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Khutba  #6

Jihad Versus Martyrdom in Islam


I counsel us all, including myself, to practice Taq’wa (piety and righteousness), and to revere Allah and obey His Directives.  Let us take heed of our choices in this life and their likely consequences in the hereafter.  May Allah provide us all with the spirit of righteousness by way of His divine obedience as our means of salvation.


We quote the Holy Quran Surah 24 (al-Noor), Ayah 37:


رِجَالٌ لا تُلْهِيهِمْ تِجَارَةٌ وَلا بَيْعٌ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَإِقَامِ الصَّلآةِ وَإِيتَاء الزَّكَاةِ

يَخَافُونَ يَوْمًا تَتَقَلَّبُ فِيهِ الْقُلُوبُ وَالأََبْصَارُ

“Men whom neither trade nor sale diverts them from the remembrance of Allah,

nor from keeping up prayer, nor from giving Zakat. 

Afraid of the day when hearts and eyes shake with fright.”

Today, notwithstanding the enormous progress in science and technology we are faced with a nagging question:  What is the real purpose of life?  Is it only a life of pleasures and hurts, that we have to endure during our existence, just to end in a dead-end street, or is life more meaningful than that?


Take a casual look at magazines and newspapers and see the reports of burglaries, thefts, rapes, murders, and killings.  Many sociologists, psychiatrists and religious educators are of the opinion that our societies have reached a dangerous point of moral collapse. The traditional values of honesty, integrity, righteousness, and goodness of men seem to be replaced with duplicity, deceitfulness, treachery, and other bad qualities.  Despite our technological advances, we have failed to attain any level of worldwide brotherhood and peace.  Such failure and the hopelessness that accompanies it will continue until Islamic values take root.


Islam is a comprehensive and complete religion.  In Islam worship is a means of proximity and nearness to God as well as one’s true perfection.  In Islam, to worship God is not set up as something separate from morality and justice.  Worship attempts to train individuals not only morally and socially but also to elevate a person to such a high level as to forget the self and self-interior.  But in social matters, the basic Islamic principle is justice, which is in essence respecting other peoples’ rights.  No one can ignore the significance of morality and its necessity.  The difficulty however, is in practicing it, as is the case with other edicts.


Addressing a party after it returned from confronting the enemy, the Prophet (pbuh) said, “I congratulate you to have successfully carried out the Lesser Jihad.  Now you have to give weight to Major Jihad and carry it out.”  Surprised and curious, the people asked, “O’ Prophet of Allah!  What is Major Jihad then?”  He replied, “It is Jihad against the ego, the self.”  This indicates that by refining the self according to the Divine Commands (to reach Taq’wa by way of perfecting the person’s character) is the Major Jihad.[1]


Faith enables one to forsake profiting himself for the sake of morality and justice, but faith in what, may we ask?  The answer is that it is faith in Justice and Morality themselves.  When a person believes in both morality and justice as something sacred, he will have believed in the Truth?  Thus such a person has faith in the basics of sacredness, namely God.


The problem of our times is that science in itself is taken as sufficient for mankind, as many people believe so.

It is said that if we recognize justice and morality and implement them, we can be both just and moral.  Yet, it has been shown that when knowledge is separated from faith not only is it not useful for morality and justice but also may be harmful at times.  With faith, individual or group-wise, both morality and justice will endure. To illustrate this point, have you seen a guilty person come forth voluntarily for punishment?  While in America and other countries people mostly obey the law voluntarily, but the guilty person often escapes from justice and the law.


Faith is the only force that can make man voluntarily submit to punishment.  We see many examples of this in Islam.  Islam has envisaged punishment for all sins, Major Ones such as murder, drinking, adultery, homosexuality, and theft, or Minor Ones such as backbiting, lying, breaking promise, among many others.  While acknowledging the sin, Islam also teaches that, “Punishments are abandoned with the slightest doubt of evidence”.  Islam does not compel a judge, ruler, or governor to seek out the guilty person rather it urges the guilty person to come forward for punishment.  This kind of thing happened often at the times of both the Prophet (pbuh) and Imam Ali (a.s.).  A man would come before them begging to be punished in order to cleanse his soul and himself.  Have we seen such things happen nowadays?  If such events ever happen, it is exceptional, yet we call ourselves the advanced society.


We pray Allah to grant us a happy end, give us the favor of worship and devotion to Him, to make us pure and protect us against the evil ones.  We ask Allah to grant us salvation, and to our parents, and our deceased ones.


For the end of the 1st part of the Khutba, read Surah Al-Asr, take a short intermission, then start the 2nd part of the Khutba with a short Du’aa.


Islam is an all-inclusive religion with an interrelated set of ideals and relationships.  It covers all areas of human notions and actions, beliefs and practices, by word and deed.  Islamic principles and concepts cannot be fully and properly appreciated unless they are analyzed and realized within the framework of Islam as a whole.


The concept of Martyrdom in Islam can only be understood in the light of the Islamic sphere of Holy Struggle (Jihad).  The concept of Jihad may only be appreciated if the doctrine of Enjoining the Good and Prohibiting evilness and the bad is properly appreciated.  Islam is a personal submission to the Will of Allah.  This means being prepared to struggle, even to give one’s life (martyrdom) in the course of this submission.  Unfortunately both Muslim and non-Muslims have misunderstood the concept of Shahaada and Jihad in Islam.  Most non-Muslim scholars, intentionally or unintentionally have defined Jihad only as a Holy War, and thus have understood neither Jihad nor Shahaada.  Jihad and Shahaada have been used frequently in the Holy Quran.  In fact, there is no martyrdom without a preceding struggle in the cause of Allah and for the cause of truth.


The word Shahaada is derived from the Arabic verbal root meaning to “see”, “witness”,  “testify”, or to “become a model and paradigm”.  A Shaheed is the person who sees and witnesses.  A Shaheed is prepared to struggle with his best and fight, even give up his life for the Truth, and thus become a martyr.  In this process, the keyword is Truth, its recognition, declaration, the struggle for it, and the fight for it.  Thus Jihad is the means for establishing the Truth, and in the extreme may lead to martyrdom.  For this reason we can say the concept of Shahaada and Jihad is closely related to the concept of Prophethood.  Both the Martyrs and the Prophets are regarded as paradigms.

In Islam man needs guidance to the Truth.  The true guidance is from the whole Truth (God) who is the source of truth and guidance.  Prophets, Imams, Martyrs have this responsibility.


Let us quote some of the gems which Imam Al-Saadiq offered his son Al-Kadhim; he said to him:[2]

"Son! Accept my advice and memorize my words, for if you memorize them, you will lead a blissful (life) and die in a praised manner.


Son!  Be content and you become rich in spirit, since:

  1. The ones who look at what is in the hand of others will die in a poor state, and

  2. Whoever is displeased with what Allah has given him will have accused Allah in His Decree, and

  3. Whoever considers his own offense as small will regard the offense of others as large.

  4. Son!  Whoever uncovers the faults of others, his defect will be uncovered,

  5. Whoever draws the sword of Allah’s disobedience, will himself be killed with it,

  6. Whoever digs a well for his brother in faith to fall in, will himself fall into it,

  7. Whoever makes friends with the foolish, will himself be degraded,

  8. Whoever makes friends with the wise and learned, will be respected, and

  9. Whoever enters places of evil and ill repute, will stand to be accused.


Son!  Say the truth whether it is for you or against you, and beware of slandering others, for slander plants the enmity in the hearts of men. 

Son!  When you visit, visit the good, and avoid visiting the wicked, for the wicked are like the solid rock from which water does not gush, or like the tree whose leaves do not get green, or like the land whose plants do not appear."


Man needs piety in family life as well as in social life.  In the present age ignoring piety in family and social life have caused grave consequences, such as what is going on in some countries.

Finally it is necessary to emphasize that there is a big difference between freedom-seeking campaign and terrorists.  Islam doesn’t agree with terrorism, for terrorism is completely wrong.  The Holy Quran says in Surah 49 (al-Hujuraat), Ayah 13:


يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا

إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

“O’ ye men! Surely We have created you of a male and female, and made you into tribes and nations,

that you may know one another…”

We understand from this Ayah that all people are equal in their human rights.  In another Ayah in the Quran it says in Surah 5 (al-Maa’ida), Ayah 32:

مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَى بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ

أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الأَرْضِ

فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا

 We differentiate between terrorism and defending the homeland and their human rights.  Freedom-seeking campaigns are not terrorism.  The root-cause of current issues in the Islamic world should be noticed and analyzed.  Islam invites all people to respect and hold sacred the rights of other people.


We pray Allah to help all the oppressed people in the world, and to liberate us from our seductive lusts and to grant us freedom and blessings in this and the next world; and to grant us salvation in this world and the hereafter.


Finally, let us read Surah Al-Nasr with a short Du’aa to close the Khutba.


[1] Wasa’il al-Shi’a, Vol. 6, Page 122.

[2] Imam Al-Saadiq, Commands, #366, Published as Islamic CD.


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