The Term “Ghazwat” in the Prophet’s Biography Includes Acts of Defense

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by Darul Iftaa Jordan
We find some preachers defending Islam, saying: “Muslims were “victors” not “invaders (ghuzat).” At the same time, we find enemies of Islam accusing Muslims of being “invaders.” Does the word “invaders” carry a negative sense as we understand it? Is it wrong to call the Mujahideen (Muslim warriors) as “invaders = ghuzat” even though, the battles which were led by the Prophet (PBUH) were called “ghazawaat = invasions” Also the Prophet says: “He who dies without having fought in the Cause of Allah or without having thought of doing so, will die with one characteristic of hypocrisy in him.” .?[Muslim]

Praise be to Allah ,prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah Objective research should always give priority to intended meanings—not to words or phrases. The importance is given to meaning not to words/names which may differ from one language to another and from one culture to another. These also may change with time and place. If we clarify the core of issues, we will not differ on naming, for difference will then be merely verbal. For this we say: One who contemplates over the events of the Prophet’s biography and the battles and events that took place will know that all these battles were actually defensive—defending sanctuaries, and defending the Islamic Call against the polytheists of the Arabs, the Jews of Medeenah, the Christians of Rome, and others who tried to end and bury it. Many contemporary researchers have conducted inductive analytic studies concerning the causes and motives that were behind all battles at the time of the prophet, and they found that they were all defensive—including the cause for defending the Call itself against opponents. None of those battles were led for expansion purposes or to conquer other states or nations. From the beginning, the battle of Badr was to retrieve the wealths of the emigrants to Medeenah which Quraish had confiscated. The conquest of Mecca happened because of Quraish’s betrayal and their break of the agreement by attacking the allies of the prophet. Those who wish to do inductive analytical studies on this can refer to some literature done by contemporary as well as earlier scholars. With this we can see that calling Jihad (fighting) in that era as “ghazo” or “fat.h” will not change the defensive nature of the motives of all the battles led by the Prophet. Calling these battles as “ghazawaat = invasions” should not be understood as acts of colonial invasion. It should be understood within the linguistic boundaries which allow us to name as “ghazwah” every kind of battle regardless of its motives. This understanding stems from the root of the word (ghaza-ghazwan) which means wanted the thing and went after it. Al-Asfahani said: “ghaza al-‘adow = fought the enemy if he went out to fight them” (see Taj Alarous Sharh alQamous , 39:158). This meaning includes every kind of ‘going out’ to fight whether to defend or to attack. The evidence comes from the fact that in the prophet’s biography, this name is given to the two battles of Uhud and alKhandaq, which were evidently acts of defense against the enemies who tried to destroy Al-Medeenah and its inhabitants. And Allah knows best.

This answer was collected from the official government Iftaa Department of Jordan.

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