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Jihad is one of the basic doctrines of Islam, but the average Indian’s knowledge of it is both superficial and unsatisfactory. Hindus usually render the term as dharmayuddha, but this rendering is totally misleading. Dharmayuddha means ‘war fought according to rules laid down in the Dharmashastras’ such as not attacking a person who does not have a weapon or has dropped it, not molesting an adversary who has surrendered, not pursuing a defeated enemy who has run away, not attacking the non-combatants in the enemy camp, not harming the women and holy people and places in the enemy’s territory, etc. Hindus have never known the concept of a religious or holy war, a concept which is characteristic of the monotheistic creeds. Therefore, to the common Hindu, in particular to those who are ignorant of the history of the many religious wars waged by monotheistic creeds of Asia and Europe, jihad is a lofty conception. It is nothing less than war aimed at establishing what they consider righteousness in the world. Very few Hindus care to remember that the boy-emperor Akbar had become a ghazi by slaughtering his helpless and fatally wounded prisoner Himu at the bidding of Bairam Khan in 1556 AD. Actually, even those Hindus who remember the story do not know that the title ghazi is conferred only on victorious, kafir - slaughtering mujahids.1 In truth, jihad is war for the destruction of infidels (kafirs) and infidelity (kufr). To obviate prevailing misconception, it is important to explain the meaning of jihad from the Koran, the Hadis and the corpus of theological works collectively going by the name of Shariat. As jihad is a basic doctrine of Islam and as its focus is on the infidel, it is not fit that Hindus should go on cherishing their deep-seated delusion regarding its meaning.

For the matter of that, even the average Muslim’s knowledge of this doctrine is superficial. Every Islamic tenet is spread over the 6,000 and odd verses of the Koran in a desultory, haphazard manner. Few Muslims are competent enough to assemble the relevant verses enjoining jihad in order to get a systematic, coherent meaning. Such a work of systematisation as the present one professes to be, could therefore be useful to Hindus and Muslims alike.

There is another, a more compelling, reason for present-day Indians to have a clear understanding of the doctrine of jihad. The so-called communal conflict in India which from day to day has been gaining in intensity has clear overtones of an all-out jihad that could burst upon us at any moment. This is not to deny that with the average Muslim the desire for peace and communal harmony is as strong as with most Hindus. But the common Muslim is mostly ignorant regarding how to channel his desire for peace without controverting the basic tenets of Islam. In the epilogue to this book, an attempt has been made in that direction. But it is not possible to take a stand against jihad without a clear knowledge of its meaning and its many-sided implications. This book is primarily a search for this meaning, and in this search our only guides are the Koran, the Hadis and the Shariat.


  1. Mujahid - one who engages in jihad. Akbar’s repudiation of the story of his becoming a ghazi, without repudiating the title itself, is discussed in Appendix IV.