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South Africa court case (1982-1985)

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17. Jihad
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The Evidence
Section 17:

Translator’s Note:
A widely propagated charge against Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is that he denied the Islamic teaching about jihad, and urged Muslims to reject this doctrine. The defendants too advanced this allegation in their pleadings. The evidence given in this Section, therefore, first examines the teachings of the Quran and Hadith to establish exactly what is meant by jihad there (17.1). It then cites the views of Muslim theologians on the meaning of jihad (17.2). All these extracts prove that jihad means a struggle in a very broad sense. Views of well-known ulama are further cited to show that the term jihad is certainly not synonymous with war or physical fighting.

Then writings of Hazrat Mirza are quoted, showing that he fully believed in the Islamic teaching on jihad, that indeed he practised it in the form appropriate to his time, and that he accepted jihad as taking the form of war under the conditions specified by Islam (17.3). It is then explained that in his time an entirely wrong concept of jihad — as mere killing — had come to prevail, and it was this false notion that Hazrat Mirza rejected and urged Muslims to reject as well (17.4).

A related allegation is that Hazrat Mirza declared support for the British government of India, and thus acted against the interests of the Muslims. The Section gives the views of contemporary Muslim leaders from a variety of groups, showing that all Muslim public figures at that time strongly expressed loyalty to the British government and condemned any idea of a jihad or uprising against it (17.5). The passages from Hazrat Mirza’s writings now quoted by his critics, when read in context and examined against the background of prevailing Muslim opinion, cannot be objected to at all.

17.1: Jihad in Holy Quran and Hadith

Jihad is an Arabic word, the meaning of which is explained here in the light of Arabic lexicology, the Holy Quran, Hadith, and writings of the scholars of Islam.

The root jaahada means ‘to strive’. Juhd means power or exertion. Jihad is the noun of jaahada, and its meaning given in the Mufradat of Raghib, the classical dictionary of Quranic terms, is as follows:

“To exert one’s power in repelling the enemy. Jihad is of three kinds: against a visible enemy; against the devil; and against self.”

(page 100, in Section Letter j followed by letter h)

Lane’s Arabic-English lexicon says under jihad:
Jihad, infinitive noun of jaahada, properly signifies the using or exerting of one’s utmost power, efforts, endeavours or ability, in contending with an object of disapprobation; and this is of three kinds, namely, a visible enemy, the devil, and one’s self; all of which are included in the term as used in the Quran 22:77.”


It is clear from the Quran that the word jihad has been used there to mean ‘striving’ or ‘exerting’.
  1. “Those who strive (jaahada) for Us, We guide them in Our ways” (26:69). Here the meaning is to carry on a spiritual struggle to attain nearness to God.
  2. “Whoever strives (jaahada), he only strives for his own self” (29:6). The meaning here again is struggle for self-purification.
  3. “We have enjoined on man to do good to his parents. But if they strive (jaahadaa) with you to worship that of which you have no knowledge [i.e. false gods], then obey them not” (29:8). Here the meaning is that of ‘arguing’ or ‘disputing’, and is applied to an act of unbelievers.
  4. “Strive for God a true striving (jihad).” (22:78)
  5. “Obey not the unbelievers and hypocrites, and strive against them a mighty striving (jihad) with it [i.e. the Quran].” (25:52)

    Both these verses give the command to conduct jihad. The first refers to a jihad for attaining nearness to God. The second mentions a jihad against the deniers of Islam, not by the sword but by means of the Quran itself. It is called a “mighty jihad”, and is a constant duty.

  6. As against the word jihad, the Quran has used qu‘ood to mean the opposite, and this clarifies the meaning of jihad itself:

    “Those believers who sit back, not disabled by injury, are not equal to those who do jihad in the way of God with their wealth and lives.” (4:94)

    Qu‘ood is to sit back and be lazy. Jihad is in contrast to this, meaning ‘making a full effort’ even at the cost of one’s life.

Muslims at Makka

Although the Holy Prophet Muhammad had received revelations ordering jihad while he was still resident in Makka before the emigration to Madina (see verses 4 and 5 above), he did not raise the sword against the unbelievers who were bitterly persecuting him and his followers. But he was most certainly conducting a jihad in Makka in obedience to these verses. This was a jihad of following the word of God and propagating the message of Islam. This mode of conduct clearly proves that jihad was not equivalent to war in the Holy Prophet’s eyes. During this period of persecution at Makka, when some of his Companions asked permission to fight, the Holy Prophet said:
“I have been commanded to forgive, so do not fight.”

(Hadith collection Nasa’i, Book of Jihad)

Muslims at Madina

The Muslims emigrated to Madina and took refuge there, but their enemies from Makka did not leave them alone. They threatened the then chief of Madina, Abdullah Ibn Ubayy, in a letter as follows:
“O people of Madina, you have given refuge to our adversary. We swear by God that if you do not fight them or expel them, we shall come against you and kill your fighting men and capture your women.”

(Abu Dawud, vol. ii, p. 495)

Not content with this threat, the unbelievers of Makka decided to attack Madina to annihilate Islam and the Muslims by the sword. It was then that God permitted the Muslims to conduct jihad with the sword, because not to do so would have meant suicide for the Muslims. Therefore, in year 2 of the Hijra (emigration to Madina) the following Quranic verse was revealed:
“Permission to fight is given to those upon whom war is made, because they have been wronged — and God is well able to help them. Those who have been expelled from their homes unjustly, only for saying, ‘Allah is our Lord’. And if God had not allowed one group of people to repel another, then there would have been pulled down cloisters and synagogues and churches and mosques, in which God’s name is remembered.” (22:39,40)
Four conditions are given here for allowing jihad by the sword:
  1. Fighting has to be initiated by the unbelievers, as is clear from the words “those upon whom war is made”.
  2. There has to be extreme persecution of the Muslims — “because they have been wronged”.
  3. The aim of the unbelievers has to be the destruction of Islam and the Muslims, as is clear from the words “there would have been pulled down ...”.
  4. The object of the Muslims must only be self-defence and protection, as shown by the words “if God had not allowed one people to repel another”.
The other verse allowing fighting says: “Fight in the way of God those who fight you, but do not go over the limit” (2:190). Hence the command in the Holy Quran to fight, or conduct jihad with the sword, is subject to the above conditions.


Just as the Holy Quran has used the word jihad in a very wide sense, so it is in Hadith.
  1. “The Holy Prophet said: Do jihad against the idolators with your wealth, lives and tongues.”

    (Mishkat, Book of Jihad, ch. 1, sec. 2)

  2. “The Holy Prophet was asked: Which jihad is best? He said: He who does jihad against the idolators with his wealth and life.”


  3. “A group of Muslim soldiers came to the Holy Prophet [from a battle]. He said: Welcome, you have come from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad. It was said: What is the greater jihad? He said: The striving of a servant against his low desires.”

    (Al-Tasharraf, Part I, p. 70)

  4. “The Holy Prophet said: The greatest jihad is to speak the word of truth to a tyrant.”

    (Mishkat, Book of Rulership and Judgment, ch. 1, sec. 2)

  5. “The Holy Prophet said: Do jihad against your desires as you do jihad against your foes.”

    (Mufradat, under root j-h-d, p. 100)

  6. “The Holy Prophet said: Do jihad against the unbelievers with your hands and tongues.”


  7. Jihad involves four things: enjoining the doing of good, forbidding the doing of evil, speaking the truth in a situation of trial, and having enmity for the wrong-doer.”
  8. “The most excellent jihad is the Hajj.”

    (Bukhari, Book of Sacrifices, 25:4)

  9. “The mujahid [one engaged in jihad] is he who strives against his own self to obey God.”

These hadith make it clear that jihad means to exert oneself to the utmost, whether by means of one’s wealth or tongue or hands or life, whether it is against one’s desires or a visible enemy, whether its aim is to attain nearness to God or to propagate the word of God. Briefly, the Holy Quran and Hadith speak of three kinds of jihad:

  1. A great jihad;
  2. The greatest jihad;
  3. A lesser jihad.
The first two are to be undertaken constantly, while the third, which includes jihad by means of the sword, is only undertaken if specific conditions are satisfied.

Jihad in Bukhari

Bukhari, of all the collections of Hadith, is the clearest on the point that jihad is not used exclusively for fighting. In I‘tisam bil Kitab wal Sunna, the 4th chapter is thus headed:
“The saying of the Holy Prophet, A party of my community shall not cease to be triumphant being upholders of Truth,”
to which are added the words:
“And these are the men of learning (ahl al-‘ilm).”

(Bukhari, 96:11)

Thus Bukhari’s view is that the triumphant party of the Prophet’s community does not consist of fighters, but of the men of learning who disseminate the truth and are engaged in the propagation of Islam. Again, in his Book of Jihad, Bukhari has several chapters speaking of simple invitation to Islam. For instance, the heading of 56:99 is: “May the Muslim guide the followers of the Book to a right course, or may he teach them the Book”. The heading of 56:100 — “To pray for the guidance of the polytheists so as to develop relations of friendship with them”; that of 56:102 — “The invitation [to the unbelievers] by the Holy Prophet to Islam and prophethood, and that they may not take for gods others besides Allah”; that of 56:143 — “The excellence of him at whose hands another man accepts Islam”; that of 56:145 — “The excellence of him who accepts Islam from among the followers of the Book”; and that of 56:178 — “How should Islam be presented to a child”.

These headings show that up to the time of Bukhari, the word jihad was used in the wider sense in which it is used in the Quran, invitation to Islam being looked upon as jihad.

The following incident is also in Bukhari:

“A man came to Ibn Umar [son of the famous second Caliph Umar] and said: Why is it that one year you go for the hajj and one year you go for the umra [a lesser form of the pilgrimage], and yet you have discarded jihad in the way of God? You know how much God has encouraged jihad? Ibn Umar said: My nephew, Islam is based on five things: Belief in God and His messenger, five prayers, fasting in Ramadaan, giving zakat, and the pilgrimage to the House of God. The man said: Do you not hear what God has said in His Book, that if two groups of believers fight one another, make peace between them, then if one of them does wrong to the other, fight that which does wrong, till it returns to God’s command; so fight them till there is an end to the mischief. Ibn Umar said: ‘We acted on this in the time of the Holy Prophet. At that time, Muslims were few, and a man [who accepted Islam] used to face persecution for his religion — they would kill him or punish him. But then the followers of Islam multiplied in number, and there was no mischief left’.

(Bukhari, Book of Tafsir under verse “Fight them till there is an end to mischief”, chapter 30 under Surah 2)

This incident belongs to a time some decades after the Holy Prophet’s death, when Muslims were fighting an internecine war, and one side had laid siege to Makka. Ibn Umar had not joined either side in this war. A man questioned him as to why he was not taking part, and referred to the verse “fight them till there is an end to mischief (fitna)”. He replied that fighting had been necessary when Muslims were few, and Islam itself was in danger. As there was no fitna or danger from non-Muslims at that time, though they still existed, Ibn Umar argued that jihad by the sword was not encumbent upon them.

Imam Fakhar-ud-Din Razi, the great classical commentator of the Quran, writes in his renowned exposition of the Quran:

“As for the verse, ‘Strive against them a great jihad’, some say that this refers to efforts in preaching. Others say that it refers to fighting. Some others say it includes both. The first meaning is the most accurate because this verse was revealed at Makka, and the command to fight came after the emigration.”

(Tafsir Kabir, vol. iv, p. 330)

Another classical commentary, the Ruh al-Bayan, comments on the hadith, “The best jihad is to speak a word of truth to a tyrant”, as follows:
“It is the best because jihad with arguments and proofs is a jihad which is greater as compared to jihad with the sword which is a lesser jihad.”

17.2: Jihad — Views of Muslim religious leaders

1. Maulavi Muhammad Husain Batalvi

A leader of the Ahl-i Hadith sect in India in the late nineteenth century, he wrote:
“Some of our Muslim brothers believe that the present misfortunes of the followers of Islam cannot be removed without the sword. It is no use acquiring worldly education. However, looking at the present condition of the Muslims, this belief appears improbable. Brethren! the age of the sword is no more. Now instead of the sword it is necessary to wield the pen. How can the sword come into the hands of the Muslims when they have no hands. They have no national identity or existence. ... In such a useless and weak condition, to consider them as a nation is to exceed the imagination of Shaikh Chilli [a proverbial, comical figure in Urdu fiction].”

(Isha‘at as-Sunna, vol. vi, no. 12, December 1883, p. 364)

2. Maulavi Sana-ullah

It is noted about Maulavi Sana-ullah of Amritsar:
“As at that time our ulama had declared jihad with the sword to be rebellion and insurrection, and to be haram [prohibited according to the religion], and the opponents of Islam were waging war by the pen, the need then was for jihad with the pen.”

(Magazine Iman, 1948)

3. Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi:

“To change people’s views by means of the pen and the tongue, and to bring about a revolution in their minds, is also jihad. And to spend money for this end, and to exert oneself physically, is jihad too.”

(Tafhimat — I, p. 69)

4. Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938)

In a speech by this famous Muslim philosopher, as recorded in a weekly paper, the following exchange took place:
“[Dr Iqbal said:] Islam shall never be overcome, but shall triumph.

“Someone objected at this to ask how it could triumph while in the slavery of the British.

“Dr Iqbal replied: Don’t you know that the parallel of the Tartars is being revived today? The very nation under whose rule we live shall become Muslim. A living proof of this is that Lord Headley is among us. The powers of Islam are not limited. There was an age of the sword. Today it is the age of the pen. It attacks from within and without, and compels you from every angle to accept it.”

(Paigham Sulh, 4 January 1928)

5. Maulavi Ahmad Saeed

He was a leader of the Jami‘at al-‘Ulama Hind (Council of Indian Ulama). In a speech, he said:
“Excuse me, brother, all that these maulavis know is either to do jihad or to sit doing nothing. I say that, although this spirit is praise-worthy, experience is against it. You have seen the result of the jihad which you undertook in 1857. If you did not succeed then, what is the chance now. If you are keen on jihad, do it and see what happens. I have no objection against this belief of yours, but you shall not be successful. I do not understand the attitude that one either conducts jihad or else one does not do anything at all. Sir, the jihad of every age is different. At Makka, there was one type of defence [used by the Holy Prophet Muhammad], and at Madina it was a different type. You could engage in civil disobedience with the intent of jihad. God will reward you for that.”

(Al-Jami‘at, 28 January 1931, p. 2, col. 1)

6. Maulavi Zafar Ali Khan

This well-known Muslim leader, and editor of a famous Muslim daily newspaper, wrote in his paper:
“Just as jihad is not simply that one should pick up a sword and dash into a battle-field, but it also includes struggle by speech and writing, journey and travel, similarly shahadat [martyrdom] is not that one should turn the earth red with blood by having one’s throat cut. It is also to sacrifice one’s comfort and pleasure, rest and ease, life and property, and honour and reputation, for some good and noble cause in the way of God, as taught by Islam.”

(Daily Zamindar, Lahore, 14 June 1936)

7. Maulavi Habib-ur-Rahman of Ludhiana:

“It is a religious duty to keep political parties alive. In India, jihad cannot be conducted by means of armies and weapons. Jihad here is to speak the truth without fear, and to bear with pleasure any hardship in this path. I believe that the help of a volunteer to organise a political party is the real jihad in India.”

(Paigham Sulh, 11 April 1934)

8. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

He was a famous Indian Muslim scholar and a leader of the Indian National Congress before independence, later becoming federal education minister in India. He writes:
“There are serious misconceptions regarding what is jihad. Many people think that jihad means only to fight. The critics of Islam too labour under this misunderstanding, whereas to think thus is to utterly narrow the practical scope of this sacred commandment. Jihad means to strive to the utmost. In the Quran and Sunna terminology, this utmost exertion, which is undertaken for the sake of truth rather than personal ends, is indicated by the word jihad. This effort could be with one’s life, or property, or expenditure of time, or by bearing labour and hardship, or fighting the enemy and shedding blood.”

(Mas’ala Khilafat, p. 47)

9. Weekly Sunni organ Da‘wat:

“In world religions, it is only in Islam that the characteristic is found that, under no circumstances or condition, does it coerce other faiths. It does not allow its missionary activities to exceed the instruction: ‘Call to the path of God with wisdom and goodly exhortation’ ... Jihad is derived from jahd, meaning literally effort and striving. In the technical sense, it is used for proclaiming the word of God, and the supremacy and success of Islam.”

(Weekly Da‘wat, 13 November 1964)

10. Lahore Urdu daily Imroz:

“Human history is the greatest witness of the fact that the use of force in the propagation of any ideology does not lead to good results. If in some instance an attempt to do this by means of force and power had success, its effect was not long-lasting. The sages who tried to capture the hearts of people, and showed by their example that the teachings which they followed led to the salvation of man, had great success in meeting their objectives. In the Indian sub-continent, the Sufis and the Shaikhs [spiritual leaders] did the most to light the lamp of Islam and illuminate people’s hearts with the light of Islam. These sages neither used coercion to implement the laws of Islam, nor did they have the resources. The life of the Holy Prophet itself shows that for the reform of a degenerate society, he exercised patience, humility and lowliness, and revolutionised it.”

(Daily Imroz, Lahore, Pakistan, 9 November 1964)

11. Late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia

This internationally famous figure declared:
“Honoured brethren! You all have been called to raise the banner of jihad in the way of God. Jihad is not just taking up the gun or raising the sword. Jihad is to invite to the Book of God and the Example of the Prophet, to hold fast to them, and to stick to them despite difficulties, distresses and afflictions of all kinds.”

(Umm al-Qura, Makka, 24 April 1965)

12. Maulavi Zahid al-Husaini:

“This is the age of jihad by the pen. Today, the pen has spread much trouble. The person who does jihad by the pen is the greatest mujahid today.”

(Monthly Khuddum-ud-Din, Lahore, 1 October 1965)

13. Allama Abdul Haqq Haqqani

In his commentary of the Quran, he writes:
“In this age, to debate and argue with heretics is also jihad.”

(Tafsir Haqqani, vol. iv, p. 112)

14. Al-Shaikh Muhammad Amin:

“It is generally known that the mujahid should enjoin all good things and forbid evil ones.”

(Rad al-Mukhtar, vol. iii, p. 236)

15. Allama al-Qastalani

It is recorded about this classical scholar:
“He considered the jihad against one’s desires and against the devil to be the greatest jihad.”

(Irshad as-Sari fi Sharh al-Bukhari, vol. v, p. 37)

16. Maulavi Haidar Zaman Siddiqi:

“Similarly, in Hadith the speaking of truth to a tyrant is called the greatest jihad. ... Hence the propagation of religious knowledge, the establishment of religious schools, and every other task done for the support of the faith, is included in jihad.”

(Islam Ka Nazariyya Jihad, p. 128)

17. Ghulam Ahmad Pervez

In his commentary of the Quran, this religious thinker of Lahore writes:
“Jihad means labour and struggle. The Quran has made its true meaning clear by using the word qu‘ood (sitting) to mean the opposite: ‘Those who sit back from among the Muslims’ ... Hence it means action ...

“The jihad of the true believer includes the smallest action, going up to the highest deed of sacrifice. The last stage of this exertion is that where man risks his precious life to join the battle against falsehood.”

(Mu‘arif al-Quran, vol. iv, p. 481)

18. Professor Khurshid Ahmad of the Islamic Foundation

At a Christian-Muslim dialogue conference held in 1976, Khurshid Ahmad, at that time Director-General of the Islamic Foundation, Leicester, England, made the following comments about jihad:
Jihad represents to Muslims an effort to strive seriously and ceaselessly to fulfil the divine will in human life. Now Jihad takes many forms. The first form is the fight against one’s own self in order to subdue the nafs al-ammarah, [man’s lower self] and subordinate it to the divine will. Jihad also means striving to spread the word of God, to share it with others, and here in the juridic formulations jihad has an important place in the relations between the Islamic state and the non-Muslim world. Jihad is not merely war, for it involves firstly peaceful pursuits, but war definitely has its place within the total spectrum of jihad. ...

“The war of aggression Islam rules out because Islam has come to bring the end of aggression and establish peace. But the defensive and just war are accepted principles of international law and international relations, and Islam fully acknowledges them.”

(International Review of Mission, October 1976, vol. lxv, no. 260, pp. 451 – 452. See also the Islamic Foundation’s own publication of these proceedings as the book Christian Mission and Islamic Da‘wah, 1982, pp. 93 – 94)

19. Dr T. B. Irving

Islamic Perspectives — Studies in honour of Maulana Maudoodi, edited by Khurshid Ahmad and Zafar Ishaq Ansari, and published by the Islamic Foundation, England, is a collection of articles by various Muslim religious scholars, compiled as a tribute to Maulana Maudoodi. The article by Dr T. B. Irving mentions the five pillars of Islam and then adds:
“One more point might be mentioned: Jihad or the spiritual ‘struggle’ or ‘striving’ is not one of the Five Pillars of Islam. In proper translation it does not mean ‘holy war’ except by extension, but it has been debased by this meaning, which is a journalistic usage.”

(Islamic Perspectives, published by the Islamic Foundation, England, 1979, p. 132)

(Note: References 18 and 19 above have been quoted in the original English.)


The Quran uses the words jihad and qital (fighting or war) to mean different things. “Jihad in the way of God” and “fighting (qital) in the way of God” do not have the same meaning. We quote below from Muslim theologians to prove this:

20. Maulavi Muhammad Hasan of Rampur

A leading follower of the famous Maulavi Muhammad Ismail Shaheed, he wrote:
“War is not jihad. War is called qital, and it only arises now and then. Jihad is to strive to proclaim the word of God, and this goes on for a long period. It is only your misconception that you term qital as jihad.”

(Sawanih Ahmadi, p. 108)

21. Maulavi Charagh Ali (d. 1895)

In his great English work on jihad published in 1884, the famous rationalist religious scholar, Maulavi Charagh Ali, wrote:
Jihad does not mean the waging of war. ... I do not mean to contend that the Quran does not contain injunctions to fight or wage war. There are many verses enjoining the Prophet’s followers to prosecute a defensive war, but not one of aggression. The words qatal and qital distinctly indicate this.”

(Jihad, edition published by Karimsons, Karachi, 1977, Appendix A, p. 192; extract is quoted from original English.)

22. Sayyid Sulaiman Nadawi

This theologian who compiled the well-known Sirat an-Nabi (Life of the Holy Prophet) by Shibli, wrote:
“Jihad is generally taken to mean qital and fighting, but this limitation of significance is entirely wrong. ... It means striving and effort. Its technical meaning is also close to this, i.e. to undertake all kinds of struggle and exertion for the supremacy, propagation and defence of the truth, to make sacrifices, to employ in the way of God all the physical, material and mental resources which He has given to His servants, so much so as to sacrifice one’s own life and that of one’s family and nation. To oppose the efforts of the opponents of truth, to foil their plans, to counter their attacks, and to be ready to fight them in the field of battle is also jihad. Regrettably, our opponents have reduced the scope of this important and broad significance, without which no movement in the world has or can succeed, to merely war with the enemies of the faith. It is necessary here to dispel the misconception, namely, that most people think that jihad and qital are synonymous. This is not so. ... One is general and the other is particular, i.e. every jihad is not qital, but among the various kinds of jihad one is qital or fighting the enemy.”

(Sirat an-Nabi, vol. v., pp. 199 – 201)

23. Maulavi Zafar Ali Khan:

“If the Muslims, during their period of government and rule, ever raised the sword to extend their territory and to make other peoples slaves, this has nothing to do with jihad.”

(Zamindar, Lahore, 14 June 1936)

24. Ghulam Ahmad Pervez:

Qital is also included in jihad. One can say that it is the last stage of jihad. It is clear from this that jihad does not always mean qital. The whole life of a true believer is jihad.”

(Mu‘arif al-Quran, vol. iv, p. 488)

25. Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi

He expressed his opinion as follows:
  1. “In the terminology of the Shari‘ah, qital and jihad were two different things. Qital is applied to the military venture undertaken against the armies of the enemy. Jihad is applied to the total effort mounted by the whole nation for the success of the objective for which the war began. During this struggle, qital may stop at times, and may also be suspended. But jihad continues till the time when that aim is achieved for which it began.”

    (Newspaper Mashriq, Lahore, 12 October 1965)

  2. “Jihad means not only fighting with weapons, but is applied collectively to the whole struggle made for success in war. The field of battle is only one of the many fronts of this struggle.”

    (Newspaper Kohistan, Lahore, 18 September 1965)

17.3: Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s views on jihad


  1. “It should be known that the word jihad is derived from juhd, and means to strive. It is then metaphorically applied to religious wars.” (Government Angrezi aur Jihad, p. 3)

  2. “As to the means and arrangements to be used, whether for physical warfare or spiritual warfare, whether the battle is by the sword or by the pen, the following verse is sufficient for our guidance: ‘Make ready for them [the enemy] whatever force you can’ [the Quran 8:60]. In this verse God empowers us to employ against the enemy all suitable means, and to use the method which we consider to be the best and most effective.” (Majmu‘a Ishtiharat, vol. i, p. 360)

  3. “This time is also one for a kind of jihad. I stay up till as late as 3 o’clock in the morning. Everyone should take part in this, and for the needs of the religion and religious tasks they should make day and night into one.” (Malfuzat, Part IV, p. 196)

  4. “This is an age of spiritual warfare. A battle with the devil is in progress. The devil is assailing the fort of Islam with all his weapons and schemes. He wishes to defeat Islam. But God has established this Movement in order to defeat the devil in his last battle at this time.” (Malfuzat, Part V, p. 25)

  5. “The jihad of this age is exactly to propagate Islam and refute the allegations of the critics [of Islam], to spread the beauties of the true religion, Islam, in the world, and to manifest the truth of the Holy Prophet to the world. This is jihad, until God produces different circumstances in the world.” (Letter by Hazrat Mirza quoted in Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 17, p. 17)

  6. “Christian missionaries have started a dangerous war against Islam. In the field of battle, they have come out with spears which are pens, not sword and cannon. So the weapon we should enter the field with, is the pen and only the pen. We believe that it is the duty of every Muslim to join this battle.” (Malfuzat, Part I, p. 217)

  7. “In our age the pen has been raised against us. It is with the pen that we have been caused pain and suffering. In response to this, the pen is the thing which is our weapon.” (Malfuzat, Part I, p. 44)


  1. “It should be known that the Holy Quran does not arbitrarily give the command to fight. It gives the command to fight only against those people who prevent others from believing in God, and stop them from obeying His commandments and worshipping Him. It gives the command to fight against those who attack the Muslims without cause, expel them from their homes and countries, and prevent people from becoming Muslims. These are they with whom God is wroth, and Muslims must fight them if they do not desist.” (Nur al-Haq, vol. i, p. 46)

  2. “In short, Islamic battles fall into only three categories: for self-defence; for punishment, i.e., blood for blood; for establishing freedom, i.e., to break the power of those who kill converts to Islam. Since there is no direction to force a person into the faith by means of coercion and threat of murder, it is utterly vain and pointless to wait for a blood-shedding Mahdi or Messiah, for it is not possible that such a person could come, against the teachings of the Quran, and make people Muslims by the sword.” (Masih Hindustan Main, pp. 18 – 19)

  3. “We are commanded that we should make the same kind of preparation to face the unbelievers as they do to confront us. Or that we treat them as they treat us, and as long as they do not raise the sword against us, we do not raise it against them till then.” (Haqiqat al-Mahdi, p. 28)

  4. “In the early days of Islam, defensive wars and physical battles were also necessary because those who preached Islam were answered in those days, not by reasons and arguments, but by the sword. So in reply the sword had per force to be used. But in these times the sword is not used in answer, but the pen and the argument is used to criticise Islam. This is the reason why, in this age, God has pleased that the work of the sword be done by the pen, and the opponents be routed by fighting them with writing. Hence it is not appropriate now for anyone to answer the pen with the sword.” (Malfuzat, Part I, p. 59)

17.4: Why Hazrat Mirza had to explain meaning of Jihad

1. Of the many objections against Islam advanced by Christian missionaries, one was that Islam had spread by the sword. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had to reply to this criticism, as he wrote:
  1. “Most Christian missionaries of this age have mistakenly raised against Islam the objection that Islam has been spread by force and the sword. Unfortunately, such critics have not pondered over those teachings of the Quran which say ... ‘There is no compulsion in religion’; and ‘argue with the Christians with wisdom and goodly exhortations’, not with harshness; and ‘the believers are those who restrain their anger’, they forgive the attacks of the unjust people, and do not answer in a foul manner. Could such a God teach that you should kill the deniers of your religion, seize their property, and lay desolate their homes? ...

    “This is the view of ignorant Maulavis and foolish padres, and has no foundation. Therefore, God, the upholder of the right way, Who does not let a truth go to waste, by sending this humble servant in this age, intends to remove the allegation of jihad from Islam, and show people that Islam does not depend on force and the sword for its progress, but affects the hearts with its spiritual power. ... Hence it is sheer injustice to ascribe jihad and coercion to it.” (Majmu‘a Ishtiharat, vol. ii, pp. 125 – 127, footnote)

  2. “It should be strongly impressed upon the government that the Muslims of India are loyal subjects, because some uninformed Englishmen, especially Dr. Hunter, President of the Education Commission, in his famous book, have insisted that Muslims are not true well-wishers of the British government, and consider it obligatory to fight jihad against it.” (Barahin Ahmadiyya, Part III, p. 68)

2. As the ideas about jihad spread among the people by the Maulavis were contradictory to the Holy Quran, it was essential to explain the correct significance:

  1. “It should be remembered that the concept in the minds of the present-day Ulama, and the manner in which they explain this issue to the people, is certainly not correct, and the result is nothing but that they should produce beast-like characteristics in the people by their zealous speeches, and deprive them of all the good virtues of humanity. Thus did it happen. And I know with certainty that the sin of all unjust murders committed by these foolish and impassioned persons, who are unaware of why Islam had to fight battles in the early days, is upon the necks of these Maulavis who secretly teach such things which lead to terrible bloodshed.” (Government Angrezi aur Jihad, p. 7)
  2. Commenting on the murder of two Englishmen by a fanatic Muslim, he said:

    “This murder of two Englishmen — is this jihad? Such useless people have given Islam a bad name. What he should have done was to deal with them in such an excellent way that they would become Muslims by seeing his good morals. ... Whenever I hear about such people, I am deeply saddened at the fact that they have departed so far from the Holy Quran, and believe the murder of innocent persons to be a good deed.” (Malfuzat, Part II, pp. 49 – 50)

  3. “Here we also have to say with regret that, just as on the one side ignorant Maulavis have concealed the true meaning of jihad, and have taught people murder and looting, terming it jihad, on the other side the Christian padres have done precisely the same. They have published thousands of copies of books in Urdu, Pashto, etc., and propagated throughout India, the Punjab, and the Frontier that Islam has spread by the sword, and to wield the sword is Islam. The result is that the people, finding two corroborating testimonies, i.e., that of the Maulavis and that of the padres, have developed in their primitive passions.” (Government Angrezi aur Jihad, p. 9)

3. The Maulavis believed that the Mahdi would appear in the latter days to kill the unbelievers. As Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed to be Mahdi, he had to shed light on the issue of jihad in his time, and show that they were wrong in their concept:

  1. “Ponder over the hadith in Bukhari where, regarding the Promised Messiah, it is written: yazi’ul-harb, i.e., when the Messiah comes he shall end religious wars.” (Government Angrezi aur Jihad, p. 15)
  2. “It is necessary that I tell the British government as to the belief, regarding the Mahdi, held by the Wahabi sect, known as Ahl-i Hadith, Maulavi Muhammad Husain Batalvi considering himself to be its leader, and the belief in this regard held by me and my followers. The root of all this dissension and mutual enmity is that I do not believe in such a Mahdi, and so these people think of me as a kafir, and I look upon them as mistaken. So I give below these people’s belief about the Mahdi in comparison with mine.” (Haqiqat al-Mahdi, p. 3)
  3. “As to my beliefs, just as they are correct, they are blessed, and clean of mischief. Every sensible person can realise that our beliefs — that no such Mahdi or Messiah is to come as shall make the earth red with blood, whose great achievement would be to force people to become Muslims — are fine and good beliefs which are wholly based on the principles of peace and gentleness. From these beliefs, no opponent can accuse Islam of coercion, nor does one have to needlessly behave towards human beings in a brute-like manner, nor does it stain one’s morals, nor do people holding this belief live a hypocritical life under a government of a different religion.” (ibid., pp. 10 – 11)
  4. “These people are so adamant upon their belief about jihad, which is totally wrong and opposed to the Quran and Hadith, that the person who does not accept it, and is against it, is branded dajjal [anti-Christ] by them, and they declare him deservant of being murdered. I too have been under this sentence for a long time.” (Government Angrezi aur Jihad, p. 7)

17.5: Jihad and the British Government


1. Sayyid Ahmad Barelvi (d. 1831)

He was a Muslim military as well as religious leader who fought against Sikh rule in the North West of India, and is regarded as mujaddid of the thirteenth century hijra. It is recorded about him:
“When he was going forth to conduct jihad against the Sikhs, a man asked him: ‘Why do you go so far to fight jihad against the Sikhs, when the British are ruling the country and they are deniers of Islam. Conduct jihad against them in every house and wrest India from them; millions of people will support and help you’. ...

“He replied: The British government may be deniers of Islam, but they are not oppressing the Muslims, nor preventing them from religious obligations and worship. For what reason then can we fight jihad against them, and needlessly shed the blood of both sides, contrary to the principles of religion.”

(Musalmanon Ka Roshan Mustaqbil, by Sayyid Tufail Ahmad, 3rd edition, 1940)

2. Sayyid Muhammad Ismail Shaheed

He was the deputy of Sayyid Ahmad Barelvi, and died in a battle against the Sikhs. It is written about him:
  1. “A man asked, Why do you not give a pronouncement of jihad against the British? He replied: In no way is it obligatory to fight jihad against them. Firstly, we are their subjects. Secondly, they do not interfere in our performance of our religious duties. We have every kind of freedom under their rule. In fact, if someone attacks them, Muslims must fight the attacker and let not their government be harmed a whit.”

    (Hayyat Tayyiba, biography by Mirza Hairat of Delhi, 1972 edition, published in Lahore, p. 364)

  2. “Maulavi Ismail had announced that ‘jihad is not valid against the British government in the religious sense, nor do we have any dispute with them; we are only retaliating against the Sikhs for our brothers.’ This was why the British rulers knew nothing, and did not stop his preparations.”

    (ibid., p. 201)

  3. “This was the reason why Maulavi Ismail of Delhi, who knew the Quran and Hadith, and acted upon them, did not fight in his country India against the British, under whose peace and protection he lived, nor did he fight the states of this country. Outside this country, he fought the Sikhs who interfered in the religious practices of the Muslims, prohibiting the loud sounding of the Azan.”

    (Al-Iqtisad fi masa’il al-jihad, by Maulavi Muhammad Husain Batalvi, published 1876, pp. 49 – 50)

3. Maulana Sayyid Nazir Husain of Delhi (d. 1902)

He was the top-most Ahl-i Hadith theologian.
  1. In a fatwa, he wrote:

    “Since the criterion of jihad is absent from this land, to conduct jihad here would be a means of destruction and a sin.”

    (Fatawa Naziriyya, vol. iv, p. 472)

  2. It is noted about him:

    “In terms of the true meaning of jihad, Sayyid Nazir Husain of Delhi did not consider the 1857 rebellion to be Islamic legal jihad. He thought it to be faithlessness, breach of covenant, and mischief, and declared it to be a sin to take part or help in it.”

    (Magazine Isha‘at as-Sunna, vol. vi, no. 10, October 1883, p. 288)

4. Maulavi Muhammad Husain Batalvi

He was an Ahl-i Hadith leader and editor of Isha‘at as-Sunna, who opposed Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad after his claim to be the Promised Messiah. In a book on jihad, he wrote:
“Uninformed Muslims should examine this implication and bear it in mind, and not consider fighting with every rival faith on account of its unbelief to be legal jihad. To fight with peaceful or covenanted people most definitely cannot be legal jihad, whether national or religious, but is rebellion and sedition. The Muslims who took part in the 1857 rebellion were serious sinners, and according to the Quran and Hadith they were rebels, mischief makers and wicked. Most of the ordinary people among them were like beasts. Those known as the prominent and the Ulama were unacquainted with true faith, or lacking in understanding.”

(Al-Iqtisad fi masa’il al-Jihad, p. 49)

5. Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan of Bhopal

He was an eminent Ahl-i Hadith religious scholar as well as political leader. In his book Tarjuman-i Wahhabiyyat, he wrote:
  1. “This book has been written to inform the British government that no Muslim subject of India and the Indian states bears malice towards this great power.”

    (Edition published in Lahore, 1895, p. 4)

  2. “Be concerned about those people who are ignorant of their religious teachings, in that they wish to efface the British government, and to end the current peace and tranquility by disorder under the name of jihad. This is sheer stupidity and foolishness.” (p. 7)
  3. “During the mutiny [of 1857], some rajas and so-called nawabs and men of means interfered in the peace and calm of India under the name of jihad, and they fanned the flames of battle till their disorder and hostility reached such a level that women and children, who cannot be killed under any law, were thoughtlessly slaughtered. ... If anyone lets loose such mischief today, he would also be the same kind of trouble-maker, and from beginning to end he would stain the name of Islam.” (p. 15)
  4. “In 1875, Maulavi Muhammad Husain Batalvi ... gave the reply that jihad and religious war against the British government of India, against the authority which has granted religious freedom, is forbidden by and contrary to the law of Islam, and those people who take up weapons against the British government of India, or against any sovereign who has granted religious freedom, and wish to conduct religious jihad, are all rebels and deservant of punishment. Then Maulavi Muhammad Husain, in support of his claim and reply, sent his ruling to all the Ulama of Punjab and other parts of India, and well-publicised it. He obtained the seals and signatures of approval of all the Ulama of Punjab and India in support of the ruling that the taking up of arms by Indian Muslims, and jihad against the British government of India, was opposed to the Sunna and the faith of the monotheists.” (p. 61)

6. Sultan of Turkish (Ottoman) empire

The Sultan of the Turkish empire used to be known as the Khalifa-tul-Muslimeen (Head of the Muslims), and was recognised as their titular head by vast numbers of Muslims. A history book records:
“The Sultan of Turkey, who was the Khalifa-tul-Muslimeen, thanked this assistance of the British [during the Crimean war] in this way, that in 1857 when the independent minded Muslims and Hindus of India joined forces to launch a war of independence against British rule, the Khalifa wrote and gave to the British a fatwa to the effect that the Muslims of India ought not to fight the British because the latter had proved to be supporters and well-wishers of the Islamic Khilafat.”

(Tarikh Aqwam ‘Alam, Parts I and II, by Murtaza Ahmad Khan, p. 540)

7. Hunter’s The Indian Musalmans

In 1872 a British scholar and civil servant in India, W. W. Hunter, published a now historic book entitled The Indian Musalmans, in which he gave the views of various sects of Islam on the question of whether Muslims were duty-bound by their religion to wage a war-like jihad against the British government of India. Regarding the Shiah sect, Hunter writes:
“Their present declaration of the non-obligation to rebel is spontaneous, and it is well that such a declaration has been put on record. It comes to us stamped with the highest authority which the Shias can give to any document, and will be permanently binding on the whole sect.” (p. 121)
Regarding the Sunni Hanafis, the majority sect, he then adds:
“I now pass to the Formal Decisions of the greater sect. The Sunnis, as they are the most numerous class of Indian Musalmans, so they have of late been the most conspicious in proclaiming that they are under no religious obligation to wage war against the Queen. To that end they have procured two distinct sets of Legal Decisions, and the Muhammadan Literary Society of Calcutta has summed up the whole Sunni view of the question in a forcibly written pamphlet. ...

“The Law Doctors of Northern Hindustan set out by tacitly assuming that India is a Country of the Enemy (Dar-ul-Harb), and deduce therefrom that religious rebellion is uncalled for. The Calcutta Doctors declare India to be a Country of Islam (Dar-ul-Islam), and conclude that religious rebellion is therefore unlawful.” (p. 122)

(The Indian Musalmans by W. W. Hunter, published by Trubner and Co., London, 1872, second edition)

The two rulings (fatwas) referred to here are given in English translation in Appendix II and III of The Indian Musalmans. In the first fatwa, the following question was asked:
“What is your Decision, O men of learning and expounders of the law of Islam, in the following: Whether a Jihad is lawful in India, a country formerly held by a Muslim ruler, and now held under the sway of a Christian government, where the said Christian Ruler does in no way interfere with his Muslim subjects in the Rites prescribed by their Religion, such as Praying, Fasting, Pilgrimage, Zakat, Friday Prayer, and Jama‘at, and gives them fullest protection and liberty in the above respects in the same way as a Muslim Ruler would do, and where the Muslim subjects have no strength and means to fight with their rulers; on the contrary, there is every chance of the war, if waged, ending with a defeat, and thereby causing an indignity to Islam.”
The fatwa given on this question, dated 17 July 1870, is as follows:
“The Musalmans here are protected by Christians, and there is no Jihad in a country where protection is afforded, as the absence of protection and liberty between Musalmans and Infidels is essential in a religious war, and that condition does not exist here. Besides, it is necessary that there should be a probability of victory to Musalmans and glory to the Indians. If there be no such probability, the Jihad is unlawful.”
This fatwa bears the seals of the following: Maulavi Ali Muhammad, Maulavi Abdul Hai, Maulavi Fazlullah, Muhammad Naim, and Maulavi Rahmatullah, all of Lucknow, Maulavi Qutb-ud-Din of Delhi, Maulavi Lutfullah of Rampur, and others. See pages 218 – 219 of The Indian Musalmans.

In the second fatwa, given by Maulavi Karamat Ali of the Calcutta Muhammadan Society, it is first determined that India is Dar-ul-Islam, and then it is added:

“The second question is, ‘Whether it is lawful in this Country to make Jihad or not.’ This has been solved together with the first. For jihad can by no means be lawfully made in Dar-ul-Islam. This is so evident that it requires no argument or authority to support it. Now, if any misguided wretch, owing to his perverse fortune, were to wage war against the Ruling Powers of this Country, British India, such war would be rightly pronounced rebellion; and rebellion is strictly forbidden by the Islamic Law. Therefore such war will likewise be unlawful; and in case any one would wage such war, the Muslim subjects would be bound to assist their Rulers, and, in conjunction with their Rulers, to fight with such rebels.”

(ibid., p. 219)


Dr Barbara Daly Metcalf of the U.S.A. has written a book entitled Islamic Revival in British India, 1860 – 1900, published by the Princeton University Press, Princeton (1982), based on her doctoral research work. At various places in this book, the views of famous Muslim theologians and prominent figures of the last century have been given on the question of jihad in relation to British rule of India. Some extracts are given below.

1. The Deobandis

Regarding the attitude and mode of conduct of leaders of the Deoband school, it is written about one of the founders, Rashid Ahmad Gangohi:
“Further, Rashid Ahmad sanctioned turning to the government for aid in disputes with Hindus. ‘Do not fight and die [to reclaim the site of a mosque from Hindus],’ he wrote, ‘but turn to the government.’ The Deobandis made sure that they conformed in every way to a posture of loyalty. Rashid Ahmad, for this reason, refused to accept a grant of 5000 Rupees a year from the Shah of Afghanistan for fear that a political link might be suspected. And the school celebrated ceremonial occasions like coronations with appropriate pomp, and observed times of crises, like Queen Victoria’s last illness, with fitting prayers and messages.” (pp. 154 – 155)

2. Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan

His views have been quoted above from his book Tarjuman al-Wahhabiyya. This book is described as follows by Dr Metcalf:
“After the Mutiny [of 1857] ... some among the British still feared that Muslims would once again resort to open warfare, as they had done in the 1830s. Those who did saw the Ahl-i Hadith as the heirs of the jihad tradition and singled out Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan as its exponent. ... But far from fomenting jihad, he had written Tarjuman-i Wahhabiyyat to prove that the Ahl-i Hadith were loyal. He quoted Lord Northbrook’s testimonial to Muslim loyalty. He pointed out that Bhopal had aided the British in the war in Egypt. He cited, as did all the writers on this subject, the obligation of Muslims to accept a ruler who had provided security and with whom one had made an agreement.” (p. 279)

3. Deputy Nazir Ahmad

He was a famous literary figure of the time who also translated the Quran into Urdu. His attitude is recorded as follows:
“He mocked those who aped British dress and manners. Still he enthusiastically embraced British rule, writing at length during the 1870s to deny the legitimacy of jihad.” (p. 332)

4. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (d. 1898)

He is considered as one of the greatest Indian Muslim leaders during British rule. About his views it is written:
“Gradually he became convinced that British rule was long to stay, and that those Muslims aligned with it would be both true to their religion and prosperous. He had to convince his fellow Muslims of the truth of this position. ... To the British he had to show that the Muslims were both loyal and important to the stability of their rule. ... His efforts — if not his religious thought — were to be welcomed by many Muslims of his day.” (p. 319)


Hazrat Mirza is accused of having described jihad as haram (forbidden by the religion). Below are quoted writings of some Ulama in which they have used the word haram in the same context.

1. Maulavi Muhammad Husain Batalvi:

  1. “To fight against this government [i.e. British rule of India] or to aid those who fight against it, even though they be one’s Muslim brothers, is clear treachery and haram.

    (Al-Iqtisad fi masa’il al-jihad, p. 49)

  2. “It is not permissible for Muslim subjects to fight, or aid those who fight, against their government, whatever be the religion of that government, when they are performing their religious obligations with freedom under its peace and law. On this basis, it is haram for the Indian Muslims to oppose, and to rebel against, the British government.”

    (Isha‘at as-Sunna, vol. vi, no. 10, p. 287)

2. Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal:

“I do not support war, nor can any Muslim support it bearing in mind the limits imposed by the Shari‘ah. According to Quranic teachings, there can only be two types of jihad or war: defensive and corrective. In the first case, it is only under the condition ... that when Muslims are wronged and expelled from their homes, they are permitted, not ordered, to raise the sword. ... For territorial expansion, it is haram in Islam to conduct war, and it is also haram to raise the sword for the propagation of the faith.”

(Makatib Iqbal, collection of letters of Iqbal, Part I, p. 203)

3. Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi:

“No true reformer can decide to adopt only one of the sword or the pen for the execution of his reform work. He needs both of these to accomplish his task. As long as preaching and exhortation by the tongue can be effective in teaching people morality and civilisation, to raise the sword is not only not permitted, but it is haram.

(Al-Jihad fil-Islam, 3rd edition, p. 27)

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote in precisely the same vein. In a well-known poem, he wrote:

Drop the idea of jihad at this time, O friends; To spread the faith by war and qital (fighting) is haram now.
No coercion is there for you from an alien nation; it does not forbid you prayer and fasting.
That Messiah has now come who is the Imam of the faith; an end has been put to religious wars.
The Holy Prophet had said; that Jesus would postpone the wars.
To imagine that a mahdi would come to shed blood; and expand the faith by killing unbelievers.
This is all sheer falsehood, O heedless ones; it is slander, without proof, without light.

17.6: Hazrat Mirza’s statements on loyalty to British rule

  1. “Muslims in government employment are constantly endeavouring to prove me a traitor to this benevolent government. I hear that efforts are always being made to report false things about me [to the government], whereas you know well that I am not a man of rebellious nature.” (Tiryaq al-Qulub, p. 15 of the first edition)
  2. “Some of them [the opponents] write false complaints against me to the British government, and they put these forward, dressing themselves up as informers, and concealing their enmity.” (Anjam Atham, p. 68)
  3. “In this book of his, he has given an account of my circumstances, by way of fabrication, and has written that I am a spreader of disorder and an enemy of the government, and that signs of rebellion can be seen in my behaviour, and that he is certain that I shall do such things, and that I am an opponent of the government.” (Nur al-Haq, Part I, p. 24)

    (Reference here is to a Christian preacher Rev. Imad-ud-Din.)

  4. “It should be mentioned that Dr. Clarke [a Christian missionary opponent] has said in his [court] statement, at some places implicitly and at others explicitly, that I am a danger to the British government.” (Kitab al-Bariyya, p. 3)
  5. “They are trying to turn the government against me. The government is excusable to some extent if it were to turn against me, because it is not the knower of the unseen. This is why I often had to send memorials specially addressed to the government, and to acquaint it myself with my circumstances, so that it would know the true and correct facts.” (Malfuzat, Part I, p. 209)

It is astonishing, therefore, that the opponents first take false complaints against Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to the government, and act as false informers, alleging that he was a rebel against the British government. But when he clears himself of this charge, they try to incite people against him by accusing him of praising the government!