Jihād in the Bible
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

What is the Biblical view on Jihād. Did the Prophet Moses (sws) and the Prophet Jesus (sws) wage Jihād in their times?


Answer: As far as the Bible is concerned, while the Old Testament contains explicit directives on Jihād, the New Testament is devoid of them. The reason is that while the Prophet Moses (sws) was bestowed with political authority by the Almighty, the Prophet Jesus (sws) was not.

However, since the Bible we have today has been tampered with and is not available in its pure and un-interpolated form, it is necessary to interpret the directives of Jihād given in the Old Testament in the light of the Qur’ān. If interpreted thus one finds a marked resemblance in these directives given by these two great scriptures.

We know from the Qur’ān that the Almighty punished certain nations in history because they were guilty of deliberately denying the truth1. One form of this punishment assumed the shape of waging Jihād against them by their respective Messenger. This form of punishment was meted out by the Almighty in case of the Prophet Moses (sws). He waged Jihād to punish people who were guilty of deliberately denying the truth. A study of the Old Testament shows that the Jihād he waged was of two forms. One form of Jihād was that nations who subscribed to polytheism were to be put to death in all cases, while another form was that some nations were spared in case they agreed to remain subservient.

The following verses depict the first form of Jihād:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations – the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you – and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. (Deuteronomy 7:1-5)

The following verses depict the second form of Jihād:

When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labour and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, and children, the livestock and everything else in the city you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. (Deuteronomy, 20:10-15)

Quite similarly, we determine from the Qur’ān, on the basis of the Jihād waged by the Prophet (sws), that while the polytheists were put to death, the monotheists among them (ie the People of the Book) were allowed to live if they submitted to Islamic rule. If the second form of Jihād waged by Moses (rta) as stated in (Deuteronomy, 7:1-5) is interpreted in the light of the Qur’ān, one can conclude that it must have been against those nations which basically subscribed to monotheism.

Consequently, the two books are very similar in this regard.

The comparison continues:

It is evident from the Qur’ān (2:143) that just as the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) were conferred the status of Shuhadā ‘alā al-Nās (witnesses to the truth before other peoples), the Israelites after Moses (sws), in their collective capacity were conferred this status. In the Old Testament, the areas of Canaan, on which the Israelites were to wage war after the Prophet Moses (sws) were divinely demarcated:

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Command the Israelites and say to them: When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance will have these boundaries: Your southern side will include some of the Desert of Zinalong the border of Edom. On the east, your southern boundary will start form the end of the Salt Sea, cross south of Scorpion Pass, continue on to Zin and go south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it will go to Hazar Addar and over to Azmon, where it will turn, join the Wadi of Egypt and end at the Sea. Your western boundary will be the coast of the Great Sea. This will be your boundary on the west. For your northern boundary, run a line from the Great Sea to Mount Hor and from Mount Hor to Lebo Hamath. Then the boundary will go to Zedad, continue to Ziphron and end at Hazar Enan. This will be your boundary on the north. For your eastern boundary, run a line from Hazar Enan to Shepham. The boundary will go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain and continue along the slopes east of the Sea of Kinnereth. Then the boundary will go down along the Jordan and end at the Salt Sea. This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.’ (Numbers, 34:1-12)

After Muhammad (sws), his immediate Companions (rta) continued his mission and punished certain other nations who were guilty of knowingly denying the truth. The area that came under this punishment was demarcated by the Prophet (sws) when he wrote letters to the heads of state of certain territories in this area.

1. While referring to this established practice of the Almighty, the Qur’ān says:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحَادُّونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ أُوْلَئِكَ فِي الأَذَلِّينَ  كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَأَغْلِبَنَّ أَنَا وَرُسُلِي إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ(٥٨: ٢٠-١)

Indeed those who are opposing Allah and His Messenger are bound to be humiliated. The Almighty has ordained: I and My Messengers shall always prevail. Indeed Allah is Mighty and Powerful. (58:20-1)

The Old Testament refers to this practice the following words:

If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy, 8:19-20)

The New Testament mentions this practice in the following words:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered: ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish’. (Luke, 13:1-4)


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