What is Jihad?

What is Jihad?

The Arabic word jihad means to strive. Jihad is generally divided into two forms: the greater jihad and the lesser jihad.

The greater jihad is an internal struggle to be pious and good. The Prophet (sawa) is reported to have said: “The greatest jihad is the jihad against your own evil desires.” It is incumbent upon us to strive in the cause of Allah to better our surroundings and ourselves.

The lesser jihad is an external struggle, or defense, in protection of Islam and Muslims. It is obligatory for us to defend our religion when it is in danger, but we should never be the aggressors.

Let us take a look at what the Quran says about the severity of killing a person unjustly.

“Whosoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.”

Let us also look at this hadith related by Imam al-Sadiq (as) about the rules and precautions of war

“The Messenger of Allah (sawa), when he wanted to send out troops, called them and bid them to sit before him. He then said to them: Go out in the name of Allah and by Allah and in the way of Allah and according to the religion of the Messenger of Allah. Do not handcuff or tie up (the prisoners of war), do not mutilate (even the dead), and do not betray people. Do not kill the old man, the child or the woman, and do not cut down a single tree except when you are forced to do so. And if any Muslim be he lofty or lowly gives a man of the Polytheists sanctuary, then his safety must be secured so that he hears the word of Allah. If he follows you then he is your brother in religion. If he refuses then give him his sanctuary and seek the help of Allah regarding him.”

Allah says in the Noble Quran “And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah. Then deliver him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.”

War, Peace and Non-Violence author, Ayatollah Sayed Muhammad Shirazi, writes of the Prophet’s peaceful methods:

The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (sawa), progressed, as we have said, through peace that he adopted as his formula. One example of this is Mecca, the capital of unbelief and idolatry and the capital of waging war against the Messenger of Allah (sawa). The people of Mecca confronted the Messenger of Allah by every possible means. They banished him, killed his (foster) daughter Zaynab, confiscated his wealth and killed many of his followers. Finally they tried to assassinate him so he fled secretly to Madina but they continued their plots against his holy mission. Despite this, after more than twenty years, when the Messenger (sawa) wanted to conquer Mecca, he made preparations then proceeded to conquer that city peacefully without one drop of blood being spilt. Among the preparations he made were when he took possession of Khaibar, he took as spoils a large hoard of golden vessels as many as twenty thousand in number and of differing sizes. The Messenger (sawa) sent a number of these vessels to be shared out amongst the poor of Mecca even though they were unbelievers, polytheists, and warring against the Messenger of Allah (sawa). When these golden vessels arrived for the people of Mecca, they were confused and amazed. They said: ‘We fight this man, we confiscate his property, we kill his followers and his relatives and he deals with us in such a kind manner.’

This was an overture from the Messenger of Allah (sawa) to bring Islam to Mecca and to destroy the idols and to establish peace between the people. When the Messenger of Allah (sawa) conquered Mecca, Abu Sufyan, his archenemy came and the Messenger of Allah (sawa) pardoned him. Not only this but he made his house a sanctuary saying: ‘Whoever enters the house of Abu Sufyan is safe.’ Then he turned to, the wife of Abu Sufyan, Hind the woman famous for her immoral acts and attacks on the Messenger of Allah (sawa). She who had torn open the abdomen of Master of the Martyrs Hamza, and amputated his ears and his nose and mutilated him in the vilest manner, taking out his liver and chewing it in her mouth. This woman, this ‘war criminal’ was sent by the Messenger of Allah a document of pardon. By this, the Messenger of Allah (sawa) recorded the most magnificent example in the history of creation of forgiveness even of his most ardent enemies.

The chroniclers report that Mecca at this time was the capital of unbelief and Polytheism, hypocrisy, selfishness and pride. When it surrendered to the Messenger of Allah (sawa), most of the people did not announce their entry into Islam but rather remained on the way of Polytheism. The Messenger of Allah (sawa) did not coerce them to accept Islam ever but instead left them to themselves so that they would live by themselves under the rule of Islam to enter Islam in the future.

As the Quran states “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.”

So as we can see, our Holy Prophet (sawa) and his family were never the aggressors. They defended their religion by performing Jihad when they were attacked, but they would always strive to resolve matters peacefully. When forced to perform Jihad there were very strict rules and regulations to insure that the Muslims did not over step the boundaries.

Excerpt from Mystery of the Shia by Mateen J. Charbonneau Available at:

The Word Shia and its Meaning from Sunni sources

Shia in Arabic
Shia in Arabic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The term Shia literally means follower. It is a term that Allah used in the Quran to refer to the followers of his Prophets. An example was Prophet Abraham (as) who was mentioned in the Quran specifically as the shia of Noah (as):

“And most surely Abraham was among the Shia of him (Noah)” (Quran 37:83)

Imam Ali (as) said “Allah has favored the word Shia by using it in the Holy Quran. Then verily He says ‘And verily Ibrahim was one of the shia of Noah.’ And you are amongst the shia of Muhammad (sawa). This name is neither restricted to a particular group nor is it a newly adopted religion.” [1]

In another verse, the Quran talks about the Shia of Moses

“And he (Moses) went into the city at a time when people (of the city) were not watching, so he found therein two men fighting, one being of his shia and the other being his enemy, and the one who was of his shia cried out to him for help against the one who was of his enemy” (Quran 28:15)

Thus shia is an official word used by Allah in His Quran for His high ranking prophets as well as their followers. This is also a term that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sawa) used for those who had love for Ali (as) and followed him as the successor after the Prophet (sawa).

The Messenger of Allah said to Ali: “Glad tidings O Ali! Verily you, your companions and your Shia (followers) will be in Paradise.”

Sunni references:

  • Fadha’il al-Sahaba, by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v2, p655
  • Hilyatul Awliyaa, by Abu Nu’aym, v4, p329
  • Tarikh, by al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi, v12, p289
  • al-Awsat, by al-Tabarani
  • Majma’ al-Zawa’id, by al-Haytami, v10, pp 21-22
  • al-Darqunti, who said this tradition has been transmitted via numerous authorities.
  • al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar Haytami , Ch. 11, section 1, p247

Therefore we see the Messenger of Allah (sawa) used to say the phrase “Shia of Ali.”

The Messenger of Allah (sawa) said: “The Shia of Ali are the real victorious on the day of resurrection”

Sunni references:

  • al-Manaqib Ahmad, as mentioned in:
  • Yanabi al-Mawaddah, by al-Qundoozi al-Hanafi, p62

The Messenger of Allah said: “O Ali! (On the day of Judgment) you and your Shia will come toward Allah well pleased and well-pleasing, and there will come to Him your enemies angry and stiff-necked (i.e., their head forced up).

Sunni references:

  • al-Tabarani, on the authority of Imam Ali
  • al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Ch. 11, section 1, p236

A more complete version of the tradition, which has also been reported by Sunni narrators, is as follows:

Ibn Abbas narrated: When the verse “Those who believe and do righteous deeds are the best of the creation (Quran 98:7)” was revealed, the Messenger of Allah (sawa) said to Ali: “They are you and your Shia.” He continued: “O Ali! (On the day of Judgment) you and your Shia will come toward Allah well pleased and well pleasing, and your enemies will come angry with their heads forced up.” Ali (as) said: “Who are my enemies?” The Prophet (sawa) replied: “He who disassociates himself from you and curses you. And glad tiding to those who reach first under the shadow of al-‘Arsh on the day of resurrection.” Ali asked: “Who are they, O the Messenger of Allah?” He replied: “Your Shia, O Ali, and those who love you.”

Sunni references:

  • al-Hafidh Jamaluddin al-Dharandi, on the authority of Ibn Abbas
  • al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar, Ch. 11, section 1, pp 246-247


Excerpt from Mystery of the Shia by Mateen J. Charbonneau Available at:


[1] Shia Origin and Faith” by Ayatollah Kashif al-Ghita

The Martyrdom of Qasim ibn Hassan (as)

The Martyrdom of Qasim ibn Hassan (as)

When Qasim saw that Aun and Muhammad had been granted permission to march out on the entreaties of their mother, he rushed to his mother’s tent. Almost sobbing with disappointment, he told Umme Farwa that Aun and Muhammad had secured the Imam’s permission on the intercession of their mother but he had nobody to plead on his behalf with his uncle. In utter despondency he said; “If I am not destined to be a martyr on this day, life has no charm left for me. Am I destined to be a captive and led through the streets to a prison cell?”
Upon seeing Qasim so bitter and dejected Umme Farwa burst into tears of grief. Controlling herself she began to think what to do to get Husain’s permission for him. Her first reaction was to go over to the Imam and to implore him as his brother’s widow and seek permission for Qasim. However, in a flash she remembered her husband’s words to her shortly before his death. He had told her that for Qasim a time may come when he would find himself in the trough of despair and despondency and feel dejected and depressed beyond description. He had told her that, when this happened, she should deliver to him an envelope wherein he had kept a letter specially for this occasion. This she had carefully preserved and kept with her as her most cherished thing in a box. Fortunately for her, she had brought the box with her. She hastened to fetch the letter and handing over the envelope to Qasim she said: “Qasim, your present plight brought back to me your father’s words that a day like this would come for you and when this happened, I should deliver the letter to you.” With rekindled hopes and expectation Qasim took the envelope from his mother’s hand and opened it. In it he found two letters one addressed to himself and the other addressed to Hussain.
He anxiously opened the letter meant for him and read it aloud for his mother’s benefit. Hasan had written in it: “My child, when this letter reaches you, I will be no more. When you read it, you will find yourself torn with a conflict between your desire to do your duty and fulfill your obligations and demonstrate your love and esteem for your uncle, and his love and affection for you compelling him to hold you back. My Qasim, I have provided for this event by arming you with a letter for my dearest brother Hussain. You may deliver the letter to Hussain so that he may grant you your heart’s desire. There is much that I could say for this occasion but when you read this, you will find that time separating us is not long. So hurry along, my child, as I am waiting for you with open arms to welcome you.”
When he had completed reading the letter Qasim felt choked with emotion. His mother also stood speechless with feelings surging in her heart. Both were thinking in unison how loving and thoughtful it was of Hasan to provide a solution for their dilemma. Qasim reverentially bowed over the letter and kissed it. The tears rolling from his eyes fell on the writing but, instead of smearing the lettering, they lent glitter to it.
Umme Farwa was the first to get out of the reverie. She broke the silence and said: “My dearest Qasim, now that your father has come to your rescue even in death, take his letter to your uncle Hussain. I have no doubt that now he will not be able to refuse you his permission for laying down your life.”
Qasim could now hardly contain himself. He rushed towards the tent of Imam Hussain with the letter in his hands. He found Hussain standing outside Zainab’s tent looking intently towards the battlefield. Abbas was by his side and Zainab was standing near the door holding up the curtain and looking at the faces of Husain and Abbas Qasim knew that they were all watching the combats of Aun and Muhammad. How could he disturb his uncle at such a time? He stood quietly by the side of Husain and Abbas and gazed in the direction of the army pitted against his two young cousins. He could see from clouds of dust rising in the far distance that one of them had gone ahead of the other. Not so far away he could see the younger one, Muhammad, battling against a number of enemy soldiers clustered round him.
Hardly a few minutes had passed in watching the battle, when they saw Aun falling from his horse and giving a cry to his uncle to come to him and carry his body. Husain, who had already borne the afflictions of his companions’ death and the loss of his dearest son, Ali Akbar, seemed to wince as if he had received a stab in his chest. He turned to Zainab to see her reaction on hearing her son’s last cry. Abbas and Qasim rushed to her side to hold her. As if this blow was not enough, Muhammad also fell from his horse mortally wounded and similarly shouted to Husain to come to him. Abbas and Qasim knew that for Husain to reach his dying nephews, one after the other, was too trying even for a person of his mettle who had right through the morning performed this task himself. Abbas wanted to accompany Husain and assist him in bringing the dead brothers to the camp, leaving Qasim to attend to Zainab who had collapsed with grief and sorrow on hearing the parting cry of Muhammad. But Husain beckoned to him to remain with Zainab. Qasim tried to follow him but Husain asked him also to remain near Zainab and console her.
Husain first reached the place where Muhammad was lying mortally wounded. He bent over his body to find that, on account of loss of blood, his young life was ebbing fast. The child was gasping heavily. His throat was so parched that even with great efforts he was not able to speak clearly. Husain put his ear near Muhammad’s mouth. In a faint, faltering voice the young lad said: ”My last salutations to you, uncle. Tell my mother that I have lived up to her expectations and am dying bravely as she and my father wanted me. Give my last salaams to her and console her as much as you can.” The efforts made by the child in saying these words appeared to exhaust him. He added after a few seconds: “I heard the cry of Aun before I fell. Now that I am beyond any help, Uncle please go over to him and see if you can do something for him before it is too late.” Hardly had he said these words, when his life became extinct. Husain was beside himself with grief. But he could not remain there long as he had to go over to Aun. He rushed in the direction where Aun had fallen. On reaching his body he found that he had breathed his last. He picked up his lifeless body and pressed it to his heart.
With a heavy tread, with tears flowing in torrents, the aged uncle began his march towards the camp with the body of his nephew in his arms. Abbas came rushing from the camp towards him and said, “Let me carry Aun’s body to the morgue and you take Muhammad’s body. My master, Abbas is still alive to share your burden and grief.” Quietly Husain handed over Aun’s corpse to Abbas and went over to pick up Muhammad’s body. The two brothers, one old and one young, were each carrying the body of a young nephew. The sight was such as to evoke sorrow and grief in the hearts of the most hard-hearted persons.
On reaching their camp Husain and Abbas laid the bodies of Aun and Muhammad on the ground. Zainab who was waiting for them came over and fell on the two bodies of her sons. “My sons, my sons,” she cried, “What mother is there to send her beloved ones to meet death as I have sent mine?” Her face was bathed in tears. With sobs she was saying: “My darlings, you have gone from this world with your thirst unquenched. Your grandfather Ali will be there to quench your thirst in heaven. My beloved sons, for Zainab there is still a long, weary, unending future to face without you two to lighten the burden with your brave talk.” Overpowered by her grief and emotions she fell unconscious on the dead bodies.
Husain, Abbas, Qasim and the ladies who were all standing and crying by her side, gently picked up Zainab and took her to her tent. They all knew that in such a great tragedy as had befallen her, all words of consolation would only be in vain.
As was the practice of Yazid’s army, they started beating the drums on the slaughter of the two nephews of Husain, to herald their victory. When the beating of drums stopped, they raised the usual cry challenging the young defenders of Husain to come out into the field to face death. Now Qasim came over to Husain, who was standing near Zainab’s prostrate form with his head bent. Qasim could not muster sufficient strength to say what he had come to convey to the Imam. He quietly handed over the letter of his father for Husain which he had found in the envelope given to him by his mother. Husain glanced at the hand-writing on the letter and at once recognized it as his late lamented brother’s. With surprise he opened the letter and as he eagerly read it, he could not control himself and burst into a cry of grief. In the letter it was written: “My beloved Husain, when this letter will be read by you, you will be surrounded by sorrows on all sides, with dead bodies of your near and dear ones strewn round you. I will not be there to lay down my life for you, Husain, but I am leaving behind my Qasim to be my deputy on this day. Husain, I beseech you not to reject my offering. In the name of love that you bear for me, I implore you to let Qasim go forth and die in your defense. Dearest brother, in spirit I am with you, watching your heroic sacrifices and sharing your woes and affliction.”
Hasan’s letter brought back to Husain the memories of his dear brother to whom he was devoted and he wept copiously recollecting his love and affection. What unique love Hasan had for him that, though dead, he had left his deputy in Qasim for this day!
With effort Husain controlled himself turned to Qasim saying: “Dear child, your father’s wishes, which I regard as commands for me, leave me no other alternative. March on Qasim, as your father wished you to do. If it is so ordained that I may bear the wound of your martyrdom, I shall bow to the Will of God.”
Qasim bowed reverentially and hurried to his mother Umme Farwa who was sitting dazed with grief on receiving the sad news of Aun and Muhammad’s martyrdom. As Qasim entered her tent, she raised her head and looked at him expectantly. She could see from the look of satisfaction he had on his face that he had received Husain’s permission for which he had been begging so long. An exchange of looks between the mother and son confirmed to Umme Farwa that she was right. Slowly she rose and said to Qasim: “My beloved son, all these years I have been waiting for the day when you would become a bridegroom, and dressed as a groom, come to receive my blessings. It seems that fate has decreed otherwise. Qasim, I have preserved the dress your father wore on the day of his marriage with me. I had hoped that, on your wedding day, I would ask you to wear it. Now that you are going to the land of no return, my wish is that you put on that dress so that my desire to see you dressed as a groom may be fulfilled.” After a pause she continued in a reflective tone: “It is the custom for grooms to apply henna on their hands- Though I have none with me, I know that you will not need it. Your hands will be dyed with your own blood.” With these words she kissed her son’s cheeks and embraced him. It was a long embrace, the embrace of a mother who knew that she was seeing her young darling for the last time in this world. Holding him tightly in her arms she was looking longingly at his face, as if she wanted to let his image sink into her mind’s eye for ever. All partings are sad but where the parting is for ever, and in such circumstances, what words can describe it?
The mother and son tore themselves from each other lest their surging love and attachment might make their parting impossible. Umme Farwa brought out the wedding garments of Hasan for Qasim to wear. Dressed in these clothes Qasim was looking the very image of Hasan. The son, followed by the mother, went over to Zainab’s tent to bid her good-bye. Zainab had not completely recovered from her swoon: In her dazed mind she thought for a moment that Hasan had descended from heaven to defend his brother. It was just a flitting thought which passed away like lightning. She realized that it was Qasim who had come to pay his last respects She looked at him and then at this mother who was following him. She understood with what efforts Umme Farwa was controlling her feelings. Much as her own heart was bursting with grief at this parting with her beloved brother’s son, she knew that it was essential for her to control herself for the sake of Umme Farwa. With one hand on her head and the other on her heart, she came forward to bid adieu to Qasim. With hot tears rolling down her cheeks she kissed Qasim on his forehead saying: “Qasim, my dear child, your aged aunt had hoped that you, my dear ones, would carry my funeral bier. But it is written in Zainab’s fate that she should see the young lives of her dearest ones extinguished before her. It has fallen to my lot to see you all dead before me and to carry your memories for the rest of my dreary, unending days. March on my child with the name of God.”
Qasim came to Husain and reverentially kissed his hands. Seeing Qasim so vividly resembling Hasan, his dear, departed brother, Husain wept bitterly. He kissed Qasim on his cheeks and held the horse for him to mount. Abbas came forward to do this service but Husain would not let him do so. “This is the last occasion for me to give a send-off to my Qasim and let me do this for him.” He turned to Qasim and said: “Qasim, I shall not be long in joining you.”
Reaching the battle arena, Qasim addressed the enemy with an eloquence which reminded many of the sermons of his grandfather Ali. With gaping mouths they were transfixed to the ground at his words of admonition on the betrayal of the Imam. Umar Ibne Saad ordered his men to challenge him to single combat, fearing that this youth’s eloquence might rouse the vestiges of goodness in some of his men. Qasim fought battles with several of them and threw them from their horses as if he were a seasoned warrior and not a youth of 14, with three day’s thirst and hunger. Such was his skill with the sword and horsemanship that Husain, who was watching his nephew’s fight from a hillock near his camp, burst into spontaneous acclamation. Now no warrior from the enemy ranks was coming forward to meet the challenge of this brave son of Hasan. He was now repeatedly challenging the soldiers of Umar ibn Saad to come forward and match their skill and swordsmanship against him in single combat. Umar ibn Saad, seeing that none of his warriors was prepared for this, ordered his soldiers to attack Qasim together. It was now a fight between one and thousands, if such a thing can at all be called a fight. How long could Qasim ward off the attacks of swords, spears, daggers and arrows coming at him from all directions? He was wounded from head to foot. When he saw that he could no longer remain in the saddle, he gave a cry offering his last salutation to his uncle Husain.
Husain, who was watching from a distance the dastardly attack of the multitude of soldiers on his helpless Qasim, heard this cry full of agony and pain. He felt as if he had himself received all the wounds inflicted on Qasim. He unsheathed his sword and, like an enraged lion, he rushed towards the battle-field. With sword in one hand he galloped his horse cutting through the enemy hordes. Such was the fury of his charge that the enemy were reminded of the charges of Ali, his father, in the battle of Siffin, when the dexterous Lion of God had singly scattered the enemy, running through them like a knife through butter, and killing hundreds with the powerful sweeps of his sword, while the remainder of the arrant towards ran helter-skelter to save their contemptible lives. The stampede of Yazid’s soldiers was such that the body of Qasim was trampled under the feet of hundreds of minions who were a disgrace of their calling. When the battlefield was cleared of the cowards and Husain reached the body of Qasim, he found that it was torn to pieces. What feelings this gruesome sight evoked in Husain’s heart can better be imagined than described. Husain stumbled down from his horse and fell to the ground exclaiming: “My God, what have these cowards done to my Qasim?” For some time he wept with such agony that his body convulsed. After a while he took off his robe and started picking up pieces of Qasim’s body. One by one he put them all in his robe and, lifting the bundle, put it on his aged shoulders and mounted the horse. As he did so, he muttered: “My Qasim, your mother had sent you out dressed as a groom. Now you are returning to your mother with your body cut to pieces.” As he was riding back towards his camp, Husain was disconsolately exclaiming: “My God, has there been an instance where an uncle had to carry his own nephew’s body in such a state?”

Excerpt from The Suffering of the Ahl ul Bayt and their Followers (Shia) throughout History by Mateen J. Charbonneau

Tears and Tributes by Zakir