Home Islamic Studies The Meaning of Jihad and Qital in the Qur’an (Part II)

The Meaning of Jihad and Qital in the Qur’an (Part II)


Jihad and Qital in the Qur’an

The word jihad and its derivations (mustaq) are mentioned in the Qur’an 41 times, and four of them specifically in the form of the word jihad. Meanwhile, the word qital appears more in the Qur’an than that of jihad. These two words have different root words and origins, different objects, and tools of analysis. The root word of jihad is jahada which means hard work. The root word qital is qatala which means killing or murder.   

Ontologically, the meaning of these two words is very different, although both of them have the same objective namely the path of Allah (sabilillah). The verses related to the instruction of qital in the Qur’an are directed to fight physically to the groups that are against Islam. In the meantime, the instruction of jihad is directed to establish a good path in the name of Allah. Only one exception in sura Al-Furqan verse 52 stated that:   

فَلَا تُطِعِ الْكَافِرِينَ وَجَاهِدْهُمْ بِهِ جِهَادًا كَبِيرًا 

Therefore, listen not to the Unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost strenuousness, with the (Qur’an).

This verse instructs to strive (jihad) against unbelievers. However, in this verse, the meaning of jihad is not necessarily a physical jihad by using weapons. As it is mentioned clearly from the verse that the weapon used for this jihad is not related to the deadly weapon but the Qur’an. The Qur’an as a weapon as suggested in this verse means that the method of jihad should be enlightening and not degrading; reviving and not decrying.  

In another verse, the meaning of jihad emphasizes to the path of Allah and not killing the enemy. It is stated in the Qur’an Sura Al-Haaj verse 78:

 وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ 

And strive in Allah cause as ye ought to strive, (with sincerity and under discipline). He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion.

The phrase jihad in the path of Allah has a deep meaning, and this meaning is related to the welfare of the universe represented in the term Allah.  

According to the Sufi perspective, the term fi-Allah has a deeper meaning than the term min- Allah, ma’a-Allah, bi-Allah, and Ila-Allah. The term fi- Allah illustrates the unity with Allah, in Allah. The above explanations indicate that jihad is not fighting against the enemy, not finding legitimation to fight in the name of religion, instead, jihad is the effort to spread the veracity for the universe. 

The meaning of qital in the Qur’an is to fight against the enemy although not necessarily to kill. The meaning of Qital in the Qur’an is related to the fight against (1) polytheists (At-Taubah: 36); (2) the persons/group who opposed against Islam (al-Baqarah: 190); (3) the followers of devils (an-Nisa:76); (4) Unbelievers to God and the hereafter (at-Taubah: 29, at-Taubah: 123); (5) the rebellious (al-Hujurat: 9); and (8) the wrong-doer (al-Haj: 39). 

From the above-mentioned verses containing both words, jihad, and qital, several differences appear substantively. Jihad is a strong effort to establish justice, eliminate unjust and despotism. Jihad is conducted peacefully and diplomatically to bring awareness, life, and the wellbeing to the universe. Meanwhile, qital is physical combat against unbelievers, polytheists, rebels, and tyrants by using weapons.


Participation of Jihad and Qital for men and women

The Qur’an instructs jihad and qital to both men and women. It is an instruction similar to that of performing shalat (praying), zakat (alms), hajj (pilgrimage), shadaqa (charity), and other religious obligations. Many of the Qur’anic phrases for religious instruction uses the plural form of jama’ mudzakkar salim (masculine plural form). According to the Arabic structures, when this masculine plural form is used in the sentence, it also addresses women, except there is an explanation otherwise. This theory in ushul fiqh (principle of Islamic jurisprudence) is called taglib ar-rijal ala an-nisa’ (the women is included in the term). This concept is expanded by Faqihuddin Abdul Kodir in the theory of mubadalah (reciprocity). For example, the Qur’an Sura Al-Baqarah verse 183, stated that: 

 يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ 

This verse is directed to men and women’s believers although the term used for the instruction in the masculine plural form “الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا” (jama’ mudzakar salim/ masculine plural form). 

Another sura Al-Baqarah verse 216 stated:

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَكُمْ وَعَسَى أَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَعَسَى أَنْ تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ 

This verse is directed at men and women, although it uses the word “عَلَيْكُمُ “(jama’ mudzakar salim/ masculine plural form). 

Therefore, the obligation of jihad and qital, certainly, address not based on sex/gender but the capability and competence of each person to do so.  

Several Hadith (narration attributed to the Prophet Muhammad) mentioned the active participation of women in social and political arena including in the battle fields with different roles. 

… عَنِ رُبَيِّعَ بِنْتِ مُعَوِّذِ ابْنِ عَفْرَاءَ ، قالت: ” كنا نغزو مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: نسقي القوم ونخدمهم، ونرد القتلى والجرحى إلى المدينة ”   صحيح البخاري

… from Rubayyi’ binti Mu’awwidz Ibni Afra’, she said; we are with Rasullullah in the battle, we prepare drinks and meals, brought the dead and the wounded back to Medina. 

Another Hadith explained that the Prophet Muhammad once prohibited a man who wanted to join jihad on the battlefield. The Prophet instead stated that he should do jihad in the form of caring for his parent. The Prophet said (as compiled in Kitab Sahih Muslim, volume 4, number 1975: 

… عَنْ عَبْدِ اللهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو، قَالَ: جَاءَ رَجُلٌ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، يَسْتَأْذِنُهُ فِي الْجِهَادِ فَقَالَ: «أَحَيٌّ وَالِدَاكَ؟» قَالَ: نَعَمْ، قَالَ: «فَفِيهِمَا فَجَاهِدْ»


Both of the Hadith mentioned above strengthened what is already written clearly in the Qur’an regarding the obligation of jihad and qital that address to both men and women. Allah does not distinguish these roles based on a particular sex/gender. Men and women who fight their best to establish justice, fight for the truth, and develop peace for the well-being of the universe will be rewarded for what has been completed. @Irma_

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