Jihad in the Way of Allah
by As-Sayyid Al-Habib ‘Ali Al-Jifry
Translated and Edited by: Hasan Sidky and Khalil Abu Asmaa
Translated and Edited by: Hasan Sidky and Khalil Abu Asmaa
An Address on the 20th of Ramadan 1422
All praise belongs to Allah, for the blessing of gathering us upon the service of His deen and the seeking of His pleasure. I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah; a witnessing through which Allah makes firm in our hearts the light of certainty. And I bear witness that our Master Muhammad is His slave and Messenger; a witnessing through which we are tied to his presence—a tying that will prepare us for his service and victory. May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, his family, companions, and all those who follow them in righteousness until the last day.
As for what proceeds (wa ba’ad):
I sincerely thank Allah, for you and for myself, that He has blessed us to reach this sacred month, and that He has allowed us to reach the beginning of the last 10 days, all the while we are upon the belief of “La Ilaha Ila-Allah, Muhammad Rasul-Allah”.
It may be that you are from amongst those who taste this blessing and bounty the most, because there are from among you those who were blessed with Islam after having experienced what it means to be outside of Islam. And there are amongst you those who grew up and were raised between those who don’t know Islam. Therefore, since Allah has prepared you to be able to taste Islam (after not knowing it) it is necessary that when you come to the land of the Muslims, and find that those who are around you are living without this taste of Islam, then you should not let this affair (your Islam) become “habitual” for you, just as it has become habitual for them.
This is why it is incumbent upon you to be a means towards reminding them of the blessings of Islam—for they have been afflicted with the disease of becoming familiar with and complacent concerning these blessings. As the Arabs say, “Familiarity is blessing’s disease.” Thus it is obligatory that you remind yourself of this each and every day, saying, “All praise is due to Allah for the blessing of Islam, and sufficient is it as a blessing.”
The second issue pertains to the approach of the last ten days of this blessed month of Ramadan; the days in which your Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to roll up his sleeves, worship by night, and wake up his family for prayer. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that you increase your aspiration to draw nearer to Allah in these last ten days, because Allah, the Mighty, the Sublime, has hidden in these days some of His special divine gifts, which necessitates that you should desire that Allah blesses you with a great portion of these gifts. If one is sincere in drawing closer to his Lord, he will be prepared in these ten days to reap the lasting benefits of Ramadan until the next year, and then for the rest of his life.
Multiply your daily recitation of the Qur’an, whilst trying to ponder its meanings. However, if you are not able to truly ponder it’s meanings, due to a linguistic deficiency, then ponder the essential meaning, which is the magnificence of being able to recite the words of your Lord. For indeed, if you approach the Qur’an in this manner and from this doorway, subtle meanings will become apparent to you; meanings that even scholars of the Arabic language, even those who profess excellence in it, have been deprived of due to the fact that they have not entered upon the Qur’an from this blessed doorway. You should seek in your recitation of the Qur’an for what it means to be in the company of your great Lord. And if your hearts get acquainted with and taste this meaning, then the world that encompasses you will no longer have an impact on your hearts, rather, you will become of those who impact the world.
It is human nature to esteem and honor those who sit in the company of kings and rulers. It is also the nature of this world, nay, the whole of existence, whether it perceives it or not, to be naturally disposed and compelled to esteem and honor those deeply attached to being in the company of their Creator. The meaning of “esteem” here is to benefit from and through them. This is the type of relationship and connection that we must now establish between us and this world, all in preparation for the affair that is dawning upon the Ummah.
We are people with a mission in this existence. We weren’t created in vain. Nor were we blessed with Islam in vain. Nor have we been put in touch with the great scholars in vain. Nor were you brought to this illustrious land (Tarim, Yemen) which has in it a great secret from amongst the secrets of inheritance from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, in vain. Nor were you tied to the connected chain leading back to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, in serving the Ummah, in vain. Rather, Allah has given all this to you and has prepared all this for you so that you may become ready to take on the mission that is approaching you in this world.
And when people hear talk about “a mission that is approaching” the intellects are distracted into thinking only about the outward affairs that are taking place around us now. And this is not what is exclusively intended. It is necessary that the affairs that are encompassing us now in the world (those that bring happiness, those that bring sadness, the painful and difficult matters) should have no place of magnitude in your hearts. It is inappropriate for those who have been chosen by Allah for the rectification of the world, to praise and magnify the world (‘alam), rather, their magnification and esteem should be directed to the Omniscient (Al-‘Aleem) Knower (Al-‘Alim), the Mighty, the Sublime.
We feel pain for what has befallen the Ummah, we beg Allah, we weep to Allah, we turn to Allah, we repent to Allah, and we seek His forgiveness, in order that we aren’t held accountable as being a cause for what has befallen the Ummah. We beg Allah in our supplications that He rectifies the Ummah, at the same time we struggle in using the means that assist in this rectification by using what Allah has given us. With this in mind, we must never be distracted from the root and essence of our mission.
You must constantly remember that there is a foundational purpose to your creation: “And We have not created the Jinn and Mankind except that they should worship Me.” Allah created us solely for His worship. If a negation ( “And We have NOT created…”) is followed by an exception (“EXCEPT for My worship”), then that is one of the strongest ways of affirming and restricting (hasr) something in the Arabic language. So Allah, the Mighty, the Sublime, affirms that the sole purpose of our creation is His worship. That is why there should be no greater mission for us in our existence than this mission. This is the foundation…
This foundation branches off into our interaction with the creation surrounding us. “Our Lord! You created us to worship You ONLY… However, You haven’t created each one of us in a separate place to worship you, rather, You have surrounded us with Your creation. So what is the reason behind this our Lord?” Allah, the Almighty, said, “I am placing on the earth a vicegerent (khalifah).” So our goal on this earth is to establish what Allah, azza wa jall, wanted to be established on this earth. And from this is seeking knowledge, calling to Allah, and jihad in the way of Allah.
Please note that jihad is not translated as “fighting,” for fighting is only one manifestation of jihad. Jihad comes from the root word “al-jahd” (meaning exertion or struggle). It means that one fully exerts himself and struggles with himself to serve his Lord, as well as to perfect his interaction with others. This is the general and comprehensive meaning of jihad, which we must understand. We must also clearly understand that fighting is only one of its manifestations and only one of its meanings.
All of our interactions with the creation, from seeking knowledge, to calling to Allah, to jihad in the way of Allah, are but branches originating from the foundation, which is establishing the worship of Allah. Hence, this is why it is of the utmost importance that as we do these things we don’t get preoccupied by them and forget the purpose for which they were established. The scholars of the heart say that it is from the greatest obstacles that befall a person traveling to Allah that his means become his goals.
Seeking Sacred Knowledge
From amongst the means to the goal is seeking sacred knowledge. You are now in this state. Your understanding of the meanings behind seeking knowledge should be to establish the worship of Allah. So, therefore, your esteem (ta’theem) for the seeking of knowledge is commensurate with establishing the worship of Allah.
From this esteem (ta’theem) come many benefits:
- Having high adab (courtesy and moral character) in seeking knowledge.
- Honoring your time, so that not one moment is spent in other than that which you came here for.
- That you fully understand what you are being taught, while having full confidence in those teaching you. (I say this because a student of knowledge may become confused as to what he is really seeking during his initial quest for knowledge).
- That you preserve, through your knowledge, those elements that will protect for you the “light” of knowledge. This is done primarily by guarding your heart and limbs from falling into the disobedience of Allah.
- Quickly acting upon that which you are taught.
That you esteem all that is associated with knowledge; your books, the authors of those books, your teachers who are teaching with a connected chain of transmission back to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, the place that you study in, and even the clothes that you wear during study.
Esteeming and respecting what was mentioned will have a great impact on your actual benefit from the realities of knowledge. So don’t become preoccupied with the outward of knowledge in exclusion to the reality of knowledge, all the while doing your utmost to perfect the outward seeking of knowledge and it’s sciences.
Calling to Allah (Da’wah)
The proper way to obtain the real rank of calling to Allah is to not specify a time for da’wah, by saying, “Now I will begin da’wah,” or “Now I will stop doing da’wah.” Your calling to Allah began the moment you said, “I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah, and I bear witness that our master Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.” The end of your outward calling to Allah is when your soul leaves your body. Therefore, the time for da’wah is from the first time you say the Shahadah, to the last time you can possibly say it. The only difference is that in every phase that you move through you will use different means and methods.
The phase that you are in right now (the actual seeking of knowledge, acting upon this knowledge, and rectifying your character and inner state) is da’wah. Not one week should pass by except that you weep to Allah, either by night or by day, that Allah alleviates what has befallen the Ummah, and that Allah guides the Ummah back to the best of paths. You must establish amongst yourselves the sunnah of consultation and advice. You must train yourselves so that it is not heavy on your hearts to advise a brother with gentleness and love, if he needs advise and guidance. You should also train yourselves how to readily accept advice from others without the slightest agitation in your hearts, if you are mistaken. Indeed, finding it difficult to advise others and to accept advice is a sign that there is a deficiency in your sincerity in seeking knowledge and drawing closer to Allah.
You must establish with every type of person around you a relationship based on da’wah, regardless whether he is the salesman in the market, the taxi driver on the street, the janitor of the building, or the one who sits next to you in the mosque. Your concern for calling them to Allah MUST be greater than your desire to receive any benefit from them. Then, if the time comes for you go back to your respective countries, or if you go out for da’wah in the local villages, the meanings and methods of da’wah will open ever wider for you. However, the one who is not calling to Allah in this phase will never be a true caller to Allah in the next phase. This is so because if the heart is able to delay the concern for da’wah now, then the heart is empty from the reality of da’wah in the first place, this reality being a deep concern. And this deep concern is an action of the heart, and actions of the heart can never be delayed. It is possible to delay buying a piece of clothing, delay reading a book, delay having lunch till dinner time, and delay the Dhuhr payer until ‘Asr time (for the traveler). Hence, the outward affairs of the world (like buying and selling) and the afterlife (i.e. prayer) can be delayed, under certain circumstances. However, the acts of the heart, whether they are worldly or of the afterlife, can never be delayed. It is not possible for a person who loves someone, to say, “I will delay my love for you.” Likewise, da’wah is a deep concern, and is an act of the heart. So if you are able to delay the da’wah, then you were capable of delaying this deep concern, and if you are able to delay this, then you are not a true person of da’wah, you only have the outward form of a da’i (a person of da’wah).
From amongst the innovations of the Arabs was that if a person died, the women of the household would be heard wailing, lamenting, and mourning. If the women of the household were few in number, women would be hired to assist in the wailing and lamenting (nawwahah in Arabic). One time, three of these women were hired and brought to the house of the deceased. When they arrived they began their wailing and crying, and the people of the house told them to delay their wailing until the funeral procession passed in front of their house. So when the funeral procession passed by they were told to begin. This was so because they were hired, however, the mother of the one who passed away can never be told to delay her lamenting and crying, because her crying began the moment her son passed away. This is why the Arabs say, “The one rented to wail and lament is not like the one whose only son perished in her lap.” This is why it is necessary that the one calling to Allah must be more concerned, and cry about the deen more intensely, than the mother whose only child perished in her lap. Without this, you will never become a true da’i (caller to Allah).
Our societies and the communities of the Muslims in the West are not lacking people who can give speeches and admonitions. In every masjid you will find those who can give the Khutbah and public speeches, yet we do not find the desired results. Societies are not transformed through these admonitions and speeches, because most of these speeches are like the nawwahah (lamentation of the aforementioned hired women), and very, very, very, very few in the Ummah can speak like the mother whose only son perished in her lap. So do not accept to delay the da’wah. This does not mean to neglect your studies, rather, make your studies from your da’wah.
Jihad and the Middle Way
Anyone who makes the claim that he wants to serve the Deen yet is not thinking about jihad in the way of Allah, either has no understanding or he is not a truthful and sincere person. However, concerning the issue of jihad, people have gone to two extremes, both of which are mistaken. One group understood from the concept of jihad that it is necessary to view all the kuffar as those whom we must raise the sword or rifle to kill. The other group understands from the concept of jihad that we must be gentle, affectionate, and love all of them, and by doing such we would be “struggling” (i.e. making “jihad”) with them to bring them back to Allah and His Deen. Obviously, both groups have fallen into error. In reality, we are not a people whose mission is to kill the kuffar, nor are we a people who love the kuffar unrestrictedly. When it is time for fighting, we do not fight except those who, by doing so, we would be serving Allah alone (not our passions or personal agendas).
Sayyidina Ali (may Allah honor his face) was fighting a kafir in one of the battles. During the battle Sayyidna Ali knocked him down and raised his sword to kill him. As soon as the kafir knew that he was going to be killed he spat in Sayyidna Ali’s face, so immediately Sayyidna Ali left him and went on his way. He was later asked, “Why did you leave him when Allah clearly gave you power over him?!” Sayyidna Ali replied, “I was fighting him for the sake of Allah, and when he spat in my face I feared that if I killed him it would have been out of personal revenge and spite.”
From this we understand that it is obligatory that we differentiate between fighting people who are our own personal enemies and others whom we fight because they are the enemies of Allah. If a believer is forced to fight a kafir, he fights him not because the kafir hates him, because the kafir is conspiring against him, because the kafir wants to overcome him, rather, he fights him only because he is an enemy to Allah, the time to fight has come, and the command from Allah has been given.
On the other hand, we have those who say, “We must love the kuffar, be kind with them, and esteem them. They are nice people and they have a lot of good in them.” People who say this have mixed truth with falsehood, just as those who say they want to kill all the kuffar, without understanding or differentiation, have also mixed truth with falsehood.
It is impossible for a true believer to love a kafir: “You will not find people who believe in Allah and the Last Day having love for anyone who opposes Allah and His Messenger” (Qur’an 58-21). With this said, we do love goodness for them. There is a clear difference between loving them and loving goodness for them. If you say you love them then you are claiming that you love their essence (thaat) that you interact with in front of you, yet the believer doesn’t love any essence except the essence of Allah (Thaatul-llah), the Mighty and Majestic. If you love the good qualities in them while desiring that the possessor of these qualities is saved from the fire, and uses them in the service of Allah, while looking at them with the eye of mercy and the eye of desiring salvation for them, because you know that this pleases Allah, then in this case you have understood how to interact with them.
So we view all the kuffar as being, firstly, the creation of Allah. And as Muslims, we love Allah’s creation. Therefore, we do not love the kafir, rather, we love Allah’s creation (suna’ Allah). We view them as being a means for our spiritual transaction with Allah; a means for our drawing nearer to Allah. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “For Allah to guide one person (to Islam) through you is greater than the whole world and all that is in it.”
Hence, through this balance do we interact with them upon the foundation of having mercy for them, compassion for them, and a desire to try to save them from the fire. This is the only way we should view our interaction with them. We do not esteem the influential one amongst them because he can benefit us in our da’wah (as a kafir), nor are we generous with the needy amongst them because we love them in themselves, rather, we deal with the influential, the poor, the sick, and the young amongst them with mercy, and through mercy, because this is the way that Allah loves.
The way we enter discourse with them should be in ways that their intellects can understand, using means that they like and are familiar with, as long as it is not prohibited in the Sacred Law. This is not because those means are the only means, but rather, because they are means that Allah loves. So if the time comes that it is more pleasing to Allah that we use another type of means, with some of them, then we do not hesitate for even one second to abandon the old method and to use the new method. The principle is that we are expansive and inclusive of everyone, merciful with everyone, loving and wanting goodness for everyone, from societies to leaders, from Muslims to kafirs. Then if a situation arose that calls us to deal with sternness, even if it reached the level of fighting, then we do not allow our previous ways of mercy and gentleness to delay that which Allah has commanded.
One of the sons of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, did not become a Muslim while they were in Mecca, and as you know, the affection of a father to his son is much greater then the affection of a son to his father. In Mecca, Sayyidina Abu Bakr tried with love and gentleness to convince his son as to the veracity of Islam. He used the best and loftiest means to try to bring him over to Islam, yet Allah had not decreed for him to become a Muslim just yet. Sayyidina Abu Bakr made Hijrah and later went to fight in the battle of Badr. This son of his also went out on the day of Badr, yet he was with the kuffar. The son was trying his best to avoid his father so they would not have to fight each other. Later, when his son accepted Islam, he said to his father, “Oh my father, on the day of Badr (when I was a kafir) I was avoiding you so we wouldn’t have to fight.” Sayyidina Abu Bakr replied to him, “As for me, if I met you on that day I would have killed you.”
What is the reason behind this? This intricate point is necessary for us to understand. When the action of the son wasn’t based on servitude to Allah, but rather, was based on compassion (for his father), and his going out to battle was only for glory, honor, and nationalistic goals, this was how he acted. His actions were a slave to his emotions. On the other hand, the actions of Sayyidina Abu Bakr (in Mecca) and his love and compassion were not for himself, but for the sake of his Lord. So when the time came that he had to serve Allah by fighting against his son, he didn’t waiver, even if it meant his own son’s death. We are in need of this criterion in establishing the correct concept of jihad with the kuffar.
Therefore, the understanding of jihad is to establish the means for the guidance and salvation of the kuffar, not merely to just fight them. Fighting them happens in a few cases, and the goal behind it is to save others from the oppression of the ones who are preventing the guidance from spreading. We do not fight out of revenge and spite. The Muslim doesn’t fight because the kafir is my (personal) enemy, because the kafir is conspiring against me, because the kafir has killed and slaughtered other Muslims. The Muslim fights the kafir because he has prevented and has become a barrier for the guidance to reach others. Again, the Muslim doesn’t fight out of revenge and only because the enemy has killed other Muslims. Think about what is being said deeply!
The Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, when he entered Mecca, didn’t avenge for the killings of the Muslims on the day of Uhud., even though Allah established him over the kuffar on that day of the great Conquest (the Fath). These disbelievers in Mecca were the same ones who killed his companions and members of his own family! These were the same people who barred the guidance from reaching others. These were the same people who ripped open the chest and stomach of Sayyidina Hamza (the uncle and companion of the Blessed Prophet, peace be upon him). These were the same people who ate from the liver of Sayyidina Hamza, may Allah be blessed with him. And what is more amazing is that those who actually conspired to kill Hamza (Hind and Wahshi), their Islam was accepted by the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, and he didn’t kill either of them even after their accepting of the faith.
If we were to understand that the purpose of fighting against the kuffar is to avenge for spilt Muslim blood then it would have been befitting for the Prophet, peace be upon him, to command the killing of Wahshi and Hind right when he entered Mecca. But the issue with the Muslims is not one of revenge, it is an issue of guidance and the spreading of its light. The Muslim is the “letter of guidance” sent to humanity from Allah (al-Muslim bareed hidayat-illah ila al-khalq). So when the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, saw that there was hope in them being guided he said, “Go, for verily you are free.” And this is how our interaction must be. The day I meet with an enemy soldier off the battle field, who killed Muslims in Afghanistan, and I sense that he may want guidance, then I will treat him with the utmost of mercy. This is what we MUST understand. So our ultimate and primary mission in jihad is their guidance, even while we might be (physically) fighting them!
All this is clearly understood in the beautiful story where our Blessed Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, got upset with Usamah ibn Zaid, the beloved, the son of the beloved (he was named this because the Prophet, peace be upon him, loved him greatly). Usamah was out on the battle field fighting the enemy. During the heat of the battle one of the enemies slipped and fell, so Usamah lifted his sword to strike him. Immediately the enemy shouted out “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad Rasul-lullah,” yet, Usamah struck and killed the man anyway. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, heard of this and began to greatly blame and censure Usamah saying, “Did you kill him after he said it (the Shahadah)!?” Usamah replied, “Oh Messenger of Allah, he only said it our of fear of the sword.” “Did you look into his heart?! Oh Usamah,” replied the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him.
This same kafir may have killed many Muslims on that day, and he was in the act of fighting against the Muslims, yet, as soon as he said the Shahadah, even if it was in hypocrisy, and Usamah didn’t refrain himself and killed him, the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, became very upset. The Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, continued to blame Usamah about what he did for the rest of the day, until Usamah said, “I wish that I became a Muslim after this day” (meaning that he wished that the event never even happened and that he could have a fresh start in Islam).
This incident is not mentioned to put blame on Sayyidina Usamah, may Allah be pleased with him. Rather, there is an important principle that we must understand here. The mishaps of the individual companion of the Prophet, peace be upon him, are looked at as a further perfection in the society of the companions. This is so because the goal behind the community of the companions is that we may emulate them, so if no mishaps occurred by individual companions, then we would not know how to deal with a person who falls into error in our time and the times to come. Therefore, the mishap of one of the companions is in reality a perfection on the societal level. All this was so that the realities of what it really means to learn may fully manifest themselves for us.
In this incident, the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, made firm in our hearts the understanding that even while fighting, our goal is their guidance. So if the enemy shows the signs of being guided, then the fighting between us and them ceases, even if it was an outward form without any true reality. That is why the meaning of the statement, “Did you kill him after he said it, Oh Usamah?!” is that we should not let our drive to fight blind us from the real cause of fighting, which is their guidance.
This is why they mention about our master Al-Hussein, the son of Ali (may Allah be pleased with them both), when his army met the army of the mistaken and fugitive Muslims who wanted to kill him, he looked at them and began to weep. The number of Al-Hussein’s men, including the women (non-combatants), did not exceed 80, while the number of the opposition was greater then 3,000. Remember, Al-Hussein is the son of the daughter of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing be upon him, the beautiful scent of the Messenger (rayhanat Rasulillah, a title given to him by the Messenger himself, peace be upon him), the master of the youth of paradise, the one whom the Messenger made supplication to Allah for saying, “Oh Allah, love the one who loves him (Al-Hussein).”
The army had risen against Al-Hussein after pledging allegiance to him. They gathered 17,000 signatures from the people of their land and called Al-Hussein out to them saying “come and lead us to goodness.” So when he went to them they met him with an army of 3,000 men wanting to kill him, most of them being from amongst those who signed the allegiance. These were people who wanted to commit one of the greatest crimes on the face of the earth: killing a member of the family of the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him!
As Al-Hussein stood looking at his deceptive opponents he began to weep. His sister, Zaiynab, saw him weeping so she asked him, “What is it that makes you weep, Oh Hussein? Are you afraid of death? For verily you are heading for your martyred brother Al-Hasan, your martyred father Ali, your mother Fatima, and your grandfather the Messenger of Allah!” Al-Hussein turned to her and said “Woe to you, Oh Zaynab! Al-Hussein is not one to be afraid of death!” “Then what is this that I see upon your face?” she asked. He replied, “Oh Zaynab, I looked at these men who were treacherous to the covenant of Allah that we made, and I see that they will kill me and enter the fire if they have no right for doing so, while I wish that they will go to paradise instead.”
This is the meaning that is incumbent upon you to understand concerning jihad. If you understand this while removing from your hearts the delusional power of “physical means,” and “people of means” (ahlul-asbab), while adding to this the realities of da’wah and seeking sacred knowledge, and you take these as means to the foundational purpose of your creation, which is your worship of Allah, you will be from amongst those chosen and elevated by Allah, to the levels of closeness, in this age that we live in. And this is the mission that you came for, if you but understood. This is what you must ask Allah for in these days that end Ramadan, and for the rest of your lives.