Greater & Lesser Jihad? January 11, 2007



The evidence used as proof for establishing that Jihad against the desires and Shaitaan is Jihad Akbar, are weak if not false Hadith
A man asked the Prophet: What is Jihad? He (s.a.w) replied: “To fight against the disbelievers when you meet them (on the battlefield).” The man asked: “What kind of Jihad is the highest?” He (s.a.w) replied: “The persowho is killed whilst spilling the last of his blood”
It is not only the disbelievers that the Mujahid must contend against on the battlefield but he must fight against his desires which always call him towards evil
It has been said that the opinion of many Muslims regarding Jihad is that it is of two sorts, namely, Jihad Akbar (greater) and Jihad Asghar (lesser). Jihad Akbar meaning Jihad against the desires and Shaitaan whilst Jihad Asghar is against the disbelievers on the battlefield.The reasons given for the above, in regards to Jihad against the desires and Shaitaan as being Jihad Akbar, are as follows:

  • Its field of struggle is unlimited;
  • It is timeless and boundless;
  • This struggle is hard because its essence is man against himself;
  • The enemy is unseen and cannot be detected by the five senses,Whilst the case given for Jihad against the disbelievers is not as long, not as extensive and not as difficult as struggling against the desires. As a result of that, Jihad against the disbelievers on the battlefield is regarded as Jihad Asghar (the smaller or lesser Jihad). That therefore is the opinion of many Muslims.The classification of Jihad, such as that given above, is based upon a Hadith which states that at the time Rasulullaah (s.a.w) returned home from the field of warfare he said: “We have all returned from Jihad Asghar to Jihad Akbar.” Some companions asked: “What is Jihad Akbar Rasulullaah?” He replied: “Jihad against the desires.”That therefore is the proof for the case proposed by many people.

    Al ‘Iraqy in Takhriju AHadithil Ihya’ states: “The mentioned Hadith is related by Imam Baihaqi with a da’if Sanad (weak chain of narrators) from Jabir” [Risalah Jihad, Hasan al-Banna].

    Apart from the Hadith related by Imam Baihaqi there is also a Hadith related by Al-Khatib Al-Baghadadi from Jabir, which states: “the Prophet (s.a.w), at the time he returned from a battle said: ‘We have all just returned to the best of places, and you have returned from Jihad Asghar (the lesser Jihad) to strive in Jihad Akbar (the greater Jihad)’. The companions asked: ‘What is Jihad Akbar Rasulullaah?’ He answered: ‘The Jihad of someone against his desires’.” [Tarikh al Baghadadi 13/493]

    It turns out that this Hadith is weak because within its Sanad there is a narrator by the name of Khalaf bin Muhammad bin Ismail al Khiyam who according to Al-Hakim: “His Hadiths are unreliable.” And Abu Ya’la al Khalili says: “He often adulterates, is very weak and narrates unknown Hadith.” [Mashariul ‘Ashwaq ila Masuril ‘Ushshaq 1/31]

    Al-Hakim and Ibnu Abi Zur’ah state: “We often write statements from Khalaf bin Muhammad bin Ismail only as an example, and we remove ourselves of responsibility from him.” [Mizanul I’tidal 1/662]


    And even more doubtful than that, there is within the Sanad of this Hadith a narrator by the name of Yahya bin Al Ula Al Bajili who according to Imam Ahmad is a known Kadhdhaab -liar-, and forger of Hadith. Also, Amru bin Ali, An Nasai and Daruqutni state: “His Hadith are renounced.” Ibnu Adi states: “His Hadith are false.” [Refer: Tahdhibut Tahdhib 11/261-262]

    Ibnu Taimiyyah states: “There is a Hadith related by a group of people which states that the Prophet (s.a.w) said after the battle of Tabuk: ‘We have returned from Jihad Asghar to Jihad Akbar’. This hadith has no source, nobody whomsoever in the field of Islamic Knowledge has narrated it. Jihad against the disbelievers is the most noble of actions, and moreover it is the most important action for the sake of mankind.” [Refer: Al Furqan baina Auliyair Rahman wa Auliyaisy Shaitaan, matter 44-45].

    Furthermore, besides the two stated weak Hadiths, there is the statement of a Tabi’i by the name of Ibrahim bin Abi Ablah to people who had returned from battle, which states: “You have returned from Jihad Asghar so is the Jihad Akbar you intend to do Jihad ul qalbi (Jihad of the heart)?” “refer: Siyaru A’laamin Nubala 6/325]

    Daruqutni states that Ibrahim bin Abi Ablah himself is believable but the chain of transmission is broken. [Siyaru A’laamin Nubala 6/324]. As a result of that, the statement above cannot be attributed to Ibrahim bin Abi Ablah unless the chain of transmission is authentic. And were we to establish that his statement is really valid, we must understand that he was a normal human being who may have occasionally said something imperfect. He was not infallible.

    The Highest Level

    On the basis of the above statements we can conclude by saying, that the evidence used as proof or the basis for establishing that Jihad against disbelievers on the battlefield is Jihad Asghar and Jihad against the desires and Shaitaan is Jihad Akbar, are weak if not false Hadith. Besides that the stated Daliil (evidence) are in opposition to Sahih Hadith, such as the ones below:

    Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim [Hadith No. 4636] from Abu Hurairah (r.a.a), who said: The Prophet (s.a.w) was asked: “O Rasulullaah! What deed could be an equivalent of Jihad Fi Sabilillaah?” He answered: “You do not have the strength to do that deed.” The narrator said: They repeated the question twice or thrice. Every time he answered: “You do not have the strength to do it.” When the question was asked for the third time, he said: “One who goes out for Jihad is like a person who keeps fasts, stands in prayer (constantly), (obeying) Allah’s (behests contained in) the Aayah (of the Qur’an), and does not exhibit any lassitude in fasting and praying until the Mujahid returns from Jihad Fi Sabilillaah.”

    There is also a Hadith narrated by Bukhari [Volume 4, Hadith 44] from Abu hurairah (r.a.a) , who said: A man came to Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w) and said, “Guide me to such a deed as equals Jihad (in reward).” He replied, “I do not find such a deed.” Then he added, “Can you, while the Mujahid has gone for Jihad, enter your mosque to perform Salat without cease and observe Saum without breaking it?” The man said, “But who can do that?”.

    Hadith narrated by Al-Hakim with a Sahih Sanad from Muaz bin Anas (r.a.a) who said: A woman once came to the Prophet (s.a.w) and asked: “O Rasulullaah! My husband has departed for war and usually if he prays I follow him in his Salat and I follow him in all his acts of worship. Because of that inform me of an act which can equal his until he returns.” He (s.a.w.) said to her: “Are you able to stand without sitting, perform Saum without breaking it and Dhikr until your husband returns?” She replied: “I am not strong enough, o Rasulullaah.” So he (s.a.w) said to her: “By Allah in whose hand I am, even if you were strong enough it would surely not attain one tenth of your husbands deeds.” [Narrated by Hakim in Al Mustadrak 2/73. Sahih Sanad agreed upon by Az Zahabi].

    From the three Hadith above we can clearly state that Jihad Fi Sabilillaah is the highest act, and there is no other act to equal it. Is it likely that an act described as the highest act would be labeled Jihad Asghar, the small Jihad or the lesser Jihad?

    Not War

    Possibly there are people who maintain that the meaning of Jihad in the Hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim does not mean war or not exactly war. Perhaps there are those who are of that opinion.

    As strong proof that the word Jihad in the above mentioned Hadith cannot mean anything else except war, there is the Hadith narrated by Al-Hakim earlier. Within that Hadith are the words: “My husband has departed for war…” It is impossible for the word Ghaaziyan in the above Hadith to mean anything except war, no matter which way it is analysed. Also it is impossible that it would be Ghazwatul Fikri (war of the mind).

    A man asked Rasulullaah (s.a.w): “..and what is Jihad?” He (s.a.w) replied: “You fight against the disbelievers when you meet them (on the battlefield).” He asked again: “What kind of Jihad is the highest?” He (s.a.w) replied: “The person who is killed whilst spilling the last of his blood.” [Narrated by Ahmad in his Musnad 4/114 - Hadith sahih. Al Haithami states: “Narrators upheld it.” Majmauz Zawaid 1/59].

    Thus, from the Hadith of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim earlier we can clearly see that the one who is called Mujahid Fi Sabilillaah is that person who maintaprayers and fasting without a break, as well as rethe Qur’an for the time that the Mujahid are on Jihad.

    Is there a person capable of doing this? Of course not, as explained by Rasulullaah (s.a.w). And supposing there was a person who is capable of maintaining ‘Mujahadatun Nafsi ‘(Jihad against the desires) in the hardest and most difficult way. Indeed the activities of the body during Salat and the reading of the Qur’an embrace external acts, not acts of the heart, not intrinsic acts. But what if, at the time of these external acts, the heart isn’t against the desires? It is impossible for someone to be able to truthfully perform this without being against their desires, never mind taking into account the performance of Salat, Saum and the reading of the Qur’an continuously.

    Because of that, we see that in Imam Nawawi’s Book of Jihad, there are Hadith concerning external as well as internal acts of Sunnah such as, Salat at night which embraces brushing off laziness, standing, bowing and prostrating for a long time; and other acts including fighting until wounded and dying as a martyr. [Riyadh us Salihiin, Book of Jihad].

    So if perhaps there is a person capable of performing Mujahadatun Nafsi , that is at the highest level - Salat, Saum and reading the Qur’an non-stop for as long as some other person goes to war and until he returns- then he is equal to the Mujahid. Is anyone capable of that? Are there not people called Mujahid who go on Jihad Fi Sabilillaah for months, even years?

    Is it proper or right therefore to maintain that Mujahadatun Nafsi away from the battlefield is ‘Al Jihadul Akbar’ whilst Jihad against the disbelievers is called ‘Al Jihadul Asghar’?

    Inner And Outer Enemies

    Within Mujahadatun Nafsi away from the battlefield, those who follow this are only faced with one enemy, namely, the unseen enemy: desire and Shaitaan. Whereas in Jihad Fi Sabilillaah, Jihad is waged against enemies on the battlefield, those who follow this are faced with more than one enemy, namely, the unseen enemy and the seen enemy: the disbelievers and the Munafiquun (hypocrites).

    It is not only the disbelievers that the Mujahid must contend against on the battlefield but he must fight against his desires which always call him towards evil. His desires can call on him in various ways to desert the field of battle such as by fear, doubt, hardship and sadness.

    The Mujahid continuously fights with his desires which always yearn to be fulfilled. Yet he only faces being far away from his wife and children, eating strange food, sleeping on the ground nstead of in his bed, and many other trials which are not in accordance with his desires.

    Allah Says: “Jihad is ordained for you though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” Thus there is the question of Shaitaan, who always fights against those who perform Jihad. And at times such as these, Shaitaan firmly establishes himself together with his friends, namely, the disbelievers: “Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Taaghoot. So fight you against the friends of Shaitaan; ever feeble indeed is the plot of Shaitaan.”

    And the way in which Shaitaan fights against the Mujahid is amongst others by inflaming the passions of the disbelievers and the Mushrikuun to fight against the Muslims, and by weakening the resolve of the Muslims or Mujahid so that they feel reluctant and scared to fight against the disbelievers: “And (remember) when Shaitaan made their (evil) deeds seem fair to them and said, “No one of mankind can overcome you this Day and verily, I am your neighbour…”

    Ibnu Abbas (r.a.a) stated: “In the battle of Badr, Iblis came and carried their banner together with the army and group of Shaitaan. He came in the form of a man from the Bani Mudlaj by the name of Suraqah bin Malik bin Ju’shum, and said to the Mushrikuun: “None of mankind is able to defeat you this day, and I am your protector.”

    So at the time those men assembled, Rasulullaah (s.a.w) gathered a handful of dust and threw it into the faces of the Mushrikuun which forced them to retreat. When Jibra’il came, Iblis saw him and released his grip on the Mushrikuun and ran away together with his followers. Those who had been in his grip called out: “O Suraqah! You agreed to protect us.” Iblis answered: “Indeed I see what you do not see and I am scared of Allah, and Allah is hard in His punishment.” [Hadith mauqaf narrated by Ibnu Jarir at Tabari].

    Furthermore, the way in which Shaitaan weakens the resolve of those who perform Jihad can be found in a Hadith narrated by Imam Ahmad: Sabrah bin Al Faqih states: I heard Rasulullaah (s.a.w) say: “Indeed Shaitaan waits to deter mankind… Shaitaan waits in the way of Jihad. He says to the person who intends Jihad: “Do you want to perform Jihad, when Jihad destroys the soul and finishes off your wealth? Do you want to fight, when you can be killed, your wife can remarry and your wealth divided?”… [Musnad Ahmad 3/483. Isnad hasan].

    Based on the above explanations, we can surmise that the strength of desire and that of Shaitaan to be fought against in the field of Jihad by the Mujahid is far superior and more aggressive than that faced by those outside the field of Jihad.

    In other words: Mujahadatun Nafsi in the field of Jihad is much harder than Mujahadatun Nafsi in some other place. So is it more appropriate that Jihad against the disbelievers, which in its essence cannot be separated from Mujahadatun Nafsi, be regarded as Jihad Asghar whilst Mujahadatun Nafsi outside the field of Jihad, were the enemy is only the unseen, be regarded as Jihad Akbar?

    Abu Hurairah narrated: “A companion passed by a valley wherein was a well with refreshing water which surprised him. After he said: ‘Supposing I removed myself from the company of people and I lived in this place (for the purpose of ‘ibaadah) but I couldn’t do that until I received permission from Rasulullaah (s.a.w). Would that be the most eminent thing to do towards Rasulullaah (s.a.w)?’ The Prophet (s.a.w) said: ‘Don’t do that, because the existence of one from amongst you Fi Sabilillaah is more eminent than Salat made at home for 70 years. Don’t you want to receive forgiveness from Allah and for Him to allow you into Jannah? Ughzuu Fii Sabiilillaah (wage war in the way of Allah), whoever fights in the way of Allah for as long as it takes a camel to recover from one milking to the next, surely Jannah is obligatory for him.” [Narrated by Tirmidhi and he said: Hadith hasan, Baihaqi and Al-Hakim said: Sahih according to Muslim’s methods].

    In the last Hadith there is a very clear authoritative quotation which abrogates the supposition of those people concerning Jihad Akbar. Because indeed the Sahabah who related this Hadith asked permission from Rasulullaah (s.a.w) in order to perform Jihad against the desires by distancing himself from other people but the Prophet (s.a.w) did not give him permission to do so and moreover forbade him and pointed out to him something far more eminent than that.

    Then in that Hadith also there exists an important point which should be received and noticed, namely: “In truth, the Mujahid Fi Sabilillaah is included amongst those who receive glad tidings about Jannah whether they are killed or not killed, because of what our messenger said: “Whoever fights Fi Sabilillaah even for a brief time (the time between the two milkings of a camel) Jannah is assured for them.”

    With all of these explanations it proves that to interpret Jihad Akbar as being the Jihad against desire and Shaitaan, whilst Jihad Asghar is the Jihad against the disbelievers is invalid, since by saying otherwise it invalidates the meaning of the Sanad of those Hadith which invalidate it. Wallahu a’alam.

  • From The Book of Jihad: Appendix
    GREATER & LESSER JIHAD Compiled by Abu Fadl - Translated by Br. Khalid Saifullah