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What are the stages of Jihad?

After he received the first Revelation, the command Read!, God�s Messenger returned home in great excitement. His wife Khadija wrapped him in a cloak, and he slept enwrapped by people�s suffering and his heavy responsibility. Then God told him:

O enwrapped one! Keep vigil the night long, save a little (a half of it, or diminish a little, or add a little), and chant the Qur�an in measure. For We shall charge you with a weighty word. (73:1-5)

The short period between the first Revelation and the beginning of his public preaching of Islam, marked by such verses as these, was a time when God�s Messenger began to prepare himself to deliver the Qur�an to humanity. He was to keep night vigils and recite the Qur�an in measure, for impressions are keener and recitation more penetrating during the night.

Striving in God�s way means, in addition to conveying the Message to others, struggling with the carnal self in order to build our genuine spiritual character, one overflowing with belief and inflamed with love. Our individual struggle continues until we die, and the collective struggle continues until the Last Day. So, soon after God�s Messenger received this order, the following verses were revealed:

O enshrouded one, arise and warn! Your Lord magnify; Your robes purify and defilement flee! Show not favour, seeking worldly gain! For the sake of your Lord, be patient! (74:1-7)

This is how God told the Prophet that it was time to preach Islam. He began with his nearest relatives and, after receiving the verse: Warn your tribe of nearest kindred (26:214), he preached to his tribe. This was followed by public preaching and the predicted reactions: derision, threats, torture, very tempting bribes to stop, and boycott.

In Makka, God�s Messenger never resorted to or allowed retaliation, saying that Islam was meant to unite�not to divide�people. Amir ibn Rabi�, the Muslim envoy to the defeated Persian commander at Qadisiya (AD 636), said Islam came to bring people out of the darkness of unbelief into the light of belief, to free them from servanthood to servants in order to make them servants of the One God, and to elevate them from the pit of Earth to the height of heaven.

Islam, which literally means peace, salvation, and submission, came to establish peace in our inner world by causing us to be at peace with God and nature, the world and the universe. Thus peace and order are fundamental in Islam, which always seeks to spread in a peaceful atmosphere and rejects force as much as possible. Islam never approves of injustice and condemns bloodshed:

Whoever slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain or corruption on the Earth, it shall be as if he or she had slain all of humanity; and whoever saves a person�s life, it shall be as if he or she had saved all of humanity. (5:32)

Coming to eradicate injustice and corruption, and to unite heaven and Earth in peace and harmony, Islam seeks to call people with wisdom and fair exhortation. Force is resorted to only when those who desire to maintain the corrupt order they built on injustice, oppression, self-interest, exploitation, and usurpation of others� rights begin to resist it. Thus, Islam allows force if unbelievers, polytheists, or those who make mischief and corruption on the Earth try to defeat Islam and block its spread. Being a God-revealed religion of truth, Islam aims to secure human well-being and happiness in both worlds and therefore has the right to present itself to the people.

Almost all scholars are in agreement that verse 22-39, which was revealed during the first year after the Hijrah, is the first verse in the Quran concerning fighting on the part of the believers to fight in self-defense against those who waged war against them. Together with the following two verses they help us to understand the true nature of war in Islam and the reason why it was made lawful.

The believers against whom war is waged are given permission to fight in response, for they have been wronged. Surely, God has full power to help them to victory. Those who have been driven from their homeland against all right, for no other reason than that they say, "Our Lord is God." Were it not for God�s repelling some people by means of others, monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques, where God is regularly worshipped and His Name is much mentioned, would surely have been pulled down (with the result that God is no longer worshipped and the earth becomes uninhabitable). God most certainly helps whoever helps His cause. Surely, God is All-Strong, All-Glorious with irresistible might. They are the believers who, if We give them authority on earth, without doubt establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms fully, and enjoin and promote what is right and good and forbid and try to prevent the evil. With God rests the outcome for all matters. (22:39-41)

Given this context, Islam clearly resorts to force only to defend itself and establish freedom of belief. Thus followers of other religions are free to practice their religion. Even many Western writers have acknowledged that Christians and Jews were the most prosperous and happiest when ruled by Muslims.

Islam, revealed by the Lord of the Worlds, the All-Just and All-Compassionate, opposes injustice. The righteous servants of God are obliged to strive for the establishment of justice in life.


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