Islam and World Peace - Explanations of a Sufi
by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

The Laws of Holy War

I seek refuge in Allah from the evils of the accursed satan.
In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate.

My brothers and sisters in Iman-Islam,1 let us speak further on the meaning of holy war, or jihad.

If we understand the Qur'an properly, and if we understand the traditions of the Prophet,2 then Islam will be the water of grace3 for the entire world. It will cleanse everyone of their dirt and quench their thirst. It will make all hearts peaceful and be the very pulse of life, the heartbeat for all the children of Adam, for all of creation.

A direct revelation4 to Muhammad, the Messenger of God.5

The exalted Prophet, his companions,6 and his followers were constantly being attacked by those who did not accept Allah or His Messenger. With forbearance and contentment, Muhammad tolerated all the suffering that came to him, and he conveyed to his followers the patience and the trust in Allah that was given to him. However, eventually it became necessary to escape from this persecution, and he and his followers fled to Medina. Many of the people of Medina immediately accepted the Prophet, and there he and his followers found some peace. But a few hypocrites and troublemakers traveled between the two cities, spreading rumors, backbiting, and creating enmity. "The people of Mecca want to fight you," they told the Prophet and his followers. "They are destroying your homes and all the property that you left behind. They are killing your wives and children and injuring your brothers."

Upon hearing these stories, some of the companions complained to the Prophet pleading, "O Rasul,7 they are causing us so much suffering! They have harmed our families, taken our possessions, destroyed our homes, and chased us from place to place. And now they are calling us cowards for running away. But we are courageous warriors and must live with honor and dignity. We have accepted this disgrace long enough. Now we must fight!

"You are the Messenger of Allah. This world and the hereafter8 are one to you, and Allah is sufficient for you as your only wealth. So you are not concerned if people try to disgrace you, but in our state we cannot bear this. We need the means to live in this world as well as in the hereafter. The Meccans have destroyed our houses, our property, and our relations. We must fight to regain our possessions, for our hearts are hurt and we are suffering."

The companions of the Prophet pleaded like this time after time. But Muhammad did not grant them permission to fight. His heart was crying. The light in his eyes looked toward Allah and his hands were outstretched asking for perfect faith and the wealth9 of Allah's divine knowledge. He spent every moment in this state, asking Allah to change the hearts of the people. The only sword in his hand was the sword of love and unity, the sword of faith, certitude, and determination, the sword of patience, contentment, trusting God, and praise of God.

Then, after a while, Hamza10 came with the same request, but the Prophet would not yield to him either. He would not tell his followers to begin a holy war. Instead, he always answered, "You cannot do this without Allah's permission, and Allah has not granted it. Therefore, I cannot give you my permission either. The true holy war of Islam is a war against our base desire11 and against all those aspects within ourselves which are the real enemies to our life in the hereafter."

But still his companions pleaded, "We are warriors, and we have been disgraced. How can we live in this world with such dishonor?"

Then, while the Prophet waited silently, Allah's answer came. "O Muhammad, tell your companions to begin the holy war in their hearts, to sacrifice the evils in their own hearts. Your companions need to understand this."

The Prophet conveyed this to his companions. "My brothers, Allah has said that if you want to begin a holy war, your first duty is to wage that war against the army of enemies that harm you from within. Each one of you must make your heart acceptable to Him. You must make your heart pure according to God's law by performing the ritual sacrifice12 needed to destroy the evils which come to destroy you. You must cut away all the things that occlude your heart. Make your heart light. Nourish it with the food of light which is the treasure of Allah, and avoid all that is forbidden."13

Allah told His Messenger, "Only one who partakes of My food will have his hunger and his desires appeased. The permissible14 food for the heart consists of My divine knowledge,15 My ninety-nine attributes,16 My qualities and actions, My patience and contentment, surrender to Me, trusting Me, and praising Me alone.17 Only such praise will end his hunger. With My angels I will protect anyone who makes this intention the light within his heart, anyone who understands each of these three thousand gracious qualities, anyone in whom these qualities emerge.

"0 Muhammad, I will reveal to you the angels that will come to protect you from the armies of Habib Ibn Malik, sent by Abu Jahl.18 Each angel will have three thousand heads and six thousand hands, and will wield the weapons appropriate to them. You will be able to see them all. So even if you are afraid, O Muhammad, go forward! You need not fear when you are in a state of Iman-Islam. You have the grace of My protection, the only true protection. I am the only One who can protect you in this way. Those who keep Me as their Protector will never be destroyed by anything in the world, but those who do not seek My help will be destroyed. As long as they have the world within them, they will be destroyed by that world. It is the world which kills the world. That is certain. Tell this to your followers.

"The world does not belong to you, O Muhammad. You are here to realize Me. That is why I showed you My actions, and that is why I created all My creations and their secrets. They are all examples I gave you so that you could understand Me. I am the only One who can perform these duties of creating, protecting, nourishing, giving food, and dispensing judgment. No one else can perform these actions.

"O Muhammad, through Adam, through My creations, through the earth, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, fire, water, air, and the clouds, I have revealed My secrets. Then I sent you to teach your followers. Through you, I sent them so many words and holy verses, so many actions, and so much wisdom. I gave the verses of the Holy Qur'an into your hands so that you could understand the connection between Myself and true man19 and through this connection understand your earnings in this world and the hereafter. The nature of your true wealth is explained in the Holy Qur'an.

"Muhammad, you have revealed My word. If your followers want to learn the glory of the Qur'an, if they want to understand its wealth, they must have the wisdom of divine knowledge. The Qur'an is the secret20 within the secret, the essence21 within the essence, wisdom within wisdom, grace within grace, the soul22 within the soul, the heart within the innermost heart,23 the light within the light of the eye, the ear within the ear, the nose within the nose, the tongue within the tongue, and knowledge within divine knowledge. The Qur'an is the form24 that exists within the form. They must go within to know its real meaning.

"Tell your followers that anyone who is under My protection can never be destroyed, but anyone who leaves My protection and My help to wage holy war now will destroy himself. Tell them that if one man seeks to kill or overcome another man, it is his own brothers that he will be destroying. And they, in turn, will destroy him. Man has the choice of turning into a beast or becoming like his Lord!25 He has the potential to become a true realized being. If he becomes Adam, then I will correct his faults and protect him, just as I protected Adam.

"Muhammad, tell this to your followers. They were all in darkness and torpor before they knew you. I made them come out of hiding and follow you, did I not? Earlier they were hidden in satan, but now they are your companions, your warriors. Who were they before? What were their actions earlier compared to their actions now? They were just like the people against whom they now want to wage war. Just like these children of Adam, they were hidden in the same darkness, entangled in the same desires and illusions and elemental miracles.26 They too were buried within satan.

"But with My words, you led them out of the darkness, and they began to follow you and to follow Me, their Lord and Creator, did they not? Are they your enemies now? No, they have lost themselves and dedicated their lives to you and to Me. Abu Bakr, 'Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, 'Uthman, and Hamzah27 were all hidden in darkness. Look how they emerged. Therefore, would it be right to destroy others who are in that darkness now?

"So, tell your followers, rather than waging holy war, they should try to bring such people out of the darkness and make them understand Allah. Instead of fighting against them, they should help them accept the truth, strengthen their faith, certitude, and determination, and try to change them.

"To convert without force is the way of Islam; to destroy and kill and slaughter people is not. Therefore, tell your followers that the holy war they must wage is one of lifting up those who have fallen into the state of disbelief.28 Tell them to use My actions, My words, and My behavior in order to release those who are hidden in satan and buried in illusion. That is the true holy war. That is Islam. Reveal this to your followers."

In this way, Allah's commandments came to His Messenger to show his companions the ways of justice. Allah could have destroyed all the unbelievers, but instead He brought them forth from the darkness.

But not all of the followers of Muhammad were able to attain this compassionate state. Some did not have the strength of inner patience, contentment, and trust in God. They were not able to say, "If God wills," and "Whatever God Wills."29 And so they continued to plead, "Let us ruin those who are trying to ruin us. O Prophet, we are not like you, we are ordinary people just like they are. We have to fight force with force." The Prophet tried to teach them patience, but they had this need in their hearts.

Finally Allah gave His permission, "All right, tell them to begin their holy war." But as they were preparing for battle, certain restrictions were placed upon them. They were told, "Do not fight this war for the sake of your pride, to show that you are a warrior or that you are strong. Fight only against those who come to fight with you. You may engage in combat only with someone who has taken your possessions. You must not usurp the possessions of another. You must not touch their women or harm their children. You must not destroy their houses or their farms and crops or kill their livestock. You must not cut down their trees, destroy the countryside, or ruin their wells. You must not kill those who run away in fear, and you must not strike someone who falls down in battle. Only if someone comes at you with a sword in his hand may you defend yourself."

The Prophet conveyed these rules to 'Ali and to Abu Bakr al- Siddiq.30 "Go and fight," he said, "but do not go beyond these limits. If you fail to obey these rules you will be great sinners. If you wage war with the intention of acquiring land, houses, possessions, or happiness, forgetting the rules that I have given, then you will be blamed and will have to answer on the Day of Questioning."31 Allah established all these restrictions and then told Muhammad, "Tell them to go in this state and regain what is rightfully theirs."

This was the way in which holy war was waged during the time of the Prophet. But even so, Muhammad did not take part in these battles. Instead, he spent the entire time praying for the fighting to stop. He remained alone, hands outstretched, praying to Allah. Every second his heart was crying, and the light in his eyes was directed toward Allah.

"Change their hearts," he prayed. "O Allah, make them accept You. Make them praise You and pray to You. Give them that certitude and love. Fill them with Your love and grace. Give them unity. Let them drop the swords from their hands and raise the sword of perfect faith." The only sword that ever touched the Prophet's hands was the sword of inner patience, contentment, trust in God, and praise of God, the sword of love and of the unity of brotherhood. We must think about this.

A Direct Revelation to 'Ali

One day when 'Ali was in battle, his opponent's sword broke and the man fell. 'Ali stood above him, and holding his sword to the man's chest, he said, "If you had a sword in your hand, I would continue this fight, but since your sword is broken, I cannot strike you."

"If I had a sword at this moment, I would cut off your arms and legs," the man shouted back.

"All right then," 'Ali replied, and he handed the man his sword. "What are you doing?" the man asked, bewildered. "I am your enemy, am I not?"

'Ali looked him in the eye and said, "You swore that if you had a sword in your hand you would kill me. Now you have my sword, so go ahead and strike me." But the man could not. "That was your ignorance and arrogance speaking," 'Ali explained. "In the realm of Allah, there is no fight or enmity between you and me. We are brethren. The real war is between the truth and your lack of wisdom. It is between truth and falsehood. You and I are just watching that battle. You are my brother. If I were to harm you at this point, I would have to answer for it on the Day of Questioning. Allah would ask me about it."

"Is this the way of Islam?" the man asked.

"Yes," 'Ali replied. "These are the words of Allah, the All-Powerful, Unique One."

Immediately the man bowed down at 'Ali's feet and begged, "Teach me the kalimah."32

And `Ali taught him, "There is no god but God. Nothing exists other than You, O God."33

A similar thing happened during a later battle. 'Ali felled his opponent, placed his foot on the man's chest, and held a sword to his neck. But again he did not kill the man.

"Why don't you kill me?" the man shouted angrily. "I am your enemy. Why are you just standing there?" And he spit in 'Ali's face.

At first 'Ali became angry, but then he removed his foot from the man's chest and put aside his sword. "I am not your enemy," 'Ali replied. "The real enemies are the evil qualities within us. You are my brother, yet you spit in my face. When you spat upon me, I became angry, and the arrogance of the "I" came to me. If I had killed you when I was in that state, then I would be a sinner, a murderer. I would have become the very thing I was fighting against. That crime would be recorded against my name, and I would have to answer for it later, when Allah questions me. That is why I cannot slay you."

"Then is there no fight between you and me?" the man asked. "No. The battle is between wisdom and ignorance, between truth and falsehood," 'Ali told him. "Even though you spat on me and taunted me to kill you, I cannot."

"Where did such a rule come from?"

"These are the rules of Allah. This is Islam." Immediately, the man fell before 'Ali's feet, and he too was taught the kalimah.


This is the difference between the ways of Allah and the ways of the world. People shout, "Jihad!" which means holy war, but there are two kinds of jihad. The real holy war is an inner war, and those who fight that war follow Allah's rules. But those who fight for the sake of wife, children, or house follow other rules. If even an atom's worth of such thoughts are present, it is not a true holy war, but rather, a political war. It is fought for the sake of land and country, not for the sake of Allah. With wisdom, we must understand what the true jihad is, and we must think about the answers we will have to give on the Day of Questioning.

Muhammad and his followers had certitude, unity, justice, and conscience. It was in this state that their holy war was waged and the battles of Badr and Uhud34 were fought. Some people were killed, but after these battles peace reigned in Islam. The greeting of peace,35 the glorification36 of Allah and the Prophet, and the words, "Allahu Akbar! God is Most Great!" resonated throughout the land.

We must understand this. The Prophet returned to capture Mecca, not with the sword, but with Allah's praise. Mecca was conquered with Iman-Islam, with love, compassion, unity, and faith, with inner patience, contentment, trust in God, and praise of God. It was through these qualities that Islam grew. It was Allah's qualities that conquered the people.

Whatever is conquered by the sword does not last. The one who picks up the sword will one day die by that same sword. The one who picks up a gun will die by the gun. Whatever one raises in enmity, that very same weapon will cause his destruction. Whatever trick a man learns will bring about his destruction one day.

However, the one who receives the complete wealth of Allah's love, compassion, faith, and certitude will have eternal life.37 That beauty of Islam and that resplendence will not die in this world or in the world of the souls.38 Such a one will be different and his body will be different. Although his body belongs to the world, the qualities within him will belong to the hereafter. He will be like the lotus flower which lives in the water yet does not keep the water within itself. He will live in this world, but the world will not be within him. Only Allah's qualities and His beauty will exist there.

Reflect upon this. There is nothing that the All-Powerful One cannot do. Shedding blood is not the way. Instead, we must cut away our arrogance, karma, and illusion. We must cut away this darkness of ignorance and establish light. This is the only way to spread wisdom and divine knowledge.

Do not shout, "Allahu Akbar! God is Most Great!" and then kill someone. Instead lead him to the good path, the straight path, and say, "Allahu Akbar." That is Iman-Islam. True holy war means to kill the inner enemy, the enemy to truth. But instead people shout, "Jihad!" and go to kill an external enemy. That is not holy war. We should not spread Islam through the sword; we must spread it through the kalimah, through truth, faith, and love. We have to think about this.

If you believe in Allah, the Unique, All-Pervasive Power, then His peaceful state, His greetings of peace, His love, His compassion, His wisdom, His equality, His comfort, and His qualities will be your weapons. This is what was explained to the companions of the Prophet. It is with these weapons alone that we should make our holy war. These are the weapons of Allah, the All-Powerful, Unique One, the weapons of the state of oneness with God.39

Do we really need to wage war against others for His sake? Do we really need to destroy others with swords? No, it is not necessary for us to kill in this way. How can we accept the kalimah of the All-Powerful, Unique One if we do that? Instead, we need to discard what He has discarded. He is the Almighty One who can create and destroy within the blinking of an eye. Allah can do things before we even think of them. Life and death belong to Him, not to us.

If we think about it, we will see that there are many explanations in the words of Allah and the words of the Prophet. We must understand the knowledge within divine knowledge that exists in the traditions of the Prophet and the Qur'an. We cannot study only the surface meanings; we must dig deep to see what is within. For every issue, we must think, "What did the exalted Prophet say about this? What revelations have been given about this? What has been said about this to those with divine wisdom? What has been said to the companions of the Prophet, the ones with the clarity of wisdom? And what has been said to the ones without wisdom?" For each question there are many explanations that have been given. For each person's level of wisdom, an appropriate reply has been given. We need to understand the words of Allah that were sent to us. If we understand the inner meanings of those words it will be good. My love to you, my children.

Allah's holy war is a good thing. It is a battle against all the enemies within us. We must raise His weapons of love, compassion, mercy, comfort, patience, and contentment. Then we will have victory over everything. The weapons used in the outer battles are implements of destruction. Knives and swords can never bring victory; they can only destroy. Allah's weapons never destroy.

My love to you. Amen.

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1. Iman: absolute faith, certitude, and determination. Islam: the state of absolute purity. See glossary.
2. ahadith
3. rahmah
4. hadith qudsi
5. RasulAllah
6. ashab
7. The resplendent Messenger of God.
8. dunya and al-akhirah
9. dawlah
10. Hamzah: The paternal uncle and foster brother of the Prophet.
11. nafs
12. qurban
13. haram
14. halal
15. 'ilm
16. wilayat
17. sabr, shukr, tawakkul 'ala Allah, and al-hamdu Allah
18. Habib Ibn Malik: A prince of the major Arabian tribes who was asked by Abu Jahl to question Muhammad in the hope of proving him a false prophet. According to some narratives, Muhammad performed several miracles including the splitting of the moon (referred to in the 54th chapter of the Qur'an), thus convincing Habib and converting him to Islam. Abu Jahl: One of the foremost adversaries of Muhammad. His real name was 'Amr Ibn Misham but the Muslims nicknamed him Abu Jahl, or the "Father of Ignorance." See glossary.
19. insan
20. sirr
21. dhat
22. ruh
23. qalb
24. surah
25. Rabb
26. siddhis
27. Abu Bakr al-Siddiq: The first caliph and a father-in-law to the Prophet. 'Umar Ibn al-Khattdb: The second caliph and a father-in-law to the Prophet. At first he was violently opposed to Muhammad, but later heard his sister reciting part of the Qur'an and was overcome. Going directly to Muhammad, he professed his belief in Allah and His Prophet. See glossary.
'Uthman: The third caliph; compiled the verses of the Qur'an and produced the authorized version which is still in existence.
Hamzah: Paternal uncle and foster brother of the Prophet.
28. kufr
29. insha'a Allah and masha'a Allah
30. 'Ali: The fourth caliph, son-in-law of the Prophet, husband of Fatimah, and father of Hasan and Husayn. The second convert to Islam, following Khadijah, the first wife of the Prophet. Abu Bakr al-Siddiq: A father-in-law of the Prophet and the first caliph. See glossary.
31. Qiyamah
32. The affirmation of faith.
33. La ilaha illa Allah
34. Badr: The battle of Badr was fought between the followers of Muhammad and those among the Quraysh who rejected the belief in Allah and Muhammad. Many of Islam's principle opponents were killed including Abu Jahl. The victory of Badr established the ability of the Muslims to defend themselves. See glossary.
Uhud: The battle of Uhud was also between the followers of Muhammad and the Quraysh. The outcome of the battle was mixed, the Muslims being outflanked by Khalid Ibn al-Walid, a great warrior among the Quraysh who later embraced Islam. The Quraysh however did not pursue their advantage and were forced to retreat by the regrouped Muslims.
35. salam
36. salawat
37. hayah
38. 'alam al-arwah
39. tawhid



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Copyright 2003, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship