The Quranic Definition

By: A. Muhammad

One of the most manipulated concepts in Islam today is the concept of Jihad. The Quranic definition of the word Jihad has sadly been replaced by a false blood thirsty definition. The false version of Jihad violates numerous clear cut Quranic verses and is being used by various terrorist organisations to spread their various terrorist acts in the name of Islam. These terrorist acts, which occur all over the world, are ones of indiscriminate killing of innocent people. They are being undertaken in the name of Jihad. Ultimately, these totally non-Islamic criminal acts have gone a long way towards distorting the image of Islam throughout the world.

As with any religious concept, its correct definition can only be derived from the Scripture and not from interpretations or teachings of humans. To fully understand the Quranic concept of Jihad, it is essential to address the following issues:

1- The Quranic definition of the word Jihad

2- What is 'The cause of God'?

3- Are the brain washed youths who explode themselves in 'suicide bombings' really going to Heaven as they have been led to believe?

4- Does the concept of a 'holy war' have Quranic authorisation?

FIRST: The Quranic definition of the word Jihad

The literal definition of the word Jihad is: striving to achieve a goal, while the Quranic definition of the word is: striving with one's self and one's money in the cause of God. This definition is confirmed in a number of Quranic such as:

Rather, the believers are those who believed in God and His messenger then had no doubt and strived (jahadu) with their money and their lives in the cause of God. These are the truthful ones. 49:15

Those who believed, emigrated and strove (jahadu) in the cause of God with their money and their lives hold the greatest rank with God; those are the winners. 9:20

However, the messenger and those who believed with him, they strove (jahadu) with their money and their lives. Those shall have good things, and it is those who are the winners. 9:88

p.s. the word 'jahadu' is the past tense verb of the noun Jihad.

SECOND : The cause of God

After establishing that Jihad means to strive with one's self and one's money in the cause of God, it is necessary to determine what is the Quranic meaning of the phrase: the cause of God?

Striving to uphold the cause of God simply means striving to uphold all God’s commandments and all God's prohibitions. Jihad is to preach and uphold God’s path and God’s Law.
Does the Quranic Jihad support violence and killing innocent people in the name of Islam? This matter can be resolved by consulting a number of relevant Quranic verses.

1- First, it is important to always be aware of a principle Quranic proclamation which states that God never advocates sin:

Say, "God does not command sin. Are you saying about God what you do not know?" 7:28

2- The Quran states categorically that killing any innocent soul is a gross sin:

You shall not kill any person, God has prohibited that except in the course of justice. 6:151 and 17:33

The prohibition against the killing of any innocent soul has always been the law of God, in the Quran and in all previous Scriptures:

We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a person but not for another life, nor for committing corruption in the land, it shall be as if he killed all the people. 5:32

3- God does not allow war except in the case of self defence:

If they leave you alone, refrain from fighting you, and offer you peace, then God gives you no claim against them. 4:90

If they should incline to peace, so shall you be inclined and put your trust in God. He is the Hearer, the Knowledgeable. 8:61

Do not aggress; God does not like the aggressors. 5:87

4- God commands that there will be no compulsion in religion:

There shall be no compulsion in religion. 2:256

For you is your religion, and for me is my religion. 109:6

Had your Lord willed, all the people in the earth, in their entirety, would have believed, so are you to force the people to become believers? 10:99

The commands in the above verses are very clear. Faith and the religion cannot be enforced on any person but is the voluntary decision of each person. This truth is once again confirmed in the following verses:

Say, "It is the truth from your Lord", then whoever wills shall believe and whoever wills shall disbelieve. 18:29

So you shall remind, for you are but a reminder.
You are not a controller over them. 88:21-22

The message of no compulsion in religion is clear in all the above verses.

5- Quran advocates pardon, forgiveness and tolerance towards those who do not choose to follow Islam:

Tell those who believe to forgive those who do not seek the days of God, for He will repay people for what they have earned. 45:14

The Quran condemns the killing or even the persecution of people merely because they embrace a different religion. The Quran mandates absolute freedom of religion among all people. Respect and mutual co-existence must be exercised with those of other religions. The Quran urges Muslims to treat such people kindly and equitably:

With regards to those who have not fought you because of religion, nor driven you out of your homes, God does not forbid you from treating them kindly and being equitable towards them. God loves the equitable. 60:8


The above verses establish the clear truth that the Quran prohibits all violence, unlawful killing and forcing others into Islam.

The killing of innocent people around the world by the hands of terrorist groups is a violation of all the verses quoted above.

THIRD : Are the ones who explode themselves in 'suicide bombs' really going to Paradise as they have been led to believe?

Suicide is a state of disbelief and loss of faith that is condemned by God throughout the Quran. In the Quran, God commands the believers never to despair or lose hope but instead have faith in God and work for a brighter future:

None despairs of God's Spirit other than the disbelieving people. 12:87

Sadly, many youths who get drafted into one of the terrorist groups, are completely brain washed into believing that upon exploding themselves they die as martyrs and are sent directly to Paradise! Young male youths, who are easy prey for the devious politically motivated preachers, are totally brain washed into believing that beautiful virgins are waiting for them in Paradise!

Those who kill innocent people in the name of Islam or in the name of God, and who think of themselves as martyrs, should think twice. Their act is categorically condemned by God as per the Quranic verses below. These people are disobeying God's commandments by upholding the sinister teachings of their leaders!

And you shall spend in the cause of God and do not throw yourselves with your own hands into destruction. You shall do good; God loves the good-doers. 2:195

O you who believe, do not consume each others' money illicitly, but only engage in mutually acceptable transactions. You shall not kill yourselves. God is Merciful towards you.
Whoever does so, out of aggression and injustice, We will roast him in the fire. This is easy for God to do. 4:29-30

As per all the Quranic verses presented, we can thus conclude the following:

1- Killing an innocent soul is a great sin in the sight of God (6:151, 17:33).

2- Suicide in any form is condemned by God (4:30).

3- The Quran does not promise Paradise to those who commit suicide but rather warn of great retribution (4:30).

FOURTH : Is the concept of 'Holy War' endorsed in the Quran?

Various terrorist groups portray Jihad as a 'holy war'. The media in the west has unfortunately been sucked up into accommodating or at least reporting this false interpretation.

In Quran terminology, the phrase 'holy war' does not exist anywhere in the Book. The Quran promotes peace rather than war. The word Islam is a derivative of the word 'salam' which means peace.

The option of war is allowed only in the case of self defence. This stems from the fact that the Quran instructs opposition to aggression and oppression. Whenever there is a possibility to avoid war, that possibility must be pursued.

You shall prepare for them all the power and cavalry that you can muster and with which you may terrify the enemies of God, your enemies, as well as others besides them whom you don't know, but God knows them. Whatever you spend in the cause of God will be repaid to you in full, you shall not be wronged.
If they should incline to peace, so shall you be inclined and put your trust in God. He is the Hearer, the Knowledgeable. 8:60-61

Permission (to fight) has been granted to those who are being attacked since they have been treated unjustly. God is Capable of granting them victory.
They are the ones who have been evicted from their homes unjustly and for no reason other than saying, "Our Lord is God." If it were not that God repels people by means of one another, monasteries, churches, synagogues and masjids, where the name of God is commemorated frequently, would have been destroyed. Absolutely, God will grant victory to those who support Him. God is Powerful, Dignified. 22:39-40

The case made in the Quran for war as seen is in the case of self defence. Fighting an oppressor or aggressor is fighting against oppression or aggression, thus, it is fighting for justice. Therefore, in this sense only, it is fighting in the cause of God.

You shall fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not aggress; God does not like the aggressors. 2:190

Fighting oppression 'in the cause of God' is also the subject of 4:75

Therefore, the ones who seek to trade this world for the hereafter shall fight in the cause of God. Whoever fights in the cause of God, then gets killed, or attains victory, We shall grant him a great reward.
And why would you not fight in the cause of God when the oppressed men, women, and children are saying: "Our Lord, take us out of this town whose people are oppressive, and grant us in You an Ally, and grant us in You a Supporter." 4:74-75


To conclude, it is quite clear that the word Jihad has been badly manipulated by those with a hidden agenda and their own political aims. They are acting in violation of Quranic law. The word 'holy' has never been used in the Quran in connection with war. There simply is no reference anywhere in the Quran for what they call 'holy war'.

There are times when war is permitted, but as we have seen in all the Quranic words, it is only permitted as a practise of self defence, and even in such circumstances, it is not called a 'holy war'. Islam revolves around the concept of peace:

If they should incline to peace, so shall you be inclined and put your trust in God. He is the Hearer, the Knowledgeable. 8:61