Globally, the word “jihad” may be one of the scariest words associated with Islam in people’s view. Terrorism and Islam are almost intertwined when people talk about this religion. When you talk about Islam, many people may think of ISIS, Al-Qaida, Taliban, and the like which have portrayed an internationally terrifying picture of Muslims. On the other hand, most Muslims believe that the real Islam and the original meaning of “jihad” have been defamed by these terrorist groups.
The word “jihad” denotes an attempt and trying. In Islam, this word means doing as Allah commands in a special way that mostly requires hard work and sacrifice for his sake. It would be quite wrong merely assume fighting and killing enemies as the meaning of “jihad.” As a matter of fact, this word has a lot of meanings and “fighting” is only one of them.
According to the Holy Quran, jihad can be waged even without fighting enemies, but by spending your wealth on the needy.
The faithful are only those who have attained faith in Allah and His Apostle and then have never doubted, and who wage jihad with their possessions and their lives in the way of Allah. It is they who are truthful. (49:15)
The Holy Quran says that the Meccan early Muslims who left all they had in Mecca and moved to Yathrib (today called Medina) had done “jihad,”
Indeed, those who are faithful and those who have migrated and waged jihad in the way of Allah—it is they who expect Allah’s mercy, and Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful. (2:218)
Sometimes the word jihad means fighting not with the enemies but with yourself. In Islamic insight, controlling your evil and harmful desires is actually considered to be an example of jihad. Surprisingly, this kind of jihad is actually more important and nobler than the other types. In this regard, Imam Sadiq (AS) says,
Once, the Holy Prophet (PBUH & HP) sent a group of soldiers to the battlefield, and when they came back, the Prophet (PUBH & HP) told them, ‘welcome to the people who accomplished their little jihad and still have to do the greater jihad.’
People asked, ‘Oh, Messenger of Allah! What is the greater jihad?’
He replied, ‘fighting with yourselves.’ (1)
In Islam’s view, fighting is originally only for defending ourselves against invaders not for attacking innocent people.
The first fight of the Prophet (PUBH & HP) named “Badr”, was with the Quraysh (the people of Mecca who were mostly the Prophet’s relatives). After Muslims moved to Medina from Mecca, the polytheists seized all of their belongings and were planning to sell them. A large number of soldiers escorted the caravan that was moving the belongings of Muslims from Mecca. Muslims decided to fight with them and take their belongings back.
There was a polytheist named Utbah ibn Rabi’ah who wasn’t sure whether to fight with the Prophet. He talked to his army, riding a red camel, Oh, my people! Hear me out and do not fight this man and his followers. [if you worry about being called chicken hearts for not fighting] consider this shame on me and tell others that I was scared. You have so many close relatives among them and if you fight, so many of them will be killed and you, afterward, will have to live with the ones who have killed your fathers and brothers and it will leave animosity and a grudge among you. Note that if you kill them, they will kill as many of us as we have killed them. Furthermore, it is possible that you lose… Oh, my people! If Muhammad is a liar, the wolves of the desert will remove him and if he is a king, you will have a good life in his territory and if he is a real prophet, he will make you the happiest people in the world. (2)
The Prophet was so hopeful that they will listen to Utbah and that he won’t be forced to fight with his relatives. About Utbah the Prophet said, If there was only one good person among them, it would be this person on the red camel and they will do their best if they listen to him. (3)
Then, the Prophet wrote a letter to the Quraysh and encouraged them to go back to Mecca (4) but they didn’t accept and fought against the Prophet. The Muslims won this battle.
The Arabs before the Prophet (PBUH & HP), were always fighting with each other. But, the message of Islam made them all like brothers. The Holy Quran says,
Hold fast, all together, to Allah’s cord, and do not be divided [into sects]. Remember Allah’s blessing upon you when you were enemies, then He brought your hearts together, so you became brothers with His blessing. (3:103)
If you carefully read the verses of the Quran about fighting and jihad, you would understand that in the Islamic view, Muslims only fight for defending or against the ones who betray Muslims; for example, those who put the Muslim lives in jeopardy by helping their enemies.
In this regard, the Holy Quran says,
Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress. Indeed, Allah does not like transgressors. (2:190)
About some polytheists who betrayed the Prophet (PBUH & HP) by violating the items of a treaty between the Prophet (PBUH & HP) and them, the Holy Quran says,
How can such polytheists have a treaty with Allah and His Messenger, except those you have made a treaty with at the Sacred Mosque? So, as long as they are true to you, be true to them. Indeed, Allah loves those who are mindful ˹of Him˺. How? For if they get the better of you, they will observe toward you neither kinship nor covenant. They please you with their mouths while their hearts spurn you, and most of them are transgressors. (9:7&8)
Therefore, the holy Quran ordered the Prophet (PBUH & HP) to forget about the treaty and fight with those polytheists because they betrayed the Muslims.
Muslims are eager to have peace with others but yet they can’t stand to be oppressed, invaded, bullied, etc. Fight them until persecution is no more, and religion becomes [exclusively] for Allah. Then if they desist, there shall be no reprisal except against the wrongdoers. (2:193)
Muslims believe that instead of fighting, people must be united in worshipping Allah which is the common belief of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. So, Muslims do not want to fight with the Jews or Christians except if they invade first. The Holy Quran says,
Say, ‘O People of the Book (Christians and Jews)! Come to a common word between us and you: that we will worship no one but Allah, that we will not ascribe any partner to Him, and that some of us will not take some others as lords besides Allah.’ But if they turn away, say, ‘Be witnesses that we have submitted [to Allah].’ (3:64)
The Holy Quran says that we should always be fair, even with our enemies,
O believers! Stand firm for Allah and bear true testimony. Do not let the hatred of a people lead you to injustice. Be just! That is closer to righteousness. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what you do. (5:8)
And, If any of those idolaters seek your protection, protect him so that he will be able to hear the words of God. Take him to a place where he is safe because they are people who do not know the truth. (9:6)
About the wars of the Prophet (PBUH & HP), Imam Sadiq (AS) said,
The Prophet (PBUH & HP) told his soldiers, “…do not over-kill and do not cheat them and do not cut their bodies into parts and do not kill the elders, kids, or women and do not cut the trees except if you had no choice. And if any of the Muslims saw one of the polytheists, that polytheist shouldn’t be harmed until he hears the words of Allah. If he obeyed you then he is your brother and if he didn’t, then take him to a safe place [and let him go]. (5)
- Al-Kafi, Shiekh Koleini, vol.5, pg.12
- Maghazi, al-Vaghedi, vol.1, pg.63
- Maghazi, al-Vaghedi, vol.1, pg.60
- Maghazi, al-Vaghedi, vol.1, pg.61
- Vasa’il ash-Shia, Sheikh Hurr al-Ameli, vol.15, pg.58
Whenever you want to make a big decision, you might think about what would be the right choice; which one is better and going to lead you to the right way. When the choice is made and you have followed one way or another, again thousand thoughts appear. And one of those thoughts or questions is: “Was that predestined? Is it me who is making the choice or it was made for me before? What is my will in it?
Once a man asked Imam Sadiq (AS), “Does Allah make human beings to do or not to do a thing?”
He answered, “Allah is More Just to make a person do a thing and then punish him for that” .
Imam Reza (AS) also replied to a similar question with this phrase, “Allah is More Just and Wise to do such a thing” .
Divine wisdom and justice do not allow Allah to decide about good and evil acts of human beings, who are created to have a free will and the right to decide for their own fate. He directly refers to the fact that human beings are responsible for what they do and He just shows them the truth in the Holy Quran. They are to choose which way to take and what to do.
“and say 'This is the truth from your Lord. Let whosoever will, believe, and whosoever will disbelieve it.” (18:29)
“Indeed, We have guided him to the path, he is either grateful or ungrateful” (76:3)
So, none of the things we do in this world is the result of divine determinism. But we know that Allah has the ultimate will. He makes decisions, which no one can change. Where does His Will stand regarding human being’s will?
Are human beings the final decision-makers and Allah has no role and consideration in the decisions they make, or Allah makes the final decision and human beings have no part in the things that happen to them , and they have no free will? None! They both work together. For everything we do, both our will and Allah’s will play their own parts. 
Let me give you an example. Imagine a person who is in a terrible financial state and decides to go to his neighbor’s house to steal some money from their strongbox. The moment he decides to do such a thing, he knows that the money does not belong to him and might put the neighbor in trouble. He knows that stealing is not a good thing to do, and it’s against the laws of humanity, Islam, Christianity, and any other faith. At the end of the day, he decides to steal the money and goes to his neighbor’s house.
Well, the guidance is given by Allah, in the holy books, in one’s heart and thoughts, but it’s the person who makes the final decision. One might think that “Well, Allah could stop that man from stealing that money. Why didn’t he?”
The answer is that he surely could, but it is against his greater will to praise the ones who do what he commands them to do and the ones who decide to harm themselves, others, the earth, or the whole world. That is where the difference is made.
To sum up, one should know that Allah wanted us to decide and to choose, and that makes the difference between human beings and other creatures. Allah decides about certain things and guides us to the right path through signs and words He had sent to us. However, we are the ones who choose the way we want to take.
Which way is yours?!
When Western people travel to eastern Islamic countries, they often prefer to eat the folk and favorite local food of the region. But what is it that makes western Muslims starve for a KFC classic chicken–on–the–bone bucket meal, or a McDonalds’ double burger if they don’t eat meat?! Muslims are Muslims, not vegetarians and eating meat in Islam is allowed, But like the followers of other religions who have specific slaughtering rituals, Muslims also have explicit rulings for slaughtering particular animals to make it lawful (Halal).
As it is defined in the Quran, believers are welcomed to enjoy all of the blessings of this world . Therefore, about eating meat, Allah does not mention what to eat, but He excludes what is not lawful to eat and maybe physically or spiritually harmful to the human's body and soul. "You are permitted animals of grazing livestock, except what is [now] announced to you…" (5:1) and what is recited as prohibited is mentioned in the Quran as below:
You have prohibited carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, and what has been offered to other than Allah, and the animal strangled or beaten to death, and that which dies by falling or is gored to death, and that which is mangled by a beast of prey— barring that which you may purify —and what is sacrificed on stone altars [to idols], and that you should divide by raffling with arrows...(5:3).
Other than the mentioned meats all other kinds of meat are Halal as described in the Quran: Say, ‘I do not find in what has been revealed to me that anyone is forbidden to eat anything except carrion or spilled blood, or the flesh of swine—for that is indeed unclean—or an impiety offered to other than Allah.’ But should someone be compelled, without being rebellious or aggressive, indeed your Lord is all-forgiving, all-merciful’ (6:145).
Please note that all kinds of lawful (Halal) meat must be slaughtered according to Islamic rulings: “Do not eat [anything] of that over which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned, and that is indeed transgression…” (6:121).
Even the above mentioned prohibited meats are lawful (Halal) while you are living in a problematic situation and following the rules of Islam will put you in extreme difficulty. Please note that difficulty does not mean that you do not have ready food at home and therefore you may eat forbidden (Haram) meat. A difficulty, as written in Islamic jurisprudence, is when one’s life is at risk, and there is no other food available but forbidden (Haram) meat.
A Detailed Description of Lawful (Halal ) and Forbidden (Haram ) meats
To be more precise on which meat is lawful, let’s have a review of the Islamic jurisprudence.
Fish that have scales are the only type of Halal sea creatures. Other sea creatures and fish are Haram .
Among all domestic land creatures; sheep, cow, and camel are Halal, but eating the meat of horse and donkey is detestable (Makruh). The rest of domestic land creatures such as dogs, cats, etc. are forbidden (Haram).
Deer, cow, zebra, mountain goat, and wild donkey are all Halal. However, eating the meat of wild predatory animals that are predatory in essence, have strong and sharp nails, claws, and fangs such as, lions, leopards, cheetahs, wolves, or animals with less sharp fangs such as foxes and hyenas as well as rabbits, while not part of the predatory category, are considered Haram.
Also, insects and reptiles, such as snakes, mice, lizards, hedgehogs, fleas, lice, etc., are all Haram. Animals who have undergone metamorphosis (maskh) [i] such as, elephants, monkeys, bears, etc. are Haram as well .
Birds that flap their wings more than they glide while flying are Halal, but birds that glide and spread their wings more while flying in the air instead of flapping their wings are Haram. Also, birds with gizzards and spurs at the back of their feet are Halal [ii] .
All insects are Haram [iii] .
It is permissible to eat Halal meat cooked or uncooked or even burned (as long as it has no harm to human health) .
Please note that the rules of slaughtering and eating hunted meat are slightly different from all the rulings mentioned above, and we will discuss that in a separate article.
"For every nation, We have appointed a rite so that they might mention Allah’s Name over the livestock He has provided them" (22:34).
Although Jews have their specific rules of slaughtering that have many similarities to the Islamic rulings, as there are minor differences in the slaughtering of Jews and Muslims, therefore kosher meat is not lawful (Halal) for Muslims .
[i] In Arabic, Maskh means for something to change form to an uglier one. In the Quran and Islamic tradition, this term refers to a specific divine punishment that was sent upon the wrongdoers and wrongdoing nations in the past (of course not all wrongdoers, but those who committed certain wrong acts) which can be called metamorphosis .
[ii] Birds with sharp claws such as eagles, hawks, falcons, etc. are Haram.
[iii] If a locust is caught by hand or any other means, it is lawful (Halal) (after dying) .
- “Say, who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which he has produced for his servants and the good (lawful) things of provision?”(7:32)
- Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 137, the book of foods and drinks, issue 2; al-Mukhtasar al-Nafi’, pg. 251; Sharayi’ al-Islam, pg. 169.
- food in Islam
- Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 603.
- Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 593, issue 2622.
- Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 162
- Halal food
- halal food in Islam