Muhammad Fact Check

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Myth #4: Prophet Muhammad taught terrorism and Jihad to conquer the world for Islam

Did Prophet Muhammad teach Muslims to use terrorism and Jihad to spread Islam?

Critics claim that “the crux of Islam is an ideology of global war” and that Prophet Muhammad allegedly supported this global war through terrorism and Jihad. [1]

The Qur’an has used the word Jihad 34 times to express the idea of struggling to the utmost to refine oneself [2], improve society [3], or defend the freedom of conscience [4]. Accordingly, Prophet Muhammad has, for example, used the word Jihad when referring to serving one’s parents [5], refining one’s character [6], performing the Hajj (pilgrimage) [7], and defensive war for freedom of conscience [8]. Prophet Muhammad also, after returning from battle, declared the Jihad of refining oneself to be superior to Jihad to defend the freedom of conscience, “We are returning from the lesser Jihad to the greater Jihad.” [9]

Furthermore, the Qur’an prohibits fighting against any peaceful group [10], repeatedly underscores the importance of freedom of conscience [11], and permits fighting only to uphold the freedom of conscience and defend oneself against an aggressor [12]. The Qur’an, as mentioned earlier, also states that no single religion can monopolize salvation [13] and endorses ecumenism. [14]

Instead of relying on the Qur’an and Ahadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad), critics often cite Abul Ala Maududi, cleric and founder of Pakistan’s extreme right-wing religio-political party Jamaat-i-Islami. No doubt, influenced by the philosophy of medieval clerics, Maududi divided the world into two “Houses” and preached violence against non-Muslims and also against Muslims he disagrees with. But not only do Maududi’s views contradict the Holy Qur’an, Prophet Muhammad also and proactively condemned such clerics:

Their clerics will be the worst creatures under the heaven. Discord will rise from them and will come right back to them. [16]

In my Ummah (followers) an era of fear will come, and people will turn to their clerics for guidance, but will find them as monkeys and swine. [17]

[A time will come when] there will be nothing left of knowledge. People will make the ignorant their leaders and will seek guidance from them in matters of religion. These leaders will issue fatwas (edicts) without any knowledge. They will themselves be misguided and will lead others astray. [18]

Hadrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Fourth Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, thoroughly debunked Maududi’s worldview in his eminent work Murder in the Name of Allah. Commenting on the general corrupt nature of many Muslim clerics, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, wrote over a century ago—indeed even before Maududi’s birth:

When these clerics meet present day rulers, they bow down as if ready to prostrate; but among their own kind they insist repeatedly that this country is Dar al-Harb (in a state of war)… They adhere so strongly to their doctrine of Jihad—which is completely misguided and entirely contradicts the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and Hadith—that they label as anti-Christ and advocate the murder of anyone who objects … They should remember that their understanding of Jihad is not at all correct, and that human sympathy is its first casualty. Their belief, that Jihad should be lawful today because it was permitted in early Islam, is totally incorrect … their reasoning is baseless. Under no circumstance did our Holy Prophet raise the sword against anyone unless they had first raised the sword – mercilessly killing innocent, pious men, women and children with such brutality that reading about these events even today brings tears to our eyes.” [19]

Professor Bernard Lewis suggests that the concept of suicide bombing is a 20th century invention having no basis in Islam [21], and that the Muslims who endorse terrorism—like Maududi—are not aware of their own religion. [22]

At no time did the classical jurists offer any approval or legitimacy to what we nowadays call terrorism. Nor indeed is there any evidence of the use of terrorism as it is practiced nowadays [23]. The fanatical warrior offering his victims the choice of the Koran or the sword is not only untrue, it is impossible” and that “generally speaking, Muslim tolerance of unbelievers was far better than anything available in Christendom… [24]

In short, Prophet Muhammad forbade all forms of terrorism, and instead taught his followers to engage in the personal reflection for self-improvement. That was, is, and always will be the greatest Jihad.

[1] Geert Wilders, Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me, 78, 84 (2012).

[2] Qur’an 2:219; 3:143; 4:96; 5:36, 5:55; 8:73, 8:75, 8:76; 9:16, 9:19, 9:20, 9:24, 9:41, 9:44, 9:79, 9:81, 9:86, 9:88; 16:111 22:79; 25:53; 29:7, 29:70; 47:32; 49:16; 60:2; 61:12.

[3] Qur’an 2:219; 3:143; 4:96; 5:36, 5:55; 8:73, 8:75, 8:76; 9:16, 9:19, 9:20, 9:24, 9:41, 9:44, 9:73, 9:79, 9:81, 9:86, 9:88; 16:111; 22:79; 25:53; 29:7, 29:70; 47:32; 49:16; 60:2; 61:12.

[4] Qur’an 3:143; 4:96; 5:36, 5:55; 8:73, 8:75, 8:76; 9:16, 9:19, 9:20, 9:24, 9:41, 9:44, 9:73, 9:81, 9:86, 9:88; 16:111; 29:7, 29:70; 47:32; 49:16; 60:2; 61:12; 66:10.

[5] A man came to the Prophet asking his permission to take part in Jihad. The Prophet asked him, “Are your parents alive?” He replied in the affirmative. The Prophet said to him, “Then exert yourself in their service.” Bukhari, Book 52.

[6] Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq said: “The Prophet of God dispatched a contingent of the army (to the battlefront). Upon their (successful) return, he said: ‘Blessed are those who have performed the minor Jihad and have yet to perform the major Jihad.’ When asked, ‘What is the major Jihad?’ the Prophet replied: ‘The Jihad of the self’.” Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 19, pg. 182; Hadrat Abu Dharr asked Prophet Muhammad, “’Which struggle is the best?’ The Holy Prophet replied, ‘To struggle against one’s own self and lusts.’” Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 67.

[7] A man came to the Prophet and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I have enlisted in the army for such-and-such Ghazwa (to join in war with the Prophet), and my wife is leaving for Hajj (pilgrimage).” Allah’s Apostle said, “Go back and perform Hajj with your wife.” Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 52. The Prophet was asked by his wives about Jihad and he replied, “The best Jihad (for you) is (the performance of) Hajj.” Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 52.

[8] Qur’an 22:40-42.

[9] “Kashf al-Mahjub” by Ali bin Osman Hajvairi; “Al-Kashshaf” part 3 under commentary of Qur’an 22:78.

[10] Qur’an 60:9.

[11] Qur’an 2:5, 257, 273; 3:21, 86-92; 4:56, 80-81, 138; 5:91-93, 99-100; 6:67, 105-108, 112-113, 150; 10:100-101, 109; 11:29; 13:41; 16:83; 17:54-55; 18:30; 21:42; 22:18, 68; 24:55; 25:32, 42-44; 27:108-110, 92-93; 29:19; 36:8, 17-18, 31; 39:40-42; 42:7-8, 48-49; 43:8; 50:46; 51:57; 64:9-13; 67:26-27; 76:30; 84:7; 88:22-25; 109:2–7.

[12] Qur’an 2:191; 22:40-42.

[13] Qur’an 2:63, 112-114; 3:114-116; 5:67, 70; 7:160; 22:69.

[14] Qur’an 3:65.

[16] al-Baihaqi as quoted in al-Mishkat, Kitabal-‘Ilm, Chap. 3 and Kanz al-‘Ummal, Chap. 6.

[17] Kanz al-‘Ummal, Vol. 7.

[18] Mishkat, Kitab al-Ilm, Chap. 3.

[19] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, British Government and Jihad, p. 8-9 (1900).

[21] Bernard Lewis and Buntzie Ellis Churchill, Islam: The Religion and the People, p. 153 (Wharton School Publishing, 2008).

[22] Id. at 145-50.

[23] Id. at 151.

[24] Id. at 156.


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