating Islam at the point of sword. Such a Jihad has no authority in the Holy Quran or the Traditions of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Holy Quran rejects it by pronouncing there should be no compulsion in religion (2:257). The Promised Messiah explains in this article that early wars of Islam were fought in self defence only and that Islam strongly condemns those ignorant Muslims who seek to become Ghazis by killing innocent non-Muslims.

In fact this view of Jihad presents Islam in the most detestable form and by generating enmity and hatred amongst non-Muslims alienates them from it irrevocably. Everyone would tremble in the company of such a bigoted Muslim, for at any moment he might choose to be Ghazi and make a short work of him. This would, indeed defeat the very object of Islam, which is to win over the whole mankind by preaching its message of love and amity.

Anybody who reads the following article can judge for himself whether by denouncing such a bloody interpretation of Jihad, the Promised Messiah deserves to be branded as a Kafir or to be hailed as a Champion of Islam. (Ed.)

There is not the least truth in the assertion that it is time for resorting to the sword and gun for spreading the true religion and righteousness. The sword, far from revealing the beauties and excellence of truth, makes them dubious and throws them into background. Those who hold such views are not the friends of Islam but its deadly foes. They have low motives, mean natures, poor spirits, narrow minds, dull brains and short sight. It is they who open the way to an objection against Islam, the validity of which cannot questioned. They hold that Islam needs the sword for their advancement, thus brand its purity and cast a slur upon its holy name. The religion that can easily establish its truth and superiority by sound intellectual arguments, heavenly signs or other reliable testimony, does not need the sword to threaten men and force a confession of its truth from them. Religion is worth the name only so long as it is in consonance with reason. If it fails to satisfy that requisite, if it has to make up for its discomfiture in argument by handling the sword, it needs no other argument for its falsification. The sword it wields cuts its own throat before reaching others.

If it be objected that sword was resorted to by early Islam and hence the legality of Jihad, we say the objection is based upon ignorance of early Islamic circumstances. Islam never allowed the use of the sword for spreading the faith. On the other hand, it strictly prohibits compulsion in matters of faith. It has the plain injunction "There should be no compulsion in religion." Why was the sword taken in hand then? The circumstances under which this measure had been resorted to have nothing to do with the spread of religion; they are connected with the preservation of life. Briefly, they are as follows:

The savage inhabitants of the deserts of Arabia, who could hardly distinguish right from wrong, conceived a hatred towards Islam in its early days and became its bitterest enemies. The reason of this hatred may be easily conceived. When the unity of God and the Islamic truths were preached openly to idolatrous Arabs and convincing arguments against idol worship were impressed upon their minds and they were told how degrading it was for the noblest of God's creatures to bow submission to stones, they found themselves unable to meet the adherents of the new faith upon argumentative ground. This exposure led to a motion in favour of Islam among the more reasonable of them. The ties of relationship were cut asunder, the son parted from his parents and brother from his brother. This exasperated them the more and they saw plainly that if their fathers' false religion was to be saved, excessive measures must be taken to stop the ingress into the new religion. The new converts to Islam were therefore violently persecuted and no efforts were spared to block the way to the new faith. Those acquainted with early Muslim history know full well what barbarous and cruel treatment was meted out to the early converts, and how many were murdered in cold blood. But those harsh measures did not prevent people from the acceptance of truth, for even a superficial glance is enough to convince a man of the reasonableness and purity of Islam as against idolatry. At length when the implacable foes of Islam saw that severe persecution availed but little and that their ancient religion was threatened to be swept away in the current of Muslim reason, they planned the death of the Prophet himself. But their designs were frustrated. Almighty God saved His messenger and took him to Medina. The unbelievers, however, could not rest in their homes so long as they heard that the religion they had persecuted was gaining ground in another place. They pursued the Muslims to their new abode, and nothing but their extirpation could satisfy them. What could Islam do under the circumstances but defend itself? For what fault were Muslims to be mercilessly butchered and not allowed to protect their lives? Why should not the inveterate persecutors have been brought to retribution and just punishment? The Muslim battles were therefore not undertaken for gaining converts but to protect innocent Muslims lives. Can an unbiased judgement accept the conclusion that Islam was unable to prove its reasonableness as against savage Arabs? Can an unprejudiced mind believe that men who had sunk down so low as to worship images and lifeless things and who indulged in every manner of vice, could yet vanquish the noble religion of Islam on intellectual grounds, and that failure in proof led it to resort to the sword for increasing the number of its followers? Those who have advanced such objections against Islam have been guilty of grave injustice, inasmuch as they have concealed the true state of facts.

It is, however, true that the Muslim Maulvis and the Christian missionaries are equally to blame for this unjust charge against Islam. The ignorant Maulvis while pretending to support Islam have by their repeated inculcation, ingrafted the false doctrine of Jihad upon the minds of the unenlightened public who were misled by the fatwas of the Maulvis on the one side and the objections of the Christian Missionaries, whom they took for learned men, on the other. The doctrine of Jihad being thus supported by the evidence of two opposing witnesses, its validity could not be questioned by the masses. Had the Missionaries taken a different course and with true honesty declared that the fatwas of the Maulvis were based on ignorance of the early Islamic history, and that the circumstances which then rendered an appeal to arms necessary for Muslims, did not exist any more, the idea of Jihad would long have been eradicated from the face of the earth. But they never looked to the consequences and a misdirected zeal for their own religion cast a veil over their judgements in grasping the truth.

It must also be stated here that permission for self-defence and murdering the enemies of Islam was not given to the Muslims until the Arabs had, on account of their excessive oppressions and outrages and innocent bloodshed, rendered themselves culpable and liable to be punished with death. But a clemency was even then shown to such of them as embraced Islam. The unity of religion established a relation of brotherhood and all past wrongs were forgotten. It is here that some opponents of Islam have stumbled and from this they draw the conclusion that the new religion was forced upon the unbelievers. In fact, the case is just the reverse of what the objectors have thought. There is no compulsion here; it was a favour to those who had rendered themselves liable to death. It is apparently absurd to take this conditional mitigation of just punishment for compulsion. They deserved to be murdered, not because they did not believe in the mission of the Prophet, but because they had murdered many an innocent soul. The extreme penalty of the law was upon them, mercy of the Gracious God gave them another chance of averting this merited capital punishment. He knew that during the long years of opposition the Islamic truths had been brought home to them and they well understood the futility of idol-worship, therefore His mercy offered them an opportunity even after the sentence was justly pronounced against them, for imploring His pardon and the forgiveness of their sins. This clearly shows that it was not the object of Islam to put any unbeliever merely as such to death, but that it was willing to forgive even when the criminal was found deserving of death.

Islam had to grapple with other difficulties. Religious prejudice was so strong at the time that if a member of any tribe adopted the faith of Islam, he was either put to death or threatened with it, and persecution was so severe that life seemed a burden to him. Islam had therefore to face the difficulty of establishing freedom of religious exercise and for this noble object it had to undertake wars.

The early wars of Islam fall under either of the above headings and it never took the sword for its own propagation or for any other purpose. Attempts were made to blot out its very existence and therefore its life. It did not take up arms of its own accord but was compelled to do so. It had to defend itself and repel the dangerous foe. Later on, when its true principle were forgotten, the doctrine was read in a different light and ignorance looked with pride upon a hateful course of life. But the fault can in no way be attributed to Islam. The source from which it flows is pure and undefiled. That this doctrine has been identified with Islamic teachings by shallow-brained zealots who do not care for the life of man even so much as man should care for the life of a sparrow, cannot be questioned. But the innocent blood that has been split in the past does not satisfy them. They have yet a bloody Mahdi in store for the world and would like to exhibit the ugliest picture of Islam before all nations, that all people may know that Islam has always had to resort for its propagation to compulsion and the sword, and that it has not particle of truth in it to gain its conquest over hearts. It seems as if the holders of these views are not satisfied with the humiliation and decadence with Islam has already suffered, but must bring it still lower and subject it to yet more disgrace. These men are a reproach to Islam. But God now wills that Islam should not be branded with reproaches and remain under a cloud any more. It is already so distressing to find that its opponents who have not taken the trouble to investigate matters for themselves, have it impressed upon their minds that Islam has from its very beginning been employing the sword to add to its numbers.

It is high time that all these base charges should be cleared from the face of Islam. If the Maulvis unite to root out the evil from the midst of the Muhammadans, they shall have done a lasting good to, and conferred a blessing upon their co-religionists. Such an exposition of the doctrines of Islam will further reveal the excellence and beauties of that religion to the general public, and the aversion which its opponents have conceived on account of misconception shall be turned into admiration. The clouds of dust being cleared, they shall then be able to get their light from that source of light. It is evident that no one can approach a bloody murderer. Every one fears him, women and children tremble at his sight, and he looks like a mad man. An opponent of an alien religion cannot even pass a night with him let he should choose to be a Ghazi at the cost of his life. Such events daily occur among the ignorant frontier people, and a single bloody deed is deemed sufficient to entitle the murderer to paradise and its manifold blessings. It is shame for Muhammadans that alien races cannot safely live as their neighbours. They cannot trust them for a single moment and hardly expect any good in times of need. They do not deem themselves save among them and shrink at the hidden belief of Ghazism.

An instance of this occurred lately here in Qadian. On the 20th of November last a European came here. Just at that time a number of my followers has assembled together and the conversation was upon a religious subject. The traveller stood apart from the assembly and was addressed in polite words. It appeared that he was apprehensive. He stated that he had seen many Muhammadans who had committed atrocious deeds of murder against Christians. He mentioned several specific instance in which such cruelty had been shown. It was then explained to him that this, the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, abhorred such doctrines and hated their adherents such doctrines and hated their adherents. It had set before itself the noble object of uprooting this evil. Upon this he felt satisfied and stayed here for one night.

There is a lesson in this story for the pro-Jihad Maulvis. The growth of such horrible doctrines among the Muslims, has done lasting injury to the cause of Islam and created an abhorrence for it in the hearts of other nations. They have no confidence in their sympathy so long as the dangerous doctrine os Jihad finds favour with them. They cannot form a favourable opinion except of such of them as do not lead strictly religious lives and are not very scrupulous about their religious beliefs. For all these misunderstanding none but the Muslims themselves are responsible. The blame of depriving a whole world of the recognition of Islamic truths lie at the door of the Maulvis who taught doctrine repulsive to the nature of man. How could the religion be from God, whose teachings needed the flash of the sword to get an entrance into the human heart? Such considerations were enough to keep back people from the acceptance of truth. The true religion is that which on account of its inherent property and power and its convincing arguments is more powerful than the keenest sword, not that which depends upon steel for its existence.

(Courtesy, Review of Religions, 1902)

Jihad in Islam