In two previous articles, I discussed the four forms of Jihad and Greater and lesser Jihad.

This article considers another aspect of overall “Jihadi” doctrine mentioned in those articles in greater detail.

Whilst many today are aware of the verses of the Koran that pertain to fighting, perhaps fewer are aware of how these verses combine to form a “war covenant” between Allah and Muslims, which will be set out in detail in this article.

The Koran uses two words when speaking explicitly about this covenant. One is “Ahd” which translates as “covenant” or, occasionally, as “promise” (for more on covenants in Islam see “A contract with Allah”) and the other is “tijarat” which translates as “bargain”, “business”, “commerce” or “trade”.

A list of verses

Here is the list of the verses to be considered. They have been sequenced chronologically{1} rather than in the sequence of Suras in the Koran. Muslim sources{2,3} have been used for this.

44:51-54; 78:31-33; 2:216; 8:12, 65-69; 3:139-143, 3:154, 3:19533:15, 23-24, 25-27; 4:74, 4:76, 4:84; 47:4; 47:35; 55:46-76; 49:15; 61:10-13; 48:18:21; 5:54; 9:16, 9:52, 9:88, 9:111.

The verses emboldened are those that set out the war covenant.

These verses, except those of Sura 44 and 78, are Medinan and thus come from the second phase of the 'revelation' of the Koran. The verse from Sura 9 comes from the penultimate Sura of the Koran and as such is (practically) the “last word” on any subject.


Allah's war covenant with the Muslims

To fully understand the meaning of these verses we need to turn to the Tafseers (commentaries) on the Koran. I shall use three “classical” Tafseers; those of al-Jalalayn, ibn Abbas and ibn Kathir (this latter is considered a pre-eminent Sunni Tafseer) and three modern (20th Century) Tafseers; those of Maududi, Qutb and Shafi. In doing so, I restrict myself to Sunni Tafseers for the simple reason that most Muslims follow the Sunni form of Islam.

The first war covenant verse is:

2:216 (Pickthall):Warfare [fighting] is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that you hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not.”

In this verse Muslims are commanded to fight by Allah. All the Tafseers except Maududi who does not comment, acknowledging the obligatory nature of fighting (sword-jihad) for Muslims. Ibn Kathir further interprets that the “good” of fighting is that “fighting is followed by victory, dominance over the enemy, taking their lands, money and offspring.” Al-Jalalayn and ibn Abbas echo this.  I suspect that in all cases this is more of a “hindsight” view of this “good”. Qutb interprets this “good” in a more “spiritual” way: “He calls upon them to take up arms and fight, because real peace is that of the soul and the conscience that one experiences in the heat of battle.” This is a reference to “Sakinah” a special form of “peace” that descends on the pious jihadi.

The next verse is:

3:139 (Hilali-Khan): So do not become weak (against your enemy), nor be sad, and you will be superior (in victory) if you are indeed (true) believers.

Tafseers interpret this verse is two different way and the Hilali-Khan rendition gives the flavour of both. Al-Jalalayn states “shrink [not] from fighting the disbelievers, neither grieve for what befell you at Uhud, for you shall prevail, through victory over them, if you are, truly, believers. ibn Abbas writes: “do not weaken in front of your enemies (nor grieve) about that which you missed of booty on the Day of Uhud, for Allah will reward you in the Hereafter, ...for you will overcome them, the ultimate result will be yours through triumph and domination if you are indeed believers...”. Ibn Kathir notes “So do not become weak, because of what you suffered [at Uhud], nor be sad, and you will be triumphant if you are indeed believers. for surely, the ultimate victory and triumph will be yours, O believers.” Shafi writes: “Do not let weakness or inertia come near you in the future and do not pine over what has gone by. Finally, it is you who shall prevail, if you hold on to the path of faith and belief, having total confidence in the promises made by Allah Almighty, never ever turning your backs on obedience to the Prophet and Jihad in the way of Allah.” These commentators see this verse as stating that (eventually) the Muslims will always defeat non-Muslims. On the other hand Qutb writes: “Believers must not lose heart, nor should they allow grief to overtake them because of what may happen. They will gain the upper hand because they have a superior faith. ... This surah makes it plain to the believers that they are indeed superior and far more exalted than other people.” In Qutb's understanding this verse is more about the innate superiority of Muslims over non-Muslims by virtue of Islam. Maududi has no comment.

Combining these views: this verse means that Muslims should hold to sword-jihad because in the end (irrespective of whatever set-backs may occur) they will be victorious over (all) non-Muslims, as a result of the innate 'superiority' of Muslims over non-Muslims.

The next is:

3:195 (Hilali-Khan). ...[those] who fought (the disbelievers), and were killed (in My Cause), verily, I will remit from them their evil deeds and admit them into Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise); a reward from Allah, and with Allah is the best of rewards."

Ibn Abbas notes that the “evil deeds” that will be forgiven include those “which were committed in the course of jihad”, thus Allah absolves Muslims of any war-crimes they may commit. ibn Kathir says it is all a Muslim's sins except debt. Qutb writes: “Whenever the faith of Islam begins to establish itself in any environment of ignorance (i.e. a non-Muslim land), [the Muslims] are few in number. This blessed plant, however, will grow in spite of persecution and hostility. It will then acquire the ability to resist persecution and defend itself against aggression. This inevitably leads to fighting in which some of its followers are killed. In return for these great efforts, bad deeds are effaced, sins are forgiven and reward, great reward, is granted.” Thus Qutb sees armed conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims as inevitable as the Muslim population in a non-Muslim land grows. History bears his view out. The other Tafseers add nothing further.

The key point is that this verse tells us that those Muslims who die fighting non-Muslims for Allah will have their sins forgiven and be admitted to paradise.

The next is:

33:15 (Hilali-Khan):And indeed they had already made a covenant with Allah not to turn their backs [to fighting], and a covenant with Allah must be answered for.

The overall context of this verse is the related to both the “battle of the ditch/trench” and the “battle of the Clans”. Al-Jalalayn merely states that the “pledge” (their words) was not “to flee”, again the context is clearly that of fighting. Ibn Abbas, Ibn Kathirand Qutb make it clear that this covenant or “oath” is about fighting: “"Flight will not avail you if you flee from death or killing(ibn Kathir). Maududi and Shafi add nothing to the foregoing. Thus we see that this “covenant” is to do with sword-jihad.


33:23-24 (Hilali-Khan): Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah (i.e. they have gone out for sword-Jihad and showed not their backs to the disbelievers), of them some have fulfilled their obligations (i.e. have been martyred), and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed [in their commitment to the covenant] in the least that Allah may reward the men of truth for their truth (i.e. for their patience at the accomplishment of that which they covenanted with Allah), and punish the hypocrites if He will or accept their repentance by turning to them in Mercy. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Al-Jalalayn, ibn Abbas, ibn KathirQutb all make it clear that the Muslims “fulfilled their obligations” by dying in sword-jihad and that those “of them [who] are still waiting” were willing and eager to do wage sword-jihad. Maududi writes of these groups: “Someone has already offered his life in the way of Allah, and someone is awaiting the time when he will offer it for the sake of his Faith.” which could be understood to mean just being willing to fight, rather than fighting to the death.

The next is:

4:74 (Hilali-Khan): Let those (believers) who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter fight in the Cause of Allah, and whoso fights in the Cause of Allah, and is killed or gets victory, We shall bestow on him a great reward.

This verse states that Muslims who wish for the “Hereafter” are to fight (either dying or killing in the process) and that they will get a “great reward” for doing so. The Tafseers only addition to this verse is that the Muslim who is killed is a “Shahid” (literally meaning “witness”, but more generally an “Islamic martyr”{4}) and his “great reward” is paradise, whereas for the Mujahid who fails to achieve “martyrdom” his “great reward” is the booty{5} he has gained.

The next:

47:35 (Hilali-Khan):So be not weak and ask not for peace (from the enemies of Islam), while you have the upper hand [or: you will have the upper hand. or: you should have the upper hand]. Allah is with you, and will never decrease the reward of your good deeds.

Al-Jalalayn writes: “So do not falter, [do not] be weak, and [do not] call for peace, that is to say: a truce with the disbelievers should you encounter them, when you have the upper hand, [when you are] the victors, the vanquishers...” ibn Abbas and Qutbparallel this. Ibn Kathir writes that the Muslims should not sue for peace if they winning a fight against non-Muslims, but notes that if the Muslims are at risk of defeat they may sue for a “Hudna” (ceasefire) to allow themselves to regroup and rebuild strength, or (asShafi puts it) “if it is in the best interests of the Muslims”. Maududi views this verse differently: “ it means that ... it is not right to initiate peace negotiations when it shows the Muslims' weakness, for it will still further embolden the enemy. The Muslims should first establish their superiority in power and strength; then if they negotiate peace there will be no harm.” The consensus is clear, however. When Muslims are engaged in fighting (sword-jihad) against non-Muslims they should generally not seek peace (until the non-Muslims are subjugated), but may do so if a ceasefire is in their best interest (K.9:61 states that if the non-Muslims sue for peace, the Muslims should do the same. Such a hudna, when the non-Muslims sue for it, is usually bought by tribute and as such it may be in the Muslims' interest to accept, since the tribute payment will weaken and impoverish the non-Muslims whilst simultaneously strengthening the Muslims).

The next:

61:10-13 (Malik): O believers! Should I tell you of a bargain that will save you from a painful punishment? It is to believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive  your utmost in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your personsThat is best for you, if you but knew it. He will forgive you your sins and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow, and will lodge you in beautiful mansions in the gardens of Eden, which will be a supreme achievement. And yet another blessing which you love: help from Allah and a speedy victory. So (O Prophet), give this good news to the believers.

Since these verses are part of the key verses of the covenant, I shall quote the Tafseer writers extensively:

al-Jalalayn: O you who believe, shall I show you a commerce that will deliver you  from a painful chastisement? It is as if they had replied, ‘Yes’, so that He then says: You should believe, you should maintain faith, in God and His Messenger and struggle for the cause of God with your possessions and your lives. That is better for you, should you know, that it is better for you, then do it. He will [then] forgive you (that is to say, ‘if you do this, He will then forgive you’) your sins and admit you into gardens underneath which rivers flow and pleasant dwellings in the Gardens of Eden, as a residence. That is the supreme triumph. And, He will give you, another, grace, which you love: help from God and a victory near at hand. And give good tidings to the believers, of assistance and victory.

Ibn Abbas: O ye who believe! (And He explained who they are at the beginning of the surah) Shall I show you a commerce that will save you from a painful doom (in the Hereafter)? You should believe in Allah and His messenger (you should be true in your faith in Allah and His Messenger, if this is understood to be a call to be the opposite of the hypocrites), and should strive for the cause of Allah (in obedience of Allah) with your wealth and your lives (by spending your wealth and sacrificing your own persons). That striving is better for your wealth, if ye did but know (if you believe in the reward of Allah). He will forgive you your sins through striving and spending in the way of Allah and bring you into Gardens (beneath its trees and habitations) underneath  which rivers flow (rivers of wine, water, honey and milk), and pleasant dwellings all lawful for you; (and it is also said this means: pure dwellings; and it is also said this means: beautiful and seemly dwellings; and it is also said this means: pleasant dwellings which Allah has perfumed with Musk and sweet basil) in Gardens of Eden in the abode of the Beneficent. That which I have mentioned is the Supreme Triumph, the tremendous triumph: they have gained the Garden and were saved from the Fire. And He will give you another blessing which you love (which you long for and desire to have): help from Allah through Muhammad (pbuh) against the disbelievers of Mecca (and present victory) and the conquest of Mecca soon. Give good tidings O Muhammad to the true believers that they will enter the Garden (of paradise).

Ibn Kathir: We mentioned a Hadith from Abdullah bin Salam in that the Companions wanted to ask the Prophet of Allah about the best actions with Allah the Exalted and Most Honored, so they could practice them. Allah the Exalted sent down this Surah, including this Ayah, “O you who believe! Shall I guide you to a trade that will save you from a painful torment?” Allah then explained this great trade that will never fail, the trade that will earn one what he wishes and saves him from what he dislikes. Allah the Exalted said, “That you believe in Allah and His Messenger, and that you strive hard and fight in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives, that will be better for you, if you but know!” This is better than the trade of this life and striving hard for it and amassing it. Allah the Exalted said, “He will forgive you your sins”, meaning, `if you fulfil what I commanded you and guided you to, then I will forgive your sins and admit you into the Gardens of Paradise. In them, you will have exalted residences and high positions.' This is why Allah the Exalted said, “and admit you into Gardens under which rivers flow, and pleasant dwellings in `Adn (Eternal) Paradise; that is indeed the great success.”  Allah said, “And also another (blessing) which you love,” meaning, `I will grant you more favours that you like,' “help from Allah and a near victory.” meaning, if you fight in Allah's cause and support His religion, He will grant you victory. Allah the Exalted said, “O you who believe! If you help (in the cause of) Allah, He will help you, and make your foothold firm.” (47:7), and, “Verily, Allah will help those who help His (cause). Truly, Allah is All Strong, All-Wise”. (22:40). Allah's statement, “and a near victory”, means, it will come sooner, and this is the increased favour that is earned in this life and continues, becoming the delight of the Hereafter. It is for those who obey Allah and His Messenger and support Allah and His religion. Allah said; “And give glad tidings to the believers.”

Maududi: A bargain is something in which a person employs his wealth, time, labour and talent in order to earn a profit. In the same sense the Faith and Jihad in the cause of Allah have been called a bargain, as if to say: “If you exert all your powers and expend all your resources in the way of Allah, you will get the profits that are being mentioned in the following verses”. This same theme has been expressed in At-Taubah [Sura 9] in another way. When the believers are asked to believe, it automatically gives the meaning that they should become sincere Muslims: they should not rest content with oral profession of the Faith but should be ready and willing to make every sacrifice in the cause of their Faith. “This would be best for you if you only knew” means  this bargain is far superior for them to every worldly bargain. The actual profits of the bargain that they will attain in the eternal life of the Hereafter are: (1) Immunity from the punishment of Allah; (2) forgiveness of sins; and (3) entry into the Paradise the blessings of which are eternal and everlasting.

Qutb: The Quran addresses the believers – those living at the time and those of later generations - and offers them the bargain of their lives. This is a transaction in which the merchandise is faith and the means to achieve it is Jihad: [he then quotes v.10-13 and then spends a page on hyperbole, which I shall not quote to spare the reader. Qutb continues:] This is the most profitable bargain of all, because all that is needed for this deal to be concluded is that a believer should fight for Allah's cause during his short life on Earth. Even if this means him losing his life in this fight, he will be compensated for it with heaven and these goodly mansions where he lives in permanent bliss. “That is the supreme triumph!” … It is indeed a highly profitable bargain which the believer makes, bartering the life of this world for that of the hereafter. A person who receives a profit ten times his capital will be the envy of everyone in the market place. What  about one who puts [poor translation, meaning is givesup a few days of life on Earth and its limited and narrow comforts to earn an eternal life with God in pure happiness and enjoyment that knows no end? [Qutb then gives the specific instance of the first time this “deal” was made – between Mohammed (not Allah note!) and Abdullah ibn Rawahah in the second pledge of Aqaba. Qutb states that this “deal” is for all Muslims, again I omit the rest of his commentary since it is mostly hyperbole.]

Shafi:you believe in Allah and His Messenger, and carry out jihad in His way with your riches and your lives” .... 61:ll) This verse refers to 'faith and jihad (struggle) in Allah's way with one's wealth and life' as a trade, because when man invests wealth in trade and works hard, he gains profit. Likewise, when man believes in Allah and invests his life and wealth in His cause, he incurs Allah's pleasure and attains the eternal blessings of the Hereafter, which is mentioned in the forthcoming verse that whoever carries out this trade, Allah will forgive his sins and provide him with dwellings in the Gardens of Eternity with all sorts of luxuries and comforts, as is mentioned by the Holy Prophet in explanation of 'pleasant dwellings'. Alongside the blessings of the Hereafter, the next verse promises some blessings of this world too: (And [He will give you] another thing that you love: Help from Allah, and a victory, near at hand ... 61:13) This verse adds that the blessings of this trade are not restricted to the Hereafter. There is one blessing that will be granted right here in this world, which is the Divine help and an imminent victory, that isconquests of enemy territories. If the word qarib (near) is taken as the opposite of Hereafter, it would include all later Islamic conquests of Arab and non-Arab territories. And if the word qarib (near) is taken in its normal sense, it would, in the first instance, apply to the conquest of Khaibar, and in the second instance it would apply to the Conquest of Makkah. This 'near victory' is referred to as  "that you love". It implies that this worldly blessing is dear to man, because he is by nature haste-prone as the Quran says "...and man is prone to haste.” [17:11] This, however, does not imply that the blessings of the Hereafter are not dear to him. It simply means that the love of seeking the blessings of the Hereafter is quite obvious, but he naturally would love to have the blessings of this world as well. They too will be granted to him.

The basic nature of the “bargain” or “commerce” is set out quite clearly: the Muslim undertakes a “bargain” to be a “true believer” and to fight (in an entirely literal sense) “in the cause of Allah”. If he (women are not mentioned!) fights non-Muslims (or apostates, heretics etc.) then Allah will (as his part of the “bargain”) grant him immunity from sins and admit him to paradise whether he dies in sword-Jihad or later. Furthermore, Allah will reward the surviving Jihadists, the Mujahideen, with a “near (or: quick) victory” and the booty that will follow from their conquests. The phrase “help from Allah and a speedy victory” has been a millennium-long favourite of jihadists. These same words were once inscribed on the handles of Muslims' swords.

The next verse is:

48:20-21. “Allah has promised you many spoils which you shall acquire, and has given you these (spoils of Khayber [goods, chattels, women and children]) with all promptness. He has restrained the hands of enemies from you, so that it may serve  as a sign to the believers and that He may guide you to the Right Way. (Besides, He promises you) other spoils as well, which are not yet within your reach but Allah has surely encompassed them. Allah has power over everything.”

Here is another element of the “war covenant”: booty/spoils (“ghanima” in Arabic). When the Muslims have finished killing all the men-folk, their land and property (which to the Muslims includes the non-Muslims' wives and children) become booty which is shared out amongst the Muslims. This booty can be sold to re-finance Jihad and the women provide a ready supply of sex-slaves. Note further that these verses promise all the spoils of the world “ other spoils... which are not yet within your reachto the jihad-fighting Muslims. Thus there is always more to take until all the world is under Islamic domination.

Our final verse is:

9.111 (Arberry): Allah has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of God; they kill, and are killed. That is a promise binding upon God in the Torah, and the Gospel, and the Koran; and who fulfils his covenant truer than God? So rejoice in the bargain you have made with Him; that is the mighty triumph.

This verse tells us that Allah has bought the lives of the Muslims in this world (i.e. the Muslims are Allah's slaves) in exchange for “the gift of paradise” and that this bargain is a “mighty triumph”. Again, all Muslims have to do to fulfil it is to “kill, and be killed”. Allah assures the Muslims that he will keep his promises. Al-Jalalayn, ibn Abbas and Shafi{7} add little to this. But the others expand on this theme and since this verse is also a key verse, I quote extensively:

Ibn Kathir (part) Shimr bin Atiyyah said, "There is not a Muslim but has on his neck a sale that he must conduct with Allah; he either fulfils its terms or dies without doing that.'' He then recited this Ayah. This is why those who fight in the cause of Allahare said to have conducted the sale with Allah, meaning, accepted and fulfilled his covenant. Allah's statement “They fight in Allah's cause, so they kill and are killed.” indicates that whether they were killed or they kill the enemy, or both, then Paradise will be theirs. The Two Sahihs{6} recorded the Hadith, “Allah has made a promise to the person who goes out (to fight) in His cause; `And nothing compels him to do so except Jihad in My Cause and belief in My Messengers.' He will either be admitted to Paradise if he dies, or compensated by Allah, either with a reward or booty if He returns him to the home which he departed from.” … Then rejoice in the bargain which you have concluded. That is the supreme success. meaning, let those who fulfil the terms of this contract and uphold this covenant receive the good news of great success and everlasting delight.

Maududi: In this verse that aspect of the Islamic Faith which determines the nature of the relationship between Allah and His servants has been called a transaction. This means that Faith is not merely a metaphysical conception but is, in fact, a contract by which the servant sells his life and possessions to Allah and in return for this accepts His promise that He would give him the Garden in the Life-after-death. In order to comprehend the full implications of this transaction, let us first understand its nature. We should note it well at the outset that, in reality, this transaction is not in regard to the actual selling of the life and possessions of the servant to Allah in the literal sense, for Allah is in fact the real Owner of man's life and possessions. Allah alone has the right to ownership because He is the Creator of man and of everything he possesses and uses. Therefore there is no question at all of selling and buying in the worldly sense; for man possesses nothing of his own to sell, and Allah has no need to buy anything because everything already belongs to Him. However, there is one thing which has entirely been entrusted to man by Allah, that is, the freedom of will and the freedom of choice, and the transaction concerns that thing. Of course, it is true that this freedom does not make any change in the real position of man with regard to the right of ownership to his own life and his possessions. They belong to Allah Who has delegated to him only the authority to use or abuse these things as he wills, without any coercion or compulsion from Him. This means that man has been given the freedom to acknowledge or not to acknowledge that Allah is the owner of his life and property. The transaction mentioned in v. 111 is concerning the voluntary surrender of this freedom to Allah's Will. In other words, Allah wills to test man whether he acknowledges the ownership of Allah over his life and property, in spite of that freedom, and considers himself to be their trustee only, or behaves as if he were their owner and so could do whatever he liked with them. Thus, the terms of this transaction from Allah's side are these: "If you voluntarily (and not by compulsion or coercion) agree to acknowledge that your life, your property and everything in this world, which in fact belong to Me, are Mine, and consider yourself only as their trustee, and voluntarily surrender the freedom I have given you to behave, if you so like, in a dishonest way and yourself become their master and owner, I will give you, in return, Gardens in the eternal life of the Next World". The one who makes this bargain with Allah is a Believer, for Faith is in fact the other name for making this bargain. On the other hand, the one who refuses to make this bargain, or after making it adopts the attitude of the one who has not made the bargain, is a kafir for, technically, kufr is the term applied to the refusal to make this bargain. The following are the implications of making this transaction: (1) Allah has put man to two very hard tests in this matter. The first is whether he acknowledges the real Owner as owner, in spite of the freedom of choice given to him, or he refuses this and becomes ungrateful, treacherous and rebellious. The second test is whether he puts his trust in his God or not, and surrenders his freedom and sacrifices his desires and wishes in this present world in return for His promise of the Gardens and eternal bliss in the Next World, even though the world were to proclaim: "A bird in hand is worth two in the bush".

(2) This matter helps to draw a clear line of demarcation between the legal conception of the Islamic Faith and the higher and spiritual one according to which Allah will judge one in the Hereafter. According to its legal conception, the mere verbal profession of the articles of the Faith is a sufficient proof that one is legally a Muslim and after this no Jurist is authorized to declare such a one to be a disbeliever or to expel one from the fold of the Islamic Community, unless there is a definite and clear proof that the one made a false profession of the Faith. But this is not so with Allah: Allah considers the Faith of only that person to be true, who makes this bargain with Him and sells his freedom of thought and action to Him and gives up his entire claim to ownership in His favour. That is why a man might profess the articles of the Faith and observe the prescribed obligatory duties, but if he considered himself alone to be the master and owner of his body and soul, his heart and brain and his other faculties, his property and his resources and other things in his possession, and reserved to himself the right of expending them as he willed, he shall be regarded a disbeliever in the sight of Allah, even though he should be regarded a believer in the sight of the world. This is because such a man has not made that bargain with God which is the essence of the Faith according to the Quran. The very fact that a man does not expend his life and property in the way Allah approves of, or expends these in the way He disapproves, shows that the one who claimed to profess the Faith either did not sell these to Allah or after having made the transaction still regarded himself to be their master and owner.

(3) The above conception of the Islamic Faith draws a clear line of demarcation between the attitude of a Muslim and that of a disbeliever towards life. The Muslim, who sincerely believes in Allah, surrenders himself completely to Allah's Will, and does nothing whatsoever which may show that he is independent in his attitude, except when he temporarily forgets the terms of the bargain he has made with Him. Likewise no community of the Muslims can collectively adopt an independent attitude in political, cultural, economic, social and international matters and still remain Muslim. And if sometimes it temporarily forgets its subordinate position and its voluntary surrender of its freedom, it will give up the attitude of independence and readopt the attitude of surrender, as soon as it becomes aware of its error. In contrast to this, if one adopts the attitude of independence towards Allah and makes decisions about all the affairs of life in accordance with ones own wishes, whims and caprices, one shall be regarded to have adopted the attitude of disbelief, even though one was a `Muslim' or a non-Muslim.

(4) It should also be noted well that the Will of God to which a man is required to surrender himself is that which is specified by Allah Himself and not the one which the man himself declares to be the will of God. For in the latter case one does not' follow God's Will but one's own will, which is utterly against the terms of the transaction. Only that person (or community) who adopts the attitude that conforms to the teachings of His Book and His Messenger, shall be deemed to have fulfilled the terms of the transaction.

From the above implications of this transaction, it also becomes clear why the fulfilment of the terms by Allah has been deferred to the Next World after the termination of the life of this world. It is obvious that the Garden is not the return for the mere profession that the buyer has sold his life and property to Allah "but it is the actual surrender of these things in the worldly life and their disposal by him as a trustee of Allah according to His Will." Thus, this transaction will be completed only when the life of the buyer comes to an end in this world and it is proved that after making the bargain, he went on fulfilling the terms of the agreement up to his last breath. For then and then alone, he will be entitled to the recompense in accordance with the terms of the transaction. It will also be worthwhile to understand the context in which this matter has been placed here. In the preceding passage, there was the mention of those people who failed in the test of their Faith and did not make the sacrifice of their time, money, life and interests for the sake of Allah and His Way, in spite of their professions, because of their negligence or lack of sincerity or absolute hypocrisy. Therefore after criticizing the attitudes of different persons and sections, they have been told in clear words the implications of the Faith they had accepted: "This is not the mere verbal profession that there is God and He is One, but the acceptance of the fact that He is the Owner and the Master of your lives and possessions. Therefore, if you are not ready and willing to sacrifice these in obedience to the Command of Allah, but expend these and your energies and resources against the Will of Allah, it is a clear proof that you were false in your profession of the Faith. For the true Believers are those who have truly sold their persons and possessions to Allah, and consider Him to be their Owner and Master, and expend their energies and possessions without any reservations, where He commands them to expend, and do not expend the least of these where He forbids them to expend."

Qutb: The nature of this deal, or this contract of sale, as God graciously describes it, is that He has taken for Himself the souls and property of the believers, leaving them nothing of all that. They do not retain any part of that which they would feel too dear to sacrifice for His cause. They no longer have any choice whether to spend it in furthering His cause or not. It is indeed a deal that has been concluded and sealed. The buyer may do what He likes, as He pleases, with what He has bought. The seller has no option other than to fulfil the terms of the deal. He cannot argue or make any choices. He can only do what the deal specifies. The price given for this purchase is paradise, and the way to be followed by the sellers is that of Jihad, fighting and sacrificing their lives, and the end result is either victory or martyrdom. “God has bought of the believers their lives and their property, promising them heaven in return: they fight for the cause of God, kill and be killed.” (Verse 111) Whoever is party to this deal, signing the contract, paying the price agreed is a true believer. It is with the believers that God has made this deal of purchase. He has bestowed His grace on them by specifying a price. He is, after all, the One who gives life and property to all His creation, and He has also given human beings the ability to make a choice. He then bestowed further grace on human beings by making them able to make contracts, even with God Himself, and holding them to their contracts. He makes the honouring of their contract an evidence of their humanity, while going back on it is evidence of sinking back to the level of animals, and the worst of animals: “Indeed, the worst of all creatures in God’s sight are the ones who have denied the truth, and therefore will not believe; those with whom you have concluded a treaty, and then they break their treaty at every occasion, entertaining no sense of fearing God.” (8: 55-56) He has also made the honouring or violation of such deals the criterion of reckoning and reward. It is indeed an awesome deal, but it remains binding on every believer who is able to honour its terms. He is not to be exempt from it unless he goes back on his faith. Hence the sense of dread that I feel now as I am writing these words. “God has bought of the believers their lives and their property, promising them heaven in return: they fight for the cause of God, kill and be killed.” (Verse 111) My Lord, we certainly need Your help. The deal fills us with awe. Yet those who are claiming to be Muslims everywhere, from the far east to the far west are sitting idle, unwilling to strive hard in order to establish the fundamental truth of God’s Lordship on earth, or to remove the tyranny which usurps the qualities of Lordship over human life on earth. They are unwilling to fight, kill and be killed for God’s cause, and unwilling to undertake a struggle that does not involve fighting and sacrificing one’s life.

The Tafseers above tell us that only “those who fight in the cause of Allah have accepted and fulfilled his covenant. Whether they were killed or they kill the enemy (i.e. non-Muslims and hypocrites{8}), or both, then Paradise will be theirs.” Sword-jihad is thus an obligation{9} on Muslims - reiterating 2:216. In return for fighting Allah's battles the Mujahideen{10} will be rewarded with paradise if killed or war-booty if they survive.

Another part of this covenant is the surrender of any freedom of will or action on the Muslims' part in Allah's (or his representative's) favour. Not making this bargain makes a Muslim “a kafir for, technically, kufr is the term applied to the refusal to make this bargain...and [he] becomes ungrateful, treacherous and rebellious.” To assure himself of having kept the bargain, the Muslim must keep on “fulfilling the terms of the agreement up to his last breath” - i.e. he must be ever-ready for sword-jihad. Any failure to do so makes a Muslim a kafir in Allah's eyes since “Indeed, the worst of all creatures in God’s sight are ... those with whom you have concluded a treaty, and then they break their treaty at every occasion, entertaining no sense of fearing God.” (8:55-56)

Qutb castigates “Moderate” Muslims thus: “Yet those who are claiming to be Muslims everywhere, from the far east to the far west are sitting idle, unwilling to strive hard in order to establish the fundamental truth of God’s Lordship on earth, or to remove the tyranny which usurps the qualities of Lordship over human life on earth. They are unwilling to fight, kill and be killed for God’s cause, and unwilling to undertake a struggle that involves fighting and sacrificing one’s life.”

“The price given for this purchase is paradise, and the way to be followed by the sellers is that of Jihadfighting and sacrificing their lives, and the end result is either victory or martyrdom.”


In summary:

Verse 2:216 and 61:10-13 state that sword-jihad is a religious obligation on Muslims ordained by Allah.

Verses 3:139 tells Muslims that their victory in sword-jihad against non-Muslims is (eventually) inevitable due largely to the fact that Muslims are “superior” to non-Muslims (perhaps in their willingness to kill others).

Verse 3:195 tells us that those Muslims who die fighting in sword-jihad go to paradise.

Verses 33:15 and 33:23 state that the Muslims have made a (holy) covenant with Allah to wage sword-jihad on his behalf.

Verse 4:74 states that those Muslims who want to go to paradise must wage sword-jihad and whether they die or survive they get a “great reward”- i.e. paradise or war-booty.

Verse 47:35 tells Muslims to keep fighting while they are winning – i.e. until the enemy is subjugated, but permits a ceasefire if it will benefit the Muslims to agree to one.

Verse 48:20-21 emphasises that Muslims will get war-booty (including sex-slaves) and promises that all the wealth of the world will be theirs if they keep on fighting.

Verses 61:10-13 tell Muslims that sword-jihad will save them from the “painful punishment” of hell-fire, grants forgiveness of sins, assures them of speedy victory and reaffirms the promises of the earlier verses.

Verse 9:111 adds that Allah has bought the Muslims - body and soul - for sword-jihad and confirms that he will keep his promises of paradise or war-booty.


We can now define Allah's war covenant with the Muslims:

Sword-jihad is a religious obligation laid on Muslims by Allah (2:216). Allah buys the Muslims as his slaves (9:111) to perform relentless (47:35) sword-jihad against non-Muslims until all non-Muslims are vanquished (3:139, 47:35). In recompense for the risks of war, Allah promises that the Mujahideen will have a great reward (4:76). This “great reward” is multi-faceted: Allah  guarantees absolution from all sins (including, implicitly war-crimes{11}) and immunity from hell (61:10-13). Furthermore, those that die during sword-jihad are guaranteed immediate (3:195) entry to paradise{12}  whereas those that survive will get war-booty (4:74) eventually equalling all the wealth of the world (48:20-21) and guaranteed entry to paradise on their deaths. Allah also promises quick victories (61:10-13).

This agreement is seen as a (holy) covenant between Allah and the Muslims (33:15,23).


It is this absolute guarantee of entry to paradise that makes sword-jihad not merely an obligation, but – in view of these benefits – the best and most 'holy' thing that a Mussalman can do to please Allah.

Sword-jihad is the only “sure-fire” way a Mussalman can get to paradise. It should be added that the Mussalman must first be a “true believer” in Islam of course.


In part 2, we will look at some of the supporting evidence in the Koran.


Footnotes and references.

  • ·Whilst beyond the scope of this article, there are problems with accurately dating verses in the Koran. In short this means that all such attempts (apart from those verses clearly linked to known historical events) are speculative to one degree or another.
  • ·“The History of the Quran” by Allamah Abu Abd Allah al-Zanjani.
  • ·
  • ·In Islam “martyrs” are those who kill for their religion and die in the process, in other faiths martyrs are those who die for their religion without killing in the process.
  • ·A Muslim's war-booty may include: land, property, goods, money and (of prime interest) female sex-slaves and child-slaves.
  • ·That is Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim – the two pre-eminent Sunni Hadith collections.
  • ·To be fair to Shafi I should note that he spends almost two pages on the background of this verse, just very little on the verse itself and he makes a possible error in claiming that this verse “is the first verse of jihad in the Quran” given that the other verses were recited before it (according to the chronology of the Koran). That said, given that Shafi is relating this verse to an event before Mohammed's move from Mecca to Medina, he may be correct. But in that case this proves a dis-arrangement of the Koran text in that this verse which (according to Shafi) pre-dates Sura 2 (the first Medinan Sura) is placed in Sura 9, the penultimate Medinan Sura. Which rather proves 1. above.
  • ·“Hypocrites” in the Koran cover a wide range of persons. They include “half-hearted” Muslims who are not inclined to fight.
  • ·In classical Shariah law the nature of this obligation is communal not individual. That is, it is the community of Muslims (Umma) that must raise the army, not the duty of every able-bodied male to fight every battle. However, if the Caliph calls for a general mobilisation, then it does become an  individual obligation. Furthermore, unless a Mussalman is willing to engage in sword-jihad (if able) he is deemed a hypocrite.
  • ·Mujahideen = “Muslim soldiers/warriors”, Mujahid = “Muslim soldier/warrior”.
  • ·An exception would be the mutilation of dead bodies which is specifically forbidden elsewhere. This is why the Taliban and others mutilate their prisoners before killing them.
  • ·Muslim paradise: 72 houris for sexual pleasure and 24 comely boys, wine, food etc. The Houris re-grow their hymens after each sex-act and are thus “perpetual virgins”.



  • ·“Tafsir al-Jalalayn.” Jalal al-Din al-Mahalli &  Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (Trans. Feras Hamza), 2007 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman, Jordan.
  • ·“Tafseer al-Tustari.” Sahl b. Abdullah al-Tustari (Trans. Annabel Keeler and Ali Keeler), 2011 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought Amman, Jordan
  • ·“Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn 'Abbas”, attributed  to: Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas or Muhammad al-Firuzabadi. (Trans. Mokrane Guezzou), 2007. Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman, Jordan
  • ·“Tafsir ibn Kathir”, Alama Imad ud Din Ibn Kathir (concise version).
  • · “Tafhim al-Quran.” Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi.
  • ·“Maariful Quran.” Maulana Mufti Mohammed Shafi. (Revised by and also attributed to: Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani), 1995-2004. Darul Uloom Karachi, Pakistan.
  • ·“In the Shade of the Quran.” Sayyid Qutb. (Trans. Adil Salahi).
  • ·“Interpretation of the meanings of The Noble Quran”, Dr.M.T.Hilali & Dr.M.Khan. English language pdf and hardback versions. (Other Koran translations used as identified).

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