No Jihad without the State
Shehzad Saleem

    Both the Qur’an and the established practice of the Prophets of Allah explicitly say that Jihad can only be waged by a state. No group of people have been given the authority to take up arms, because individual groups if given this license will create great disorder and destruction by fighting among themselves once they overcome the enemy. A study of the Qur’an reveals that the Makkan Surahs do not contain any directive of Jihad for the simple reason that in Makkah the Muslims did not have their own state. One must remember that Islam does not advocate ‘the law of the jungle’. It is a religion in which both human life and the way it is taken hold great sanctity. Islam does not give us any right to take life unless certain conditions are fulfilled. So, it was not until an Islamic state was established in Madinah that the Qur’an gave the Muslims permission to take up arms against the onslaught mounted by the Quraysh:

To those against whom war is made, permission is given [to fight] because they have been oppressed and verily Allah is Most Powerful to help them. [They] are those who have been expelled from their homes without any basis, only because they said: ‘Our Lord is Allah’. (22:39-40)

    Consequently, the Prophet (sws) never retaliated in Makkah to the inhuman treatment which was given to him as well as to some of his Companions (rta). He preferred to suffer and be persecuted than to counter attack his enemies, since Muslims at that stage had not fulfilled this all important pre-requisite of Jihad: establishment of a state.
    Similarly, the earlier Prophets were not allowed by the Almighty to wage war unless they had established their political authority in an independent piece of land. For instance, the Prophet Moses (sws), as is evident from the Qur’an, was directed to wage war only after he had fulfilled this condition. Since the Prophet Jesus (sws) and his Companions (rta) were not able to gain political authority in a piece of land, they never launched an armed struggle.
    Consequently, there is a consensus among all authorities of Islam that only an Islamic State has the authority to wage Jihad. No group, party or organization has the authority to lift arms. People who undertake such activities disobey the religion they follow. Without state authority Jihad is no more than a terrorist activity.
    Referring to the pre-requisite of state authority, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

A Muslim ruler is the shield [of his people]. A war can only be waged under him and people should seek his shelter [in war]. (Bukhari: No. 2957)

    This condition is so explicit and categorical that all the scholars of this Ummah unanimously uphold it. Sayyid Sabiq, while referring to this consensus, writes:

Among Kafayah obligations, there is a category for which the existence of a ruler is necessary e.g., Jihad and administration of punishments.1

    ‘Uthmani, a Hanafite jurist writes:

It is obvious from the Hadith narrated by Makhul2 that Jihad becomes obligatory with the ruler who is a Muslim and whose political authority has been established either through nomination by the previous ruler similar to how Abu Bakr transferred the reins [of his Khilafah to ‘Umar] or through pledging of allegiance by the ulema or a group of the elite …in my opinion, if the oath of allegiance is pledged by ulema or by a group of the elite to a person who is not able to guard the frontiers and defend honour [of the people] organize armies or implement his directives by political force neither is he able to provide justice to the oppressed by exercising force and power, then such a person cannot be called ‘Amir’ (leader) or ‘Imam’ (ruler). He, at best, is an arbitrator and the oath of allegiance is at best of the nature of arbitration and it is not at all proper to call him ‘Amir’ (leader) or a ‘Imam’ (ruler) in any [official] documents nor should the people address him by these designations. The reason for this is that the basis of leadership and rulership is power and authority and it does not hinge only upon the fact that he gets famous by this name. It is not imperative for the citizens to pledge allegiance to him or obey his directives and no Jihad can be waged alongside him.3

    Ibn Qudamah, a Hanbalite jurist, writes:

The matter of Jihad rests with the ruler [of a state] and his Ijtihad. The opinion he forms in this regard must be obeyed by the citizens of his country.4

    Mawardi, a Shafi‘ite authority, while enumerating the obligations of a Muslim ruler says:

His sixth obligation is to conduct Jihad against those who show hostility against Islam…5

    In the words of Imam Farahi:

In one’s own country, without migrating to an independent piece of land, Jihad is not allowed. The tale of Abraham (sws) and other verses pertaining to migration testify to this. The Prophet’s life (sws) also supports this view. The reason for this is that if Jihad is not waged by a person who holds political authority, it amounts to anarchy and disorder.6

    While commenting on the underlying reasons which form the basis of state authority for Jihad, Amin Ahsan Islahi, writes:

The first reason [for this condition] is that God Almighty does not like the dissolution and disintegration of even an evil system until a strong probability exists that those who are out to disintegrate the system will provide people with an alternative and a righteous system. Anarchy and disorder are unnatural conditions. In fact, they are so contrary to human nature that even an unjust system is preferable to them....this confidence [that a group will be able to harmonize a disintegrated system and integrate it into a united whole] can be reposed in such a group only as has actually formed a political government and  has such control and discipline within the confines of its authority that the group can be termed as al-Jama‘ah [the State]. Until a group attains this position, it may strive [by religiously allowable means] to become al-Jama‘ah – and that endeavour would be its Jihad for that time – but it does not have the right to wage an ‘armed’ Jihad.

The second reason is that the import of power which a group engaged in war acquires over the life and property of human beings is so great that the sanction to wield this power cannot  be given to a group the control of whose leader over his followers is based merely on his spiritual and religious influence on them  [rather than being based on legal authority]. When the control of a leader is based merely on his spiritual and religious influence, there is not sufficient guarantee that the leader will be able to stop his followers from fasad fi’l-ard [creating disorder in the society]. Therefore, a  religious leader does not have the right to allow his followers to take out their swords [that is to wage an armed struggle] merely on the basis of his spiritual influence over them, for once the sword is unsheathed there is great danger that it will not care for right and wrong and that those who drew it will end up doing all [the wrong which] they had sought to end. Such radical groups as desire revolution and the object of whom is nothing more than disruption of the existing system and deposition of the ruling party to seize power for themselves play such games – and they can, for in their eyes disruption of a system is no calamity, nor is cruelty of any kind an evil. Everything is right to them [as long as it serves their purpose]. However, the leaders of a just and righteous party must see whether they are in a position to provide people with a system better than the one they seek to change and whether they will be able to stop their followers from doing such wrong as they themselves had sought to root out. If they are not in that position, then they do not have the right to play games with the life and property of people on the basis of their confidence in mere chances and to create greater disorder than the one they had sought to end.7


1. Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqhu’l-Sunnah, 2nd ed., vol. 3, (Beirut: Daru’l-Fikr, 1980), p. 30
2. The complete text of the Hadith is:

Makhul narrates from Abu Hurayrah who narrates from the Prophet: Jihad is obligatory upon you with a Muslim ruler whether he is pious or impious, and the prayer is obligatory upon you behind every Muslim whether he is pious or impious even if he is guilty of the major sins and the prayer is obligatory upon every Muslim whether he is pious or impious even if he is guilty of the major sins. (Abu Da’ud: No. 2533)

3. Zafar Ahmad ‘Uthmani, Ii‘la al-Sunan, 3rd ed., vol. 12, (Karachi: Idaratu’l-Qur’an wa ‘Ulumi’l-Islamiyyah, 1415 AH), pp. 15-16
4. Ibn Qudamah, al-Mughni, vol. 8, (Riyad: Maktabah al-Riyad al-Hadithah,1981), p. 352
5. Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali Mawardi, al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah, 1st ed., (Beirut: Daru’l-Kitab al-‘Arabi, 1990), p. 52
6. Farahi, Majmu‘ah Tafasir-i-Farahi’, 1st ed., (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1991), p. 56
7. Da‘wat-i-Din awr us ka Tariqah-i-kar (Urdu; ch. 14, pp. 241-2)