By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim
As deduced from the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophet’s traditions, we can list the situations when fighting with weapons is permissible:
1. Defense of Islam: When the religion is endangered by polytheists or apostates of Islam, it becomes obligatory to defend it by means of jihad.
2. Self-defense: In addition to warding off dangers and defending one’s property and chastity, self-defense includes defending the Muslim community when exposed to killing or persecution.
In al-Kafi, Shaykh al-Kulayni has reported through a valid chain of authority that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) quoted the Holy Prophet (S) as saying: He who is killed defending himself against wrongdoing is a martyr.1
Another tradition holds that being killed defending oneself against wronging includes being killed in defense of one’s family members, property, and the like.2
3. Resistance of Oppression and Tyranny: When the nation is exposed to unbearable extents of oppression and tyranny at the hands of despotic rulers who violate all human values and confiscate man’s freedom, dignity, and basic rights, struggle against such rulers becomes obligatory. In this respect, the Holy Qur’an declares: Lo! Pharaoh exalted himself in the earth and made its people castes. He oppressed a tribe among them, killing their sons and sparing their women. Lo! He was of those who work corruption. We desired to show favor to those who were oppressed in the earth, to make them examples, and to make them the inheritors. (28:4-5)
4. Liberating the oppressed and the weak from the tyrants and the oppressors: Referring to this sort of jihad, the Holy Qur’an states: What reason do you have that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men, the women, and the children who say, “Our Lord, cause us to go forth from this town whose people are oppressors. Give us from You a guardian and give us from You a helper.” (4:75)
With regard to the same issue, the Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said: He is definitely not a Muslim who hears a man calling for the help of Muslims but he refrains from responding to him.3
5. Fighting a Transgressing Muslim Faction: Jihad is obligatory in situations where a faction of Muslims violate the law and wrongfully rebel against a qualified, just ruler. Three factions broke away and transferred their allegiances from Imam ‘Ali (‘a), led by ‘A’ishah, Talhah, and al-Zubayr, the supporters of Mu’awiyah who challenged Imam ‘Ali’s authority, and the apostates who abandoned their faiths (known as Khawarij) all mutinied against the government of Imam ‘Ali (‘a), forcing him to fight against them in defense of the Muslim community and government in the three famous battles led by him during his reign.
Jihad is also carried out against Muslim parties that make inroads upon other Muslims. In such cases, the community of Muslims is required to first make peace between these two Muslims parties, but if one party refuses and goes on assaulting and transgressing the other party, it will then be necessary for all Muslims to fight against this transgressing party in order to withstand transgression and oppression.
Another example of fighting against the transgressors, which is a sort of jihad, is to fight against the Muslim tyrannical rulers who subjugate the Muslim community by means of injustice, discrimination, and despotism.
This category of jihad was practiced by Imam Husayn (‘a) in his great uprising against the tyrannical rule of Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah. Explaining his attitude to the tyranny of Yazid, Imam Husayn (‘a) is reported to have said: O people, Allah’s Messenger (S) said, “If one realizes that an unjust ruler is violating the prohibitions of Allah, breaching his pledge with Him, opposing the traditions of His Messenger (S), and treating His servants with sinful and aggressive means, but does not try to change that by a deed or a word, then Allah will definitely join him with that ruler.” Verily, those rulers abided by obedience to Satan, abandoned obedience to the All-beneficent God, made mischief openly, infringed upon the provisions of Allah, seized booty, violated the prohibitions of Allah, and prohibited that which Allah had deemed lawful. Most certainly, I am worthier than anyone else to stand against them.4
In the same manner, we can understand why the Holy Imams (‘a) defended the uprising of Zayd ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn, which was based on the same understanding of jihad. About this uprising, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: Verily, Zayd was knowledgeable and honest. He did not call you to accept him as your leader; rather, he called you to revolt for the sake of attaining the pleasure of Muhammad’s Household (S). Had he succeeded (in his revolution), he would have certainly fulfilled his pledge and the slogan to which he had called you.5
Similarly, Imam al-Ridha (‘a) is reported to have said to al-Ma’mun, the ‘Abbasid ruler: Do not compare my brother Zayd6 to Zayd ibn ‘Ali. Zayd ibn ‘Ali was one of the scholars of the Household of Muhammad (S). He was angry for the sake of Allah. He therefore strove against His enemies until he was killed following His path. My father Musa ibn Ja’far narrated that he had heard his father Ja’far ibn Muhammad saying, ‘May Allah bless my uncle Zayd! He was inviting the people to attain the pleasure of Muhammad’s Household (S), not towards himself. He would have fulfilled what he had said if he had become victorious. He consulted with me about his uprising and I told him, ‘O uncle! Do it if you are pleased to be killed and your corpse be hung up from the gallows in the al-Kunnasah neighborhood.’ Zayd did not make any unrighteous claims. He was much more pious than that. He invited the people to attain the pleasure of Muhammad’s Household (S).7
The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) have also extolled the revolution of Husayn ibn ‘Ali Sahib Fakhkh, describing it as the most astounding misfortune after the tragic saga of al-Taff (i.e. Imam Husayn’s martyrdom).8
Of course, the first, third, fourth, and fifth situations of jihad apply to fighting against non-Islamic powers that govern Muslim countries although apparent power is in the hand of Muslim rulers.
Resistance, fighting, and use of weapons are permissible only when all other means—like inviting to the way of Allah with wisdom and excellent preaching—fail to achieve the goals. Hence, when rulers prevent Muslims by force from conveying the divine mission, impose upon them laws that are incompatible to the laws of Islam, or deprive them of the freedom of expressing their opinions or choosing for themselves, only then will armed resistance and fighting be legal to make the required changes.
However, Muslims must have the power to fight as a means of self-defense or defense of their religion. If not, they must wait for the appropriate opportunity. It is also necessary that such fighting be under the supervision of a decent, well-versed jurisprudent who enjoys all the qualifications of the political leadership as ordained by the code of Islamic law.
1. – Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi`ah 11:92, H. 8.
2. – Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi`ah 11:92, H. 9.
3. – Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi 2:164, H. 5.
4. – Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wa’l-Muluk (known as Tarikh al-Tabari) 4:304; Ibn al-Athir, al-Kamil fi’l-Tarikh 4:48 (with a slight difference).
5. – Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi`ah, 11:35-36, H. 1.
6. – Zayd ibn Musa, known as Zayd al-Nar.
7. – Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi`ah 11:39, H. 11.
8. – Al-Mamuqani, Tanqih al-Maqal 1:337, biography of al-Husayn ibn `Ali (Sahib Fakhkh)
By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim