By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
31 July 2019
During the initial years of Islam, the holy prophet pbuh and his holy companions had to face resistance from the polytheists and Jews of Makkah. They had to suffer humiliation and torments at their hands. Despite all this they persevered on their faith and endured all the hardships. However, when the mischief and opposition from the Jews and the polytheists became unbearable and the prophet pbuh feared for life, he decided to migrate to Madina with his followers. But here too they faced stiff resistance and torments from the polytheists and Jews. When the Muslims numerically became strong and the polytheists became hell bent on wiping out Muslims and Islam, they challenged Muslims to fight them. The Muslims finally fought and by the grace of God became victorious. At that time verses instructing Muslims to fight for their survival and not to fear and trust God. At the same time the Quran instructed Muslims to make compromises to avoid war and bloodshed. Hudaibiya Agreement is one of them when Muslims reached an accord. On every occasion the Muslims would try to maintain peace and observe patience at provocation. Before migration to Madina, the holy prophet pbuh endured humiliation and atrocities for the sake of God.
The Quran has enjoined Muslims to strive for the propagation of the faith and offer sacrifices and spend money for it. For this striving and struggle for faith, the Quran uses two terms. One is Qital and the other is Jahd. Qital was used for the battles that were fought during the initial years when the opponents of Islam were hell-bent on wiping out Muslims. The word Jahd (struggle or strive) has been used for peaceful propagation of faith both physically and financially. Jihad does not necessarily mean fighting. It means struggle or striving for the propagation of faith among non-believers. But in Urdu translations of the Quran both the words and terms have been used as synonyms or having the same meaning: fighting or war with non-Muslims. This created among Muslims and a section of ulema that jihad also means fighting or killing non-Muslims. Here are the verses that mention the word Qital (fighting):
“And fight in the name of Allah” (Al Baqarah: 244)
This verse was revealed during war between the Muslims and polytheists and so Muslims were enjoined to fight fearlessly.
“So when fighting was enjoined on them, they turned their back but few of them.”(Al Baqarah: 246)
“They fight in the way of Allah.”(Al Nisa: 76)
“Therefore, fight in the way of Allah”(Al Nisa: 84)
There are dozens of verses in the Quran that were revealed during the period of war and they enjoin Muslims on fighting because it was a matter of survival for them. In these verses the word Qital or its derivatives meaning fighting has been used. On the other hand, the Quran uses the word Jahd (struggle or strive) and its derivatives in dozens of verses meaning peaceful struggle or striving in the way of propagation of faith. But almost in all the verses where the word Jahd has been used it has been translated meaning fight. Here are the verses:
“Of course, those who bring faith and left home and fought (Jahadu) in the way of Allah. (Al Baqarah: 218)
In this verse the translation of Jahadu was done as ‘fought’ while the true meaning would be ‘strived or struggled’. Accepting Islam, enduing atrocities and leaving home for the sake of Allah is Jahdor struggle. So the word Jahadu means ‘endured hardships and strived’ and not ‘fought’.
Another verse is:
“Those who held themselves back at home and those who fight (Mujahidun) in the way of Allah both with self and money are not equal.”(Al Nisa: 95)
In this verse the word ‘Mujahidun’ means ‘those who strive’ with self and with money. Therefore, the person who spends money for the propagation of Deen is also a Mujahid (struggler) and the person who leaves home and travels for the peaceful propagation of Deen is also a Mujahid. It does not necessarily mean that one leaves home only for fighting for Deen. But the translation creates that impression.
“Those who accepted Islam and left their homes (Yuhajiru) and fought (Jahadu) with their self and money in the way of Allah and those who gave them shelter and helped them, they are their friends.”(Al Anfal: 12)
In this verse, the Quran mentions those who after accepting Islam faced hostility from the polytheists and Jews of Makkah and left home and those who gave them shelter and helped them in any way. Here leaving home and enduring hardships for the sake of Deen is jahd but the translation says that they fought. Here there is not context of war.
“And when a verse is revealed which enjoins (non-believers) to accept Islam and fight (Jahadu) along with his prophet.”(Al Taubah: 86)
Here too the word ‘Jahadu’ has been translated as ‘fight’ whereas it only means that after accepting Islam, one is obliged to accompany the prophet pbuh in all the endeavours for the propagation of Deen: He should endure hardships along with the prophet pbuh, offer every sacrifice needed and if there is a need to fight, he should also accompany in battles as part of struggle in the way of Deen. But the word Jahadu here does not necessarily mean ‘.fight’
The term ‘Jihadan Kabira’ is mentioned in one verse. It means ‘great struggle’.
“If we had willed we would have raised a messenger in every population, so do not obey the disbelievers and strive against them with great strenuousness with it (the Quran). (Al Furqan: 52)
Maulana Fateh Mohammad Jalandhary translates the word Jahidhum Bihi Jihadan Kabira as ‘fight them with full force’. While Abdullah Yusuf Ali translates this into English in the following words:
“Therefore, listen not to the disbelievers, but strive against them with utmost strenuousness with the (Quran).
Maulana Habid Shakir translates the verse into English in the following words:
“So do not follow the unbelievers and strive against them a mighty striving with it.”
Mohammad Pickthall’s translation is this:
“So obey not the disbelievers, but strive against them herewith with a great endeavour.”
The Urdu translators did not present an acceptable explanation of the term ‘Jihadan Kabira’ but only did a literal translation of the term.
What is Jihad-e-Kabir?
Jihad-e-Kabir is passive struggle which the holy prophet pbuh and his companions did during the Makkan period. They propagated the message of Islam and faced hostility and atrocities form the polytheists and Jews of Makkah. The holy prophet pbuh went to Taif to propagate of message and was badly injured but he did not say a word of curse to the non-believers. Hadhrat Bilal would be laid on the hot ground under the sun and a huge stone would be kept on his chest. Still he would say ‘Ahad’ ‘Ahad’. They were ostracised for three years. These are some of the examples of jihad-e-Kabir. In the above quoted verse, the Quran enjoins the Muslims of Makkah to do jihad-e-Kabir with the Quran. They should spread the message of the Quran to the non-believers and endure all the hardships and oppression in this endeavour without showing any hostility or aggression. They should make every sacrifice for spreading the message of the Quran. But the Urdu translators of the Quran translated the term ‘Jihadan Kabira’ as ‘fight with full force’ against the non-believers. And while translating the term, they ignored or missed the fact that the verse belongs to Surah Al Furqan which is a Makki verse. And Muslims were not in a a position to fight, even to defend themselves in Makkan period. Therefore, the word ‘Jihadan Kabira’ or ‘Jahidhum’ cannot be taken for fighting but passive struggle.
The meaning of the word ‘Jahd’ becomes more clear from this verse:
“And we advised them treat their parents with care and love, and if they pressurise you (Jahadaka)to set up partners with me of which you do not have any knowledge, then do not obey them.”(Al Ankabut: 8)
This verse tells Muslims to treat their non-believing parents with care and love but if their parents pressurise them to worship false gods, they should not obey them. Here the word Jahadak means to ‘Pressurise you’ and not ‘fight with you’.
More examples can be cited from the Quran where the word Jahdmeans to struggle or strive and not to fight or kill. But the Urdu translators of the Quran have also almost everywhere translated the word meaning to fight or to kill. This error in the translation of the word Jahd has led to the wrong concept of Jihad among Muslims.
S. Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com