The Attributes of God are divided into two types:
(1) the Defined Attributes (muhkamat).
(2) the Undefined Attributes (mutashabihat): those attributes that are vague and unclear; their meanings are not comprehensible, and the human intellect cannot fathom their manifestations.
Furthermore, the Undefined Attributes are divided into two types:
(1) Those attributes whose linguistic meanings are unknown, and their legal meanings are also unknown. For example: the huroof muqatta’at, such as alif lam meem, ya sin, etc. We don’t know their linguistic meaning, nor do we know their legal meaning.
(2) Those attributes whose linguistic meanings are known, but their legal meanings are unknown. For example: the verse of the Qur’an, “al-Rahman ala al-arsh istawa.” “Al-Rahman” means “the Merciful,” “`ala” means “on,” “`arsh” means “throne,” and “istawa’” means “ascended.” So now the linguistic meaning is known, but the legal meaning remains unknown.
Something’s linguistic meaning may be different from its legal meaning.
Take the word “salah.” Its linguistic meaning is “to move one’s buttocks,” and its legal meaning is “to carry out specific rites with specific words within specific times.”
Take the word “adhan.” Its linguistic meaning is “to announce,” and its legal meaning is “to say specific words within specific times.”
Take the word “hajj.” Its linguistic meaning is “to intend,” and its legal meaning is “to carry out specific rites within specific times at specific places.”
Take the word “sawm.” Its linguistic meaning is “to stop (in general),” and its legal meaning is “to stay away from eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse from sunrise till sunset.”
Take the word “jihad.” Its linguistic meaning is “to struggle,” and its legal meaning is “to fight in path of God.”
So something’s linguistic meaning can be different from its legal meaning.
What are linguistic meanings and legal meanings?
A linguistic meaning is that meaning of a word which the linguists assign to that word.
A legal meaning is that meaning of a word which the locals, the experts, or the linguists specify for that word.
The linguists might assign a word for one meaning (i.e., the linguistic meaning) but use it for another meaning (i.e., the legal meaning). Therefore, when they actually use it, the legal meaning will be intended (e.g., the word “salah” has a linguistic meaning and a legal meaning, but we intend the legal meaning. Why? Because the experts (i.e., the jurists) have specified the word “salah” for a particular meaning).
Thus, the linguistic meaning of “jihad” is totally different from its meaning according to the jurists (i.e., its legal meaning). Usually, things get mixed up in this regard, and sometimes, I get so surprised (at how people mix things up) that I cannot express my surprise in words.
In regards to salah, everyone says, “Its linguistic meaning is…and its legal meaning is…;”
in regards to sawm, everyone says, “Its linguistic meaning is…and its legal meaning is…;”
in regards to hajj, everyone says, “Its linguistic meaning is…and its legal meaning is…;”
but in regards to jihad, they say, “Any action that requires struggle is jihad.” Why? “The linguistic meaning of ‘jihad‘ is ‘struggle.'”
In specifying the meanings of salah and sawm, you distinguish between their linguistic meanings and legal meanings, so in specifying the meaning of jihad, why do you only use its linguistic meaning ?
“The word ‘jihad‘ is derived from the word ‘juhd (struggle),’ so any action that requires struggle is jihad.”
How is that possible? “Any action that requires struggle is jihad” is the linguistic meaning of jihad; we want to see what meaning is specified for jihad in the legal context.
In the books of traditions (ahadith), in the Chapter of Jihad, the traditionists record verses and traditions about fighting. No traditionist records verses or traditions about preaching in this chapter.
This means that the meaning of “jihad” according to the traditionists (muhaddithun) is specified as “fighting”.
In the books of jurisprudence, in the Chapter of Jihad, the jurists will write about the rulings of fighting, spoils of war, prisoners of war, etc.
This means that the meaning of “jihad” according to the jurists is specified as “fighting.”
But when it comes to people nowadays, they alter this meaning.
“God says, ‘We shall be sure to guide those who struggle for Our cause.’ This verse was revealed in Makkah (before fighting was allowed), and God talks about jihad. God says, ‘Struggle against them with this Qur’an.’ See, this verse was revealed in Makkah, and God refers to preaching as jihad. So this proves that preaching is jihad.”
Even if preaching was referred to as jihad in its linguistic meaning, how does this change its legal meaning?
God says, “God and His angels send prayers upon the Prophet.” Look, the Qur’an used the word “prayer,” right? In reference to praying salah or sending prayers upon the Prophet? Sending prayers upon the Prophet. So someone says that sending prayers upon the Prophet is praying salah. Why? God has referred to sending prayers upon the Prophet as “praying” in the Qur’an. Is this an alteration? Of course. So in regards to salah, people won’t budge.
Regarding these announcements that are made in the villages (e.g., “fresh vegetables have arrived,” “fresh tomatoes for five rupees,” “fresh onions for six rupees,” etc.), someone is asked, “What is going on here?”
He says, “Adhan.” Why? “God referred to announcements in the Qur’an as adhan, ‘Then an announcer announced, ‘O Caravan! Verily, you are theives!””
Didn’t the Qur’an refer to the announcer as a mu’addhin (the one who gives adhan)? So this announcer in the villages who advertises shoes and clothes and vegetables, does anyone call him a mu’addhin? Why not? The Qur’an calls him him mu’addhin, you don’t. When the Qur’an has referred to the announcer as a mu’addhin, then why don’t you refer to the announcer as a mu’addhin?
Everyone will say that the Qur’an referred to the announcer as a mu’addhin according to its linguistic meaning, not its legal meaning.
Hadhrat Luqman AS advised his son, “If they struggle to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them.” So if the Qur’an referred to preaching monotheism as jihad, then it also referred to preaching polytheism as jihad as well, didn’t it? In that case, jihad would be very cheap: if someone works to preach belief, then it is jihad, and if someone works to preach disbelief, then it is also jihad. Why? Just as the Qur’an referred to preaching belief as jihad, the Qur’an also referred to preaching disbelief as jihad. Can anyone refer the work of preaching disbelief as jihad? So if you refer to the work of preaching Islam as jihad and (by doing so) you apply the virtues of jihad to it as well, then someone can also apply these virtues of jihad to the work of Jews and Christians. Why? They also work to preach disbelief, and the Qur’an referred to the work of preaching disbelief as jihad. No one is willing to accept this.
We say: God says “We shall be sure to guide those who struggle” and “If they struggle to make you associate with Me” (referring to struggle as jihad) within the linguistic context, not within the legal context. The legal meaning of jihad is already specified: fighting in the path of God.
At least our scholars should be wary of falling into alteration. It has been thirteen years since I left jihad, and I haven’t engaged in jihad since, but disengaging from jihad doesn’t mean that I should change the meaning of jihad, that I should slash the work of jihad itself just to prove my own piety. On one hand, we don’t do jihad, and then when it comes time to issue a verdict, we alter the meaning of jihad. How great of a misguidance is this; may God protect all of us. That’s why I say again and again: come to our institute and understand the outlook of the Religion. That’s it. If you cannot do a particular deed, do not alter that deed, but call yourself a sinner. Call yourself a sinner; do not change the rulings of the Religion, and admit your own sins. The Religion is permanent, we are not permanent; we are always change, the Religion does not change; our deeds are defective, the Religion is not defective. If you cannot practice upon a particular aspect of the Religion, admit your sinfulness, and God will forgive. If you will destroy the Religion in order to conceal you sins, then this is unforgivable.
Sometimes the meaning of a word changes depending on the context. Here (in Pakistan), we use the word “mama.” In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it is considered a word of honor. In Punjab, it is considered an insult. There is no objection against the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, nor against the people of Punjab; the word (mama) is the same, but the meaning will change depending on the context.
If you go into a city and say, “I want normal (sādah) water,” then this will mean that it should not be cold.
If you go into a village and say, “I want normal (sādah) water,” then this will mean that it should not be sharbat.
The word (“normal”) is the same, but the meaning will change depending on the context.
الجهاد هو المشقة لغة
وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
ثُمَّ أَذَّنَ مُؤَذِّنٌ أَيَّتُهَا الْعِيرُ
وَإِن جَاهَدَاكَ عَلى أَن تُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا
إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ
وَجَاهِدْهُم بِهِ جِهَادًا كَبِيرًا