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This is a slightly enlarged version of a small monograph I wrote in Bengali on the important Islamic subject of Jihad fi Sabilillah (war in the way of Allah). Jihad has five clear components, and a complete understanding of the subject requires a discussion of each one of them. Thus jihad stands for (1) Forcible expansion of Islam; (2) Destruction of infidels; (3) Establishment of jizyah on the subdued infidel population; (4) Plunder in the form of properties wrested from infidels; and (5) Plunder in the form of enslaved female and child population acquired from the vanquished infidels. In the Bengali monograph I discussed at length only the subject of plunder, which in Arabic is known as ghanimah. I discussed and explained the other divisions from the text of the Koran alone, without illustrating them from the career of the Prophet. In this enlarged version I have devoted separate chapters to these divisions, highlighting the Prophet’s activities in connection with each of them, and added some new appendices. It is my hope that, though increasing the size but slightly, I have left out nothing of real importance, and the theoretical aspects of this important Islamic doctrine have been treated here in full. I have not indeed described the numerous historical jihads undertaken by Islamic zealots over the centuries; but I have discussed two of the ghazwahs (=jihadic campaigns) of the Prophet - his conquest of Mecca and his destruction of the Jewish clan of Kuraizah; these two form part and parcel of the theoretical apparatus of jihad. The Prophet’s life and works form the bedrock of Islamic theology and are known as Sunnah. This, with Koranic sayings attributed to Allah and known by the Arabic title ‘wahy’ (=revelation), are the final sources of Islam.

My ignorance of the Arabic language notwithstanding, I have tried to be as accurate as possible, and depended on the best translations of the Koran and the Hadis. The Koranic verses I have cited are mostly from Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall’s well known translation, but I have not failed to consult other reliable versions to ascertain Pickthall’s faithfulness to the original. By all accounts, this faithfulness seems to be of a very high order, and though I have detected one or two small errors - not to mention his somewhat disconcerting affectation of an archaic English style -, I have on the whole stuck to his version even when alternative versions have seemed to render the meaning of the original clearer. This is because Pickthall was an Englishman who became a Mussalman by choice, and his rendering brings out his conscientious orthodoxy at every page of his version.

As regards the Hadis,1 available English versions are by no means numerous. I have used the English version of the second most important collection, Sahih Muslim. This version is by Abdul Hamid Saddiqi, a Pakistani scholar. For cross - checking I have used a Bengali rendering of the important collection, Mishkat-ul-Masabih. This rendering is by a Bangladeshi theologian, M. Aflatoon Kaisar. Mishkat is a compendium of various canonical collections including ahadis (=traditions) not reckoned canonical but recognised as important source materials to settle matters of dispute. On the whole, I have found that Abdul Hamid Siddiqi’s version and that of Maulana Kaisar agree rather closely.

I have quoted rather generously from Sir William Muir’s classic biography of the Prophet and also the painstaking work of Professor D. S. Margoliouth.

In India, critical studies of Islam are few and far between. Muslim scholars have done important work in translating the canonical literature, but they have shied away from critical studies of Islam for obvious reasons. It is thanks to Shri Ram Swarup of Delhi giving a lead that Islam has started being studied in India in a critical manner in recent years. I could not use his pioneering study, Understanding Islam through Hadis, as this work has been banned by the Delhi Administration through a fiat which was aimed against nothing less than the freedom of scholarship itself. But without Shri Ram Swarup’s guidance, I could not have started looking for the Hadis collections and the invaluable stock of information contained in them regarding the theory and practice of jihad. Warmest thanks are due to him, and I take this opportunity to acknowledge my indebtedness to him.

Sita Ram Goel’s The Calcutta Quran Petition is a mine of information regarding the historical jihads that took place in medieval India. His discussion of the theoretical aspects of jihad is not large in volume, but it has helped me in my research at every step as a sure guide.



June 20, 1994


  1. In the book I have uniformly used the capital letter when referring to the literature of the Prophet’s traditions as distinguished from an individual tradition, hadis (pl. ahadis).